1. DOWN WITH MUSSOLINI’S WAR AGAINST ETHIOPIA!
2. A CHALLENGE TO THE FRENCH WORKING CLASS—Vera Buch
3. THE STINKING STALINTERN—A.W.
4. IS THERE BONAPARTISM IN RUSSIA UNDER STALIN?
An Answer to Trotsky—Albert Weisbord
5. REPLY TO THE TROTSKYIST CALL FOR A FOURTH INTERNATIONAL
Statement of the C.L.S.
6. WAR AND CIVIL LIBERTIES (III)—Robert Barnett
7. HOW CAN WE AMERICANIZE COMMUNISM? (II)
Also: Frank Halstead Joins the C.L.S.; The W.P.A. Strike In New York City; Riots in Belfast and Cork—A Letter from Ireland; Defend Ferrero and Sallitto
DOWN WITH MUSSOLINI’S WAR AGAINST ETHIOPIA
Statement of Communist League of Struggle
The bandits of Italian Fascism in their criminal adventure in Africa are starting a blaze that can inflame the entire world. Mussolini’s war against Ethiopia must so upset the entire equilibrium established by the victorious power under the Versailles Treaty as to be the preliminary act to another world conflagration. Everywhere the imperialist powers are rushing their military and naval preparations and mobilizing all their forces for the inevitable struggle.
The Italian adventure has given the finishing blow to the League of Nations, that League of Robbers organized by Britain and France in the first place to insure that they would be the perpetual beneficiaries of the world war and control the earth for themselves. Together with the League of Nations has fallen the Kellogg Peace Pact and like a house of cards have toppled over all the sham pacifist pretenses of the imperialist powers with their fake disarmament conferences and their scraps of paper. Each capitalist country is rushing to cement its new war alliances in preparation for the impending world war.
In its attack on Ethiopia, Italian imperialism threatens to drive a deep wedge into the British Empire. To control the source of the River Nile, to menace the Cape-to Cairo African route, to split the British possessions in Africa, to threaten Britains “life-line” to India, to entrench itself in the Eastern Mediterranean and become the glory that was Rome’s, will not be easily granted by Great Britain. Yet it would be a mistake to believe that Britain is prepared to war with Italy over Africa and it is a criminal blunder to indulge in the fantasy that Britain is the “friend” of Ethiopia and will rush to its defence.
It is hardly to be imagined that Mussolini has mobilized one million men merely for the war in Africa. The fact is that Mussolini confidently expects some coup in Europe, either war against the Soviets, or an attempted seizure of Austria, or both, and wishes to find himself thoroughly mobilized for actions ahead of time. The attempted seizure of Austria either by Germany directly or by Italy through its alliance with the House of Hapsburg and the Austrian Catholic Fascists cannot do otherwise than precipitate a European conflict of truly gigantic proportions. With Fascism victorious in Central Europe the world is forced to live in constant alarm, in daily fear of surprise attacks. The whole capitalist world is being organized exactly for such “surprise". One cannot predict from day to day exactly when the war will be at hand.
The assault on Ethiopia, following as it does the attack on Manchuria by Japan, cannot fail to be a preliminary to a combined capitalist offensive against the Soviets. The ominous isolation of the Soviet Union, like that of Ethiopia, can only serve as a serious warning that the world war cannot start without the very life of the Soviet Union being at stake. In the light of this situation the class conscious workers can appreciate the deep-going treachery of the Stalin regime in the Soviet Union that up to very recently has not raised a finger to protests against the bandit attack against Ethiopia but on the contrary has shown every disposition to go along with the League of Robbers in their own imperialist partition of that country.
Ethiopia’s battle is the battle not only of a brave and fearless people, who are fighting against Fascist slavery, but it must become a rallying call to all the oppressed peoples of Africa who have been enslaved and massacred by the imperialist power of the so-called “civilized” countries to overthrow their oppressors and to unite in a mighty anti-imperialist struggle side by side with the Ethiopian people. The attempted rape of Ethiopia by Italian Fascism is only the last of a whole series of ravages upon the hapless Africans. Italy is only finishing what England, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and other imperialist rulers have begun. The struggle against Italian imperialism, therefore, cannot end merely with Mussolini’s defeat, but must inevitably be carried forward by all the other oppressed masses of Africa to the end that all imperialist robbery be ended in Africa and the African colonies liberated. The struggle of Ethiopia is directly the struggle for the liberation of all Africa and indirectly a blow for the liberation of the colonial peoples, East and West, throughout the world. This is recognized by such powers as Great Britain and the United States, who by their “neutrality” decisions play into the hands of Italy and prevent Ethiopia from obtaining arms and supplies.
On the other hand, the aggression against Ethiopia by Mussolini is only a continuation of the same ruthless murderous policy which Fascism has carried on against the workers in its own country. In its fury, Italian Fascism has murdered thousands of Italian workers, has imprisoned many tens of thousands more, has suppressed every vestige of civil liberties, freedom of speech, of press, of conscience, of assembly, etc. It has smashed the trade unions and all working class organizations. it has wiped out even the semblance of political democracy. It has immeasurably worsened the condition of the poor Italian workers and peasants. These Italians will not stand for Mussolini and Fascism forever. Already they are grumbling and showing signs of revolt. Indeed, it is in order to stifle the discontent at home that Mussolini has embarked in his fatal imperialist adventure in Africa.
The preparations for the war are rapidly throwing Italian economy into bankruptcy and the Italian masses into untold misery. Daily, Hundreds of soldiers are dying or laid up incapacitated due to heat and disease even before the war has begun. Despite Mussolini’s boasting many hundreds of thousands of Italian soldiers are doomed to destruction before Ethiopia can be conquered and should the African masses put up a real battle as all the signs indicate they will.
Under such circumstances military defeat at the hands of the Ethiopian people can only bring the greatest progress in Italy. The Italian workers, who do not want to fight the Ethiopian people will be stimulated to revolt to end the Fascist terror in Italy and will lend a truly helping hand to the other oppressed peoples in Europe and the entire world. The struggle of Ethiopia, therefore, is a part of the world fight against Fascism, and the Negro people of Africa take their place among the foremost anti-Fascist fighters, hurling their challenge against Fascist reaction and proving that it is not Mussolini but Ethiopia that stands for the advancement and progress of the human race.
In passing it is necessary to point out to those workers who may be confused by Fascist propaganda to the effect that there is slavery in Ethiopia, which will be wiped out under Italian rule, that this war will definitely mark the end of the feudal and domestic slave conditions in Ethiopia and a tremendous step in the Europeanization of the country. The work already done in modernizing the country under Haile Salassie as well as the recent concessions reported given to foreign capitalists, all show that the day is ended when Ethiopia will resist the modern technique of capitalism. These developments now will provide a great stimulus to all of Africa.
However, it is for this very reason, namely the growing modernization of Ethiopia,, that the Negro proletariat especially in the U.S. and elsewhere, must guard against any policy that will idealize the regime of Haile Salassie and his ruling clique. The proletariat cannot be interested in the defense of Emperors, of dictators, of slave systems. If we raise the demand, nonetheless, of Defend Ethiopia, it is with the knowledge that, unlike China and India and elsewhere in the colonies, there is no modern proletariat in Ethiopia capable of moving the country to a higher level of development and that the African masses will be carried to Socialism by the proletarian revolution in Europe which the defeat of Mussolini must bring about. In this case, revolutionary defeatism on the part of the proletariat must take the double form: Work within Italy and the Italian army for the revolution, and work for the defeat of that army by the colonial African troops of Ethiopia.
In the light of the above situation it is absolutely imperative that we do all in our power to form broad united front bodies to defend Ethiopia. In the first place this privilege belongs to the Negro people whose advanced section is the Negro proletariat. It is their bounden duty to drop their differences of a secondary nature and bind themselves together with all the fervor and enthusiasm that belongs to the warmhearted Negro race to Defend Ethiopia and to liberate the oppressed Negro people of the world. Negro Congresses to defend Ethiopia should be formed in every village, town and city throughout the width and breadth of the U.S. These local Congresses should be rapidly united in a national organization and the way cleared for the formation of a really authoritative expression of the Negro people of the United States.
Such a National Negro Congress, however, should not be limited in its scope and character. It should extend its influence to the West Indies, to Central America, to all parts of Africa and Asia, wherever there are Negroes oppressed, and bind them all together in Pan-African Colonial Liberation Committee, which will be able to bring world support for Ethiopia.
At the same time the National Negro Congress and local Congresses under its jurisdiction cannot ignore the fact that their fight is only part of the anti-fascist struggle which workers of all nationalities, races, creeds and collors are engaged. The Negro Congress to Defend Ethiopia must unite with all those who wish to fight against Fascism and join hands with them in any program that will defeat world Fascism and liberate Africa. Above all, for the present, the closest possible connection must be made with all Italian groups whose aim is the defeat of Italian Fascism in its war against Ethopia
The revolutionary proletariat of the U.S. must at once advance the following program and see that it is carried out:
1. We must demand that the government oust from the shores of the U.S. all Fascist Ambassadors and agents and deport them from the country.
2. We must demand that a complete embargo be placed on all Fascist goods or credits.
3. The strike and the boycott must be systematically carried out and other demonstrations developed against Italian Fascism.
4. We must demand that the U.S. declare itself for Ethiopian independence, that credits and materials and supplies of all sorts be granted unconditionally to the Ethiopians to carry on their defense against Fascist-imperialist aggression and invasion.
5. We must mobilize the power of the Negro people in the U.S. in every possible way as the best method to answer the growing menace of Fascism in the U.S. with its lynch terror and orgies of discrimination against those of African descent in this country.
We cannot forget that the invasion of the rights of Ethiopia is but an international example of the trampling down of all the human rights that every Negro in the U.S. has felt for hundreds of years. Every blow for the defense of Ethiopia must react as a blow against discrimination and lynch terror in the U.S. Every gain in the fight for the liberation of the Negro people in the U.S. must be a tremendous aid to the Africans all over the world in their fight for emancipation.
We call on the Negro people in the United States, therefore, to unite their forces and to answer the blows of world Fascist reaction by a crusade for the liberation of the oppressed Negroes throughout the world. We call on the working class, both white and black to rally to the defense of Ethiopia, to struggle against world Fascism and imperialism and to turn this imperialist war into the proletarian revolution for Communism.
EDITORIAL NOTE: As a supplement to the above statement of the Communist League of Struggle, we append a brief report of the activities of our organization in the defense of Ethiopia.
We have already taken the initiative in Harlem in holding a big mass meeting on August 6th at the Lido Ballroom. The speakers scheduled were Arturo Giovannitti, well Known Italian labor organizer, now of the I.L.G.W.U., J.A. Rogers, noted Negro author, George S. Schuyler, Negro columnist, Frank Crosswaith, Chairman of the Harlem Negro Labor Committee and Socialist, and Albert Weisbord, Secretary, C.L.S. Unfortunately, Crosswaith was unable to attend due to work in Philadelphia, but sent a telegram of greetings and support. Giovannitti had Vincenzo Vacirca, former Socialist deputy in the Italian parliament, substitute for him.
The meeting was well attended and our comrades met with an enthusiastic response, quite a number of our pamphlets, “The Struggle for Negro Emancipation”, being disposed of. At the end of the meeting we were invited to attend the united front, “Provisional Committee for the Defense of Ethiopia”, controlled by the C.P. It is needless for us to add that when we sent two delegates to this “conference” (only ten people were present, practically all C.P.). We were not seated. (Three cheers for the Stalinist united front!) However, we are proceeding to carry on with our own work and influence in Harlem.
In Brooklyn also we had a very well attended meeting on July 30th at the A.M.E. Zion Church. The chairman was the Rev. Corrothers of the Zion Church, and the speakers were Vincenzo Vacirca, E.L. Sullinger, Commander, National War Veterans, Post #2, and Albert Weisbord. here we were able to take the initiative for the holding of a united front conference for the defense of Ethiopia and we called on the chairman to issue the call for such a conference.
At the very first meeting of the conference, the C.P. came down in force and “captured” the conference. They had Negro delegates from the I.W.O., the I.L.D., the F.S.U., the L.S.N.R. the C.P., the Y.C.L. and the rest of their alphabetical paper organizations including their “Provisional Committee of Harlem". The criminally confused line of the C.P. was never so manifest than at the conferences that have been held, the C.P. delegates such as Kingston and a kid, Miss Archer, not knowing the first thing about revolutionary politics.
First of all, the C.P. delegates so antagonized the chairman that he quit the conference, taking with him, no doubt, quite a number of church organizations that would have been induced to join. Then the Y.C.L. and other C.P. delegates actually raised the cry that no white man should participate in the conference and could not be on the executive committee of the conference. This was to be a conference of Negroes only. And the Negroes who spoke for this were C.P. Negroes representing organizations predominantly white! But such was the truly despicable attempt that the “Communists” had to make to try to get rid of Comrades Weisbord and Harry Miller who were the C.L.S. delegates at the conference. Comrade Weisbord vigorously attacked the crazy anti-working class attitude on the part of the C.P. delegates and showed how this was an attempt on their part completely to control the conference and to kill all united front work in Brooklyn as they had done in Harlem. The C.P. was forced to back down and profusely apologized that they had not meant to bar anyone or to break the solidarity of black and white workers. They were also forced to permit Weisbord to be on the executive committee of the conference.
At the executive committee meeting the C.P. delegates had to back water still further. Comrade Weisbord had proposed that this small conference now prepare for another larger conference in a month’s time but the C.P. had insisted that we go out at once in a parade (to be made up mostly of white C.P. sympathizers and Jewish club members as the Harlem parade was, no doubt) but at the executive committee meeting, they were forced to retreat and also vote for another and larger conference meeting. They were also compelled to praise the declaration of principles brought in by Comrade Weisbord and voted to refer the document to a special sub- committee for discussion and revision if necessary. Finally, they exposed themselves as being strong on promises, but very weak in giving even a cent for the financial support of the work and voted down Comrade Weisbord’s notion that each organization give $3 to start the work. Most of the C.P. organizations have given nothing up to now.
At the special sub-committee meeting to discuss the declaration of principles to be adopted, the really reactionary role of the C.P. was very vividly brought forth. Our declaration was along the lines of the statement which appears above, except as it was modified for use in the united front conference, where there were delegates, who were non-Communist. The C.P. did not have any other document to propose, but began a vicious attack against the declaration of principles as being “too revolutionary". They demanded that the word “imperialism” be taken out, they refused to use the words “Fascist slavery”, but wanted a milder term. They opposed calling the imperialist countries “so-called civilized” but as civilized, etc. They denied that the struggle for Ethiopia was to be linked up with a fight against world Fascism.. They insisted that all U.S. be excluded and that no call should be issued to the Negro people of the U.S. or of the world to bind themselves together and to fight. They were even opposed to the demand for an “embargo” and to oust the Fascist officials from the country, and when we pointed out to them that these very slogans had been used in the Harlem parade, they gave the excuse that parade had in reality been run by the American League against War and Fascism and not by the Provisional Committee and only after the hardest battle were we able to force the inclusion of the demand for an embargo of Fascist goods. At the same time the C.P. delegates fought for the inclusion of the demand: Demand the Enforcement of the Kellogg Peace Pact"! And the Y.C.L. little snip insisted that British imperialism would aid the Ethiopian and African masses against Italy, with the possibility that France and U.S. might also aid. The stinking line of the C.P. was also later apparent in a subcommittee to draw up a leaflet when Archer and Campbell voted down Weisbord’s leaflet headed: “Defend Ethiopia Against Mussolini’s War”, and substituted instead the heading: “Support the Independence of Ethiopia”, insisting that the question of the independence of Ethiopia was the only one in which the Negro masses were interested at the present time.
Finally, the following declaration of principles was worked out by the committee (Weisbord abstaining in favor of his own draft): “The struggle of Ethiopia to maintain its independence against the ruthlessness of Italian aggression must arouse the people of the U.S. both white and black, the workers and toilers of the entire world to the greatest activity to defend Ethiopia and to stop Italian aggression. “Ethiopia’s battle is the battle not only of a brave and fearless people who are fighting to maintain their independence, but it must become a rallying call to all the oppressed peoples of the so- called civilized countries to overthrow their oppressors and to unite in a mighty struggle side by side with the Ethiopian people. (taken from Weisbord’s draft). The purposes of our Conference are:
1. To demand that the U.S. declare itself for Ethiopia’s independence.
2. That credits materials and supplies of all sorts be granted by the U.S. to Ethiopia.
3. To mobilize the greatest support in the U.S. for the defense of Ethiopia.
4. To organize protest meetings, demonstrations against the aggression of the Italian Government.
5. To endeavor to use our influence to place boycotts on Italian imports through the efforts of organized labor.
6. The U.S. place a complete embargo on all imports and exports to and from Italy.”
This was the maximum that we could wring from the C.P. We ask all conscious workers to compare our statement with the one finally wrung from the C.P. However, the conference is still going on. The C.L.S. is doing all it can to broaden and deepen its work and to place the conference on as firm a standing as possible, although the case seems rather hopeless in the light of the domination of the Stalinists.
The Seventh Congress of the Stalinist parties is eloquent witness that the Communist International is indeed dead. The delegates met simply to throw the stinking corpse into the shallow grave and hastily depart. Not even a tear was shed, nor a flower thrown upon the bier.
In the days of Lenin the C.I. was a real revolutionary body. It met yearly. The delegates discussed all the important problems of the day in full. The policies were worked out by the Congress itself with the full hearted help of Lenin. The Congress was snot adjourned until all the business had been done in the most democratic and cooperative manner. The Russian Party was then only the first among equals and not the master of the others.
In the Stalintern everything is on its head. The Congress did not meet for seven full years, although during this time there occurred the Peasants’s War and Soviets in China, the Spanish and Cuban revolutions, the rise of Fascism in Europe and its victory in Germany, Austria and central Europe, the development of the deepest depression that the world had ever seen, bringing in its wake untold misery and revolutionary possibilities, the adventure of Japan in Manchuria, the smashing of the trade union organizations by Fascism, the Italo-Ethiopian war situation as a prelude to a world war, the accomplishments and defects of the Five Year Plan in Russia, the change of front in American political and social life, etc., etc. None of these questions had been discussed by a gathering of the Stalinist parties in international congress assembled all this time.
One might think that now there would be plenty to discuss and that the Congress would last a long time. Far from it. The Congress lasted only three weeks. Most of the time was taken up with the eulogies of the great Stalin, and with cheering and ringing of his name. Stalin himself did not condescend to speak. The Congress failed to touch on the perspectives of the crisis and the future of the revolutionary movement, it made no analysis of the reasons for the obvious failure of the Stalinist parties throughout the entire world, not within russia nor outside of it. The Congress was faced with the fact that the only force that could take the initiative was the apparatus of the Russian party of Stalin and that all the Congress could do was to put its stamp of approval upon the facts already accomplished by Stalin. Such questions as the Franco-Soviet Pact were not even discussed. Nor such matters as the dissolution of the Old Bolshevik organization in the Soviet Union and the arrest of some of its leaders. Some of the delegates might have questioned to themselves: Where was Manuilsky? Where was Ordjonikidse? Where was the power of Lozovsky? But they did not speak of it openly. The singing and cheering of the delegates each time Stalin’s name was mentioned was either the whistling in the dark of every delegate who was afraid to question what was really taking place or the ballyhoo of the professional clackers paid by Stalin to whoop it up.
The Seventh World Congress completely wiped out all the basic decisions of the Sixth Congress held in 1928, but there was nobody brave enough even to whisper that this was the case, no less to ask why the decisions were changed. In the Sixth World Congress, in the midst of a general prosperity, the Congress under Stalin had announced that this was a new period of revolutionary upsurge and advance, that the Communist must storm the streets for power and face the bourgeoisie with the final slogan of class against class. The Socialists were denounced as Social-Fascists. No united front could be made with the Socialist Parties which represented the chief enemies of the workers. Democracy must be overthrown immediately and parliament dissolved. The reformist unions must be split and broken up and Communist unions set up at once. No unite fronts could be established except from “below” that is, made up of workers who would leave their organizations and break discipline in order to go with the Communists. The world revolution was on the immediate order of the day and Russia was already building Socialism in one country and did not have to rely on any help from the outside.
And all this was in 1923, when feverish prosperity existed, when the mass of workers were still unorganized in unions and when the great danger was the victory of Fascism. At this time the Internationalist Communists declared that what was necessary was the united front of all workers’ organizations to fight Fascism, each organization of course keeping its organizational and political independence. The unions of Europe should not be split up, but the Communists must learn how to work within the reformist unions so as to change them into real militant organizations in the face of the Fascist attack. We demanded that the line of the Communists in joining forces with the Fascists (as for example, in the Referendum calling for the dissolution of the Prussian Land tag in 1930) be put to an end immediately. We demanded that the Communist party prepare for insurrection together with the Socialist Party to prevent Hitler’s rise to power and if necessary the Red Army of the Soviet Union be mobilized to help the embattled German insurrectionary workers in case the capitalist armies of Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Belgium and other countries should invade Germany to put down the proletarian revolution.
Needless to say our views were ridiculed by the Stalinist parties as counter revolutionary. They said it would jeopardize the Soviet Union. Fascism was not much of a threat. There was no revolutionary situation that would warrant such action. There could never take place a united front between the Communists and the Socialists, who were but a branch of Fascists. If Fascism were to come to power in no time it would be overthrown (Rerimelle). The real key to the world revolution lay in the Yaroslavl cow (Manuilsky), etc., etc., Thus in a thousand ways, the Stalinist parties actually cooperated and aided the Fascists to seize the power in Germany and elsewhere.
For all these crimes on the part of Stalin and company there was no criticism at the Congress. A list was given by Dimitrov that perhaps the German Party had made some mistakes but it was all thrown on to the shoulders of the German C.P. The C.I. apparatus of Stalin was absolved and glossed over.
At the Seventh World Congress the pendulum swings to the opposite opportunist extreme. Russia, no longer resting on the workers’ organizations, which have been smashed, now relies on the “democratic” bourgeoisie and forces all the Stalinist parties to make peace with their “democratic” capitalist classes in their respective countries. Russia, here again, sacrifices the World revolution for her temporary safety and turns all the Stalinists into rank traitors and renegades to Communism, to the ultimate detriment of the workers’ revolution in Russia itself.
The following decisions, unprecedented in the entire history of the revolutionary proletariat, were made at the Seventh congress:
1. The Communists, under Stalin, were to cease fighting capitalism but to unite with all capitalists (compare the “People’s Front") who were for democracy as against Fascism. In pursuit of this aim, the Communists were even to join the capitalist government (The “People’s Front Government") and build up the capitalist armies provided they would stand for democracy.
2. In foreign policies the Stalinists must support the “democratic” countries in time of war against the Fascist countries.
3. In regard to the situation within the ranks of labor, the Communist Unions were to liquidate and join the reformist unions under any conditions. The Red International of Labor Unions was to disappear. The Communist Parties must form united fronts with the Socialist Parties and no longer criticize the Socialist leadership for betrayals (French non-aggression pacts). The Communists Parties must try to join the Socialist parties and form one single party. The Communist International in certain countries, then would be completely liquidated.
4. In order to accomplish all this better, each party was to be given organizational independence and to be uncontrolled by the opinions of the other Stalinist parties elsewhere. The Communist International was officially to be transformed into a sort of letter box, except that Stalin, who holds the subsidies in his hands would have the real final control at all times.
These unheard of and almost unbelievable decisions emanate from a body that calls itself Communist and marks the lowest point of revolutionary servility in the entire history of the working class movement. The Stalintern has truly become a corpse that stinks to the highest heavens. The proletariat must bury the body so deep that its gangrenous, leprous cadaver will never be able to pollute the atmosphere again.
Let us examine some of these decisions.
THE PEOPLE’S FRONT. All the crimes that Stalin committed in the Chinese revolution in his alliance with Chiang Kai Shek and his theories that the proletariat should subordinate itself to the “democratic” “nationalist” “revolutionary” bourgeoisie, these crimes are now to be repeated on a world wide scale. In France, the People’s Front is an alliance with the bourgeois parties, the Radicals, and the Radical Socialists, who correspond in the U.S. to the Democratic Party of the Sinclair variety and to the “Third Party” movement of the La Follette stripe. Just as the German Socialists formed their “Weimar Coalition”, their alliance with the Centrist Party and other liberal groups that stood for the maintenance of the German republic and for democracy, so today, Stalinism has completely capitulated to this viewpoint of the Socialist bureaucracy and will unite with the bourgeoisie which is “democratic” and support it.
Of course there can be no alliance of the Stalinists with the “democratic” bourgeoisie without the workers paying heavily for it. The “democratic” bourgeoisie cannot permit the “democratic” capitalists to suffer strikes in their plants. They cannot allow the “democratic” army and navy to become corrupted with anti- capitalist propaganda. They cannot suffer their “democracy” to be disturbed by riots, or demonstrations of any threatening character. Thus, in order to stave off Fascism, the Communists have voluntarily agreed to class collaboration with the capitalist class of countries that they call “democratic". This is going far to the right even of the right wings of the Socialist parties. The “Communist” parties have lost their revolutionary roles, but they have not yet lost their counter revolutionary roles and so they can jump in to replace the entirely discredited Socialist parties to save the bourgeoisie.
Which are the “democratic” countries? They are the countries, on the whole, the capitalists of which have been the beneficiaries of the robber Versailles Treaty, and who have seized the world’s loot in their hands and can afford to talk peace so that the status quo of which they are the gainers should never be disturbed. Here is how the Soviet Union supports the League of Nations and the Versailles Treaty which only a short time ago the Communist parties were denouncing. In Germany, the Communist Party shouted: “Down with the Versailles Treaty”, at a time when this played right into the hands of the German ruling class and Fascists. Now in France, the Stalinist Party shouts: Support the “Democratic Versailles Treaty”, and thus now too, plays right into the hands of the French capitalists and Fascists. Since in either case only the complete militarization and mobilization of the forces of the country could either overthrow or defend the Versailles Treaty. In both cases the Stalinist Parties show themselves to be but the unofficial agencies paving the way for the victory of Fascism and arousing national hatreds to their highest pitch leading to war.
In defending democratic countries the Stalinists idealize bourgeois “democracy". They spread illusions that under democracy the basic problem of the proletariat can be solved peacefully and legally. They in fact give up the struggle of the workers to take up the struggle for capitalist democracy, declaring that the latter is more important than the first. The truth of the matter is, of course, that the only way to save whatever exists of the “democracy” is through the struggle of the workers against the capitalists as a class. The Stalinists, at the same time, spread the illusions that there are capitalists, who are willing to “fight for democracy”, that the capitalists can lead the revolutionary proletariat in the struggle for the progress and advancement of the human race. Here is forgotten absolutely the fact that the capitalists, in an era of imperialism and the decay of capitalism as a whole can only play a reactionary role and cannot be fighters for the advancement of the proletariat. The very fact that the proletariat can advance and change the system, forces the capitalists to turn to Fascism.
Of course this turn to Fascism does not occur with the same speed and directions in all the layers of the capitalist class. The heavy trusted industry is the first to turn to Fascism. The light, competitive, older capitalist layers retain their “democratic” tendencies longer. But it is precisely these layers of the capitalists which do not have the decisive weight in capitalist affairs, which are futile and impotent. And it is precisely in these secondary capitalists that the Stalinists have faith and who, they declare, will join their “people’s front” to defend the democratic revolutionary proletariat!
But the Stalinists have gone much further than the mere formation of a “People’s front". They have declared their willingness to become part of a “people’s front government” or to support it in every possible way. Such a government can only be of the type that the Socialists formed in Germany with the democratic bourgeoisie there and which all Marxists have condoned. Such a policy is a bid to the Lavals and Co. in France, to Benes and Co. in Czechoslovakia, etc. that the Stalinists are now going to support the capitalist state and armed forces to their utmost.
In order to dispel any doubt as to what the Stalinists intend to do the various delegates rose up on their hind feet and told the world explicitly what their policy was to be in each country.
1. In Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, where the Socialists are in the government, the Communists are to support the Socialists and to support the government.
2. In Czechoslovakia, “The biggest mistake of the Czechoslovakia Communists is their insufficient consideration for the national feelings of the masses in their struggle against the Fascist Home Front,” said Comrade Koehler of Czechoslovakia. (Daily Worker of August 13th). So it is the Communists, who have become the defenders of Czechoslovakia nationalism and follow the Czechoslovakia patriotic bourgeoisie!
3. In England, the Communists are to work for the Labor Party and for a Labor Government. Whereas in the days of Lenin the Communists were to criticise the Labor Party and if the Labor Party were to enter the government to attack it as a capitalist agency, now the Communists are to be the vanguard agitating for such a Labor Party capitalist government.
4. In France, to support the democratic state and to try to form a coalition people’s front government; to try also to win the army for democracy. Here where impending civil war is on the order of the day and the Fascists are armed to the teeth, the answer of the Communists is not to call for a struggle against the decree laws of Laval (the French Bruening) in the form of general strike, arming of the people, workers’ militia, workers’ control over production, etc., but support of the democratic capitalists to prevent Fascism from rising. How different is this from the Socialist Party of Germany’s slogan: Vote for Hindenburg and keep out Hitler. Only the Socialist Party of Germany had not prattled at the same time of Soviets, and Dictatorship of the proletariat etc.
5. Roumania, Poland, Yugoslavia, etc. Here the Communists are to form their “people’s front” with the reactionary peasant parties, headed by big capitalist agrarians and to try to win these layers of the capitalists to fight against Fascism and for “democracy"? In as much as these countries are predominantly agrarian, this policy internally means a united front with the agrarian capitalists to prevent the organizations of the revolutionary agricultural laborers for struggle.
6. Arabia: “Radical changes are necessary in our attitude towards the national reformist Arabian bourgeoisie. We must support their anti imperialist demands.” (Rossi quoted in Daily Worker of August 13th). As though the Arabian bourgeoisie is not, like Chang Kai Shek, intimately connected with imperialist forces!
7. Mexico: The Communist Party is to support President Cardonas as against Calles of the “lesser evil” and the representative of the “people’s front".
8. China: “I declare from this world platform that the Central Committee of the Communist party of China and the Soviet Government of China are prepared to form a government of all who are unwilling to be colonial slaves, on the basis of a universally acceptable program for armed resistance against Japan regardless of divergent opinions on other important problems.” (Wan Min in Daily Worker of August 10th) and in another part of his statement he declares: “The Red Army is ready to fight in the front ranks of a united army.”
So the Chinese Communist Party is no longer to fight ALL the imperialism but only Japanese imperialism (because, you see, Japan is Russia’s aggressor, while the other “democratic” imperialists are Russia’s friends!) Again the Chinese Communist Party is to call on the “left” bourgeoisie for a “block of four classes” to fight, not all imperialism, but only Japanese imperialism. And, if this is done, the C.P. will forego its struggle against Chinese capitalism and for Communism.
9. In the United States the Communist Party will be for a Labor Party. It will also be for Roosevelt as against any fascist attacks against him and his democratic republic.
When we consider the monstrous crimes that this program implies, words absolutely fail us. Within the ranks of labor there can be no more deadly enemies than the Stalinists. Of course, this program is to be connected with the war program of the Stalinists. The workers of France are to be mobilized to fight for French capitalism against German Fascism and to shoot down German workers on the theory that such a war is not an imperialist war. The Stalinists drop their cries of “Peace” and turn out to be full throated war mongers, best recruits for capitalist armies. Wilson’s slogans are now taken over by the Stalintern and again workers will be urged to shoot down workers “to make the world safe for democracy"!
Hand in hand with its policy of the most servile capitulation to world imperialism, the Stalinists perforce have had to adopt other measures within the ranks of the labor movement. Says Losovsky (Daily Worker, August 12th), “We stand for one trade union international.” The R.I.L.U. is to be liquidated. Without further ado, all the “red unions” and other trade union organizations are to be liquidated and handed over unconditionally to the reformists. But what is more important, whereas before this resulted in the “boring from within” of the Communists, now the Stalinists propose to do no “boring” whatsoever since their whole idea is now to make peace with the bourgeois democratic reformist forces against Fascism. The trade union bureaucracy has nothing further to fear from these Stalinists.
Finally, the Stalinists mean to liquidate their Stalintern wherever they can and fuse with the socialist parties. As Dimitrov said (Daily Worker, August 5th), “The Communist Party must determinedly and boldly seize the initiative of combining the Communist Party and the Socialist Party.” How courageous is the bold brave Dimitrov to seize…not the power…but the initiative to merge with the Socialist Parties. The situation in France is hailed as a model, although that situation has resulted in the worst betrayal of the French working class and the turning over of the entire proletariat to the French bourgeoisie lock, stock and barrel.
However one must not believe that the Stalintern is going to liquidate all over the world. In order to adapt itself to its new policies, it is going to let each party act individually without control from the other parties. This is because in some countries there is a bad bourgeoisie and in other countries a good Bourgeoisie. Where there is a bad bourgeoisie, it is necessary to keep revolutionary action. Where there is a good bourgeoisie it is necessary to act together with the socialist parties agencies for the bourgeoisie. All this is to be tested according to the time- honored formula, what is best for Russia. All the Communist parties have become mere unofficial agencies for the espionage of the Russian state department. The whole world revolution has been sacrificed for this noble function.
In some countries, the Socialist parties will not want to fuse with the Communists since they are in the government and will be able to control the workers without the Stalinists. In other countries the Socialists will shy away as being in favor of their own bourgeoisie and not in favor of Russian nationalism. In a third set of countries the Socialist parities may be even to the left of the Stalinists and will not be willing to come to terms with them. In a fourth set of countries such a fusion will be able to take place. But in each case, Stalin wishes to be assured that his nationalism will be safeguarded.
All of this must teach us that there is but one thing to do and this is to annihilate the influence of Stalinism from the ranks of the working class, to thoroughly purge the working class of this poison and to work for the building of the Fourth International. And here we cannot forget nor forgive the crimes of Trotsky in sending his forces into the French, S.F.I.O. and other centrist and reformist organizations and giving the illusion that the Socialist parties can become revolutionary. Because of Trotsky the movement of internationalist Communism and the Fourth International has been sent into interminable confusion and the movement set back at a most decisive moment.
This is all the more reason for the real internationalist Communist forces to get together, to cement their nuclei, to develop their program, and to prepare a center to aid in the building of the new parties.
A vast treachery is being prepared in France, on a more abysmal scale than anything yet perpetrated on the proletariat. As the reformists and centrist parties—including those of the Third International—turn into rotting corpses, at each stage of their progressive death it seems that they can become no worse. But, not so! Standing the lessons of the German defeat on their heads, from the failure to build a united front against Fascism passing over to a united front, which cynically paves the way for Fascism, in France we see the Front Populairs (People’s Front) paralyzing the will of the militant working class.
The broad support which the common front of the Communist and Socialist parties commands illustrates a prime characteristic of the present period, namely the contradiction between the objective ripeness of capitalism for Socialism in which only the extreme measures of Fascism in the period of economic decline can keep the bourgeoisie in power, and on the other hand the complete failure of the “subjective” factor, the working class parties (which in the last analysis, are themselves also an outgrowth of objective conditions) to live up to their historic role of grave diggers of capitalism.
The worthlessness of the Communist and Socialist parties, which has so long been plain to the advanced Marxist elements in the working class, is not yet plain to the masses. An examination of what parties are strong among the workers in any country today will show only reformist or centrist parties. Left organizations exist only as germs, as fractions or small groups fighting against the stream. Only in the light of the real support given the united front of the big working class parties by the workers as well as in the light of the minority struggle against their capitulation can the trend of events be understood.
The immaturity of the working class is reflected in France in a tragic irony: It is actually a healthy urge for unity in the struggle that is leading the French workers to put their heads into what looks today like a festive garland labeled “left government”, but tomorrow may look more like the hangman’s noose of Fascism. One lesson of the German defeat sank very deep into the minds of the toiling masses every where: The need for unity in the struggle against Fascism… in the main a sound conclusion, although the vanguard must go further and analyze the failure to build a real communist party in Germany, etc. At any rate, during the February, 1934, events in France, after the Communist party had rejected the offer of united front from the Socialist Party, the Communist masses in the street demonstration spontaneously fused with the Socialist parade. The united front, more than a Stalinist maneuver, as consummated in July 1934 was also the result of a deep felt proletarian urge.
Once more the cycle of class struggles has brought about that crisis where Fascism looms so closely that only the desperate struggle of the proletariat for power can save the day. Now it is France…And we shall see what role the united front, fruit of the German disunity, is playing.
France Today in Its Bruening Period
France entered the crisis late, but since 1931 has been in the same impasse as other nations. The fluctuation of governments, the critical condition of the franc, the failure to balance the budget, are all indications of the internal economic ulcer. Freight loadings in April, 1935 were 10% less than in November, 1934. Business failures are increasing, and foreign trade fell off 2,365,000,000 francs in the first five months of 1935 as compared with a similar period last year. A very unfavorable trade balance exists; wages have fallen 33% since 1933, and prices remain high. Unemployment shows a steady increase notwithstanding the policy of public works, which has been applied to a certain extent, notwithstanding the heavy government subsidies and the actual taking over by the government of certain stocks (Citroen, for example). Although the increase in numbers of the unemployed was 32% for the last year. The state allocation for unemployment relief is now 20 millions of francs less than in 1933. Drives are made constantly to reduce the numbers on relief, by every possible excuse, and foreigners (who in 1931 numbered 2,000,000, most of them wage earners) are being squeezed out. Add to this the ruin of small farmers and of the lower middle class generally and we see France facing the same basic contradictions as prevail elsewhere.
Laval took over the cabinet from Flandin with the understanding he be given a free hand to take any measures necessary to stabilize the franc and balance the budget.
A new series of decree laws has been promulgated with the support of the Radical Socialists. These decrees make the most drastic attacks against the wages of state employees, pensions, etc. By this policy of “deflation” (cutting down of state expenses) a saving of 10% is to be realized on 10 billion 959 million francs (about $730,600,000. These decrees may be placed in three groups:
1. A 10% reduction in all payments of the state (salaries, pensions, interest on bonds etc.) This includes reductions in the wages of all state employees as follows: 3% up to 8000 francs (about $530 dollars per year) 5% from 8000 to 10,000 francs and 10% above 10,000 francs. Here are included not merely clerical help in the government offices and petty state functionaries, not merely the post office and telegraph employees and teachers, but since France has developed quite a bit of state capitalism, also the employee on state railroads, and in the state tobacco, salt and match factories, etc. The state employees have already undergone more than one cut in pay, and how severe will be the results of these new blows can be judged from the already low figures of their budgets.
Included also in the first category are pensions and payments to veterans and war victims (a huge state burden). Unemployment relief, public help and social insurance are not yet touched. Investors in government securities of various types, are also struck by these decrees. Here we find the standard of living lowered for that small renter class of retired merchants, functionaries and workers, which is so numerous in France.
2. In the bluff of “sharing the burden” taxes of various degrees are also imposed on incomes and to a certain extent on industry. A 50% tax is levied on incomes above 80,000 francs, a tax on war profits of 25% etc.
3. The reductions in salaries and pensions, etc. will at one blow greatly reduce home consumption and hence help to aggravate the conditions of the crisis. The taxes on incomes and profits will provide an excuse to lower wages, as will the lowering of wages in state industry… and wages have already fallen very much. A terrific reduction in the standard of living is in store for all the toiling classes.
It is plain that, however drastic the decree laws may be, they are after all only palliative measures; there is nothing in them that can fundamentally solve the contradictions of the crisis. The last temporary disturbance from without, such as a war scare, is enough to set the franc shivering. And the effects of these decree laws can only be such as to bring about another budgetary crisis later, on a higher plane. Thus there is every excuse for the bourgeoisie to resort to a Fascist coup d’etat to accomplish what democracy will fail to do.
There exist several organizations of a fascist or potentially fascist character (Croix de Feu, Jounesses Patriots, Francistes, Action francaise, Solidariste francaise union national des Combatants, etc.) We may add an organization of a different nature, the Redressement francais, a committee of big bosses whose function is keeping an eye on the national economy and politics. This committee is the power behind the scenes, which may play a powerful role.
Let us quote from a pamphlet on the Croix de Feu put out by the Vigilance Committee of Antifascist Intellectuals (page 5): “ the latter (Electrical Syndicate, a big trust-V.B.) is presided over by Ernest Mercier, an electrical and gasoline magnate, honorary president of the Redressement francais, member of the board of directors of nineteen firms, the distributor, according to George Valeis, of the subsidies of big capitalism, Ernest Mercier, who in 1925, appointed Jean Goy to found an organization of veterans in the service of capitalism, the first beginning of the Croix de Feu. And if the concentration of fascist forces and capitalist forces still escapes some people, let us recall that the acting president of the Redressement francais is Maurice Champin, a magnate of heavy industry, member of the board of directors of sixteen firms; that the vice-president of the Croix de Feu is M. Pozzo di Borgo, a director of firms; that the manager of the Croix de Feu is a vice-president of a bank…M. Taittinger, of the Jeunesses Patriots, is also a director of firms; M. Lebocg, of the National Veterans’ Union is a municipal counselor of Paris; M. Bucart Francisto was Tardieu’s campaign manager.”
The most prominent and most active organization at the present time is the Croix de Feu, one of several veteran’s organizations. While its chief base is among the petty bourgeoisie, yet it is interesting to note that its leaders, backed as they are by powerful electrical interests, are attempting to win over the workers in big factories making electrical appliances in the Paris region; and by the dint of propaganda and threats are making some headway. It is this group (the Croix de Feu) that is responsible for most of the depredations that so frequently take place in Paris and in the provinces, such petty harassing of the workers as took place in Germany during 1932. It is generally an assault of two or three armed Croix de Feu upon workers coming out of some meeting, or an attack against a meeting on a larger scale, or a breaking up of a Fascist meeting by organized workers leading to fights lasting sometimes for hours. The government shuts its eyes to these doings, as it does to the fact that the Croix de Feu, the Action Francaise and other Fascist organizations possess munitions, machine guns and airplanes. The attempt to introduce a report into the Chamber of Deputies on the events of February, 1934 was voted down.
The program of the Croix de Feu includes the following:
1. Civil Liberties: Only “national” opinions to be allowed the right of free speech, free assembly, etc. Repression of “Moscow communism". Nothing on the servility of the press, of Le Temps to the Comite des Forges and the Comite des Houillores, of the Paris Midi and Paris Seir to the Textile Barons, etc;—but they are for the end of religious quarrels through the end of the laity of the state and the “renewal of spiritual forces.”
2. Trade Union policy: Dissolution of the federations of labor. The trade unions must be brought down to groups in the factories; no associations allowed. No right of organization for state functionaries.
3. Social policy: Liquidation of the state monopolies. Abrogation of the laws on social insurance, etc.
4. National Education: Against the monopoly of education. Against any interference in education of the state. Less college graduates. Suppression of technical training; substitution for the technical schools of workshops attached to the big enterprises where apprentices will be trained without general culture.
5. Political Economy: Against liberalism. Against all planned economy. The standard of living of capitalist economy is limited because “it would be foolish to exact from rebellious matter more than it can give.”
6. Foreign policy: Against the Versailles Treaty. Don’t forget the “German Atrocities". Don’t trust Germany, don’t trust the USSR, don’t trust Poland, don’t trust Italy and don’t count on backward England. Be strong and be respected.
7. National Defense: For the two years military service. No reduction in the state military budget.
8. Financial policy: The mass of citizens must take part in the sacrifices. Policy of economy and retrenchment for education especially.
There exists no real Fascist party in the full sense of the term, but the Italian experience proves that such is not necessary for a coup d"etat. Neither is there anything decisive in the fact that the various Fascist groups fight among themselves and call each other names.
The description of the present situation in France reminds one forcibly of one historic analogy—the Bruening period in Germany. Shaky economy, impossibility of solving the distress of the masses, the discontent of the middle class, retrenchment, government decrees, bankruptcy of “democracy”, growing insolence of the Fascist organizations—it is all there. However, the situation in the labor movement is quite different, which leads us to expect developments unlike those in Germany.
From the Common Front to the People’s Front
The common front between the Socialist and Communist parties took place as a celebration, a celebration of itself, since certainly there was nothing in the situation of the working class to get happy over. And a celebration it has remained, an idiotic flood of sentimentality and mutual felicitation and falling on each others’ necks, which can only remind one of a wedding trip “Together at last"! But under cover of a sickening flood of optimism something very sinister is being put over, which can be characterized as a betrayal equal to that of the Socialists in the last world war.
The new developments of the United Front were crystallized in the 14th of July demonstration in which the united front appeared as the People’s Front. The character of these demonstrations threw a glaring light on the relation of forces and the probable future course of the working class parties.
The tri-color intertwined with the red flag, which was carried at the head of the processions (shameful insult to the workers’ banner!) symbolized the agreement with the Radical Socialists. Here we must ask what is the significance of bringing this party into the 14th of July parades? The R.S. is a petty bourgeois party, behind which are millions of dissatisfied middle class people, small renters and tradesmen, professionals and small government functionaries, all bewildered, seeing their salaries and pensions cut, burdened with taxes and high prices and like similar people everywhere confusedly seeking a way out.
Now, if a revolutionary party really striving to overthrow the bourgeoisie were to draw these masses into a demonstration, even if necessary via an agreement with their chiefs, for the purpose of mobilizing them to fight beside the workers against Fascism and against capitalism, that would be one thing. But as matters really stand, the common front is carrying on a parliamentary flirtation with the Radical Socialists, with the view to sharing the government with them, to joining with them in helping the bourgeoisie to put over new attacks against the standard of living of the masses, and above all to paralyze the will of the masses to fight. L’Humanite of July 4th reporting the decision of the Executive of the Radicals to participate in the demonstration had nothing but the most honeyed approval, not a word of criticism directed against this party which according to them might be the best friend of the working class.
The slogans of the July 14th demonstrations had all the kick and rebellious intensity of an ice-cream soda. The populaire (organization of the French S.F.I.O.) came out on July 7th with the following free verse in the form of headlines; which were echoed on July 14th by the bankrupt editors of L’Humanite (with the exception of the slogan for disarmament): “Big Assembly! For democratic liberty! For the disarming and dissolution of the Fascist Leagues! For freeing the state from the domination of economic feudalism! For the organization of peace, for simultaneous, progressive and controlled disarmament! Bread for all; to the peasants the fruits of their toil; for the youth, work. For the destruction of all Bastilles!” Here poetry and pacifism go hand in hand, while the talk about economic feudalism might come from the Fascists themselves.
As for L’Humanite, nothing that ink and great big type can do has been spared; the only thing missing is a single slogan with revolutionary content. The empty demand: “Soviets everywhere”, and “The Soviet Union stands for peace!” were all there was to distinguish the Communist from the Socialist organ.
The 14th of July had lapsed into a routine state holiday. Like the American 4th, an occasion for fireworks and formal parades, in which only patriots took an interest. Now comes the common front and discovers a hidden revolutionary significance in July 14th , which it undertakes to popularize and claim for the proletariat’s own. The sentimentality about the “old liberties” and the taking of Bastilles, which the Socialists and Communists have spread around would win a prize for a patriotic school book. They have also rediscovered Victor Hugo and in the name of “liberty” have shut their eyes to the real struggles of today to gush tearfully about his wonderful proletarian writings. We would not for a moment dispute the germs of revolutionary proletarian action in the great French revolution nor do we doubt the wide spread libertarian and egalitarian tendencies in France which can be attached to the traditions of 1793. But what has all this to do with the fight against Fascism in 1935? It has this to do with it, that the tactics of the common front are entirely calculated to make the workers’ parties respectable in the eyes of the ruling class. The workers’ parties, including the Communist, are offering themselves to the bourgeoisie: “See, here we are! You don’t need to resort to Fascism, we’ll do the job for you! Spare us!” The man in chains and the flower of the German working class in the concentration camps inspire these cravens and fools (the Blums, Cachins, Duclos and Co.) to crawl on their bellies and in the name of “fighting Fascism” to do their best to pave the way for it. Bruening’s role will be played all over again if these gentlemen succeed in forming a left coalition government as they are evidently trying to do.
What is more, this dastardly capitulation is an official policy of the Comintern. We see it hailed in Dimitrov’s speech at the world congress: “And if in France the anti-fascist movement leads to the formation of a government which will carry on a real struggle against French Fascism—not in word but in deed—will carry out the program of demands of the anti-fascist people’s front, the Communists, while remaining the irreconcilable foes of every bourgeois government and supporters of a Soviet government will nevertheless in face of the growing fascist danger, be prepared to support such a government. (Applause) (Daily Worker, August 24th)
-The People’s Front Becomes the National Front -
The French ruling class needs the support of the common front to carry through its own internal policy, paving the way for Fascism. Even more, it needs the support of the C.P. and of such prestige as remains of the Russian Revolution to prepare the masses for war.
The Soviet Union is not entirely the same as an imperialist ally of France, and it is not for wars of conquest that France has accepted its aid (although in the pact itself and in Stalin’s declarations, help in aggressive wars is implied and certainly this must be emphasized). But the circumstances are such that Russia is more likely to be attacked than France is likely to call upon Russia to go out and fight somewhere with the French. Will France defend Russia against attack? Only to the extent that the proletarian regime breaks down more and more and the capitalist elements in russia increase, as they are doing rapidly. A complete restoration of capitalism in Russia is what France is aiming at.
But in the meantime Stalin, playing the game of the imperialist powers with which he concludes his various agreements, can serve a purpose of tremendous usefulness to France in putting over its war policy. The C.P. of France has swallowed hook, line and sinker the Stalinist theory of good and bad imperialists: The good being those who have signed agreements with the Soviet Union, the bad those like Germany and Japan, who stand outside this sacred circle. The good nations are all for peace, and it is only against the bad ones that the proletariat must turn its wrath. We see here the consummation of the theory of building socialism in one country and the identification of world communist parties with the Friends of the Soviet Union. The result of this theory is, for France, under cover of the most vicious pacifist illusions concerning the Franco-Russian pact, is the ferment war fever against Germany and thus to prepare the French masses to go out and bleed to exterminate an ancient enemy of their bourgeoisie. In view of the age long antagonism, which persists between these two peoples, it is comparatively easy to put over this abominable conception which once more sacrifices the international proletarian revolution in the interests of nationalism. “The Soviet Union Stands for Peace”, and “The Two years Mean Peace”, are now the slogans. Actually, in the name of defending Russia, the French C.P. has abandoned the fight against the extension of military service and against all war preparations of the great ally of the U.S.S.R. The most idiotic, as well as dangerous illusions, are given concerning the army .. it is pictured as the friend of the people, made up of innocent boys who could not possibly harm anybody. The old Leninist tactic of winning over sections of the rank and file of the armed forces now becomes the cleaning out of Fascist officers—in other words, let’s take over the bourgeois army as we’ll take over the bourgeois government!
A few quotations from the Socialist and especially the Communist paper will clinch this question:
Le Populaire, April 12, 1935: “An imminent war danger exists. Danger is known to the extent that it is visible. This danger has a name: It is Hitler.”
L’Humanite, June 8th: “The signing of the France-Soviet pact and the non-aggression and mutual assistance pacts is a way to postpone war! To work for the defeat of the aggressor Hitler, is to work for socialism! The Soviet Union is arming in order not to fall under the blows of Hitler! Who would dare to blame the S.U. for this? She refuses to allow herself to be isolated by imperialist diplomacy. She uses the fatal contradictions of the various capitalisms. Does any one know any other human methods to defend one’s self against a mortal enemy?”
L’Humanite, April 13: (Vaillant-Couturier) “If the workers, to take Marx’s words, have no fatherland, they, the internationalists, have something to defend from now on, it is the cultural inheritance of France, it is the spiritual wealth accumulated through all their artists, her workers and thinkers have produced.
L’Humanite, June 3: “There is a majority of powers in Europe in 1935, which have no interest in war and for which war entails much more risk than advantage. Under these circumstances, war can be avoided, or at least postponed. One condition is necessary. All the powers which have no interest in war must unite to safeguard peace. How can they unite effectively? By deciding to lend each other mutual assistance in case one or the other of them becomes the victim of an aggression.”
L’Humanite, May 24 (Maurice Thorez, speech at Bullier on May 17th): “Here I shall answer a question, which has been put to me: In such a war launched by Hitler against the U.S.S.R., would you apply your slogan: Transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war? .. No, because in such a war, it is not a question of an imperialist war, a war between two imperialists, it is a question of a war against the Soviet Union.”
- The Situation in the Working Class Organizations -
1. The trade unions, The C.G.T. (General Federation of Labor) and the C.G.T.U. (Unitary General Federation of Labor, the Red Unions) claim among them perhaps a million of members. This figure allows us to see that the great majority of French workers are unorganized. The unity negotiations between the two federations are dragging on for months, with the C.G.T.U. in a helpless condition, ready to make any concession to get into the C.G.T. Strikes have occurred since February 1934 in various industries proving that, contrary to Trotsky’s theory, there is still room for economic action. In addition to the above federations, there exists also a revolutionary syndicalist federation, which is small and without such influence except locally.
2. The Communist Party claims 40,000 members. Even making no allowance for Stalinist exaggeration, it is plain the party has fallen off from the 60,000 it had a few years ago. The Franco- Soviet pact has occasioned a certain ferment in the ranks of the party, with individuals dropping out.
In February last year, when already a revolutionary situation, objectively speaking, was present, a Communist party worthy the name could have easily stimulated the uprisings which took place into a struggle for proletarian power. But the C.P. members ran around like idiots, having lost their heads to the extent of actually fighting with the Fascists in the streets. The C.P. rejected the united front which the Socialists offered in the very midst of the struggle, and only under pressure of the masses did joint street actions take place.
And now after fighting the Socialists tooth and nail for years, the Communists are becoming their tail. One looks in vain for any revolutionary call to action. One third of L’Humanite is given over to the advertisements, another third to gossip about the Soviet Union, and the rest to vague mouthings against Laval and De La Rocquo (varied with touching appeals to the Fascists not to be Fascists: See for example the article in L’Humanite for July 12th entitle “Volontaire National, where are you going? (The V.N. are a subsidiary organization of the Croix de Feu—V.B.) The Stalinists’ work among the unemployed on a purely reformist basis; in the unions also. In the period of downfall of capitalism when the Communists’ task is finally to overthrow it, the Stalinists are working on the elementary plane, such as could have been used to mobilize workers in a period of capitalist strength. For example, the slogan “Let the rich Pay”, against the decree laws, taking the place of general strike broadening into insurrection. Not merely have the puppet leaders, Cachin, Thorez and Co. been guilty of not fighting Fascism, but of sowing fatal illusions that Fascism is already licked (see L’Humanite for July 11th: In an article on the coming congress of the C.I., “Our French party will have to explain the reasons for the success in the establishment of the united front, so happily realized, thanks to which the road has been barred to Fascism in our country.” -Our italics- V.B.) Altogether we can say that in the French C.P., now the largest party outside the Soviet Union, all the stinking rottenness of the C.I. comes to a head.
2. While the Communist Party is in some respects worse than the Socialist (S.F.I.O.) still there cannot be the least shred of illusion as the Socialist party becoming a revolutionary organ. The fermentation of the left tendencies in its ranks forces discussion on such questions as the “taking of power”, yet these groups cannot emerge from under the weight of the right wing and center which effectively stifle their revolutionary efforts.
The Mulhouse Congress of the Socialists voted against Stalin’s declaration supporting Laval, yet adopted no statement against national defense. Blum’s speeches were all along the line of Anti- Hitlerism and defense of the S.U., with not a word for the overthrow of the French bourgeoisie. It is not necessary here to go into details of all the resolutions that were presented concerning the “taking of power". Suffice it to say that the resolution adopted was a contrast statement in no way fundamentally in conflict with parliamentarism, but far more dangerous than an open statement for gradualism. On the other hand, if the Trotskyists’ motion on the “taking of power” which really had a revolutionary content, was so overwhelmingly defeated, this is an indication that the S.P. is a centrist and not a revolutionary party, nor is there any hope of capturing it for revolution within the next 156 years. It is only on the basis of the breakup of such parties, not of their reform, that we can hope to see a real Communist party developed.
The “Bolshevik Leninists” are all puffed up over the 100 votes they received (against over 2000 for the majority resolution). But do they really imagine they have unlimited time ahead of them in which slowly to convince the majority of the party membership? The struggle looms actually as a matter of months! The enemy is already at the gates! And here we see the real capitulation of the Trotskyists—not that they do not continue to talk as revolutionists, but they put themselves in a position where like their programs and their will to action are effectively buried. True, they entered the S.F.I.O. as a group. True, they put out De Verite (after long and diligent effort I managed to find a copy of this paper on a newsstand in the Latin quarter). But one cannot escape the fact that no matter what they advocate in the way of slogans,etc., they must still call upon the workers to join the French Socialists—a party reeking with the guilt of supporting the last war, and of preparing to join a government to put over the preparations for Fascism today. Nor is any real criticism of the Socialist leaders tolerated. The Trotskyists can fulminate all they like against the Stalinists, but hands off Leon Blum! A story is circulated about a certain caption, which the Verite once risked at the time of the assassination of the King of Yugoslavia—oh, just an innocent little remark to this effect: “Blum has a lot to say about the King’s assassination, but not a word about the Spanish class war prisoners.” (It was during the trial of Spanish revolutionists). The Verite was brought up on the carpet for this and promptly shut up. Though they may be the most left group of all the little factions in the S.F.I.O., yet they are no more now than a part of that party, subject to its discipline, unable to tell the workers clearly that this party can do nothing but betray them. Trotsky has indeed abandoned all conception of the party as Lenin conceived it—the intransigent vanguard, the real leader of the working class. His members are looking for masses inside the S.F.I.O.,—but before they could get more than a handful around themselves, already their youth section is expelled. Even Pierre Naville has not foreseen this—that great theorist who himself entered the S.F.I.O. alone as a stray sheep following the flock into the fold and now must lead a great fight to get these other lost sheep back in again.
The Trotskyists are not the only opposition within the S.P.,. There are a large number of little groups putting out little papers. Slight shades of opinion divide all these. Two groups of former Trotskyists exist, who remain independent and denounce the capitulation of —the Union Communists and the Action Leninists, the latter is composed of the comrades of the old French League, who refused to enter the S.F.I.O. The former is a split-off from the League in 1933. Besides these there are a number of anarchist groups. Also, there is the Que Faire group, which is trying to reform the Communist Party, and the Doriot group, which is rapidly evolving to the right, attempting to fuse all working class groups into one party and is flirting with the Pupists and with the Front Social (a split-off from the Radical Socialists) at the head of which is one Bergery of known Fascist inclinations. An Anti-War Committee has been formed among the various elements outside the Front Populaire, including also the “Bolshevik Leninists”, the Treint group, Pivert and others inside the S.F.I.O. This group has sent out a call to fight the Union Sacree, and represents a definitely progressive step. It is organizing a national congress and later an international one.
What’s to be done in France?
As the bourgeoisie reaches the end of a descending spiral in which its economy goes from bad to worse and its political situation becomes more and more shaky so that finally the extreme measures of Fascism loom as the only way out, for the proletariat, on the contrary, it is necessary to enter upon what we can call a spiral going upward: All immediate struggles must be broadened and deepened into the general strike and then at once into the armed insurrection to destroy the bourgeois power and establish Soviets. There is a certain sensing of this situation among the masses. While a few left groups have been able to point out certain correct slogans, the mass of organized workers are following the Common Front and their will to struggle is being paralyzed by the fatal capitulation of the C.,P. and the S.P.
The Common Front has sedulously avoided calling out its forces to fight the decree laws of Laval. A rumor has even been circulated that the C.P. and S.P. pledged themselves as a condition to holding the July 14th parades, not to conduct any more demonstrations after that date---at any rate, the fact exists openly and glaringly that the demonstrations against the decree laws were called by the local unions and cartels of government employees--it was Hands Off! with the Common Front. Thus the government employees and war veterans hit by the decree laws were isolated, not merely from the petty bourgeois masses who are also attacked and who could be mobilized by the Common Front together with the Radical Socialists (the People’s Front), but they are cut off even from the remaining sections of the working class. In Toulon and Brest, when riots occurred in the government arsenals, so far from trying to spread this local revolt into an insurrectionary movement, the C.P. did its best to quiet down the masses to crush their revolt.
Yet the perspective opening up is that of civil war. Perhaps within a period of months, the Fascist coup d"etat can be expected. One great difference exists in France in comparison with the situation in Pre-Fascist Germany, namely, the fighting possibilities of the French working class. In Germany, a set of historical circumstances had produced a working class disciplined to the point of having lost all initiative and imagination. They waited for the captains to give orders and when these were not given they did nothing. In France, there are not merely revolutionary traditions, there is a mobile temperament with possibilities for quick reactions. The street fighting of February, 1934 and the recent riots in Brest and Toulen, as well as the trade union demonstrations against the decree laws are all indicative of the resistance the French workers will put up to a Fascist coup d"etat. But the danger is they will fight too late, and, repeating the Austrian experience, will fight to maintain the Republic, a negative fight against Fascism, rather than the audacious struggle to seize power in the name of the working class itself. On the other hand, no one has the right to proclaim defeat in advance. With the will of the masses to fight present, the really vanguard groups must make a herculean effort to live up to the task history assigns them: To make their slogans known, to win influence fighting against time, to try to give that correct leadership, which is necessary in the situation.
In the July issue of the “New International”, put out by the Workers Party, there appears an article by Leon Trotsky on the question of Thermidor and Bonapartism. The article is a remarkable one in a double sense. First of all, it actually contains an admission by Trotsky that he has been in error all along on the question of Thermidor and Bonapartism in the Soviet Union. Second, the “correction” of the error, so publicly made and contritely confessed, is seen to be but the theoretical admission that Trotsky as a revolutionary thinker is all washed up and played out. This article is the nearest thing to stirring up an attack against the Soviet Union that has yet been penned by our great one.
It is instructive to pause a moment to ponder over the remarkable fact of Trotsky admitting an error at all. For twelve years he had led the “Left Opposition” to the Communist Party and later the International Secretariat of the “Internationalist Communists”, and in all this time he had constantly posed as the infallible one. While he was constantly lambasting Stalin for refusing to call an international Congress for seven years, Trotsky also let seven years go by, after his exile in 1928, without convoking a single meeting to consider the question of international policy in the stirring events that history was unfolding before us. He never permitted the various sections adhering to and members of the International Secretariat to come together in an international congress or conference for the purpose of working out a collective comprehensive program and strategy. He did not trust a single one of his colleagues to work out anything theoretical. Quite the contrary, all the thinking had to come from him, alone and unaided. All the program and policies had to come in the form of articles from the pen of the one and only. And now this Trotsky “admits” an error!
And of course the Cannons and Shachtmans will also “admit” the error. Why not? In the first place it is Trotsky’s error, and not Cannon’s and Shachtman’s and they have always been ready to admit the other fellow’s error. Then, again, everyone knows that these puppets have the endorsement of Trotsky precisely because they never dared to think for themselves in all the period of their association with Trotsky. The entire wisdom of these worthies has been to get letters from Trotsky , secretly pilfer their contents and for a month or so hide the letters from the others, and in this way during the given time they could appear as the “solons” infinitely wise in world affairs and revolutions. Their borrowed knowledge would give them a superiority over the others until the stuff was printed and then they would have to wait for new letters to hide from the others and repeat the process.
“Beware the Greeks even when they bear gifts”, is a homily that may well be applied to the sudden “admission” of errors on the part of Trotsky. One may be sure that this admission of error is not merely to correct an untruth in the formulations of social science. This admission of error has a purpose all its own, a purpose not unconnected with Trotsky’s increasing capitulation to the nationalism of the Socialist Parties of the Second International and with his growing nationalist centrism. Our job, then, will be a two-fold one: Not only to examine the question of Thermidor and Bonapartism in the Soviet Union and to lay bare the basic errors of Trotsky on this question, but also what is just as important, to expose the political maneuvers and trickery of Leon Trotsky that lie behind his new theoretical formulations.
What is the error that Trotsky corrects? Up to the time of the article, it has been the position of the Internationalist Communists:
1. That the Soviet Union was a Workers’ State.
2. That there existed within the Soviet Union, Thermidorist elements threatening the life of the Workers’ Republic. These counter revolutionary elements, however, had not yet the force to bring about a “Russian Thermidor”, that is a “moment” when the counter revolutionary bourgeoisie would triumph over the revolutionary proletariat and defeat the revolution.
Today, however, Trotsky writes: “The Thermidors of the Great Russian Revolution is not before us but already far behind. The Thermidoreans can celebrate approximately the tenth anniversary of their victory.” that is, Thermidor was an already complete fact in 1924-1925 when Trotsky and the left opposition was crushed and exiled and some later shot. This is the “new” and “corrected” argument of Trotsky.
It is necessary, first of all, for everybody to become clear exactly what is “Thermidor”, this name that is bandied so handily about. The term “Thermidor” originated with the French Revolution. It was the name of the month in 1794 that saw the execution of Robespierre, the nominal leader of the French Revolution, by reactionary forces. The death of Robespierre led directly to the establishment of the Directorate, to the Consulate and to the empire of Napoleon supported by the bourgeois capitalist elements striving for power in France. Up to now, when we have used the term, “Thermidor”, it has signified the stopping of the revolutionary forces and the overthrow of the revolutionary elements by the counter revolutionary elements. Thus, when we have applied the term “Thermidorean elements” to characterize groups in the Russian Revolution, we have meant elements whose destiny is to fight to terminate the Workers’ Republic and to replace it with a capitalist state. And, when we constantly reiterated that “Thermidore is not completed”, we meant to say that in spite of Stalinism, the Soviet Union is still a Workers’ State and not a capitalist State as yet.
Now Trotsky writes: “THE REAL MEANING OF THERMIDORE". “Nevertheless today we can and must admit that the analogy of Thermidore served to becloud rather than to clarify the question. Thermidore in 1794 produced a shift of power from certain groups in the Convention to other groups, from one section of the victorious “people” to other strata. Was Thermidore “counter revolution"? The answer to this question depends upon how wide a significance we attach, in a given case to the concept of “counter revolution". The social overturn of 1769 to 1793 was bourgeois in character. In essence it reduced itself to the replacement of fixed feudal property by “free” bourgeois property. The counter revolution, corresponding to this revolution, would have had to attain the reestablishment of feudal property. But Thermidore did not even make an attempt in this direction…THERMIDORE WAS REACTION IN OPERATION ON THE SOCIAL FOUNDATIONS OF THE REVOLUTION. Of the very same import was the 18th Brumaire of Bonaparte, the next important stage on the road of reaction. In both instances it was a question not of restoring either the old forms of property, or the power of former ruling estates; but of dividing the gains of the new social regime among the different sections of the victorious “Third Estate".”
In another place in the same article Trotsky states: “THE HISTORICAL ANALOGY MUST BE REVISED AND CORRECTED. In the internal controversies of the Russian and the international Opposition we conditionally understood by Thermidor the first stage of the bourgeois counter revolution, aimed against the social basis of the workers state…The overturn of the Ninth Thermidor did not liquidate the basic conquests of the bourgeois revolution; but it did transfer the power into the hands of the more moderate and conservative Jacobins, the better to do elements of bourgeois society….
“The smashing of the Left Opposition implied in the most direct and immediate sense the transfer of power from the hands of the revolutionary vanguard into the hands of the more conservative elements among the bureaucracy and the upper crust of the working class. The year 1924—that was the beginning of the Soviet Thermidor"… “In both cases the bureaucracy raised itself upon the backs of the plebeian democracy which had assured the victory for the new regime. The Jacobin clubs were strangled gradually. The revolutionists of 1793 died on the battlefields; they became diplomats and generals, they fell under the blows of repression…or went underground. Subsequently, other Jacobins successfully transformed themselves into Napoleon’s prefects.”
Thus, Trotsky’s “new” views may be summed up as follows:
1. The term “Thermidor”, strictly speaking, does not mean the victory of counter revolution, but a reactionary way of carrying forward and maintaining the revolution. This is the essence of Stalinism, and therefore the victory of Stalin over the forces led by Trotsky is the completion of Thermidore in the Soviets.
2. Analogically, Trotsky stands for Robespierre and the left opposition resembles genuine Jacobin revolutionaries. Robespierre is the leader of the French Revolution, Trotsky (with Lenin) the leader of the Russian Revolution. The Jacobins are the leading party in the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Leninists of the Left Opposition are the Jacobins of the Russian Revolution. The execution of Robespierre is the French counterpart of the crushing of Trotsky’s Left Opposition.
In all of this Trotsky shows himself strangely ignorant of French revolutionary history and, most amusing of all, in comparing himself to Robespierre and the Bolshevik Leninists to the Jacobins does himself grave historical injustice and gives a blow to the entire Left Opposition. Let us take up the points one by one as they present themselves.
Was Robospierre the leader of the French Revolution? Only nominally was this true. Robespierre, like Stalin, was able to be the “leader”, only because he knew how to “follow” the masses as they moved to the left. However, when the masses began to take things into their own hands, to demand the propagandist war throughout all of Europe as the only means of salvation, when they began to demand the “Agrarian Law”, that is, communistic egalitarianism, the equal division of the land and equal division of wealth for all in France, when they insisted on the continuance of the restrictions lowering the prices of foodstuffs and cutting down the “nouveau riche”, when the Convention began to be swamped by the demands of the Commune and when the Jacobin clubs began to give way to the plebeian masses organized in the Communes and Sections, then Robespierre, never the revolutionary firebrand pictured by his enemies, nor of the style of Marat, and who, Trotsky falsely states, was supposed to rest his power on the artisans of Paris, turned upon the masses of the left who were under the leadership of Hebert, Clootz, Roux, Chaumette and others, and executed them. With these leaders Robespierre handed over thousands of working men to the mercy of the guillotine.
In short, it was Robespierre, who, in the name of the French Revolution, stopped the left drift of the revolution. It is true that Robespierre also executed the conciliator Danton, but it was then too late to make amends. By his executions of the leaders of the real left, men like Hebert, Clootz and the other heads of the first Paris Commune, Robespierre had completely removed himself from popular support and made it easy for the counter revolution to bring him also to the guillotine in the month of Thermidor. Although Robespierre symbolized the French Revolution, yet, ironically enough, it was he who prepared the ground for the counter revolutionary, Thermidorean elements that brought him to his grave.
Now does not Trotsky do himself a grave injustice to compare himself with Robespierre? Is it not strange that with all this French history writing, Trotsky should not even mention the dastardly counter revolutionary role of Robespierre as against the poor masses of Paris, that Trotsky should “forget” the masses, that he should “forget” Hebert, Clootz, the Paris Commune and Robespierre’s relations to these elements? It is indeed an unenviable comparison and a doubtful honor that Trotsky here confers upon himself, when he compares himself to Robespierre. But can it be that Trotsky is at bottom more correct than we know in making this comparison? Certainly, by his entrance into the Socialist Party in France and in Belgium he is more and more becoming a brake on the revolutionary development of the proletariat and more and more becoming a Robespierre with all the hateful connotations that such a character brings up. At any rate, that was not Trotsky’s role in 1923-1924 in the Russian Revolution.
It is not Trotsky who is the Russian Robespierre, but Stalin. Even in his personal character, Stalin shows himself to be the same sort of petty Bourgeois mediocre provincial prig as Robespierre. And politically, it is Stalin who crushes the masses and prevents the revolution from unfolding in its genuine revolutionary proportions. The crushing of the Left Opposition of Trotsky by Stalin is to be compared not with the execution of Robespierre in Thermidore, but with the precedent stage of the revolution, the execution of Hebert and the others of the Paris Commune by Robespierre. That is how matters stand in their historical analogical light.
(NOTE: If our analysis of the French Revolution is correct and the leftist movement of that revolution was not developed, but really stopped by Robsepierre himself before the events of Thermidor occurred, then why should we not designate the date of Hebert’s death as the beginning of the counter revolution, rather than Thermidor, the date of the execution of Robespierre? Our answer is that we are not responsible for the illusions and the falsifications of history. To the conservative bourgeoisie of France even Robespierre was “revolutionist” enough to give them the jitters. And the French revolutionary movement was not able to make a sufficient analysis for itself but followed in the wake of the bourgeoisie and also conceived Robespierre to have been the most extreme revolutionist of all. This is no excuse, however, for Marxist revolutionists.
Moreover, in a certain sense, it is yet correct to designate the period of the reaction as stemming from Thermidor rather than from the earlier date. Under the conditions then prevailing in the 18th century the movement of Hebert, Clootz and others, was but an episode and doomed to failure, historically. The time was not yet ripe for Socialism or Communism or popular egalitarianism to succeed in any degree. The French Revolution was a bourgeois one whose extreme representatives (often against their own will) were the petty bourgeoisie of the Jacobins rather than the enraged plebeians of Paris, who were the advance guard not of the bourgeois revolution but of the proletarian revolution that was to come. Thus, within the bourgeois frame work of the French revolution, the decisive turning point did come with the execution of its extreme petty bourgeois Jacobinist “leader”, Robespierre. )
Were the Jacobins the extreme revolutionary party in the French Revolution that attempted to lead the exploited masses to freedom in 1793? And are the French Jacobins to be compared with the Bolshevik-Leninists fighting for an international Communist policy in the ranks of the proletariat?
Now in regard to the Jacobins, at first almost the entire membership was made up of middle class people, many of them Masons, and only as the Revolution advanced were the dues grudgingly lowered and poorer elements admitted. The Jacobin body contained from 2% to 4% of the town population--in the village from 8% to 10%--and during the height of the terror totalled no more than about 500,000 throughout entire France (population then about 25 million) and of these only 10%-15% were actives. (See C. Brenton: The Jacobins) This Jacobin Party acted as the general staff and driving force for revolutionary capitalism both against the aristocracy and the poor masses.
The Jacobins were the extreme democratic-republican organization representing the petty bourgeoisie, who under the pressure of events and the grand unfolding of the Revolution, had to carry on the Revolution, essentially capitalist, against the wishes of the capitalists themselves and in a fashion that could only unleash the anti-capitalist sentiments of the oppressed poor in city and country. However, that the petty bourgeoisie could go so far and carry on the fight so long and so ruthlessly against the capitalists themselves was due only to the pressure of the poor masses who were organized not in the Jacobin clubs, but in the Commune. These masses had formed their own special Commune propagandist army to keep the revolutionary army on a correct road and were pressing forward in their own blind way towards Communism. After a certain point had been reached, the Jacobins were forced to block the leftward swing and to put down the masses.
The Jacobins were not of the breed of Spartacus or of Karl Marx. When the Jacobins were in power all the government officials formed little cliques within the clubs and more and more became separated from the people, as did the Jacobin clubs as a whole. In many of these clubs working men were admitted only during a brief period at the height of the Terror and then only under pressure.
Under the stress of events, the Commune had fixed wages and prices. It had granted a free allowance of bread to each family. It had closed down the bourse and ended speculation. Assignments were issued. Free education was established, a new calendar worked out, many reforms established, etc. In order to carry out its aims the mass of people would have had to progress along the direction of the abolition of private property and the socialization of the means of production. But such a program was unthinkable in those days, as far as any great number of people was concerned, for the means of production did not lend themselves to socialization, and there was no genuine modern proletariat. Thus private property had to continue and the encroachment of the “mob” could be only temporary.
It was now the turn of the petty bourgeois Jacobin radicals, whom Trotsky idealizes, to block the revolution. Any advocacy of the “Agrarian Law”, agrarian Communism, became punishable by death. Unions were prohibited and strikers were sent to the guillotine. The Jacobin clubs entered into a bitter fight against the Sections of the Commune. First the Commissars and the special Army of the Commune was attacked. Then Hebert and Clootz and their associates were executed. Robespierre, now supreme, began executions in great batches. “It would be a mistake to suppose that it was chiefly the well-to-do that suffered. On the contrary, out of 2,750 victims of Robespierre, only 650 belonged to the upper or middle classes. The tumbrils… were largely filled with working men.” (See E. Belfort Bax: The Story of the French Revolution)
We can say about the Jacobins as we said about Robespierre, that they did not wish to carry forward the revolution, that they were compelled to follow the masses up to a certain point and thus agree to take the leadership for a while. The role of the Jacobins was to see that the revolution did not go beyond the bounds of a bourgeois revolution and to yield to the pressure of the masses so as to control and later to behead them when they went too far. To call the Jacobins the “revolutionary vanguard”, is to forget the Commune, is to forget the revolutionary masses, which the Jacobin clubs hated and detested with all their might. It is to tell but half the truth since the Jacobins were not only the revolutionary vanguard of capitalism against the aristocracy and under pressure even forced to act in a fashion against the capitalists themselves, but the Jacobins were also the counter-revolutionary vanguard of capitalism against the poor of the Commune and paved the way for Bonaparte. In his understanding of the French Revolution, the “Marxist”, Trotsky shows himself immeasurably inferior even to the Anarchist Kropotkin (See Kropotkin’s French Revolution).
Indeed, Trotsky’s comparison of the Jacobins with the Bolsheviks plays right into the hands of the Anarchists. For do not the Anarchists declare that the Bolsheviks “stopped” the revolution, shot down the masses ("Kronstadt") and never did anything without the pressure of the masses from below compelling them to do this or that and then the Bolsheviks led the way only to betray the masses in the end? It is a slander on the Bolsheviks and on the former Left Opposition to compare them with the Jacobins. The ones who resemble the Jacobins are the Stalinists. It is they who have stopped the revolution, preventing it from unfolding in its true proportions. Just as Stalin has played the role of the Robespierre in laying the base for Bonapartism, so the Stalinist Party plays the role of the petty-bourgeois Jacobins today.
(NOTE: It is not our fault that the revolutionary role of the Jacobins has been alone remembered while their counter- revolutionary role has been forgotten by most. This is due, for one thing, to the slavish imitation of the French proletariat to the history writing of their bourgeoisie and bourgeoisified intellectuals. It is this slavish opportunism that has led the Socialists and Stalinists today to claim the French Revolution as their own, and to march on July 14th with the French tri-color at their head. This is the road to “Frenchifying”, to nationalizing in the worst sense, International Communism. In the same way, the American Socialists and opportunist Communists are trying to “Americanize” Communism in this country.
However, in a certain sense, the prevailing faulty analysis of the role of the Jacobins has a partial justification, since their revolutionary role has far more importance than their counter- revolutionary one. In being the instrument, often against their own will, to carry forward the bourgeois revolution so far and so ruthlessly against the old aristocratic regime, the Jacobins were doing a necessary historical job. On the other hand, in putting down the plebeian Communistic efforts, they were putting down a premature outburst, which was but anticipating history and was premature at the time.)
Trotsky’s colossal ignorance of the basic facts of the French Revolution provides a base for his errors in regard to the concept “Thermidor". Furthermore, Trotsky here shows that he has forgotten the very law of permanent revolution of which he has posed as the leading exponent for so long a time. The French Revolution was not a finished revolution. It only began the revolutionary epoch, but did not complete it and make it permanent. After the Revolution of 1789-1794 was finished, France was compelled to go through one convulsion after another, the Directorate, the Consulate, the Empire, the Restoration, the revolution of 1830, the revolution of 1848, the coup d"etat of 1851, the Paris Commune of 1871, etc. The bourgeoisie had no sooner taken power when it saw that another class was arising that was challenging its power and threatening to make the revolution permanent by establishing the Communist Revolution.
Now it is true that in 1794, France could only go so far and no further, that it could not go beyond the confines of bourgeois private property. But this truth, so clear today to us, was not so clear to the participants of the revolution at the time. Exactly how far the revolution could go had to be tested out in the actual field of battle. Had we lived in the stirring years of 1794, our place could only have been with Hebert and Clootz and with the revolutionary plebeian masses of the Commune, who wanted to go further than what we now know could have been gone at the time. Hebert and Clootz were the representatives of our class, the awakening proletarians, who later on would become the decisive part of the French revolutionary movement. It is not the traditions of Robespierre and the Jacobins that we cherish, but the traditions of Hebert, Clootz, the Paris Commune and above all Babouf and the movement (which came later, in 1796) that we hold dear and claim as our own.
If we look at the matter from the light of the living class struggle as it was actually being fought out, how does “Thermidor” appear. It was the point where the Jacobins no longer became susceptible to the pressure of the proletarian and plebeian Commune but where they went over to the reactionary bourgeoisie. Thermidor was the “moment” when the bourgeois revolution, which was carried on against the wishes of the bourgeoisie and without their leadership, would now be carried on in a thoroughly bourgeois manner and under their direct leadership. Thermidor means the decisive victory of the class that wishes to keep the revolution bourgeois and capitalist and to prevent the proletariat and plebeian mass from making their own revolution.
Let us now turn to the Russian Revolution so that the comparison will become clear to us. There, too, the revolution has not been completed. It has yet to be made international. The petty private individual proprietor giving birth to new capitalist elements has by no means been eliminated. However, and what is of the utmost importance, the Revolution has gone far beyond the French Revolution stage, but has reached the stage where, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, the proletariat has actually taken over the power and has established the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in the sense of a Workers’ State. Capitalism has been overthrown and a new set of relationships built up.
Under Stalin, a portion of the Bolsheviks turn into petty bourgeois revolutionaries of the Jacobin type. They stop the revolution from going forward. They refuse to make it international in scope. They do not eliminate the petty proprietary influence and rather become the agents of the petty capitalist elements and thus of the capitalists and imperialists of the world. However, they cannot restore the old capitalism in the Soviet Union. They cannot drive the proletariat from their Basic control over the factories and reestablish the private ownership and control of the means of production. They are able to go so far but cannot go further. They cannot stop the Russian working class decisively as yet. The battle is still going on and the Stalinists find themselves still prisoners of the class that has kept the factories, namely, the proletariat.
Thermidor does NOT mean, as Trotsky says, merely the transfer of power into the hands of conservatives out of the hands of the radicals, but means -,transfer of the class basis, the substitution of one class instead of another. Before we had Thermidor we had the dominance of the Paris Commune over the Convention and the Jacobins were forced to carry out the wishes of Hebert and the other representatives of non-capitalist classes. After Thermidor we had the capitalist class in power and the Paris Commune crushed. Trotsky sees only the formal change and does not see that different classes have now the dominant role. Trotsky “forgets” the class struggle, that is all. Thermidor does NOT mean, as Trotsky says, “Reaction in operation on the social foundation of the revolution.” Such a definition is too classless, too ahistorical, too “broad”, and hides the whole character of the class struggle. The real meaning of Thermidor is that which has been traditionally given to the term by the Bolsheviks and the Internationalist-Communists, namely the first stage of the bourgeois counter-revolution aimed against the social basis of the proletarian and plebeian state which is being established.
This situation has not as yet been established in Russia. For Thermidor to exist in the Soviet Union would mean that the working class has been decisively defeated and that capitalism is being reestablished. It is entirely too early to say this at the present time. Trotsky is counting his chickens before they have been hatched.
Even were we to concede the most to Trotsky’s analysis, we would have to say that in the French Revolution before Thermidor, we had an essentially bourgeois revolution conducted against the will of that class which ultimately was the very beneficiary, while after Thermidor the bourgeoisie itself controlled the revolution. Even so, just the opposite prevails in the case of the Russian Revolution. If we were to pursue the analogy like Trotsky we would have to say that before 1924 (Russian “Thermidor") the interests of the proletariat were being carried out by the Bolsheviks against its will and that after 1924 the proletariat itself, the class whose interests were being subserved by the revolution, actually took over the reins itself. But Trotsky, of course, does not mean to say this, but just the opposite, namely that in Russia the class for whose benefit the revolution had been fought was losing the reins of government and not taking them over.
The whole formulation of Trotsky that Thermidor is “reaction in operation on the social foundation of the revolution” is non- Marxian through and through. Was the victory of Napoleon “reaction"? Does Trotsky contend that under the circumstances there was any other force than that aroused by Napoleon which could have carried the war to all Europe and to the gates of Moscow, overthrowing the feudal regimes in all these countries and establishing the victory of the republic and laying the seeds of bourgeois propaganda everywhere? Does Trotsky contend under the circumstances that the victory of capitalism in France could have been consolidated in any other way than by mobilizing all the capitalist elements and giving them leadership after a certain point? If it be true, as it is, that in 1789 there would have been only a capitalist revolution then it is ridiculous to call the taking of leadership by the capitalists themselves and their tremendous achievements in ridding all Europe of the ancien regime as “reaction"! The victory of Napoleon could be called “reactionary” only if one believes that the masses themselves could have taken and held power and created a non-capitalist regime (which is Utopian) or secondly, if we take the standpoint that when the masses are crushed and defeated this is “reaction". It is from the second point of view only that Marxists call the victory of Napoleon “reaction” in operation on the social foundations of the revolution, but obviously such characterizations are quite relative and incomplete.
But why is Trotsky so anxious to falsify the meaning of Thermidor? Because he is anxious to show that Thermidor has already been completed for ten years in Russia and thus to lay the basis for proving that Bonapartism exists in the Soviet Union, since Thermidor came before Bonapartism. So, if we analyze Trotsky’s article carefully, we see that the treatise on “Thermidor” was only a mere introduction to the basic point that “Bonapartism” rules today in Russia. And to make confusion more confounded, Trotsky advances this point of view, namely that Stalin equals Bonaparte, while at the same time declaring the Soviet Union is still a Workers’ State. We must smoke out Trotsky and force him to declare--either--or--either capitalism exists in the Soviet Union, in which case Stalinism is Bonapartism or there is a Workers State in which case Bonapartism is impossible. However, Trotsky has developed his own centrism. With the Mensheviks he declares there is Bonapartism, with the Bolsheviks, that there is a Workers State; but in declaring both things at the same time, in reality Trotsky plays right into the hands of the Mensheviks and the enemies of the Soviet Union.
Up to the time of the article it had been the position of those following Trotsky, as well as the Internationalist Communists that the regime in Russia could be characterized not as Bonapartism, but as Bureaucratic Centrist. Now Trotsky writes:
“As the bureaucracy becomes more independent, as more and more power is concentrated in the hands of a single person, the more does BUREAUCRATIC CENTRISM turn into BONAPARTISM.”
“The concept of Bonapartism, being too broad, demands concretization. During the last few years we have applied this term to those capitalist governments, which by exploiting the antagonisms between the proletarian and Fascist camps and by leaning directly upon the military police apparatus, raise themselves above parliament and democracy as the saviors of “national unity". We always differentiated between the Bonapartism of decay and the young advancing Bonapartism, which was not only the grave digger of the political principles of the bourgeois revolution, but also the defender of its social conquests….
“The present day Kremlin Bonapartism we juxtapose, of course, to the Bonaparatism of bourgeois rise and not decay: With the Consulate and the First Empire and not with Napoleon III, and all the more so, not with Schleicher or Doumergue…”
Here we have to ask ourselves several questions: Can “Bonapartism” exists in a Workers State? Is there such a distinction between “old” and “young” Bonapartism as Trotsky makes? Has Bureaucratic Centrism disappeared in the Soviet Union? And, finally, What are the implications of the theory that Bonpartism exists in the USSR?
In the days when Trotsky was some what of a Marxist he defined Bonapartism as a “regime of the military police dictatorship". “As soon as the struggle of two social strata—the haves and the have-nots, the exploiter and the exploited—reaches its highest social tension, the conditions are given for the domination of bureaucracy, police, soldiery. The government becomes “independent” of society.” “To be sure, such a government does not cease being the clerk of the property owners. Yet the clerk sits on the back of the boss, rubs his neck raw and does not hesitate at times to dig his boots into his face.” (See Trotsky: The Only Road)
Here we can see what all Internationalist Communists understood by the concept Bonapartism. Bonapartism contained at least the following elements: 1) The general social system was that of capitalism, the capitalist private ownership of the means of production of wealth. 2) Bonapartism occurs when the tension between exploiter and exploited is at the highest level. Exploiters and exploited are either actually paralyzed or mutually exhausted. 3) The Bonapartist government is the clerk of the property owners, although appearing “independent". 4) “Freed from direct responsibility to any class, buoyant with the illusion of being above classes, resting only upon the armed might of the State mechanism, Bonapartism inevitably brings in its train an adventurist foreign policy.” (Theses: The Struggle for Communism, C.L.S.)
Now, if this be Bonapartism, how can this exist within the frame work of a workers’ state, where the economic relations in the productive processes are not capitalist, where there is no exploitation in the accepted sense of the term, where the exploiters are nonexistent because there is no capitalist private property in the means of production? And in the foreign field can any one declare that the Russian regime has pursued a policy of “adventurous war-mongering"?
In his whole argument, Trotsky shows a maliciousness and a confusion that borders on the ridiculous. Here are the “reasons” Trotsky gives why Stalinism is Bonapartism:
1. Under Napoleon I, the bourgeois revolution was “consolidated” through the “liquidation” of its principles and political institutions. under Stalinism, the worker peasant revolution is “consolidated” through the smashing of its leading party, its international program and its Soviets. Ergo: Stalinism is Bonapartism. Now, no Marxist ever made as one of the criteria of Bonapartism that it had to “consolidate” the gains of a revolution. This is rank nonsense. Secondly, whoever said that Bonaparte “liquidated” the “principles” of the bourgeois revolution? What were these “principles"? Were the bourgeois “principles” enunciated by the Moderates, or by the Girendists, or by the Jacobins of the right, or by the Jacobins of the left, or by whom? Here we have to keep in mind the expression of Marx and Engels that in every revolution the pendulum is swung too far so that it has to be swung back in order to reach the place it was meant for it to come to rest. Robespierre and some of the Jacobins went “too far”, they were too susceptible to the plebeian and proletarian pressure “from below". They cannot really be said to have been the keeper of the “principles” of the bourgeoisie by a long shot. On the contrary, an excellent case can be made out that it was really only, under Napoleon that the “principles” of the bourgeoisie became most clearly enunciated. Thirdly, how can we declare that Stalinism is “consolidating” the worker/peasant revolution when at the same time we call for this overthrow of Stalinism because the revolution is in danger. Furthermore, if Stalinism is Bonapartism and yet consolidates the gains of the worker-peasant revolution, then how can we declare by definition that Bonapartism has always meant the “highest tension between exploited and exploiters” existing? The whole comparison is utterly ridiculous.
2. The second argument: Napoleon shot down the “rabble”, and built up a strong apparatus and Stalin shoots down the masses and also builds up a strong apparatus and so Trotsky asks: “What else should this regime be called, if not Soviet Bonapartism?” But does not Trotsky know that not only Napoleon shot down the “rabble” but also Robespierre? Did not Robespierre also concentrate all power into his hands and become virtual dictator for a while without becoming thereby a Bonaparte? And on the other hand, does not every military dictator under capitalism shoot down the “rabble” without appearing necessarily Bonapartist?
Yet this is the whole argument of Trotsky, nothing more! Here we see that Trotsky has lost all Marxist sense of proportion. He has lost his criteria of history. He is willing to jumble together into one concept political institutions and phenomenon that appear under a capitalist state, with those that appear under a workers’ state under an entirely different setup, different mechanism and different functioning. Proceeding with such a method, we might as well throw all social science out of the window. All distinctive differences would soon be blurred. This is precisely the point of view of the decadent liberal democrats, who confuse Mussolini and Hitler on the one hand with Stalin on the other, and declare both to be representatives of dictatorships and tyrannies and both must be overthrown in the name of pure democracy. Trotsky, like the liberals, overlooks entirely the class content and measure of the dictatorships and the relations of the political regimes to the classes in power.
No, it is impossible to declare that Bonapartism can exist in a workers’ state and that, therefore, Stalinism is Bonapartism of a Soviet kind. Bonapartism is a political system that can appear historically only within the framework of capitalist private property and no other. Trotsky shows himself here to be a mere sophist, substituting an ahistorical, abstract, liberal viewpoint for the Marxism viewpoint that understands how evolution changes quantity into quality and raises events to different levels.
As part of his argument, Trotsky has “discovered” a new “distinction” in the general analysis regarding Bonapartism that has been made in the past; it is the distinction between “young” Bonapartism and “old” Bonapartism. “Young” Bonapartism is supposed to have been represented by Napoleon I, “old” Bonapartism by Napoleon II: and later by Schleicher and Doumergue. The distinction between the two types of Bonapartism is supposed to be that the first came in the time of capitalist rise, the second in the time of decay. This argument is false from beginning to end. But, with his usual arrogance, Trotsky blithely affirms: “We always (note “always") strictly differentiated” between these two forms of Bonapartism.
If by “young” Bonapartism is meant that which appeared during the rise of the bourgeoisie, then certainly Napoleon III also represented that “young” Bonapartism unless Trotsky wants to “discover” another “theory” that already in 1851 to 1871 French capitalism was in decay and not in a period of rise. Evidently “theories” come easily with our infallible Trotsky.
The distinctions that have been made by the Internationalist Communists have been as follows: “The Bonapartist regime can attain a comparatively stable and durable character only in the event that it brings a revolutionary epoch to a close; when the relationship of forces has already been tested in battles; when the revolutionary classes are already spent; while the possessing classes have not yet freed themselves from the fear; will not the morrow bring new convulsions? Without this basic condition, that is, without a preceding exhaustion of the mass energies in battles, the Bonapartist regime is in no position to develop.” (Trotsky: The Only Road) In the case of von Schleicher and of Dollfuss in Austria, we had Bonepartism regimes completely transitory and unstable because the forces had not been spent in actual street battles but these battles had yet to take place. It was in the streets themselves that the issues would be decided not by the Dollfuss or von Schleicher mechanisms.
The glaring internal inconsistencies and unutterable confusion in Trotsky’s new theories are brought out all the sharper when it is recalled that according to Trotsky Stalinism represents not the “old” Bonapartism of decay but the “young” Bonpartism of youth. But, according to Trotsky himself, the Soviet system is on the verge of ruin and have to represent not “youthful” Bonapartism, but “decadent” Bonapartism that arises when the antagonism between the proletarian and the Fascist camps grow great and the whole social order is at stake. So much for Trotsky’s “new distinctions".
In his whole lengthy article, Trotsky, strangely enough, says hardly a word about Bureaucratic Centrism. This is all the more queer since all the works of Trotsky previously have been filled with this term, Bureaucratic Centrism as a synonym for Stalinism. According to Trotsky, Stalinism is not Bureaucratic Centrism but now is Bonapartism and has been so for ten years. Further, it is a Bonapartism closer to the period of the Empire than to the Consulate, so that it is a Bonapartism pretty well on the road to completion. Thus another concept of the Internationalist Communists is to be destroyed by Trotsky.
Centrism is composed of the political trends that move and flourish between the camps of social reform and revolutionary Marxism. The typical Centrist organization is one made up of workers in the main, and of petty bourgeois elements, whose phrases are revolutionary, but whose practices are opportunist and who are tied up with the right wing socialists in a thousand ways. It is clear that the degeneration of the Soviet Union would have to take the form of the degeneration of the Leninist Bolshevik party to a Centrist organization at some point in its backsliding course to nationalism and social-chauvinism. And if Stalinism represents this degeneration it would have to be characterized as a variety of centrism. Stalinism was called specifically Bureaucratic Centrism because it rested upon the bureaucracy within the Soviet Union that was constantly growing in strength and importance and was breaking down still further the control of the workers.
As we put the matter in our Class Struggle (Vol. II, No. 7, August 1932), “What we wish to affirm is that Stalinism, or Bureaucratic Centrism” is also on the whole a form of centrism that is to the right of Leninism, in spite of ultra left zig-zags, and is moving toward Reform. The fact that Stalinism rests upon the Soviet bureaucracy which is still tied to the workers by the frame of the proletarian revolution in the Soviet Union, means that on the one hand this centrism has a more permanent base than the ordinary forms of centrism, which are by their very nature ephemeral and transient and that, on the other hand, it will be a tendency capable at moments of yielding to the pressure of the working class and thus having leftward zig-zag peculiarities.” This has been the orthodox internationalist Communist viewpoint up to the present.
If now we declare that Stalinism is no longer Bureaucratic Centrism, a form of degenerated workers’ movement, but rather is Bonapartism, this implies that Stalianism like Fascism, has become a capitalist movement outside the pale of the working class, a movement that must be physically annihilated. At this very moment Trotsky is flirting with all sorts of centrist groups. (By the way, Trotsky for years has flirted with “centrist” groups and tried to get into them. This has been at the bottom of most of the quarrels of the C.L.S. with Trotsky on the question of “centrism"). Trotsky is most anxious, while coddling up to the Socialist traitors of all varieties to show his solid worth by branding the Communist parties, that is the Stalinists, as Bonapartists outside the pale of the working class. The Socialist Party, you see, can be reformed. One can join the Socialists. They have valuable working class elements. They have a future before them. The Stalinists, however, are composed of Bonapartists. They are the worst enemies within the ranks of the workers. They are to be fought tooth and nail. This is Trotsky’s new theses, as his groups join the Socialist Parties and these parties become part of the capitalist governments (Belgium).
If the Soviet Union is still a workers’ state, although in a condition of decay and degeneration, we must ask the question, how does it come about that there is no centrism among the workers but only Bonapartism? Would not the leading political manifestation among the workers most naturally be centrist reformism, in the light of the traditions, the struggles and the achievements of the Russian proletariat.
On what basis can we state that Stalinism is Bonapartism rather than a form of Centrism? Did we ever hear of a “Bonapartist” call himself a Communist, raise as his goal the formation of a Socialist Commonwealth, call for the abolition of private property, issue the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.? And, pray, at just what moment did Stalinism lose its character of Centrism and become Bonapartism? We await the voice of the oracle, Trotsky, to tell us the secrets of his mysticism. The voice of Trotsky has here led him to the most bizarre extreme and subjective sociology. No, we shall have to reaffirm that Stalinism represents still a form of socialist centrism, a bureaucratic centrism, a degenerated workers’ ideology and not Bonapartism. The members of the Communist International of Stalin are not Bonapartists.
What are the implications of the theory that Bonapartism is the ruling regime in the U.S.S.R.? Such a thesis can only develop the greatest hatred on the part of the international working class for the U.S.S.R. It plays directly into the hands of the Fascists and other attackers of the Soviet Union.
Within recent years we have hammered home the point that Bonapartism is the transition point of desperate capitalism on the road to Fascism. We have called Bonapartists, the most hateful figures, von Papon, von Schleicher, Dollfuss, and others who represent the open agents of the capitalist class in smashing the workers. If Dollfuss is called Bonaparatist and Stalin is called Bonapartist, who is going to declare that there is a class distinction between them, that one operates in the framework of capitalism and the other of the proletarian revolution. Trotsky here makes the same fatal error, only much worse, that the Stalinists have made in hurling the word Fascist and Social-Fascist at all those within the ranks of labor whom they did not like. By his vicious confusionism, Trotsky teaches the workers to arrive at the same conclusion in regard to the Communist Parties of Stalin as they have been taught to employ against the capitalists.
The declaration that Stalinism is anti-Soviet Bonapartism can only lead to the belief that the soviet Union that has a Bonapart at its head is after all only a capitalist country. All the secondary aspects of Trotsky’s argument, namely that Russia is still a workers’ state will be forgotten because Trotsky himself goes at great pains to obliterate the tremendous distinctions between the Communist parties of Stalin and the capitalist Bonapartists.
The conclusions of Trotsky are particularly dangerous at this moment, when in spite of Stalinism, it is still our duty to defend the October Revolution as crystallized in the existence of the Soviet Union. Trotsky here has taken the next step in his capitulation to the Socialist nationalists of which he has become a most important part.
Why does Trotsky want to prove that Stalinism is Bonapartism? Is it because he has now entered into the sphere of Socialist opportunist politics? Does he declare war on Stalinism because he wants to endear himself to his new found friends and comrades in the Socialist parties of the capitalist countries? Infinite exaggeration of the revolutionary possibilities of the Socialist parties, infinitely exaggerated treatment of the Stalinists to the point of treating them like Fascists, this is modern Trotskyism. As the capitalists gird for war against the Soviet Union, Trotsky gives them a new theory which they can use demagoguery through “their” Socialist parties, namely that there is Bonapartism in Russia which must be overthrown and the workers cannot defend the country where there is Bonapartism as the ruling regime. In this way, Trotsky proves he is “safe” and no longer the internationalist he was. What fear have the Vanderveldes and the Blums from the Trkotskyist petty fraction in their midst? Do we not see Trotsky cringe before the French Socialist bureaucracy, begging them not to throw him out of the French Socialist Party? Do we not see the Belgian Trotskyists as part of the very Belgian capitalist government? To all these rotten elements, Trotsky is ready to furnish “left” theories by the bushel on each occasion.
Thermidor is completed in Russia. There is Bonapartism in Russia. Under cover of these theories the workers can be induced to abandon the Soviet Union and the thousands of militants in and around the old Stalinist parties. Under cover of this theory the Stalinists can be hunted down like mad dogs and the Socialist opportunists allowed to carry out the capitalist plans to the limit. Under cover of this theory, Trotskyism makes impossible the formation of a genuine Fourth International and a real struggle against all forms of centrism. With these theories Trotsky stands naked before the whole revolutionary movement as a cowardly capitulator and leftist phrase-monger, whose objective role is to disarm the most conscious section of the revolutionary movement. We can only treat this modern Trotskyism with the greatest contempt that it deserves and pledge ourselves to an unmitigated ceaseless struggle against it.
We have received a letter from the International Secretariat of the League of Communist Internationalists (Bolshevik-Leninists) in which we are requested to examine the possibility of adding the signature of the Communist League of Struggle to the call for the Fourth International signed by the Revolutionary Socialist Labor Party (Holland) the League of Communist Internationalists (Secretariat) the Bolshevik-Leninist Group in the S.F.I.O. (France) the Workers Party of Canada and the Workers Party of the United States.
The Communist League of Struggle has taken a decisive stand for the formation of a genuine Communist International since 1933 when the collapse of the Third International was made clear to all by the failure of the Stalinist in the German situation. However, the Communist League of Struggle is of the opinion that a Fourth International can be of service to the working class only if it presents a genuine Communist advance in theory and practice over both the Stalinist International and the Socialist International.
With the breakdown of both these internationals and the rise of Fascism, all sorts of Centrist groupings come to the surface clamoring for a new international. These groups are not intransigent revolutionary Marxist groups but middle of the road organizations, which want to talk about a new international, but in practice have all the political vices of the Second and Third. In reality such groups are protesting against the destruction of reform in the Fascist period rather than girding themselves for an uncompromising struggle to end capitalism. These groups conceive of the Fourth International as a resting place for all Centrist elements, as a middle of the road grouping taking in both the Socialist and Communist Parties. (Note the call is signed by the French Bolshevik Leninist group which has no existence except inside the S.F.I.O. (French Socialist Party).
Every revolutionary organization that has experienced the betrayals of the Second and Third Internationals and is striving for an international that can really put an end to world Fascism, must turn away in disgust from this concept of the Fourth International. The Communist League of Struggle refused to unite with Centrist opportunist elements. It refuses even to consider entrance into an opportunist international, another 2 1/2 or 2 3/4 international even though called by the name “Fourth International".
In this connection we must declare that the Trotskyists have done the world revolutionary movement a signal disservice in liquidating their organizations in France, in England, in Belgium and elsewhere and sending their sections into the Socialist Party with the illusions that the Socialist Parties can be “reformed". Precious time was lost while the Trotskyists exposed themselves as centrist opportunists of the most dangerous sort. Now that this experiment is coming to a shamful end, now that the Socialist Party bureaucracy in France is considering the expulsion of the French Trotskyists in spite of their servility to that bureaucracy, now that the Belgian episode has resulted in the Trotskyists taking their place as the left wing of of the Belgium government, now that the illusions concerning the revolutionary character of both the Socialist and Stalinist parties have completely disappeared with the Franco-Soviet Pact and the events taking place in France, the Trotskyists are seeking a new cover for themselves.
In the United States, too, the unprincipled character of the Trotskyists has become apparent by such things as the support the Workers Party gave to capitalist candidates in the Minneapolis elections, by their collaboration with the bureaucracy of the American Federation of Labor, resulting in fiascos in Minneapolis and Toledo and by the spineless centrist character of their program on every important problem facing the American working class. This party which already in its few months of existence has developed a bureaucracy rivalling that of the Stalinists, is now torn with factional strife and is already breaking up. We have no faith in the Workers Party of the U.S., nor for that matter in the other Trotskyist organizations that have put their signature to the call. We do not believe they are in the least capable of forming an organization that will be in advance of those we have dropped, the Second and Third. The events have demonstrated the bankruptcy of the Trotskyists as clearly as they have exposed the bankruptcy of the Socialists and Stalinists.
It is for these reasons that we cannot sign the call for the Fourth International as sent out by the Trotskyist organizations. As Internationalist Communists we are for the unity of all genuine internationalists in a new center and are ourselves making efforts to form such a center at the present time that will raise as a pre-condition the absolute break of all affiliated groups with Socialist, Stalinist and Trotskyist Centrism and with their policies.
The attempt to form the Fourth International at the 1933 Paris Conference, to which we subscribed even though we were unable to send a delegate, collapsed for two reasons: 1) It was founded on centrist groupings, not on really revolutionary elements and 2) It was conducted in an administrative way, with the program laid down in advance leaving no room for full democratic discussion. (A procedure which from the beginning characterized the Trotsky movement and has been one of the sources of its weakness). We can say that in fact there has been no international conference for full discussion of all problems since 1923—setting aside the Stalinist dominated congresses of the Communist International as mere caricatures.
These facts do not mean, however, that we cannot participate in the conference which you are trying to convoke. We feel that it is precisely our own tendency (including the groups close to us in Europe) which must strive most actively for the formation of a genuine Fourth International. As such active protagonists it would be our duty to attend such a conference as you wish to call and to make an effort to set forth a really revolutionary program there.
In the meantime, if the groups signing the call really want to build a New Communist International, we call on them to repudiate the liquidation of the Internationalist Communist grouping under Trotsky into the Socialist Party of France and elsewhere and to raise high the banner of uncompromising struggle against opportunism and centrism of all sorts, in theory, in practice and in organization.
Secretary, Communist League of Struggle.
There is another and better approach to the question of Americanizing Communism than has been elaborated up to now by the working class organizations. This is to study the elements of Americanism and to see where Socialism and Americanism intertwine and work into each other. However, even this method, far superior to the traditional and on which has not even been comprehended by working class leaders, only raises the problems without adequately solving them. The attempt to achieve Socialism through Americanism may bring some valuable results, but is insufficient and at bottom is defective in mobilizing the workers for international revolution.
The fact of the matter is that a Marxist understanding of the soul and spirit of American life, of its character and peculiar interests has not even been attempted by Communist theoreticians. They have been too busy to find out how many umlauts are in Lenin’s theses when translated into German or what is Stalin thinking about so that they can guess it before he says it.
Now Socialism and Americanism are not so far apart as one might think at first sight. For Communism begins where capitalism ends and America has been the highest developed capitalist country. It is true that we cannot evolve peacefully into communism from capitalism, that a sharp break from the past is necessary, a break that takes the form of civil war and the Dictatorship of the proletariat. However, it is also true that within the womb of capitalism, there matures the basis for Communism and Communism does not destroy everything that has gone before it, but takes over the best achievements that capitalism has been able to develop and uses them for its own purposes.
The connection between capitalism and Communism has been peculiarly illustrated by the relationship between the U.S., the most highly developed capitalist country and the S.U., the lowest developed socialistic country. The Soviet Union has been able to borrow much from capitalist America. A veritable craze for American goods, machinery and experts took hold of the S.U. at one time. Industrially, Russia was becoming Americanized while at the same time, America, politically, was becoming Europeanized.
The fact that Americanism and Socialism may have certain aspects in common does not at all mean that Americanism cannot be the root ideology for American Fascism. We refer the reader to our article, “What American Fascism May Be Like, (Class Struggle, March, 1935). We can be sure that a native American Fascist movement would be bound to use “Americanism” for its own purposes and that the class conscious American workers would be nationalist fools were they to go into competition with the Fascists or bourgeois nationalists of any stripe as to which class the ideology of “100% Americanism” belongs. We are not patriots, but internationalist proletarian revolutionists. On the other hand, however, this does not mean that we stand for the extirpation of any given nationality. Nor does it mean that we can not use national traditions for our own purposes; nor mean that we cannot point out exactly in what places Americanism and socialism come close together and that some of the best ideals of “Americanism” can be realized only under socialism. Certainly this is not the best approach to the American proletariat. But it is a fruitful approach to the American nationalist petty bourgeoisie because in the guise of showing him Americanism through Socialism, it really proceeds to make Socialists out of Americans.
With the clear understanding, then, of the limitations of this sort of “American approach”, and with the definite motive of reaching not the working class, but the impoverished lower middle classes who may be won or neutralized by the internationalist proletarian forces, we can proceed to enumerate the definite aspects of “Americanism” which are developed and realized under Socialism or Communism.
Americanism means direct action. Traditionally, the American proceeded directly and with his own physical forces to obtain control of the means of production for himself. He did not rely upon representatives or delegates or politicians or legal action, but upon his own strength and will. It is this circumstance, too, that led the American to lynching, and taking justice into his own hands. It is this that partly accounts for the high crime rate in the U.S. and for the instinctive rebelliousness to authority that is part of every American’s makeup.
This penchant for direct action can be utilized mightily by the revolutionary proletarian forces, as the I.W.W. have already shown in the early part of the century. With these traditions at his disposal the Communist can easily appeal over the heads of the legalist and parliamentarians for direct action of the masses for the seizure of food by the hungry, for the taking over of the land by the farmers and the factory by the workers. With such a background the Communist need have no fear of such a slogan as lynch the lynchers of the Negroes and poor toilers.
Connected with this direct action approach of the American is the part that violence plays in the life of the average American. It is no accident that in the U.S. the homicide rate is so terrifically high, that strike struggles take on such a violent character and that even the normal pursuits of capitalist business perforce have the marks of gangsterism and racketeering written all over. It is often a very thin line that separates the gangster, the racketeer and the"legitimate” business man in the good old U.S.A. This general violent character of American social life makes it impossible for any one to accuse the Communist of being “un-American” because he states that the bosses will use all the physical means at their disposal to keep their loot for themselves and to rob those who have produced it. The average American’s own clear knowledge of the business methods of business men of this country has convinced him of this truth a thousand times. It is thoroughly American to preach the inevitability of violent struggle and your Communist, in this respect, is only “going native”, with a vengeance. In no country in the world are so many foremen’s jaws punched by irate workers who have been fired or who quit on the spot.
Nor is the concept “revolution” very un-American. Even President Roosevelt is using the word to ingratiate his “New Deal” with the American people. A country that has begun its independent life with a successful “revolution”, that has embodied its “Right of revolution” in its very Constitution and that saw the bloody Civil War, certainly has plenty of American traditions for the pursuit of the proletarian revolution.
“Americanism” has never been a quiet, soothing ideology. For the American every thing is in motion and flux. Change and the necessity for change has become a permanent part of this man’s thinking. Always bigger and better, always something new, always facing new worlds to conquer, this is a typical American attitude that has been often remarked upon by the bourgeois European who is quite content with the status quo and the comfort that it brings. The restless energy that is the American’s, forces him also into an empirical attitude that has been emphasized in the American philosophy of Pragmatism. In a series of articles “Dialectical Materialism and “Just as Good” Pragmatism” (Class Struggle, October-November issues, 1934) the writer tried to show the intimate connection between this Americanism in philosophy and the internationalist Marxist approach. we can say at this point that it will not take too much to change Pragmatism to materialism once the class struggle sharpens.
Another important aspect of Americanism is the concept of classlessness. What with his deep rooted ideas that America is the place where classes have been abolished, the American has shrunk from the concept of the class struggle. But once the actual existence of classes is openly recognized and the class struggle in fact rages in all its fury, then the American petty bourgeois will be enabled to see that it is precisely the Communist who is fighting for the permanent realization of the abolition of classes. Americanism will then be seen as an illusory system of classlessness that bred classes, while Communism will come to be recognized as the completion of Americanism, namely a permanent classlessness with full equality and opportunity for all.
The emigrant from Europe wanted to escape classes and their struggles and to win by his labor room for freedom and development. Along comes the development of capitalism and creates classes, deprives the direct producer of his ownership in the means of production. It is the capitalist then that is the European bringing in european methods, and it is the Communist who is the direct descendant of those who came to this country to found a new world, free from the ills of the old. Making the capitalist responsible for the class struggle is making the capitalist “European” and the Communist a thoroughly “American” product.
In this way even the individualist traditions of America can be harnessed to the proletarian revolution. All this regimentation, disciplining and forced labor that is taking place under the dominance of trust and monopoly capital with the help of the State is something of that Europeanism from which the American has tried hard to escape. It is now the Communist who can show that the social ownership of the means of production means the greatest development of individuality and individual liberty possible and thus Communism is in this respect too, a continuation of the old liberty of the individual for which America has become known.
With the American, individualism had been intimately linked up with individual private ownership of the means of production by the direct producer. Now it is the force of capitalism, of Wall Street Imperialism, that is depriving the direct producer of his means of production, and it is Communism that will allow each individual to regain control over the gigantic means of production now at his disposal. Just as it is Communism that means again plenty and wealth for such individual. All to be owners and each owner to have plenty can come about only under Socialism.
The concept of individual property was never divorced in this country from the concept of labor. For a long time in the history of this country the phrase “all those who labor” meant the farmer and petty owner. No one got property except through labor. It was the one and only high road to success. In Europe riches could be gained by conquest, by wars, by pillage. Here it was to be gained by husbandry, by pioneering, by hard work. No true American shrank from hard work and to the workers in those days belonged the fruits of his toil. Now this is exactly the goal of the proletarian revolution. The idealization of labor, the union of labor with the products of labor. These ideals of Americans are the ideals of the Communists and can be realized only through Communism.
The forces leading the American to direct action to satisfy his needs, to the desire for change and a new world and to the idealization of labor, also led the American to experiment with all sorts of social schemes and Utopias. There is no country in the world where Utopia building is taken so seriously as here. In America a Utopian is not a poetic dreamer but a scientific “brain truster” or a “planning” engineer. The American was not afraid to pioneer in new directions, to risk his life for the discovery of the natural elements that surrounded him. With the same spirit he was willing to pioneer in social life. The history of the Mormons is an excellent example of this spirit. It is with the same pioneering appeal, with the same call for social experimentation that the revolutionary elements can appeal to the discontented and rebellious native American nationalist minded person for the creation of Communism.
This is all the more so since the American has always conceived his role as bringing order out of chaos, as an organizing role. Indeed, America has become the great international organizer. Here has been the land of rationalization and of audacious continental planning. This stress on science and on statistics and on planning generally is another aspect of Americanism that Communism may well claim as its own. Communism brings purposeful planning and scientific control of social forces to its highest level ever attained by man.
Your true American has never lived merely to eat, has never produced merely to consume. Quite the contrary, it is precisely in this respect that young and virile American society has differed from `effete Europe. Here we have consumed to produce. Work was a holy cause to which every man was attached and to be separated from his work, his farm his factory, his occupation meant to the American, at least of the old days of the 19th century, to be divorced from life. It was the process of production, the process of making gain, rather than the consumption of the gain actually obtained that intrigued the American and held him fast. Now it is the Communist that develops this idea of living for a cause, for production, only his production is not of profit but of a new social order where the forces of nature become increasingly controlled. Again there is the emphasis on science and control of productive forces, again there is the contempt for those that do not labor and who parasitically merely consume, again there is the call for the struggle against nature that lit up the American pioneer and made his hard and bitter life seem sweet and rich. It is the Communist who carries forward the idea today that the struggle of one human against another should be ended and the struggle for the development of the productive forces pushed to its highest point.
The American scientist and engineer needs space for his planning and development of his science. He has been used to working with continents. He could not be confined within the narrow balkenized limits of the average little country of Europe. He will not be the last to become enthusiastic with the idea of planning for the whole world, of harnessing all the continents together into a mighty purposeful plan of all humanity.
Here we touch upon another important aspect of Americanism. Its internationalism or rather its super nationalism. Your American is quite nationalistic but note: First that his country is as big as a continent, quite a piece of the world; such a nationalist is taking in quite a bit of territory, as much as the European internationalist would take in if he confined himself to Europe. Second, America has always been the great “melting pot”, where all nationalities could come together and fuse. Thus America has stood for the amalgamation of all races into one family, it has stood for a policy of inclusion rather than exclusion. And here we can well bear in mind, Benjamin Franklin’s statement that he hoped the day would soon dawn when every nation would be represented with a star in the field of blue that marked the flag of the United States. The United States was conceived as the first brotherhood of nations, a sort of bourgeois Soviet Union with unlimited possibilities for expansion. We believe that the obstacles in the way of defeating the capitalist propaganda, that Communism is a “foreign” product are not inseparable, but with a mature and clever technique a genuine revolutionary party would be able to demonstrate it was a true child of American life.
Finally, there is the pacifism of America. The American, in his rapid expansion over the continent of North America and elsewhere in the world, has never met with real resistance to necessitate the sort of wars to the death that has characterized the older civilizations of Europe and Asia. The wars against the Indians and Mexicans, the American revolution and Spanish American war did not consume much of the energies of our growing nation, while we entered into the world war too late for the devastating consequences of that war to be deeply felt by all. The fact that America has never been defeated. has given a sort of super confidence and cockiness to the American that enables him to feel that he will be able to accomplish that which the other nations have failed to do. At the same time, it has bred in the American a lack of training for war or desire for it. This would be a most natural result in the most bourgeois country anyway, but this result has been intensified by the fact that the country up to recently was not engaged in major national wars. And when America did go into the last war, it was to make it a “last war".
The natural pacifism of the American may well be utilized by the Communist who can point out that only Communism can end perpetual warfare on this earth and the only possible “war to end war” is the class war against the war mongering capitalists.
Here then are some of the intersecting points at which Americanism can be said to cross Communism and which the Communist may utilize to his advantage in his process of Americanizing Communism so as to Communize America. By no means do we want to give the impression that our enumeration is exhaustive. The reader no doubt may be able to fill in many gaps left open in this brief sketch. But what must be pointed out again and emphatically underlined is that this whole technique of Socialism through Americanism has its very serious limitations and defects. We must guard against falling into the errors of the Browders, the Mustes, the Budenz’s, the Lovestones and other opportunists, who try to ingratiate themselves among Americans by idealizing American nationalism, by petting the petty bourgeoisie, and bringing petty bourgeois nationalist ideology into the ranks of the proletariat. It is such a nationalist policy which in France has led the French Communist Party to adopting the French revolution of 1789 as its own and marching on July 14th with the tri-color at the head of its processions. --Thus “Frenchifying Communism” no doubt! On the contrary, we must do all in our power to show the limitations and defects of “Americanism” and how it must fall down before the superior weapons of criticism that internationalist Communism has to offer. If this technique has some value in reaching petty bourgeois elements, it is a technique very inferior to other methods in reaching the native American proletariat.
It is only now that we come to the decisive question: How can we Americanize communism so as to make internationalist communists out of the American proletariat? What line should we pursue in really becoming a native product hewn out of one piece with the rest of America? This problem we hope to touch upon and solve in our next and final article.
(to be concluded)
It is often urged in defense of the British occupation of India that the Indians are unable to keep the peace among themselves. Hindus Sikhs, and Mohamedans are sometimes on such bad terms with each other about religious and other differences that riots occur and lives are lost. The British authorities then step in and try to keep the peace.
This is all very well, but what are the Indians supposed to think about the recurrent riots in Belfast, where Protestants are now refusing to work alongside of Catholics, demand the dismissal of the latter and mob those who do not at once clear out? Several lives have been lost and many persons have been injured. Troops with armored cars had to patrol the streets. It would be amusing now if the Indian National Congress offered to occupy and pacify Belfast.
Now many of the various and official accounts of the rioting gave almost the same reasons for it, i.e. religious disturbances or religious persecution or jealousy over the sharing of work. We Irish Communists know only too well that the riots have a class significance; that they are the outcome of a diabolical plan organized and engineered by the most powerful section of the property owning class in order to divide the workers of Belfast into Papists and Anti-Papists and the riots are timed to happen just at a time when there is chronic unemployment and terrible misery among the workers of Belfast, Catholic and Protestant, and there has been a definite tendency in the last few years of Catholic and Protestant workers organizing together inside the unemployed movement, trade unions, Labor Party, etc., which would have led and yet will lead to rioting against the ruling clique in Northern Ireland.
The weakness and the incorrect line of the Labor movement in Belfast was taken advantage of by the property owners to turn the workers against each other to rend each other asunder instead of the workers rioting, under a real Communist leadership, in their own interests and against the imperialist robber clique of Northern Ireland, and making common cause with the workers of Southern Ireland. Indeed, there you have the cause of the riots, viz., the fear of the ruling class of Northern Ireland and their masters, “The British Imperialists”, that the whole Irish working class and peasants will throw aside their religious and sectarian differences and uniting under a real Communist leadership overthrow the ruling class North and South and set up an “Irish Socialist Soviet Republic".
In Southern Ireland, too, there is often fierce rioting and definite preparation for a coming “Class Struggle". The following taken from the “Times Cork Correspondent”, July 13, 1935, dealing with the fierce fighting with the State Forces by the farmers, their wives, mothers, and daughters when the De Valera government tried to sell up the farmers’ stock to collect “Land Annuities”, although the poor Irish farmers were faithfully promised by De Valera that this burden would be removed by him. The “Times” is here quoted verbatim: “Some of the women were black and blue from the handling they got. They were driven back time after time, but reformed in mass formation and charged the police. They captured helmets and caps and brought them back as trophies. They threw them back to the police, charged again and recaptured them. The women had a banner, which was taken by the police, but the women recaptured it. Women were sent staggering with punches. Eight women were taken inside the gates under arrest and the battle subsided for ten minutes or so. Women reinforcements arrived with baskets of eggs and the police were bespattered from head to foot. There was a baton charge and the woman cleared away, but not before some were injured.”
Another battle between the Cork farmers and the De Valera government last year resulted in a young farmer being shot dead and scores of farmers and police injured.
The De Valera government blames the British government for the riots in Belfast, the British government and Craigavon government of North Ireland blames De Valera for the riots in Cork, but the fact cannot be hidden for long that both in Cork and Belfast and in all Ireland the working class and poor peasant farmers are ruined and in terrible poverty and the overthrow of the Irish ruling class both Catholic and Protestant, both De Valera and Craigavon, both tools, of course, is the job confronting the Irish workers and peasants, and which overthrow under the leadership of an all Ireland C.P. yet to be built up in the course of the fierce struggles which lie ahead. For the carrying out of this task, there must be complete unity, complete solidarity between Irish and British workers, common cause for a single purpose, for Communism in the British Isles will put an end to rioting and an end to poverty.
There are elements inside the Irish Republican Army and Left Groups in Ireland, who are gradually realizing this. We, Internationalist Communists, must give them every assistance, and by patient explanation an by being in the front ranks, push forward for unity in action with their Irish comrades. (John O"Donnell.
As part of the campaign of terror that is being conducted against the workers generally on the West coast and against the foreign born of radical inclinations, the U.S. government is trying to deport two innocent Italian workers, Ferrero and Sallitto to Fascist Italy. Their defense is part of the struggle against the deportations which have marked the policy of the U.S. government especially since the depression.
We wish to call attention to the following:
1. Under the guise of “liberalism”, the Department of Labor is conducting a vicious campaign against the foreign born leading to approximately 100,000 deportations annually.
2. The threat of deportation hangs over every foreign born militant and the “democratic” government of the U.S. never hesitates to employ the hangman Mussolini or the ax of Hitler to gain its aim. The foreign born radical is sent back to Fascist Italy or Germany even though it means long terms of prison or death for him. Here is a “secret” alliance between “democratic” U.S. and “Fascist” Europe that has to be thoroughly exposed and eradicated.
3. In the case of Ferrero and Sallito, it is also an effort to put an end to the Anarchist paper “Man!” which, it is contended, these Italian workers supported by renting to the paper the back room of their store.
We have already called attention to the new technique that the government is using in suppressing “Man!” (see Class Struggle of August 1934) in which the paper itself is not attacked but the government systematically goes after every subscriber and sympathizer of the paper with threats of arrest and deportation. This new technique has emphasized all the more the correctness of our group in insisting that the radical press do not turn over the names and addresses of their subscribers to the U.S. government as they have been doing up to now.
The fight for the release of Ferrero and Salitto is a fight for free speech and free press for the workers. It is a fight against deportation of militant alien workers. It is a fight against the alliance that the government has with the Fascist terror of Europe for the elimination of brave working class fighters. For these reasons we urge all working class organizations to send delegates to the Ferrero Sallito Defense Conference, which meets every other Monday evening at our headquarters at 133 Second Avenue, Room 24 and to support the defense in every possible way.
(We are very happy to announce that Frank Halstead, one of the foremost militants in Los Angeles and on the West Coast and a real veteran in the movement, has joined the Communist League of Struggle. The following statement is an open letter that has been sent out to the local branches of the Workers Party.--Ed.)
Los Angeles, California
Open Letter to Local Branches of the W.P. and to all comrades:
Having been a member of the Communist League of America (Left Opposition) previous to the fusion into the Workers Party, I expected the principles advocated for years by the League would be lived up to. However, I found the very opposite to be the case. Criticism of Stalinism for eliminating centralized democracy had been the veritable stock in trade for years on the part of the leaders of the League, but when they conducted the Leagues’ organizational affairs previous to and during the fusion, the N.E.C. majority, led by Cannon, Swabeck, and Shachtman, turned out to be tricksters and opportunist bureaucrats, doing everything to censor and to prevent a free discussion. It is needless to go into details of proof since practically all the comrades know this to be true.
I did not want to be involved in the “swamp” as Oehlor and Curtiss called the fusion at the time in writing and so I made my principled fight within the organization as far as I could go at the time, and when I began to be called a “disrupter”, I wrote my resignation out and called in Curtiss and said, “I am resigning as a protest to the filthy conduct of the leadership as they have preached the principle of democratic centralism, but in practice have acted just the same as Stalinism does—only Stalinism makes no bones about it, while our leadership pretends and lies to the workers.” Also I said, “I feel this branch is my baby in part and I do not want to do harm. I do not want to decide alone, whatever you say I will do, but that is my reaction to the bureaucracy.” I took a six month’s leave of absence. The new party was formed and Sam Meyers told me he sent my name in as a member. Later he told me they expected lots of work and they were about to call me to work in the new party. I insisted on my six months.
During these six months I observed the new party in action. All the trickery and censorship are continued and opportunism has obtained such a foothold, on the one hand, and ignorance and lack of determination of any principled force, on the other, that events have proven to me that to reform such an unprincipled Centrist Party is hopeless. The new Workers Party has repeated the bureaucracy of Stalinism as the American League did before the fusion. The W.P. has been built on censorship and lies. You can’t build a Vanguard by casting proven principles of revolutionary science to the winds, and as many of you know, those that can build a vanguard respected by the workers, are the elements that fight for principles and practice them. Those of you who believe you can get control and make a principled Marxist Leninist party out of the W.P. should then organize your left wing faction—tap all “grapevines” in order to overcome censorship—speak up and fight for Marxist and Leninist principles.
The Workers Party is a Centrist Party and centrism cannot be temporized with, but must be liquidated. Let me hope that the members of the W.P. will learn in time of the centrism of their leaders, before their nose’s will be rubbed in the mud by Fascism. There was a time when I was forced to stand alone in my struggle for a genuine vanguard party and prepared the embryo of the present branch of the League. Now reaction has swept the members of the former Left Opposition into centrism not only in the U.S.A. but throughout the world as well.
In my thirty years of experience in unions, mass movements and parties, from the time of the Y.P.S.L. days in 1910, I have never witnessed or experienced any set of leaders so pretending and deadly as this crew of fakers. In phrases revolutionary words, in action rotten Stalinism. This crew is more rotten than Stalinism because the letter comes out in the open and defends its line of “Socialism in one country” and you know plainly where it stands. But this centrist leadership lay their plans behind closed doors and in the open smoke screen them with all sorts of tricks. The leaders have never presented their true line and policies to this day, but proceed to put it over step by step. They make believe to you that they aim for a Marxian party. Nothing of the kind: Actions talk louder than words and workers judge by actions.
Note how the top leadership handled the Budenz matter, and here I accuse both the W.P. leadership and the old leadership of the League.
1. They did not inform the fusion convention regarding Budenz” telegram to it and proceeded to elect him to all the high offices AFTER they knew his incompatible position and that Budenz was not in harmony with the claims being put forth by the new party.
2. They did not inform the Political Committee of Budenzs’ letter to Muste, when officially it was sent in, Budenz resigning from the Political Committee and stating that he intended to write his opinions in a magazine. This was in February. Months rolled around and then when the attack was made on the announced principles of the W.P. in the Modern Monthly. Not until then was the Political Committee informed. The above facts amply demonstrate as Budenz himself brought out at the meeting of the Political Committee that he had not hidden his opinions all that time, but on the contrary, had notified the convention and later Muste by official letter. Still just the other day, the innocent announcement was put in the New Militant that it was found out that Budenz’s opinions did not jibe with those of the W.P.! Your leadership knew this before Budenz was elected to all offices. So much for the twins Cannon and Muste.
Now for the old League trinity, Cannon, Swabeck and Shachtman:
1. They sent out a letter on fusion and tried to slip this over on the membership without any internal discussion on this most vital question and without an internal bulletin for the comparison of the positions of the members.
2. “Fire” having been put under them and the one sided presentation to the branches by Shachtman’s tour not going so well, they played for time by holding up the part of the thesis dealing with the question of fusion until the very last and then rushed the whole matter through, deciding the whole question over the heads of the membership. Thus the regular legal referendum of three Month’s discussion by the membership was brushed aside.
3. The minority view opposing fusion had to be sent out only to a very few by the “grapevine". And after this they still had the nerve to make claims about the “discussions” that were held.
4. Regardless of the many demands for a bulletin on internal discussion on fusion, none was ever given our branch and yet the Militant came out with the lie that it did and in three separate issues declared we had “completed” and finished discussions, all of which were lies to the working class.
From the very first days before fusion, when your leaders got together and concocted their “get rich scheme”, (Curtiss)—(with Shachtman retaliating, “Well, what of it?") of fusion, they never had any plans to make a Marxian party. They planned and wanted a mass party with the doors wide open to every one, with large numbers untested and with no probationary periods inside. Now the doors are wide open indeed with all sorts of discredited elements and “starvation” state charity visitors infecting the party. When a branch passes a three months probation test, the center orders “go easy”, and cancels the ruling of the branch. While taking in all sorts of fake elements the leaders drive out the Marxian workers from the party.
How many more steps of these pretenders must be uncovered in acts before the comrades get wise to the situation? All of the accusations I have made are substantiated by unimpeachable documents, copies of which can be obtained by all the comrades interested.
Now I am working with the genuine Internationalist Communists. Upon close investigation I find that the Communist League of Struggle is the only organization that stands for the original principles learned from the laboratory of the class struggle and practiced by Marx and Lenin and demonstrated in actual revolution. I am sorry to see and hear so many of my former political comrades stooping to the filth of Stalinism by peddling falsehoods and lies started by their leaders…to wit, that “Weisbord is crazy"…this from comrades who are too busy with dances to do any investigating on their own, too busy to demand discussion on principled questions within your own Centrist Party. Opportunism always carries you into filth and then into Fascism. Consciously started by fakers and innocently spread by sincere comrades—have we not seen enough of it in Stalinism?
It is my intention to start again the embryo of the Marxian branch here under the leadership of the Communist League of Struggle, the only Marxist Leninist independent critical group in the U.S.A. today. I call on all the distant comrades in the Workers Party to investigate the political line of the Communist League of Struggle, to push their left wing aggressively into the open against the opportunist and centrist line of their leadership.
Yours for a new Communist International and a genuine Internationalist-Communist Center. F. Halstead
OPEN FORUMS: Start September 21st. Saturday evenings at 8:30 p.m. at the Labor Temple, 14th Street and Second Avenue. Questions and Discussion. Admission 15 cents.
CLASSES: VOLUME 1 KARL MARX” CAPITAL. Starts Wednesday, September 25th, 6:30—10:00. Instructor: Vera Buch. 12 weeks course. Register now Fee $3.00.
AMERICA. Special three Month’s course given by Albert Weisbord, Starting Tuesday, September 24th, 8:30—10:00. Fee $3.00
On August 8th, it was reported in the papers that the Central Trades and Labor Council of the AFL endorsing the action of its building trades unions, had decided to call a strike on all W.P.A. projects to sustain the unions’ scale of wages. Under the old C.W.A. the craft unions of the AFL had been able to obtain for their members the regular union scales but under the W.P.A. the Roosevelt Administration had brought out from hock their old conscription agent, General Johnson and had put him in charge of New York City where they expected most trouble.
From the very beginning it was apparent that the AFL leadership had no intention of really developing any strike at all. The bold bad talk of Green and Co., turned out to be only lying propaganda to convince the workers that they were not really bought body and soul by the Administration. General Johnson spilled the beans in the start, when he declared that the AFL officials had promised him there would be no strike. The strike was deliberately criminally mishandled at once. On many of the projects the strike call was issued. No efforts were made to involve all the AFL unions, nor even all the building trades unions. The business agents of some of the unions even sent their men back to work after they had walked out spontaneously and others called their men out for one day only. Of all the craft unions, which were supposed to have been involved only the bricklayers and the electricians actively participated in the strike to any extent.
The very tame picketing did not prevent men from going to work. Usually pickets did not show up until after the shifts had gone on the job, when a pair of men would walk back and forth with a placard: “AFL strikes". Only on one of the projects, and then with the help of several unemployed organizations, were the bricklayers able to amass a picket line of about forty persons for a few hours. But while the bricklayers struck on one project, on others they remained at work. This was true of all the crafts which were interested in involving only those workers holding paid up cards in their respective unions. There was a complete disregard of former union men who had allowed their dues to lapse.
It was very clear what these labor skates of the AFL officialdom really wanted: To force the government to hire only union men on the skilled jobs thus giving the fakers a job monopoly. From the point of view of Bill Green and Company, the fight was not really against the government, but a friendly contest as to which department of the Government, was to control the skilled workers, the unofficial department of the Government headed by Bill Green and called the AFL, or that department which is the forerunner of Fascist institutions in this country headed by General Johnson, and President Roosevelt chose Johnson.
Of course, the officials paid no attention whatsoever to the unskilled and unorganized workers on the projects. No demands were worked out for them: They simply did not “belong". And of course, no attention was paid to the great mass of workers, who were unemployed or on the relief. They were soon to be treated with contempt. Far from seizing the occasion to unite all the workers throughout the country in a great general strike against the concentration camp system being set up by Roosevelt, the AFL leaders did their best to localize the strike movement, to divide the workers and to cut them in pieces.
Several white collar relief workers’ organizations also went on strike or conducted brief protest stoppages. Among them the City Projects Council and the Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists and Technicians sought to work in conjunction with the AFL. The Unemployment Councils distributed leaflets in the name of “Project Workers Union”, and held a mass meeting attended by about 300 people mostly from C.P. affiliates (Unemployment Councils and Workmen’s Ex-Servicemen’s league, etc). Their offer to cooperate was accepted by the AFL strike committee. But no real attempt was made to bring all these organizations together to work out a joint strike campaign. The result was in some cases (teachers) the strikers were isolated and defeated and thrown out of their jobs.
A good illustration of the way the AFL scoundrels acted could be seen in their treatment of the workers Unemployed Union controlled by the mild Socialists. When the W.U.U. sent its representative, Lasser, to the AFL strike committee to offer cooperation and seek support for the organization of the unorganized project workers, while accepting the help of the W.U.U. they did not allow Lasser at their meetings as a fraternal delegate and later they refused to see him at all a number of times. This did not prevent Lasser, however, from servilely offering himself again and again to the bureaucracy that kicked him downstairs.
One sphere of activity of the W.U.U. during the strike was the rather unsuccessful attempt to get strikers placed on Home Relief. One striker, who had been receiving supplementary relief over and above his wages was granted a rent check and some money for food through the efforts of the W.U.U. But the unions did not follow up even this partial victory, and almost immediately private employment was found for this striker. After that, no striker who refused to work was granted relief.
The W.U.U. began its strike efforts at the Astor Housing Project where leaflets were distributed and preparations were made to hold a meeting after work at a nearby hall. But when the W.U.U. committee arrived at the project to picket and hold a street meeting, the AFL pickets demanded of them credentials from the AFL strike committee and made a united front with the police to drive them away. The evening meeting had to be called off, because not one worker from the project showed up. The cooperation with the AFL next swung to the Highbridge Pool where the W.U.U. members were allowed to help the bricklayers on the picket line and they carried signs reading: “Support the AFL Strike” and “We refuse to scab, we refuse to starve, strike this job 100%". This joint picketing continued for several days. Two street meetings were held and as a result about eight interested workers were gathered together, but nothing was done about organizing them into a relief workers union. A mass meeting of relief workers called by the Unemployed Union was a complete flop, only six women workers from the Woodside sewing project local of the W.U.U. showed up.
In the course of the strike, it became apparent that the old opportunist slogan of “We Want Work”, would have to be dropped. How could we holler “We Want Work” and then holler “Strike"? Yet both the W.U.U. and the Unemployment Councils are trying to keep their old bankrupt slogans and demand the opposite at the same time!
The W.U.U.’s strike committee was made up principally of Socialist Party members many of whom were largely inactive and they were placed there simply to maintain S.P. control through their votes. The C.P.O. (Lovestone Group) was conspicuous by its absence from any place on the committee and from any participation whatsoever in the strike. Other groups were represented, the Workers Party only in the person of Niel Harrison and the left wing Militant Action Committee through Comrade B. who was named Secretary of the strike Committee, and was placed ex-officio on all sub-committees. The most important of these sub-committees was the Project Organization and Picketing committee composed of Parker (S.P.), Harrison and Sander (who attended but one meeting and then dropped out in disgust.)
When to the vicious treachery of the AFL, officials we add the ignorant muddle headedness of the W.U.U. “leaders”, we can see why there was no strike. How could any worker trust such a bunch of nincompoops as these? At the very first meeting of the strike committee, it was our comrade who introduced the motion, which was carried that the W.U.U. take the initiative in organizing the project workers into unions affiliated with the W.U.U….” and who later tried desperately to have the strike committee adopt a definite organizational policy. The W.U.U. had a splendid opportunity to organize a National Project Workers Industrial Union, but this they could not do since they could not oppose the AFL. Nor would they form a General Project Workers Union, which would not take in all the workers not in the AFL, preferring to ask to join the Workers Alliance (new name for Unemployed Union). When our Comrade Jarvis wanted to tell the unorganized workers on the projects to join a General Project Workers Union, it was Harrison who objected strenuously saying, “Nothing should be done to antagonize the AFL at this point.” It was Harrison, too, who introduced the motion not to have any united front strike action with any organization not recognized by the AFL (aimed at the Unemployment Councils). In fact, nothing was done except to afterwards inform the AFL.
The right wing socialist leaders of the W.U.U. were in the front line in all matters of publicity but very much in the rear in all strike action. On the other hand it was the left group, the Militant Action Committee whose members took the lead in all the strike and picket line activities and carried them forward. (M.B.)
Hand in hand with the reprehensible procedure adopted by the government at the I.W.W. trials, went a vicious assault by the police on the defense work of the organization. Not only were the accused denied access to the evidence, but their headquarters in New York City, Seattle and San Francisco were raided with efficient regularity.
On December 17, 1917, marshals and detectives, armed with invalid search warrants stormed the Chicago headquarters of the General Defense Committee. Arbitrarily, they commanded the cessation of printing and mailing with the result that all contact between attorneys, witnesses, investigators and contributors was lost. For twelve days government agents occupied the raided premises, being finally evicted by a court order, which did not hinder them from carrying away a ten ton truck full of literature, circulars, envelopes, blank paper and contribution lists. Nor would the government return any of this valuable material since it contained important data required by the defense to prove its case. Moreover, the amount of money entailed in the loss of these supplies was so great as to virtually cripple the finances of the I.W.W., thus precluding the possibility of using a major part of the funds for mass work of a general nature.
On February 1, 1918, the postal authorities in Chicago suddenly clamped down on all correspondence emanating from defense headquarters and peremptorily detained three hundred bags of letters. Interference with third class mail grew so burdensome, that it soon became necessary to transmit all literature first class. Even the express companies could not be depended upon to convey parcels delivered to them. Acting under orders from the Department of Justice, they refused to accept the pamphlet of the American Civil Liberties Union entitled “The Truth About the I.W.W.” When registered letters were sent, it was found that they were opened regularly and held in Chicago for months before they were officially sealed and delivered. In one instance, a letter which several of the defendants wrote to their lawyer was detained for seven months and then returned to them with an “officially opened” government stamp upon it. Another prisoner, after he had been in jail for over a year, received a note from a prospective witness offering to testify in his behalf.
When the New Republic appeared on the news-stands one morning with an advertisement signed by prominent liberals like John Dewey, requesting aid for the I.W.W. prisoners, the magazine was advised by an agent of the Department of Justice not to reprint the “ad”, if it wished to avoid difficulties. It was to be expected, therefore, that the “Defense News Bulletin” of the I.W.W. and the “International Socialist Review”, which devoted a great deal of its space to the publicity of the trials would be rejected by the express companies as well as forbidden the use of the mails.
In San Francisco, the headquarters of the Defense Committee, was raided seven times while preparing for the Sacramento trial and the Secretary of the Committee kicked into jail without the pretense of a charge. Bail money found in her possession was taken from her and kept for weeks. The treasurer, A. L. Fox, was within a period of six months, arrested fourteen times for vagrancy. A defendant, who had assumed the position of publicity agent while released on bail, soon discovered that this constituted no immunity for the police rearrested him as a dangerous alien and held him incommunicado until friends came to his rescue.
Here, in brief, is the technique which the United States has perfected to dispose of its militant labor leaders. Judged by results, the methods employed must be well adapted to the desired effect for, out of 201 defendants tried, the 168 who were convicted, received sentences adding up to 1250 years or an average of seven and a half years apiece. Many of these, who were indicted languished in jail for the whole period of the war, without being accorded the constitutional privilege of “the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury". In the Shawnee County jail at Topeka, Kansas, ten of the I.W.W.’s had been in prison for a year and two months merely awaiting trial. In the Wichita penitentiary, there were 50 I.W.W.’s, who were to be tried on March 12, 1919. Some of these men had been in continual confinement since November, 1917.
How did these men fare? It is impossible to repeat the experience of all of them, but Winthrop D. Lane, one of the editors of “Survey” made a special study of the prisons in which Wobblies were confined. He reports, “I went to these jails last January and saw the conditions under which these men lived with my own eyes.” The Sedgwick County jail “is filthy with the accumulated filth of decades. No longer would it be possible to give the jail a decent cleaning…The toilets throughout are covered with dirt. Many of them are covered with excreta and a few actually stink. The men declare that they do not dare sit down on them, because of the vermin.”
“The age of the jail has produced crevices and openings in the brick walls through which the rain and, in winter, melting snow pour in. Water marks in several places attest to this…Rats issue through those holes and through the crevices in the steel flooring. At evening, when the prisoners have quieted down, these rats come forth in great numbers. It is not uncommon for a prisoner to be awakened by a rat running over his bed or even across his face.”
To make matters worse, the authorities selected this jail to install the revolving cage or “Rotary Tank”, which has won a well earned reputation for being escape proof. The cage part of this hellish contraption is circular in construction and is divided into ten “V” shaped compartments with the mouth of the “V’s” comprising the circumference. Since this coop of triangular cells spins around night and day inside a stationary steel lattice frame, which is two or three inches away from it, no escape is possible for the incessant rotation prevents the prisoners from remaining in one place long enough to break the bars of the outside frame. At the same time the men obtain no rest, the constant gyrations of this perpetual merry-go-round upsetting their entire constitution.
Because the outside frame was so constructed as to have but a single door, it was necessary in order to let the prisoners out that the inside cage be started and stopped ten times. But this was never done. Whenever it was necessary for the men to leave their cells, they were advised in advance, and as their cells swung in front of the main door, they had to jump through it and the outside door at great risk to their lives.
To these intolerable prison conditions was added the evil of such bad food that prolonged consumption of it would be as fatal as a lethal chamber . This abuse was encouraged by the system used by the Federal government and in the county jails of giving the sheriff a stipulated sum for each prisoner to be spent for food. “What the sheriff does not actually expend he is legally permitted to put in his pocket… He is not required to take a statement to anybody in regard to the amount which he actually expends.” (Winthrop D. Lane--"Uncle Sam: Jailer").
And to cap it all, there was the infliction of solitary confinement. Lane reports that when he stood directly in front of the door to one of these dungeons he could not distinguish it from the wall and that even when the door was opened, he still could not discern anything although he had stepped inside. With the aid of a flashlight he found himself in a solid stone vault six feet square and ten or eleven feet in height. Not a single opening for light or air existed.
Even though the warden of one of the “better jails” finally agreed to take in the Wobblies, the Federal authorities refused to allow the change and insisted that the men remain in the worst prisons in Kansas. Finally, on June 16, after 18 1/2 months of confinement, the indictment against ten of the Wobblies was quashed without the defendants having been brought to trial but within 24 hours they were again arrested and were held in prison for nearly two years. The result was that one died, another became afflicted with T.B., a third contracted syphilis; it became necessary to place two in insane asylums and all of them were greatly weakened.
So far we have sketched briefly the major raids conducted by the government against the I.W.W. One must not conclude from this that the I.W.W. was the only group to incur the wrath of the government. Other organizations, like the Socialist Party did not escape unscathed as was evidenced by the raids on its Philadelphia headquarters, its national offices in Chicago and four of its foreign language papers. The government possessed sufficient astuteness to regulate its blows according to the mass influence of the groups. The S.C.P., the National Civil Liberties Bureau and the New York Bureau of Legal Advice each received one visit from the Department of Justice. Individuals such as Scott Nearing and Walter Nelies had their homes invaded. Even innocuous organizations, such as the “League of Humanity” were not immune from these fettering calls, while the “Peoples Council” was forbidden by the governor of Minnesota to call its convention there. The S.P. of South Dakota, which dared to defy the possible consequences of holding a convention was compelled to defend itself (unsuccessfully) against a physical attack.
Contemporaneously with this direct oppression by the government there was instituted an officially sanctioned terror participated in by private individuals. This is best illustrated by what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma (November 17) where eleven IWW,s were arrested by the police to be turned over to a mob, which whipped, tarred and feathered them and ran them out of town.
On the very same day that the men were beaten, the “Tulsa World” contained the following editorial: “The first step in the whipping of Germany is to strangle the IWW. Kill them just as you would kill any other kind of snake. Don’t scotch “em, kill “em. And kill “em dead. It is not time to waste money on trials and continuances and things like that. All that is necessary is the evidence and a firing squad.”
Not a single newspaper in Oklahoma protested against the whipping, most of them being of the opinion that the men had been treated rather well. On another occasion the “Sacremento Bee” yelled repeatedly in its various issues: If the government fails to act “it becomes the duty of the private citizens to secure that result by other than legal means. The Bee recommends an organization of responsible citizens that will act in this manner and with determination and deliberation…… It would be a waste of time to have them arrested and tried. The best thing to do is to shoot them and not wait for sunrise either. The sooner, the better, even if there is no time to permit them counsel or benefit of clergy.
The war certainly demonstrated that the modern practice of lynching is not reserved exclusively for Negroes. In almost every case such acts of violence were constituted either through the direct participation of the local authorities in egging on the petty bourgeoisie or is consciously withholding the protection of the law. But what can one expect? As the New Republic put the matter (June 9, 1917), “Thousands of men of the more comfortable classes who are not expected to fight abroad have been formed into armed “home guards” for local protection…Talk with them about their possible duties and it is not long before some one will mention “draft riots” and “strikes". He sometimes speaks with pleasure of the possible coercion of “slackers". He wants to send to the front parts of the population he dislikes. He assumes that local civil war is likely at any moment to break out.”
During the course of the war it was this group, which either in an official or unofficial capacity, assumed the task of fighting the organized protests of the discontented elements of the population. Only two days after the declaration of war, a mob composed of these militia men-to-be wrecked a peace meeting in Baltimore. In the following July, soldiers and sailors scattered a parade held by the Boston Socialists and destroyed their headquarters. On the West Coast, the Home Guards dispersed a conference of Christian Pacifists. These same troops broke up a Socialist rally in Hartford, Connecticut. Fifteen hundred Non- Partisan League sympathizers, who paraded in Minnesota, were attacked by a mob which brutally assaulted men, women and children. When the students of Columbia held a meeting to protest against the expulsion of Professors Cattel and Dana, Naval Reserves chased them away. During the summer of 1917 many meetings of the Socialist Party and the Friends of Irish Freedom were regularly attacked by bands of soldiers. The New Republic reported, at the time, that a regiment of National Guards police the East Side, breaks up meetings and makes “indiscriminate arrests”, which in nine-tenths of the cases the magistrates must dismiss.
Even the end of the war saw no success. A parade of the Socialists in New York City was not permitted to celebrate the declaration of peace without being attacked by a crowd of soldiers and sailors as the paraders were marching to Carnegie Hall. Several women, who carried a Red Flag along with that of the U.S., were severely injured. Following this outbreak Mayor Hylan issued an order to the police department to “disperse all unauthorized assemblages and prevent the public display of the red flag in this city". Although the war was over, the civil liberties continued to be denied with the same fervor as previously.
Against such acts of violence the workers can defend themselves only by organizing militant defense corps under the leadership of hardened and tested communist fighters. How else can they meet the hysterical conduct of the petty bourgeois puppets , who wish to take their lives? If the State refuses to protect these workers who assert their democratic rights, then the latter have no alternative but to defend themselves with weapons of their own. Who can object to this? Only the capitalists who are themselves responsible for this situation.
THE RIGHT TO THE MAILS
In spite of the fact that Congress refused to authorize a censorship of the press, Mr. Burleson, the Postmaster General, early in the war assumed the privilege of excluding from the mails all matter, which he felt might discourage recruiting. The result was that within a short time, fourteen Socialist and radical newspapers printed in English were denied their mailing rights. Since it was generally a case of the “spirit” or “tone” that was declared unsatisfactory, the editors in most instances were unable to discover the nature of the objectionable matter contained in their organs. Had they wanted to comply with the rules of the Department, it would have been impossible. This was clearly demonstrated by what happened to the “Masses".
Although there was no law requiring citizens to purchase Liberty Bonds, the omnipresent Mr Burleson suppressed one of the issues of the “Masses” on the ground that it opposed the war policy of the government by advising its readers not to buy them. Under the circumstances the “Masses” was compelled to apply for an injunction preventing the Postmaster General from excluding it from the mails. Judge Hand decided in favor of the “Masses” and granted the injunction. On appeal, however, the lower court was reversed upon the theory that the decision of the Postmaster General cannot be altered unless clearly wrong. At the same time the court swept aside Hand’s ruling that the utterance must come rather close to success before it can be punished. In place of this the Appellate Court established the far stricter standard that the statute is violated, “If the natural and reasonable effect of what is said is to encourage resistance to law and the words are used in an endeavor to persuade to resistance".
When the next issue of the “Masses” was off the press, the Postmaster General again refused to grant it second class mailing privileges. This time he postulated his action on a very unique argument. Since, reasoned Mr. Burleson, the “Masses” omitted a number (the one which had been denied mailing rights), it was not issued regularly and therefore could no longer be considered a periodical. The Milwaukee Leader received similar treatment and in both cases the courts buttressed the autocratic position of Mr. Burleson. Appeals to higher tribunals were futile. In not a single instance after the reversal of Judge Hand in the “Masses” case did an appellate court interfere with a decision of the Postmaster General.
As was to be expected, the censorious activity of Mr. Burleson did not confine itself exclusively to the radical press, but proceeded against innocuous papers containing transgressions which he felt might impair the fighting efficiency of America. Thus the “Truth Seeker”, an agnostic weekly, had two of its issues declared unmailable because it committed the heinous crime of characterizing the Y.M.C.A. as a commercial organization. This action was predicated upon a Wisconsin decision in which the Judge ruled that the term “military and naval forces”, referred to in the Espionage law, included the volunteer religions and humanitarian agencies engaged in relief and therefore could not be subjected to unfavorable criticism. “Public” was banned for elaborating that more money be raised by taxation and less by loans; the “Freeman’s Journal” because it reprinted a Jeffersonist dictum to the effect that Ireland should be a Republic; the “Gaelic American” for some harmless tirade against a critic of Ireland; the “Irish World” for declaring that Palestine would be a second Egypt and not a Jewish Kingdom. In spite of the fact that Thorstein Veblon’s “Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution” (1916) had been recommended by George Creel, the Postmaster General refused it mailing privileges. Lenin’s treatise “Soviets at Work” naturally received no consideration from the Post Office, although the U.S. had not declared war on Russia.
Even the eminently respectable Nation had its issue of September 14, denied mailing rights because it contained an article entitled “The One Thing Needed”, in which the author mildly criticized that great government official, Mr. Gompers. Evidently this notorious misleader of labor had become a part of the governmental apparatus and its immunity therefore extended to him as well as to the Y.M.C.A. The ban on the Nation, however, was lifted the following week due to the hurried intervention of President Wilson who realized the stalwart service, which this cringing journal was able to render. As a commentary upon the liberal press in general, it is worthy of note that the “Nation” shed no tears for the working class papers which were affected by the actions of the Post Office.
As was the case with the other civil liberties, the suppressive activities of Mr. Burleson did not cease with the Armistice. For 13 months after the termination of the war the “New York Call” was barred from the mails. When the situation finally became intolerable and again Mr. Burleson was hailed before the courts, he brazenly announced that his judgment was “not subject to be reviewed, reversed, set aside or controlled by any court of law".
In this way the U.S. effectively duplicates the European censorship, yet gives the illusion that in fact there is no interference with the freedom of the press since no government agency is expressly established for that purpose. The American technique, nevertheless, is far more destructive of civil liberties than the foreign method, for abroad only certain portions of the paper are excluded. The remainder is permitted publication and mailing privileges. In the U.S., on the other hand, the denial of mailing rights automatically signifies the complete stifling of the life blood of the paper. Its circulation becomes exclusively limited to the city in which it is printed, since even the express companies refuse to receive periodicals objected by the post office. This evil is further aggravated by the coexistence of an actual censorship by private agreement. Two whole weeks, for example, elapsed after the publication in the San Francisco bulletin of the Oxman letters exposing the conviction of Mooney on perjured testimony before the Eastern papers decided to publish the damaging evidence. At that, it got into the press only by way of a dispatch from Russia stating there had been a demonstration in front of the American embassy in Petrograd protesting against Mooney’s execution.
To these dictatorial suppressions there now has been added interference with the right to use the telegraph. In July of this year the Western Union was fined $500 by a Massachusetts judge, for transmitting telegrams of protest against the imprisonment of alleged radicals. The telegrams sent to the court by the “New Theater League”, the “American Youth Congress” and several Chelsen organizations demanded that the defendants be released from the “trumped up” charges on which they were being held. Such telegrams will no longer be transmitted in Massachusetts, since the company has assured the court that they will advise all managers not to accept them.
Lord O"Brian, special assistant to the Attorney General for war work, reports that in raising an army of 3,000,000 men there were about 3,000 conscientious objectors reported by the War Department “and of these cases nine-tenths were eventually disposed of in a manner satisfactory to the military authorities". Let us see to what extent this is true. Between June 1918 and January 1919, the government tried 2,294 conscientious objectors. The 1,978 who were willing to engage in agricultural or industrial pursuits under the supervision of the army, participate in the work of the Friends Reconstruction Unit in France, or accept assignments in some other form of noncombatant service, were adjudged sincere. The remaining 316, who refused to enunciate their pacifist principles, were adjudged insincere and promptly condemned to long years of penal servitude in miserable Bastilles as an example to the rest of the population.
Since even the National Civil Liberties Bureau admitted that only 15,000 out of the 9,586,508 men called before the Boards registered as conscientious objectors, it would seem as though the draft policy of the U.S. met with very little real opposition from the people. Exactly the opposite is the case. Many more than is accounted for by the figures endeavoured to note their objections to the war, but were prevented from getting such a statement on record since no real mechanism was available. There were no hearings in court or open trials to which the public was admitted. Examinations were held before special boards or court martials which were not reported. The people therefore had no way of knowing what transpired behind the closed doors of these summary tribunals. Threats could be and were made to impress upon “objectors”, the advisability of refraining from asserting that they had scruples against fighting. How far the government went in these tactics can be deduced from a report in the nation of November 2, 1918, that a man who refused to impose a sentence of death in a court martial proceeding against a conscientious objector was himself sentenced to serve 25 years in jail.
It was palpably desirable that as many men be driven into the military forces as possible. The authorities did not want to fill the jails but to have as much cannon fodder as they could secure. They, therefore, “dealt leniently with all those, who irrespective of their original commitments agreed to join while those who remained adamant were given the limit. Nevertheless, the masses resisted with a bulldog tenaciousness, typical of the proletariat and, since the religious leadership of the conscientious objector had not won their confidence, they worked out their own disorganized method of opposition—to ignore the draft. This conclusion is well substantiated by the statistics of the Attorney General’s Office.
Down to July 1, 1918, the Department of Justice investigated 220,741 cases of men who had failed to register, made false exemption claims, neglected to report, etc., all forms of spontaneous resistance to the draft. out of this number the officials were able to induce only 23,430 to join the army.
In the year ending June 30, 1918, the Attorney General commenced 11,809 prosecutions under the Selective Service Act and secured out of that number 10,027 convictions in the same period of time. Pleas of guilty, alone, came to 7,626 with 2,047 cases pending at the end of the fiscal year, while of the $200,143 assessed in fines the government succeeded in collecting $95,763. In the next fiscal year, ending June 30, 1919, (already after the war) 15,162 new prosecutions were begun and in the succeeding year of 1920, 19,700. By July 1, 1919, 300,000 cases of alleged delinquency under the Selective Service Act had been investigated and in the following year 40,000 new ones were examined resulting in approximately the 20,000 trials referred to above.
Here we see the reason for the extremely harsh attitude towards the articulate conscientious objector and the Socialist agitators who urged resistance to the draft. Faced with such an immense opposition on the part of the masses, the government was compelled to utilize every expedient at its disposal to crush the movement in its incipiency. In Europe, those who refused to fight were put against the wall and killed like mad dogs. this, of course, could not be the American technique in such an early phase of the struggle. Besides, are we not a democratic country in which such extreme censures would not be tolerated? No, the U.S. could not sanction a barbaric device like murder for political offenses. Instead we left them to rot in jail for terms ranging from 15 to 35 years and then invoked every kind of inquisitorial devise to break the spirit of the prisoners. Officially, of course, the conscientious objectors were not supposed to be persecuted or penalized in any way other than mere incarceration.
Once in jail, however, the men were as a matter of policy, brutally mistreated. This truth is vividly portrayed by the letters of the conscientious objectors imprisoned at Camp Funston: In October the warden imposed a cold shower ordeal which was invariably administered to the prisoners at night while in their sleeping clothes. On October 7th the prisoners reported that they were forced to take the third cold shower that day, scrub each other with brushes used to clean the toilet seats and brooms with which the floors were swept. When one of them refused to engage in this work he was thrown to the cement floor, dragged back and forth and viciously beaten. “He was then placed under the cold spray and left there until he collapsed.” Finally, the objectors went on a hunger strike, but instead of alleviating conditions the repressive measures grew worse. Some of the prisoners were placed in solitary confinement, others were severely drubbed. Two of them went mad. In general prison life grew more intolerable.
While this was transpiring the men were held absolutely incommunicado. Packages of food which were sent to them were destroyed. In December, four C.O.’s..were hung up by the wrists so that only their toes touched the cold damp floor which was 30 feet below the ground. They were deprived of their over clothing and were forced to live in the stench of their own excrement. After four days without food and under these horrible conditions they got scurvy…Two are now dead of the four.” Similar horrible accounts came from other disciplinary barracks. That all of them did not succumb is indeed a tribute to the spiritual stamina of the conscientious objector.
The status of the alien during the war has received scant attention from either the liberal or the Marxist viewpoint. Not until the mad days of the post war deportations did the public suddenly realize that the alien was being denied civil liberties to an even greater extent than the American citizen. With the outbreak of the war, the movements of all alien enemies were immediately restricted under a law which provided that whenever the U.S. is at war, the President can determine as to all males over the age of 14, who are citizens of enemy countries. “The manner and degree of restraint to which they will be subjected, and in what cases, and upon what security their residence shall be permitted and to provide for the removal of those, who not being permitted to reside in the U.S. refuse or neglect to depart therefrom.” On April 16, 1916, this act was amended to include women.
Pursuant to the powers given to him under this statute the President accordingly Promulgated the following regulations:
"4. An alien shall not approach or be found within a mile of any..navy yard, factory or workshop for the manufacture of munitions of war or ANY PRODUCT for the use of the Army or Navy.” In the Attorney General’s instructions, dated April 20, 1917, he advised his assistants that the words “factory” and “naval” be given a broad interpretation and that the size of the factory, unless negligible, should not be considered.
"5. An Alien enemy shall not write, print or publish any attack or threats against the government or Congress of the U.S. or against the person or property of any person in the military, naval or civil service of the U.S. or of the states or territories.” Under this provision an alien could not criticise a judge for a decision in an ordinary civil action, let alone protest against the passage of undesirable legislation.
7. Aliens are not to reside in certain prescribed districts which the president shall designate as a “prohibited area” except by permit from the President and except under such limitations or restrictions as the President may prescribe.
8. An alien enemy is subject to summary arrest if “there is reasonable ground to believe that he is ABOUT to violate laws of the U.S. or regulations of the President.”
While these general restrictions governed the conduct of the Germans, the movement of the Austro-Hungarians was comparatively free. When it was known that aliens might be interned, representatives of the heavy basic industries like coal mining, steel manufacturing and ship loading advised the Attorney General that there was “grave danger of serious labor dislocation and disorder growing out of the fear prevalent among the subjects of Austria-Hungary, particularly those classes engaged in manual labor, that they were about to be subjected to severe repressive measures. Upon investigation it was determined that those representations were well founded, and in view also of the general state of good order heretofore observed by this class of alien enemies, it was determined to interfere with them as little as possible. (Annual Report of Attorney General, 1918)
The President, therefore, issued a milder decree as to the Austro-Hungarians and in this way forestalled any possible ferment which such an order might have brewed. Only those who were “dangerous or disloyal” were subject to arrest (Circular 756, December 17, 1917). Indeed, the government had weeded out the dangerous and disloyal long before the declarations of hostilities and thus could afford to appear “democratic” especially since as far back as August 14, 1914, the government had begun to accumulate a file on Germans and their sympathizers. The most dangerous of these were subsequently interned. (Annual Report of Attorney General, 1917)
From this report then it become clear that ever since 1914 the government either knew that it ultimately intended to support the allies and therefore had its Secret Service prepare accordingly or else as part of a routine precaution made similar lists of allies.
With the advantage of such a catalogue the attorney General very astutely cautioned the U.S. attorneys and marshals more than a week before the war “to avoid any action which would tend to stir up the foreign population of the country by unwarranted arrests or to cause apprehension on the part of such population of unfair treatment.” For this same reason the staff was counseled not to handcuff the aliens unless necessary and on July 18, 1917, circular 686 was issued suggesting that instead of placing aliens in jails which were not suited to their status, they utilize armories, fair grounds and public or semi-public buildings. In requesting information concerning the availability of such places in cities over 15,000 the Attorney General advised his staff that these inquiries were to be confidential.
In contrast to the malevolence shown the radicals and the conscientious objectors this appears so mild that one might feel inclined to believe that the government was merely taking precautions against the entrenchment of the German Espionage System. However, the Attorney General made matters clear when he wrote: “…outbreaks on the part of Anarchists or irresponsible persons of radical or hostile tendencies might make it necessary to arrest quickly and detain a large number of persons either for the protection of the interests of the U.S. or for the protection of the alien enemies themselves resident in this country.”
It is obvious that what the Attorney General feared was the possible misconstruction, which the foreign population might place upon the imprisonment of radical leaders. Furthermore, a strong Socialist sentiment prevailed among the German workers. Had the leaders been openly jailed, sympathy for them would spread like wildfire under the fanning of the secondary cadres of the party. To circumvent any agitation on the part of the more vanguard elements, every militant was therefore surreptitiously spirited away and the foreign population never realized what became of its “guiding spirits". Was it not for this purpose that the Attorney General informed his assistants on April 1, 1917, that the arrest and detention of alien enemies could be made “by direct order of the President without recourse in the courts"? Lord O"Brian corroborates this analysis with his statement that “…the presidential warrants for preliminary detention of suspicion were issued promptly and LIBERALLY…”
O"Brian further states, “Over 6,000 cases were submitted to the Attorney General in a great number of which the individuals were interned, the remainder being released on parole, under restrictions as to habitat and surveillance’s…COMPARATIVELY FEW INDIVIDUALS ONCE INTERNED HAVE SUBSEQUENTLY BEEN RELEASED. “To insure its fullest value as a deterrent to hostile activities it was essential that…instances of the exercise of this power should be kept SECRET.”
All this explains the scarcity of aliens involved in the forefront of the labor disputes during the war since it was unquestionably by these maneuvers that the government was able to decapitate the alien portion of the working class from the main body. That is why all the branches of the Secret Service and the Star Chamber proceedings were necessary for in this way the working class was prevented from defending them.
As in the case of the American Protective League, the little German business men were converted into eavesdroppers on the affairs of their neighbors under the threat that where more than one alien in a particular territory had a permit, the violation of the law by one of them would compel the revocation of the privileges of all. The status also assisted in the surveillance of aliens, but were unable to cooperate harmoniously with the federal authorities.
Under the guise of protecting the docks, piers, etc., the Department of Justice issued a regulation providing that in such places there should be “…identification inspectors whose duty it was to see that no person, whether alien or CITIZEN was permitted to enter the premises without a valid pass.” To enforce this regulation a military patrol was instituted with the exception of New York City where a special bureau was established. Whatever the reasons for this procedure might have been, it is apparent that no union organizer could gain admittance to these places or even stand outside the gates in order to distribute leaflets.
In addition to these measures taken against alien enemies, a Damocles sword hung continuously over the head of the naturalized citizen—denaturalization proceedings. This is well illustrated by the case of the U.S. vs. Wursterbarth in which the defendant’s citizenship was revoked on the grounds that upon three different occasions, several months having intervened between each, the defendant had voiced opinions which showed a superior loyalty in Germany. This superior loyalty to Germany consisted in twice refusing to join the Red Cross and once refusing to subscribe to the Y.M.C.A. because he would do nothing to injure the country of his birth. For this purely negative attitude in rejecting the assumption of a voluntary obligation, the defendant’s naturalization papers, which had been granted to him in 1882, were rescinded. To reach such a bizarre result the court concluded that the papers had been fraudulently secured.
With this case and two similar ones which were decided in the State of Washington, the government has now established an excellent precedent with which to hold even naturalized citizens in check. This will be even more clearly shown in connection with the deportations of 1920 when naturalized citizens as well as aliens became subject to the unchecked process of the Immigration Office.
To summarize: In all these 250,000 investigations made of aliens, 8,500 arrests under presidential warrant and 2,300 civilians interned, the government conducted a real drive against the alien worker. Of those stowed away in prison the number “released by the War Department on the order of this department (Justice—R.B.) has been only a negligible fraction of the entire number and this action has been taken only in extraordinary cases and for well known, reasons.” (Annual Report of the Attorney General, 1918)
No definitive study of civil liberties during the last war has been made. Nor is there available a great deal of authentic material. The more valuable data is obtainable only in the form of incomplete and fragmentary pamphlets issued by the National Civil Liberties Bureau and the various defense organizations of the I.W.W. This deficiency has never been compensated for by comprehensive statistics on the part of the U.S. government as to the number of arrests which took place under the various laws especially enacted for the war period. Only the prosecutions under the Espionage law and the Selective Service Act are set forth with any degree of completeness. The Attorney General has asserted that for the year of 1918, there were 988 prosecutions under the Espionage law with 363 convictions obtained out of this number and 496 cases were still pending. But these figures are grossly misleading since in many of the prosecutions, workers were originally indicted. An inkling, however, of the vast amount of work in which the department of Justice engaged can be gathered from the fact that in the Southern District of New York alone, criminal prosecutions rose from 378 in 1917 to 2070 in 1918. This, the Attorney General frankly admits, was typical of the multiplication of such cases throughout the country (Report, 1918). But no conclusive deductions can be predicated upon these figures. In order to draw any important inferences, it is necessary to examine the wide variety of activities scotched by the Department of Justice and the extreme measures utilized to weaken any insurgent working class movement. This service the writer has attempted to perform. But to end the survey at this point is to provide a shield and omit the sword.
Unless one is able to discern in the suppression of civil liberties the various purposes which it serves the bourgeoisie, he will never be fully equipped to overcome the Fascist blows of capitalism. By the restriction of all internal opposition the bourgeoisie prevents the dissemination of news and ideas which would cripple its efficiency, which would weaken the enthusiasm of broad masses of the people and retard the development of the nation into a monolithic, well integrated fighting machine. But to give the masses of workers any amount of democracy during a war period would be fraught with such danger as to prepare the way for revolution. If the workers can openly discuss such danger as to prepare the way for revolution. If the workers can openly discuss such questions as “Why are we being killed?” and “Who is gaining from the war?” will they stop at this point? If the bourgeoisie should permit any widespread strike movement to succeed would the workers not strike to end the war? But contradictory as it may seem, whether the capitalists oppose it or not, so obnoxious are the burdens to the worker that he must revolt if he wishes to end the war. And if peace is not declared in time, the experience of the Russian Revolution will be repeated.
It is appropriate therefore, to inquire what are the perspectives for civil liberties during the next war? The U.S. has unquestionably profited by her experience in the last one. She will strain every sinew to eliminate all internal opposition whether openly expressed or subtly veiled. Loopholes which existed will be filled and we can anticipate that as harsh as her measures may have been, they will be even harsher in the impending struggle. Already, we can observe the efforts which are being made to arouse a strong public sentiment in favor of semi-Fascist legislation. The Hearst press in particular, has adopted a policy with this objective as its goal. Turn to almost any newspaper for a month and one will see headlines such as these “Delaware Bans All Seditious Parties”, “Indiana Bars Reds on Ballot”, “Laws Against Reds sought by Committee”, “Industry Backs bill to Prohibit General Strikes, “Curb on Aliens”, “Rigid Sedition Laws asked by Illinois Groups”, “Vigilantes Patrol University of California, Los Angeles Campus”, “Law Sought to Curb City School Reds". (called from various New York newspapers)
While many of these openly reactionary measures fail to receive the approval of Congress, the bourgeoisie is frequently able to sneak across apparently harmless legislation the far- reaching effects of which few people realize. The reader will recall that one of the gross abuses outlined in the present article resulted from the manner in which federal marshals flagrantly disregarded the legal requirements as to warrants. This criticism can no longer be levelled as the agents of the government , for on June 15, 1935, the New Deal passed an improved “Federal Marshals Act". According to the summary printed in the New York Times of August 27, 1935, this new law “empowers Federal Marshals and their deputies to make arrests without warrants for any offense against laws of the U.S. committed in their presence, also for any felony cognizable under Federal laws where the felony has in fact, been or is being committed and they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing it.”
To fully appreciate the significance of this recent orientation toward the Fascization of the law it is necessary to realize that each legislation becomes very important to the bourgeoisie even in the intervals between wars since a great deal of it can be used in the ordinary peace time strike. It was precisely this reason which the Attorney General urged in recommending the Espionage law prior to the commencement of the war. He said, “Its many important and sorely needed provisions will provide greater protection to the interests of the U.S. in times of peace.” Chaffee, who has made a very elaborate study of war legislation from a legal standpoint states in his book: “Much of this legislation, extended automatically to peace time utterances, and when it did not, it was easy and natural to adopt it for that purpose by the omission of a few military phrases. In the legislative sessions which followed the armistice emergency laws against anarchy and criminal syndicatism were adopted by state after state with a coincidence of time and phraseology, which proved either a uniform danger throughout the country or the operation of M. Tarde’s Laws of Imitation.” (Freedom of Speech, pg. 163)
Moreover, as all of Europe moves closer to Fascism, will not America be obliged to follow suit as a mere matter of competition in the international market? How can the U.S. avoid coordinating and integrating her industrial life both from the top and the bottom? But this cannot be accomplished without such repercussions within the working class as to demand the suppression of civil liberty. Already the wake of the New Deal is strewn with the wreckage of civil rights. The latest annual report of the American Civil Liberties Union shows that the suppression of unemployed demonstrations by the police, vigilante attacks during strikes and kindred types of mob violence are definitely on the increase.
According to the 1934-35 Bulletin, “Of all the many sided aspects of civil liberty, the attack on workers’ rights not only took first place during the year, as it does every year, but far outdistanced any other aspect.” The effort to break strikes reached heights of unparalleled violence, “In these struggles scores of workers killed and wounded on picket lines, hundreds arrested, hundreds were attacked by gunmen or vigilantes, who made their appearance openly for the first time in years, scores imprisoned.”
Day by day as we approach closer to Fascism the ordinary milieu tends to become that of a typical war period. It was just as those concluding lines were being written that the Herald Tribune of August 23rd, carried the following account of recent events in California.
“Grim vigilantes vanished into anonymity tonight after tarring and feathering two men and thrashing three others in violent raids on assorted “Communistic agitators".”
“The night riders, numbering nearly 400 attacked their victims early today amid the crackle of gun fire and the bursting of gas bombs.”
“Sheriff Harry Patterson said: “I don’t plan any action unless there is a complaint made--and I don’t anticipate any complaints".” The Attorney General said he proposed to take no action unless officially informed of the incident.”
“The mass meeting of “unemployed workers” had been scheduled last night in defiance of an ultimatum issued by the vigilantes two weeks ago directed “To all Reds-clear out and stay out of Sonoma County". There was no meeting.” “The night riders said “Communistic agitators” had urged fruit pickers to strike for wage increases. The pay generally is 25 cents an hour and 40 cents was asked.”
THE STRUGGLE FOR COMMUNISM……………………..15 cents
THE STRUGGLE FOR NEGRO EMANCIPATION……………..10 cents
THE STRUGGLE OF THE UNEMPLOYED………………….10 cents
FOR A NEW COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL……………….10 cents
COMMUNISM AND THE SOCIAL ORDER…………………..5 cents