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Full text of "Leon Trotsky on labor party: stenographic report of discussion held in 1938 with leaders of the Socialist Workers Party"

Y 







LEON TR 

ON 

ABOR PA 



Stenographic report of discussion held in 193! 
with leaders of socialist workers party 



W^tJ'^ 








With Introduction: 

THE STRUGGLE FOR AN AMERICAN LABOR PARTY 

BULLETIN PUBLICATIONS 



20 CENTS 



I INTRODUCTION | 

The Struggle For An American Labor Party 



We are reprinting in this pamphlet the 1938 
discussions held between Leon Trotsky and lead- 
ing members of the Socialist Workers Party on 
the subject of a labor party in the United States. 
These discussions have been out of print for some 
years. They are must reading for all those who 
are looking for a revolutionary perspective to 
guide present struggles. 

It is first necessary to place these discussions 
in their historical context. This question, the re- 
lationship between American Marxists and an in- 
dependent political party of the working class, 
had been raised before. It was introduced from 
outside the U.S. on at least three separate o- 
ccasions: by Marx and Engels In the 1870s and 
1880s, by Lenin and the rest of the leadership of 
the Third International in the years immediately 
following the October Revolution, and by Trotsky 
in 1938, during the preparations for the founding 
of the Fourth International, 

The outside intervention on all three occasions 
was made necessary by the theoretical and me- 
thodological confusion of the American movement. 
This was proof of the crucial role played by an 
international leadership of the working class. After 
the betrayal of the Second International, the new 
Communist International sought to clarify the is- 
sues. The same role was played by Trotsky and 
the Fourth International after the degeneration of 
the first workers' state and the Third Internation- 
al. Without an international movement these steps 
to overcome the confusion of U.S. Marxists would 
not have been undertaken, 

engels on lobar porty 

Over a period of many years Marx and Engels 
strove! to show their American followers the im- 
portance of finding a road to the workers at the 
same time as they developed theory. An Eng- 
lish-speaking section of the American followers 
of Marx and Engels, a motley collection of middle 
class reformers and idealists, soon parted ways 
with the movement. These people did not even 
claim to be interested in finding a road to the 
workers. The more orthodox group, however, 
consisting primarily of German-speaking foreign- 
born workers in the U.S., also separated itself 
from the American workers and their struggles. 



These people went so far as to refuse to learn 
English. On many occasions Marx and Engels 
criticized these followers and tried to get tjiem to 
change their course. Engels wrote in 1886: 

The great thing is to get the working class 
to move as a class... Therefore I think also 
the Knights of Labor a most important factor 
in the movement which ought not to be pooh- 
poohed from without but to be revolutionized 
from within, and I consider that many of the 
Germans there have made a grievous mistake 
when they tried,'* in the face of a mighty and 
glorious movement not of their own creation, 
to make of their imported and not always under- 
stood theory a kind of alleinseligmachendes 
(it alone bringing salvation) dogma, and to keep 
aloof from any movement which did not accept 
that dogma... What the Germans ought to do is 
to act up to their own theory--if they under- 
stand it, as we did in 1845 and 1848 --to go in 
for any real general working class movement, 
accept its faktische (actual) starting point as 
such and work it gradually up to the theoret- 
ical level by pointing out how every mistake 
made, every reverse suffered, was a neces- 
sary consequence of mistaken theoretical orders 
in the original program; they ought, in the words 
of the Communist Manifesto: to represent 
the future of the movement in the present of 
the movement. 
In another letter written by Engels at this 
time, he said: 

The first great step of importance for every 
country newly entering into the movement is 
always the constitution of the workers as an 
independent political party, no matter how, so 
long as it is a distinct workers party. 

But the German workers did not really change. 
As Engels said: 

The Germans have not understood how to 
use their theory as a lever which could set 
the American masses in motion; they do not 
understand the theory themselves for the most 
part and treat it in a doctrinaire anet^dogmatic 
way as something that has to be lealrned by 



PnK 






COVER PHOTO: TRADE UNIONISTS CALL FOR NEW PARTY AT RALLY IN 1946 



?S(rv^^€ 




FREDERICK ENGELS 

heart, which then will satisfy all requirements 
forthwith. To them It is a bredo and not a 
guide to action. 

Following the Eussian Revolution, the American 
Communists began with the same sectarian con- 
ceptions as their German-speaking forerunners 
of a generation earlier. Most of these early 
Communists, indeed the vast majority, were for- 
eign-born, recent immigrants to America. They 
stood aloof from the labor movement, and had no 
interest in the concept of a labor party or work- 
ling toward such a party. 

lenin intervenes 

In .1920, at the Second Congress of the Com- 
munist International, Lenin had two conversations 
with Louis Fraina, one of the most gifted young 
adherents of the Russian Revolution in the U.S. 
In the first discussion Lenin tried to convince 
Fraina that American Communists should support 
Labor Party. In the second conversation Lenin, 
laving failed to convince Fraina on the Labor 
pParty question, began a discussion on the need 
for philosophy in the movement. Lenin raised 
the question of the labor party again the following 
feyear, at the Third Congress of the Communist 
finternational. By 1922 the American Communists 
^had begun to accept the idea of favoring and 
fighting for a labor party. 

This is the way Theodore Draper reports it 
in his ''Roots of American Communism'': 

Lenin also berated the American Commun- 



ists for boycotting the elections and refusing 
to support the presidential candidacy of Debs 
on the Socialist ticket in 1920. He even raised 
the question whether a Labor party would not 
facilitate the task of the American Communists; 
This suggestion had been made by Lenin to 
Fraina the previous year without evoking any 
reaction. This time it was reported back by 
the delegates and taken more seriously. 

The patience and persistence of the Bolshevik 
leadership on this matter is noteworthy. They 
insisted, in addition, that the American party turn 
away from its sectarian underground existence. 
This was linked to the labor party question. Leg- 
ality and bourgeois democracy had to be taken 
advantage of wherever possible if the working class 
was going to be reached and convinced of the cor- 
rectness of the revolutionary program. 

Thus the 1938 discussions did not begin from 
zero. They were part of a long struggle to build 
a revolutionary movement in the United States. 

At each point, in 1886, in 1920, in 1938 and 
today as well, an immense contradiction has con- 
fronted Marxists in the United States. This is 
the contradiction between the tremendous and oft en 
violent class struggle on the one hand, and the 
absence of an independent workers' party on the 
other, between the potential power of the working 
class and its complete submission to the capital- 
ists politically. This contradiction, stemming from 
the enormous wealth of U.S. imperialism as well 
as certain peculiarities of American historical 
development, poses enormous tasks for ^American 
Marxists, 

Of course much has changed since 1886, Be- 
tween 1886 and 1920 millions of workers were 
organized- into craft unions, primarily into the 
American Federation of Labor, Between 1920 
and 1938 the great depression came, and the Am- 
erican working class took the giant step to indus- 
trial unionism. But still the working class re- 
mained unorganized politically. In the last thirty 
years new millions of workers have come into 
the labor movement. The working class has made 
great gains, even though the union bureaucracy, 
based upon the capitalist prosperity, has been the 
willing tool of the bosses. The great contradiction 
remains, indeed it is greater than ever. 

In 1886, 1920 and 1938, the discussion of the 
tasks in the United States was also a discussion 
of philosophic method. It could not be otherwise. 
It was impossible for the American movement to 
advance without a scientific understanding of cap- 
italism and this required a scientific method of 
thought, materialist dialectics. 

The first American Marxists, as Engels pointed 
out, began with a credo, not a scientific method. 
They didn't even begin the job of analyzing and 
understanding the American class struggle, pre- 
ferring instead to shut themselves off in their 



I- 



closed propaganda circles. It was not just a 
matter of not accepting the correct program, it 
was a fundamental method of work and of thought 
that had to be changed. Thus Engels does not 
propose merely accepting one or another slogan 
M tactic, but the basic conception of acting on one's 
theory, developing that theory in action, uniting 
theory and practice, 

Lenin faced precisely the same confusion 
in method when he met the American followers 
of the Bolsheviks. That is why, in his conver- 
sations with Fralna in 1920, he shifted from a 
discussion of the labor party to a discussion of 
the need for philosophy in the movement. In 
his first discussion it became obvious that Fralna 
was not beginning from the standpoint of the Bol- 
sheviks. He was not making a serious analy- 
sis of American capitalism. 

For Fralna to understand how the working 
class would come to an understanding of the need 
for socialist revolution he had to understand how 
the workers learn through struggle, through test- 
ing all of their illusions as well as the warnings 
and programs, brought to them by the revolutionary 
movement. Marxists had to guide the working 
class through struggle, patiently explaining the 
causes of defeats and requirements for victory. 
This is what the dialectical method is all about. 
Lenin was interested in far more than an orien- 
tation towards the trade unions and a labor party. 
Although such an orientation was absolutely nec- 
essary, it had to be linked to a constant theor- 
etical and philosophical struggle within the move- 
ment. 

It is important to recognize that while the 
Communist International was able to convince 
the American party of the correctness of the labor 
party conception, the method underlying the con- 
ception was not grasped. While the Americans 
began by accepting a correct political line they 
soon accepted disastrously incorrect proposals, 
with the rise of Stalin to power in the USSR and 
the international movement. Clearly more than 
a correct line was required,. It was necessary 
to understand how to arrive at such a line. 

trotsky discusses 

This same lesson is brought home by the dis- 
cussions between Trotsky andtheSocialistWorkers 
Party leaders. These discussions are also a hand- 
book in method. Fragmentary as these are, they 
express the basic Marxist method as Trotsky 
explains what is wrong with the method of his 
supporters. 

It should be noted that this is the second time 
Trotsky discussed the labor party question with 
the American Trotskyists. In 1932 Trotsky wrote 
a memorandum agreeing with the American sec- 
tion's position at the time of not calling for a 
labor party. As he explains in the 1938 discus- 
sion he erroneously felt it was possible for a mass 



revolutionary party to be created under the ex- 
treme crisis conditions of the time without going 
through the stage of struggling for a labor party. 
Whatever merit such a position may have had 
in 1932 it certainly has no relevance to the kind 
of situation American Marxists face in 1968. 
The SWP leaders approach the question prag- 
matically and empirically. Cannon begins with 
the amazing statement, in relation to the labor 
party movement, that, 'In principle it appears 
that we should condemn the whole movement and 
stand aside but that is not a very fruitful policy/ 
Later he returns to this theme, saying that 4f 
we can do that(flght for a labor party) without 
compromising our principled position that would 
be best in the sense of gaining influence/ 

Cannon, Shachtman and other participants 
then begin a lengthy discussion on the issue of 
how much sentiment there is for a labor party. 
Though they disagree on how much labor paiiy 
sentiment exists, they agree in basing their posi- 
tion on this measurement of existing moods, 
Trotsky made his position very clear: 
T cannot judge whether sentiment for a labor 
party exists or not because I have no personal 
observations or impressions, but I do not find 
it decisive as to what degree the leaders of 
trade unions or the rank and file are ready 
or inclined to build a political party. It is 
very difficult to establish objective informa- 
tion. We have no machine to take a referen- 
dum. We can measure the mood only by action 
if the slogan is put on the agenda. But what 
we. can say is that the objective situation is 
absolutely decisive... The problem is not the 




I 

I 
4 



V.I. LENIN 






mood of the masses but the objective situation, 
and our job is to confront the backward material 
of the masses with the tasks which are deter- 
mined by objective facts and not by psychology 
... We claim to have Marxism or Scientific 
/Socialism. What does 'Scientific Socialism' 
/signify in reality? It signifies that the party 
which represents this social science, departs, 
as every science, not from subjective wishes, 
tendencies or moods but from objective facts, 
from the material situation of the different 
classes and their relationships. 

Trotsky is insisting that we develop the pro- 
grammatic points we fight for on a scientific 
objective basis. Our method of determining the 
subjective state of the class— a not unimportant 
question — is to fight for this scientifically arrived 
at program among the masses and see what 
response is forthcoming. This response is also 
important for all agitation and propagandistic 
work should be a dialogue with the masses in 
which we learn much from the response we get 
from particular slogans and formulations. We 
then can adjust our propaganda to make it more 
effective-perhaps treat certain questions in a 
more educational way or transform questions we 
have been educating on for a period into fighting 
agitation demands. These moods of the masses 
thus effect the way in which we fight for our 
program but they do not determine the program 
we fight for. 

Cannon is approaching the question pragmati- 
cally when he speaks of fruitfulness completely 
and artificially separated from principle and theory. 
On the one hand we have our principles, on the 
other hand we have tempting opportunities to 
expand our influence. The pragmatist sees theory 
as only an approximation of reality, since reality 
exists but cannot be fully known. Theory and 
practice are thus separated, with imperfect theory 
imposed upon reality. What Cannon is really 
suggesting, then, is that we can perhaps proceed 
by putting: our principles aside for the time being, 
not compromising them of course but just not 
letting them get in the way of what could be 
fruitful work. 

The Marxist begins differently, relating theory 
to practice at , every step. Principles and practice 
are not separate. They are constantly developing 
and interacting. The fight for a labor party is 
not unprincipled if it is seen dialectically, as a party 
of the class struggle, and if our principles are 
seen as living and not dead unchanging dogma. 

Marxists have nothing to hide. They proclaim 
their views, without camouflage, as Trotsky says. 
They do not pretend that the working class can 
achieve its aims short of a socialist revolution, 
they do not sow illusions in parliamentary struggle 
or in peaceful roads to socialism. But neither do 
they stand aside from the struggle with a pure 
blueprint. They are part of the class struggle, 



the most advanced section of the working class. 
Thus Trotsky shows over and over again how 
it is necessary, in ^relation to the working class 
movement to, in Engels' words, 'accept its actual 
starting point' without adapting to its present 
backwardness. This is the meaning of the transi- 
tional program. To speak of fruitful policies on 
the one hand and abstract principles on the other 
is to show absolutely no understanding of this 
program. 

There is also a clear connection between the 
confusion brought out in this discussion and the 
resistance of earlier American Marxists on this 
question. It is not only native American prag- 
matism which is brought out here, the method 
so beloved by opportunists. There is also the 
same formalism and schematism which the German 
followers of Marx and Engels had brought over 
with them from Europe 60 and 70 years previously. 

formal metaphysics 

From the very beginning of the discussion of 
this question through the 1920 period of the Com- 
munist Party to the discussion in 1938 reprinted 
in this pamphlet, the very same forrnal posing 
of the question is raised — how can we advocate 
the formation of a labor party when as revolu- 
tionaries we know full well the American working 
class can only come to power under the leader- 
ship of a revolutionary party — our party? 

For instance Shachtman states: 'I don't under- 
stand when you say we don't advocate a reformist 
labor party but we do advocate and become cham- 
pions of labor party movements for the purpose 
of imposing the worker's will politically\ Trotsky 
answers Shachtman to the effect that we combine 
advocacy of a labor party with our program, 
the program we wish this party to carry out. 
This program is a revolutionary program, one 
through which the workers can come to power, 
not a reformist program which can lead the 
workers to defeat. 

Then Cannon takes his turn at being confused; 
'How can you explain a revolutionary labor party? 
We say: the SWP is the only revolutionary party, 
has the only revolutionary program. How then 
can you explain to the workers that also the labor 
paily is a revolutionary party? Trotsky answers: 
^I will not say that the labor party is a revolu- 
tionary party, but that we will do everything to 
make it possible.' Shachtman still doesn't under- 
stand and repeats: 'I still cannot understand how 
the labor party can be different from a reformist 
purely parliamentary party? At this point Trotsky 
replies: 'you put the question too abstractly'. 
As Trotsky states later in the discussion: 'an 
abstraction is a weapon in the hands of the opposing 
class'. 

This is the methodological nub of the whole 
discussion. For Shachtman, Cannon and rest of 
the SWP leadership it was a matter of relating 



i- 






formal categories separated out— abstracted out 
of concrete reality. Each category is fixed, im- 
mutable and of course completely and absolutely 
in contradiction to each other category. So we 
have 'labor party' vs, 'revolutionary party' and we 
,have 'reformist labor party' and 'revolutionary 
labor party'. None can be related to any other 
category; all are in absolute contradiction to each 
other. 

As Trotsky writes in 'Whither France?: 
'Marxist thought is dialectical; it considers all 
phenomena in their development, in their transi- 
tion from one state to another. The thought of 
the conservative petty bourgeoisie is metaphysical; 
its conceptions are fixed and immovable, and 
between phenomena it supposes that there are 
unbridgeable gaps/ It is metaphysical method 
that Shachtman and Cannon are using. And with 
this method the struggle for a labor party cannot 
be related to the building of the revolutionary party. 
But if we see the labor party demand within the 
context of the concrete development of the American 
working class as EngelSi, Lenin and Trotsky saw it, 
then and only then the connections can be made. 
The revolutionary party remains small and isolated. 
The mass of American workers have not taken the 
step taken by workers in every other major 
capitalist country, of politically breaking with their 
own bourgeoisie and starting on the road to building 
their own party. The revolutionary party cannot 
overcome this gap between the size of the vanguard 
and the necessities of independent political struggle 
posed by the situation facing American workers 
by simply urging workers to support it. But this 
gap can be overcome by posing to American workers 
that they create their own party, a political ex- 
pression of the powerful many-millioned member 
economic organs of struggle they have already 
created— the American trade union movement. 
But we cannot pose to workers the labor party 
as an empty form devoid of programmatic content. 
We must pose a program around which the fight 
for such a party can be conducted or if such a 
party is formed on a lesser program, a program 
around which the militant section of such a party 
can fight. And where do we get this program? 
Do we have some sort of inferior program designed 
for the more backward workers? Of course not. 
We propose our program as this program is the 
only scientific one based on a Marxist analysis 
of the questions facing the class, the needs of the 
class. 

The revolutionary party plays the critical role 
at each stage of this process. It leads the fight 
for the creation of a labor party. It fights within 
any broader labor party movements which arise 
or within any kind of labor party thrown up for 
its revolutionary program. It takes the workers 
through this experience building the revolutionary 
party at all times and emerging from the process 
as a mass revolutionary party capable of leading 
the American workers to power. 



Cannon and Shachtman left this discussion with 
Trotsky much as the early American Communists 
left their discussion with Lenin. Yes, they were 
convinced that revolutionaries must fight for a 
labor party. It was not so much that the formal 
objections were destroyed for them through their 
mastery of dialectics. It was rather that they 
were put aside because of the weight on the one 
hand of Trotsky's authority- and on the other hand 
a recognition of the 'fruitfulness' of this policy. 
That this was the case is shown in the discussion 
Trotsky held in June, 1940 with the leadership of 
the SWP. This was after Shachtman had split 
from the party and it was Trotsky's last discussion 
with the SWP before he was murdered by Stalin's 
agent. In this discussion Trotsky, noting the 
empirical left turn of the American CP brought 
about by the Stalin-Hitler pact, proposed that 
the SWP support the CP in the 1940 elections as 
part of a tactic to reach rank and file Communist 
Party militants. He met the same formal resist- 
ance as in 1938. Once again he was compelled to 
urge on the SWP "more sharp maneuvering, a 
more serious syste?nattc theoretical training" 
{ See: "The Struggle for Marxism in the United 
States" by Tim Wohlforth). As the future evo- 
lution of the SWP reveals, his advice was not 
taken seriously by the SWP leadership. Today 
we have maneuvering yes, oh yes plenty of maneu- 
vering. But these maneuvers have no base in 
Marxist theory. It is a matter of "fruitful poli- 
cies" unemcumbered this time by concern for 
principles or the authority of Trotsky. 



lobor porty today 



Everything we have said about the method of 
Marxism as opposed to formalism and dead dog- 
ma would mean nothing if we based our conception 
of the labor party now solely upon past struggles 
on this question. The fight for the labor party 
must be shown to be objectively necessary today. 

The problem with the so-called New Left, and 
most of the old left as well, is the same metho- 
dological confusion we see expressed in these 
discussions. The class struggle in America is 
neither placed in its historical context nor ana- 
lyzed seriously today. Thus the kind of objections 
raised to the labor party conception today are, 
not surprisely, very similar to the ones which 
Trotsky took up 30 years ago. 

Middle class radicals are especially fond of 
pointing to the quiescence of the workers, who 
are written off forever as a completely reaction- 
ary mass with a stake in American imperialism. 
The idea of fighting for a labor party, of raising 
this . idea in the trade unions or among various 
layers of the working class, is dismissed on the 
basis that there is little or no sentiment favor 
ing it. We are advised to wait for perhaps a 
few decades, when the workers will inform us 
that they are ready for such progressive ideas. 



The same people who present this totallypessi- 
mistic picture of the situation^ a picture based 
upon the crudest empiricism and pragmatism, then 
strike a very revolutionary pose at the same time, 
asserting that a labor party is after all a comp- 
letely reformist proposal anyway, as the history 
of the British Labor Party shows. Thus, while 
the American working class is hopelessly react- 
ionary and we really have nothing to say to it, we 
should concentrate on meaningless confrontations 
with the police. It is not surprising to see ultra- 
leftism and opportunism, formalism and pragmat- 
ism, coexisting in the same Individuals and ten- 
dencies which do not fight for Marxist theory. 
We must begin as Marx, Engels, Lenin and 
Trotsky did. As Trotsky explains, in the United 
States and Britain the trade union movement 
came into existence long before workers' poli- 
tical parties were even proposed. Under these 
circumstances, where first England and then the 
U.S. was the leader of world imperialism, the 
trade unions would only be forced to take up 
the political struggle by the most serious decline 
and crisis facing capitalism in these countries. 
This is precisely how the working class em- 
barked upon the path of independent political 
action in Britain, and Trotsky shows how a 
similar development was to be expected in the 
U.S. in the 1930s. Swift changes, the rapid 
deepening of the crisis, gave rise to the need 
for an independent workers' party. At the same 
time the revolutionaiy party was still too small 
to pose itself as a realistic alternative for the 
working class. This contradiction could only 
be dealt with and overcome by the revolutionary 
party posing the tasks facing the entire working 
class in terms of a mass -based party of the 
class, 

Trotsky specifically takes up the prospects 
for a labor party in the event of a new prosper- 
ity, a new upturn in the economic situation. In 
this case he speaks, in 1938, of the question 
losing its ^^acuteness ^'^ but not its ''propagan- 
distic importance/' It is very important to 
fully understand his meaning here. While un- 
doubtedly he did not count upon as long a period 
of prosperity and restabilization for American 
and world capitalism as developed after the 
war, the changed tempo of events does not at 
all invalidate his basic prognosis for America. 
The prosperity of the war and postwar periods 
contained the seeds of another ^d even more 
explosive crisis, but in the interim the labor 
party question became less acute, less sharply 
posed. Thi^ was reflected in the political 
equilibrium in the U.S. in the 1950s. It was 
an equilibrium attained only by the sacrifice 
of economic equilibrium. But while it lasted 
the bosses were able to rule with minimum dis- 
ruption, and the trade union bureaucracy kept 
the ranks fairly well under control. 

All of this is now changing very rapidly. The 



contradictions building up underneath the surface 
during the 1950s and early 1960s are now coming 
to the surface and leading to an explosive situation. 
All of capitalism's current difficulties are related 
to its most fundamental contradictions, especially 
to the tendency of the rate of profit to decline. 
All of the problems now faced by Wall Street 
and Washington arise out of steps which were 
taken to counteract this inevitable tendency. Thus 
the crisis is expressed now in its financial as- 
pect. Every step the imperialists take to deal 
with the liquidity crisis calls into question the 
continued expansion of the world economy. 

Right now the crisis hits the black masses 
and the poor as a whole the hardest . These 
workers see themselves left out of the general 
prosperity of the country, a prosperity in which 
the mass of unionized workers have at least 
partially shared. But the capitalist government 
is incapable of bringing the poor up to the level 
of the working class as a whole. Thus, faced 
with this situation, the Negro struggle takes 
on a very radical, at the moment almost openly 
insurrectionary character. 

But the impact of the crisis cannot be limited 
to the poor alone. Behind the liquidity Crisis 
is the deeper crisis caused by the decline in 
profits. The great corporations make their profits 
off the employed industrial working class. The 
crisis can only be countered by a direct attack 
at deepening the exploitation of American labor 
as a whole and lowering the living conditions 
of all workers. 

To carry out such a policy the big business 
interests must utilize the whole state apparatus - 
-anti-strike legislation, court injunctions, cops 
and troops deployed against strikers. Such a 
confrontation is only now at a beginning stage. 
But when it comes to full bloom it will raise 
in a far sharper form than is raised today the 
necessity for workers to break politically from 
the parties which carry out the bosses attacks 
on them and form their own party. Thus the 
objective conditions today, as much as in the 
1930s, pose before American Marxists the need 
to fight for a labor party within all sections of 
the working class. ^^ 

Of course, there will be those who say: Per- 
haps you are right. But today the action is else- 
^j^ere--among the students, the black militants, 
etc. Tomorrow when the struggle in the unions 
deepens, then we too will turn our attention to 
these struggles.'' Trotsky answered such people 
in this very discussion. He states: 

If you say we'll wait and see and then pro- 
pagate, then we'll be not the vanguard, but 
the rear-guard.. .We underestimate the revo- 
lutionary movement in the working masses. 
We are a small organization, propagandistic and 
in such situations are more skeptical than the 
masses who develop very quickly... The re is not 
in the U.S. a revolutionary situation right now. 



•1 



But comrades with very revolutionary ideas in 
quiet times can become a real brake upon the 
movement in revolutionary situations - -it happens 
often, ^ A revolutionary party waits so often and 
so long for a revolution that it gets used to 
^ postpone it. 

The task for all serious Marxists in America 
is to begin the fight today for an American labor 
party. We feel that the re -publication of Trotsky's 
1938 discussion can greatly aid, in theoretically 
arming the movement for this critical task. 



The discussion reprinted here is from a rough 
stenographic record and this should be kept in 
mind when reading it. Because of security prob- 
lems at the time the participants are referred to 
either by a pseudonym ( in the case of Trotsky) 
or by initials. Crux: Leon Trotsky; JPC: James 
P. Cannon; SH: Max Shachtman; VRD: Vincent 
R, Dunne. 

— TFred Mueller anu Tim Wohlforth 
August, 1968 



Discussion With Leon Trotsky 

PART I - APRIL 1938 MEXICO CITY] 



JPC: The subject today is the labor party, 
in three aspects: 1) our general principled posi- 
tion; 2) the development of the Non- Partis an 
Labor League, that is, the CIO political movement 
in the trade unions which shows in some respects 
tendencies to independent political action, toward 
the constitution of a party, in other places like 
New York half such tendencies, labor candidates 
locally, support of Republican-Fusion and support 
of Roosevelt nationally, in other parts they endorse 
all capitalist candidates, mainly through the Demo- 
cratic Party. 3) The question arises should our 
fcomrades in the trade unions we control join the 
NPLL, what should we do in unions where we have 
a small minority; shotild we become the champ- 
ions of the NPLL or shall we stand aside in a cri- 
tical attitude ? We do not have a final policy in 
New Jersey, for example, we are experimenting 
-- we; had :the unions .join the NPLL and there 
support a motion for the formation of a party. 
In other parts of the country, we haven't done so. 
How should we conduct ourselves in a more or 
less developed labor party as in Minneapolis? 

In principle it appears that we should condemn 
the whole movement and stand aside but that is not 
a ve ry fruitful policy . In Minne apolis the re is a 
fully constituted independent organization, the Far- 
mer-Labor Party. It runs its own candidates in 
the State and nationally it supports Roosevelt. 

The Stalinists who have been driven out of the 
trade unions have penetrated deeply into the Far- 
mer-Labor Association — this constitutes a weap- 
on against us in the unions. The policy there now is 
the policy of a bloc of the Trotskyist unions with 
what they call the '^real f arm er-labo rites,'' that 
is reformists who believe in the FLP and don't 
wish the Stalinists to control it. How far can we 
carry such a bloc -- how can we fight for just or- 
ganizational control? But if our people stand aside 
the Stalinists get control. On the other hand, if we 
fight really energetically as we do in the unions we 



become champions of the FLP. It is not a simple 
question -- it's very easy for people to get lost 
in the reformist policy. 



VRD: First, I would say that the Stalinists in 
controlling the apparatus of the FLP control more 
than just the apparatus — they make it difficult 
for us in the unions. By our not participating in 
this party through our trade union connections it 
allows the Stalinists and the more reactionary ele- 
ments in the FLP to have a weapon against us 
in the labor movement. We have a definite policy 
insofar as our work in the trade unions is concerned 
Our comrades speaking in favor of the FLP have 
done so very' critically, advising the unions that 
they can use it only to a certain extent — we have 
succeeded in keeping pur policy clear from the re- 
formists but, as Comrade Cannonsays, it's difficult 
to say how far we should go in this direction; we 
cannot take the responsibility for the labor party and 
yet we would have that responsibility thrust on us 
by the workers who believe we can as efficiently 
fight there for their members as we do in the trade 
unions. Thus far even the Stalinists' drive against 
us has not been able to shake them yet. The Stali- 
nists, together with a wide section of the progress- 
ives, intellectuals are at one in turning the labor 
party more and more into a bloc with the demo- 
crat and liberal candidates^. Inside the FLP the 
Stalinists are trying to keep control by setting up 
a formal discipline in the FLP, mainly against us. 
We have fought that, demanding democracy in the 
labor party and we have been successful. We have- 
n't been at all successful in preventing a closer bloc 
with the Democratic Party. We can't yet ask the 
unions to support the SWP -as against the FLP, 

JPC: In St, Paul where the FLP made a deal 
to support a capitalist candidate for mayor, we 
put up our own candidate. 



LI 



Crux; Can you explain to me how was it 
possible that though the Stalinists control an imp- 
ortant section of this party they passed a re- 
olution against fascists and communists ? 

VRD: That was done in one region. In cer- 
j tain sections we have farmer-laborites who work 
/ with us --they were in control of this district as 
against the Stalinists --we have some comrades 
the re --we tried to shape this resolution in a 
different way but we were not on the resolutions 
committee --late at night the resolution was jam- 
med through. 

Crux: The resolution can be used also ag- 
ainst us. How is the party constructed? It is 
based not only upon trade unions but also upon 
other organizations because they are progres- 
sives, intellectuals, etc. Do they admit every 
individual, or only collectively? 

VRD; The FLP is based upon workers' ec- 
onomic organizations, trade unions, cooperatives, 
etc., farmer's cooperative organizations, alsoupon 
territorial units, township clubs, etc. It also 
allows for the affiliation of cultural organizations 
sick and death benefit organizations, etc,, also 
through war clubs. The Stalinists and intellect- 
uals join through these clubs; they have more 
control than the drlver^s local of 4000 members. 
We are fighting against that- -we are demanding 
that the trade unions be given their real Vepre- 
sentation— we have the support of the trade unions 
on this. 

Crux: Can you tell me what are the nuances 
of opinion among our leading comrades on this 
question-approximately, 

JPC: There are nuances of opinion not only 
among the leadership but also in the ranks. Prob- 
lems arise in the trade unions especially. A mot- 
ion is proposed in the unions^ to join the NPLL, 
The sentiment especially in CIO unions for this 
is overwhelming. I think that our policy in New 
Jersey,, that at least in this union we must not 
oppose joining the NPLL will have to be adopted. 
There is also a tendency in the Party that in this 
NPLL we shall press for the formation of the 

^ labor party. I venture to say that the trade union 
comrades would be most satisfied if they could 

. have that decision. But they haven't yet faced 
the difficulties. The dilemma is that you become 
the champions of the FLP by having an aggressive 
policy. We even have one comrade on the State 
Executive Committee of the FLP in New Jersey, 
The bureaucrats are putting off the date for form- 
ation of the FLP. The policy of Lewis, Hillman 
is to leave that aside till 1940. If our comrade 
would make an energetic fight, if he could be 
sincere in advocating the FLP, he could muster 
quite an opposition against the bureaucrats. But 
then the dilemma is that we are championing 
the creation of an FLP which we oppose. 

In .our Plenum there will be differences of 



opinion— there will be a tendency to become en- 
ergetic fighters for the constitution of a labor 
party. My -opinion is that this is the prevailing 
sentiment of the P^rty--to join the NPLL and 
become aggressive fighters for the constitution of 
a labor party as against the policy of endorsing 
capitalist candidates; if we can do that without 
compromising our principled position that would 
be best in the sense of gaining influence. We 
don^t say anything practical to the workers who 
are ready to take one step forward. The CP 
now is not championing the labor party; they are 
a Roosevelt Party. The bureaucrats in the trade 
unions are also blocking the strong movement 
within the workers for a labor party. 

SH; I wouldn't say that the labor party sent- 
iment is so strong among the workers today. 
Most of the labor party sentiment that might 
have arisen has been canalized toward the channel 
of Roosevelt. We had a formidable crisis and 
yet the only thing that came out of it is the hy- 
brid form of labor party in New York. In any 
case if you compare 1930 with 1924 you can say 
there is barely a labor party movement now; 
then there was more real sentiment in the trade 
unions. I think that if we don't have a clear 
idea for the prospects of a labor party, that 
we will make some big political mistakes, I 
believe a big change is taking place --a break- 
ing -up of the old parties. The biggest political 
party, the Democratic Party which has a support 
of 90% of the workers and farmers is going 
through a split almost before our eyes. In 
Congress the fight is not between Republicans 
and Democrats but between one section of the 
Democrats and another. There is very good 
reason to believe that in the 1940 election we 
will have a new political setup with the old line 
Republicans fused with the Democrats of the 
South, and the other, the New Deal Democrats, 
Roosevelt followers plus the CIO, Lewis; that 
will be powerful enough even to take the bulk 
of the AFL along. It is precisely this prospect 
that keeps Lewis, Hillman from .championing 
a labor party--they are looking for the split in 
the Democratic Party in which they will be able 
to play a considerable role. That is why I donH 
think there will be a real, serious, substantial 
progress in the NPLL movement toward an in- 
dependent labor party. 

It is true that our position is rather a diff- 
icult one but we have had considerable amount 
of experience with labor party movements --a 
generalization may be helped by reference to our 
Minneapolis situation--! don't think our growth 
is due to participation in the FLP movement but 
through our activities in the trade unions. Never- 
theless, as we grow we necessarily must parti- 
cipate in FLP politics and I can't say Vxn en- 
tirely satisfied with the situation there. I can't 




say we have proposed any other line of conduct. 
In effect- in Minneapolis we are in a bloc with 
6o-called honest reforniists— who are scoundrels 
on their own account— who are in' a bloc with 
the Democrats, is directed almost exclusively 
against the Stalinists and against a mechanical 
control the Stalinists have of the FLP. In action 
we are indistinguishable from the so-called honest 
reformists. We are distinguished from the Stalin- 
ists but only msofar as we are in a bloc with 
real reformists who vote for the FLP ticket in 
the State and for the Democrats nationally. 

If we are to follow out such a policy of be- 
ing against endorsing capitalist candidates in favor 
of FLP candidates seriously, systematically, eff- 
ectively, I can't see how we can avoid becoming 
the champions of a labor party, of taking the 
.initiative; wherever a labor party does not exist 
to form one. Unless all signs prove untrue, these 
labor parties will be a working appendage of 
/Roosevelt just as was the case in the New York 
^American Labor Party supporting Roosevelt nat- 
ionallyj and on a local scale supporting Republican 
Fusion/ Once that's begun I don't see clearly 
how we will avoid the consequences of a policy 
that was followed in 1924 when we were in the 
'CP, with the added complication that the Stalinist 
^^Party is in the unions and while it's true that 
ihey are a. Roosevelt Party, still in the unions 
they advocate formation of a labor party. 

JPC: Not much. I would say that the Stalin- 
ists in the first period of the Peoples Front 
had the slogan > 'Organize the labor party as the 
American People's Front'' but now it's only a 



ceremonial action. At this point they are even 
against a premature splitting of the Democratic 
Party. It is not true that the sentiment now is 
less than in 1924 for a labor party. Then it had 
no basis in the unions; it was mostly a farmers' 
movement. Now the movement is dominated by 
the CIO unions. It is not the old Gompers politics. 
The unions are regimented politically; the sentiment 
in the ranks for their own party is quite strong. 
The NPLL is not going out to meet the sentiment 
of the workers. The policy of Lewis and the 
bureaucrats is, experimental; if the workers will 
clamor more, they will make concessions to that 
sentiment. It is a step higher than the Gompers 

policy, 

(Stenographer's note: More argument about 
the relative strength of labor party sentiment in 
1922-1924 now took place between Comrades JPC 
and VRD on one side and SH on the other. V 

Crux: This question Is very important and 
very complicated. When for the first time the 
League considered this question, some seven-eight 
years ago— whether we should favor a labor party 
or not, whether we should develop initiative on 
this score, then the prevailing sentiment was not 
to do it, and that was absolutely correct. The 
perspective for development was not clear. I be- 
lieve that the majority of us hoped that the develop- 
ment of our own organization will be more speedy. 
On the other hand I believe no one in our ranks 
foresaw during that period the appearance of the 
CIO with this rapidity and this power. In our per- 
spective we overestimated the possibility of the 
development of our party at the expense of the 
Stalinists on one hand, and on the other hand we 



r 

M don't 



don't (didn't) see this powerful trade union move- 
ment, and the rapid decline of American capitalism • 
These are two facts which we must reckon with, 
I can't speak from my own observation but theore- 
tically* The period of 1924 I know only through 
the experience of our common friend Pepper. He 
came to me and said that the American proletariat 
is not a revolutionary class, that the revolutionary 
class are the farmers and we must turn toward 
the farmers, not toward the workers. That was 
the conception of the time.. It was a farmers 
movement-the farmers who are inclined by their 
social nature to look for panaceas -populism, 
^FLP'ism-in every crisis. Now we have a move - 




JAMES P. CANNON 

ment of tremendous importance --the CIO, some 
3,000,000 or more are organized in a new, militant 
organization. This organization which began with 
strikes, big strikes, and also involved with AFL 
partially in these strikes for a raise in wages, 
_this organization at the first step of its activity 
Iruns into the biggest crisis in the U.S, The per- 
spective for economic strikes is for the next 
period excluded, given the situation of the grow- 
ing unemployed ranks, etc. We can look for 
the possibility that it will put all its weight in 
the political balance. 

I The whole objective situation imposed upon 
^\he workers as upon the leaders— upon the leaders 
in a double sense. On one hand they exploit this 
tendency for their own authority and on the other 
they try to break it and not permit it to go ahead 
of its leaders. The NPLL has this double function. 
I believe that our policy need not be theoreticr.l.y 
revised but it needs to be concretized. In what 
sense? Are we infavor of the creation of a reform- 
ist labor party? No. Are we in favor of a policy 
which can give to the trade unions the possibility 
ho put its weight upon the balance of the forces? 

Yes. 

It can become a reformist party— it depends 
upon the development. Here comes in the question 
of program, I mentioned yesterday and I will 
underline it today -we must have a program of 
transitional demands, the most complete of them 
is a workers' and farmers' government. We 



II 



are for a party, for an independent party of the 
toiling masses who will take power in the State. 
We must concretize it --we are for the creation 
of factory committees, for workers' control of 
industry through the factory committees. All 
these questions are now pending in the air. They 
speak of technocracy, and put forward the slogan 
of ^'production for use". We oppose this charlatan 
formula and advance the workers' control of 
production throuo:h the factory committees. 

Lundberg writes a book, '^Sixty Families". 
The ''Analyst^' claims that his figures are false. 
We say, the factory committees should see the 
boo]^s. This program we must develop parallel 
with the idea of a labor party in the unions, and 
workers' militia. Otherwise it is an abstraction 
and an abstraction is a weapon in the hands of 
the opposing class. The criticism of the Min- 
neapolis comrades is that they have not concret- 
ized a program. In this fight we must underline 
that we are for the bloc of workers and farmers, 
but not such farmers as Roosevelt, I do not know 
whether you noted that in the official ticket he 
gave his profession as farmer. We are for a 
bloc only with the exploited farmers, not exploiter 
farmers, exploited farmers and agricultural work- 
ers. We can become the champions of this move- 
ment but on the basis of a concrete program of 
demands. In Minneapolis the first task should be 
devoted to statistically show that 10,000 workers 
have no more vote than 10 intellectuals, or 50 
people organized by the Stalinists; Then we have 
to introduce five or six demands, very concrete, 
adapted to the mind of the workers and farmers 
and inculcated into the brain of every comrade, 
workers, factories' committee and then workers' 
and farmers' movement. That's the genuine sense 
of the movement, 

JPC: Would we propose now that the unions 
join the NPLL? 



Crux: Yes, I believe so. Naturally we must 
make our first step in such a way as to accumu- 
late experience for practical work, not to engage 
in abstract formulas, but develop a concrete pro- 
gram of action and demands, in the sense that 
this transitional program issues from the conditions 
of capitalist society today but immediately leads 
over "the limits of capitalism. It is not the re- 
formist minimum program, which never included 
workers' militia, workers' control of production. 
These demands are transitory because they lead 
from the capitalist society to the proletarian 
revolution, a consequence insofar as they become 
the demands of the masses as the proletarian gov- 
ernment. We can't stop only with the day to day 
demands of the proletariat. .We must give to the 
most backward workers some concrete slogan that 
corresponds^ to* their needs and that leads dialect- 
ic ally to the conquest of powe r . 



12 



SH: How would you motivate the slogan for 
workers^ militia? 

Crux: By the fascist movement in Europe-- 
all the situation shows that the blocs of the members 
of liberals, radicals and the worker's bureaucracy 
is nothing in comparison with the militarized fas- 
cist gang; only workers with military experience 
can oppose the fascist danger, T believe that in 
America you have enough scabs, gun-men that you 
connect the slogan with the local experience; for 
example by showing the attitude of the police, the 
state of affairs in Jersey, In this situation imm- 
ediately say that this gangster-mayor with his 
gangster policemen should be ousted by the work- 
ers' militia. '^We wish here the organization of 
the CIO but in violation of the consitution, we 
are forbidden this right to organize. If the federal 
power can not control the mayor, then we the 
workers must organize for our protection the work- 
ers^ militia and fight for our rights.'' Or in 
clashes between the AFL and the CIO, we can put 
forward the slogan for a workers' militia as a 
necessity to protect our workers' meetings. Es- 
pecially as opposed to the Stalinist idea of a pop- 
ular front, and we can point to the result of this 
popular front— the fate of Spain and the situation 
in France. Then you can point to' the movement 
of Germany, to the Nazi camps. We must say: 
You workers in this city will be the first victims 
of this fascist gang. You must organize, you must 
be prepared. 

JPC: What name would you call such groups? 

Crux: You can give it a modest name, work- 
ers' militia. 

JPC: Defense Committees. 

Crux: Yes. It must be discussed with the 
workers. 



JPC: The name is very important. Workers' 
defense committees can be popularized. Work- 
ers' militia is too foreign sounding. 

SH: There is not yet in the US the danger of! 
fascism which would bring about the sentiment i 
of such an organization as the workers' militia. 
The organization of a workers' militia presupposes ; 
preparation for the seizure of power. This is 
not yet on the order of the day in the US. 

Crux: Naturally we can conquer power only 
when we have the majority of the working class, 
but even in that case the workers' militia would 
be a small minority. Even in the October Rev- 
olution the militia was a small minority. But 
the question is how to get this small minority 
which must be organized and armed with the 
sympathy of the masses. How can we doit? 



By preparing the mind of the masses, by propa- 
ganda. The crisis, the sharpening of class rela-^ 
tions, the creation of a workers' party, a labor 
party signifies immediately, Immediately a ter--i 
rible sharpening of forces. The reaction will 
be immediately a fascist movement. That is 
why we must now connect the idea of the labor 
party with the consequences --otherwise we will 
appear only as pacifists with democratic illusions. 
Then we also have the possibility of spreading; 
the slogans of our transitional program and see 
the reaction of the masses. We will see what 
slogans should be selected, what slogans abandoned, 
but if we give up our slogans before the experience, 
before seeing the reaction of the masses, then we 
can never advance. 

VED: I wanted to ask one question about : 
the slogan of workers' access to the secrets of 
Industry. It seems to me that needs to be well 
thought out and carefully applied or it may lead 
to difficulties which we have already experienced. 
As a matter of fact one of the ways of reducing ■ 
the militancy of the workers is for employers — 
we had one such case--to offer to show us the 
books and prove that they are standing a loss, 
whether honestly or not is not the question. We 
have fought against that, saying it is up to you to 
organize your business; we demand decent working 
conditions. I wonder what then would be the effect 
of our slogan of workers' access to the secrets 
of industry. 

Crux: Yes, the capitalists do in two instances, 
when the situation of the factory is really bad or 
if they can deceive the workers. But the question 
must be put from a more general point of view. 
In the first place you have millions of unemployed 
and the government claims it cannot pay more 
and the capitalists say that they cannot make 
more contributions --we want to have access to the 
bookkeeping of this society. The control of income 
should be organized through factory committees. 
Workers will say: We want our own statisticians 
who are devoted to the working class. If a branch 
of industry shows that it is really ruined, then 
we answer: We propose to expropriate you. We 
will direct better than you. Why have you no 
profit? Because, of the chaotic condition of cap- 
italist society. We say: commercial secrets 
are a conspiracy of the exploiters against the 
exploited, of the producers against the toilers. In 
the free era, in the era of competition they 
claimed they needed secrecy for protection. But 
now they do not have secrets among themselves 
but only from society. This transitional demand 
is also a step for the workers' control of pro- 
duction as the preparatory plan for the direction 
of industry. Everything must be controlled by 
the workers who will be the masters of society 
tomorrow. But to call for conquest of power-^ 
that seems to the American workers illegal, fan- 



tastic. But if you say: the capitalists refuse to 
pay for the unemployed and hide their real profits 
from the State and from the workers by dishonest 
bookkeeping, the workers will understand that for- 
mula. If we say to the farmer: the bank fools you. 
They' have very big profits. And we propose to 
you that you create farmers' committees to look 
into the bookkeeping of the bank, every farmerwill 
understand that. We will say: the farmer can 
trust only himself; let him create committees to 
control agricultural credits— they will understand 
that. It presupposes a turbulent mood among the 
farmers; it cannot be accomplished every day. 
But to introduce this idea into the masses and 
into our own comrades, that's absolutely necessary 
immediately. 




MAX SHACHTMAN 

SH: I believe it is not correct as you say to 
put forth the slogan of workers^ control of prod- 
uction nor the other transitional slogan of workers' 
militia"-the slogan for the examination of the books 
of the capitalist class is more appropriate for 
the present period and can be made popular. As 
for the other two slogans, it is true that they are 
transitional slogans, but for that end of the road 
which is close to the preparation for the seizure 
of power. Transition implies a road either long 
or short. Each stage of the road requires its 
own slogans. For today we could use that of exam- 
ination of the books of the capitalist class, for 
tomorrow we would use those of workersVcontrol 
of production and workers' militia. 



Crux: How can we in such a j^ritical situation 
as now exists in the whole world; in the US meas-- 
ure the stage of development of the workers 'move- 
ment? You say it's the beginning and not the end. 
What's the distance-^100,10, 4, how can you say 
approximately? In the good old times the Social. 
Democrats would say: Now we have only 10,000 



workers, later we'll have 100,000, then a million 
and then wre'll get to the power. World development 
to them was only an accumulation of -quantities: 
10,000, 100,000, etc. etc. Now we have an absolut- 
ely different situation. We are in a period of de- 
clining capitalism, of crises that become more 
turbulent and terrible and approaching war. Dur- 
ing a war the workers learn very quickly. If you 
say we'll wait and see and then propagate, then 
we'll be not the vanguard, but the rear-guard. 
If you ask me: Is it possible that the American 
workers will conquer power in ten years? I 
will say, yes, absolutely possible. The explosion 
of the CIO shows that the basis of the capitalist 
society is undermined. Workers' militia and work- 
ers^ control of production are only two sides of 
the same question. The worker is not a bookkeeper. 
When he asks for the books, he wants to change 
the situation, by control and then by direction. 
Naturally our advancing slogans depends upon the 
reaction we meet in the masses. When we see the 
reaction of the masses, we know what side of the 
question to emphasize. We will say Roosevelt 
will help the unemployed by the war industry. 
But if we workers ran production, we would find . 
another industry, not one for the dead but for the 
living. This question can become understandable 
even for an average worker who never participated 
in a political movement. We underestimate the 
^-evolutionary movement in the working masses. 
We are a small organization, propagandistic and in 
such situations are more sceptical than the masses 
who develop very quickly. At the beginning of 
1917 Lenin said that the party is ten times more 
revolutionary than its Central Committee and the 
masses a hundred times more revolutionary than 
the ranks of the party. 

There is not in the US a revolutionary situation now. 
But comrades with very revolutionary ideas in 
quiet times can become a real brake upon the move - 
ment in revolutionary situations-it happens often. 
A revolutionary party waits so often and so long 
for a revolution that it gets used to postpone it. 

JPC: You see that phenomenon in strikes-- 
they sweep the country and take the revolutionary 
party by surprise. Do we put forward this transi- 
tional program in the trade unions? 

Crux: Yes, we propagandize this program in 
the trade unions, propose it as the basic program 
for the labor party. For us it is a transitional 
program but for them it is the program. Now 
it's a question of workers' control of production. 
But you can realize this program only through a 
workers' and farmers' government. Wemustmake 
this slogan popular. 

JPC: Is this also to be put forward as a 
transitional program or is this a pseudonym for 



the dictatorship of the proletariat? 

Crux: In our mind it leads to the dictatorship 
of the proletariat. We say to the workers and 
farn:ier-<=J: You want Lewis as president- -well 
that depends upon his program. Lewis plus 
Green plus La Follette as representatives of the 
farmers? That too depends upon the program. 
We try to concretize, to make more precise the 
program, then the workers' and farmers' govern- 
ment signifies a government of the proletariat 
which leads the farmers. 

SH: How do you reconcile this with the origin- 
al statement that we can not advocate the organ- 
ization of a reformist labor party? I would like 
to get clear in my mind what concretely does 
our comrade do when his trade union is affiliat- 
ed to the NPLL and he is sent as a delegate to 
the Labor Party, There the question comes up 
of what to do in the elections and it is proposed: 
''Let us support La Guardia/' Concretely how 
does the matter present itself to our comrades? 

Crux: Here we are in a trade union meeting 
to discuss the affiliation to the NPLL, I will 
say in the trade union: First, the unification of 
the unions on a political plan is a progressive step. 
There is a danger that it will fall into the hands 
of our enemies. 1 therefore propose two measures: 
1) That we have only workers and farmers as our 
representatives; that we do not depend on so-called 
parliamentary friends; 2) That our representa- 
tives follow out our program, this program. We 
then map out concrete plans concerning unemploy- 
ment, military budget, etc. Then I say, if you 
propose me as a candidate, you know my program. 
If you send me as your representative I will 
fight for this program in the NPLL, in the labor 
party. When the NPLL makes a decision to vote 
for La Guardia, I either resign with protest or 
protest and remain: ''I can't vote for La Guardia, 
I have my mandate." We get large new possibil- 
ities for propaganda.. 

The dissolution of our organization is absolut- 
ely excluded. We make absolutely clear that we 
have our organization, our press, etc., etc. It is 
a question of the relationship of forces. Comrade 
Dunne says we cannot fyet advocate in the unions- 
support for the SWP. Why? Because we are too 
weak. And we can't say to the workers: Wait 
till we become more authoritative, more power- 
ful. We must intervene in the movement as it 
is... 

SH: If there were no movement for a labor 
party and we would be opposed to the creation of 
one, how does that effect the program itself-- 
it would still be our transitional program. I don't 
understand when you say we can't advocate a 
reformist party but we do advocate and become 



champions of labor party movements for the pi^^^ 
of imposing the workers' will politically. 

Crux: It would be absurd to say that we advo- 
cate a reformist party. We can say to the leaders 
of the NPLL: ''You're making of this movement 
a purely opportunistic appendage to the Demo- 
crats." It's a question of a pedagogical approach. 
How can We say that we advocate the creation of 
a reformist party? We say vou cannot -impose 
your will through a reformist party but only through 
a revolutionary party? The Stalinists and liberals 
wish to make of this movement a reformist party 
but we have our program, we make of this a 
revolutionary... 

JPC: How can you ^plain a revolutionary labor 
party? We say: the SWPHs the only revolutionary 
party, has the only revolutionary program. How 
then can you explain to the workers that also the 
labor party is a revolutionary party? 

Crux: I will not say that the labor party is 
a revolutionary party, but that we will do every- 
thing to make it possible. At every meeting I 
will say: I am a representative of the SWP. I 
consider it the only revolutionary party. But I 
am not a sectarian. You are trying now to create 
a big workers' party. I will help you but I pro- 
pose that you consider such a program for this 
party. I make such and such propositions. I 
begin with this. Under these conditions it would 
be a big step forward. Why not say openly what 
is ? Without any camouflage, without any diplo- 
macy. 

JPC: Up until now the question has always 
been put abstractly. The question of the program 
has never been outlined as you have outlined it. 
The Lovestoneites have always been for a labor 
party, but they have no program, it's combinations 
from the top. It seems to me that if we have a 
program and always point to it , . . 



Crux: First there is the program, and then 
the statutes that assures the domination of the 
trade unions as against the individual liberals, 
petty bourgeois, etc. Otherwise it can become a 
labor party by social composition, a capitalist 
party in policy. 

JPC: It seems to me that in Minneapolis it's 
too much an organizational struggle, a struggle 
for the control of the organization between the 
Stalinists and us. We have to develop in Minnea- 
polis a programmatic fight against the Stalinists 
in the FLP, as we yesterday utilized the vote 
about the Ludlow Amendment, 

SH: Now with the Imminence of the outbreak 




of war the labor party can become a trap. And 
I still can't understand how the labor party can 
be different from a reformist, purely parliament- 
ary party. 

Crux: You put the question too abstractly. Nat- 
urally it can crystallize into a reformist party 
and one that will exclude us. But we must be mrt 



„v,+ Wp must sav to the Stalmists, 

r the movement, we mu&i &ciy 
°^ X -4. o, ot^ • "We are in favor ot a 
j^ovestoneites, etc..^ vo,, are doin- everything to 
.evolutionary party. You are aom 
^ vp U reformist." But we always pomt to our 
^tram An'we propose our program of trans- 

fograni. i^u" i^ h question and the 

program in that situation. 




PA„ ,1 ■ MAY 3,, T^JE!S2i!I! 

■ ■^■* -v-^^^^ +r. Vvniid trad 



1 

I 




i Question: In the ranks of our party the quest- 
ion which seems most disputed in relation to ace- J 
epting the program of transitional demands is that 
dealing with the labor party in the United States. 
Some comrades maintain that it is incorrect to ad- 
vocate the formation of a labor party, holding that 
■there is no evidence to indicate any widespread 
^sentiment for such a party, that if there were such 
a party in process of formation, or even widespread 
sentiment then we would meet it with a program 
that would give to this movement a revolutionary 
content - but in view of the lack of such object- 
ive factors this part of the thesis is opportunistic. 
Could you clarify this point further? 

|Crux: I believe that it is necessary to remind 
jjulselves of the most elementary facts from the 
history of the development of the workers' move- 
ment in general and the trade unions in particular. 
In this respect we find different types of develop- 
ment of the working class in different countries. 
Every country has a specific type of development 
but we classify them in general. , 

m Austria and in Russia especially the workers 
movement began as a political movement, as a party 
movement. That was the first step. The Social 
Democracy in its first stage hoped that the socialist 
reconstruction of society was near but it happenea 
that capitalism was strong enough to last for a time. 
A long period of prosperity passed and the Social 
Democracy was forced to organize trade umons. in 
such countries as Germany, Austria, and especially 
in Russia where trade unions were unknown, they 
were initiated, constructed, and guided by a poli- 
tical party, the Social Democracy. 

Another type of development is that disclosea 
in the Latin countries, in France, and especially 
"' Spain. Here the party movement and the trade 
iion movement are almost independent of onean- 
Jier and under different banners, even toa certain 
Igree antagonistic to one another. The party i 
I parliamentary machine. The trade unions are 
^ a certain degree in France - more in Spam - 
*nder the leadership of anarchists. 

The third type is provided by Great Britair* 
e United States, and more or less by the domin 
fohs. England is the classic country of trade un 



■^n., Thev began to build trade unions at the end of 

Zi^ZcIr^Z before the French ^^^^ 

; tv,p en called industrial revolution. (In the 

cvstem ) In England the working class didn t have 
^S^endentirty. The trade umons.ei. organi- 
Utions oftheworkingclass inreaUtytheor a 
nation of the labor aristocrats, the higher strata, xn 
Sp-land there was an aristocratic proletariat, at 
fJSt'n is upper strata, becaitse the British bour- 
leMsie enjoying almost monopoly control of the 
foAd i^aSS: could give a small Part of the wealth 
to -working el- and - a^orb P^^^ 
ional income. The traae umu after a 

abstract that from the bourgeoisie. O^lV alter a 
f HrPd vears did the trade unions begin to build 
hundred years did absolutely contrary 

to GermarorAusiria. There the party awakened 
the woXg Class and built up the trade unions. 

"'tSat^'were the reasons for this change? It 
.as'r: tT^hVcomplete dec.me o. EngUsh cap.^ 
italism Which ^-gan ;ejyj^,^^^^^^ 
party is only a ^°^f|; ^^^f^'^^t^e world War. What 
prominence ^JPf-f^^^" f ,us .ell known that 

t i^iTeTo^roiS^ t^:^^-^ 

control of the world "^^^^f*' ^'J'Son of GeLany 
Of the 19th century wi* the -nipeWion .^.^ ^^^^ .^^ 
and of the United States. The do fe ^etariat 

ability to give the leading strata of^^^^^^^^ ^^^^ ^,^ 

' ^^SloCp ove the'siSion of the worker, 
possibility to impro ^^f oliticial act- 

and they were pushed ""to theroa generalization 
ion because political act on is th g ^^^^.^^^ 

of economic ---J°f and ad^ressL them not 
the needs of the ^^^^^''^.^.^..to the bourgeoisie 
to the parts of the bourgeoisie but to the dou s 

as a whole organized in the state. 

Now in the United States we can say that the 
* oi/r. fp^tures of English development are 



after the Civil War but these trade unions were very 
backward even compared with the trade unions of 
Great Britain, To a great degree they were mixed 
trade unions of employers and employees, not 
fighting, militant trade unions. They were sectional 
and tiny. They were based on the. craft system not 
according to industry, and we see that it is only 
during the last two or three years that the genuine 
trade unions developed in the United States. This 
new movement is the CIO. 

What is the reason for the appearance of the 
CIO? It is the decay of American capitalism. 
In Great Britain the beginning of the decay of the 
capitalist system forced the existing trade unions 
to unite into a political party. In the United States 
the same phenomenon -- the beginning of the de- 
cline -- produced only the industrial trade unions, 
but these trade unions appeared on the scene only 
in time to meet the new chapter of the decline of 
capitalism, or --more correct --we can say that 
the first crisis of 1929-1933 gave the push and end- 
ed in the organization of the CIO. But scarcely or- 
ganized, the CIO meets the second crisis, 193 7-1938 
which continues and deepens. 

What does this fact signify? That' it was a long 
time in the United States before the organization 
of trade unions but now that genuine trade unions 
exist, they must make the same evolution as the 
English trade unions. That is, on the basis. of de- 
clining capital, they are forced to turn to political 
action. I believe that this is the most important fact 
of the whole matter. 

The question reads, ''There is no evidence to 
indicate ^any widespread sentiment for such a par- 
ty,^^ You will remember that when we discussed 
this question with other comrades there were some 
divergences of this question. I cannot judge whether 
sentiment for a labor party exists or not because 
I have no personal observations or impressions, 
but I do not find it decisive as to what degree the 
leaders of the trade unions or the rank and file 




VINGENT DUNNE 



are ready or inclined to build a political party. 
It is very difficult to establish objective information. 
We have no machine to take a referendum. We can 
measure the mood only by action if the slogan is 
put on the agenda. But what we can say is that the 
objective situation is absolutely decisive. The trade 
unions as trade unions can have only a defensive ac- 
tivity, losing members andbecomingmoreandmore 
weak as the crisis deepens, creating more and more 
unemployed. The treasury becomes poorer and 
poorer, the tasks bigger and bigger while their 
means smaller and smaller. It is a fact; we can- 
not change it. The trade • union bureaucracy be- 
comes more and more disoriented, the rank and 
file more and more dissatisfied and this dissat- 
isfaction becomes greater and greater the higher 
were their hopes in the CIO, and especially in 
view of the unprecedented growth of the GIO-- 
in two or three years 4,000,000 fresh people on 
the field facing objective handicaps which can not 
be eliminated by the trade unions. In this sit- 
uation we must give an answer. If the trade union 
leaders are not ready for political action we must 
ask them to develop a nev/ political orientation. 
If they refuse we denounce them. That is the 
objective situation, 

I say here what I said about the whole program 
of transitional demands. The problem is not the 
mood of the masses but the objective situation, 
and our job is to confront the backward material 
of the masses with the tasks which are determined 
by objective facts and not by psychology. The 
same is absolutely correct for this specific question 
on the labor party. If the class struggle is not 
to be crushed, replaced by demoralization, then 
the movement must find a new channel and this 
channel is political; That is the fundamental ar- 
gument in favor of this slogan. 

We claim to have Marxism or Scientific Soc- 
ialism, What does "Scientific Socialism'' signify 
in reality? It signifies that the party which repre- 
sents this social science, departs, as every science 
not from subjective wishes, tendencies, or moods 
but from objective facts, from the material situ- 
ation of the different classes and their relation- 
ships. Only by this method can we establish 
demands adequate to the objective situation and 
only after this can we adapt these demands and 
slogans to the given mentality of the masses . 
But to begin with this mentality as the fundamental 
fact would signify not a scientific but a conjunc- 
tural, demogogic, or adventuristic policy. 

One can ask why we didn't forsee this devel- 
opment five, six, seven years ago? Why did we 
declare during the past period that we were not 
willing to fight for this slogan of the labor party? 
The explanation is very sim'ple. We were abso- 
lutely sure, we Marxists, the initiators of the 
American movement for the Fourth International, 
that world capitalism had entered into a period of 
decline. That is the period when the working class . 
is objectively educated and moves subjectively, 




preparing for the socialist revolution. The direct- 
ion Avas the same in the United States, but the 
question of: direction is not sufficient. The other 
question Is the speed of its development; and in 
this respect, in view of the strength of American 
capitalism, some of us, and myself among them, 
imagined that the ability of American capitalism 
to resist against the destructive inner contra- 
dictions would be greater and that for a certain 
period American capitalism might use the de- 
cline of European capital to cover a period of 
prosperity before its own decline. How long a 
period? Ten to thirty years one could say? Any 
way T personally didn't see that this sharp crisis 
or series of crises would begin in the next period 
and become deeper and deeper. That is why eight 
years ago when I discussed this question with A- 
merican comrades I was very cautious. -I was 
very cautious in my prognosis. My opinion was 
that we couldn't forsee when the American trade 
unions would come into a period where they could 
be forced into political action. If this critical 
period started in ten to fifteen years, then we, the 
revolutionary organization, could become a great 
power directly influencing the trade unions and 
becoming the leading force. That is why it would 
be absolutely pedantic, abstract, artificial to pro- 
claim the necessity for the labor party in 1930 and 
this abstract slogan would be a handicap to our own 
party. That was at the beginning of the preceding 
crisis. Then that this period would be followed by 
a new crisis even more deep with an influence 
five to ten times more profound because it is a 
repetition! 

Now we must not reckon by our prognosis of 
festerday but by the situation of today. American 
^pitalism is very strong but its contradictions 
*re stronger than capitalism itself. The speed of 
decline came at American speed and this created 
a new situation for the new trade unions, the CIO 
even more than the AFL. In this situation it is 
worse for the CIO than the AFL because the AFL is 
more capable of resistance due to its aristocratic 
base. We must change our program because the 
objective situation is totally different from our 
former prognosis. 

What does this signify? That we are sure the 
orking class - the trade unions will adhere to 
^le slogan of the labor party? No, we are not sure 
|iat tfte workers will adhere to the slogan of the la- 
OY party. When we begin the fight we cannot be sure 
^f being victorious. We can only say that our slo- 
:an corresponds to the objective situation and the 
lest elements will understand and the most back- 
ard elements who don't understand will be compro- 
ised. 
In Minneapolis we cannot say to the trade unions 
should adhere to the Socialist- Workers Party 
;ould be a joke even in Minneapolis, Why? 
;ause the decline of capitalism develops ten 
a hundred times faster than the speed of our 
►arty. It is a new discrepancy. The necessity 



of a political party for the workers is given by 
the objective conditions, but our party is too 
small with too little authority in order to organize 
the workers into its own ranks. That is why 
we must say to the workers, the masses, you 
must have a party. But we cannot say immediately 
to these masses, you must, join our party. In a 
mass meeting 500 would agree ontheneedfor a la- 
bor party, only five agree to join our party, 
which shows that the slogan of a labor party is 
an agitational slogan. The second slogan is for the 
more advanced. 

Should we use both slogans or one? I say both. 
The first, independent labor party, prepares the 
arena for our party. The first slogan prepares 
and helps the workers to advance and prepares 
the path for our party. That is the sense of our 
slogan. We say that we will not be satisfied with, 
this abstract slogan which even today is not so 
abstract as ten years ago because the objective 
situation is different. It is not concrete enough. 
We must show to the workers what this party should 
be, an independent party, not for Roosevelt or La 
FoUette, a machine for the workers themselves.. 
That is why on the field of election it must have 
its own candidates. Then we must introduce our 
transitional slogans, not all at once, but as occa- 
sion arises, first one and then the other. That 
is why I see absolutely no justification for not 
accepting this slogan. I see only a psychological 
reason. Our comrades in fighting against Loves - 
toneites wanted our own party and not this abstract 
party. Now it is disagreeable. Naturally the 
Stalinists will say we are Fascists, etc. But 
it is not a principled question; it is a tactical 
question. To Lovestone it will seem that we lose 
face before the Lovestoneites, but this is nothing. 
We orient not according to Lovestone but accord- 
ing to the needs of the working class. I believe 
that even from the point of view of our competi- 
tion with the Lovestoneites it is a plus and not a 
minus. In a meeting against a Lovestoneite I 
would explain what our position was and why we 
changed. ''At that time you Lovestoneites attack- 
ed us. Good. Now in this question which was so 
important to you we have changed our mind. 
Now what do you have against the Fourth Inter- 
national?' I am sure we will prepare a split 
in this manner among the Lovestoneites. In this 
sense I see no obstacles. 

Before finishing--a correction in the formulation 
of the question: The labor party proposal is not 
a part of the program of transitional demands but 
is a special motion. 

Question: In a trade union does one advocate 
a 'labor party' % vote for it? 

Crux: Why not? In the case of a trade union 
where the question comes up, I will get up and 
say that the need for a labor party is absolutely 
proved by all the events. It is proved that econ- 



omic action is not enough. We need political act- 
ion. In a union T will say what counts is the con- 
tent of the labor party, that is why I reserve 
something: Jo say about the program, but T will 
vote for it. 

Question: The workers seem absolutely apa- 
thetic^toward a 'labor party; their leaders are 
doing nothing and the Stalinists are for Roosevelt, 

Crux: But that is characteristic of a certain 
period where there is no program. Where they 
don^ see the new road. It is absolutely necess- 
ary to overcome this apathy. It is absolutely nec- 
essary to give a new slogan. 

Question: Some comrades have even collected 
.figures tending to prove that the labor party move- 
|:ment is actually declining among the workers. 

Crux: There is a major line and then minor 
oscillations as for example the moods of the CIO. 
First aggressiveness. Now in the crisis the CIO 
appears a thousand times more dangerous than 



before to the capitalists, but the leaders are afraid 
to break with Roosevelt. The masses wait. They 
are disoriented, unemployment is increasing. It 
is possible to prove that t^he sentiment has de- 
creased since a year ago. Possibly the Stalin- 
ist influence adds to this but this is only a second- 
ary oscillation and it is very dangerous to base 
ourselves upon the secondary oscillations since in 
a short time the major movement becomes more 
imperative and this objective necessity will find 
its subjective expression in the heads of the work- 
ers, especially if we help them. The party is a 
historic instrument to help the workers. 



Question: Some of the members who came 
from' the Socialist Party complain that at that 
time they were for a labor party and were con- 
vinced in arguing with the Trotskyists that they 
were wrong. Now they must switch back. 

Crux: Yes, it is a pedagogical question, but 
it is a good school for the comrades. Now they 
can see dialectical development better than before! 



PART III - JULY 20, 1938 MEXICO CITY 



Question: What influence can ''prosperity'', 
an economic rise of American capitalism in the 
next period, have upon our activity as based on 
the transitional program? 

Crux: It is very difficult to answer because 
it is an equation with many unknown elements, 
magnitudes. The first question is if a conjunc- 
tural improvement is probable in the near future. 
It is very difficult to answer, especially for a 
person who does not follow the charts from day 
to day. As I see from the New York Times, 
the business index showed a very confused ten- 
dency. During the last week there was a loss, 
two weeks before a rise, and so on. 

If you consider the general picture we see that 
a new crisis has begun, showing an almost ver- 
tical line of decline up until January of this year, 
then the line becomes hesitant- -a zigzag line, 
but with general declining tendency. But the dec- 
line during this year is undoubtedly slower than 
the decline during the nine months of the pre- 
ceding year. 

If we consider the preceding period beginning 
with the slump of 1929, we see that the crisis 
lasted almost three and a half years before the 
upturn began, with some smaller ups and downs, 
lasting four and a half years --it was Roosevelt 
''prosperity''. In this way the last cycle was of 
eight years, three and a half years of crisis and 
four and a half years of relative "prosperity'', 
eight years being considered as a normal time 
lor a capitalist cycle. 



Now the new crisis began in August, 1937, 
and in nine months has reached the point which 
was reached in the preceding crisis in two and 
a half years. It is very difficult to make a prog- 
nosis now concerning the time, the point of a new 
rise. If we consider the new slump from the 
point of view of its deepness, I repeat, the work 
of two and a half years is completed by the crisis, 
yet it has not reached the lowest point of the 
preceding crisis. If we consider the new crisis 
from the point of view of time — nine years, or 
seven, eight years, it would be too early for a 
new up-movement. That is why I repeat that 
prognosis is difficult. Is it necessary that the 
new crisis should reach the same point--the low- 
est point--as the preceding crisis? It is prob- 
able, but it is not absolutely sure. What is charac- 
teristic of the new cycle is that ''prosperity" 
did not reach the high point of preceding pros- 
perity, but from that we can not make in an ab- 
stract manner a conclusion about the nadir. What 
characterizes the Roosevelt prosperity is the fact 
that it was a movement mainly of the light in- 
dustries,, not of the building trades, the heavy 
industries. This made. this movement develop in 
a very limited fashion. That is precisely the 
reason why the breakdown came so catastrophic- 
ally, because the new cycle did not have a solid 
basis of heavy industries, especially of the build- 
ing trades industries which are characterized by new 
investments with a long-term perspective and so 
on. 

Now we can theoretically suppose that the new 



19 



up-movement will include more than building in- 
dustries—the heavy industries in general- -in view 
of the fact that despite consumption during the 
last period the machinery was not renewed suffic- 
iently and now the demand for it will be greater 
fian during the last conjuncture. It is possible 
it can give a greater, a more solid up-movement 
than the preceding.- It is absolutely not contra- 
dictory to our general analysis of a sick, declin- 
ing capitalism causing greater and greater misery. 
This theoretical possibility is to a certain degree 
supported by the military investment in public 
relief works. It signifies from a large historical 
point of view that the nation becomes poorer in 
order to permit better conjunctures today and to- 
morrow. We can compare such a conjuncture 
with a tremendous expense to the general organism. 
It can be considered as possibly a new pre-war 
conjuncture, but when will it begin? Will the down- 
movement continue? It is possible --probable. In 
this sense all we said about the transitional pro- 
gram will be reinforced in every respect, but we 
are adopting a hypothesis,^ of a new up-movement 
in the next few months, in half a year or a year. 
Such a movement may be inevitable. 

To the first question, if such an up-movement 
can be more favorable to the general perspective 
before our party, I believe we can answer with 
a categorical yes, that it would be more favor- 
able for us. There can not be any reason to be-^ 
lieve that American capitalism can of itself in 
the next period become a sound, healthy capitalism, 
that it can absorb the 13 millions of unemployed. 
But the question is, if we formulate it in a very 
simple and arithmetical form-if in the next year 
or two years the industries absorb 4 millions of 
workers from the 13 millions unemployed, that 
will leave 9 million. Would that be favorable from 
the point of view of the revolutionary movement? 
I believe we can answer with a categorical yes. 
We have a situation in a country- -a very rev- 
olutionary situation in a very conservative coun- 
try- -with a subjective backwardness on the part 
of the mentality of the working class. In such a 
situation, economic pickups— sharp economic pick- 
ups, ups and downs --from a historical point of 
view have a secondary character but in the immed- 
iate sense have a profound effect on the lives of 
millions of workers. Today they have a very 
great importance. Such shake-ups are of a very 
great revolutionary importance. They shake off 
their conservativeness; they force them to seek 
an account of what is happening, what is the per- 
spective. And every such shake-up pushes some 
stratum of the workers on the revolutionary road. 
More concretely, now the American workers 
are in an impasse -a blind alley. The big move- 
ment, the CIO, has no immediate perspective be- 
cause it is not guided by a revolutionary party 
and the difficulties of the CIO are very great. 
From the other side, the revolutionary elements 
are too weak in order to give to the movement a 



sharp turn to the political road. Imagine that 
during the next period four millions of workers 
enter the industries. It will not soften the social 
antagonism --on the contrary. It will sharpen them. 
If the industries were capable of absorbing the 13 
or 11 million of unemployed, then it would signify 
for a long period a softening of the class struggle, 
but it can only absorb a part, and the majority 
will remain unemployed. Everyunemployedperson 
sees that the employed have work. He will look 
for work, and not finding any will enter into the 
unemployed movement. I believe in this period 
our slogan of the sliding scale can receive very 
great popularity; that is, that we ask for work 
for everybody under decent conditions in a popular 
form- ^'We must find work for all, under decent 
conditions with decent salaries.'^ The first period 
of a rise— economic rise— would be very favorable, 
especially for this slogan. I believe also that 
the other very important slogan of defense, workers^ 
militia, etc., would also find favorable soil, abase, 
because through such alimitedanduncertain rise- 
economic rise-the capitalists become very anxious 
to have immediate profits and they look with great 
hostility on the unions which disturb the possibil- 
ity of new rise in profits. In such conditions I 
believe that Hague would be imitated on a large 

s cale 

The question of the labor party before the 
trade unions. . Of course the CIO through a new 
prosperity would have a new possibility of devel- 
opment. In that sense we can suppose that the 
improvement of the conjuncture would postpone 
the question of the labor party. Not that it will 
lose its whole propagandistic importance, but it 
will lose its acuteness. We can then prepare 
the progressive elements to accept this idea and 
be ready when the new crisis approaches, which 
will not be long in coming. 

I believe that this question of Hagueism has 
a tremendous importance, and that a new pros- 
perity, a new upturn, would give us greater possib- 
ilities. A new upturn will signify that the definite 
crisis, the definite conflicts are postponed for 
some years in spite of the sharp conflicts during 
the rise itself. And we have the greatest inter- 
est in winning more time because we are weak 
and the workers are not prepared in the United 
States. But even a new upturn will give us a very 
short time— the disproportion between the mentality 
and the methods of American workers in the social 
crisis, this disproportion is terrific. However, I 
have the impression that we must give some con- 
crete examples of success and not limit ourselves 
only to giving good theoretical advice. If you take 
the New Jersey situation, it is a tremendous blow 
not only to social democracy but to the working 
class. Hague is just beginning. We also are 
just beginning, but Hague is a thousand times more 
powerful. 

Of course the question of the labor party can 
not be considered independent from the general 



20 



development in the next period. If a new pros- 
perity comes for some time and postpones the 
question of a labor party, then the question will 
lor some time become more or less academic, 
. but we will continue to prepare the party in order 
I not to lose time when the question again becomes 
.' acute, but such a tremendous prosperity is not 
very probable now and if the economic situation 
remains as now, then the party can change in a 
short time. The most important fact we must 
underline is the total difference in America in 
connection with a working class from Europe. 
In Europe, let us say in Germany before Hitler 
m Austria, France now. Great Britain, the quest- 
Ion of a party for the workers was looked upon 
as a necessity, it was a commonplace for the 
vanguard of the working class and for a large 
stratum of the masses themselves. 

In the United States the situation is absolutely 
different. In France political agitation consists 
in the attempts of the CP to win the workers, 
of the SP to win the workers, and every conscious 
or semi-conscious worker stands before a choice 
Should he adhere to the SP or the CP or Radical 
SP? For the Radical Socialist Party it is not such 
a problem, since that is mostly for the foremen, 
but the workers have to choose between the SP 
and tlje CP, In the United Stateq the, situation is 
that the working class needs a party-its own 
party. It is the first step in political education. 
We can say that this first step was due five or 
ten years ago. Yes, theoretically that is so 
but insofar as the workers were more or less 
satisfied by the trade union machinery, and even 
lived without this machinery, the propaganda in 
favor of a working class party was more or less 
theoretical, abstract and coincided with the pro- 
paganda of certain centrist and communist groups 
and so on. Now the situation has changed. It 
IS an objective fact in the sense that the new 
trade unions created by the workers came to 
an impasse— a blind alley--and the only way for 
workers already organized in trade unions is to 

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join their forces in order to influence legislation 
to influence the class struggle. The working class 
stands before an alternative. Either the trade 
unions will be dissolved or they will join for pol 
itical action. That is the objective situation not 
created by us, and in this sense the agitation for 
a working class party becomes now not an abstract 
but a totally concrete step in progress for the 
workers organized in the trade unions in the first 
instance and for those not organized at all. In 
the second place it is an absolutely concrete task 
determined by economic and social conditions. It 
would be absurd for us to say that because the 
new party issues from the political amalgamation 
of the trade unions it will of necessity be ooport- 
unistic. We will not invite the workers to'make 
this same step in the same way as abroad. Of 
course if we had any real choice between a re- 
formist party or a revolutionary party, we would 
say this is your address (meaning the revolutionary 
party.) But a party is absolutely necessary. It 
is the only road for us in this situation. To 
say that we will fight against opportunism, as of 
course we will fight today and tomorrow, especially 
if the working class party had been organized, by 
blocking a progressive step which can produce 
opportunism, is a very reactionary policy, and 
sectarianism is often reactionary because it opp- 
oses the necessary action of the working class... 
I believe that the most fighting elements in 
the trade unions should be our youth, who should 
not oppose our movement to the labor party but 
go inside the labor party, even a very opportunist 
labor party. They must be inside. That is their 
duty. That our young com rades separate the trans - 
itional program from the labor party is understand- 
able because the transitional program is an inter- 
national question, but for the United States they are 
connected— both questions -and I believe that some 
of our young comrades accept the transitional pro- 
gram without good understanding of its meaning, 
for otherwise the formal separation of it would 
lose for them all importance. 



WORKERS LEAGUE BRAMCHES 

Toronto 
Rm. 27 



Cincinnati 
P.O. Box 12061 

New Yorli 
Rm 8 
243 E. 10 St. 

San Francisco 
644 Oak St. 

BULLETIN OF INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM 
Room 8 243 E. 10 Street NYC 



165 Spadina 

Minneapolis 
P.O. Box 14002, 
Univ. Sta. 



J