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chapter one: The Failure of the Socialist Party 
and the Reason Why 

Success Was Possible, 4. Why the Socialist Party Failed, 5, 

chapter two : A Generation of Reformism and Its 
Disastrous Effects 

l The Socialist Party's Failure to Assume Mass 
Le\dership, 9. a. Passivity in Strikes and Other Struggles, 
9 i) Contradictory Industrial Union Policy, 11. C Anti- 
Labor Party Tendency 13. d. Opportunist Trade Union 
Neutrality, 15. E. Opportunist War Policy, IT. F. Sabotag- 
ing the Russian Revolution, 18. a Neck Deep in Class Col- 
laboration, 20. H. Socialist Party Inertia in the Crisis, 23. 
A Word in Summary, 24. 

chapter three: A Generation of Reformism and 
Its Disastrous Effects (Continued) 

•> The War Against the Left Wing, 26. The Two 
~Win« of the Party, 27. Early Phases of the Inner-Party 
Struggle, 30. The 1912 Split, 32. The 1919 Split, 35. 
The Communist Party, 37. 

chapter four: The Present Situation in the So- 
cialist Party 

The Turn to the Left, 41. The Socialist Party's Petty- 
Bourgeois Leadership, 42. 

1 The Question of the Daily Mass Struggles, 43 
a' The New Socialist Party Sectarian Reformism, 44 
B Under-estimation of Immediate Demands, 45. c. The 
Retreat Before Fascism, 47. D. A Reactionary Peace 1 olicy, 
50. E. A Sectarian Labor Party Policy, 5 3. F. Thomas 
Defeatism, 5 5. 

2 The Question ok Cultivating the Revolutionary 
Forces, 56. a. Reformist Theoretical W lakness 56, b. 
Hostility Against the United Front, 60. c. Unfriendly Atte 
,,,,1, Towards the Soviet Union, 63, The Perspective of 
the ' alisi Party, 65. 

P ... BOS i|S, 6TA. D, NEW YORK CITY. NOVEMBER, l 93 6 





The Failure of the Socialist Party and the 
Reason Why 

WHEN the Socialist Labor Party split in 1900-1901, and gave 
birth to the Socialist Patty, this was a progressive development. 
The Socialist Labor Party, although some twenty-three years in the 
field, had not been able to root itself firmly among the American 
masses. It remained a skeleton organization of the foreign-born, 
and its program and activities had little immediate relation to the lite 
of the native workers. The main cause of this was its narrow 
sectarian policy, especially in the previous ten years under the leader- 
ship of Daniel De Leon. , T , 

In 1900, capitalism was undergoing a very rapid expansion. 1 he 
working class was also growing swiftly and its grievances and strug- 
gles were multiplying. There was an urgent need for a better organi- 
sation of the workers' struggles, economically and politically, in the 
* light of a revolutionary goal for the working class. In this situation 
o breaking through the hard sectarian shell of the Socialist Labor 
Party, the Socialist Party came into existence. . 

Great hopes were placed in the new organization by the bulk 
roof the revolutionary elements of the time. And during the oncoming 
?lyears these revolutionary forces put forth the most intense efforts to 
Strengthen the party. Many thousands of workers made the building 
Sof the Socialist Party their life's work. They struggled and fough 
©If or it, and prepared and distributed seas of propaganda. At tunes it 
looked as though their efforts would succeed, for the Socialist Party 
Iradually grew in membership and influence. It appeared that the 
American party would be able to progress as fast as the rapidly grow- 
ing Socialist Parties in other capitalist countries. 

g But since the formation of the Socialist Party thirty-five years 
have passed, and what do we see? The Socialist Party into which so 
much devoted work was put, is today small, stagnant and weak; m 
Set is actually declining both in organizational strength and influence 
In 1903, the Socialist Party had 15,970 members, and in 1935 it 




had 19,121 or just about the number it started with a generation 
before, and it is now rapidly losing membership. The Socialist Party's 
vote in 1932 was 883,342, or less than the 897,01 1 which it polled 
in 1912. Twenty-five years ago the Party's trade union influence also 
was many times greater than it is at the present time. The Party has r 
long since lost its single representative in Congress, And so it is on 
all fronts: stagnation and decline. To cap the climax, the Socialist 
Party is now undergoing a national split which has thrown the Party 
into confusion, is causing it a heavy loss in membership, and is gen- 
erally creating a critical situation. 

Obviously, the Socialist Party, like the Socialist Labor Party before 
it, has failed. That is the meaning of its present crisis. The Socialist 
Party has not been the means of winning the American masses 
ideologically for socialism nor of providing them with the necessary 
effective political organization. The reality of the failure of the So- 
cialist Party is emphasized by the very existence of the Communist 
Party. It was only because the Socialist Party did not function as an 
effective revolutionary organization of the American working class 
that the Communist Party came into being. 

Success Was Possible 

It is a pertinent question to ask why this miserable showing of 
the Socialist Party over so many years? Is this the best that could 
have been done for socialism in the greatest capitalist country in the 
world? The workers have the right to a correct answer to this 
question. No party can claim the sole right to carry the banner^ of 
socialism unless it can effectively defend it. Self-criticism is a cardinal 
Leninist virtue and the Socialist Party has great need at present to 
practice it. The lessons to be learned should be helpful in bringing 
the Socialist Party out of its present serious crisis. 

The customary explanation for the inability of the Socialist Party 
to grow is that it was because of the great objective difficulties in the 
United States that it had to contend with. There is much merit in 
this contention; but as we shall see, it does not explain basically the 
failure of the Socialist Party. 

Among the big objective factors militating against the develop- 
ment of class consciousness among the workers and the building of a 
revolutionary party in the United States were (a) the existence of 
plentiful government free land during several generations; (b) the 


traditionally higher wage and living standards; (c) the development 
of a large and conservative labor aristocracy made up principally of 
American-born workers; (d) the presence of millions of low-paid 
disfranchised immigrant workers of Various nationalities, languages, 
religions and traditions; (e) the passage of large numbers of workers 
into the ranks of the petty bourgeois^ and many even into the big 
bourgeoisie during the long period o;f industrial expansion; (f) the 
existence of a relatively high degree q>f the formal democratic rights 
of free speech, free press, free assembly, to organize and strike, to 
be elected to any office, the fiction o f legalized social equality, etc., 
which were won by the toilers many years before in the early stages 
of the bourgeois revolution and which no longer served as major 
issues of immediate political struggle (as, for example, they did 
in Germany, Austria and other European countries). 

These many economic, political an d social factors undoubtedly 
tended powerfully to blur class line Sj to create bourgeois property 
illusions among the workers, and to prevent their independent political 
organization as a class. But they did not stifle the class struggle 
altogether. Far from it. The American working masses bitterly 
resented the brutal and ferocious exploitation to which they were 
subjected, and they resolutely fought against it. This is amply shown 
by their long history of determined trade union struggles. Prior to 
the great war no country in the world except tsarist Russia had such 
a record of violent and fiercely fought strikes as the United States. 
The workers' strong class instinct and fighting trade union spirit were 
the raw material out of which a real revolutionary party could have 
been built. Not as big a party perhaps as in some European coun- 
tries, yet certainly a strong, healthy, growing organization. But the 
Socialist Party proved glaringly incapable of educating these dis- 
contented masses, of raising their struggle from the economic to the 
political sphere, and of building a strong party from their ranks. It is 
our task to learn the reasons why. 

Why the Socialist Party Failed 

When the Socialist Party broke through the crust of Socialist 
Labor Party sectarianism and took U p its work of education and 
organization it found indeed a very h^rd problem before it; one more 
difficult in fact than that faced by the Socialist Party in any major 
capitalist Country. The working cla^s, in the grip of a tremendous 


ruling class propaganda, was thoroughly saturated with capitalist 
illusions; the trade unions were already in the hands of the deeply 
reactionary Gompers clique; the great mass of workers were still 
tied to the two big capitalist parties. Therefore, the most elementary 
work of enlightenment and organization stood before the Party. 

In this difficult situation, in order to grow and to put itself at 
the head of these backward masses, dominated by ruthless capitalist 
enemies, the Socialist Party had boldly to tackle the great problems 
of mass education, organization and struggle confronting it It had 
to militantly wrest the leadership of the masses out of the hands of 
the capitalists and their labor agents. It had to be a fighting party, a 
party of militant proletarian class struggle. 

This meant that to develop such a policy of Marxian class strug- 
gle, the Socialist Party had to fulfil two major and basic conditions: 
(1) to give active political leadership to the workers in their every- 
day fights for immediate and burning economic and political de- 
mands* and (2) systematically to educate its own membership and 
mass following in the principles of Marxian Socialism. Only >nth« 
manner could the Socialist Party come forward as the real vanguard 
of the workers in the class struggle and at the same time build up 
a strong body of revolutionary fighters to serve as the very founda- 
tion and structure of the Party and all its work. 

The validity of such a policy of Marxian class struggle is demon- 
strated by the whole history of the American labor movement. No 
o-g nization can make headway against the powerful American capi- 
talist class without an aggressive, fighting policy. For example h 
trade unions have always grown most in their periods of greate 
militancy, and stagnated most in their periods of intense* class col- 
IXatS. Recent expre S sions of this truth were the rapid expansion 
of the trade unions during the great strike wave of 1933-1934 and 
the paralyzing decay that set in among them during the period of 
wL^real class collaboration in the so-called good times from 

'^Anothrelmentary proof of the effectiveness and i correctne^ >of 
the oolicv of class struggle is furnished by the growth of the Commu 

nist P Z in numbers and influence. Although the Communist Party 
nist Party n num ^ ^^ four t]mes as 

I^;;'^! . "AVoli^dtd heihv, while .he Sod* Part. 
Tmn wTh factionalism. The Communis. Party, moreover, has had 


to face far greater persecution than was ever the case with the So- 
cialist Party, exemplified by the Palmer Red raids in which thousands 
were arrested, wholesale expulsions from the trade unions and indus- 
tries by reactionary American Federation of Labor leaders, violent 
attacks by the capitalist press, government deportations, etc. The 
growth of the Communist Party in the face of these difficulties is to 
be ascribed to its brave and tireless class struggle policy. 

Still another demonstration of the correctness of the class struggle 
policy is provided by the history of the Socialist Party itself. The best 
periods of growth of the Socialist Party were exactly those in which 
its policies, because of Left wing pressure, took on more of a class 
struggle character (thus 1907-1912), and it was exactly during 
those periods in which the Socialist Party plunged most deeply into 
class collaboration (for example, 1923-1932) that the Party was 
weakest and least effective in the class struggle. 

From all this we are led directly to the principal cause of the 
Socialist Party's failure historically. This failure was caused precisely 
by the fact that, except upon rare occasions, the Socialist Party has 
not carried on a policy of class struggle. On the contrary, its tradi- 
tional course has been one of opportunism, of reformism, of class 
collaboration. Throughout its history the Socialist Party has flagrantly 
violated the two fundamentals necessary to the development of the 
Marxian class struggle policy required for the building of a revolu- 
tionary party in the given American conditions. That is, ( 1 ) it has 
not come forward as the militant leader of the toiling masses in 
their daily struggle over urgent economic and political issues, but, 
instead, has systematically evaded assuming such leadership; (2) 
it has not striven to build up a strong body of revolutionary Marxian 
understanding among the Party membership and mass following, 
but, on the contrary, has definitely hindered and checked the growth 
of such revolutionary education. 

The reformist, opportunist policy which the Socialist Party has 
traditionally followed was the natural consequence of the composition 
of its decisive leading forces. From its inception, the Socialist Party 
attracted many elements of the city petty bourgeoisie who were 
feeling acutely the pressure of the trusts upon the middle class and 
who had no faith in the two old parties, but who in no sense were 
Marxian revolutionaries. Hence the Party became infested with a 
horde of lawyers, doctors, preachers, professors, journalists, small 

businessmen, with an occasional "millionaire" Socialist thrown in. 
And they, extra-vocal and very energetic, soon arrived at complete 
domination over the Party. 

These people, the Hillquits, Bergers, Works, Wallings, Spargos, 
Russels, Myers, Waylands, Simons, Harrimans, Bensons, Stokes, etc., 
etc., were not revolutionists. They were radicals, the Left wing of 
the petty bourgeoisie which was being crushed by monopoly capital 
and which had no party of its own. Over and above mere wordy 
differences between them, the decisive idea animating them all was to 
build the Socialist Party into a sort of progressive-populist party. To 
this end they advocated opportunist policies of government and 
municipal ownership of industry and various minor legislative re- 
forms, with the general idea of some day transforming capitalism 
into socialism through a peaceful process of the worker voting 
themselves into power and then legally buying out the industries. 

The general conception of the proletariat's role by these middle 
class elements was to serve as an instrument of the petty bourgeoisie 
in its fight for self-preservation against the advancing big capitalists. 
To them the class struggle of the workers was essentially something 
foreign, something, at best, that they only had a dilletante interest in 
and which, at worst, was a danger to their vote-catching and class 
collaboration schemes. Consequently, the middle class, intellectual 
leaders of the Party throughout its history played down every 
manifestation of working class fighting spirit. And all the way along 
through the years they distorted or suppressed the teaching of Marx- 
ism to the Party members and following and used their own power 
to check the development of, and even to drive out of the Party in 
thousands, the very revolutionary elements without whom the Party 
could not possibly be built, the Left wing of the Party. 

The general result of these long-continued reformist, non-revo- 
lutionary policies was to make it impossible to build the Socialist 
Party into a strong, revolutionary organization. The natural end- 
product of such a history is the present-day weak and stagnant 
Socialist Party. 


A Generation of Reformism and Its 
Disastrous Effects 

1. The Socialist Party's Failure to Assume 
Mass Leadership 

XJOW let us look briefly at the record of the Socialist Party and see 
concretely how it has persistently and flagrantly violated the two 
main essentials of the Marxian class struggle policy necessary for 
the building of a revolutionary party in the specific American con- 
ditions, namely, the development of the Party as the actual leader 
of the masses in the daily struggle and the cultivation of Marxian 
principles among the Party membership and mass following. We 
will take up the former essential first. Our summary of the So- 
cialist Party's experiences in this connection makes no pretense at 
being a complete history of the Party. All it does is to indicate some 
of the main opportunist errors of the Party and the lessons to be 
drawn from them. The period covered extends from the foundation 
of the Party in 1901 down to the Socialist Party convention of 
1934. As for the present tendencies of the Socialist Party, I shall 
discuss them in a later chapter. 

A. Passivity in Strikes and Other Struggles 

When the Socialist Party was formed the trade unions were 
already in the hands of the Gompers machine. The reactionary 
trade union leaders did not carry on a campaign to organize the mass 
of the unorganized, but instead confined their efforts chiefly to tin- 
narrow fringe of skilled workers. Many of these leaders were sloth- 
ful, inefficient, self-seeking, corrupt, and tied up with all kinds of 
capitalist organizations. They were open defenders of the capitalist 
system, worked hand in glove with the two capitalist parties and 
generally acted as a brake upon the development of the : vf orkers 5 
class struggle. 

In such a situation it was manjfestly the task and duty of tin 


Socialist Party to do everything within its power to stimulate and 
give political leadership to the immediate struggles of the workers, 
particularly on the trade union field. This does not mean that the 
Socialist Party should have undertaken to take the place of the trade 
unions, but it should have sought to invigorate them, to extend 
their strikes, to strengthen their organization campaigns and gen- 
erally to give practical leadership to their struggle, as against the 
reactionary policies of the Gompers machine. 

This aggressive policy offered a high road to effective mass leader- 
ship by the Party. But such a course was alien to the nature and 
policies of the Socialist Party petty-bourgeois leaders. They neither 
saw the historic task before the Party nor had the impulse to carry 
it out. They conceived the Party principally to be a propaganda organ- 
ization, a movement to further their conceptions of public ownership 
and moderate legislative reform, as well, as to conduct occasional 
election campaigns. They did not militantly lead the struggling 


Since its foundation, the Communist Party has shown how a 

party should give the lead to the trade unions and unorganized 

masses. Time and again it has mobilized its organizers and financial 

resources to support and strengthen trade union and other struggles. 

Many examples of this might be cited, such as the placing of some 

twenty paid organizers in the Pittsburgh area during the 1927 coal 

strike; the maintenance of many organizers during various Labor 

Party campaigns; the extensive organization crews built up during 

the big unemployment struggle of 1930-1933, the financing of 

various united front conferences, etc. But this active and leading 

organization work was practically unknown to the petty-bourgeois 

leaders of the Socialist Party. Where any such work was done it was 

almost always under the direct initiative of the Left wing. It is true 

that individual unions controlled by Socialists and also minorities of 

Socialists Within various organizations outlined active organization 

campaigns and strike work, but this was largely spontaneous; the 

Party as a whole did not follow any such general policy. Its essential 

attitude was that of a bystander, commentator and educational force, 

rather than the militant, actual leader of the workers' daily struggle 

for their burning economic and political demands. .',-■* 

Illustrations of this Socialist Party passivity could be cited, it 

space permitted, from many important strike struggles, orgamza- 


tion campaigns, etc., throughout the many years of the Party's 
existence. But the Socialist Party's attitude during the many great 
labor defense cases that came up from time to time serves to exem- 
plify its non-militant relation towards the class struggle. In the 
Moyer, Haywood and Pettibone case in 1907, the Left wing of 
the Party gave active support, but the Right wing, instinctively sens- 
ing the militant revolutionist Haywood as an enemy, sabotaged the 
fight. In the McNamara case of 1911, the Socialist Party leaders, 
jointly with the American Federation of Labor, gave a certain sup- 
port, until these brave fighters, badly advised, pleaded guilty in an 
effort to save the trade unions and their leaders from persecution. 
Whereupon the Socialist Party, like the American Federation- of 
Labor, abandoned them completely and has never done a thing to 
help them since, although McNamara and Schmidt are still in jail 
after twenty-five years. In the Mooney-Billings and Sacco-Vanzetti 
cases of later years, it was the Anarchists, Syndicalists, Communists 
and Farmer-Labor ites who took the lead in the fight, with the 
Socialist Party trailing along in the rear. And in the recent Scottsboro 
case, it was the Communist Party that leaped quickly to the defense 
of the condemned nine Negro boys and by its swift action undoubt- 
edly saved them from electrocution, while the Socialist Party only 
joined the struggle in the later stages, and then lamely and formally. 
This traditional passive attitude of the Socialist Party towards the 
daily class struggle of the workers, the tendency to tail after the 
masses, to preach at them rather than to stand militantly at their 
head on every field of battle, cost the Socialist Party much possible 
mass support and leadership. It was one of the major reasons why the 
Socialist Party never succeeded in actually being accepted as the 
fighting party of the proletariat in this country. 

B. Contradictory Industrial Union Policy 

One of the great mistakes also of the Socialist Party over many 
years was its opportunist handling of the vital question of industrial 
unionism. Even before 1900 the more progressive elements among 
the workers realized that the craft unions, because of specialization 
and trustification in industry, had become obsolete and that a system 
of industrial unionism was imperatively necessary. All sections of the 
revolutionary movement became impregnated with industrial union 
sentiment. With the issue of industrial unionism was bound up the 


whole question of the organization of the unorganized, honest lead- 
ership, militant policy, etc. . -j V :„ 
It was the historic task of the Socialist Party to give clear direc- 
tion and active leadership to the industrial union movement but it 
failed dismally in this obligation. It is true that the Party declared 
unequivocally for the principle of industrial unionism. But it never 
told the workers clearly how to bring about industrial unionism, nor 
did it give unified leadership to the movement. The Party was di- 
vided for fifteen years into two sections over this fundamental ques- 
tion The Right wing worked mildly within the A. F. of L. for the 
principle of industrial organization through amalgamation, but always 
ready to make an opportunist maneuver on the question with the 
GoJpers machine. On the other hand, the revolutionary Left wing 
of the Party, outraged by the corrupt regime in the A. F. *•%*£; 
rected its efforts in the main towards the rea hzation of industrial 
unionism through the incorrect policy of budding dual unions, that 
" nZrial unions independent of the A. F of L. The outstanding 
example of such dual industrial unions was the Industrial Workers of 
the World, which was launched in 1905. _ 

Manifestly, in this situation, it was the definite responsibility of 
the Party to liquidate by educational means and firm direction this 
gllring contradiction in policy within its ranks and to concentrate 
all Patty forces upon a militant struggle within the trade unions for 
dust ia" unionism. But the petty-bourgeois Socialist Party eaders 
did not want an active fight for industrial unionism inside the A. 
F of U or outside either. They never wanted to fight the A F 
of L leaders aggressively on basic issues. They were quite content 

ha"v the infused situation drag along as it was. So, over many 
years they straddled the question, and the Right wing continued its 
5S line in the A F. of L., while the Left wing frittered 
"way "strength in dual unionism. The typical opportunist policy on 

hTvSl sue & was expressed in 1912 when the Soc ahst Party con- 
vent n endorsed the principle of industrial unionism but .did ^o 
sS whether this was to be brought to realization through the tian 
formation of the old trade unions, or by the building up of the 

1 WW. and similar dual industrial unions. 

It was not until after the organization of the Communist Party 
in 1919, and especially under the influence of the writings of Lenin 
on the question of work within the old trade unions, that the revo- 


lutionary movement in the United States liquidated its tradi aonal dual 
union tendencies and worked out a militant campaign in the A. I. 
of L. for industrial unionism, a campaign that eventually took or- 
ganized shape in the Trade Union Educational League. 

The general consequence of the Socialist Party's whole oppor- 
tunist handling of the industrial union question vastly reduced the 
effectiveness of the Party's industrial union campaign in general. The 
work of one wing of the Party was antagonistic to that of the other, 
and because of this doubly wrong policy the Socialist Party as a whole 
lost its opportunity to secure real leadership of the masses on this 
fundamental question. 

C. Anti-Labor Party Tendency 

Another disastrous error of the Socialist Party in pre-war days 
was its opposition in principle to the formation of the Labor Party. 
This was a mistake also shared in by the Left wing, for ultra-Left 
reasons. It is a well-known fact that in those countries where, be- 
cause of specific national conditions, the trade unions were organized 
before the Socialist Parties took shape, the workers' first steps into 
independent political action were in the form of organizing labor 
parties based directly on the trade unions. This was notably the case 
in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The United States 
belonged to this category of countries. Here, because of factors already 
pointed out, the political development of the workers had been de- 
layed; but they had succeeded in building trade unions. The con- 
sequence was that when the workers began to feel the necessity for 
organized class political action their natural tendency was to do as 
the workers in Great Britain had done by developing a political or- 
ganization, a Labor Party, directly out of the unions. 

But the American Socialist Party leaders never understood this 
elementary fact. They resisted the natural trend of the workers to 
form a Labor Party. They tried mechanically to apply to the United 
States a policy which was adapted to Germany, Austria and old 
Russia, where the Socialist Party, either growing before or simulta- 
neously with the trade Onions, naturally became looked upon by the 
workers as the party of the working class. Thus, instead of helping 
the workers to take their first steps in political action through a mass 
Labor Party, the Socialist Party for many years sought to kill the 


Labor Party tendency by insisting upon the American workers ac- 
cepting the Socialist Party as their mass party. 

Instead of being its greatest champion as it should, the Socialist 
Party traditionally looked upon the Labor Party as a rival and fought 
against it. Harry W. Laidler said: "The formation of these parties 
[local labor parties — W.Z.F.] in various parts of the country brought 
a new competitor into the field against the Socialist Party.' 5 * Robert 
Hunter, the S.P.'s early expert on the Labor Party, said the Social- 
ist Party "is a Labor Party and all it needs is the united support of 
all American organizations".** He believed that to build a Labor 
Party apart from the Socialist Party would be "about as foolish a 
thing as to scrap the machinery of the A. F. of L. and to form a new 
trade union movement".*** 

It was only in 1921 when the Socialist Party, with but a handful 
of members and with its anti-Labor Party policy clearly bankrupt, 
finally had to yield to the inevitable and endorsed in principle the 
organization of a Labor Party. But it never became reconciled to 
this perspective. It refused to join with the Chicago Federation of 
Labor, the Communist Party and other Left organizations in 1923 
in a real fight for the Labor Party. It has never made an active cam- 
paign for the Labor Party. Even today it is passive upon this whole 
question and still has the lingering feeling that the Labor Party is 
its rival. 

The Socialist Party and the working class paid high for this long 
continued anti-Labor Party tendency. The Socialists' resistance to 
the naturally and spontaneously growing Labor Party definitely hin- 
dered the political development of the working class. It checked the 
growth of the Labor Party sentiment in the trade unions. It made it 
easier for the Gompers machine to keep the masses tied to the two 
old parties. Furthermore, with its wrong policy, the Socialist Party 
gave up perhaps the best weapon it ever had with which to fight the 
Gompers machine — the issue of the Labor Party. It was a sacrifice 
that the opportunist leaders could easily make, however, in their 
eagerness to be on good terms with the Gompers regime. The gen- 
eral consequence was that the Socialist Party badly failed to give 
leadership to the workers in the vital question of the development 

* Socialism in Thought and Action, p. 465. 
** Labor in Politics, p. 179. 
*** Ibid. 


of their mass political consciousness and organization, and the Socialist 
Party itself as a result paid dearly in loss of potential membership 
and influence. 

D. Opportunist Trade Union Neutrality 

Another disastrous reformist tendency that prevailed all through 
the life of the Socialist Party down to the advent of the present new 
leadership was the so-called attitude of neutrality towards the trade 
unions. In substance this policy constituted a failure to put forward 
the Party policy militantly in the trade unions. It was a refusal to 
take up the cudgels for the necessary active fight against the corrupt 
Gompers-Green leadership to win the masses for Socialism. W. J. 
Ghent, expressing many Party decisions, defended this opportunist 
policy on the basis that the "Party does not seek to dictate to organized 
labor in matters of internal organization and policy". 

It is clear that for Socialism to make headway in the working 
class, especially in the trade union movement, the Socialist Party had 
to come into head-on collision with the reactionary trade union lead- 
ership. It was not a question of dictation to the unions, but of positive 
assertion of the Party policy. But the doctors, lawyers, preachers, 
journalists, etc., who led the Socialist Party, wanted no such fight. 
In many instances in the trade unions, the Left Party elements, 
notably such men as Duncan McDonald of the Illinois miners, made 
a militant fight against Gompers. But this was not the true policy of 
the Party leadership. They wanted to cooperate with the Gompers- 
ites, not fight them. Such a struggle as that made later over many 
years by the Trade Union Educational League or such a determined 
stand as that now being taken by John L. Lewis and the Committee 
for Industrial Organization against the trade union bureaucracy, 
was quite foreign to the whole conception of the opportunist S.P. 
leaders. They seldom got beyond the stage of shadow-boxing with 
the reactionaries. 

In fact, the S.P. leaders' real tendency was to collaborate and 
amalgamate with the Gompers regime. If they did not actually con- 
solidate their forces with the Green ruling bureaucracy sooner, it 
was primarily because of the pressure of the large and militant Left 
wing in the Party. However, after the big split in 1919 which took 
the whole Left wing out of the Party, the petty-bourgeois leader- 
ship, with no Left militants to restrain them, proceeded to drop all 


opposition to Gompers and to identify themselves almost completely 
with the reactionary ruling trade union clique. Says D. J. Saposs, 
dealing with this period: 

"This new political alignment of the Socialists with the admin- 
istration forces marks the end of their leadership in the opposition 
in the labor movement. They have abandoned the role of initiators 
of new issues for the labor movement. They are no longer the center 
of aggressive opposition.' 

"In its political activities, the Socialist Party has followed a course 
similar to that of the Socialist trade unionists. It has ceased attacking 
the conservative unions and leaders." * 

This traditional policy of the Socialist Party leadership to tem- 
porize and compromise with the reactionary American Federation 
of Labor officialdom was disastrous to the development of the Social- 
ist Party as the real leading force in the labor movement. The only 
way the Socialist Party could have come forward as the vanguard 
of the working class was by a policy of sustained militant struggle on 
all fronts against the Gompers regime, and in this it failed dismally. 

In summing up the general situation during the pre-war period, 
it can be safely said that if the Socialist Party had carried on a policy 
of class struggle, as indicated in the foregoing, it could have de- 
feated the Gompers regime and given the trade union movement a 
Socialist leadership. In those days the Gompers machine was not so 
deeply entrenched, trade union democracy was much more prevalent, 
Red-baiting was not so effective (for the reactionaries then only 
deemed the revolution pretty much as an abstraction), and a well- 
directed fight could have upset the old leadership. 

Even as it was, with all the wishy-washy opportunist policies of 
the Socialist Party, passivity in strikes, organization -campaigns, Labor 
defense cases, etc.; its confused industrial union policy; its anti- 
Labor Party program; its weak fight against Gompers, etc., etc., — 
the Socialist forces made distinct headway in the unions. In 1912 
they controlled such organizations as the brewery workers, bakery 
workers, shingle weavers, cap makers, painters, Western Federa- 
tion of Miners, machinists, fur workers, journeymen tailors, ladies 
garment workers, coal miners, etc. They also controlled many cen- 
tral labor unions and large numbers of local unions, as well as strong 

* Left Wing Trade Unionism) p. 39. 


minorities in the printers, cigar makers and almost every other labor 
organization. In the 1912 American Federation of Labor Conven- 
tion, the Socialist candidate for President, Hayes, polled 5,073 votes 
against Gompers 5 11,974. A determined policy on the part of the 
Socialist Party leadership would have soon carried the majority of 
the trade union movement. But such a policy was not applied. And 
to make matters worse, the petty-bourgeois leadership of the Social- 
ist Party proceeded to smash completely the hopes of the Socialist 
forces winning the trade union leadership by driving thousands 
of the best proletarian elements out of the Party during the big 
Party split of 1912, of which I shall speak further along. 

E. Opportunist War Policy 

The World War presented a golden opportunity to the Socialist 
Party to develop its strength and mass leadership, but it fumbled 
the whole matter and failed to organize the masses effectively for 
anti-war struggle. There was undoubtedly a huge sentiment among 
the broad ranks of the people against America's entry into the war. 
This was demonstrated, among other things, by the election of 
Wilson on his anti-intervention program, and also by the total im- 
mediate failure of the volunteer system to recruit soldiers for the 
war. Not only did the situation offer a splendid opportunity for mass 
anti-war work, but this was also the central revolutionary task 
of the time. 

But the reformist-led Socialist Party proved incapable of rising to 
the occasion. It did not develop a definite and well-organized mass 
struggle against the war. True enough, the Left wing, led by Debs 
and Ruthenberg, did succeed in putting the Party on record against 
the war and in developing considerable and- war agitation, even 
though this was somewhat of a pacifist type and not yet a real 
Bolshevik anti-war policy aiming at transforming the war into a 
revolutionary struggle against capitalism. 

The Right wing, however, took an equivocal position towards the 
war. Many of the petty-bourgeois leaders — Russell, Walling, Spargo, 
Simons, Stokes, Ghent, etc. — split away from the Party on a pro- 
war program. The rest dilly-dallied with the question and, in effect, 
sabotaged the Party's anti-war resolution. So that there was no real 
crystallization of the Party's forces to mobilize the masses against 


the war, no serious attempt to win the trade unions to an anti-war 
position, no organization of anti-war strikes, etc. 

The general result was that, instead of making the huge gains 
that it should have made, the Socialist Party, because of its vacillating, 
opportunist policy on the war, only made a relatively moderate mem- 
bership increase in the war years. And this advance was more than 
offset by a disastrous sharpening of the struggle between the Right 
and Left wings in the Party over the reformist leadership's oppor- ■ 
tunist war-time policies, and also by serious losses of position and 
control in the trade unions. During the war the Socialist Party paid 
heavily for its long years of wrong trade union policy. Because the 
Socialist Party had not entrenched itself in the unions in former times 
by a militant struggle based on sound principles, the Gompers clique 
was in firm command at the crucial moment and was able to use its 
official control with telling effect to swing the trade unions to a pro- 
war position. Thus it largely isolated the Socialist Party and crippled 
the whole anti-war struggle. The Socialist Party reformist leaders 
muffed the war situation almost completely. What should have re- 
sulted in a great victory of the Party they eventually turned into a 
serious defeat. 

F, Sabotaging the Russian Revolution 

A deadly, disastrous sin of the reformist petty-bourgeois leader- 
ship of the Socialist Party against the working class and the Socialist 
Party was its hostile attitude towards the Bolshevik Russian revolu- 
tion. Perhaps nothing in the whole history of the Socialist Party did 
more to destroy that Party's internal unity, prevent its growth, and 
kill its mass influence than the bitter warfare that the professors, 
preachers, lawyers, and similar non-proletarian elements running 
the Socialist Party directed for many years against the Soviet gov- 

The advent of the October Revolution presented an unequaled 
opportunity for the Socialist Party to educate and organize the masses. 
Here, at last, was the much-dreamt-of, long-planned socialism come 
into being after a glorious victory over Russian tsarism and capi- 
talism. The revolution taught a thousand vital lessons in proletarian 
theory, strategy and tactics; the heroism of its fighters was an 
inspiration to the toiling masses of the world; it gave the first real 
ray of hope to the oppressed in all countries. What a tremendous 


opportunity for the Socialist Party to build itself by using this great 
world-shaking event for the furtherance of the Socialist cause in the 
United States! And together with this immense propaganda value 
of the Russian revolution to the Socialist Party there was also^ the 
duty-bound revolutionary task upon the shoulders of the Socialist 
Party to use all its power to organize the masses to defend the 
newly-formed Soviet government, attacked on all sides as it was by 

capitalist forces. 

During all the years of its existence it has been one of the 
strongest factors in the growth of the Communist Party that it has 
fully understood the revolutionary significance of the Soviet govern- 
ment and thoroughly appreciated the opportunities and revolutionary 
duties connected therewith. But not so the Socialist Party. Its petty- 
bourgeois leaders were not revolutionists. They did not want to 
destroy capitalism, but to reform it. The Russian revolution was a 
thing alien and hostile to them. The overthrow of capitalism in 
Russia in October, 1917, was against their plan of gradually trans- 
forming society from capitalism to socialism. So, instead of supporting 
the Soviet government as all true revolutionists must, they viewed it 
with hatred and spared no words in denouncing it. And all this was 
in line with the antagonistic position assumed towards the Soviets 
by the Second International. 

Throughout the life of the Russian revolution, the American 
Socialist press has reeked with anti-Soviet attacks, even though the 
Socialist Party has grudgingly endorsed the Soviet government be- 
cause of mass pressure. Hillquit clearly expressed the general attitude 
of his co-middle class leaders when he declared, in a spirit of thorough 
hostility : 

"The Soviet government has been the greatest disaster and calam- 
,'iity that has ever occurred to the Socialist movement. Let us dissociate 
ourselves from the Soviet government." * 

Every slander against the U.S.S.R. sent forth by bourgeois ene- 
mies was picked up, repeated and enlarged upon in the Socialist press. 
The Party leaders accused the Soviet government of "Red impe- 
rialism", of starving and oppressing the masses, of betraying the 

*New Leader, Feb. 4, 1928. 


Socialist cause. Norman Thomas, characteristically, added his voice 
to the deplorable anti-Soviet chorus when he said: 

"One thing, however, is certain j the Russian government rules 
by tyranny and terror, with secret police, espionage and arbitrary 
executions." * 

Gompers, Woll and Green did not outdo the Socialist leaders 
in vicious anti-Soviet attacks. And as for Hearst, he copied many of 
his worst slanders from the columns of the Jewish Socialist Forward. 
The Socialist Party heroized the Menshevik counter-revolutionary 
Abramovich when he came to the United States, and the bourgeois 
world applauded the shameful spectacle of Hillquit, leader of the 
Socialist Party, acting as attorney for former Russian capitalist oil 
interests in the American courts in an effort to force the Soviet 
government to return their confiscated property. 

Of all the non-revolutionary policies in the history of the So- 
cialist Party petty-bourgeois leaders their anti-Soviet line was the 
worst and most destructive to the health, growth and mass leader- 
ship of the Socialist Party. It was the poison fruit of many years of 
reformism in all its putrid rottenness. It worked profoundly to un- 
dermine the integrity of the Socialist Party, to alienate from it the 
best fighting elements in the working class and to weaken its mass 
influence generally. This enmity towards the U.S.S.R. had a power- 
ful effect in driving still deeper the wedge separating the Socialist 
and Communist Parties. Altogether it was a decisive factor in re- 
ducing the Socialist Party to the impotency which it has suffered in 
the past fifteen years. The anti-Soviet policy of the Socialist Party 
leaders was an aid and comfort to the capitalist enemies of the revo- 
lution, and it showed conclusively that these petty-bourgeois oppor- 
tunists never could build the Socialist Party into a powerful 
revolutionary mass party. 

G. Neck Deep in Class Collaboration 

After the World War the American big capitalists initiated their 
notorious movement for speeding up the workers. It was the period 
of the great rationalization of industry. New methods of driving the 
workers were introduced on all sides and the toilers' productivity 

* As I See It, p. 93. 


swiftly increased. To secure some pretense of consent of the workers 
to the inhuman speed-up, all sorts of welfare systems, bonus plans, 
old age pensions, and the like were established. Besides this, illusions 
were intensively cultivated far and wide among the workers by 
Carver, Gillette, and many others to the effect that through the 
new-fangled employee stock-ownership plans they were actually 
buying control of the industries and were on the highroad to some 
sort of collective commonwealth. This speed-up movement raged 
nearly all through the Coolidge prosperity period, from about 1922 
to 1929. It spread in the unorganized as well as organized industries. 
It vastly increased the exploitation of the workers and brought fresh 
billions into the coffers of the money-drunk capitalists. 

The top A. F. of L. leaders, true to their reactionary role, fitted 
themselves into this whole speed-up program. They declared that 
strikes and the class struggle were obsolete and that the way of the 
workers to prosperity now lay through cooperation with the bosses 
to increase production — of which the workers were somehow to get 
an increased share. The A. F. of L. leaders adopted the whole 
speed-up system under the euphonious phrases of the "new wage 
plan" and the "higher strategy of labor". They hired efficiency 
engineers for the unions and set up the B. & O. plan and other forms 
of "union-management cooperation" to apply the bosses' speed-up. 
As a result of this monstrous class collaboration policy the A. F. of 
L. leaders reduced the unions to a semi-company union status, to 
mere appendages of the employers' production schemes. The workers' 
hard-won working conditions were ruthlessly sacrificed. In con- 
sequence, the unions declined steadily in membership and fighting 
spirit. For the first time in history they did not grow during a period 
of economic expansion. The whole trade union movement was 
afflicted with dry rot. 

As befitted revolutionary organizations, the Communist Party 
and Trade Union Educational League fought uncompromisingly 
against this whole speed-up development. The Communists raised 
the question in every trade union. They denounced the B. & O. plan 
as disastrous to the trade unions and the interests of the workers; 
they exposed the many illusions that were being built up around em- 
ployee-stockbuying, labor banking, etc.; they demanded a fighting, 
class struggle policy. And in making this fight the Communists had 
to face wholesale expulsion and discharge from industry and labor 


unions all over the country; for the combined employers and reac- 
tionary trade union leaders proceeded to extremes to break up all 
opposition to their class collaboration program. Never in the history 
of the American labor movement was trade union democracy at 
such a low ebb. The brave fight it made in these times was one of the 
best pages of the life of the Communist Party. 

How did the Socialist Party meet its revolutionary duty in this 
critical situation, when the masses needed correct leadership so 
acutely? As usual, it did not rise to the occasion. On the contrary, 
the Socialist trade union leaders everywhere identified themselves 
almost completely with the Green leadership. This was the period 
cited by Saposs above when the S.P. leaders ceased to be the trade 
union opposition. They became ardent supporters and theorizers of 
the "new wage policy" and the "higher strategy of labor". They con- 
demned strikes as entirely out of date. In no industry did class col- 
laboration reach greater heights than in the Socialist-controlled 
needle trades. And nowhere was the expulsion policy so ruthlessly 
applied against the militant Left-wing elements who were fighting 
to keep the trade unions from being used as tools to increase the 
exploitation of the working class. 

The Socialist Party made no fight whatever against the infamous 
B. & O. plan, union management cooperation, the "new wage pol- 
icy", and all the rest of it. This is not surprising, because the whole 
Second International had become greatly enthused over the speed-up 
movement, helped the bosses to introduce it in Europe, and hailed it 
as the broad way to socialism. Spinning fancy theories about an 
"organized capitalism", "super-imperialism", and a long period of 
peaceful capitalist expansion ahead, they outdid even the hectic 
American capitalist theorists of the rationalization, of industry 

In 1925, when the Communist Party was fighting against union- 
management cooperation throughout the trade union movement, 
Norman Thomas, in his booklet, What Is Industrial Democracy?, 
gave his blessing to the notorious B. & O. speed-up plan in the 
following words: 

". . . the railroad management in return for improved standards 
of shop production is doing its utmost to keep the men supplied with 
work so that the men gain, not lose, by efficiency. The plan seems 
to be working well. . . ." 


The American Socialist Party naturally suffered severely from 
its tailing after the bourgeoisie in this situation. It became afflicted 
with the dry rot that had infected the trade union movement gen- 
erally, except that the Socialist Party got it worse. The Party sank 
to the lowest stage in all its career, both ideologically and organiza- 
tionally. By 1929 it had remaining only about 7,500 members, and 
its revolutionary spirit had dropped to correspondingly low levels. 
This was the generally unlovely period of the Party's support to 
LaFollette's candidacy, the removal of the class struggle clause 
from the Socialist Party membership application card, the agitation 
of Norman Thomas to change the name of the Party, etc. In short, 
the Socialist Party was on the very brink of bankruptcy. The Party 
was harvesting in full the bitter crop of its many long years of 
opportunist petty-bourgeois leadership. 

H. Socialist Party Inertia in the Crisis 

When the great economic crash came in 1929 the employers, 
with the Hoover government their willing tool, proceeded to slash 
the wages of the employed and to force the millions of unemployed 
to starve. It is a notorious fact that the A. F. of L. leaders took 
no real action against this brutal course. On the contrary, they ob- 
jectively aided the employers by viciously fighting against unem- 
ployment insurance and in support of Hoover's stagger system, and 
by signing the infamous Hoover no-strike-no-wage-cut agreement 
which enabled the bosses freely to slash wages. And for all this 
they were duly praised by the capitalist press. 

The Communist Party, on the other hand, militantly took up 
the fight for the employed and unemployed workers. Beginning with 
the famous March 6, 1930, national demonstration of 1,250,000 
unemployed, it carried on during the next three years a most ag- 
gressive struggle for and with the unemployed all over the country. 
It organized hundreds of local and state mass hunger marches and 
other demonstrations. It carried out several national conventions and 
marches on Washington. During these bitter fights the Communist 
Party and its following faced violent attacks from the police; hun- 
dreds were clubbed and jailed and many were killed in the demon- 
strations. The general effect of this big mass struggle under the 
Communist Party leadership was to make unemployment insurance 


and relief real issues in this country and to force many important 
relief concessions from the employers. It also laid a strong founda- 
tion for the Communist Party among the masses.. 

And what was the Socialist Party doing in these crucial early 
years of the crisis? Practically nothing to organize the unemployed 
masses for struggle. It was still paralyzed from its former orgy of 
class collaboration. While the Communist Party was on the firing 
line with huge demonstrations and other struggles, we find Norman 
Thomas and J. P. Morgan jointly supporting over the radio the 
useless block-aid system. The Socialist Party, it is true, talked a great 
deal in these years of unemployment relief and insurance, but it did 
not go out and fight for them. It was only after the Communist 
Party had long taken the lead in the struggle, and especially after 
new Left elements began to develop in the Socialist Party, that that 
Party slowly started to play a role in the struggle of the unemployed. 

When the great strike movement began under Roosevelt's regime 
early in 1933, again the Socialist Party could not rise to the situation 
and give the awakening masses effective leadership. Manifestly, it 
was the task of every revolutionary organization to do all possible 
(as the Communist Party did) to stimulate and lead the employed 
workers in this the first real attack they had made against their 
oppressors for a dozen years. But the Socialist Party was incapable 
of giving such aggressive leadership. Instead, its leader Norman 
Thomas, who in 1932 had complained of the "docility of labor" 
and who was now filled with illusions about Roosevelt's ''socialism", 
actually tried to put a damper on the struggle by telling the workers 
that "strikes are inadvisable at the present time".* But the workers 
paid no attention to Thomas' opportunism, no more than they did 
to the similar advice of William Green; but went militantly ahead 
with the development of their enormous strike movement. Thus, 
once more, the Socialist Party, moved by reformist considerations, 
dilly-dallied with a crucial situation and failed to give the masses the 
necessary class struggle leadership. 

A Word in Summary 

In this section I have shown that historically the Socialist Party 
has consistently violated the first fundamental of the class struggle 

policv: namely, the necessity of coming forward aggressively as the 
champion of the masses in their daily fights for urgent economic and 
political demands. Instead of fulfilling this imperative necessity, the 
whole history of the Socialist Party is an abdication of such mass 
leadership. The illustrations cited: the Socialist Party's traditionally 
passive attitude towards strikes and organization campaigns; its 
long-continued contradictory industrial union policy; its anti-Labor 
Party tendency; its opportunist policy of neutrality towards the 
trade unions; its failure, militantly to fight the Gompers-Green 
bureaucracy; its wavering policy during the war; its hostility to the 
Soviet government; its failure to fight the deadly union-management 
cooperation speed-up movement; and its lethargy in the struggles 
of the unemployed and employed workers during the early years of 
the present industrial crisis^-all these wrong policies together amply 
prove the point that the Socialist Party has failed to give a fighting 
leadership to the toilers in their situations of deepest need. And to 
these illustrations others could be added as, for example, the So- 
cialist Party's complete neglect of the burning Negro question over 
many years, its opportunistic handling of the youth issue, its haphazard 
consideration of the problems of women, the foreign-born, etc. 

The general result of the Socialist Party's traditional flabby, 
reformist," class-collaborationist policies, dictated by its opportunist 
middle class leadership, has been that the Socialist Party could not 
and did not become a strong, mass revolutionary Party. Its leaders 
ducked and evaded and compromised every struggle and issue that 
the workers were basically interested in. By its weak, opportunist 
course, the Socialist Party was unable to defeat its powerful capi- 
talist enemies and their labor leader henchmen. Hence it did not 
secure the leadership of the masses and become their accepted revo- 
lutionary party. There could be no other outcome of the Socialist 
Party's long record of opportunist vacillations and abdication of 
leadership in the class struggle than the Party's present crisis and 
obvious failure. 

*Ne<w York Herald Tribune, August 8, 1933. 




A Generation of Reformism and Its 
Disastrous Effects (Continued) 

2, The War Against the Left Wing 

TN ANALYZING the basic reason for the historical failure of the 
*- Socialist Party— which was its lack of a Marxian policy of class 
struggle — let us now consider briefly the Socialist Party's experience 
with the second element going to make up such a policy of class 
struggle, Le. } the necessity of laying a firm foundation for the So- 
cialist Party by the cultivation of a strong body of revolutionary 
Marxian understanding in the Party membership and among its mass 
following. In doing this we shall see that the opportunist Socialist 
Party leaders have violated this fundamental no less deeply and con- 
sistently than they did the other imperative essential of a class struggle 
policy (which we have previously discussed), that of giving effective 
leadership to the masses in their daily struggles, and with equally 
disastrous results. 

It was obviously an indispensable first condition for the success of 
the Socialist Party that it systematically educate the broadest possible 
ranks of Marxian revolutionists* Such revolutionists furnish the 
necessary understanding of the capitalist system, they are the tire- 
less organizers of the masses, the bravest fighters in every crisis, the 
indefatigable builders of the Party, the heart and brain of the class 
struggle. To try to build a revolutionary Socialist Party without 
developing the Marxian understanding of its membership is to at- 
tempt the classically impossible task of making bricks without straw. 

This would seem to be a pretty self-evident fact, but the Socialist 
Party has grossly ignored it throughout its existence. The Right wing 
petty-bourgeois intellectuals controlling the Socialist Party, instead of 
carefully cultivating the life-giving revolutionary tendency, looked 
upon it as a hostile force, and they spared no efforts to check it, to 
repress it, to extinguish it, indeed to burn it out of the Party. This 
action on their part was logical enough as they had no intention what- 


ever of making the Socialist Party a revolutionary party. In this 
ruthless war against the Left wing, continued for a generation, is to 
be found a fundamental reason for the failure of the Socialist 
Party and for its present critical condition. 

The Two Wings of the Party 

Before describing this war against the Left wing it will be well 
briefly to analyze the Socialist Party groups. The Right wing, which 
dominated the Socialist Party from its organization down to the 
present year, was, during the heyday of the Party, made up of several 
groups. Chiefly these were: 

A. The extreme Right, roughly, the Bernstein revisionist ten- 
dency, was composed of a miscellaneous group of lawyers, doctors, 
preachers, etc., such as Harriman, Berger, Cahan, Stokes, Wilson, 
Mills, Hoan, Laidler, et al. Previously, I have indicated the general 
reformist tendency of this group — government ownership, municipal 
socialism, parliamentary reform, anti class struggle, etc. 

B. The agrarian group, also of extreme Right tendency, was 
strong in the farming districts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, 
Washington, etc. It was a remnant from the breakup of the old 
Populist movement and it generally supported the line of the Right 
wing intellectuals, with the addition of its cheap-money vagaries and 
a particularly Utopian slant to its "Socialism". This tendency crys- 
tallized chiefly around such papers as Wayland's Coming Nation, 
Affeal to Reason and Arkansas Ripaw. 

C. The trade union group was composed of labor officials, like 
Van Lear and Johnston (Machinists), Walker, Germer and Hayes 
(Miners), Hayes (Printers), Barnes (Cigarmakers), Maurer 
(Plumbers), Skemp (Painters), Schlessinger (I.L.G.W.U.), etc. 
In general this opportunist group also followed the lead of the 
Right wing intellectuals, except that they placed more stress upon 
trade union questions. 

D. The so-called center or Kautsky tendency was composed 
mainly of petty-bourgeois intellectuals. It included Hillquit, 
Simons, Oneal, Lee, etc. These people were sticklers for Marxian 
phrases if not for Marxian deeds. This group gave the Socialist 
Party its dominant leader for 34 years, Morris Hillquit. 

Historically these four reformist groups functioned unitedly as 


the Right wing of the Socialist Party, especially in the war against 
the Left wing, and they had the backing chiefly of the non-prole- 
tarians and the skilled worker members of the Party, It is true that 
the Hillquit center group kept up a running quarrel for years with 
the raw opportunism of the extreme Right "postofBce socialism" 
elements. But this fight was superficial and did not conflict with the 
basically reformist line of the Party, The only serious differences that 
developed within the broad Right wing were during the war when 
the pro-war Spargo, Stokes, Walling, et al y quit the Party. After 
the national split of 1919 the four Right groups, or what was still left 
of them, gradually coalesced and became practically indistinguishable 
from each other in one crassly opportunist old guard leadership. 

The Left wing of the Socialist Party was more homogeneous 
than the Right wing. It was made up almost entirely of proletarians, 
chiefly unskilled and immigrant workers, with an occasional revolu- 
tionary intellectual. Through its twenty years of history within the 
Socialist Party it was led by such figures as Hagerty, Trautmann, 
Titus, Marcy, Haywood and Ruthenberg. Debs was usually a mili- 
tant spokesman of the Left wing program, but he took no active 
part in shaping Party policy in conventions, etc. He never identified 
himself with the Left in its organized struggles against the Right, nor 
did he become involved in any of the various Party splits. 

The Left wing took flat issue with the whole reformist line of 
the dominant Right wing intellectual leadership. Basing itself upon 
the fundamentals of Marx and Engels, it fought to give the Socialist 
Party a program and policy of revolutionary class struggle. It op- 
posed the current opportunist theories of the peaceful taking over 
of the government and the plan of buying up the industries, and it 
placed in opposition to them the Marxian perspective of the over- 
throw of capitalism by open struggle and the expropriation of the 
expropriators without compensation. It condemned the Socialist 
Party leaders' passivity in the daily class struggle and their class 
collaboration policies and compromises with Gompersism, It demand- 
ed a program of active struggle against the employers and war to 
the knife against the capitalist-minded leaders of the trade unions. 

Although the Left wing was the revolutionary element within 
the Party, it nevertheless suffered from many and serious theoretical 
and practical weaknesses, arising mainly out of its inexperience and 
ideological unripeness. These errors in general tended in the direction 


of "Left" sectarianism. They were largely a heritage from De 
Leonism, and were usually semi-Syndicalist in character. Among 
the more important of these Left wing errors were (1) Confusion 
regarding the nature of the revolutionary role of the Party, with 
tendencies to make the industrial unions the leading fighting force 
of the proletariat; (2) Wrong theories of the composition of the 
future dictatorship of the proletariat, with tendencies towards the 
Syndicalist trade union state; (3) Underestimation of the resistance 
power of capitalism and theories of accomplishing the revolution by 
the folded-arms general strike; (4) Underestimation of the struggle 
for immediate political demands and tendencies towards anti-par- 
liamentarism; (5) Neglect of work within the mass trade unions and 
a Utopian belief in dual industrial unionism; (6) Underestimation 
of the importance of the farming, Negro and lower petty-bourgeois 
masses as united front allies of the proletariat. Further sectarian ten- 
dencies were: against the Labor Party in principle; overstress upon 
the religious question, and the ignoring and flouting of American 
traditions and culture. 

These various theoretical and practical errors of the Left wing 
worked greatly to hold back the progress of the Party. They tended 
to break its contacts with the masses and to push the Party into 
sectarian isolation. And, added to this, they handicapped the fight 
against the Right wing, for Right opportunism cannot be defeated 
with "Left" sectarianism. But the overwhelming responsibility for 
the failure of the Socialist Party is to be found in the rank oppor- 
tunism of the dominant petty-bourgeois leadership, and not in the 
weakness of the Left. Despite its many errors the Left wing was 
basically correct in its striving for a class struggle policy. It was the 
healthy Party core, and only through the correction of its short- 
comings and the development of its general program of class struggle 
was it possible to build the Socialist Party into a revolutionary party. 
It must be added, however, that the political line of the Right 
wing in no sense served to correct the errors of the Left wing. 
Its tendency was to drag the Party off in another direction, to the 
swamp of Right opportunism. 

The long-continued struggle between the Right and Left wings, 
the highlights of which I shall now proceed to relate, placed the 
issue squarely: shall the Socialist Party be a party of petty-bourgeois 
reform or of proletarian class struggle? The cleavage was funda- 



mental and the protracted fight took on the character of class struggle 
within the Party. So that during the various splits in many local 
branches the line of division passed almost exactly between the 
proletarians and non -proletarians, the working class elements going 
with the Left wing out of the Party. That the Socialist Party failed 
to become a revolutionary party is primarily an expression of the fact 
that the Left wing was defeated in its struggle for control of the 
Party and was compelled to build a new, revolutionary organization, 
the Communist Party. 

Early Phases of the Inner-Party Struggle 

Hardly had the Socialist Party come into existence in 1901 as a 
result of the historically justified split away from the deadly sectarian- 
ism of the Socialist Labor Party than the fatal control of the re- 
formist lawyers, doctors, preachers, journalists, etc., asserted itself. 
And, likewise, as the corrective to these baneful elements and ten- 
dencies, the revolutionary Left wing of the Party slowly began to 
take shape and to voice its program. With the passage of the years 
the cleavage between the Right and Left wings of the Party became 
more pronounced, until finally the inevitable complete break came. 

The first sharp division in the Party on a major scale occurred 
in 1905 over the question of industrial unionism which, then as now, 
was bound up with the whole question of militant trade union 
policies. The Left wing, repelled by the reactionary leadership and 
program of the A. F. of L., was for establishing new and inde- 
pendent revolutionary industrial unions, and the Right wing, opposed 
to fighting policies generally, was against it. Under the leadership 
of Debs, Haywood and De Leon (Socialist Labor Party) the In- 
dustrial Workers of the World was formed in Chicago in 1905. In 
his autobiography Haywood notes the division between Right and 
Left over the LW.W. convention, stating that "None of the poli- 
ticians of the Socialist Party, such as Berger, Hillquit, Spargo or 
Hayes, took part".* 

The factional struggle soon spread from the question of in- 
dustrial unionism to many phases of the Party's theory and practice. 
The period in question was one of growing working class organiza- 
tion and class consciousness under the fierce pressure of expanding 

* Bill Haywood's Book, p. 182. 


American capitalism. It was a time of many bitter strikes, of which 
the bloody Chicago teamsters' strike of 1905, with 21 killed and 451 
wounded, was an example. Since 1898 the A. F. of L. had increased 
its membership from 270,000 to 1,550,000. The Socialist Party 
also reflected this rising tide of working class militancy, its mem- 
bership increasing from some 12,000 in 1901 to 41,479 in 1909 
and its influence rapidly growing in the trade unions. 

The Left wing demand for a class struggle policy by the Party 
became stronger and stronger and new Left leaders developed. In- 
creasingly the clash grew between the revolutionary elements and 
the petty-bourgeois leadership. The former wanted to make the 
Party into a real fighting instrument of the working class, the latter 
wanted to follow a policy of reformism and compromise. Tension was 
acute, especially in several states in the Far West, where the best or- 
ganized and most revolutionary sections of the Party were located. 
The first serious split occurred in the Pacific Northwest early in 1909. 

The split took place in Everett, Washington. The leader of the 
Lefts was Dr. H. T. Titus, editor of the Seattle Socialist, and the 
head of the Right wing was Dr. E. J. Brown, in later years Mayor 
of Seattle on a fusion ticket. The struggle centered around the 
question of reformist petty-bourgeois domination of the Party, and 
against the suppression of the revolutionary elements and their pro- 
gram of struggle. The Left wing was supported mostly by lumber 
workers,. city laborers and "stump" farmers; whereas the Right wing 
drew its support chiefly from the petty businessmen, intellectuals, 
skilled workers and farmers. 

The Left wing had behind it a majority of the Party members, 
but when the convention assembled, the Right wing, which con- 
trolled the Party machinery, had managed to scare up a majority of 
the delegates. A split ensued and in consequence there were two 
Socialist Parties in the state. Whereupon, the opportunist-controlled 
National Executive Committee recognized the Right wing claims, 
excluding the Lefts, including myself, from the Party. 

This blow of the Right wing Socialist Party leadership was char- 
acteristic of their growing war against the revolutionary element in 
the Party. Its consequence was, of course, seriously to injure the 
Party. Hundreds of the best members, not only in Washington, but 
also to a lesser extent in Oregon, Idaho, and California, were driven 
out of the Party and never returned to it. Most of them (like my- 


self) joined the I.W.W. and became Syndicalists. The whole affair 
was a criminal waste of good proletarian fighters, the real builders of 
the Party, by the reformist leadership. But this rupture was soon to 
be followed by another — also forced by the opportunist Socialist 
Party policies and leaders and far more disastrous to the Party' — 
the big national split of 1912. 

The 1912 Split ; 

In this period the working class was in a state of great foment 
The trade unions were growing rapidly and conducting many bit- 
terly-fought strikes. The I.W.W. was achieving a spectacular ad-* 
vance with the Lawrence textile strike and several other big struggles. 
The Socialist Party was growing rapidly and making fast headway 
in gaining leadership in the trade unions. It was also the time of 
the Roosevelt Bull Moose movement. All this militancy and struggle 
of the toiling masses emphasized the futility of the reformist policies 
of the Socialist Party leadership and stressed the need for a program 
of class struggle. But the opportunist leadership clung firmly to their 
reformist line. The struggle between the Right and Left wings of 
the Party quickly spread and sharpened. 

The Left wing, grown strong in this period of mass awakening, 
had built a national movement around the International Socialist 
Remewy published by the Kerr Co., and the chief figures of which 
were Bill Haywood and Mary Marcy. This center circulated the 
works of Marx and Engels, routed revolutionary speakers, printed 
revolutionary pamphlets and developed the Left wing theory and 
practice on current events. Inevitably this Left center came into 
direct conflict with the National Office of the Socialist Party, which 
systematically played down revolutionary theory and agitation of 
every sort and poured out a flood of reformist propaganda.* In 
consequence a struggle for organizational control of the Party 

* The flock of Socialist Party Right wing intellectuals produced lots of 
books and pamphlets, but not one important Marxian work. The books of 
Myers, Russell and Sinclair, although full of valuable factual material, were 
but Socialist muckraking. Hillquit's books were only academic Marxism, and 
those of Simons and Oneal presented an opportunist conception of American 
history. Ghent and London, in their books, Benevolent Feudalism and The Iron 
Heely produced notable works, but they also were saturated with opportunist 


developed, and the whole situation came to a climax in the May, 
1912, Socialist Party convention. 

The immediate program of the Left wing in this crucial fight 
centered around three major issues: against the opportunist petty- 
bourgeois control of the Party; for a policy of militant industrial 
unionism; and against the parliamentary opportunism and vote- 
catching policies of the leadership. The Left wing program at this 
stage was stated in Haywood's and Bonn's pamphlet, Industrial 
Socialism. This program contained many characteristic semi-syndical- 
ist errors, such as underestimation of the role of the Party and of 
the importance of partial political demands, illusions about dual 
industrial unionism, etc., but the essence of it was the traditional 
and correct aim of the Left wing to give the Socialist Party a policy 
of class struggle. 

The outcome of the convention was a major defeat for the 
Left wing, which was beaten on all its main questions. Firstly, it 
lost in the matter of displacing the opportunist leadership, because 
during the pre-convention elections so many petty-bourgeois elements 
got themselves elected as delegates that the convention was infested 
with and completely dominated by all sorts of careerist lawyers, 
journalists, doctors, etc. Secondly, it lost also on the question of 
industrial unionism; for although the convention indorsed industrial 
unionism in principle, it took no steps to put it into effect through 
correcting the opportunist practices of the Party leaders in the A. F. 
of L. and by liquidating the dual unionism of the Left wing. 

But the Left wing suffered its decisive defeat on the general 
question of parliamentary opportunism. The Left wing's essential 
position was against the Party's being merely a vote-catching body, 
and wanted it to become a revolutionary propaganda organization 
and lead in developing broad mass struggles, especially on the eco- 
nomic field. But the Right wing was skillful enough to evade the 
main issue. It shifted the attack away from its own political oppor- 
tunism and narrowed the fight down to an assault upon the Left 
wing's advocacy of sabotage. Sabotage at the time was very popular 
in the French Syndicalist movement and it had been taken up by 
the I.W.W. and the Left wing of the Socialist Party. It was the 
poorest possible issue for the Left wing to defend and the convention 
voted 190 to 91 against it, adopting the notorious Article II, Section 
6, amendment to the Party constitution, which ran: 


"Any member of the Party who opposes political action or ad- 
vocates crime, sabotage or other methods of violence as a weapon 
of the working class to aid in its emancipation shall be expelled 
from membership in the Party," 

The basic meaning of all this ran far beyond the suppression of 
the advocacy of sabotage ; it meant that the Party leadership had re- 
jected the policy of class struggle and had turned still deeper into 
the reformism that was killing the Party. Its lawyer-doctor-preacher 
heads were determined to wipe out the revolutionary tendency in the 
Party and they followed up this convention victory by having Hay- 
wood recalled by referendum from the National Executive Council 
Thus, Bill Haywood, the revolutionary fighter who was worth 
several carloads of the opportunist intellectuals who were running 
and ruining the Socialist Party, was not deemed worthy of sitting 
upon the Party's executive. The elimination of Haywood was a 
logical climax to the leadership's long and fatal war against the Left 
wing and its program of class struggle, the war that brought about 
the historic failure of the Socialist Party. 

The outcome of the 1912 convention was a real disaster to the 
Socialist Party, one from which it never fully recovered. The deadly 
grip of the petty-bourgeois leadership was strengthened and their 
opportunist policies more deeply intrenched. A sort of silent split 
developed, thousands of the best proletarian members, Haywood 
among them, quitting the Party in disgust, never to return • many of 
them going to Syndicalism and the I.W.W. Thus the Party was 
drained of its best blood, and the loss of all these workers and basic 
Party builders soon showed itself in a real decline of the organiza- 
tion. The Party dropped in membership from 118,045 in 1912 (the 
highest point it ever reached in all its history) to 79,374 in 1915. Its 
national election vote fell from 897,011 in 1912 to 585,113 in 
1916. And, of decisive importance, its previous rapid advance in the 
trade unions was stopped and the Socialist Party lost its opportunity 
to win the leadership of the A. F. of L. Reformism had dealt a 
mortal blow to the Socialist Party. 

The 1912 split, however, could not be the decisive fight between 
the reformist and revolutionary forces in the Socialist Party. The 
Second International, which was not yet discredited by its betrayal in 
the World War and in the accompanying revolutionary struggles, still 
had great prestige as the revolutionary organization of the working 


class, as the Party of Marx and Engels. Hence its ultra-opportunist 
American section also retained the power to attract revolutionary 
workers. Moreover, the Socialist Party Left wing, still saturated with 
sectarian and Syndicalist tendencies, was as yet insufficiently developed 
ideologically to build a separate revolutionary party. So, with the 
great vitality and persistence which bespeaks the correctness of its 
revolutionary line, the Left wing, recovering from the disastrous 
1912 defeat, began once more to build the Socialist Party and to 
organize its forces and program within it. But the opportunism of 
the Socialist Party leadership was soon to cause a complete break 
between the reformist Right and the revolutionary Left and to call 
into being the Communist Party. 

The 1919 Sflit 

The 1919 split in the American Socialist Party was part of the 
world-wide break between the reformist and revolutionary elements 
in the Second International, the split that gave birth to the Com- 
munist International. It was the inevitable culmination of the grow- 
ing antagonism for years past between the revolutionists and the 
opportunists in the world Socialist movement. It was directly caused 
by the Second International's support of the World War, by its' 
antagonism to the Russian revolution, and by its betrayal of the 
revolutionary struggles of the workers in Germany, Hungary and 
other European countries at the close of the war. 

These great world events, of course, had profound repercussions 
in the American Socialist Party. They brought to the breaking point 
the long-developing tension between the Right and Left wings of 
the Party and made it impossible for the mutually antagonistic re- 
formist and revolutionary elements to live within the one political 
organization . 

In the vital question of the war, as we have seen, the Left wing 
of the American Socialist Party had energetically opposed the whole 
war-time course of the Second International, condemned the action 
of its parties which supported the war, and strongly resisted Ameri- 
ca's entry into and prosecution of the war. But the Right wing 
leaders of the Party, under cover of radical phrases, compromised 
with the war situation in a typical reformist manner. This brought 
to an acute stage the struggle between the two groups. 


The controversy within the Party over the Russian revolution 
also added fuel to the spreading conflagration. The rapidly growing 
Left wing heartily supported the revolution and accepted its great 
revolutionary lessons, including the fundamental principles laid down 
by Lenin. But the Right wing hated the Russian revolution as the 
very victory symbol of the revolutionary spirit which they had fought 
against for so many years in the American Socialist Party. They 
rejected Lenin's teachings and placed the works of this greatest 
revolutionist since Marx upon the banned books list, where they still 
remain until this day. All of which deeply embittered the Left wing. 

The growing struggle between the Right and Left wings of the 
Party was further spread and intensified by Social-Democracy's 
betrayal of the German revolution at the end of the war through 
the liquidation of the Soviets set up by the workers, soldiers 
and sailors. This treacherous action, which saved capitalism through- 
out central Europe and to which the present-day Hitler can trace 
his power, met with the approval of the American Right wing and 
the bitter hostility of the Left. 

Thus, in this series of great events the Socialist Party, in the 
United States as well as abroad, was hopelessly split ideologically 
by the reactionary course of its opportunist leaders. The long years 
of struggle within the American Socialist Party, as in other coun- 
tries, had come to a climax. The two wings of the Party were at 
open war with each other. It was the parting of the ways between 
the two conflicting tendencies within the Party; between the policies 
of class struggle and class collaboration; between the revolutionists 
who were determined to overthrow capitalism and the opportunists 
who wanted to reform it. 

Inevitably the deep ideological split also took on organizational 
form. And logically it was the Right wing, in line with its long 
struggle to kill the revolutionary tendency, that took the actual 
initiative in splitting the Party. Briefly, the break developed thus: 
The revolutionists, led by C, E. Ruthenberg and organized first in 
the Socialist Propaganda League (Boston, 1915) and later in the 
Left wing of the Socialist Party (New York, June, 1919), had 
the support of the majority of the Party membership and in 1919 
they elected 12 out of 15 members of the National Executive Com- 
mittee of the Socialist Party. But the Right wing, which controlled 
the Party apparatus, repudiated this election and, in order to dom- 


inate the approaching Emergency Convention, suspended several 
language federations and the whole Michigan State Party organiza- 
tion (much as the A, F. of L. Executive Council lately ousted 
the C.I.O.). At the convention itself in Chicago, August 30, 1919, 
the Rights, with the help of the police, expelled all known Left wing 

The split was thus completed. At last the Right wing had suc- 
ceeded in its historic aim of getting rid of the revolutionary element 
from the Socialist Party. But the ruinous consequences to the Socialist 
Party of this criminal expulsion of the Party's best forces, its very 
life blood, were not long in showing themselves. The 1919 split 
turned out to be even more disastrous to the Socialist Party than that 
of 1912. Within a year the Party's membership dropped from 104,- 
822 to 26,766* and by 1927 it had fallen to but 7,425. The in- 
fluence of the Party in the trade unions declined swiftly, and its vote 
in the Presidential elections of 1928 (262,805) was hardly more 
than 25 per cent of its vote in 1920. Socialist representation in state 
and local legislative bodies fell to but a small fraction of its former 
strength. The Party went generally into decay, and its once extensive 
press was almost wiped out. Its opportunist leaders, with the Left 
wing no longer on hand to restrain them, completely abandoned all 
fight against the A. F. of L. reactionaries and joined with them in 
their whole program of B. & O, plan speed-up, labor banking, ex- 
pulsion of Communists, anti-Soviet slander, etc. Thus, reduced 
almost to zero in numbers, influence and revolutionary principle, the 
bankrupt Socialist Party drank to the dregs the bitter cup of its 
opportunist petty-bourgeois leadership, with their fatal reformist 
policies and relentless war against the Left wing. 

The Communist Party 

In consequence of the 1919 split the flag of socialism passed 
from the hands of the Socialist Party. By twenty years of oppor- 
tunism and failure the Socialist Party petty-bourgeois leaders had 
shown that they would make no fight for revolutionary socialism. 
A new Socialist standard bearer, a revolutionary party, was neces- 
sary and it was formed, the Communist Party. 

* In the summer of 1921, the last detachment of the Left wing", the 
Workers Council group (Engdahi, Trachtenberg, Finnish Federation, etc.) 
also quit the Socialist Party. 


In previous splits — 1909, 1912 — the expelled Left wing be- 
cause of its ideological undevelopment had either liquidated itself 
into I.W.W. Syndicalism or dribbled back individually to the So- 
cialist Party. But not so in 1919. The revolutionaries, acquainted 
now with the principles of Leninism and educated by the great events 
of the war and the post-war revolutions, had matured theoretically* 
By 1919 the Left wing had cleared up, or was rapidly doing so, its 
traditional semi-Syndicalist errors on such questions as the role of 
the state, the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the seizure 
of power, the role of the Party and the trade unions, etc. In short, 
as Alex Bittelman says, it had advanced "from vague Left Socialism 
and general proletarian militancy to the definite and solid founda- 
tions of Leninism".* Hence, on August 31 and September 1, 1919, 
in Chicago, the split-off Left wing of the Socialist Party organized 
itself into two Communist Parties. Between these, however, there 
was little difference in principle; so, finally, two years later, they 
fused into one united Communist Party. 

Here is not the place for a history of the Communist Party. 
The student can find this in Bittelman's Fifteen Years of the Com- 
munist Party y Browder's Communism in the United States and What 
Is Communism? y Bimba's History of the American Working Class 
and my forthcoming book From Bryan to Stalin, In this study of the 
Socialist Party I cannot give even an. outline of the Communist 
Party's development and policy, 

Suffice it to say that the Communist Party has based itself firmly 
upon the class struggle policy which the Socialist Party throughout 
its history rejected. It has come forward energetically in the measure 
of its strength as the leader of the masses in their daily fights against 
the capitalist exploiters, and it has systematically cultivated revolu- 
tionary Marxism-Leninism among its own membership and mass 
following. And the general result of this correct policy of class strug- 
gle is the present unity, growth and expanding influence of the 
Communist Party. 

As was to be expected, the development of the revolutionary 
Party in the greatest stronghold of capitalism was no bed of roses. 
On the one hand, there had to be overcome, with the help of the 
Communist International, the harmful semi-Syndicalist sectarian 

* Fifteen Years of the Communist Party, 


conceptions inherited by the Left wing from the past, and this was 
not accomplished and a revolutionary program developed without 
sharp internal struggles and many serious errors in the practical 
work of the Party. And, on the other hand, there had to be with- 
stood the fierce attacks of the capitalists and their agents, including 
severe governmental persecution, widespread expulsion from the 
trade unions and industry by reactionary union officials working 
with the bosses, etc. 

But the Communist Party has prospered in spite of all these 
difficulties. It is now unified and healthy, and its membership and 
influence are constantly increasing. The Party's recent membership 
figures show: 1930— 7,500; 1931—9,000; 1932—14,000; 1933 
—18,000; 1934—26,000; 1935—30,000; 1936—41,000, plus 
11,000 members in the Young Communist League or 52,000 in all. 

Wherever the fight is hottest there the Communist Party is to 
be found organizing the toilers for a united front stand against the 
exploiters. Not to mention its many big struggles of past years, in- 
cluding the long fight for amalgamation and the Labor Party; the 
fight against the B. & O. plan; the long struggle against corruption 
and gangsterism in the unions; the big 1930-33 fights of the unem- 
ployed; the many strike struggles of 1933-35, notably the San Fran- 
cisco strike, etc. The Communist Party, with its broad united front 
policy, is playing an active role on every front in the class struggle. 

Here I can mention only a few of the Communist Party's chief 
• current activities: At the present time it has mobilized the support 
of at least 5,000,000 workers and others in support of the Workers 
Unemployment Insurance Bill (H.R. 2827). It is playing an impor- 
tant part in the American Youth Congress, which at its convention 
in Cleveland, July 3, 1936, had 1,400 delegates representing a 
membership of 1,700,000. The Communist Party is likewise a vital 
factor in the American League Against War and Fascism, a move- 
ment which held its Third Congress in Cleveland in January, 1936, 
with an attendance of 2,070 delegates from 1,840 organizations of 
3,291,906 members. The Party's role was also one of significant 
importance in the organization of the great united front National 
Negro Congress in Chicago, February, 1936, of 1,817 delegates 
representing 1,200,000 members organized in trade unions, churches, 
youth clubs, etc. In all these united front movements the Commu- 
nist Party is an official participant. It is also taking an active part in 


the present big drive of the C.LO* to organize the steel, auto, rub- 
ber, and other mass production industries. In addition, the Party is 
active in developing the Farmer-Labor Party movement. This was 
acknowledged when, at the May 30, 1936, Farmer-Labor confer- 
ence in Chicago, attended by prominent leaders of the Minnesota 
Farmer-Labor Party, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, many 
local labor parties, etc., the Communist Party delegates were offi- 
cially seated. 

A most important present activity of the Communist Party and 
an evidence of its growing mass influence is its militant fight against 
the suspension of the C.LO. unions by the A. F. of L. Executive 
Council. Up to the present writing 20 state federations, 70 central 
bodies, several international unions and hundreds of locals have 
protested the suspension. The masses of trade unionists are enraged 
at the attempt of Green, Hutcheson and Co. to split the labor move- 
ment, and the Communist Party has been very active in crystallizing 
this mass resentment into concrete action. The C.LO. to date has 
bestirred itself very little in organizing this protest, and as for the 
Socialist Party, prostrated by its hesitant attitude and internal chaos, 
it has made virtually no fight whatsoever to preserve the unity of the 
trade union movement. 

The growth and accomplishments of the Communist Party are, 
of course, very modest in comparison with the great revolutionary 
tasks ahead. The Party also still has many weaknesses and insuffi- 
ciencies that have to be corrected. But the important thing is that the 
Party is on the right track, its fundamental program of class strug- 
gle is correct, its policies of the broad united front are successful, and 
it is learning to apply them effectively. This is amply proven by the 
revolutionary Communist Party's record of growth and progress, in 
comparison with the historical failure of the reformist Socialist Party. 
The Communist Party is becoming a major political factor in the 
country, while the Socialist Party flounders along in crisis and de- 
cline. All of which goes to show that in the many long years' fight 
between Rights and Lefts in the American revolutionary movement, 
the Lefts were profoundly correct. Not along the road of reformism, 
but of class struggle is the way the workers have to go to achieve 



The Present Situation in the Socialist Party 

The Turn to the Left 

A S WE have seen, the present crisis in the Socialist Party is not a 
matter of recent development. It is the piled-up result of long 
years of wrong policy, of Right opportunism, of flagrant violation 
of the Marxian class struggle policy which was fundamentally neces- 
sary to build the Socialist Party. But' in the last three years there 
has been something of a change in the Socialist Party's traditional 
trend. That Party has shown fresh Left tendencies, and with them 
some signs of renewed growth and activity. 

Among the more marked of these tendencies were an overhauling 
of the Socialist Party's theoretical line, which resulted in the adop- 
tion of a more Left statement of principles at the Detroit, 1934, 
convention; greater mass activity in the daily class struggle, espe- 
cially among the unemployed; a growing tendency towards united 
front movements with the Communist Party; a growth of the 
Party's membership from 10,389 in 1931 to 19,121 in 1935; an 
increase in the national election vote to 883,341 in 1932, as against 
262,805 in 1928; the defeat of the "Old Guard" as the Party 
leadership, and the split with these elements at the Cleveland 1936 
national Party convention. 

A number of forces combined to bring about the new Left ten- 
dencies in the Socialist Party. The most decisive of these was the 
great radicalization of the proletariat during the past few years — 
marked by the many big struggles of the unemployed, the huge 
strike wave, the expansion of the unions, the growth of Labor 
Party sentiment, the formation of the C.LO., the widely spreading 
mass discontent with capitalism as a system, etc. This basic mass 
radicalization movement naturally had its effect upon the Socialist 
Party by forcing it, especially from the pressure of its new proleta- 
rian members, into activity and into a more Left position. Another 
very important factor in the Socialist Party's reawakening was the 
shameful surrender of German Social-Democracy in face of the rise 
of Hitler, This development, followed soon afterward by the vic- 




tory of fascism in Austria, exposed the utter bankruptcy of social 
reformism and stimulated the Left tendency, not only in the Ameri- 
can Socialist Party but also in many other parties of the Second 
International. Another basic factor greatly encouraging Left devel- 
opments in the Socialist Party was the continued success of the 
Soviet Union. The victorious Soviet government, the fruit of Com- 
munist policy, stands out in glaring contrast with the great defeat 
of the whole line of the Socialist reformists and consequently has 
a revolutionizing effect upon the proletarian members of the Social- 
ist Party, The growth of the popular front movement in Spain and 
France in the past two years had a similar result. And, finally, the 
growth of the American Communist Party, in contrast with the 
crippled Socialist Party, has a big influence in developing Left senti- 
ment among the Socialist Party working class members. 

The Communist Party welcomes the new Left tendencies in the 
Socialist Party for the good and obvious reason that every increase in 
revolutionary sentiment and organization is fundamentally advan- 
tageous to the working class and hence also to the Communist Party. 
And in supporting the new Left trends in the Socialist Party a 
central task is to analyze and evaluate them. The question before us 
here is to learn whether in its new orientation the Socialist Party has 
succeeded in overcoming the ruinous reformist policies which it pur- 
sued for a full generation and which have reduced it to its present 
critical position. 

The Socialist Party's Petty-Bourgeois Leadership 

First let us consider the question of leadership. In previous pages 
I have pointed out what a disaster it was for the Socialist Party to 
have been dominated from the outset by a petty-bourgeois leader- 
ship of lawyers, preachers, doctors, etc. They were the chief source 
of the opportunism that hamstrung the Party throughout the years. 
What has happened to the Socialist Party then in this respect in its 
new Left turn? 

Here we get an unfavorable answer. The situation remains sub- 
stantially as before. True, a raft of these petty-bourgeois reformists 
quit the Party in the 1936 Right wing split, formed the People's 
Party and are now waging war against the Socialist Party, There 
are new, young leaders developing in the Socialist Party, but still the 
Party is heavily dominated by non-proletarian elements. This was 


manifested at the Cleveland convention, with its many preachers, 
lawyers, etc., and it is also expressed by the petty-bourgeois make-up 
of the Socialist Party National Executive Committee. Of the eleven 
members in this committee four are lawyers, four are preachers and 
two professors; only one is proletarian, and he is a trade union offi- 
cial. Compare this Socialist Party non-working class leadership with 
the Political Committee of the Communist Party which is composed 
of 1 1 members, all proletarians.* 

The Communist Party is not in principle against the membership 
of middle class intellectuals. Such intellectuals, when they are revo- 
lutionary, have a great contribution to make to the working class 
movement. This was brilliantly demonstrated by the life work of 
Marx, Engels, Lenin and many others. But not by the type of oppor- 
tunist intellectuals that have always shaped the policies of the Ameri- 
can Socialist Party. Throughout its entire history these petty-bour- 
geois reformists have been a barrier in the way of the Socialist Party's 
developing a healthy class struggle policy and, despite the new Left 
trends, that barrier still ^exists. The proletarianization of the leader- 
ship of the Socialist Party is a fundamental necessity in order for that 
organization to develop towards a strong and revolutionary party. 

Next we turn to the question of policy. I shall state the question 
concretely: In previous chapters I have pointed out in considerable 
detail, how the inability of the Socialist Party to build itself into a 
strong revolutionary party during its long history must be ascribed 
to its failure to carry out a Marxian class struggle policy, that is, (a) 
its failure to come forward aggressively as the mass leader of the 
working class in its struggles for everyday economic and political 
demands; (b) its failure to educate and develop a solid body of 
trained Marxian revolutionaries as the backbone of the Party. Now 
let us see whether or not the Socialist Party, with its recent Left turn, 
has liquidated these two fatal reformist weaknesses or shows indica- 
tions of doing so. 

1. The Question of the Daily Mass Struggles 

The answer to this question must be negative. The Socialist 
Party's new line, especially in its latest developments, does not make 

* The Socialist Party National Executive Committee is still more un- 
representative in that it contains no Negro, women or youth members j whereas 
in the Communist Party top committees these elements are fully represented, 


for increasing its leadership of the masses in their daily economic and 
political struggles. Throughout the history of the Socialist Party prior 
to 1934, as we have seen, the openly Right wing reformist policy of 
the Party, the tendency for the opportunist petty-bourgeois leaders 
to soft-pedal and compromise all struggles of the workers, was the 
obstacle that prevented the Socialist Party from becoming the daily 
mass leader of the proletariat. The Party has not, despite its new 
turn, been able to free itself of this traditional reformism. It has 
only succeeded in adding new forms to its reformist line. 

Thes>e new forms of reformism consist of a tendency towards 
sectarianism. The sectarian tendency dresses itself up with many 
revolutionary phrases, but it is opportunistic just the same. And it is 
no less fatal to effective mass work than open Right opportunism. It 
has been especially manifest in the past year and has already done the 
Socialist Party much harm. Unless it is speedily corrected it will have 
deadly effects upon the Socialist Party by still further isolating it 
from the life and struggles of the masses. 

A. The New Socialist Party Sectarian Reformism 

There is at present great theoretical confusion in the Socialist 
Party, what with groups of "Old Guard" reformists, Thomasites, 
Hoanites, "militants", Trotskyites, Lovestoneites, and a minority of 
developing Leninists all advocating their respective policies and 
struggling for control of the Party, while the split-off "Old Guard" 
makes war from the outside. The dominant voice in the inner- 
party chaos is that of Norman Thomas. He is the outstanding theo- 
retical leader of the Party and he is especially active in injecting the 
new elements of sectarianism into the general reformist line of the 
Party. His program boils down to a curious combination of Right 
and "Left" sectarianism superimposed upon a basic structure of the 
old discredited class collaboration of the Second International, 

It is not surprising that there should develop sectarian tendencies 
of revolutionary phrasemongering among the Socialist Party mem- 
bership. Unquestionably, the proletarian members of the Socialist 
Party in their new Left mood want to make a revolutionary organ- 
ization of their Party, but with no solid Marxian training as a 
background, they drift off into mere revolutionary phrase-making 
instead of making a sound revolutionary policy. It is what Lenin 
called the infantile sickness of "Leftism". This tendency is worsened 



by the petty-bourgeois opportunist leadership of the Party which 
systematically diverts the workers 5 revolutionary moods into mere 
radical phrase-making and thus avoids real mass struggle. They con- 
tinue their opportunist line in a different form. 

At first glance it may seem astonishing that a pronounced advo- 
cate of the new sectarian tendency should be Norman Thomas, 
who hitherto has always been an open Right opportunist. But such 
"Left" vagaries are not uncommon on the part of Socialist middle- 
class intellectuals all over the world. I need only refer to the case 
of the ultra-opportunist C. E. Russell joining with Debs in warning 
against opportunism in the Socialist Party in their pamphlet Danger 
Ahead y or the case of the reformist Frank Bohn lining up with Bill 
Haywood in the 1912 inner-party fight, or the recent instance of 
A. J. Muste, who in a few years completed the cycle of preacher — 
progressive trade unionist — Left Socialist — Trotsky ite and then back 
to preacher again. Right opportunists can easily fly over to "Left" 
sectarian positions. 

The sectarian danger in the Socialist Party was greatly increased 
by that Party's recent absorption of the Trotskyite group. Just at 
the time when these counter-revolutionary elements were being 
proved to be terrorists and assassins the Socialist Party saw fit to 
take them to its bosom. But it will inevitably pay dearly for this 
mistake in loss of strength and influence. The Trotskyites, who are 
finding easy pickings in the confused, chaotic Socialist Party, are 
tending greatly to turn that organization into an anti-Communist, 
anti-Soviet sect. This will drive the best worker elements out of the 
Socialist Party and will further weaken its contacts with the masses. 
Not long since the French Socialist Party also made the mistake 
of swallowing the noisome Trotsky group, but it soon had to relieve 
itself of the poisonous, indigestible mess, and the American Socialist 
Party will have to do the same if it is to develop into a healthy party. 

B. Underestimation of Immediate Demands 

Now let us look at the practical application of the Socialist Party's 
new mixture of sectarianism and Right reformism, of which Thomas 
is the great champion. The heart of Thomas' theorizing is to the 
effect that inasmuch as capitalism is now breaking down the fight 
for partial economic and political demands is relatively unimportant 
and that the immediate issue upon which all attention should be con- 


centrated is the basic revolutionary question of socialism versus capi- 
talism. His position, in substance, is that the workers cannot satisfy 
their most immediate needs or protect their most elementary rights 
short of establishing a socialist society. Thomas says, "The immediate 
demand of the Socialists is socialism."* 

Now all this sounds very revolutionary, especially coming from 
Norman Thomas who only three years ago was enthused over the 
"steps toward socialism" of Roosevelt. But actually it is only radical 
phrasemongering. Its general effect is to weaken the struggle of the 
workers and to play into the hands of the bosses. Its continuance 
will make havoc with what membership and standing the Socialist 
Party still has left. 

Thomas' playing down of immediate partial demands goes 
counter to the whole need and trend of the revolutionary movement. 
His line is one of mere agitation, not struggle. The fight for partial 
demands is the starting point for all revolutionary struggle. And 
never did they play such a vital role as they do now, with the workers' 
civic, working, and living standards being so viciously attacked by 
the growing fascist reaction. As the Communist Party correctly 
stresses, a militant defense of the workers 3 immediate interests is the 
first condition for the development of the struggle against capitalism 
as a system. It is only in such fights that the workers can develop 
the necessary understanding, confidence and organization. When 
Thomas puts out his slogan, "If reform is the way out, better stick 
with the Roosevelt administration", and then backs this up by soft- 
pedaling the fight for the immediate issues confronting the toiling 
masses and by concentrating upon mere agitation for the establish- 
ment of socialism, he abandons the present-day fighting field of the 
revolutionary movement and reduces the whole struggle for socialism 
to an empty abstraction. He not only undermines the present-day 
fight of the workers but the ultimate aims of the working class as 
well. In the name of socialism he hamstrings the fight for socialism. 
And the effect of it all upon the Socialist Party is still further to 
isolate it from the life and struggles of the masses and thus to push 
it along the fatal road of sectarianism. It is also water on the mill 
of the counter-revolutionary Trotskyites who are struggling to con- 
trol the Socialist Party. 


* Radio speech, Oct. 20, 1936. 


C. The Retreat Before Fascism 

Consequent upon his failure to perceive the fundamental impor- 
tance of the fight for immediate demands in the development of the 
revolutionary struggle in general, Thomas abandons the field in the 
face of advancing fascism. With his constant harping upon the one 
string of "socialism versus capitalism" he quits the real revolutionary 
battle which, in its present preliminary stages, is now being waged 
around the central question of "democracy versus fascism". Is this; 
not as clear as day in France and Spain? There the workers and their 
allies, who in their overwhelming mass would remain unresponsive 
to sterile and academic talk such as Thomas > about establishing: 
socialism forthwith, are nevertheless drawn into revolutionary ac- 
tivity by their fight against the attacks of the fascists upon their 
present civic, working, and living standards. Their movement begins 
as a defensive fight for the most elementary immediate needs, their 
wages, their right to organize, the national independence of their 
countries, etc., but it soon passes over to a counter-offensive struggle 
for major objectives making definitely towards a revolutionary clash 
with capitalism. 

Thus in France the workers and their allies were not content 
simply with setting up the Blum government as a defense against 
fascism but carried their counter-offensive much further, adding; 
3,000,000 new members to the trade unions, securing wage increases, 
shorter hours, vacations with pay, etc., etc. And in Spain this whole 
revolutionary trend is even more marked. Who can doubt but that 
the masses in these countries, starting from their defense of their 
democratic rights and developing their counter-offensif e, have made 
huge strides in the direction of the final struggle for socialism? 
And the same general rule applies to the United States. When 
Thomas does not see the question of progress versus reaction, of 
democracy versus fascism, as the issue of immediate struggle, he 
fails to see the present-day revolutionary struggle in general and 
he lives in a realm of reformist sectarian abstractions. 

Where Thomas' blindness on the issue of democracy versus- \ 
fascism leads to in actual practice is shown by the tragically ridicu- 
lous position of the Socialist Party in the 1936 Presidential election 
campaign, which is still going on as I write this. The situation is that 
the Liberty League and other great capitalist interests, which embody- 
the real threat of fascism and of which such figures as Coughlin,, 


Smith, Talmadge, etc., are satellites, are bitterly opposed to Roose- 
velt's concessions to the toiling masses, meager though they were, 
and they are almost solidly behind Landon. Roosevelt has served 
them welL His proudest boast is that he saved the capitalist system 
by the New Deal. But the big exploiters are determined to find an 
even more convenient instrument for putting across their ultra- 
reactionary program, a program which inevitably leads in the direction 
of fascism. 

""* It is clear that the Republican candidate Landon, with his false- 
face of liberalism and his tutelage by the fascist Hearst, is the spokes- 
man of the main fascist danger in this country. Although he 
himself is not definitely a fascist and while his victory would 
not result immediately in the establishment of fascism, it would, 
nevertheless, undoubtedly stimulate enormously the employers' re- 
actionary offensive and greatly facilitate the growth of fascist ten- 
dencies, f in line with the realities of the situation, therefore, the 
Communist Party has correctly singled out Landon as the chief 
expression of the fascist menace and urges his defeat. But this 
by no means implies endorsement of Roosevelt. On the contrary, the 
Communist Party points out that with his constant service to re- 
actionary finance capital Roosevelt is an ardent defender of capital- 
ism and is no barrier to fascism. It advocates the formation of a 
united front anti-fascist Farmer-Labor Party and, in the absence 
oT such a party, in the present elections, it calls upon the masses 
to vote for the Communist Party candidates, Browder and F ord. \ 

But Thomas can see no fascist- danger in Landon. Quite tHe 
reverse: he concentrates his main fire against Roosevelt and gives 
direct support to Hearst's man, Landon, The fascist-like election 
strategy of the Republican Party and its heavy financial backers is, 
through the candidacy of Landon, to put something of a liberal 
face upon their reactionary program and thus to delude the masses. 
But Thomas, instead of joining with the Communists, trade union- 
ists, liberals, etc., in exposing this dangerous demagogic trick, pro- 
ceeds to give it practical support, 

Thomas aids the capitalist demagogy by absolving Landon of any 
taint of fascism and accepting this pseudo-liberalism at its face value. 
He assails the Communists for ascribing a fascist tendency to Landon 
and he can see the trend towards fascism only in such figures as 
Coughlin, Smith, etc. Says Thomas, "The fascist demagogue will talk 


like Huey Long or maybe like Lemke, but not like Landon or 
Knox".* This attitude constitutes direct aid to the fascist Hearst's 
candidate, as it tends to disarm the masses and lure them into the 
demagogic trap set for them by fascist-minded big capital.** 

But Thomas goes further than this. He also undertakes to cleanse 
Landon's big financial supporters themselves of any suspicion of 
fascism. This he does with doubly fallacious argument. Firstly, he 
presents the deadly reformist illusion that fascism is a movement 
of the middle class,*** instead of its being basically the movement 
of finance capital, with the middle class serving as its tool; and 
secondly, he makes the ridiculous assertion that the Republican Party, 
the party of monopoly capital, instead of tending on towards fas- 
cism and further monopolization, is actually trying to turn back 
the wheels of time and return to the period of relatively free com- 
petition, to the individualistic capitalism of the nineteenth century. 
He declares, "Landon, or the forces and interests behind him which 
are stronger than Landon, are in the strict sense of the word re- 
actionary. They want to go back to an older capitalism".**** Thus, 
Thomas would have the workers believe that finance capital presents 
no real menace of fascism, but is actually a barrier against it. 

Consequent upon this absurd analysis, Thomas arrives at the 
conclusion that it makes no difference whether Roosevelt or Landon 
is elected. But in reality the weight of his argument favors Landon, 
and gives him direct support. Indeed, Thomas finds a characteristic- 
ally ridiculous reason for the election of Landon when he says: "Con- 
ceivably a Landon victory might put iron in labor's blood."***** 
When Hearst, to elect Landon through a Red scare, lyingly alleged 
that the Communists were supporting Roosevelt, Thomas at once 
rushed into print and seconded Hearst's charge. Small wonder then 

* Quoted in Daily Worker, July 13, 1936. 

** Thomas 1 * acceptance of Landon's demagogic pretenses of liberalism was 
evidenced by his much publicized letter to Landon asking him to state more 
precisely his position towards labor. For this service to Landon, Thomas was- 
heartily praised by Hearst and the whole Republican press and roundly con- 
demned by many spokesmen of labor. 

*** "The essential thing about fascism in Europe is that it is a middle 
class movement, directed nominally as much against international bankers or 
plutocrats as against organized workers." After the New Deal — What? p. 144. 

**** Socialist Call> Sept. 12, 1936. 

***** Ibid. 


that Hearst, the chief American fascist, should quote him approvingly 
in his great chain of papers. And it is significant that with the Re- 
publicans in the election campaign fiercely denouncing not only 
Browder, but also such people as Frankfurter, Tugwell, Ickes, 
Wallace, Lewis, Hillman, Dubinsky, and even Roosevelt himself, 
as dangerous Communists, they exempted Norman Thomas entirely 
from their attack. In Mineola, New York, the Republican city au- 
thorities refused a public building for a meeting of the American 
Labor Party (to which 450,000 New York trade unionists are 
affiliated) on the ground that it was Communistic, but they freely 
allowed the use of the hall the following night to the Socialist Party, 
with Norman Thomas as speaker. 

The 1936 national elections constitute the sharpest class divisions 
in American history. On the one side, there is the greatest aggrega- 
tion of capital that has ever backed any American political party and, 
on the other, an unprecedented concentration of the toiling masses. 
Although the opposing class line-up and program are as yet by no 
means complete and clear-cut, this election fight amounts to the first 
real battle between the forces making for fascism and those fighting 
against it. And in this important situation the Socialist Party finds 
itself on the wrong side of the barricade. For this it is already pay- 
ing dearly in lessened prestige and influence, and it is being exposed 
still further to the Trotskyite poison within its tissues. 

D. A Reactionary Peace Policy 

The new trend in the Socialist Party has not given that Party 
a revolutionary peace policy. True, the Socialist Party makes a great 
show of radicalism in its attitude towards the war that now threatens 
to deluge the world anew with blood. But in reality its policy in this 
vital matter is only its traditional reformist line, with the new sec- 
tarian trimmings. Its wrong attitude stands in the way of the 
Socialist Party doing real anti-war service and of its developing 
mass leadership on this fundamental issue. The membership of the 
Socialist Party are, of course, genuinely in favor of peace but their 
Party's program is not a true peace policy. And this wrong policy in 
the struggle against war is made all the worse by the growing in- 
fluence of the Trotskyites in the Socialist Party. 

Briefly, the war situation is this: Fascist Germany, Japan and 
Italy in an imperialist drive to acquire markets, natural resources 


and colonies, and to smother their own internal crisis, are developing 
a great bloc for a war offensive against various other countries as 
occasion dictates, among them the capitalist democracies of France, 
England, the United States, Spain, Czechoslovakia, etc., as well as 
against the Soviet Union. It is a basically different situation from 
that prevailing on the eve of the 1914 World War. At that time 
two mutually warlike and aggressive groups of imperialist powers 
confronted each other; but now the capitalist democracies, colonies 
and socialist U.S.S.R., which all want peace, are definitely on the 
defensive in the face of the militant fascist offensive. 

Should the fascist aggressors succeed in their war plans of mass 
slaughter and subjugation, it would be a crushing blow to liberty in 
every country. Their murderous attack aims to extinguish all 
semblances of labor organization and civil rights in Europe and to- 
reduce the living standards of the toiling masses to coolie levels; 
it also menaces the political independence of many countries, and its- 
most central objective is to drown the Soviet government in the 
greatest bloodbath in history. The fascist offensive threatens the very 
existence of modern civilization and its success would be a major 
disaster to the human race. 

In the face of this ultra-dangerous situation the Soviet Union 
leads the struggle for the maintenance of peace. It seeks to develop 
a combined defensive by the socialist and democratic forces of the 
world, on the basis of a program of collective security, to stop the 
war which the fascists are preparing so deliberately. And more and 
more the world's labor movement and the democratic countries are 
rallying to this program. But this struggle has still greater implica- 
tions than that of saving the world from a horrible slaughter. It 
also dovetails with the fight of the revolutionary movement for 
socialism at the present time. Should the combined peace forces be 
able to prevent the war it means that the advance of socialism thereby 
will be greatly facilitated in every country; and if they have to 
defeat militarily the fascists in a war forced by the latter it will 
surely be a prelude to proletarian revolutions in many countries. The 
struggle to preserve democracy and to maintain peace is also, for the 
toiling masses, the fight for socialism. 

But the so recently super-revolutionary Thomas will have none 
of this. He repudiates all efforts to force the American government 
to take a stand with other democracies against the fascist aggressors 


and he likewise rejects this policy for European nations. With a 
pseudo-radical gesture he sweeps away the correct revolutionary 
strategy of the Communist International and the Soviet Union, 
Echoing the a Red imperialism" slanders of Kautsky and the lies of 
Hitler that the U.S.S.R. is the real source of the war danger, 
Thomas denounces the Communists and other advocates of collec- 
tive security against the fascist barbarians as "crusaders for a new 
holy war". He sneers at the peace struggle led by the Soviet Union 
to halt the war-making fascists as being merely preparations for "a 
*good' war between capitalist nations".* Then he plumps for the 
American bourgeois imperialist policy of "neutrality" and "isolation", 
the policy mask behind which American capitalism hides its aggres- 
sive aims. 

Thomas* policy of "keeping out of it" is, in plain English, a 
shameful surrender before the attack of Hitler, Mussolini & Co. 
It is an abandonment of the embattled revolutionary labor move- 
ment of Europe. Thomas' determination not to actively assist the 
workers of Europe in case of a fascist-made war he justifies by the 
following puerile argument: 

"It should be remembered that there is no particular virtue in 
helping- an 'innocent' nation [one of those attacked by the fascists — 
W.Z.F.] by enabling the du Pont family to sell powder to them at 
a great profit."** 

The readiness of Thomas to betray the Soviet Union in case 
of war is clearly shown in the following disgraceful statement: 

"Is not Russia today strong enough to take care of herself with- 
out asking workers in other lands in her behalf to accept the terror 
and futility of one more c good } war?"*** 

The American imperialist policy of "isolation", which Thomas 
accepts with a flourish of much radical phraseology, cannot prevent 
war nor keep the United States out of war if and when it comes. 
"The way to keep America out of war is to keep war out of the 
world", correctly says the Communist Party. And this can only 
be done by an organized struggle for peace on the part of the anti- 

* After the New Deal — What? p, 218. 
** Ibid.y p. 140. 
*** Ibid., p. 136. 


war forces of the world against the mad-dog fascist war-makers. 
The great present task of the revolutionary movement is to mobilize 
the workers and their allies for this struggle against war, and it is 
a task that the Communist Parties are everywhere loyally fulfilling. 
But the Socialist Party, with its "stay out of it" American capitalist 
neutrality theories, has abdicated mass leadership in this struggle for 
peace and is objectively lending support to the fascist war-makers in 
Europe and this country. 

E. A Sectarian Labor Party Policy 

The matter of breaking the masses away from the two capitalist 
parties and building a great Farmer-Labor Party is a fundamental 
necessity to combat the advance of reaction and fascism in this coun- 
try. And never was the sentiment so strong as now among the 
workers for such a party. But hesitancy and delay in the matter are 
highly dangerous. Because the A. F. of L. trade union bodies, upon 
whom the principal responsibility falls for launching such a party> 
have failed to act we see huge masses of discontented workers, small 
farmers, etc., falling under the control of the Coughlins, Lemkes,, 
Townsends, etc., in their incipient fascist third party which is openly 
aiding Landon reactionaries in the election campaign. It is the great 
task of the Farmer-Labor Party, the American form of the People's 
Front, to prevent the huge toiling masses who are seething with dis- 
content from being trapped by reactionary and fascist demagogues 
and to give these masses a powerful anti-fascist political weapon. It is 
because of these vital considerations that the Communist Party is a 
constant and militant fighter for the establishment of the Farmer- 
Labor Party. 

But here again on this basic issue the Socialist Party still follows a 
reformist policy highly detrimental to its development of mass leader- 
ship and effective struggle. In previous pages I have pointed out that 
the Socialist Party with its preacher-doctor-lawyer leadership fol- 
lowed for many years a sectarian anti-labor party policy that was. 
disastrous to the Socialist Party's development as a mass proletarian 
party. For a few years there was a tendency to correct this disastrous 
policy, but now the Socialist Party, with its outbreak of sectarian 
phraseniaking, is falling again into the historical mistake of an 
anti-labor party policy. 


— . 

It is true that the Socialist Party does lip service to the question 
of the Farmer-Labor Party, but that is about as far as it goes* In 
practice the Socialist Party follows a line inimical to the Farmer- 
Labor Party, This manifests itself by the Socialist Party's systematic 
opposition to all steps leading towards the actual formation of the 
Farmer-Labor Party. It hinders the Farmer-Labor Party by insisting 
upon an unduly radical program for it and by putting forth pessi- 
mistic arguments that there is as yet no mass basis for such a party. 
Besides, the Socialist Party takes little or no active part in the now 
necessary preliminary agitation and organization steps — the building 
of local and state parties, Farmer-Labor Party conferences, etc. — 
and often actually resists these movements. Thus the Socialist Party 
declined even to attend the important Chicago, May 30, conference 
called by the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party and it assumed an atti- 
tude of sharpest hostility towards the American Labor Party of New 
York, which is an important indication of the trend of the Com- 
mittee fdr Industrial Organization towards a national Labor Party. 
And highly significant of its sectarian attitude, the Socialist Party in 
its most important 1936 election campaign document, the Party plat- 
form, does not even raise the question of the Farmer-Labor Party, 
an omission which puts forward the emaciated and half-lifeless 
Socialist Party, as the only political perspective, organizationally 
speaking, for the American working class and its allies. 

The Socialist Party never, at any time, fully freed itself from 
the harmful illusion which it held for many years that the Labor 
Party was a rival party, a competitor to the Socialist Party. And 
now, with the new wave of sectarianism in the Socialist Party, 
this long-imbedded wrong conception gains fresh ground. This is 
clearly shown by the platform omission of the question of the 
Farmer-Labor Party. It is also evidenced by the fact that at the 1936 
convention of the Socialist Party 64 delegates (against 119) voted 
opposition in principle to the- Labor Party. The baneful and growing 
influence of the Trotskyites in the Socialist Party greatly increases 
this anti-Farmer-Labor Party trend. Thus the Socialist Party raises 
a high barrier of sectarianism that blocks its way to mass influence 
and leadership on the fundamentally important issue of the Farmer- 
Labor Party. 


F. Thomas' Defeatism 

To the foregoing instances of sectarian trends and openly oppor- 
tunist hang-over policies from the past that still remain in the mass 
work of the Socialist Party many others of similar character could 
be added. The same narrow line is to be observed increasingly in the 
Socialist Party's work in the trade unions, among the unemployed, 
in the youth activities, among the sharecroppers, etc. And the general 
effect of it all is, during the past year or so since the sectarian trends 
have become more pronounced, to cut away the Socialist Party's 
already greatly weakened mass influence and to reduce still further its 
badly shattered membership. 

It is characteristic of Norman Thomas' role in the Socialist Party 
that, with his great show of radical phrasemongering, he should find 
the way to distort into a sterile sectarianism the Socialist Party prole- 
tarian membership's desire to make their Party truly revolutionary. 
In every important situation Thomas seems to have the unhappy 
faculty of finding the way to inaction and surrender. He is a 
confirmed prophet of pessimism and defeatism. But fortunately his 
non-fight way is not the way of the masses. For them the class 
struggle is not merely a matter of philosophical speculation 5 their 
very lives and liberties are at stake, and they will fight notwithstanding 
the surrender advice of Thomas. 

Many examples might be cited of Thomas' non-struggle policies. 
Thus, for instance, when Roosevelt promulgated his N.R.A. Thomas 
promptly called upon the workers not to strike. Happily, however, 
they disregarded his counsel of passive reliance upon Roosevelt and 
carried through successfully one of the greatest strike waves in 
American history. Again, in his book, As I See It> Thomas was at 
great pains to show, in his defense of purely parliamentary tactics, 
that armed action by the workers has been rendered obsolete and 
impossible by the development of the airplane and other modern 
military weapons. But the workers of Spain, against whom the great 
bulk of the trained army revolted, are now giving a glorious negative 
to Thomas' surrender propaganda. Thomas' abandonment of the 
European workers' fight for peace is also a non-struggle policy that 
the masses will reject. And now in his new book, After the New 
Deal — What? Norman Thomas not only sees fascism as inevitable 
in the United States following the next serious economic crisis., 11 ' but 

* He says, "The only hope of bourgeois democracies to escape fascism is 
to escape this crisis." After the New Deal — What? p. 154. 


more or less universal after the world war that is now brewing. 
But again the workers will disappoint this monumental pessimism 
of Thomas. They will never accept his inevitability-of-fascism 
theories. They will have a big word to say before fascism can possibly 
succeed in this country, and what realist can doubt that the next 
world war, instead of being followed by a spread of fascism, will 
give birth to a new wave of proletarian revolutions that may well 
crack the capitalist system all over Europe? 

Thomas' new sectarianism has its roots in this basic pessimism, 
in his glaring lack of faith in the fighting ability of the working 
class and its allies. His whole conception is an escape from the hard 
realities and severe tasks of the class struggle into the easy realm of 
glittering radical generalities. But it is a path that the working class 
will never tread. It will not fit itself into Thomas' narrow sectarian- 
ism, defeatism and crass opportunism. On the contary, it will forge 
ahead along its line of militant mass struggle and leave the Socialist 
Party, if that Party persists in its present policies, sitting in sterile 
2. The Question of Cultivating the Revolutionary Forces 

In the foregoing pages we have seen that the Socialist Party, with 
its new turn, has not succeeded in developing a policy that would 
bring it forward in a leading position among the workers and other 
toiling masses in their everyday struggle against the capitalist ex- 
ploiters. Thus it still fails in the first essential for the establishment 
of the class struggle policy that is fundamentally necessary in order 
to build a strong revolutionary party. Now let us see what the So- 
cialist Party is doing with regard to the second essential of such a 
class struggle policy- — the building up of a strong body of Marxist- 
Leninist understanding in and around the Party. Here, again, as we 
shall see, our question will receive a negative answer: the Socialist 
Party is also not succeeding in this most basic need. 

A. Reformist Theoretical Weakness 

Prior to 1934, the authoritative pronouncement of the Socialist 
Party analysis and policy was the statement of principles adopted in 
the Party convention of 1924. This was a typical social reformist 
document of the period ; it might well have been the basic program 
of any of the parties of the Second International. It was more con- 


:servative even than the 1920 statement (which was adopted under 
the influence of the Russian Revolution and the great post-war up- 
heavals) and it contained all the theoretical misconceptions and 
opportunist policies that have led to the practical bankruptcy of the 
Second International in the face of the Russian Revolution on the 
one hand and the rise of fascism on the other. 

The 1924 Socialist Party statement, a product of the Coolidge 
"boom" period, was not a program of proletarian revolution, but 
of the gradual growth of capitalism into socialism. The document 
rejects the Marxian analysis of the capitalist state as the instrument 
of the bourgeoisie and the revolutionary necessity for setting up 
the dictatorship of the proletariat — instead it is based upon the oppor- 
tunist theory that the present state is a democratic people's state by 
means of which socialism can be built. The 1924 program also 
holds forth not a Marxian perspective of class struggle culminating 
in the overthrow of capitalism and the "expropriation of the expro- 
priators" without compensation, but the Bernstein conception of class 
collaboration, the conquest of the state by peaceful means and the 
purchase of the major industries from the capitalist owners. 

The Detroit, 1934, statement of principles, written as I have 
pointed out under the pressure of the great American strike wave 
of the early Roosevelt years and in face of the bankruptcy of the 
German Socialist Party before Hitler's attacks, broke sharply with 
the extreme Right reformist Socialist Party conception of 1924. 
The new program was still full of confusion and far from being 
revolutionary, but it was nevertheless a big advance over the pre- 
vious document. 

The 1934 program rejected the reformist theory of the capi- 
talist "people's state", began to speak of the "bogus democracy of 
capitalism", and made a confused approach to the question of the 
dictatorship of the proletariat by vague theorizing about a future 
"workers' democracy". The program also cast grave doubts on the 
efficacy of purely democratic and legal methods of struggle and 
declared that it was prepared if necessary to "carry the revolutionary 
struggle into the camp of the enemy". It also took a more militant 
stand against war, pronouncing itself in favor of "massed war re- 
sistance", and it made a more correct estimate of the first socialist 
state, the U.S.S.R. This relatively Left program was. adopted by 
the Detroit convention only after a fierce resistance by the "Old 
Guard" leadership, who denounced it as Communistic. 


The Detroit, 1934, program represented progress in the direc- 
tion of a revolutionary basis for the Socialist Party's work. But the 
Cleveland, 1936, Socialist Party convention took some steps back- 
ward by substantially watering down the Detroit document. 
Throughout its history the Socialist Party has opportunistically 
swayed back and forth in its statements of its basic principles, varying 
them widely according to the temporary moods of the masses. 
The Party was at the time no longer feeling the heavy mass 
pressure that it had experienced in 1934, so the 1936 Socialist 
Party convention, as always dominated by lawyers, preachers, doc- 
tors and other middle class intellectuals, who were alarmed at their 
own radicalism of 1934, characteristically decided to remove 
some of the "objectionable" features of the 1934 program. 
They also hoped that this "concession" would placate the enraged 
"Old Guard" Right wing of the Party led by Louis Waldman, Abe 
Cahan, James Oneal, then on the verge of a split. 

The Detroit convention had before it a proposed program sub- 
mitted by the Left wing at the Socialist Call Institute, a document 
which, despite its many elementary theoretical errors, would have 
brought the Socialist Party substantially nearer to a correct Leninist 
position.* But the convention rejected this document and, instead 
of continuing the Party's progress Leftward, pushed it off again to 
the Right. The 1936 convention toned down the 1934 declaration 
of principles by modifying several key paragraphs in a manner con- 
siderably minimizing the necessity for a program of militant class 
struggle and placing more reliance upon bourgeois democracy .^These 
retreats to the Right Norman Thomas calls an "improvement".** 

In considering the status of the Socialist Party with regard to 
revolutionary theory attention must be focused upon its leader, 
Norman Thomas. In reality, so great is his influence that the Party 
is guided far more by what he says than by its formal declaration 
of principles. And Thomas' whole theoretical line makes against a 
revolutionary program; it works directly counter to the development 
of a body of Marxian revolutionary understanding in and around 
the Socialist Party; it cultivates reformism and sectarianism and it 
creates favorable conditions for the growth of Trotskyism. 

* For a detailed analysis of this document and an estimate of the general 
theoretical position of the Socialist Party, see Alex Bittelman's pamphlet, 
Going Left, Workers Library Publishers, New York. 

** After the New Deal — What? p. 221. 


The viewpoint of Norman Thomas is a melange of "Left' 
liberalism and Bernstein revisionism, heavily tinctured with Trotsky- 
ism, and this incongruous mixture he calls "socialism". Thomas, the 
present "Left" leader of the Socialist Party, is even less a Marxist 
than was the former Right opportunist Old Guard party head, 
Hillquit. Not only is the basic theoretical work of the great Marxists, 
Lenin and Stalin, rejected completely by Thomas, but he also blithely 
challenges offhand even the most fundamental principles of Marx 
and Engels. Thus, for example, in a few lines and with a wave of 
the hand, he casually brushes aside the Marxian conceptions of 
historical materialism and of the class struggle and also the Marxian 
theories of value. 

<£ . . , these things do not prove that all this old world needs is 
to accept Marxism with its materialist conception of history, class 
conflict and theory of value." 

"Not only is the concept of economic determination inadequate to 
the weight Marxists often put upon it but so is the more vehemently 
held dogma of the class struggle." * 

Thomas* latest book, After the New Deal— What? y is only a 
restatement of the traditional reformist line of the Socialist Party, 
with the addition of his new sectarian tendencies. It contradicts even 
the relatively mild "Left" line of the 1934 Party statement of 
principles. Thomas shows in it that the great lessons of the Russian 
Revolution, the rise of fascism and the bankruptcy of the opportunist 
line of the Second International are quite lost upon him in the matter 
of working out of a Socialist policy in the United States. 

In Thomas' latest book we find a repetition of the old social 
reformist avoidance of mass class struggle and the customary oppor- 
tunist conception of the gradual growth of capitalism into socialism. 
He even repeats the antique and discredited reformist plan of buy- 
ing the industries from the capitalists, as he proposes "to offer some 
compensation to the expropriated owners". ** Thomas retains a child- 
like faith in the efficacy of capitalist democracy as the means of 
accomplishing socialism. He completely disregards the lessons of 
fascism in Europe, which prove conclusively what Marx and Lenin 
said many years ago, that the capitalists, including the militant 

* America's Way Out, pp. 133 and 138. 
** After the New Deal — What? p. 163. 


American brand, will never allow themselves to be ousted through: 
the workers and their allies merely obtaining parliamentary majori- 
ties, but will resort to arms to defend their rulership. Thomas pins', 
his hopes in the American capitalist democracy (with a bit of patch- 
ing up here and there). He is thus an ardent advocate of American 
exceptionalism. Just how little a revolutionist Thomas is, despite all. 
his pother about socialism, was shown by a revealing statement he- 
made in June, 1936, to The N em York Times: 

"In this country we want no dictatorship, we want no revolution, 
there are ample constitutional ways of bringing about the change 
[to socialism — W.Z.F.] in a peaceful and legal manner." 

From all the foregoing it is clear that the Socialist Party, as a 
party, is not basing itself upon revolutionary theory; and as Lenin 
says, without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary 
movement. With its present babel of conflicting group reformist 
theories — Old Guardism, militantism, Lovestoneism, and counter- 
revolutionary Trotskyism, the Socialist Party does not develop a 
program of militant daily mass struggle nor can it build up the in- 
dispensable core of revolutionary Marxian fighters. What progress, 
it is making towards these essential goals comes from the pressure 
of the incipient Leninist-Stalinist minority in the Socialist Party. 
Especially does Thomas' mish-mash of opportunist theorizing stand 
in the way of the ideological advance of the Socialist Party. To be- 
come a revolutionary party the Socialist Party would have to over- 
come its shallow opportunist theories and base its policies firmly upon 
the study and propagation of the work of the great revolutionary 
leaders of the working class — Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. 

B. Hostility Against the United Front 

A fundamental aspect of the failure of the new leadership of 
the Socialist Party to cultivate the revolutionary force of the working 
class is its hostility towards the united front. In this anti-united front 
attitude there are elements of the new Socialist Party sectarianism, 
but the main constituents of it are remnants of the traditional war 
of the opportunistic Socialist Party leadership against the Left wing. 

The question of unity is now one of most burning necessity 
to the working class in view of the growing offensive of the fascist 
reaction. At its recent Seventh World Congress in Moscow the 


Communist International understood this clearly, saying: "At the 
present historical stage it is the main and immediate task of the in- 
ternational labor movement to establish the united front of the 
working class.' 5 

The Communist Parties all over the world are working actively 
to develop such unity of labor's forces. And that they are not striving 
in vain is demonstrated by the great united front movements in 
France, Spain, Austria, Italy, etc. In first line, all these movements 
are based upon formal united front agreements between the Socialist 
and Communist Parties. 

The need for unity within the ranks of labor is also acute in the 
United States, and the Communist Party is the leading fighter for 
the united front. As part of its campaign for an eventual broad 
united People's Front of labor and its allies in the Farmer-Labor 
Party it attaches great importance to a general united front with 
the Socialist Party, based upon a program of struggle for immediate 
demands, but also looking forward to the amalgamation of the two 
parties into one organization on the basis of a revolutionary fight 
for socialism. 

Notwithstanding that the united front question played a big 
role in the recent defeat of the "Old Guard" leadership the present 
Socialist Party leaders, however, resist the striving of the Commu- 
nist Party for a general united front. Thus they rejected the Com- 
munist Party proposal for a joint Socialist-Communist Party ticket 
in the 1936 national elections. Harking back to the traditional 
Socialist Party opportunist policy of war against the Left and con- 
ciliation towards the Right, they work on the theory that joint action 
with the Communists is a hindrance rather than an advantage. They 
only go as far in the direction of the united front as they are pressed 
by their proletarian rank and file among whom the Communist Party 
united front policy is very popular. The official Socialist Party stand is 
against a general united front with the Communist Party, but it 
does occasionally accept united front actions on individual issues. 

On such questions as the Socialist Party and Communist Party 
have developed united front actions, including the amalgamation of 
the two unemployed organizations into the Workers Alliance, the 
defense of the Mooney, Scottsboro and Herndon cases, joint Socialist 
Party-Communist Party action in various unions, local mass demon- 
strations, etc., have been almost uniformly highly successful. The 




workers joyfully supported the unity in action of the two organiza- 
tions, and the whole experience to date has gone to show that broad 
united front activities by the two parties on a sound program could 
be a powerful factor for progress in the labor movement. 

But Norman Thomas, with eyes Right, wants little or rone of 
that. In his latest book he says : 

"Our fundamental task is not to unite Socialists, Communists and 
what we call progressives, already numerous enough to stop fascism, 
in one anti-fascist bloc. All of us together are, alas, too few;" * 

With such characteristic confusionist arguments does Thomas 
justify his opportunist rejection of the united front and place obstacles 
in the way of labor's unity. In one breath he admits that the pros- 
pective united front forces are "already numerous enough to stop 
fascism" and then, in the very next breath, he bemoans that "All of 
us together are, alas, too few". 

Negative results of this Socialist Party anti-unity line are to be 
seen in various united front movements, including the Farmer-Labor 
Party, the National Negro Congress, the National Youth Congress, 
and the American League Against War and Fascism. In these move- 
ments the Socialist Party policy (save in the case of individual So- 
cialists who disregard their Party's line) boils down pretty much to 
one of mere fault-finding, sectarian proposals and even actual ob- 
struction. The anti-united front tendencies in the Socialist Party are 
being strengthened by the growing influence of the counter-revolu- 
tionary Trotskyites. 

Thomas, who is so conservative on the united front question in 
the United States, suddenly becomes super-radical on the united front 
internationally, which is only another way of opposing this policy. 
A la Trotsky, he is much alarmed that the Popular Front move- 
ments in France and Spain are not revolutionary enough and he 
criticizes them for Right opportunism. Thus, characteristically, at a 
big New York united front demonstration the Socialist Party, in 
the name of vague proposals for a workers' Spain, not only refused 
specifically to endorse the Spanish People's Front government, which 
was fighting guns in hand against fascism, but even tried to force 
the Communist Party to agree not to carry slogans or make speeches 
bearing; such endorsements. But Thomas' narrow sectarian concep- 

* After the New Deal — What? p. 214. 


tion of the People's Front, if followed in Europe, could only have the 
effect of surrendering to the fascists the farmers and city middle 
class elements now in the Popular Front, for which decisive, gift 
the fascists would rejoice. The Popular Front movement, despite its 
many weaknesses as yet in practice, is sound in principle. It is the 
correct revolutionary strategy in the given situation. It is the path 
by which the anti-fascist masses can develop basically the greatest 
possible struggle here and now, and it is also the strategical means 
by which the proletariat can gather around itself the maximum 
forces for the eventual revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist 
system. It is giving new revolutionary hope, organization and fighting 
spirit to the masses demoralized by the ideological bankruptcy of the 
Second International. 

The Socialist Party's openly opportunist resistance to the united 
front policy in the United States and its sectarian, but no less oppor- 
tunist, attempt to narrow down the People's Front in Europe is a close 
relation of the "Old Guard's" anti-united front policy, and it is in 
line with that of the most reformist sections of the Second Interna- 
tional. It demonstrates that the Socialist Party has not yet learned 
how to develop the revolutionary forces, its new leadership not having 
vanquished the reformist hang-overs from the past in this funda- 
mental respect. The anti-united front tendencies in the Socialist 
Party are a real barrier to its becoming a strong mass party and a 
leading fighting force. 

; C. Unfriendly Attitude Towards the Soviet Union 

In a previous chapter I have shown that one of the most fatal 
mistakes in the whole history of the Socialist Party, one that under- 
mined the Party from within and alienated the best revolutionary 
elements from without, was its years-long attitude of hostility towards 
the U.S.S.R. The bitter struggle that the Socialist Party "Old Guard" 
petty-bourgeois leaders so long led against the first socialist country 
was a basic expression of their general war against the Left wing 
in their own Party and against every other manifestation of revolu- 
tionary spirit and program. 

The Socialist Party of today, despite its new turn, has not freed 
itself from this fundamental error. Such antagonism to the U.S.S.R. 
is, in final analysis, antagonism to proletarian revolution in general. 
Although its rank-and-file membership are distinctly friendly to the 


Soviet Union, there still remains much of the old reformist anti- 
Sovietism in the official policy of the Socialist Party. The Socialist Cdl y 
for example, has long been a happy hunting ground for renegades 
like Zam, the Trotsky ites and various other professional slanderers 
of the U.S.S.R. Their lies are cut from the same cloth as those of 
Hearst and Green, but often outdo the latter in insidious mis- 

Norman Thomas, the decisive leader of the Socialist Party, is 
especially to be criticized for his unfriendliness towards the Soviet 
Union. His attitude regarding the U.S.S.R. or "Russia", as he calls 
it in bourgeois fashion, is about 1 per cent grudging endorsement 
and 99 per cent cynical criticism. It is not to be expected, of 
course, that a reformist Socialist should accept uncritically the Soviet 
government and its program, but he certainly should appraise it fairly 
and honestly, and this Thomas does not do. The U.S.S.R. has always 
welcomed sincere criticism, an example of this being the warm 
greeting it gave to the recent splendid book by the Webbs, Soviet 
Communism: A New Cwili%atton? } which contains no little, honest 
but mistaken, criticism of the Soviet system. 

Thomas approaches the question of the Soviet government from 
a biased, antagonistic standpoint. Its gigantic achievements politically, 
industrially, socially leave him cold and super-critical. He sneers at 
the warm and loyal defense Communists make of the first socialist 
country, the great world stronghold against fascism, when he says, 
"Russia is a kind of holy land to all Communists".* He has never 
taken the trouble to visit the U.S.S.R. (although thousands of Amer- 
icans have done so) to study the situation at first hand. Whenever 
he writes about the Soviet Union Thomas reflects in his own special 
way whatever anti-Soviet slanders happen to be afloat at the time. 
Almost any liberal bourgeois writer can be depended upon to make 
a fairer and more objective estimate than he of the Soviet Union. 

In these crucial days of threatening war danger, with the Soviet 
Union menaced from both east and west by strong and ruthless 
fascist powers, it is the duty and interest of every revolutionist to 
draw closer to the U.S.S.R. and. to give the most active support to its 
peace policy. But Norman Thomas, typically, has not the slightest 
sense of any such need. On the contrary, he seems to consider that 
now, when the U.S.S.R. is so heavily attacked, is the best time to 

* After the New Deal — What? p. 211. 


go sniping against it. His slanderous misrepresentation of the Soviet 
Union during the Ethiopian war was a scandal. His reception of 
the great new Soviet Constitution was frigid and skeptical — a new 
capitalist charter for New York City would evoke more .enthusiasm 
and fairer consideration from him. His reaction to the case of the 
Trotsky-Zinoviev terrorists was to put the Soviet government, not 
these murderers, on trial. And so it goes on every Soviet question, 
always Thomas is to be found casting doubts and insinuations upon 
the good faith of the Soviet government. He could gulp down with- 
out blinking the treacherous MacDonald and Hindenburg govern- 
ments, but the revolutionary U.S.S.R. government can do nothing 
to suit him. And, as we have seen earlier, in his demand that "Russia" 
stand alone against its enemies and not call upon the workers of 
other countries for active assistance, he is threatening to abandon the 
Soviet government altogether in case of war. 

The revolutionary stature o"f a party can be measured by its 
attitude towards the U.S.S.R. This is because the Soviet government 
is the revolution in life, the crystallization in flesh and blood of revo- 
lutionary theory and practice. The anti-Soviet tendencies in the 
leadership of the Socialist Party are expressions of the reformism 
with which the Party is afflicted. They are diluted "Old Guardism", 
remnants of the traditional opportunist war against the Left wing, 
and they are dangerously akin to Hearst's Sovietphobia. They sum 
up as part of the Socialist Party's general failure to cultivate and 
organize the revolutionary forces. 

It is high time that the Socialist Party put an end to these anti- 
revolutionary trends. They have done incalculable harm to the So- 
cialist Party ever since the November, 1917, revolution and they 
still continue to work their evil effects. The Socialist Party can never 
be on a sound mass basis until its leaders stop sniping at the U.S.S.R.; 
it can never become a revolutionary party until it gives, as a Party, 
to the Soviet government and its struggle for peace that hearty 
support which springs spontaneously in all revolutionary parties and 
which wells up naturally in the heart of every revolutionary worker. 

The Perspective of the Socialist Party 

Now let us see to what general conclusions our analysis of the 
history and present situation of the Socialist Party has led us. 

Firstly, we have seen in Chapter I that the basic reason why the 


Socialist Party has not succeeded historically in building itself into a 
strong mass revolutionary party is because it has followed a policy 
of reformism instead of one of Marxian class struggle. We have 
also seen that this opportunist line originated with the petty-bourgeois 
intellectuals who dominated the Socialist Party and systematically 
tried to make of it some kind of a semi-demi-progressive party. 
Then, in Chapters II and III, we have seen concretely how the 
Socialist Party, in the thirty-odd years prior to the development of 
its new Left turn in 1934, had continuously violated both major 
essentials of the necessary class struggle policy: (a) by its failure to 
come forward militantly as the leader of the toiling masses in their 
daily economic and political struggles, and, (b) by its failure to build 
up a solid body of Marxian understanding in the Socialist Party and 
among its mass following. And we have also seen how, step by step, 
this persistent reformist policy prevented the Socialist Party from 
growing and gaining broad mass 'influence and how it finally led 
to several splits and to the deep decay which the Party suffered for 
ten years prior to 1934. 

Now, in Chapter IV, we have just checked over the present gen- 
eral line and condition of the Socialist Party to learn whether, since 
its 1934 turn Leftwards, the Party has overcome the reformist errors 
of its past and has laid the basis for a sound Marxian policy of class 
struggle. And the conclusion we are compelled to arrive at is a 
negative one. The old disease of opportunism still afflicts the Socialist 
Party, although it has taken on some new sectarian forms. 

To begin with, the present day Socialist Party has not succeeded 
in proletarianizing its leadership, although it has freed itself of many 
opportunist doctors, lawyers, professors, etc., in the "Old Guard" 
split. As since its beginning, the Socialist Party leadership remains in 
the hands of the petty-bourgeois intellectuals. And the general ten- 
dency of these officials goes to thwart the revolutionary purposes of 
the proletarians in the Party and to keep the Party on a reformist 
course, masked by revolutionary phrasemaking and Trotskyist coun- 
ter-evolutionary maneuverings. 

We have also seen in the present chapter how the present So- 
cialist Party leadership still violates the two major essentials of the 
indispensable Marxian class struggle policy. Firstly, by its perpetuation 
of old reformist hang-overs and the introduction of the new sec- 
tarian opportunism, illustrated through its grossly wrong attitude on 


the question of the relation of the fight for immediate demands to the 
fight for socialism, its defeatist attitude in the struggle against fascism 
and war, its anti-Labor Party policy, etc., this leadership prevents 
the Socialist Party from coming forward in a leading role in the 
daily mass struggles of the workers and thus condemns the Party 
to isolation and impotence; and, secondly, by its gross neglect, re- 
visionism, and antagonism towards the theoretical works of Marx, 
Engels, Lenin and Stalin, by its hostility to the united front policy, 
by its consolidation with the discredited Trotskyite disrupters, and 
by its unfriendliness towards the Soviet Union, the Socialist Party 
leadership hinders the growth of the class conscious body of revolu- 
tionary fighters without whom the Socialist Party can never succeed. 
The general consequence of this failure of the new Socialist 
Party leadership to correct the traditional and disastrous reformist 
line of the Party has been, instead of liquidating the Party crisis, to 
intensify it, especially during the past year. The Socialist Party is very 
sick from opportunism and Thomas' new "cure" is as bad as the old 
disease : indeed it is only the chronic ailment of reformism manifesting 
itself through new symptoms. The Socialist Party crisis spreads, 
deepens and becomes more threatening. The Party membership is 
rapidly declining, now being probably not more than half of the 
19,121 that it was last year. The "Old Guard" split has wrought 
havoc with the Party organization in Ohio, Indiana, California, 
Washington, Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, etc., 
and the Party is threatening to collapse in many other localities. 
The effects of the split are made worse by Thomas' silly sectarian 
policies and the anti-revolutionary work of the Trotskyist elements, 
all of which drive away many serious and honest workers. The 
Socialist Party is torn with factionalism, with half a dozen groups 
struggling for leadership ; the Party is deeply confused theoretically ; 
discipline is practically non-existent; pessimism is rampant, and there is 
a general falling away of members who are disgruntled and dis- 
gusted. Naturally also, the mass influence of the Socialist Party has 
rapidly waned; its 1936 election vote will be greatly reduced and, 
actually, in the trade unions, even those led by Socialists for many 
years, it has been almost wiped out.* In short, the Socialist Party 

**A typical example: In the I.L.G.W.U. Local 22, New York, with 
30,000 members, a traditionally Socialist Party controlled union, the Socialist 
Party anti-Labor Party policy was rejected by a vote in the ratio of 15 to !. 


is now, as the fruit of its long-continued opportunist policies, in a 
most serious crisis. 

Now as to the future; Is the Socialist Party on the way to col- 
lapse, or. has it within it the possibility of a renaissance and growth 
into a strong party of real value in developing the fighting force of 
the proletariat and its allies? To this query the only answer that can 
correctly be given at present is that both positive and negative factors 
are at work in shaping the Socialist Party and that the fate of the 
Party depends upon which of these forces becomes definitely 

Among the positive factors — that is, those making for a strong 
and revolutionary Socialist Party — the most basic one is the constant 
pressure upon the Socialist Party from the radicalization of the 
masses of workers. Faced by the surging capitalist reaction which in- 
creasingly tends in the direction of fascism, these masses, harassed by 
unemployment, low wages, abridged civil rights, etc., are compelled 
to fight. Hence, they press militantly upon the trade unions, the 
growing Farmer-Labor Party, and all other labor organizations, in 
order to utilize these bodies as fighting weapons in their growing 
struggle against the capitalist exploiters. It was this mass pressure, 
in first line, that brought about the Leftward trend in the Socialist 
Party, with its defeat of the "Old Guard", adoption of the Detroit, 
1934, declaration of principles, etc., and it is this force which, in 
opposition to the present trend of the Socialist Party leadership, pro- 
vides the general basis for the defeat of sectarian reformism and 
Trotskyism in the Socialist Party. 

Dovetailing with this constructive force are the effects, on the 
one hand, of the open bankruptcy of the reformist, class collabora- 
tion policy of the whole Second International in the face of rising 
fascism and, on the other hand, of the great successes, domestic and 
foreign, of the Socialist Soviet* Union, the growth of the Popular 
Front movements in Spain, France, and the general united front 
policy of the Communist International — all of which developments 
tend to press the Socialist Party in the direction of a policy of Marxian 
class struggle. 

Another major positive force making for a fighting Socialist 
Party is the revolutionary example and stimulation of the Communist 
Party. The C. P. U.S. A. manifestly has every reason to want the 
Socialist Party to develop in a revolutionary sense, for this means 


greatly to increase the power of both parties and to draw them 
closer together. Therefore, the Communist Party cooperates with 
the Socialist Party wherever possible, meanwhile making and receiving 
criticism in a friendly spirit. The Communist Party does what it can 
to strengthen the Leninist elements within the Socialist Party; it 
seizes upon every practical occasion to initiate joint united front cam- 
paigns of the two parties and other labor groups; its whole policy 
looks forward to the eventual amalgamation of the Communist 
Party and Socialist Party into one party upon the basis of a Leninist 
revolutionary program. 

But there are also at work powerful negative forces that check 
these constructive elements and tend to push the Socialist Party 
deeper into the quicksand of opportunism. Among these negative 
forces is the important fact that the Socialist Party has not succeeded 
in proletarian izing its leadership. At the Party's head, as of yore, 
stands a group of opportunist petty-bourgeois intellectuals. These 
elements act as a real barrier to the translation of the revolutionary 
moods of the Socialist Party's proletarian members into terms of a 
Marxist-Leninist policy for the Party. 

Next there is the negative force of the traditional reformist line 
of the Socialist Party. The destructive opportunist policies which, as 
we have seen in detail, have through the course of the years brought 
the Socialist Party to the brink of ruin, still remain basically in effect. 
Their new sectarian trimmings by no means mitigate their disastrous 
consequences upon the Party. 

And then there is that new malignant disease of the Socialist 
Party, the plague of Trotskyism. The admission of the counter- 
revolutionary Trotskyites was an injection of deadly poison into the 
life tissues of the Socialist Party. They are not only worsening every 
traditional weakness of the Party but are introducing a whole series 
of new difficulties for it. 

Of these positive and negative forces, of which I have cited only 
those of a major character, it must be admitted that the negative 
ones are now in the ascendant. Corroding and destructive, they are 
rapidly isolating the Socialist Party from the masses and disintegrating 
its organization. It is certain that with its present leadership and 
policies the Socialist Party is on the way to impotence. Unless both 
are changed, unless the forces that produced the 1934 Left turn 
and overthrew the "Old Guard" can go forward to their necessarj 



goal by giving the Socialist Party a revolutionary leadership and 
policy, the Socialist Party's days as an important factor in the labor 
movement are over. In their time both the Socialist Labor Party and 
the Industrial Workers of the World were militant organizations 
that played a progressive role in the developing revolutionary move- 
ment. But they failed to learn the lessons of the class struggle of 
their period and did not adapt themselves to the changing fighting 
needs of the workers. So they became isolated from the advancing 
masses and fell into decline and sectarian mummification. Is the 
Socialist Party doomed to travel the same fatal path? 


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