Sam Fisher 1907-1935
The Kiroff Assassination and the Executions in the Soviet Union……………….Albert Weisbord
God’s Business……………………………..Robert Barnett
The Social Effects of the Crisis………………..Vera Buch
Can America Lead the Proletarian Revolution?……..Albert Weisbord
On Indifference to Politics…………………….Karl Marx
Revolutionary Theory and Bourgeois Practice on the Negro Question……………..Frank Griffin
The “New Deal” Workers party of the U.S.
The Jew, Capitalism and Communism (II) ************************************************************
SAM FISHER (1907-1935)
“When I die I want to be blown to bits on the barricades.” This was Sam Fisher’s wish. He had to die by inches on a hospital cot, wasted to skin and bone by that disease of the poverty stricken, T.B. But as we see him in perspective, in his life and death he was as truly heroic as those who fall under gun fire when the red flag is waving high.
He was sick for a long time before anyone knew of it, but clung tenaciously to his post as New Jersey organizer for the Communist League of Struggle, carrying on in spite of fever and weakness until in June, 1933, The strike of the relief project workers in Passaic brought his illness to a climax. Even the judge, when Sam was brought to trial after being arrested at the head of the picket line, was compelled to take cognizance of how sick he was, remanded his sentence and allowed him to be examined by a doctor. He then collapsed and since then lay ill in Valley View Sanatorium outside of Paterson, until he died on January 9th.
Samuel Watsky (whom we have known as Sam Fisher) spent his boyhood in war-torn Poland, and this early setting of his life, in a village which was taken and re-taken six times by the contending armies, under heavy bombardment, laid the foundation of his Communist character. The realistic approach and complete lack of foolish sentimentality which characterized him, Sam, himself, attributed to the experiences of the war years with their heaps of dead and dismembered bodies to which he had become accustomed. And, in fact, Sam began to be a rebel even in those years. His first fight for freedom was when as a kid of nine or so, he ran away from home in protest against having to learn long Hebrew prayers and hid for days in the shell-holes in the fields.
In 1925 he joined the Young Communist League in New York City and became one of its active members. He was among the first to be expelled for “Trotskyism”, although all he had done was to be seen reading one of Trotsky’s books. The expulsion, however induced him to read further and he soon subscribed to Trotsky’s theoretical position. He could not, however, place confidence in the American League (Cannon Group) which seemed to him too opportunist. He waited until he came in contact with the nucleus of our group and was one of the founders of the Communist League of Struggle.
Sam Fisher was a member of our Executive Committee and Secretariat and until the end one of the strongest supporters of the line of our group. Recently in a letter to one of the comrades he wrote, on the occasion of our condemnation of the fusion of the Trotskyist group in France with the Socialist Party and with the American Workers Party (Muste group) here: “IN THE DARKEST DAYS OF THE WAR LENIN RAISED HIS BANNER, SEPARATED HIMSELF FROM THE REST. HE WAS PRACTICALLY ALL ALONE. AS REGRETTABLE AS IT MAY BE SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO BREAK WITH THOSE THAT WE HAVE RESPECTED AND LOOKED UP TO. TROTSKY IN FACING BLACK REACTION GIVES UP HIS BANNER AND WANTS TO GET LOST IN THE MASS. LENIN RAISES HIS BANNER AND SEPARATES FROM HE MASS. I CHOOSE LENIN AND I URGE ALL THE COMRADES TO DO THE SAME.”
Sam Fisher’s life story, like that of all Communists, is the record of his party activities. In his ten years in the movement and particularly in the last 3 years with the Communist League of Struggle, he acquired a well-rounded out experience which made of him not only a political thinker but a good field worker as well. In 1927, when the Y.C.L., as a result of the Passaic Strike, was turning its attention to “mass work”, Fisher was among the first of the youth to be “colonized” and voluntarily went to Waterbury, Conn., to live and got a job in a factory there. Later, on his return to New York City, he took part in his first strike, in a printing shop where he was working. In 1929 we find him one of the active organizers of the militant Plumbers Helpers Union which grew to a few thousand members.
In 1931, not long after the C.L.S. was organized, he took an active part in the Paterson textile strike, carrying out our line there as one of a small minority, often roughly handled by the Stalinists as were all of our comrades. It was during this early period of the group, too, that Fisher-who never shirked a fight and used to go out to the Stalinist meetings to hand out leaflets, was more than once beaten up by the C.F. defenders of the faith.
In March, 1932, a strike broke out in the Rogers Hand Laundry in Flushing, Long Island, and since there were no organizers present, Fisher stepped into the breach and led the strike which was a complete victory. During the Spring of 1933 he was sent to Perth Amboy, N.J., as the organizer of the C.L.S. There he organized a left wing group of shirt makers in the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union and helped in the strikes which were then occurring. In Perth Amboy he helped us run a series of successful meetings and finally, in the National Youth Day Demonstration on Memorial Day, which was brutally broken up and dispersed by the police, it was Fisher who stood his ground after the C.P. and Y.C.L. organizers had quitted the field, rallied the workers and with the consent of the Y.C.L. members, organized the defense.
In the summer of the same year, Fisher played an active part in the Bronx Laundry strike and later attempted to organize a group of colored and white workers into the United Laundry Workers Union in Manhattan. It was about this time, too, that Fisher was active in the unemployed movement and had taken a leading position in the block committee which he had organized for the Unemployed Councils, controlled by the Communist Party. His reward was to be expelled, together with a whole group, by orders of the C.P. for his political views, although they had worked devotedly to build up the committee.
It was at the endo of 1933 during the great silk strike that the C.L.S. decided to extend its work in New Jersey and Fisher upon his own request, went into Paterson. Here a betrayal by a former comrade, Jack Deutsch, was largely responsible for the undermining of his health which had fatal results. Jack Deutsch, a school teacher, had been accepted in the organization only on condition that he prove himself in the field. He turned out to be a “revolutionist” of a day. Deutsch, who had some money and had undertaken to provide both for himself and for Sam, suddenly decided the life of a comfortable professional man was more attractive than that of a Communist organizer and abandoned the field, leaving Fisher without support. Sam, however, refused to quit his post and clung tenaciously to the work he had started in spite of undernourishment and in spite of the fact that the group was too poor adequately to support him. Further desertion of comrades made his position still worse.
However, Sam was always rough on renegades. He always felt stronger when he was brushing them aside. Although the difficulties were terrific, in his quiet, patient way, Sam stuck it out and organized the Vanguard Workers Club and Workers Unemployed Union in Paterson. He was also one of the founders of the Negro Chamber of Labor of Paterson. In the Spring of 1934 he extended his activities to Passaic. A free speech fight was the first thing we had on our hands there, when the authorities attempted to prevent Comrade Weisbord from speaking in Passaic. A precedent had already been established in the town for arresting all Communists who attempted to give out leaflets. Fisher was arrested in giving out handbills for our meeting. The Civil Liberties Union helped us make a test case of it, and the case was won. The City of Passaic was forced to change their illegal ordinance regarding handbill distribution by political groups. Further, free speech was established in Passaic for all of our comrades.
The strike of the Passaic relief project workers, called by the Workers Unemployed Union of Passaic, of which Comrade Fisher was the organizer, was his last work. The strike had been called against a 10 cents an hour wage and for cash relief and resulted in victory. In spite of his heavy fever, Fisher insisted on leading the picket lines and it was only when he was arrested and sentenced to jail that he collapsed. Fisher was rejoicing in the progress he was making as an organizer and agitator and only when he literally dropped in his tracks did he give up his work. When he died he was still under arrest.
To perish at the age of 27 of T.B. seems a tragic fate. But the life of the individual worker under capitalism cannot be otherwise than broken and incomplete. Fisher’s lot was an infinitesimal drop in the immense misery of the masses of the world, that horror without end which will not lift until the capitalist system has been exterminated. Sam Fisher, child of a poor home, lived and died as the workers live and die. But Sam was a Communist, a conscious fighter against the system that killed him, one of those who help to make history, not a blind atom lost in the multitude. Capitalism will strike down many as the fight grows hotter. Especially now in the crisis is this true, when money for organizers is scarce, and especially will this be true of the Communist League of Struggle where members are required to put their principles into action and are not satisfied to vegetate at home and gab over their tea cups about the revolutionary struggle. The revolution goes on and in its course glorifies those who fall.
Hail, Sam Fisher, true revolutionist! The workers for whom you gave your life will never forget you. The Communist League of Struggle will carry on the principles for which you perished. ……………………..Vera Buch
An open meeting in memory of Sam Fisher was held in Paterson, Sunday afternoon, January 13th at 2:30 P.M. at Oakley Hall, 211 Market Street. The speakers were Vera Buch, Organizer, Passaic Valley Organization Committee, Frank Griffin, Chairman, Negro Chamber of Labor, Albert Weisbord, Secretary, Communist League of Struggle. Milton Davis of the Vanguard Workers Club was chairman of the meeting.
A similar meeting was held in Passaic the same evening at 27 Dayton Avenue. Besides Comrades Buch and Weisbord, Louis Talabor spoke for the Workers Unemployed Union of Passaic. Simon Bambach of the Vanguard Workers Club of Passaic was chairman.
An open meeting in memory of Sam Fisher was also held in New York City at the Labor Temple, 14th Street and 2nd Avenue, Thursday evening, January 17th. The scheduled speakers were Nathan Schwartz of the Friends of the Class Struggle, Vera Buch and Albert Weisbord. George Jarvis was chairman.
The assassination of Kiroff has again reminded the world that it must pay no attention to the Communist Party ballyhoo that there is no class struggle within the Soviet Union and that the five year plan would liquidate all classes and transform Russia into a regular Garden of Eden. Such exaggerations can only lull the working class into illusions that will prove costly. Bragging can only undermine the defence of the Soviet Union that needs the eternal vigilance of the working class of the world if the first Workers’ Republic is to survive. Following the assassination of Kiroff, the execution of 117 people in the manner in which it has been done has amply illustrated the hysteria of the Soviet Bureaucracy and how thoroughly the Soviet Union has been weakened by the forces of Thermidorian reaction.
At first we were inclined to believe the Soviet Press dispatches that the assassination of Kiroff had been accomplished by an international White Guard ring. Within the past two years we have seen the murder of Premier Inukai of Japan, former Chancellor von Schleicher of Germany, Chancellor Dollfuss of Austria, Foreign Minister Barthou of France and King Alexander of Jugo-Slavia as well as the former Premier of Roumania. Even in the United States the inauguration of President Roosevelt was accompanied by the shots of an assassin. These murders are due to the rising hysteria in a capitalist world that is breaking down and rushing to new wars and revolutions. They are due to the increased tension of the class struggle. To the plots of international assassins must be added the machinations of the vicious armament trusts to involve the whole world into new wars.
In regard to the Soviet Union, the Workers’ State, we have in the past witnessed many attempts at the leaders of the Soviet government, the murder of Vorovsky, of Voikoff, the attempt at Lenin, etc. And we know that the White Guards who have lost their all by the Russian Revolution would stop at literally nothing in their desperation to regain their old power and wealth.
However, with the evidence that has been issued, it is hard to believe that the group who assassinated Kiroff was a White Guard terrorist group. The fact is that most of those implicated were young (at the time of the Russian Revolution were between the ages of 13 and 18) and not of the old hard-boiled Czarist officer type. Secondly, those implicated had been in the Communist Party, had participated in the struggles of the proletarian section of the Party against the bureaucracy. Most of them were workers. They had “cells” in the basic factories. They were rooted among the proletarians. All of them, it seems, were native Russians. More conclusive than all of this is the fact that the Stalin bureaucracy failed to give the records and activities, the programs of these workers and others who were executed.
117 have already been executed. It has become known that many of those executed had absolutely nothing to do with the particular ring that may have planned the assassination of Kiroff. Indeed, some of them had been arrested before the assassination. It is plain that here we have to do with something else besides punishment of those responsible for the assassination of Kiroff. It is a case of the bureaucracy within the Soviet Union using the assassination as a pretext to carry out their class policy of moving the Soviets still further to the right; still further crushing whatever workers’ opposition there may yet remain in the factories against the policy of Stalinism. This tendency is apparent by the rumors of the arrests of Zinoviev and Kameneff, the calling for the extradition of Trotsky to stand trial for the assassination, the denunciation of those executed as being of the “Trotsky-Zinoviev bloc” etc.
The speed and secrecy of the executions of the 117 are in marked contrast to the methods of Leninism and show further the degeneration of the Soviet Union. The dictatorship of the proletariat, unlike the dictatorship of Hitler, has the duty of awakening the masses to its enemies and thoroughly exposing the plots against the Workers’ State. In the days of Lenin, in 1922, at the trial of the Socialist-Revolutionists, there was mass publicity of all the actions of the defendants. The whole world working class was taken into the trial by the Soviets. At the end of the trial the workers were convinced that the dictatorship of the proletariat could have acted in no other manner than that in which it did. The result of the 1922 trials was that the masses rallied closer than ever to the banner of the party and of the Russian Revolution.
Why is there so much speed and secrecy in the cases of the 117? Are we not entitled to have the full facts? Could anything have been lost by a mass trial in which all of the facts could have been given full publicity and the masses shown how the Soviet Union is constantly being threatened by the capitalist classes? By refusing to order a public trial for the condemned men, Stalinism shows that it is more and more being divorced from the people, that it fears mass exposure, that it has its own reactionary ends to play.
A mass trial would have shown that there were no Czarist generals, no British agents, no high-priced saboteurs on trial but plain workers and poor people in the main, many of them former Communist Party members. The mass trial would have brought out that the workers are living a worse life than ever before while the bureaucracy is running the machinery of the country’s economic and political institutions uncontrolled by the toilers.
The mass trial would have exposed the facts that the Soviets as organs of proletarian democracy, the trade unions as defensive organizations of the workers in the shops, the Communist Party as the leadership of all the toilers, all have been destroyed by Stalinism. The mass trial would have stressed why it was that two to three million people perished in the richest agrarian regions of the Soviet Union in the winter of 1932-33; why it is that cattle, horses, cows, etc., are only 60% or so of what they were before the five year plan was “executed". There would have been revealed the fact that the 7 hour day is mainly a myth, that the standard of living of the workers has been greatly reduced, that the proletarian dictatorship has been fundamentally weakened by the irresponsible crew of bureaucrats who now have control of the governmental apparatus and that of the Communist International under Stalin.
In short, the mass trial would have evoked the greatest sympathy for the defendants. It would have brought to light the true internationalist program of the Internationalist-Communists, the bankruptcy of the Communist International both in the domestic and foreign field. The mass trial would have turned into a trial of Stalinism. Therefore the secrecy, the haste, the ruthless desperate acts of the Tammany chiefs at the head of the Soviet regime. The bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, having crushed all opposition elements among the workers, having crushed proletarian democracy, feared that the trial would be the mechanism to bring this back to life. Instead of a full exposure of the facts through a public trial, there was launched the hideous reign of terror against any group or element that protested against Stalinism. This is all the more necessary for the bureaucracy of the Communist Party as more and more it becomes alienated from the masses and separated from them.
There is a great similarity between the actions of Stalin in executing the 117 and in Hitler executing the leaders of petty bourgeois socialism among the storm troops who were conspiring against der Fuhrer. There comes a time in the history of Fascism when it must break from the petty bourgeois dupes who have fought its battles and demonstrate clearly that it is a party of big business and not the party of the middle class to control big business. At that moment the Fascist party is forced into action against its very supporters who helped to crush the proletariat. The middle class having put down the proletariat, is not able to fight the large bourgeoisie and succumbs to the terror of a Mussolini or a Hitler without a fight. The Fascist party more and more separates itself from the masses and becomes an apparatus. Perhaps in the beginning it still has not active hostility from among its former supporters, but let the proletariat get into action again after the contradictions of Fascism become acute, and the Fascist apparatus will stand exposed in all its nakedness. In executing Strasser, Roehm and the other leaders, having lost the support of the masses, had to deal with the conspirators in a speedy and secret fashion.
If Stalinism acts in precisely the same way it is because Stalinism also has lost the support of the masses. The secrecy and speed of the executions are not marks of the strength of the Soviet regime. Quite the contrary, they show the hysteria of the bureaucracy and instability of the regime.
The Communist League of Struggle stands for the unconditional defence of the Soviet Union as a Workers’ State. The defence of the Soviet Union is not the property of any given sect or political group. It is the property of the entire working class of the world. Precisely for this reason have we the duty of viewing the events in Russia objectively and historically. There is no question that the executions of the 117 will greatly hinder the defence of the Soviet Union among the workers in other countries who instinctively understand the reasons why there has been this set of summary executions without public trial. They, the workers, know that the executions have been an excellent weapon in the hands of the capitalists to show how far from Socialism the Soviet Union really is and have neatly unmasked the propaganda of the Stalinists in this respect.
Viewing the situation within the Soviet Union objectively, we can declare that the recent events only illustrate again the basic conclusions of Marxism-Leninism, which are:
1. The proletariat of a backward country, owing to the law of uneven development, can seize the power first but cannot hold the State power indefinitely without the active aid of the workers of the most advanced industrial countries, Germany, England and the United States.
2. The world revolutionary wave having subsided in 1923, there took place in the Soviet Union a necessary retreat. At first, under Lenin, this retreat took on mainly an economic character, the New Economic Policy.
3. Later, under Stalin, the Russian Revolution unwound still farther, economics became politics, the retreat became a political one, the Left Opposition within the Communist Party was destroyed. The Communist Party degenerated into a Centrist organization, still, however, reformable. The theory of Socialism in one country marks this phrase.
4. Finally, the political retreat has turned into a rout, the Russian Communist Party and the Communist International, as a world revolutionary force, have completely collapsed. The Communist Party enters into open class collaboration with the enemy and becomes thoroughly penetrated by the class formations and agents of the bourgeoisie. A new Communist International, a Fourth International, becomes absolutely necessary
The situation has reached such a pass today that we can now declare: “Today, what we have in Russia is not the dictatorship of the proletariat, but the dictatorship of the bureaucracy over the proletariat (still, however, within certain limits, for the benifit of the proletariat). The dictatorship of the proletariat has been destroyed. It is true that within Russia there is still a workers’ state but the end of the Russian Communist Party, the end of the dictatorship of the proletariat means that the key positions have been lost. It means that the enemy now controls these positions. It means that the whole Soviet Union is weakened and that when the Fascists attack from without there will be not adequate forces to defend the Soviet Union. The next step after the destruction of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the destruction of the Soviet State, the destruction of the Socialist Republic.” (From pamphlet: “For a New Communist International")
This is the extreme danger today. In order to defend the Soviet Union we must completely eliminate Stalinism with its class collaboration, its destruction of the proletarian forces, its weakening of the resistance to Fascism. It is plain that Stalin represents the same symbol that Robespierre represented in the French Revolution in 1793-94. In the name of the French Revolution, Robespierre executed the leaders of the Paris Commune, Herbert, Roux, Chaumette, and others. It is true he also executed the conciliator, Danton, but it was then too late to make amends. By his executions of leaders of the left, Robespierre completely removed himself from popular support and made it easy for the counter-revolution to bring him to the guillotine in the month of September (Thermidore) and to introduce the victory of the counter-revolution. 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.
Similarly with Stalin. In the name of the Russian Revolution, Stalin did a good job in crushing and executing the internationalist group of workers who fought his theory of Socialism in one country, his nationalism, his pacificism, his class collaboration. Having crushed the left wing, Stalin now remains increasingly unsupported by the masses. Ironically enough, however, so long as capitalism is not restored in Russia, Stalin still symbolizes whatever remains of the October Revolution. It is for this reason that we consider the assassination of the leading Stalinists as a damnable outrage against the Workers’ State. We have no sympathy with those who by means of individual terror would do away with the leaders of the Soviet regime and who thereby only show that they themselves have capitulated to the insanity of the present capitalist era. We must defend Stalinism against the capitalist class attacks as we might have defended Robespierre against the attacks of a Charlotte Corday.
If, then, we are forced to defend Stalinism, why do we attack it? Because, although Stalinism is still a prisoner of the October Revolution and has not been able to restore capitalism, yet it is weakening the Soviet Union and preparing it for its end. Our attack against Stalinism is that it breeds counter-revolution. Stalinism has made the whole existence of the Workers’ State dependant upon the life of one individual-Stalin.
Suppose it had been Stalin that had been assassinated? Would it not have thrown the whole Soviet Union and Communist Party leadership into confusion and chaos? Would it not have shown that the workers’ initiative and democracy have been overthrown and the only creative active force is the large bureaucracy, filled with capitalist agents? We may be sure that when Germany, Poland and Japan get ready to attack the Soviets their first shot will be an attempt at the life of the chief, Stalin. The assassination of Kiroff has been a sort of trial balloon. It has exposed the helplessness and hysteria of the bureaucracy. It has exposed the fact that the Communist Party leadership is really isolated from he masses. It has revealed the Achilles Heel of the October Revolution. Now the bourgeoisie will know how to strike when the Fascist attack will begin in earnest.
Is it not a terrible indictment that after all the noise of “collective leadership” we see that all power is vested not in the working class or its Party but in the hands of a small clique of bureaucrats? Is it not a terrible revelation that after seventeen years of victorious rule, the October Revolution could be endangered by the loss of one man? Yet, Stalinism has so placed the Soviet Union that the loss of one man, Stalin, might plunge the country into mortal danger. By this time the Soviet Union should have been strong enough not to be reliant upon the life or death of one man alone; by this time the Communist Party should have produced a really collective leadership. The very fact that we are forced to defend Stalin as being so important symbolically and actually to the welfare of the Workers’ Republic shows us how degenerate the Communist Party has become, how near and fearful the danger really is.
The best way to improve the present situation is to build up the Forth International and such powerful Internationalist-Communist parties in the key industrial countries that the Soviet Union will be supported by the victorious proletariat elsewhere. At the same time we must not flinch from organizing a genuine Communist Party within the Soviet Union itself. This is the best way to defend the Soviet Union and transform the insecure basis of the Soviet Republic which now exists, to a far more stable support. The policy of Socialism in one country has not only removed the proletarian dictatorship from the international working class, it has caused the Soviet Union itself to rest upon the life and will of one man alone. Such a precarious situation can be changed permanently only by raising boldly aloft the banner of the Fourth International, rebuilding genuine Communist Parties everywhere including the Soviet Union so that Soviet Russia can regain its real solid basis, the international revolutionary proletariat.
(footnote: How miserable is the “new” Workers Party of the U.S. that refuses to take a stand on the question whether a new Communist Party should be built within the Soviet Union or not! The papers of today just declare that Zinovieff, Kamaneff and others have been arrested for their political opinions and will be tried for the murder of Kiroff)
If in Europe the church has at times favored the landed gentry as against industrial and finance capital, it was because, for; one thing, the church itself was the owner of vast agrarian estates that were being threatened with ruin by the encroaching hegemony of the bourgeoisie. In the United States, however, the capitalists have always controlled and dominated religion. In contrast to the Continent, where the incipient bourgeoisie commenced its struggle by savagely attacking the maintenance of the church’s secular power, religion and capitalism in this country were never rivals. It was, therefore, unnecessary to employ the European expedient of first destroying the influence of the church in order to make of it subsequently an obedient handmaid. Instead, capitalism, from he very beginning, converted religion into an ally by giving it a share of the profits wrung from he sweat and blood of the workers. Eventually, the church was able to accumulate a sufficiently large hoard to go into business on its own account until today it constitutes a very sizeable portion of the rapidly growing rentier class. Although completely divorced from production, it nevertheless annually reaps its share of the profits and have every reason for loudly praising the preservation of that social order upon which its entire wealth depends.
While the exact extent of the coupon-clipping indulged in by the church cannot be ascertained, all of the available data confirm the conclusion that the church has definitely embarked upon a financial career. So much has business become a regular part of the activity of religion that it is not unusual to read headlines in the daily papers such as “CHURCHMEN RECEIVE ADVICE ON BONDS". Under this caption, which appeared on November 23, 1934, the New York Times reports that the delegates to the twentieth convention of the Church Pension Conference “were advised by economic experts concerning the trend of finance and its effects upon the funds left to their administration.” Indicative of the degree to which the church has become engrossed in the art of making money is one of the bibliographies on the subject prepared by the Congressional Library in which the following titles are typical: “Church Finance—A Study of Wrong Methods and the Remedy”, “Modern Money Methods for the Church”, “A Man and His Money”, “Ways that Win in Church Finance”, “Church Finance and Social Ethics”, “Modern Church Finance, its Principles and Practice".
The church’s traditional greed for wealth is especially obvious in the solicitation of endowment funds for it is here that the church has appropriated the complete technique of the high pressure salesman. The organized staffs of paid specialists maintained to pry the gold from the pockets of the rich, the secondary assistants employed to follow up pledges, the clerks engaged in writing from letters (like a commercial collection agency), the personal visits made to delinquent donors, all this is well know. Even the not infrequent lawsuits to compel recalcitrant contributors to make good are taken by most informed people as a matter of course. But what is not generally know is the success with which these mercenary campaigns of the sky pilots have been blessed. It was not so long ago that Bishop McConnel boasted that the Methodist Episcopal Church had collected over $20,000,000 as a result of its centenary drive and that the pledges received would assure the collection of an additional 115,000,000 dollars. This high standard, however, was surpassed by the Presbyterian and Baptist Churches for they obtained promises of more than $300,000,000.
All of this money was intended for endowment purposes; only the rents, interests, and profits were to be spend. The principal was to remain intact-and if one is to judge by the available information-it has. Trinity, for example, which was founded on stranded whales and land grants 237 years ago, owned in 1931 over $15,000,000 worth of productive real estate besides her two blocks downtown which the Literary Digest evaluated at $25,000,000. From the first source exclusively, Trinity receives a net income of more than $1,000,000 annually. In addition to this, Trinity owns mortgages amounting to 2.2 million dollars and has on deposit in the bank over half a million dollars. With sundry minor items the grand total is brought to more than $18,000,000. This tidy sum produces an annual income of $1,269,461. After deducting all necessary expenditures, including eleemosynary contributions, Trinity like the good capitalist disciple that she is, still has $122,000 left for reinvestment in more real estate and mortgages.
St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church owns property worth 6.6 million dollars. Grace Church, which is not as wealthy as these two, possesses endowment funds of $3,240,688 (1933) of which $1,181,473 is in stocks and bonds. A comparatively small institution like the Calvary Church has $92,000 invested in bonds of nine different railroads and owns 34 different parcels of realty evaluated at $311,000. The Brick Church, which is in about the same category, has $728,000 in mortgages, $155,899 in stocks and bonds and $50,816 in notes. The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church which represents 24 Protestant denominations, possessed in round numbers in March 1934 the following assets: $15.5 million in utility and private industrial bonds 4.5 million in stocks, and $11.2 million in mortgages. The total of $32.2 million is a ridiculous underestimate since the report admits that the stocks and bonds are listed below the quoted market value while the real estate is set down at cost.
For the church in particular, the evaluation of “real estate at cost”, is an extremely fallacious method of determining its material well-being since most churches have made tremendous profits through mere tenaciousness in holding on to property accidently located in the pathway of the community’s expansion. This characteristic trait of the church very frequently placed it in a position to make millions through absolute passivity. Thus the Madison Ave., Church realized a profit of $650,000 by moving around the corner, Temple Emanuel a clear million by selling its old site on Fifth Avenue, the land on which St. Bartholomews is located increased $2.4 million in value since 1920 but the church still clings to the title. Nor has St. Patricks sold out although its land is worth $10,000,000 more than when the Cathedral obtained it. Most fortunate of all is Trinity whose choice parcel in the financial center increased more than $21,000,000 since it was acquired.
The Church as Landlord
For the United States as a whole this trend is well exemplified by the 488% increase during a period of 36 years, in the value of buildings used exclusively for devotional purposes. From less than $680,000,000 in 1890, the church edifices multiplied in value until in 1926 they reached more than 4 billion dollars. Now, while part of this accretion can be ascribed to the erection of new structures, the major portion of this increment is directly attributable to values incidentally added by the immense industrial development of the country. Today, parsonages alone are worth $500,000,000 and the Literary Digest estimates that in 1933 the total tax exempt holdings of the church reached 7 billion dollars.
Trinity the first large ecclesiastical institution in this country to go into business on a grand scale became a ruthless landloard and skilled financier. As a favorite, it obtained immence holdings of slum property which a special committee of the Legislure subseqently undertook to investigate. It found that Trinity’s tenements were so unsanitary that an excessivly high death rate prevailed. To refute the testimony adduced before the Committee, Trinity made its own survey and indignantly reported that the death rate was only 18% higher than the city at large and not 35% higher as the Committee had contended. In reply to the suggestion that these tenements be replaced by model apartments, the church in a vigorously written pamphlet truthfully stated, “The trustees do not feel that it is their duty to engage in enterprises which do not commend themselves to the business judgement.” Under no circumstances would Trinity undertake any measures which would ameliorate the lot of their tenants. Although a statute compelled it to install one water faucet on every floor, Trinity preferred to spend thousands of dollars fighting the case in the courts rather than part with the smallest portion of her profits, this saintly institution marched all the way to the highest tribunal of the state on the theory that the act was unconstitutional and that the furnishing of water facilities would lead not to greater cleanliness but to a general increase of dirty and unsanitary conditions.
Although Trinity no longer owns as many tenements as she previously did, this is not to be imputed to a change of heart, but to a shift in population over which Trinity had no control. Where once she was the owner of dilapidated dwellings, Trinity is now the proud possessor of filthy loft buildings in which the health of the workers is as disastrously impaired as it formerly was in Trinity’s tenements.
But if Trinity is so business-like in her methods of investment, perhaps it is only because she is anxious to employ the profits in worthier causes. Let us therefore examine Trinity’s enviable record for charity. In 1931 the wealthiest church in the U.S. gave $400 to St. Luke’s Hospital, $500 to the Beekman St. Hospital, several thousand dollars to the various colleges, $10,000 for all the unemployed in New York City and $5000 for propaganda work among the Negroes. It took excellent care, however of its ministry, for they received $182,000. Far more essential was it for the church to feed, clothes and shelter its hierarchical aristocracy in comfortable style than to take care of the “destitute poor” since it is these smug idealists who have the important job of lulling the workers into senselessness with their soothing words. Now we point this out, not because the workers want charity, but in order to expose the hypocrisy of the church in preaching charity when its own practice is diametrically opposed to such foolish actions. Organized religion has never conceived philanthropy to be its primary task. Certainly, today, its most essential function is the dissemination of propaganda that bolsters the tottering capitalist system. St. Thomas, for example, in 1933, spent the picayune sums of $1223 on the unemployed and $120 for coal. With seven multimillionaires in its congregation, the shoe fund made no disbursements while the “Schmelzel Tea and Sugar Trust Fund” $12.15. But what more can be expected? The church acts no better than its masters. When the lay deputies of the Protestant Episcopal Church number three multimillionaires and nine millionaires, this is the policy that has to prevail.
As a worthy votary of big business the church aped and adopted all the petty chicanery of the business world. It began the practice of temporarily dropping members from the active to the inactive rolls in order to lower the assessment of central administration which is based upon the size of the congregation. So definitely has religion ventured into the domain of trade and speculation that father Coughlin’s Church of the Little Flower purchased 500,000 ounces of silver and then had their politically minded priest agitate for the remonitization of silver, knowing that inflation would sky-rocket the price of their holdings.
About a year ago, a clever entrepreneur conceived the “Goodwin Plan”, a scheme by means of which the church was organized as a sales force to dispose of the well advertised commodities handled by the Goodwin Corporation. In return for peddling this merchandise 2% of all gross sales made to members went to the church as its commission. A few of the better known of the 65 products approved by the Corporation are: Luden’s Cough Drops, Champion Spark Plugs, Northern Toilet Tissue, Body Glove Corsets, Crown Overalls, Allen A Hosiery and Knox Gelatine. It is indeed obvious that while the church may oppose materialism in the philosophical real, it does not do so in the real arena of affairs.
State and Church
Although the democratic illusion is maintained that organized religion and the capitalist state are completely separate, an open liaison exists between the two. So intimate is this bond that the state sanctions the teaching of the Bible in the public school system and makes it a part of the daily routine. On the other hand, the state grants religion a subsidy in the form of tax exemption, thus throwing upon the workers the specially onerous burden of supporting their enemy and strengthening the potency of the very opiate that is used to drug them. In New York City alone, the value of the church’s property which is tax exempt is set down at $584,000,000. The normal tax on even this deflated assessment would be over $16,000,000 annually. For the nation at large, 7 billion dollars’ worth of the church’s property is used to broadcast the vicious doctrines of religion without contributing in any way to the financial support of the government which represents their interests. The church should indeed be grateful for the special privileges accorded to it. America’s millionaires generously endow it with immense sums of money it is permitted to take an active part in the mulcting of the workers and finally the church need not pay any taxes.
Is it any wonder that the church is so active in championing the cause of capitalism? Or that compared to the 24,700,000 elementary and secondary school students the church has enrolled 21,000,000 in the denominational Sunday Schools alone? This does not include the number in parochial schools and undenominational Sunday Schools of which no figures are available. As compared to 256,000 school buildings, there are 232,000 churches regularly attended by over 55% of the adult population. It is no accident that the annual expenditures of the church equals 44% of that of the public schools. In 1926, 93% of the traffic in the “opiate of the people” amounted to $817,214,528. Here, indeed, one sees the might of the apparatus maintained to keep the masses enslaved.
Yet the church’s activity does not end at this point. In order to perpetuate its obsolete, barbaric ideology it conducts forums, holds discussion groups, provides periodicals, print books, distributes free Bibles, and engages in missionary work. By means of the pulpit, the radio, the press and its thousand and one subtleties, it regiments public opinion against radicalism, imposes its own censorship on the movies the stage and literature. It even pokes its nose occasionally into art as was the case with Rivera’s Detroit Murals. Forever on the alert for opportunities to fulfill its function, the church in the United States not only cares for the sick but even takes the healthy directly under its protective wing. From rescuing “drunks” it goes to amateur dramatics, gymnasiums, bridge parties and strawberry festivals. In this way the church dominates the leisure life of its members and prevents them from attending organizations and places where their minds might be cleared of all of this medieval rubbish. In the swimming pool and on the basketball court, the “kind father” wins the admiration and respect of his youthful adherents. Later in life, when beset with perplexing problems the naive disciple trustingly returns for sound advice. Should he hear a Red say: “We are starving in the midst of plenty” then his spiritual guide will solemnly announce, “What is, must be. God has so ordained. One should not listen to dirty Reds who ought to be shipped back to Russia. They want to destroy the home, God, womanhood, etc., etc.” Frequently the answer satisfies, until hunger stimulates the brain and enables it to throw off the evil effects of the dope.
Perspectives of Religion under Fascism
What will be the relation between church and state if this country finds it necessary to adopt the method of the strong arm? If it is true that the petty bourgeoisie can play no independent role but must choose one camp or the other, then the church, insofar as it pretends to be the friend of the little fellow, is placed in the same predicament. But whereas the petty bourgeoisie can go Communist, the church cannot, since Communism stands for Atheism, the direct antithesis of the church’s raison d’etre. Communism means the complete liquidation of the church as an ideological institution and as a property holder. The worker, in particular, must therefore, be very wary of any overtures which the church makes in his direction. They can bode no good. No matter how sincere this or that particular “god lover” may be, he only becomes one of the unconscious agents for the destruction of the proletariat.
The church has been hard hit by the depression. Contributions have fallen off, stocks and bonds have dwindled in value, buildings remain vacant. The salaries of the lower hierarchy have been slashed and many have lost their easy jobs. For them there is no other way out save fascism. And if fascism endorses theism, then the agnostics and the pragmatist will suddenly re-discover that God does exit after all. Religion will experience a revival and the unemployed ministers, priests and rabbis will again find a soft berth in the mystic precincts of the tabernacle.
With 212 distinct denominations, it is hardly possible that the U.S. will favor a single unified church in opposition to all others. The tradition of the country is too violently opposed to such a doctrine. America has historically been the land of “freedom of worship". Even Mormons and Jews were tolerated. Furthermore, to divide the country on a religious basis would aggravate the amount of antagonism naturally generated at the outset to a fascist program. Rather we have to anticipate that sectarian distinctions will be leveled to the common denominator of all religion-Deism. This would eliminate all minor differences between the two and give fascism additional strength for its more open enemies. At the same time it would make of the church a staunch fighter for a fascist regime since its own material interests demand the same expedients as those of capitalism in general. The church considers its material interests of paramount importance. Every worker must remember that the church “will more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on 1/39th of its income.”
Since taxation is such a vital problem under capitalism it is necessary to determine whether any attempt will be made to equalize the disparity between the big church and the small one by taxing both. Hardly, since this would only accentuate the wide gulf that separates them. It would be the small church which would find it most difficult to survive. It, most of all, would quickly discover the taxes to be vexingly burdensome. With their present hand-to-mouth existence aggravated by a more decadent capitalism, taxation would mean the complete annihilation of the poorer churches. It is far more feasible that an open state subsidy will be sanctioned in order to salvage the small church from its difficult plight. This could be done legally since the only Constitutional prohibition against the establishment of a state religion is directed against the Federal Government. Furthermore, the restriction placed upon Congress is very indefinite in its limitations. A nimble lawyer could easily circumvent any restraining clause. The state governments, however, can do as they please in the matter. The school children, for example, could be compelled to attend special classes on the Bible, given by representatives of the various faiths who would be paid by the state for the time devoted to this work; or the state could make direct grants on a proportional basis.
In the event that fascism attacks the Jew, what effect will this have upon his religious views? Will it drive him back into the fold of his fathers as it has done in the past or will it tend to liberate him from religion completely? There is a strong possibility that the latter course may result since the proletarian Jew must thereby be driven closer to Marxism. Even to the Jewish professional man, appreciating the materialistic origin of religion, fascism must act as a catalyzer hastening the natural conversion to Marxism as the only solution for his problems.
Lastly, `there is the Negro who represents the kernel of the labor movement in America, since it is he who symbolizes basic unskilled labor. Here the question of religion is even more inextricably bound up with Communism. The Negro well understands the class distinctions that exist in society. Better than any other racial entity, the Negro realizes the barriers that divide him from his employers. The liberation of the Negro must inevitably include his emancipation from religion. As the fascist Frankenstein bears down upon the Negro driving him closer to Communism, the fetters of religion will be forever broken.
Had this question been put as recently as 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago, it would have been met with considerable derision by the various revolutionary groups in Europe. Today, however, the matter stands differently. The rise of Fascism in Europe, the weakening of the Soviet Union, the breakdown of European formations of proletarian revolutionists and the rising class struggle in this country, put a different complexion upon the entire situation. Revolutionary vanguard groups must be sensitive to changes in the real social relationships so as to reflect these changes in their program. Only in this way can the vanguard attain a scientific method capable of leading the international proletariat. Otherwise the revolutionary groups will become stagnant in their theory and action, they will be in danger of following false paths, of misleading the workers, of substituting nationalism for internationalism.
If the United States should be become the revolutionary center, it would not be the first time that such a center has been moved from one country to another. In the early 19th century, the heart of the revolutionary proletariat was in England, in the middle of that century the center moved to France. Later it shifted to Germany where it remained till the October Revolution when it became the historic duty of the Russians to lead the way. In each case of change the revolutionary organizations in the abandoned center, bound in part by nationalist ideology, protested the shift and refused to face the facts. The French with the glorious history of the Paris Commune at their backs, did not fully understand why the German organizations should become, historically more important. The Germans never fully reconciled themselves to the loss of their historic position to the Russians. The Russians will not easily lend themselves to the idea that the center of revolution can shift from Moscow to New York or Chicago. Yet if the First International was led by the French, the Second International by the Germans, the Third International by the Russians it may well be that the Fourth International will have to be led by the Americans.
During the whole course of the Second International, the French revolutionists took pains to point out the legalism, the parliamentarism, the lack of insurrectionary ability on the part o the German Socialists. The Germans answered that the leadership will go to the section of the world proletariat which is most industrialized. Germany was a far more industrial country than France. It was the heart of Europe. The way Germany went, all Europe would go. The proletarians of Germany operating the heavy basic industries of Europe must take the lead in the overthrow of capitalism. Further, culture depended upon technique. Since the Germans had the highest technique, they would have the highest culture: since the class struggle was so clearly developed in Germany, they would have the highest revolutionary culture.
In spite of their correct criticism, the French were wrong in not recognizing that after the Paris Commune, the French proletariat could not keep the leadership of the world revolutionary movement. They were also incorrect in not understanding the fact that the German proletariat indeed would have to take the lead in the revolutionary struggle. The Germans, on the other hand, hid their rank nationalist tendencies with “Marxist” phrases, completely failing to understand the law of uneven development, that the revolution did not have to begin in Germany but could begin in a more backward country. The German opportunists knew nothing of the laws of insurrection, nor of the revolutionary potentialities of the peasantry and colonial masses in alliance with the proletariat.
It was with “Marxist” arguments that the German social-chauvinists mobilized the German workers to defend the “Fatherland". If it was true that the revolution must come first in German or not at all, if it was true that should German culture be destroyed there would be no Socialism, then above all must German culture, German organizations be saved from attack from the barbarian Russians from without. Similar arguments operated to lead the French Socialists to mobilize the French toilers also to fight in the last war to defend French capitalism. The Russian Revolution of 1917 was ample proof that both these “Socialist” bodies were corpses, that in fact, the revolutionary center had shifted to the Soviet Union.
It was the same German nationalism that made the German Socialists, form Karl Kautsky to Scheidemann, attack and deride the Soviet Union. The revolution in Russia, they declared, could only be a putsch, an adventure. The revolution could come only in the advanced industrial countries. However, when Kautsky was asked why he did not help to organize the insurrection in Germany, then he was filled with a million other excuses. In short, the revolution could not take place in Russia-nor could it take place in Germany-it could not take place at all. Opportunist Socialism could only pave the way for Fascism in Germany.
The victory of the proletariat of the Soviet Union showed that the era of imperialism was one of wars and revolutions, that imperialist capitalism cracks not where capitalism is the most highly developed, but where it is weakest and that due to historic circumstances it can be weak in many places. The law of uneven development permits the proletariat to become hardened, tested, developed, even in backward nations. It creates revolutionary situations even in agrarian and colonial countries.
But as Leninism gave way to Stalinism, as proletarian internationalism gave way to bureaucratic Russian nationalism, the degenerated Russian Communist leaders, not able to hold the fort, and finding themselves slipping, began to issue their own distortions of Marxism. They gave the impression that the agrarian countries were riper for revolution than the industrial ones. Hungary, Bavaria, Russia, China, India were given as examples of agrarian countries that would lead the way for the whole world. As to Russia, they began to popularized the theory of socialism in One Country alone and that the victory of the proletariat in the industrial countries of the world was not necessary for the maintenance of the Soviet Union. As to China, they organized Soviets far in the interior with the theory that peasant soviets could lead to Socialism, the peasantry could lead the proletariat, the workers in the cities would be freed by peasant armies storming the cities, the green armies of the peasantry seeking egalitarianism were equal to the red armies of the proletariat seeking Socialism, etc., etc. All these theories were but ample additional proof that the Comintern was dead and the revolutionary center must move from Russia to elsewhere.
The final proof of this was the cowardly desertion of the German proletariat menaced by Fascism and the complete collapse of Stalinism as a revolutionary force.
If we look at the world situation today we must underline the following four basic facts: First, the historic ripeness for proletarian revolution; second, the indecisiveness of agrarian or colonial battles; third, the destruction of the proletarian movement in Europe—Europe is in a process of being burned out; fourth, the degeneration of the Soviet Union
As irresistibly Europe is hurling towards a new world war, as the normal milieu of the masses becomes one of turmoil, violence, crisis, revolution, Fascism, can there be any doubt in the mind of the proletarian vanguard that capitalism has played itself out upon the scene of history, that the world is ripe for a new Social order? The destructive aspects of capitalism have become far more highly developed than the constructive. Social life is moving in a spiral, going downward. Unless the proletariat intervenes with its revolutionary Socialism the destructive convulsion of a dying order must take a greater and greater toll of life. In fact, it is possible that whole areas may be historically burned out.
By now it has become very clear that no matter how important civil war and revolution may be in China, Asia, South America, Spain and other agrarian countries, whether colonial or semi- colonial or even independent, these civil wars and revolutions are not the decisive events that can overthrow capitalism. They are important; they are inevitable; they are necessary. But their chief role is to stimulate the proletarian revolution in the key industrial and imperialist countries: Germany, Great Britain, the United States and perhaps France and Italy. These agrarian revolts can weaken capitalism—and it is true that the proletariat of the industrial countries can not win their insurrections without this weakening and aid from he agrarian regions—but these revolts in and of themselves cannot overthrow capitalism throughout the world. These attempts make up the necessitous guerilla fighting that permits the basic troops to storm the barricades in the frontal attack. In short the colonial and agrarian revolutions, even when led by the proletariat of those countries, are indecisive. They can be decisive only when they pave the way for the revolution in the key imperialist countries.
Yet what has happened in the key imperialist countries of Europe? The great fact is that the working class organizations have been destroyed and that Fascism has triumphed. It is not merely that the Fascist bourgeoisie has defeated the proletariat, but the European proletariat was not capable even of putting up a good fight. Not only the Second International, but the Third International and even the Trotskyites displayed the most shameful capitulation. The defeat has become a rout for a good portion of Europe.
We have yet to hear from France. It is conceivable that in the impending civil war the French proletariat, in spite of Socialist and Communist parties and Trotskyites, will give a good account of themselves. It is even possible that they may defeat French reaction and establish Workers Soviets and thus commence the European revolution. At least there will be a good fight. But should the French fail it will mean that throughout Europe Fascism and black reaction will drive all before it. It will be the prelude to the attack and the possible destruction of the Soviet Union, unless this attack comes even earlier. These are the dreadful alternatives that are open up before us.
In all of this what will be the role of the United States? If it was the destiny of Germany to try to organize all Europe and to fail to obtain even Anchluss with Austria, it is the manifest destiny of American Imperialism to try to organize the world. But if American Imperialism must try to organize the world for capitalism, cannot the American proletariat take on the job of organizing the world proletariat for Socialism?
After all is said and done the working class of the United States is no mean one. In numbers it is gigantic. Even in this period of depression there are about 40,000,000 gainfully employed. Nor is the quality of the American proletariat so poor. Ever since the Civil War the workers of the United States have demonstrated repeatedly their genius for direct action and impetuous struggle. It was in the United States that May Day was born. It was in New York City that the First International breathed its last. Every large scale strike has taken on the firm of miniature civil war. The number of black workers lynched sine 1882 has been over 5,000. A country that begins its independence with revolution, that introduces its proletariat by a civil war, that compels violence to become part of the very breath of life of the class struggle, such a country is well prepared for revolutionary outbursts of its proletariat.
The struggles of the workers in the United States have been mainly of an economic character up to now. But economics is becoming politics. The old individualism is giving way to collectivism, a bourgeois collectivism with definite Fascist characteristics and a proletarian collectivism that bodes well for a native and genuine Communist movement to arise in this country at last. There is taking place in the United States a tenseness of relationships, a restiveness of the masses that shows that the workers have great potentialities for radicalization, that sudden and violent political fluctuations are quite possible in this, the strongest capitalist country in the world, bulwark of world reaction.
The very fact that it is the world dominance of the United States that is one of the chief causes for the breakdown of Europe is a sign that the American proletariat may yet lead the way for the world revolutionary proletariat. If Europe is breaking down, disintegrating, turning to Fascist savagery and ceaseless wars, it is because, for one thing, the U.S. has emerged as a dominant world power, grabbing Europe’s main markets, handing out doles and rations to the “second-rate” powers of Europe. Europe cannot organize itself, cannot unite itself before the blows of American Imperialism. It can only be broken up by these blows, driven down to the level of a Balkans. Ousted by American competition and superior technique from any leading role in world affairs, Europe more and more loses whatever progressive historic role it might have had.
The superior technique of American Imperialism imparts to the American workmen a superior culture. Is there any proletariat in the world that knows more of natural and physical science than the American? True, there has been a great uneven development even in culture. Compared to the European, the American workman is far advanced in physical science but far more backward in social science. However, the question remains how long does politics limp after economics, how long does social science limp after physical science?
We may be sure that once the American proletariat is put on the road of social science it will not take them long to pursue that science to the end, to wring from it all the revolutionary conclusions that are possible. Up to now the American workers have taken to the study of gasoline engines and machinery because this was the way to get along. Now, however, that it is being dispossessed from he process of production and the army of unemployed hungering for relief is more than those at work, now that definite class formations are emerging, the study of gasoline engines will give way to the study of relief and social agencies of the State.
Can we not expect that just as the American capitalists caught up and surpassed the Europeans in economics and technique, the American workers can catch up and surpass the European workers in the scientific technique of revolution? Now that class formations are openly appearing in American life, it will not be long before class struggle theories will be the property of the American masses--and when this happens the whole Western Hemisphere will glow in the crucible of the social revolution. Now is the time to raise the banner of Communism high in the United States. Upon our shoulders rests an enormous responsibility.
A French journalist recently declared upon revisiting America that the famous American tempo had slowed down since the crisis, that the nation was becoming contemplative and was losing its old-time “Let’s go!” spirit. An interesting but superficial observation. The American speed was founded upon the tempo of production and of the expansion of industry, while speed in consumption (for some classes) accompanied it, typified by joy-rides, jazz and the rush and turmoil of our cities. Speed in consumption has now slowed down to the vanishing point for millions of the population while the speed-up in the factories for those who still have work has increased three or four-fold. But any one who expects the United States to settle down to a long period of Oriental slowness and for a nation of introverts to develop, reckons without the host of world-wide collapse of capitalism. The U.S. above all countries is slated for gigantic social convulsions which the crisis is already preparing.
The social gap has been tremendously widened since the crisis. The numbers of multimillionaires are increasing; the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few is greater than ever, while the misery of the great mass at the opposite pole of society grows more and more acute. The social gap was always great in the U.S. in the sense that even though the American workers got more in real wages for the time they worked than the European (or at any rate certain sections of them did) still the wealth they produced for their employers was so tremendous that they actually got a thinner slice of the whole than the workers elsewhere. Certain factors, however, bridged over the extremes of the class divisions and made for glossing over the fact that classes existed at all. The possibility while capitalism was growing and expanding, before it reached the stage of trustification and finance capital, of individuals making fortunes overnight, the comparative ease with which individuals could “rise” to the middle or even wealthy classes, the comfort of the middle classes the well-being of the skilled workers, the lack of feudal traditions, the democratic customs of the country, where factory owners would slap their employees on the back and call them by their first names, all these well-known circumstances were responsible for the tradition of classlessness.
This tradition is pretty well shot to pieces. The middle classes have been dragged down from comfort to privation, the skilled workers are rapidly sinking to the level of the unskilled, unemployed to the number of 19,000,000 are on the relief, pauperism is becoming the standard for the great majority of the population. A report on taxpayers incomes recently issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue throws the spotlight of hard facts on the widening of the social gap. This gives a comparison between 1932 and 1933 and thus accounts for the first year of the New Deal. Income of $1,000,000 and over increased from 20 in 1932 to 46 in 1933. There was in fact an increase in the numbers and total income of all those in the higher brackets, from $25,000 per year up. Income of from $25,000 to $50,000 increased from 17,658 to 18,168. Those from $100,000 to $150,000 rose from 962 to 1,085. Those from $150,000 to $300,000 from 589 to 693 and so on. On the other hand, the numbers of those having incomes below $25,000 fell off. There were nearly 3000 less in the group from $10,000 to $25,000. Those in the category $5,000 to $10,000 fell from 237,273 to 219,735. Of course, the vast majority of taxable income were in the lowest category, $1,000 to $5,000 and these decreased from 3,420,995 to 3,339,602.
The earthquake-like shifting of the social strata is illustrated in another way in a study made by the U.S. Public Health Service for the years 1929 to 1932, covering 12,000 families in 10 localities and including such cities as Detroit, Greenville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The people in the study were a representative working class and lower middle class group including both skilled and unskilled workers, salesmen, petty tradesmen, etc. They were divided into three categories, I—Comfortable ($425 per year or more for each person); II-Moderate (from $150 to 424 per year for each person); and III—Poor ($149 or less per person per year. In 1929 Class I included 37% of all; in 1930, 25.9%; in 1931, 17.6% and in 1932, 9.5%. The Comfortable people had thus decreased from nearly half to less than 10% of the total. In the proportion of the second group there was not so much change. Group II (Moderate) fell from 49.7% in 1929 to 39.1% in 1932. The third class, however, (Poor) increased as follows: 13.3% in 1929, 24.6% in 1930, 36.6% in 1931, and 51.4% in 1932. Let us emphasize that while in 1929, the first year of the crisis, only 13% of these 12,000 families were poor, by 1932 the poor were more than half the total. By 1932, 19% of the total were on pubic relief.
Is the working class internally being welded closer together due to the crisis? This has been the tendency of the last few decades, particularly since 1922 when immigration was cut down, and the crisis in some respects has hastened the process. The skilled worker is found with the unskilled on the breadlines and in the flop house, and the former tailor or mechanic rubs elbows at the relief office with the ex-salesman and teacher as well as with the laborer and factory hand. The few skilled workers protected by unions, who still make $30 a week or over stand out as rarities.
As the white workers and poor white farmers approach the conditions of the Negroes, we must wonder whether the effect of the crisis has been to weaken the barrier of race prejudice. The Negroes have participated in masses in the unemployed movements, a very encouraging sign. On the other hand, the lynching wave shows the rural middle class is being stirred up against the Negro, and unless definite effort is made by the working class forces to counteract this, there will result an increased bitterness among the Negroes toward all whites. The NRA has from the beginning discriminated against the Negroes, has deliberately given no codes (depriving them of even that semblance of protection) in precisely the fields where the Negroes are chiefly employed, agriculture and domestic service. The application of the codes has meant wholesale firing of Negroes and a ten cents an hour wage in the Southern states for those who have jobs. Of all the unemployed on relief, the Negro families (during October, 1933-FERA statistics) were 18% whereas the Negroes constitute 9.4% of the general population. This might at first sight appear as though the Negroes were getting a good share in the relief, but actually it has been proven (studies of the Urban League) that in proportion to their numbers of unemployed the Negroes are getting less than other groups. The fact is that the Negroes have been the hardest hit of all by unemployment. They are fast becoming a surplus labor army destined only for forced labor. This has been their historic role in America from the beginning and only on a limited scale have they been able to escape it. If white labor has been driven down to very low standards, Negro labor is driven lower still. It is no automatic outcome of misery to bring both together. The Communist movement must orient itself in a new way towards the Negroes, realize the role capitalism is assigning them in the fascist period, help in every way the organization of the mass power of the Negroes themselves, as well as to draw the Negroes into the interracial groups and to fight against white chauvinism.
With about four million families on the relief, according to Hopkins’ estimate, the dole system has already embraced such large masses and has continued so long as to have had deep results on the working class. Let no one worry, however, if the results are not good; the days of the relief as it is today are numbered. The President’s message to Congress has made it very plain the Federal government will not continue subsidizing the relief directly as it has been doing to the tune of several billions of dollars annually. We have had so far two periods of unemployment; first, the Hoover period, the days of private charity, with not a cent given by the government, the days of the lengthy bread lines, of open starvation on a mass scale, of children fainting in the schools from hunger, of seizures of food such as took place in England, Arkansas, in 1932, of Hoovervilles or down-and-out colonies on the fringes of every city of vagabondage of hundreds of thousands of homeless jobless youths and even of whole families who took to the road.
With the New Deal, the second period, was instituted the relief or dole system combined with labor camps for the youth, public works and subsistence farms. Last August it was estimated there were 23% of the population on relief in New York City, 11.8% in Chicago, 16% in Pittsburgh, 10% in San Francisco, etc. A total of 800,000 youths taken from families on relief have passed through the CCC camps. 4,000,000 men were temporarily taken up on the CWA jobs. The relief system has mean a dole as low as $8 per month for a whole family in some sections of the country. It has transformed the open quick starvation of Hoover into a long drawn out process of chronic undernourishment.
We would be far from asserting the unemployed on relief can not make a militant fight, especially where the relief is very low or on occasions when it is cut down. But, on the other hand, there are possibilities of the relief system creating an attitude of helplessness, of dependency upon the government, on the part of some elements, while the stagnation of no work leads to demoralization, especially among the youth. The waiting on line at the relief office, herded about by the cops, the registration with full information of all the unemployed given over to the government, (finger printing has even been proposed!) All this is part of the process of breaking down the workers’ spirit, regimenting and robotizing them. However, it is not for us to demand to put the unemployed to work under capitalist conditions. Roosevelt will take care of that, and the Communist Party, like the Socialists, is playing directly into the hands of the government with its demands of “We are sick of relief, we want jobs!” The slogans we raise in this situation are: WORKERS CONTROL OF PRODUCTION, END THE LOCKOUT, OPEN THE FACTORIES TO THE UNEMPLOYED AND THE WAREHOUSERS TO THE HUNGRY, ADEQUATE UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FOR ALL.
It is plain from the President’s message we are approaching the third period, the period Germany is already entering, the period of forced labor. Most of the unemployed are to be put on public works. To be sure, they will not be drafted, yet, they will merely be told take the job or get off the relief. With shameless cynicism, the President declares: the wages will be a little bit more than relief, but not enough to induce any man to leave a job in private industry! The fact is, the public works will be used to set a miserable low wage standard for private industry as well. Without a doubt, the return to work of millions, taking them out of their homes and bringing them together on labor gangs, the necessity of sweating for their wretched subsistence, will stir up protests and strikes on a broad scale. There was sufficient proof of this in the protest strikes last summer in New Jersey where the work-relief system was put into effect, almost every community in the state seeing the unemployed walk off the projects where they were supposed to work for 10 cents an hour plus relief. The relief system has tended to bring the family together, perforce, but under conditions of crowding, undernourishment and irritability due to the pressure of unemployment and general discomfort, that augur ill for any real or permanent strengthening of the family tie. On the country side, the unemployed members of the family have trekked back from the breadlines in the city to starve together in the little old cabin or farmhouse where at least there is a place to lay one’s head.
Marriages are falling off; they declined from 1,126,856 in 1930 to 981,759 in 1932. The economic reason is obvious. The decline in marriage is accompanied by an increase in so-called “illicit relations”, and above all by a great increase in prostitution. It is becoming fairly common now, also, for the women in the family to be the sole bread winners, due obviously to women’s lower wages and the greater opportunity to get a job. The man, reduced to the role of housekeeper and baby-tender, is further robbed of whatever manhood and dignity the state of chronic joblessness may have left him.
Much stir has been made over the decline in the death rate in the crisis years. It has even been hailed as showing the beneficent effects of unemployment and especially of eating less! The only real perspective on vital statistics is that shown in the excess of births over deaths. This is what really indicates the vitality of the nation. In the U.S. this rate has been steadily declining from 10.6 in 1920 to 7.6 in 1930. (The Negro rate during that time fell from 8.6 to 5.3) From this point of view the U.S. is now low in the scale by comparison with European nations. Russia takes the lead with a rate of 20 per thousand. Even if the decline in the birth rate here represented the health of the working class population, it would speak volumes for the dreadful effects of the speed-up and accidents on the workers’ lives when they were in the factories. As a matter of fact, an increase in the death rate for workers might be covered by a decrease in the rate for the upper classes. And in any case, the death statistics tell nothing of the extent of non-fatal illnesses, nor the slow undermining of health through undernourishment which only later will result in a fatal illness.
Just how unemployment is eating into the health of the workers is brought out in the report of the U.S. Public Health Service referred to above. “The results (among the 12,000 families ) show a higher incidence of disabling illness among individuals in the lower income classes in 1932 than among individuals with higher incomes. Illness is highest among a group of the depression poor’ which was in reasonably comfortable circumstances in 1929 but had dropped to comparative poverty by 1932, their rate is higher than that of their more fortunate neighbors who suffered no drop in income and higher than the illness rate of the chronic poor’, who were in a condition of poverty even in 1929. Families containing only unemployed or part time workers show a high incidence of disabling illness".
The plight of youth today, jobless and unwanted, is the most desperate of all. Young people are coming of age at the rate of about a million and a half annually. What prospects await them. The job, if one is found, for the working class youth will be a job of twelve dollars a week at most, far less in most cases. The professions are overcrowded; to train to be a teacher, lawyer, physician or stenographer means chronic unemployment or finally to take a factory job. The CCC camps will become more and more of a permanent institution for training cannon fodder and keeping the youth in check. What the conditions are among the working class youth was glaringly revealed in the Scottsboro case: prostitution for the girls, vagrancy for the boys; and for the Negroes: frame-up and prison, if not lynching. There was, after all noting exceptional about the young people in the Scottsboro case except that they happened to come into the limelight where countess thousands lead similar lives in obscurity. The youth of today must have far less of illusion that the generation behind them, and they should be material for the revolutionary movement-only, however, if the revolutionary movement can approach them in terms of America and not of Russia, only if it can get under their skin far more than it has done heretofore.
The crisis has prolonged the attendance of young people at school: there has been an increase of over 4,000,000 high school students since 1920, and more than half the youth of high school age are actually in school. Radical tendencies are beginning to make themselves felt in the high schools and colleges and liberalism and pacifism have taken the place of the former conservative attitude towards our social institutions. Military training in schools has been on the increase.
When we look to the children growing up under the stress of the crisis, we see a dismal picture of undernourishment, deformity and scrimping of educational opportunities. There are 400,000 children being cared for in institutions throughout the country, and 6,000,000 on relief. One-fifth of the children of pre-school years are undernourished or in need of medical care. Out of a total of 45 million children, 16 million suffer from serious physical defects ranging from T.B. to impaired hearing. 200,000 children pass through the courts every year.
Included in the rapid increase in crime we note an increase in youthful criminals, or rather, the tendency for criminals as a body to become youthful. Whereas, a few decades ago, the typical criminal was a man in the thirties or forties, today he is in the early twenties. 39,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 21 are at the present time in state and federal penal institutions, reformatories or prisons. Of the mass of children passing through the courts, 25,000 of these every year are sent to correctional institutions where in most cases they learn to become professional criminals.
Although there are a million more pupils in the schools in 1934 than in 1930, there are 25,000 less teachers. School building has decrease 80% and purchase of school books 20%. Terms have been shortened in one out of every four cities and 5000 schools have been closed altogether. These facts do not, of course, cover the enormous number of children who must be kept home on account of hunger, or lack of shoes and decent clothing. It goes without saying that in all the scrimping of educational appropriations, those for Negro schools have suffered the most, and even the poor facilities given the Negroes so far to get the elements of an education are drastically cut down.
The picture of America in the crisis would be a gloomy one, were it not that out of the cauldron of misery and persecution is emerging something which figures cannot portray: a working class purged of the foolish illusions of the past, welded more closely together, forced by the bitterness of the present to realize that the course of the struggle will be the only way out. The strike wave so far has been the principal crystallization of what is really a tremendous change in the character and spirit of the American worker. Labor in the black skin and in the white is grumbling sullenly and slowly and painfully girding its loins. But capitalism has been far-sighted and quick in adapting itself. The danger is that labor may not be ready in time
The working class must form no political party; under no pretext must it undertake political action because to lead the struggle against the state would mean to recognize the state and that is contradicting the eternal principles! The workers must conduct no strikes, for to conduct a struggle in order to force an increase in wages or to oppose a decrease would mean to recognize the system of wage-labor and that is in contradiction to the eternal principles of the emancipation of the working class!
When, in their political struggle against the bourgeois state, the workers unite in order to obtain concessions, then they are concluding a compromise and that is contradicting the eternal principles! Hence, every political movement such as the English and American workers have the bad habit of undertaking, must be condemned. The workers should not squander their powers in order to achieve a legal limitation of the working day for that would mean to conclude a compromise with the entrepreneurs who in some cases would be able to skin the workers only ten or twelve hours instead of fourteen and sixteen. Similarly, they must not try to achieve the legal prohibition of factory work for girls under ten years of age, for by this means the exploitation of boys under tens years of age is not yet done away with. Again, it would mean to conclude a new compromise and that would have tainted the purity of the eternal principles!
Still less must the workers demand that, as is the case in the U.S., the state whose budget rests upon the exploitation of working class, be obliged to grant the workers children elementary education; for elementary education is not yet universal education. It is better that the men and women workers be unable to read, write and figure than that they receive their instruction from a teacher in the state school. It is far better that ignorance and 16 hours of daily labor render the working class stupid than that the eternal principles be broken.
When the political struggle of the working class assumes a revolutionary form, when in place of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie they set up their own revolutionary dictatorship, then they commit the frightful crime of insulting the principles; for by satisfying their lamentable, profane daily need, by breaking the resistance of bourgeoisie, they give to the state a revolutionary and transitory form instead of laying down their arms and abolishing the state. The workers must organize no trade unions for that would mean to perpetuate the social division of labor as it exist in bourgeois society. For, after all, this division of labor which divides the workers is really the basis of their slavery.
In a word, the workers should fold their arms and not squander their time on political and economic movements. All these movements can bring them nothing more than immediate results. As really religious people, scorning their daily needs, they must cry, full of faith: “Crucified be our class, may our race perish, if only the eternal principles remain untainted!” Like pious Christians, they must believe the words of the priests, scorn the blessings of this earth and only think of winning paradise. Read instead of paradise, social liquidation which some fine day is to be effected-and the deception is all the same.
In expectation of this famous social liquidation, the working class like a well-bred flock of sheep, must conduct itself respectably, leave the government in peace, fear the police, respect the laws, and offer itself without complaint as cannon-fodder. In their daily life, the workers must remain the most obedient servants of the state; internally, however, they must protest most energetically against its existence and manifest their profound theoretical contempt for it by buying and reading pamphlets on the abolition of the state; they must bewared of offering any other resistance to the capitalistic order than declamations on the society of the future in which this hated order will disappear.
No one will deny that, had the apostles of political abstinence expressed themselves so clearly, the working class would have sent them to the devil at once and would only have taken it as an insult on the part of a few doctrinaire bourgeois and ruined Junkers who are so stupid or so clever as to deny their every real means of struggle because all these means of struggle must be seized in present day society and because the fatal conditions of this struggle have the misfortune of not conforming to the idealistic phantasies which our doctors of social science have set forth as goddesses under the name of Freedom, Autonomy, Anarchy However, the movement of the working class is now so strong that these philanthropic sectarians have not bhe courage to repeat the same great truths concerning the economic struggle that they incessantly proclaim in the political sphere. They are too cowardly to apply these truths also to strikes, coalitions, trade unions, to the laws on women and child labor, on the regulation of the working day, etc.”
The sharpened development of the crisis with its great contradictions and with its terrific attack upon the standards of the working class, compels the workers to move one way or the other, looking for a way. Out. In many places they are forced into direct action. However, the most significant and important thing that has happened to the working class movement in all of its struggles is the participation and the role of the Negroes. And here we must consider the first important fact: the effects of the crisis have hit the Negroes twice as hard as the white workers.
Even in his daily struggles against attack, the white worker will find the Negro problem so complicated that it will be impossible for him to get a clear understanding except by participation in this work from day to day. The main danger and shortcoming in the revolutionary movement is that the white workers have placed themselves in such a position in the eyes of the Negroes that no matter how sincere the former may be in revolutionary speeches, the Negroes are skeptical and doubt any attempt on the part of the whites to reach the Negro with a revolutionary program.
However, let the working class movement ask itself are there revolutionary elements among the Negro masses? We have witnessed the terrific attacks of the economic crisis with its open discrimination bringing with it great waves of lynch terror, striking deep into the masses of Negroes. Even the Negro petty bourgeoisie has felt the effect of these blows. They have begun to mobilize their forces in order to find some way out. The role and policy of these petty bourgeois elements are well illustrated in the recent Scottsboro campaign. The exposure of these elements was a warning to the revolutionary movement of how dangerous they could be, while, on the other hand, the revolutionary movement exposed how weak it was among the Negro masses.
All this showed the revolutionary movement that in spite of all of the bitter opposition that the Negroes have experienced in this great economic crisis, they move slowly towards the revolutionary movement. Considering the Scottsboro campaign, if there ever was an opportunity for the revolutionary movement to have proven its sincerity to the Negro masses, this was one. Nevertheless, here we see the revolutionary movement, under the leadership of the Communist Party, demoralize the Negroes and discredit itself as working class organization in their eyes. This the party did by working with bourgeois tactics covered with revolutionary phrases, spreading a nationalist tendency among the Negroes. Thus the Negro petty bourgeoisie was enabled to lead the Negro masses into a counter attack against any working class movement. The C.P. was too satisfied in making concessions to a few individuals. Thus, with all its revolutionary phrases, the Party tried to cover up and hide itself behind these individuals. But, after all, the Negroes will not be won over by revolutionary phrases and speeches. A time must come for a show-down as we have seen in the Scottsboro campaign. So shall we see when that final day comes in which the situation will be far more serious and revolutionary than today. And if the revolutionary movement does not correct these mistakes, it will mean a setback and destruction of the entire working class movement.
The white workers must break with all bourgeois ideas that they are superior to the Negro. They must learn to sense the facts that, as far as the revolutionary movement is concerned it is the Negro who is superior in many respects. History has shown that through long years of bitter struggle the white workers have really fought to build up only a brutal, vicious society, which they have enjoyed at the expense of the flesh and blood of the Negro masses. History has also proven that it is the Negroes who have been forced by the brutal attacks of the bourgeois society to carry on a determined fight against this society. And in fact, we have seen the Negroes showing themselves ready and willing to go all the way with the white workers in the revolutionary movement. So we can feel safe and sure when we say that the Negro, so far as the revolutionary movement is concerned, is superior to the white.
It has always been the theory of the white workers that it is the Negro who must prove himself as a revolutionary fighter. They fail to understand that the moment a Negro approaches the revolutionary movement, this itself is a manifestation on his part of struggle against this form of society. However, in no case does this mean that we should not guard against Negro opportunists and neither does it mean that the Negro should be denied political and social rights, but it does mean that the white worker must prove his sincerity to the Negro worker by drawing him closer to him, and never to deny him, even in the face of terror and death. And here the Negro will see the white worker as a class conscious fighter. He will then have all confidence in the white worker for then the latter would have mutual confidence in him. For the Negro masses to come over to the revolutionary movement, is not a hard task. And it is not an easy one either, for it all depends upon how sincere one may be in doing this work.
When I speak of the Negro opportunists who are in the C.P. I mean that here we can see the same tactics and policy of bourgeois society being put into practice. By using the Negro intellectuals, giving them all the power over the Negro proletarians, the C.P. has been weakening and hindering every attempt of the Negro proletarians to develop themselves. These Negro intellectuals cannot and will not become the leaders of the Negro proletariat. They have shown the Negro that they behave no differently in the revolutionary movement than the white exploiters of bourgeois society. As soon as they become respected in the working class movement they separate themselves from the Negro masses, leaving the revolutionary movement in the dark on the Negro problem. In spite of the revolutionary speeches the C.P. makes on the Negro problem, this is only its theory: in practice the C.P. has only antagonized the Negroes to the working class movement. It fails to develop a close relationship between the Negro proletariat and the white proletariat. By failing to do so, it has weakened its base among the Negroes. It has developed false illusions in the minds of the white workers on the Negro problems. It has failed to realize that the main backbone and driving force in the fight of the Negro masses must come from the Negro proletariat and therefore it must be its job to develop the Negro proletariat along class lines. However, in no sense does this mean that the working class movement should close its doors to the Negro intellectual, that is, if he willing to struggle. But he must be put to the test. Revolutionary theory with bourgeois tactics will only antagonize the Negroes and drive them from he revolutionary movement. Theory without practice is blind. Practice without theory can only embarrass the Negro who can and must be won over to the revolutionary movement.
So far we have treated the Jew as capitalist, pointing out that even as a capitalist the Jew had always been an internationalist, revolutionizing the modes of production. Did he not keep aloof from the various established nations? Did he not represent the international market? It was he who first entered the dark recesses of the backward agrarian countries, bringing the necessary commodities the peasants wanted, stimulating new wants, and thus laying the basis for the expansion of the productive forces. All the old stagnancy was dissolved; the old relations were questioned and transformed. Forces uncontrolled either by rulers or ruled now appear upon the scene, thrusting themselves more and more into the foreground and finally dominating everything. And it is the Jew who is made the symbol of all this turmoil of society.
In the 19th century, the supremacy of commercial capital definitely gave way to that of industrial capital. Since the Jew was least of all an industrialist, and often the policies of the industrialists were opposed to those of the bankers and merchants, the Jew would have been pushed further and further to one side, had it not been for the fact that industrial capital itself yielded its hegemony to finance, that is to money capital, invested in and controlling industry.
As the whole world turns to capitalism, as capitalism becomes imperialism, the whole world bows to money in the form of finance and thus again must bow to the Jew. Not that the Jew is the most powerful financier, not that he controls the national finances in any country. But traditionally that occupation has been his; he has been its representative, its foremost theoretician and practitioner, its living incarnation.
And yet he is its weakest link. The era of imperialism is also the era of wars and revolution, a period when the convulsions of a senile world reach their most violent expression, and when finance capital bears the responsibility before the masses for all the fatal results of imperialism. Under such circumstances, it may happen that the financiers, finding the growing resentment of the people too much for them, have to look for a scapegoat and sacrifice the Jew in order to save the rest.
As merchant the Jew represents the market, as financier, he stands for international monopoly. On the one hand, he is the one who competes everywhere, fights for free trade, for free markets, for the old philosophy of the Manchester School. As such he is an individualist, a bitter opponents of Socialism. On the other hand, as financier he has his hands in all sorts of deals, supporting all kinds of governmental schemes. As part of the ring of financiers, he subordinates even large industries to the control of the banks, forces whole countries into bankruptcy and everywhere pushes forward the idea of trust, corporation, control. Thus in both the 19th century market and in the 20th century trust, in competition and monopoly the Jewish businessman plays an important role.
Is it any wonder that certain sections of the petty bourgeoisie and industrialists of a given country should hate the Jew? In the United States for example, while “Jewish” Wall Street is ousting the farmer from his land and the industrialist from his factory the “Jewish” department store, chain store and mail order house is outbidding and underselling his competitor and gaining whatever little market is remaining.
Here we have one of the principal reasons for the attack against the Jew by the German Nazis. Internationally, Germany represents a huge factory, not a bank. Through the Versailles Treaty, the Dawes and Young Plans, and through private loans, Germany has been put into a straight-jacket by the international finance capital of the victorious powers. The re-establishment of Germany as an imperialist power could be obtained only through a bitter struggle against the Versailles Treaty and the system reparation, debts and loans of which Germany was a victim. Therefore the struggle against the banks, the bitter attack against banking capital as parasitic. If the Nazis demagogically talked of a struggle against capitalism, it was banking capital alone that they meant and the category of interest that they hated most. And since the Jews were politically helpless and thus the weakest section of the financial ring, here was a good reason to attack them. In this the industrialists took the lead.
In this sort of campaign it was very easy to mobilize the German petty bourgeois masses: the farmer who smarted under the usurious rates, the student who wanted the clientele of the successful Jewish doctor, lawyer, professional man, the store-keeper who wanted to drive out his most dangerous Jewish competitors from the country and to seize their property for himself, etc. We must remember that the Jew as such, was always the victim of the law that economic power must not be divorced from political power.
German Fascism was launching its program of national socialism and the totalitarian state removed from competition. The Jewish merchant and professional man, however, still stood for individual competition. If competition had to go, so had these elements. As for the trust and state industrialist monopolies they were and had to be completely German. While the Jew could invest in their enterprises, his independent creative force was no more.
Quite the opposite was the case in Italy. There the number of Jews was so small that the petty bourgeois professional and merchant did not feel the Jew as a menace. It was exactly international Jewry, particularly the sections represented by Downing and Wall Streets, that had most handsomely aided Mussolini and his Blackshirts. Mussolini, be it remembered, was not the spokesman of a defeated power, but of a victorious country that stood by and in turn gained through the action of international finance capital during and after the war. How could Mussolini denounce finance capital when he was so dependent on it, when he lived solely by its aid, we may say? Here are reasons both “from above” and “from below” why Italian Fascism was not anti Semitic.
What is the situation in the other victorious countries, France, England, the United States? In France, should Fascism arise, there is not the same basis for anti-Semitism as in Germany. The whole French nation depends upon finance capital for its very existence. France is not an industrialist country in the process of being subdued by money capital. It is the financial country par excellence. Every peasant is a rentier, every petty bourgeois a hoarder and money lender. Fascism in France must have entirely different features than the German stripe. It will have to stress cheap government, security and military hegemony rather than anti-Semitism, although anti-Semitic demagogy is not out of the question for such reasons as solidarizing the nation.
As for Great Britain, Downing Street has been too long the financial center of the world for an attack against finance capital to be made there. And England is too much of a mixed country for racial theories to have much hold. Hence British Fascism would probably be closer to Italian than to German type for these as well as other reasons. However, it is not impossible that certain features of German Nazism can be imported. The keynote of British Fascism must be the maintenance of the British Empire. This British Empire is being attacked from two sides—New York and Moscow. As its Empire disintegrates, Britain must take to an increasingly aggressive nationalism. Both in New York and Moscow, the Jew has a prominent position. And within Britain itself, the financial crowd is willing to lend its money anywhere, even to Britain’s superior powers, thereby destroying the Empire itself. Hence Mosley’s attacks against the Jews and his insinuations against their “loyalty". Further, if the line of British Fascism is to cement a united front with Germany for a war against the Soviet Union, it would pay the British to take on some of the coloring of the German Nazis or to appear sympathetic to some of their actions concerning the Jew. At least there is this similarity between Britain and Germany: Germany has been defeated, Britain feels its power slipping.
A word of speculation on the characteristics of Fascism in the United States should it arise here. Will it have anti-Semitic tendencies? Certainly, there is ample basis for anti-Semitism in this country. Three and a half million Jews in the United States have dominated the key city of the country, New York, and occupy strategic positions in many other important cities throughout the country. There must result the same pressure for jobs, for professional positions that exists in Germany. There is the traditional feeling of the farmer against Wall Street. Here finance capital rules so ruthlessly that mass hatred to Wall Street can be easily aroused. If Wall Street needs to repudiate itself, to hide under demagogy, can it not easily sacrifice the Jew for a while? Then there is the activity of the Jewish working class in the trade unions and in the revolutionary movement generally.
Nevertheless, after all is said, it is very difficult to conceive of a powerful and really national Fascism in the United States not supported by Wall Street itself. American Fascism must be the handmaiden of American imperialism and thus of finance capital. To this extent, Fascism will have to curb its attack against the traditional financiers, even the Jews.
That certain elements among the Jews can well adapt themselves to Fascism is amply illustrated by the events. In the February affair in Austria when the Socialists were being murdered by Dollfuss with the aid of his Catholic Fascist gangs, the Jews of Vienna offered their aid to the government. At that time we wrote (Class Struggle, Vol. 4 No. 3) “In all of this destruction, a word should be said as to the filthy role of the Jewish organizations of Vienna. Supported by the Jewish bankers of London, Italian fascism evidently makes it a point to spare the Jews. Dollfuss did not touch the Jewish quarter, and in return, the Jewish organizations volunteered to aid in the slaughter of the Socialists and other workers. This revolting spectacle must always be remembered by the working class. The time will not be far off when it will be the German type of Fascism that will take over Vienna. Then let these treacherous Jewish organizations squeal their heads off, like stuck pigs. The workers will remember that the Jewish population made up evidently of petty bourgeois trash were part of that rabble that crushed the Socialist aspirations of the Austrian working class".
In the Zionist movement, the Revisionist section already has begun the formation of Jewish Fascist legions in order to save the “Jewish Homeland” and Jewish state that they wish to seize for themselves.
Even in Germany, the big Jewish capitalists and bankers enjoy their profits in full. It is only the poor Jew who bears the full brunt of the attack.
With the 19th century, the Jew enters the growing ranks of the proletariat. Increasing the 15,000,000 in population, masses of them are forced to work for wages, thereby profoundly affecting both Jewish history and the history of the working-class throughout the world.
There is an enormous difference between the Jewish and other sections of the proletariat. In most cases the bulk of the workers come from the peasantry, the most backward part of the nation. And now the peasants come to the city. The culture, the technique, the wonders of the city fascinate them. The peasant loses his brutality and idiocy. He feels himself far superior to his old status. He mingles with thousands of others. He learns and develops. There is no denying the fact that, in spite of the terrific exploitation, he has in truth made a great advance and his life has been progressive.
The case is just the opposite with the Jew. Here it is not a matter of going upward in the world of property and knowledge, but of going downward. The Jew, former independent businessman, now must work for others. The city life to which he has been used all his life, offers him no advancement. His life is on a lower scale as far as comfort and general cultural opportunity are concerned. He who was master and owner, is now slave; the Jew now turned worker, becomes the most embittered and most discontented of all.
To the Jew it is no mystery how the boss makes his profits. He who was boss himself has no illusions that it is by divine will, goodness of character or superior brains that his employer now has complete power over his job and thus over his life. He does not feel grateful as often the peasant is made to fee, for the “opportunity” to work for others. Understanding well the ruthless exploiting system, feeling most keenly the misery and degradation of his lot, the Jewish worker stands ready to combine with other workers in the fight for better conditions.
Concurrently, some of the intellectuals begin to study the laws of economics, of politics, of society generally. Is it any wonder that of these intellectuals the Jews should take the lead in the development and mastery of such social schemes, that he should lead the way in economics and should found the scientific theories of modern Socialism? Many things favor the Jewish intellectual on his way to reaching the science of socialism. As an intellectual and student the Jew is divorced from the direct conflict of masters and men and can take an objective position. Secondly, for centuries as a professional man he has developed a scientific attitude, historical and objective and tends to keep up with the times. Thirdly, the internationality and unmorality of the Jew did not allow him to be so easily blinded by considerations of a patriarchal, patriotic, ethical and traditional nature. Fourthly, the Jew himself has been persecuted from time to time and as an oppressed national minority has been forced to link his lot in opposition to the powers that be. The Jew as an alien, as an internationalist could not help generalizing on the development of capitalism and its international effects, and drawing the necessary conclusions even though they led to Socialism.
It is no accident, then, that so many of the theoreticians of Socialism should come from the Jews. A greater percentage of Jews are in the Socialist and Communist movements than of any other nationality in proportion to their part of the total population; and similarly, a larger number of theoreticians and leaders of the revolutionary movements are Jews than non Jews relative to their weight in the general membership.
Here we see how the Jew both from below, from the fact that he is the discontented and conscious worker, and from above, from the fact that he is an intellectual to whom social science is no stranger, finds himself in the revolutionary and labor movements and begins to occupy a prominent position there.
Paradoxical, is it not? The Jew now becomes the symbol of revolutionary Socialism- Marxism—at the same time that he is the symbol of money—capital trade. It is this that Makes the Jewish question so peculiarly complicated.
As capitalism advanced, Marxism grew, revolutions broke out and the Jew played an active role therein. In their hatred against the working class, in order to put down the revolutionary working class movement, the capitalists viciously attacked the Jew. Here was the real reason for the pograms of the Black Hundreds stimulated by the Czar of Russia. Although the pograms affected all of the Jews, rich and poor, simultaneously, the essence of the attack consisted in the fact that the Czar feared the workers above all and was determined to crush the trade unions and revolutionary organizations in the country. It was in this sense that the Russian workers understood the situation. It was for this reason that they helped to defend the Jews against the pograms and to fight anti-Semitism tooth and nail.
Because Marx was a Jew, because Jews play such a role in the struggle for the abolition of the entire capitalist system, it was this that compelled German Fascism to attack the Jew as part of its attack against labor. And it will be this reason more than any other that will motivate whatever anti-Semitic characteristics British and American varieties of Fascism will take on as well.
Socialism cannot be accomplished in one country alone; perforce the working class has become international in aim, outlook, and organization. In the struggle against this internationalism, Fascism has generated an hysterical chauvinistic nationalism which finds bitter as wormwood the existence in its midst of an “international race”, the Jews, whose mere presence indicates that the country is not unified, is not of one national piece, so to speak. As a method of welding the nation into one monolithic whole it may be necessary to punish the Jews. For the Jews are the first nation to lose their nationality and to become international; the first race to become raceless. (See Karl Kautsky: “Are the Jews a Race?")
Just as Communism begins where capitalism ends, and just as it was capitalism that broke up the Hebrew Nation, forcing the Jews to become an international division of labor, overcoming all national barriers, so does Communism complete the process. Communism will do for all peoples what capitalism has done for the Jew. “Nations” and “Races” will disappear. The entire world will be our home, the whole human race will be brothers.
Let the Jew take pride in this fact. Let him turn his eyes to the Communist solution of the Jewish problem. This is not merely a case of the liquidation of all national snobbishness and stimulation of amalgamation and assimilation of all races into one. Against the reactionary solution of the Jewish question through Zionism, there is the Communist Birobijan.
To become a Zionist means for the Jew again to become a nationalist and to push himself back 2000 years. It means to try to build up a capitalist state at the very moment when capitalism is doomed to perish and the state to wither away. It means to become the dupes and the tools of this or that imperialism and to be used as a club to crush the colonial peoples of the near and far east at the very moment when their revolt is taking on grandiose proportions and when, historically, the dawn of a new day is appearing for them. On the other hand, as soon as it is convenient for the ruling powers, the Jew will be made the scape-goat and sacrificed first of all.
Zionism means that the Jewish worker will be asked to leave the country where he has influence, to abandon his brother worker with whom he has suffered and fought against a common enemy and to whom he owes some duty and responsibility. It means to leave the city and go to the stony desert soil of the most backward part of the world. It means to revert to the brutalism of militarism. To abandon Communism for “orange grove cooperative” petty business.
The other alternative is Communism. Here what the Jew has really symbolized, internationalism, revolutionary change and unleashing of the productive forces, urbanization of the countryside and development of science and culture and art, all will be completed and realized.
The Soviet Union has experimented by creating a large colony on fertile ground of Jews who wish to form their own republic and to live their own national lives. It has been a demonstration that Communism breaks entirely with the chauvinism of imperialism, that internationalism comes not from the brutal crushing of all national minorities and the denial of their right to enrich the world with their own ideas, traits, customs, traditions, etc. but that genuine internationalism will come from a fusion, a synthesis of all the national traits that exist today. But what is even more significant is the fact that most of the Jews in the Soviet Union have refused the generous offer of land and the opportunity of having their own autonomous republic.
And by this the mass of poor Jews in the Soviet Union have said: We do not need a separate region, we do not have to go through the cradle of nationalism. Communism has offered us complete freedom and development. We are ready now to assimilate and to realize that internationalism for which we have unconsciously striven for so many years. We do not wish to leave the cities of Russia or the proletariat. Our job is with the world-wide proletariat, our place is at the posts we have been wont to have and which we can handle most efficiently.
There remains for us the question of the role of the Jew within the labor and revolutionary movement. In most countries, the proletarian Jew is still a minority of the Jewish population. Where the Jew may be proletarian he is generally working in light and small industry, not in the heavy basic industries of the country. Most of the Jews who enter the revolutionary movement are intellectuals, or if they are actual proletarians, are, nevertheless, not rooted in the working class of the nation where they live and work.
Where the Communist recruit is a Jewish intellectual every effort must be made to take him away from his Jewish crowd and root him in the general population of the country. He should be encouraged to look for his social and personal companionship among the natives, to adapt himself thoroughly to their customs, to really be part of them, so as to become more or less indistinguishable from them. Complete assimilation should be his goal, retaining, however, those special characteristics that may make the Jew, city trained and bred for so many centuries, as he is, a good revolutionist.
Especially important and necessary is it to send the Jewish intellectual into the heavy basic industries of the country to get a job there. It will do him a world of good. It will leaven the mass of proletarians with which he must come in contact. It will give him a different standing in the community.
The complete break the Jewish intellectual or student youth must make with his Jewish crowd and home life is one of the first conditions to make him a genuine proletarian revolutionist. Otherwise he will be swamped by his general petty-bourgeois environment. The Jewish mother is generally extremely servile to the men-folk and occupies a terribly inferior position in the home. Not working in the factory generally, she knows only of the idiocy of the home. In this country, added to this is her inferior position relative to her children who may be more acclimated to America and who must look down upon her. This only increases her servility. The whole is aggravated by the fact that the Jewish mother is solely dependent upon the integrity of the home for her own welfare and support. Should the home break up, where would she be, what could she do for herself in a strange world. Thus she makes the home an end in itself. Home and life are identified.
Naturally, the servility of the Jewish women immigrants towards their men-folk and towards their children reacts unfavorably upon the children as well. They grow up undisciplined, wayward brats in many cases. They accept the servility of the mother as a matter of course and carry with them the most bourgeois notions of their superiority and of the general inferiority of women. These youth carry with them a self-centered careerism, an anarchistic snobbery, a cowardly and intellectual instability which is extraordinarily difficult to eradicate. It is a long process before these elements understand the discipline and fraternity of the iron battalions of the proletariat.
After the Jewish youth joins the revolutionary movement, each time he or she returns home it is to an environment that can only alienate that person from the proletarian movement. The mother kisses the youth fervently on the cheek. Tells him how he could be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer. To the girl there is always the temptation of marrying the Jewish doctor or professional man, who is generally right around the corner, at least in the mind of the parent, etc. The father bewails the fact that there is no one left to carry on the business after he is gone. In short, in a thousand ways, the petty-bourgeois Jewish shopkeeper class entwines its children and tries to hug them permanently in its bosom. Too often the Jewish youth can not stand the strain of the permanent temptation, comfort, compromise, etc. They become revolutionist for a moment and then revert back to their type.
On the other hand, these Jewish youths and intellectual elements who really break from their home environment and thoroughly assimilate themselves into the general population of the country where they live, have gone through a very real hardening and testing period. Precisely because the Jewish intellectual and student must overcome extraordinary obstacles in order to become a genuine proletarian revolutionist, precisely for that reason does he become an excellent one, should he really overcome those obstacles.
It is much better that the revolutionary movement take no chances with these unstable elements. The petty-bourgeois intellectual, and above all the Jewish intellectual, must be put through a hard proving period before he should be made part of the revolutionary proletarian vanguard of a country. It would be a big mistake were the majority of the Communist Party membership of any country to be composed of Jews. Only as a minority of any group can the Jewish revolutionist play his best role. When we see, for example, the Workers Party Branch of Chicago with 90 youth, 75 of them or so Jewish students and intellectuals, then we have a fine barometer of the kind of “American Communism” this centrist outfit will contribute to the revolutionary movement of the U.S.
Of course the situation is quite different where there are masses of Jewish proletarians and poor plebeians who must be won as members and allies of the revolution, despite the fact that they have not become assimilated to the general population and have no desire to be. Here naturally, we send out propagandists, build up our Jewish press, conduct Jewish meeting etc. However, the importance of all this work must not be overemphasized. The ridiculous situation within the Communist Party of the United States, where more money was raised for the Jewish paper, the Feriheit, than for the Daily Worker can only come about when the movement is extremely lop-sided and entirely without roots in the country where it must work.
As for the Jewish proletarian who enters the revolutionary movement, every effort must be made to remove from him the prejudice that the Jewish workers are “the most advanced, the most revolutionary, etc., etc. in the world” which he is so fond of declaring. The basic job of the Communist Party must be in the heavy industries of the country. The light industries cannot compare to them. We must turn our eyes to railroads, electric power, construction, coal, metal, machinery, etc. and there, on the whole, the Jewish worker is conspicuous by his absence. We must turn our eyes most of all to the big trustifield industries, but the Jewish worker works in the competitive and small shops, where he is induced to become a little cock-roach manufacturer and contractor himself. The Jewish proletariat is often swamped by the immense petty-bourgeois which envelops it on all sides and tries to claim it for its own. How much can the Jewish proletarians break away from their general Jewish petty capitalist environment? Here, in brief, are the limitations of the Jewish proletariat against which the general revolutionary movement must guard.
Freedom is the consciousness of necessity. To understand the basic necessary laws governing the “Jewish question” can only help free the revolutionary movement of its limitations and make it far more effective. Understanding the world must be an essential part of changing it.
President Roosevelt has given us the New Deal in government. The essence of that New Deal is to make all sorts of promises that sound radical and to the left and at the same time to carry out the job of moving to the right, towards Fascism. Now, the American working class is going to get a new sort of a break, a “new deal in revolutionism". Like master, like man, so the saying goes; and the agents of the employers in the ranks of labor, taking their cues from the “big shot” are going in for their own “new deals” Has not the A.F. of L. already had its “new deal"? Why not a “new deal” for the revolutionary movement? Rushing in to fill the bill where others fear to tread has been the “Communist League of America” (Cannon Group) and the “Provisional Committee for an American Labor Party” (Muste Group). Together they have formed the new “Workers Party of the U.S.” guaranteed to give a “new deal” to the workers in revolutionism. But, like the “new dealing” of Roosevelt, while the platform of the new party pretends to be superior to that of the Socialist or Communist Parties, it abounds in all sorts of catch-all phrases designed to reach all the discontented and disgruntled elements in and around the labor movement. In reality the new Workers Party of the U.S. is a great step away from Communism, a treacherous capitulation to the growing reactionary tendencies manifesting themselves in the revolutionary labor movement in this country.
It should not be imagined that this fusion between the Cannon and Muste groups came without friction or discontent. Before the fusion took place the Muste pack lost a number of its former members and leaders. Their great trade union contact man, Salutsky-Hardman dropped out in the shuffle. In spite of all their bally-ho the Muste group in reality had very few actual members and their members were rather of the type that ordinarily makes up sympathizers to a revolutionary movement, that is, they were bound by no discipline, active only a small portion of their time, merely well-wishers and slummers among the poor. For the Muste group, driven by the pressure of the rightward swinging Communist Party and the leftward drifting Socialist Party, the fusion with the Cannon group was the only way out to prevent disintegration for the moment. Nothing was said, by the Mastheads, of course, of their imminent collapse. In their official papers, everything was always horsy totsky.
The Cannon group was also facing disintegration. The shameful capitulation of Trotsky and the International Secretariat had already placed before the Cannons the necessity of liquidation. These elements, like parasites, can never stand on their own feet but must crawl under cover of some other group. Already, then, the Cannon group was talking about joining the Socialist Party and was making goo-goo eyes at the Young People’s Socialist League. The fusion with the Muste group was a way out for the bankrupt leadership, a way of capitulating and yet saving its face. Besides, inside their own ranks there was growing up a left wing that was showing its contempt for the leadership. In the last convention of the American League this so-called left- wing actually polled a majority of the votes in refusing to carry the resolution endorsing the policy of the Communist League officials. Here was an ominous blow to all that arrant praise- chanting as to how wonderfully the leadership had managed affairs in the six years of its existence.
On the question of fusion with Muste, the left-wing was able to mobilize a considerable minority opinion against it, but headed by the really spineless leadership of Hugo Oehler, the left-wing eventually crumbled, refused to split with the opportunists, liquidated its faction and with the sigh, “What can we do, Comrades, we are only in a minority”, joined the Workers Party. For this loyalty, Oehler was rewarded by being made the National Educational Director.
What kind of a bastard organization the Workers Party actually represents can be seen from an analysis of its program or rather programs. We say programs because every document issued by the Muste-Cannon groups show different principles so that we can hardly tell what is what. That such confusionism should be characterized as Communism shows how many steps backward in the face of Fascism the Communist movement is actually taking.
The first draft program put out by the A.W.P. in the early part of 1934 was a typical right-wing Socialist document. On all the most important questions a carefully confusing ambiguity was worked out. Not to state principles but to evade them so as to provide a catch-all program to please everyone, this was the role of the Muste opportunists. How can the workers take power? Must the capitalist State be overthrown by the armed insurrection of the workers? In what respect has the Second International or the Third International failed etc. On all these questions there was the greatest studied vagueness.
The second draft put out in the fall of 1934 changed this considered vagueness somewhat. Now the Mastheads wrote: “to defeat the capitalist government and to transfer all power to the Workers Councils, the workers must be prepared to use whatever means are necessary” The workers cannot take over power by means of the ballot. However, even in these statements we see the hidden reservations of the opportunists. They did not say directly that they must overthrow the capitalist government and smash it completely. Nor did they state what revolutionary means are necessary for the workers to do the job, namely, insurrection. What are “whatever means necessary"? To Muste these means might be prayers!
But as against this “advance” in the second draft as compared to the first, the second document contained also several “retreats". In the first there had been written: “The problem of the Party is not merely to achieve power, but to achieve it for the sake of the new order. And this means that in achieving it, the Party must destroy the old.” In the second draft, the significant part of the Party destroying the old was taken out. Again, in the second draft there was: “the aim of all political parties is the achievement and consolidation of state power. This must include working control of the apparatus of the state the armed force, the bureaucracy, police, prisons, and courts.” In this formulation, how carefully there was evaded the question of the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat through insurrection! Nor in either the first or the second draft was there the slightest hint given as to the withering away of the State.
On the question of the failure of the Socialist Parties, the first draft carefully restricted itself to the U.S. There was no criticism of the Second International. It was only in the second draft that the A.W.P. bloomed out in criticism of the Second International and stated: “Regardless of how spotted its program may be with revolutionary phrases there is nothing that reveals the reformist character of the Socialist Party more eloquently than its continued affiliation with and support of the Second International". “Today in no country of the world has it given any concrete evidence of a change in its fundamental position.” The Muste group conveniently forgot its whole history in which it supported the actions of the Second International, or if it criticized the Socialists, did so from the point of view of Liberalism, rather than from the side of the proletarian revolution.
It is when they criticized the Communist movement that the Musteites revealed themselves as the opportunist Socialists they were. The second draft declared: “The Communist Party in this country rose to life out of the despair of the militant members of the Socialist Party to revolutionize their party’s leadership and to activize its machinery.” Beginning with 1925 it (the C.P) has demonstrated its social-economic color-blindness when it monthly prophesied immediate and severe unemployment and banked on revolution’ and collapse’ throughout 1925-1929, when immediate reality warranted no such political orientation.
In other words the faults of the Communist Party under the Lovestone leadership (1925-1929) were not that it was right-wing and opportunist but that it was sectarian, too “left” banked, too much on revolution, etc. Only Socialists could attack the Lovestone group for “too much revolution". Now one can understand how “principled” is the character of the Muste-Cannon fusion when we note that Cannon attacked the 1925-1929 leadership of the C.P. precisely for opposite reasons than those given by the Musteites.
In the first draft of the A.W.P., the Communist Party was denounced because “Throughout its history it has thought and felt in terms of Russian and European rather than American working class experience.” In the new draft, however, this sentence was changed to read: “Throughout its history it has thought in terms of factional Russians and European rather than a genuinely international experience". Note how easy it is to become an “internationalist” over night. All you have to do is to change one word, “American” to “international". So now the Muste group, instead of being the “genuine Americans,” are now the “genuine internationalists".
On the question of internationalism, the Muste group in its first draft had maintained that a new international could be built up only after soundly functioning national bodies had already been formed. The new international was to them a mere pipe dream of some distant future, and even to stress the idea of a new international was to be guilty of sentimentality. In the second draft, they “changed their minds a little” and wrote that we need an international guidance at all times.
On all other questions the same confusion and charlatanry could be discerned in the Muste programs. For example, the programs contained the following gems: “There is likewise the possibility that if the recovery efforts will dovetail with a temporary upturn in business, the reformist variety of capitalist politics of which Roosevelt himself is at present the leader, will become increasingly influential. The Democratic Party, under Roosevelt, will then be a possible contender for leadership in right’ reformism.” At the very same time the program could state: “The Roosevelt Administration, despite its democratic protestations, is betraying features which are likely to lead towards fascism.” And, finally, the program summed up with: “The NRA together with the rest of the Roosevelt New Deal…has unquestionably brought certain temporary benefits to certain sections of the population.” You puts your money, you see, and you takes your choice.
And what are the ways in which Fascism will come in this country? Muste answered: (first program) through the labor movement itself! “The most dangerous fascist group in this country may very well not start as avowedly fascist…but more likely in the disguise of a reform labor or pseudo-radical party". This part, of course, was soon yanked out of the program--and another bit of “original thinking” of Muste was thrown into the garbage can.
We have pointed out the great changes in the two programs of the Muste group, both put out within the same year. What were the reasons for the changes? Were there great changes in the objective events of history? Were there new and great experiences of the A.W.P. itself that compelled it to changes? Nothing of the sort. Like chameleons, yellow opportunists are willing to change their colors overnight if they only can capture a few more votes.
The reasons for these unprincipled changes were: 1. The Socialist Party turned to the left. 2. The Communist Party turned to the right. 3. The American League (Cannon group) oriented itself to becoming an opposition to the Socialists. 4. The Lovestone group moved closer to the Communist Party. All of these changes put the in-between A.W.P. in a most difficult position. The Mastheads were rapidly losing all their influence and standing. They were on the verge of liquidation. Only fusion with the Cannon group has saved them for the time being.
During the year 1934 the Socialist Party took a decided turn to the left. The program of the “Militant” group in the Socialist Party had enunciated a far clearer position towards revolution than the Muste group and what is more, this program, in the main, actually became the program of the S.P. The Muste group, always concerned as to “what does Norman Thomas say” feverishly had to change their phraseology still more to the left or lose out to the Militants. Words cost nothing. The A.W.P. set out immediately to “revise” its draft in order to make a new bid for the workers.
It is interesting to compare the 1934 program of the S.P. “Militants” to that of the A.W.P. The “Militants”, although Socialists, came out clearly for the installation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and for some form of Soviets. They made a sharp criticism of the Second International. They criticized the other Socialist Parties of Europe. They declared that the NRA has the potentialities of Fascism. They affirmed their opposition to the A.F.L. bureaucracy and the right wing of the Socialist Party, although they attacked dual unionism.
In their 1934 program the “Militants” wrote: “The working class must conquer political power, get control of the state machinery and use it for the purpose of establishing socialism.” “This is nothing less than a social revolution. This great task cannot be accomplished piece-meal gradually, step-by-step.” “But whatever the difficulties of the extra-parliamentary method, the Socialist movement must be prepared to utilize it since the outstanding lesson of the post-war revolutionary experience in Europe shows that when democracy becomes a real danger to capitalism, capitalism itself seeks to abolish it.” “We must emphasize in our propaganda that the only guarantee against war is socialism itself, that the struggle against war is part of the struggle to overthrow capitalism and THAT IF AN IMPERIALIST WAR DOES BREAK OUT WE SHOULD MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO TURN IT INTO A CLASS WAR".
If Norman Thomas is ready to go so far, shall Muste be far behind?
While the Socialist party was moving to the left, the American League (Cannon group) was rapidly moving to the right. In some respects the bankrupt Cannonites were even less realistic and to the right of Muste. Their draft thesis (1934), for example, contains such foolish items as these: 1. American imperialists are making ready to establish a territorial base in China and simultaneously they are flirting with the Indian national bourgeoisie revealing their intention of raising the question of India at the next stage. This is a literal copying from one of the articles by Trotsky who has before displayed his lack of knowledge about this country. Perhaps Trotsky knows of such bourgeois movements existing in this country, but so far they have been well hidden from most of us. 2. There are no fascist tendencies in the Roosevelt regime. 3. It is not the main work of the Communists to organize the unorganized but rather to send all inside the A.F.L. etc.
During the course of the summer of 1934 both these bankrupt centrist groups hastened to get together. The Muste group, as usual, put conditions, and the Cannon group also as usual, capitulated. The Muste group demanded that there must be no criticism of the Soviet Union. New parties must be organized in capitalist countries, but the defence of the Soviet Union “can only be weakened by any attempt to build a new party within the S.U.” (Letter of A.W.P. to Cannon group, September 18th) Prior to this, it had been a cardinal principle with the American League that the whole Communist International had collapsed and that it was our duty to advocate the building up of genuine Communist parties all over the world, including the Soviet Union.
The Muste group laid down the condition: “We are convinced, though, that the name of the new party must not make use of the labels “Socialist” or “Communist” because the use of either of them would tend to make the new party appear as a faction of or in some other way related to either the social-democracy or the communist international". When the Lovestone group changed the name of their paper from the “Revolutionary Age” to the “Workers Age” what a howl of scorn and ridicule was poured upon these opportunists by the Max Shachtmans and Cannons. You see, they shrieked, the Lovestonites are abandoning Communism. But now that the “New Militant” removed the emblem of the hammer and sickle, the slogan “workers of the word unite” and all reference to the term “Communism” from its sheets, this is perfectly good revolutionism of the “most left” variety.
Although the program of the A.W.P. was an out-and-out centrist one, in part even inferior to that of the “Militant” Socialists, yet the Cannon group hastened to accept the revised draft as a basis for fusion (see letter of Am. League to A.W.P. Sept. 27th) The A.W.P. program, at the start, like a typical centrist one, had refused to pledge itself to fight centrism, but now that the fusion with the American League was accomplished Muste could platonically declare that he had nothing to do with centrism. In the meantime, and what is more important, the Communist League of Am. hastened to help liquidate the International Secretariat of the Internationalist Communists and pledged themselves to separate from any international connections whatever. At the same time both Muste and Cannon hailed the French Trotskyites build up the French Socialist Party and Socialist International, the very organizations which they had denounced.
Since their coming together, the Muste and Cannon groups have put out two documents: 1. A Proposed Program for the New Party (printed Militant Oct. 27th, 1934) and 2. A Declaration of Principles (printed Militant Dec. 8th, 1934). In the first of the two it was affirmed that the Roosevelt Administration is carrying out measures to facilitate the growth of a fascist movement. In the second, this idea is carefully eliminated. Score one for the right-wing Cannon groups.
In the Proposed Program it declares the workers must be prepared to use “whatever means are necessary” to defeat the capitalist government. Score one for the right-wing Muste group. But in the Declaration of Principles, this is adended to the centrist formulation, the workers must take control of the state (take control, but not squash) by “revolutionary means". However it is still left open what are “revolutionary” means. Score one for united centrist opportunism.
Both new documents refuse to touch upon the vital points on the question of the Soviet Union and the Fourth International and declare that new Communist Parties must be built everywhere but not in the Soviet Union. Score one for the Roosevelt-Muste program of “recognition” of Russia.
The Muste group now concedes that it is a Marxist and Leninist group. At the same time Muste writes (Militants, Dec., 8th) “We are not repudiating our pasts, rather we are looking towards the future”, although the whole past of the Muste group was an OPEN STRUGGLE AGAINST MARXISM AND LENINISM. What has happened is that with help of the renegade elements of the Cannon group, Muste is proceeding from the open to the under-cover attack upon Marxism and Leninism. Score another for the united centrist opportunism.
On the trade union question, the Muste group has gone into the most unconscionable zig- zags. In their first A.W.P. draft they came out for the necessity to organize the unorganized. They were pulled back in their second draft by the Norman Thomas influence and denounced dual unionism. By the time of their fusion with the Cannon group they were ready to declare that they would do their best to drag all the unions back into the A.F.L. But now they have taken into their ranks Joseph Zack and a group of former C.P. members who broke from the C.P. Because that party was liquidating its red unions which; Cannon and Muste themselves had denounced. How can they reconcile this action of taking in Zack? Easy enough. Put in another clause denouncing the C.P. for liquidating their new unions in the wrong manner. Promise Zack he will have a free hand and then sabotage his group to death. This is the way to get in all elements regardless of principles.
In every respect the Workers Party is a step backward for the revolutionary labor movement and another instance of the international crumbling that is taking place on all sides as the renegades run to cover from the blows of impending fascism. Even on questions of organizations do we see this crumbling manifested. Instead of Leninist nuclei the Workers Party has the old branch system. Instead of small nuclei, we have large branches. Instead of mass work, we have chattering. Instead of probationary periods to test membership, it is come one come all. Instead of dues payments proportioned to income, we have a flat fee for poor and well-to-do alike. Instead of a party of action, we have a party bitten by factionalism, each main faction divided into three sub-factions, each one maneuvering for jobs, each one paralyzing the other in the most sickening manner. Instead of an international, we have a nationalist, chauvinist organization.
The Workers Party of the U.S. cannot last very long. It will be ground to pieces between Fascist, Socialist opportunism and genuine Internationalist Marxism.
The American Labor Party has approached us for a series of mutual discussions to see how close both organizations are to a common program. These discussions will be held Sunday afternoons starting February at 133 Second Avenue. All sympathizers and friends are welcome. Those vouched for may participate in the discussion.