From Fourth International, vol.6 No.7, July 1945, pp.195-199.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
REALITY AND APPEARANCE As part of the political preparation of the latest tactical turn of the Stalinists, the columns of the Daily Worker have been filled with a discussion of “past” errors and “new” perspectives. The entire Stalinist apparatus has been geared to invest this rather voluminous discussion with an appearance of a real fight over principles; and to picture the situation as if the protagonists in this allegedly principled fight are Browder and Foster. On the one hand, a “revisionist” and “opportunist” and, on the other, a champion of “orthodoxy,” and “Marxism-Leninism.” How does the reality correspond to this appearance, or more correctly, this illusion which the Stalinists are laboring might and main to create?
To begin with, the Daily Worker tries to create the impression that the credit for disclosing Browder’s “revisionism,” belongs to two individuals, one in France (Duclos) and the second, Foster, the one and only person in America with the necessary perspicacity. The fact, however, remains that if any one can claim credit for disclosing Browder’s complete renunciation of Marxism, it is Browder himself. In his Madison Square Garden speech in which the “Teheran” line was first launched, he openly avowed: “We are departing from orthodoxy ...” (Daily Worker, January 13, 1944.) These words are plain enough. To depart from orthodoxy is to depart from Marx and Lenin. Browder made no bones about it. In presenting his program to the May 1944 CP National Convention, Browder underscored in his speech that his program “HAS ‘NO ELEMENT OF SOCIALISM IN IT.”
The Daily Worker was equally emphatic. On January 16, 1944 it boasted editorially that Browder’s proposals were “accompanied by well-defined changes in traditional approach on a number of basic questions.” Today, the Daily Worker is saying virtually the same thing, although in a somewhat different tone.
THE WHOLE DIFFERENCE The whole difference is that last year Browder was hailed, whereas today he is being condemned. Last year Browder’s program was cynically glorified as “creative Marxism – unhampered by ritual mechanical orthodoxy – a free Marxist mind at work” (Daily Worker, January 12, 1944); this year it is being no less cynically reviled as “opportunism,” “notorious revisionism,” etc., etc. Last year Browder presented his program to the CP National Convention, received an ovation and the unanimous endorsement of the assembled delegates. This year, it is safe to predict, Browder will be cast into discard and Foster acclaimed by the next Stalinist convention, almost as unanimously. Why? Because, to believe the Daily Worker, Browder had strayed from the Leninist line, while Foster did not. Let us see exactly what Lenin has to do with all this.
The essence of revisionism or opportunism – whether of the classic Menshevik variety or the latter-day Stalinist brand – is the suspension of the socialist struggle for the sake of cooperation with the bourgeoisie. The essence of Leninism is the unswerving continuation of the class struggle, and, above all, merciless opposition to the imperialist bourgeoisie. This is rendered obligatory by the Leninist evaluation of the present epoch and, in particular, by the denial that any imperialist power (or ruling class) can play in this era a progressive role in war or peace.
Foster, like Browder, has an entirely different evaluation of the imperialist epoch. Like Browder, he underwrote a progressive role for the Anglo-American imperialists not only in wartime but also for the initial postwar period.
Almost simultaneously with Browder’s notorious Madison Square Garden speech, Foster in a broadcast on January 9, 1944, declared that:
Communists do not believe it would be of benefit to national unity to make proposals of a specific communistic or socialistic nature at this time or in the immediate postwar period.
TWO FORGERS In other words, Browder, the “opportunist,” issued a permanent blank check to the imperialist bourgeoisie; Foster, the “Marxist-Leninist” issued the same blank check, but dated it differently. From the Leninist standpoint, both are forgeries, with Foster’s being less crude, and nothing more.
The French Stalinist Duclos, who like Foster approves the general line of Browder’s wartime policy, cunningly pretends that the crux of the issue lies in Browder’s “postwar perspective.” Leaving aside the fact that there is no essential difference between the former position and the “new” one, this issue is as counterfeit as all the others.
It is an ABC of Marxism that there is no fundamental difference between peacetime and wartime policies. One of Lenin’s favorite sayings was: “War is a continuation of the policy of peace; peace is the continuation of the policy of war.” This correct idea was used repeatedly by Lenin in his merciless struggle against Kautsky and all the other renegades who in the world war of 1914-1918 tried to justify their treachery by claiming that they had abandoned the struggle for socialism “only” for the duration. Lenin pointed out that it was precisely the crisis engendered by the war that imposed on revolutionists the duty of intensifying the struggle for socialism.
Among the very first documents drafted by Lenin at the outbreak of World War I were his Theses on War, in which he set down that the very first slogans the Marxists were obliged to raise were those of “a thorough propaganda for a socialist revolution,” and that such slogans and propaganda had to be supplemented by “a merciless struggle against chauvinism and the ‘patriotism’ of petty townspeople and against the bourgeoisie of all countries without exception.” (Leninski Sbornik [Lenin Archives], vol.XIV, pp.10-12.)
NOT A SINGLE SOCIALISTIC DEMAND It is obvious that no one can go further in “revising” Lenin than Browder did by presenting a program in wartime without a single element of socialism in it. Foster and the “new” majority of the CPA National Committee cite Lenin against Browder. Yet Foster himself has been and remains in favor of a program without a single “proposal of a specific communistic or socialistic nature” in it. In fact, this has been the policy of the American Stalinists since their complete about-face in June 1941, after Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. It still remains their policy.
One need only read the latest resolution of the CPA National Committee to become convinced that it, too, does not contain a single socialist proposal. From the standpoint of Leninist politics there thus never was nor is there today an iota of difference between Browder’s “principled” position and Foster’s.
More than two decades ago Trotsky predicted that the logical conclusion of Stalin’s theory and practice of “building socialism in one country” would inevitably lead to socialism in no country. This prediction has long ago become the tragic reality. Today the Stalinists continue to curb and betray the socialist struggle throughout the world. They oppose the propagation of a single socialist demand not only in this country but everywhere. In the territories occupied by the Red Army, particularly Germany, it is the Red Army that stands guard over capitalist property; opposes the extension of Soviet property forms, and the creation of genuine workers’ Soviets. In the colonies, the Stalinists pursue the self-same policy of trying to behead the only struggle which can accomplish national liberation and solve the tasks even of the bourgeois democratic revolution in all these backward countries – and that is, the struggle for the proletarian revolution and the establishment of workers’ power.
The sole argument advanced by Stalinists, under Browder and Foster alike, is that the objective situation is unpropitious or unripe. And this is palmed off as “Leninism.”
LENIN’S POSITION In his April 1916 theses, Lenin flatly stated that “the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat for the overthrow of the capitalist governments, for the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, stands on the order of the day in Western Europe and in the United States.” In saying this, Lenin was reiterating the official position of the Second International, before its betrayal in August 1914.
One year later, in April 1917 – in his famous April Theses – Lenin placed the socialist revolution on the order of the day in one of the most backward countries in Europe, namely: Czarist Russia. Thereby, the proletarian revolution was placed on the agenda by Lenin for the whole of Europe. It is common knowledge that in October of the same year, Lenin and Trotsky, at the head of the Bolshevik Party, led the Russian workers to victory. This, according to Lenin, ushered in a new epoch in world history, the epoch in which the world revolution was placed on the order of the day, with the liberationist struggle of the colonial peoples as an integral part of the world proletarian revolution.
In March 1918, in a speech delivered before the Seventh Congress of the Bolshevik Party, Lenin characterized this epoch as follows:
... A whole epoch of the most diversified types of war – imperialist wars, civil wars within the respective countries, the intermeshing of the latter with the former, national wars, liberation struggles of nationalities oppressed by the imperialists, wars between the various combinations of imperialist powers ... This epoch is the epoch of gigantic catastrophes, of violent mass military decisions, of crises. It has begun, we see it clearly. This is only the beginning. This is the Leninist perspective. It has been verified by events.
What has it – or reality – in common with the perspective of the Stalin gang and all its Browder-Fosters?
LENINISM AND WORLD REVOLUTION One year later, in March 1919, Lenin founded the Third International as the general staff of the world revolution. For the first five years of its existence – that is, until Lenin died – the Comintern fulfilled this role. But this interval proved too brief to create genuine revolutionary parties throughout Europe and the world. After the first four congresses of the Comintern, degeneration set in.
“Scoundrels” was the mildest term applied by Lenin to all those who preached the suspension of the struggle for socialism throughout our cataclysmic epoch, in war or peace. What would Lenin have called people like Foster who preach class-collaboration (“national unity”) in both wartime and “in the immediate postwar period”?
In every respect Leninsm and Stalinism represent polar opposites. The basic trait of Leninsrn is granite hardness when questions of principle are concerned. This trait became implanted in the bones and marrow of the Russian Bolsheviks under Lenin. In short, the Leninist school is the school of principled politics.
WHAT STALINISM REALLY IS The truth is that Stalinism is not even a school of revisionist, let alone principled, politics. It is a school of power politics. Or more correctly, the Kremlin plays the game of power politics, and its foreign agents unquestioningly carry out the orders. It is hardly surprising therefore that Stalinism has produced nothing except utterly corrupt types in the leadership.
The Kremlin and all its agents distrust the masses and have contempt for them. Genuine disciples of Lenin, we repeat, start at the opposite pole. They have full confidence only in the working class. They distrust all other classes. In the genuine Leninist party this attitude was extended not only to the class enemy – the bourgeoisie – but also to other classes accepted as allies. Lenin repeatedly gave expression to this standpoint. Suffice it to quote here what he wrote in 1906, during the first (1905) Russian revolution:
Our last advice: proletarians and semi-proletarians of city and country, organize yourselves separately! Place no trust in my small proprietors, even the petty ones, even those who “toil” ... We support the peasant movement to the end, but we must remember that it is a movement of another class, not the one that can or will accomplish the socialist revolution. (Lenin’s Collected Works, First Russian Edition, vol. IX, p.410.)
Lenin, it is noteworthy, warned against placing confidence even in the Russian peasantry who were, so to speak, the natural allies of the workers. The Bolshevik policy was from the first directed toward cementing the alliance with the peasantry. It was on the basis of this alliance that the victory in 1917 was gained. Yet Lenin advised the workers to trust in no one but themselves, their own program, their own organizations, their own strength. To the end of his life Lenin had no other advice to give to workers. The world’s disinherited and downtrodden never had a greater friend and bolder champion than Lenin. Whoever advises them differently is not their friend but a mortal enemy.
STALIN’S REVISION OF MARX AND LENIN We have already remarked that Stalinism does not, properly speaking, represent a revisionist school of politics. The Stalinists have long ago passed beyond that. The question of revisionism arose not with Browder in 1944-1945 as Foster and Duclos now pretend, but more than two decades ago, in the autumn of 1924 when Stalin first advanced his false and reactionary theory of socialism in one country. It was then that the precondition for a return to Leninism became a complete break with Stalinism. As Leon Trotsky predicted correctly at that time, this revision of Marxism could and did lead only to opportunism.
In the decade between 1924 (the year of Lenin’s death) and 1933 (the year of Hitler’s assumption of power), the Communist International degenerated step by step. Opportunist swings alternated with ultra-left adventures, each supplementing the other as do two sides of one and the same coin. But throughout this period, the Comintern in effecting its turns remained to a greater or lesser extent subject to the pressure of the masses. The possibilities of reform were not exhausted until 1933 when, with the betrayal of the German masses to the Nazis, the Communist International perished as an instrument of the proletarian revolution.
In 1933, when history itself brought verification of the downfall of this once revolutionary organization, the Trotskyist movement, which had consistently conducted an irreconcilable struggle against Stalinism, first proclaimed the need of building the Fourth International. It was founded in September 1938.
In the years since 1933, the sections of the Comintern have been employed deliberately for the deception and betrayal of the world working class. They have been used as auxiliary items, in the diplomatic deals between the Kremlin and the rival imperialist blocs, with the services of the Comintern sold to the current “ally” of the Kremlin, “democratic” and fascist alike. The Stalinist turns in this period depended exclusively on the needs of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. It is in this sense that the totality of the abominations and crimes of the Stalin gang far transcends the framework of revision of theory.
PURPOSE OF LATEST TACTIC The latest Stalinist tactic is designed to facilitate the continuation of this policy of playing with the mass movement as mere pawns. The radical phraseology is simply a left cover for the same treacherous course. It is needed, above all, as a smokescreen for the wartime crimes of the Stalinists against the American workers.
To fully understand any process whether in nature or politics, it is indispensable to possess a knowledge of its history. For a succinct account of the transformation of the Communist International from the instrument of the revolution into an outright agency of imperialism, we refer our readers to an important document, “The Evolution of the Communist International,” which appears in this issue. A serious study of this document will enable every honest revolutionary worker to place the utterly perfidious, current Stalinist maneuver in its proper context.
THE NEW MASS MOODS A sharp break is occurring in the mood of the American working class and, especially, in the consciousness of its vanguard section. these new mass moods have manifested themselves in the nation-wide strike wave of May and June. They are characterized by the familiar traits which were disclosed so magnificently by American labor in the big push of 1933-1937 when the CIO was born. These traits had been suppressed during the war.
The rubber workers of Akron have once again gone out on strike (Goodyear and Firestone); in Detroit the auto workers have struck Packard, Budd, Ford, Bohn Aluminum, Kelsey Hayes, etc.; in Pittsburgh and Toledo the CIO flat glass workers have gone out on the picket lines, as have scores of thousands in other industries. Resolutions in favor of breaking the Little Steel formula by strike action have been passed overwhelmingly by the UAW Detroit Regional Conference (June 14), by other regional conferences in Michigan, including Flint, and the Buffalo Area Conference of UAW-CIO. The Western Electric workers in New Jersey have voted to strike. The Northwest Lumber Workers are taking a strike vote. The list grows longer and longer as ever broader proletarian layers are shaking off the hypnosis of the war. The no-strike pledge is being trampled into dust on picket lines throughout the country.
In most instances, these strikes are being waged in violent opposition to and defiance of the top union officialdom. The leaders of these struggles have emerged from the most experienced and militant layers of the union ranks. These local leaders are demonstrating an increasing awareness of the need for a whole new leadership in the unions in opposition to the bureaucrats and time-servers who have been acting as policemen for the employing class and its government in curbing labor during the war.
AWARENESS OF LEADERSHIP’S ROLE This new awareness of the role of the leadership and the connection between the latter and union tasks is the product of a molecular process that has been taking place beneath the surface. Its open manifestation has hitherto been retarded by a combination of objective and subjective factors. In the beginning, the factor of the war proved, of course, decisive. But the objective wartime situation far from explains the abject retreats and defeats which the trade unions suffered during the entire subsequent period.
The trade unions could never have been shackled by a set-up of government agencies alone. The complicity of the entire union officialdom was the indispensable supplement. This is confirmed by past experience.
By the year 1941, the year of Wall Street’s entry into World War II, Roosevelt had already installed the actual war labor apparatus with its mechanism of compulsory arbitration through government agencies. It was to be fully expanded only after the American people had been dragooned into the war. Yet the year that ended with Pearl Harbor was also the most turbulent year of strike struggles since the peak year of 1937. According to the Department of Labor statistics, in 1941 there were 4,288 strikes involving some 2,363,000 workers.
In 1941 Ford was compelled to capitulate to the UAW-CIO. Bethlehem Steel, heart of Little Steel, bowed to the CIO steelworkers.
AN IMPORTANT LESSON The fraud of mediation machinery, already in operation at that time, was clearly exposed in the course of the November 1941 coal strike. The ‘National Defense Mediation Board proved impotent to play the role later so effectively assumed by a similar body, the War Labor Board. As a matter of fact, in 1941 the NDMB was blown up, when the CIO officials resigned from it, in the dispute over the organization of captive mines.
It became possible, with the collaboration of the top union officialdom, to impose compulsory arbitration only after Pearl Harbor. In other words, so long as the unions retained their independence, they were able to make advance – as the miners later proved to the hilt – even in the face of the combined pressure of the employers and the administration. Here we come to the factor that really was decisive in bringing about the present situation of the union movement, namely: the subjective factor. For, the question of union independence is inseparable from the question of union leadership and policy.
This is no secret to the bourgeoisie, who are highly class conscious. They know the paramount importance of the subjective factor. But the workers on the whole have still to learn it. The bourgeoisie knew in advance that the union officialdom from the Greens through the Murrays down to the Social Democrats and the Stalinists would work hand in hand with the administration to bureaucratize the trade union movement, and harness it to Wail Street’s war machine. They furthermore knew that the workers could not break out of the vice of the union bureaucracy, unless there was a conscious left wing, organized on a national scale to challenge the Greens and the Murrays for leadership. And the fact is: there was no organized and conscious left wing movement in AFL and CIO when the war came.
Such a movement had indeed once existed. Out of the strike struggles toward the end of World War I and in its aftermath, a genuine left wing developed. It was born in the strike wave following the last war: the great Steel Strike of 1919, the Seattle General Strike, the strike of the railway shopmen, and other struggles of that period. This movement developed primarily under the direction of the Communist Party, which in its early years represented the authentic revolutionary movement of the American workers. By 1928, however, Stalinist degeneration had utterly permeated the American section of the Third International. The postwar left wing was transformed into an instrument of Stalinist policy. The Stalinist used the past capital, gained in the building of this left wing, for purposes of outright betrayal. When the Kremlin sold the services of Foster-Browder and Co. to Washington, the American bourgeoisie thereby received additional guarantees against a rapid crystallization of a conscious left wing in the unions.
THE MINNEAPOLIS LABOR CASE Roosevelt sought further guarantees by seeking to gag the incorruptible proletarian fighters who could neither be duped, bought, nor bullied. The famous Minneapolis Labor Case was an integral part of the deliberate bourgeois plan to guarantee its control of the subjective factor in the labor movement. Upon the request of AFL Teamsters President Tobin, one of his chief labor lientenants, Roosevelt injected the Department of Justice into the conflict between Tobin and the Trotskyist leadership of the Minneapolis truck drivers Local 544-CIO.
This was the one union in a key industry with a genuinely independent leadership and policy. That is why the bourgeoisie moved to crush it. By railroading the leaders of the Socialist Workers Party to jail, they sought to stifle the only voices that told the workers the truth about the perfidious role of the official trade union leadership and the truth about the connection between the leadership and the current tasks in the unions. In the eyes of Roosevelt and Tobin their greatest crime was that the Trotskyist practised what they preached, and, moreover, demonstrated brilliantly in action the efficacy of class struggle methods in the trade union field.
In the last analysis, it was the absence of a genuine and powerful left wing that underlies all the defeats of organized labor since 1941. Had there been such a left wing, the wartime history of American Iabor would have been altogether different. Let us briefly review how the union movement has been, in the absence of the left wing, kept in subjection by a combination of deception and force.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED The 1941 strike wave was cut short by the war. The flood of billions into corporation coffers became a torrent. Prices kept climbing upward more and more steeply, despite the ballyhoo of price control. Under the cover of war, the corporations started their anti-union offensive. They violated contractual obligations. Collective bargaining procedure was insolently ignored. Vicious plant regulations and conditions were reinstituted. Slave labor legislation began to be introduced in Congress. All that the workers got was their first taste of the WLB run-around.
The workers were stunned in the beginning. The entire weight of the monstrous war machine had descended upon them; their leadership betrayed them. But the resulting apathy lasted only eight months. Sporadic strikes began breaking out, whose number has since then grown steadily from year to year.
Indignation and unrest mounted. To assuage the ranks, the officialdom waved the flag, spouted promises of quick redress by “labor’s greatest friend “ in the White House, and tightened the bureaucratic vice.
What did Roosevelt do? He first resorted to deception. In April 1942, he demagogically issued his “7 point stabilization program,” likewise known as the “equality of sacrifice” program. The one plank of this program realized in life was the “stabilization,” that is, freezing of wages – the Little Steel formula.
EXECUTIVE DECREES The effectiveness of promises and deception declined in proportion with the downward plunge of living and working conditions. The next resort was to executive decrees like the “hold-the-line” order which froze wages for the duration (April 8, 1943); and such decrees as the one promulgated by Manpower Commissioner McNutt freezing 27 million workers to their jobs (April 17, 1943). On top of the wage freeze and the job freeze came anti-strike legislation (Smith-Connally Anti-strike Act, June 1943). After his election to the fourth term (with the aid of the PAC), Roosevelt crowned his “friend-of-Iabor” record by asking Congress to enact forced labor legislation. These and subsequent measures of repression by law were the answer to the resurgence of the class struggle.
The four coal strikes of 1943 and the final victory of the miners galvanized the workers, setting off a strike wave in key industries. Immediately following the enactment of the Smith-Connally Anti-Strike Law, after the third coal strike, there were 1,919 strikes with only 34 called in “compliance with the law” (Department of Labor Statistics). During the year as a whole, the same source reports, there were 3,750 strikes involving 1,900,000.
The first breach in the Little Steel formula was made by the miners. 1,500,000 railway workers voted overwhelmingly to strike. They won wage increases. This was a second breach. The wage freeze could have been smashed once and for all; the entire compulsory arbitration mechanism blown up like the NDMB was in 1941; and the anti-labor offensive repelled right then and there. By Christmas Eve of 1943, 200,000 steel workers were out on strike, bearing placards with the traditional miners’ slogan: “No Contract – No Work!”
The whole labor movement could have been mobilized for one mighty onslaught, if only the leadership had given the signal. This signal never came. Instead the officialdom kept on cajoling, deceiving and terrorizing the rank and file. Promises of future relief alternated with threats of expulsion and the victimization of militants.
REASON FOR THE DEFEATS Thus instead of plucking the fruits of victory, the labor movement emerged from the struggle with virtually empty hands. Would the outcome have been entirely different, had a conscious left wing movement come to the fore at that time? To pose this question is to answer it.
In summing up the situation after the 1943 strike wave, we stated editorially:
In spite of all the retreats the labor movement is still strong and has not been defeated in battle. The labor ranks are still independent and aggressive. Their fighting qualities and capacities still remain unimpaired. They need only a new leadership and to be shown a way out – a program that gives real promise of success. (The Fourth Coal Strike And Its Aftermath, Fourth International, December 1943.)
Ferment and indignation continued to grow in 1944, and so did the number of “unauthorized” and sporadic strikes. There was a momentary decline in the period of the invasion of France, but the following months witnessed another rise. The main centers of “disturbance” were auto and rubber.
Vanguard sections of the labor movement had absorbedmany of the lessons of the past. Union militants began talking and thinking in terms of fundamental solutions. Bitter blows were pounding home the need of a new leadership. This was most graphically expressed by the Ninth Convention of UAW-CIO, where the delegates ran roughshod over every attempt of the reactionary bureaucracy to harness the convention. A determined struggle was waged against the no-strike pledge, and a referendum forced upon the leaders. Thus, the union vanguard took important forward steps, laying the basis for the events in 1945.
Today the long maturing crisis is coming to a head. The termination of the war in Europe, the resulting cut-backs in war production (with further and greater reductions ahead), the mounting inflation, the continued lowering of living and working conditions, the intensification of the anti-labor offensive have eaten like acid through the established apparatus of curbing the masses and paralyzing their self-action. The patience of the rank and file is exhausted.
IT IS TIME TO ACT From demands upon the officialdom to put an end to all further enforced retreats and unfended blows, the workers have passed on to the struggle to break out of the bureaucratic stranglehold. The very fact that this struggle has been previously retarded will add to its explosive power. To assure victory only a single factor is lacking, but it is the decisive one.
The urgent need now is to create what has hitherto been missing. The struggle for the independence of the unions, it must be repeated again and again, will be won only to the extent that a conscious left wing is organized on a national scale capable of challenging the incumbent corrupt union bureaucrats for the leadership of the organized labor movement.
After the 1943 strike wave we predicted:
There lies a stormy period ahead. The issue will be settled only in struggle. The American labor movement will experience in the coming days great conflicts and struggles. Far more likely than the thorough bureaucratization of the unions, as a preliminary to their annihilation, will be the rise of a new leadership fighting to convert the unions into militant class organizations of struggle.
The 1945 strike wave has sounded the tocsin for this struggle. It marks the beginning of a new great chapter in the forward march of the American working class. The organization of a conscious left wing – that is the direction in which the awakened colossus of organized labor is now traveling.
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Last updated on 12.9.2008