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INTRODUCTION 



§th«r luxuries, 
him Individ' 




A brain" worker, well paid, boasting a home, Cftr, «nd*mwiy 
but troubled by the decay of the social system which Itill provld 
ually with those comforts, wrote a letter to the Work«ri Ag« 
of crucial questions which bother him and bother th« whol< 
intellectuals which he represents. 

These questions were answered in the columns of thi Agi. 
aroused widespread interest and comment, and hundrcdi of wquiiti 
copies, elaboration of certain points and the reprinting of ihi qmi 
answers in more permanent form. 

The intense interest awakened by the letter and aniwifi provii thftt the 
questions were vital ones. They raise issues which trouble thouiindl af ihowght" 
ful persons today, persons who have become aware of th« miltfy wd dtCfty luf" 
rounding them, who sense the doom of the system undtr which WIftkilld his 
lived for several centuries, but who are oppressed with doubti ag to tibf move^ 
ment and philosophy which profess to offer a way out of th« momm of Cipital- 
ist decline. They are critical minds that refuse to approach Communii^ II a 
new religion to be followed blindly. They quite properly reserve th« right to 
question, to doubt, to demand rational explanation and to be intflliCtually COO/ 
vinced before they throw themselves "heart and sour\ i,e. intellectually m well 
as emotionally, into the struggle for a more decent and more rational lOciftl order. 

The answers to the questions raised in the letter arc distinguished by their 
frank meeting of issues and recognition of difficulties, their patient explaitation 
and rational appeal to the most critical intellect, their earneat ieni« of convic- 
tion and unassailable logic. The Workers Age republishes thil material in 
pamphlet form convinced that it is thereby contributing to the clarification of 
the minds of thousands who share the doubts of the original qucitioner. 

—The Editors. 




THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



The Questions 



Editor, the Workers Age: 

'*We" are Bourgeoisie, according to 
your classification, I presume. At any 
rate, we aren't exactly members of the 
proletariat, and God knows we're a long 
way from being Capitalists. We number 
many millions, and that is the only 
reason I presume to inflict my problem 
on you. As an individual I possess no im- 
portance; as a typical representative of 
my class I serve to exemplify and illus- 
trate this problem, to which you offer 
a possible answer. In order to simplify 
procedure, I shall try to summarise it in 
a series of questions — ^with attendant 
data. 

* * # 

1. AM I BOURGEOIS? My father 
was a laboring man, but I have achieved 
a certain financial success. I have an ex- 
cellent position with a big corporation, 
which pays me an adequate salary. I 
have a nice home, a car and many minor 
luxuries. BUT I have nothing except 
my salary; no unearned income — no in- 
vestments—no real estate. I work for 
my living. 

* * * 

2. IS THERE A PLACE FOR ME IN 
THE COMMUNIST MOVEMENT? Do 
you really want me? I am swinging 
steadily toward the Left, though I am 
still a long distance away from you. I 
used to be a stalwart Republican. Then I 
voted for Roosevelt. Last election I voted 
for Norman Thomas for Senator (my 
fiv»t Socialist ballot.) Next time I may 
poiiibly vote a straight Socialist ticket. 
1 am interested in your movement. I 
Ittbicribe for a couple of Communist 

jmn and magazines. I suppose Tm 

jteomlttg a "Liberal Bourgeois," but un- 

'* i you, I see no stigma in the word 

\" I'm rather proud of it, in fact. 



3. WHAT SACRIFICES MUST I 
MAKE IF I JOIN YOU? If you ac- 
complish your revolution must I forfeit 
those luxuries to which I am accustom- 
ed? Can I qualify for proletarian 
privileges, since I do not work with my 
hands ? I belong to a class which certain- 
ly caught Hell in Russia. I wonder what 
will happen to my class here. 

* * * 

4. MUST I SWALLOW YOUR 
DOGMA WHOLE, IF I AM ACCEPT- 
ED? I admire your ideals and your 
motives, but honestly you frequently re- 
mind me of a pack of religious fanatics. 
You surround every word of Marx and 
Lenin with the same aura that the 
priest-hood instils in the words of Jesus. 
You confound your opponents by 
triumphantly shouting, "But Marx said 
. . ." or "But Lenin held . . ." And you 
know damned well you do. Your papers 
and magazines are full of examples. It 
sounds exactly like a revivalist sanctim- 
oniously announcing that the cynic is con- 
founded by "the Word of God HIM- 
SELF." And somehow I doubt if either 
of your idols ever held himself up as 
omniscient or omnipotent. I admire them 
both too much to think they were that 
conceited. Are you going to expel me 
if I arise in meeting and sacriligiously 
answer: "I know Lenin said that — but 
I think he was wrong." 

* « ♦ 

5. MUST I KEEP SILENT ABOUT 
THINGS THAT I REALLY DOUBT? 
For years you've been trumpeting that 
"War is at Hand," You sound like 
Hoover declaring that "Prosperity is 
just around the comer." YouVe painted 
this world conflict as a matter of dap 
and weeks. You're still shouting th$ 
warning — and I suppose if you kmp It 



THINGS WE WANT TO KMOW 



i 



up long enough you're bound to be right 
some day. Then I'll have to listen to 
your eternal, "We told you so." Now 
please don't evade this. If you're honest 
you'll admit that you have repeatedly 
given the impression that War was so 
close you could touch it. And you're al- 
ready about seven years behind with 
your prophecy. How come you were 
wrong? Please explain. 
* * * 

6. MAY I QUESTION YOUR CON- 
SISTENCY? You encourage pacifism 
but you don't practice it by a long sight. 
You send agitators up to City College 
to incite school boys to resist military 
training— and in Kussia you slap that 
same kind of boys into the ranks and 
teach them how to handle a rifle. If 
you are in earnest in desiring an armed 
revolution, why don't you urge those 
lads to learn all they can about weapons, 
so that they'll be worth something to 
you when trouble starts? I can't see 
your position here with a telescope. You 
seem to be fattening up a fine mess of 
sheep for a bloody slaughter. If you 
have your way, when you stage your 
revolution those kids that followed your 
advice will be soft picking for their 
class-mates who resisted your teachmgs 
and learned how to handle a machme 

gun. 

* * * 

Furthermore you carefully preach the 
doctrine that the building up of military 
machines is a certain cause of War. You 
say you are opposed to War per se. 
But Russia builds the greatest military 
machine of modern times and yet you 
deny that that is provocative of War^ 
We* can't analyse motives in a case of 
that kind. Why not frankly admit that 
your policy leads to War and you thmk 
that War justifiable? I'd like you better 
if you did. 



7 V/HY DO YOU TALK ABOUT 
DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETA- 
RIAT, WHEN YOU MEAN DICTATOR- 
SHIP OF THE CONTROLLING FAC- 
TION OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY? 

Or do you mean it? Perhaps I don't 
exactly understand your terminology. I 
was frankly baffled by Will Herberg s 



mUtmm to **th» poilliw oi tlio prole- 
tariat In tfct mid»* tit Ihi noD^proleta- 
rian toiling mmm»,** 1ft th^ Workers 
Ago of Dye. 16, JM4. Amn't those non- 
pndriuHan toiling mmmn » part of the 
prolnta^lftt? The* imm mmm m incon- 
gruous to m« m ^*nftn^pt«ftt^makmg 
Capitalism,*' t tlumghfe tha PJ'^l©^]^^"!^^ 
wan, ruughly ipt^ttfeiftf* @fmi$^*m^d of the 
mass of th© mmU»n mi I don^ ^0 how 
'Hoiling nmmm'* cw be noniirobtarian. 
1 turn to the Mwlfef^tn ftnd discover 
that Mam md RngeVi r^fetred to the 
prolutarittt flimpli? m '^Un* mmh^ni work- 
ing clmiH, the cittRft t»f ^l«"^e ^^^^ ^^" 
live so long m tbolr work Increases 

capital." 

But, ftt mf tm, 4«eiii*fc vmr diotfttor- 
ship in p^Mtiflt cow« down to an 
Oligarchy of Oommwnl»t liftdir»» who 
decide m conwtwMow«lr «» powslble, 
what ii beit for tb« mmmu md then 
force their diciilon 4^wn thi throata of 
thosQ mmmul M $^t mm 1 iwallow a 
lot of twftddU about f rol«tWi»tt dictator- 
ship as such, or mm I ««w^ly ftnnounce 
that I don't thl«k thi mvkhm mmnm 
have sufflclint hmim mid expmdence to 
plan a conitraotlv* Iwtwri for them- 
selves and that it*« ft Amm good thing 
for them to httva iom« intilHi^ytt lead- 
ers (inibuad with high idiils) dktatmg 
to them? Will you toww m« out on my 
neck if I confeii to holding moh m 

opinion ? 

w * * 

8 ISN'T THERE SOMETHING 
WRONG WITH A HYSTEM UNDER 
WHICH LEADKtiS OF SUCH 
PROVEN ABILITY AS JAY LOVE- 
STONE, LEON 'J^t^^>^^SKY M. N, ROY 
AND BERT WOLFE CAN BE TOSSED 
INTO THE DISCARD 1 If the system 
permitted them to b« »ucrlflced once, 
how are you going io vnrnH^t it to make 
such sacrifices impoHHthlc m the i^ture. 
It is certainly wuBtoful to deny the 
movement the aervlceg of such men, 
Trotsky was good enough to be Lenms 
right hand man. Surely he hasn't lost all 
the ability he once had. His exile re- 
minds me of Hitler tosBing out Emstem. 
I know you don't like Trotsky and I 
know why you object to him-^but surely 
he has earned a right to present his 



msmm^^mu 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



case in the land he helped to create. 
After all, perhaps he MIGHT be right. 
And Heaven knows the movement needs 
a man with Lovestone's intelligence. 
HoviT can you justify a system which is 
capable of such mistakes? And, more 
important, how will you prevent their 
possibility in the future ? 
tifi * * 

9. MUST I SUBSTITUTE A EED 
FLAG FOR THE STARS AND 
STRIPES? Now, don't laugh at me. 
This is serious to me and to millions of 
others. Don't sneer at symbolism. You 
cheer your own Red Flag, don't you? 
Well, X love mine, too. My father, grand- 
father and great-grand-father all fought 
for it. I wore the uniform myself. I'll 
readily grant you that most of the 
things it stood for have been dragged in 
the gutter. You don't have to give me a 
lecture on the evils of Capitalism. I've 
seen 'em. I know 'em. But my flag has 
a revolutionary tradition much older 
than yours. It originally stood for liberty 
and freedom and equality of opportunity 
— and to my mind it still does. I'll glad- 
ly join in any movement to purge it of 
its stains but I'd like to preserve it. 

Nationalism, you say? Obsolete, you 
declare? Perhaps — ^but I'm sincere. 
Strange to say, I love my country — still 
do in spite of all the things that have 
happened in her. And you'll have a Devil 
of a time winning my support if you 
spit on my flag. If we must fight for 
freedom, why w^on't you let us damn- 
able Liberals do it under our own colors ? 
♦ * ♦ 

10. WHY AREN'T YOU MORE 
BROAD-MINDED ? Why don't you give 
credit to the conscientious Liberal lead- 
ers, who are sincerely doing the best 
they can? Instead of cursing them out 
as traitors, why don't you march with 
them in United Front, as far as they'll 
go and then push on as you see fit? 
IVe no use at all for the Hoovers and 
Mellons, the Farleys and Currys — but 
Vm certain that men like N orris and 
LaGuardia and Wheeler and LaFollette 
are honestly doing the best they know 
how to make an impossible situation as 
tolerable as possible. You have a perfect 
yifht to question their judgment, but 
Pd like you better if you'd give them 



credit occasionally for good intentions. 

* * * 

11. WHY INSULT MY INTEL- 
LIGENCE WITH SUCH AN ARGU- 
MENT AS YOU PRESENTED IN THE 
LAST PARAGRAPH OP THE "RED 
TERROR" EDITORIAL IN A RECENT 
WORKERS AGE ? I can't see any "ac- 
curate and complete justice" in the ex- 
ecutions that followed the Kirolf murder, 
if, as I understand there were no trials. 
The USSR branded the victims as 
White Guards, etc. How do I know they 
were? The same officials branded Jay 
Lovestone as a renegade to the working 
class. Maybe there was no more justif- 
ication for the one charge than the 
other. In fact, sympathetic as I usually 
am with your arguments, it looks to me 
in my neutral bystander capacity as if 
Norman Thomas won the debate on that 
subject. Perhaps I lack sufficient data, 
but I'd like to see some proof that these 
victims fwere traitors to Communism 
and not merely gents who happened to 
be persona non grata to the ruling pow- 
ers in the Soviet Union. 

* * * 

12. MUST I ADVOCATE MASS 
PICKETING AND MASS DEMON- 
STRATIONS IF I GO ALONG WITH 
YOU? Perhaps I will— but only if you 
will permit me to point out that their 
sole purpose is to create turmoil, con- 
fusion and riots. They may constitute 
justifiable strategy, if your purpose is 
to create martyrs and precipitate strug- 
gle — but I've never seen such a demon- 
stration yet that was not deliberately 
intended to harry police and public 
authorities. Consequently I refuse to 
join in any crocodile tears shed over the 
denial of the God-given right to picket. 

I must confess that I've seen New 
York policemen go through Hell in some 
of those demonstrations. I've seen them 
stand like statues, rigid under discipline, 
while the crowd surged around cursing 
and shouting and spitting in their faces; 
sticking pins in the horses of the mount- 
ed men; waving fists beneath the blue 
coats' noses and "demonstrating" to the 
limit, until finally the word was given 
to clear the streets. And I've not been 
greatly surprised at the resulting Cos- 
sack charge. (I think I'd have felt th© 



»-?-y*»^ ! i M " JOT <q»w w . . j u . s i w «( 



a 



TIIIN0S WE WANT TO KKOW 



iame myself.) Isn't it true that your 

own tactics sometimes cause the very 

abuses you denounce? 

* * * 

13. AND JUST HOW FAR DOES 
COMMUNIST DISCIPLINE GO? Many 

of you have been expelled because you 
refused to let some Official Party CCC 
do your thinking for you. Well, how 
much lee-way are you going to give me, 
if I join your ranks? If I happen to 
think the Lundeen Bill unfeasible, will 
you expel me if I rise and so state in 
my Party Fraction, after the Party 
Powers That Be have given it their bles- 
sing? (Understand, I don't say I'll op- 
pose it outside the ranks, but can I 
holler my head off inside, as loud and as 
often and as enthusiastically as I 
choose ? I know the Official Party won't 
let me. Will you?) 

* :*: * 

14, WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE ? 

L' Envoi 

You will note that I'm not asking for 
much information concerning your basic 
beliefs and policy. That is due to the 
fact that I'm ready to accept most of 
them, I'm fully conscious of the defects 
of our capitalist system. Fd like to see 
SOMETHING done about it. But, bad as 
it is, I want to make sure that you have 



something coii»tnifltiv# to olfer before I 
join you in any (U-fshMtetft^n, Bad as it is, 
I think It couU\ h^^ wurii, I don't want to 
makeT • mi^tttke. 

I'm willing to mttki my reasonable 
g^eriAciB. I'm wllllnt to five up my car 
and ahauff^ur and put mf wif« to doing 
her own hrjUi^worki itt Iby uo doing, I 
can help put m mi ta the utark misery 
and ^uffprffit th«t I »m all around me. 
I'm willing Ui fnttin, »iiv llitln luxuries 
if you c«n gvnu unh* n^-tRftpltioK to the 
poor davil» ihRt hav© nolhlnf, Vm per- 
fectly glTiatr# in iMi. 

But. I'd hftte tu merely dhwngc^ task 
muBtorH. Vt\ hritri to merily ehange 
nom«nclatur^^. I'm h IlUie ntmid that, 
as soon An yoijr rtwolutinn pfet^ Rolng, 
the Jim Wfttsofjs and Jtm f^fUy^ and 
John Curry« sntl Jimmy lltnesg^s will 
hop on your hiuui vMifon, tmt-^«ll you 
and Bnatch th« i«ttd»rsh|p of your howl* 
ing mobfi. (They've hnd plenty of ex- 
perience in »wftyliig nitti^ B#ntJment, 
They know thi ivkk.) 

And, Boy^ I'm «*>\in* 1" fM Hk© Hdl 
if I join your R^VM.lunon hikI wak© up 
after iti over t§ ftnd Commigiiar Jim 
Farloy appointing ronurtdr A) QoJdman 
in charge of the Pu- lul Truftt. 



^ "^ 



Chapter I 

THE INTELLECTUAL AND THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT 

(Answers to Questions 1, 2 and 3) 



When you call yourself "bourgeois" 
you flatter your income and slander your 
social role. You do not own for a liv- 
ing; you work for a living. You belong 
neither to the leisure class, nor to the 
exploiting class. You belong, despite your 
"adequate salary," your "nice home," 
and your car, to those who must 
sell their abilities, their labor of hand 
or brain, to the owners of the means of 
production in order to live. You, your- 
self, have stated the case with perfect 
clarity when you say: "But I have no- 
thing except my salary; no assured in- 
come — no investments — no real estate. 



I work for my living.'* 

It is not w© Communiit« who call "in- 
tellectuals" or brain workars "bour- 
geois," That 'm ju^t one of the Illusions 
that so many better^paid brain workers 
like to nourish— that th^y txri$ not work- 
ers but capitaUgt«. (Uourgoois and 
capitalist, as ackntiflc terms, ar© rough- 
ly interchangeable)' And if you think il- 
lusions as to your rola in society, a 
bourgeois outlook or ambitions, make 
you a capitalist, then that is a position 
you would have to share with a large 
section of the American working class, 
since the wide spread of bourgeois ideas 



«.-..>.v^«>aA»^iai^-yi.^.».yt«,..^jaj«|ii^a&aa^^ 



faaawiwwtiWi 



THiN<^S WE WANT TO KNOW 



among wage workers is one of the signs 
of the backwardness of the American 
workers. "Bourgeois ideas with prole- 
tarian pocket books" would character- 
ize many Americans who are bourgeois 
only in prejudices, illusions, and dreams. 
If that adequate salary of yours gives 
you illusions, it should sober you to 
think how many people with "adequate 
salaries" have seen them become m- 
adequate, even vanish altogether, durmg 
the depression. As you watch them go 
in endless procession, you can say to 
yourself: "There, but for the grace of 
economic accident, go I." And was it not 
your class, or rather group, the mtellec- 
tuals, who were most desperately rmned 
by inflation in Germany? In these days 
of "boloney dollars" and cuts in goid 
content, do you still think the American 
dollar immune from inflation? Where 
the dollar now bears the legend, "In 
God we Trust," will it be long before 
there will be graven in its place "I hope 
that my Redeemer liveth?" And those 
salaries without union organization, 
those fixed incomes of teachers and ad- 
vertising men and efficiency experts and 
civil employees, those pensions and in- 
surance policies and savings for "rainy 
^jajrg" — are not they precisely the sums 
that shrink to nothingness when con- 
»oiidations and eliminations fly, when 
bankruptcies descend in torrents, and in- 
flation makes 10,000 marks or dollars 
iniufficient to buy a car ride or a postage 



The size of your income is not deci- 
givi!. The source of it, your manner of 
ttiAV^Ti^ ^t, \?>. B\kt it sizLe fools you as 
to your real interests and social role, 
the times in which we live will take care 
t.f that A few may escape. But that 
in Hocial accident and not a basis for 
ctaeuhition. In times of social cataclysm, 
for your group as a whole there is no 
i^a^ttp^, no ivory tower or sheltered 
nook. Least of all for the more decent, 
ntu\ your very worries as raised in your 
UtiUif "brand" you as one of the more 
dtMMint and more conscious ones. Else 
yt.M would not ask such questions. At 
nny fftt©, we answer your first question 
t»**ir*lb!unk: No, comrade brain worker, 
f iiti nr^ not a bourgeois. 



A PLACE FOR YOU 

Yes, there is a plac® iot you in the 
Communist movement. W« tmlly want 
you. You can ba useful to ui. And we 
can be of uie to you. Individually as 
"intellectuals" the Communlgt movement 
can develop that *nnt$lhct" on which 
your title as a group in bas^d* And 
socially the victory of the movemant 
can give security, scope, and future to 
your group, until the crippling separa- 
tion into "hand work" and "brain work" 
is no more. 

You again state your own case Dotn 
well and ill: ill when you call yourself 
"liberal" and "liberal bourgeois," well 
when when you say: "I am swinging 
steadily towards the Left, though I am 
still a long distance away from you." 

"Swinging left" suggests movement, 
development, life. Being "liberal" means 
vacillating between two fixed points, and ' 
both in a void. Historically the liberal 
was the advocate of laissez faire, of 
freedom from government interference 
with the free development of the still 
progressive capitalist system. That was 
"Manchester liberalism": free trade, free 
competition, freedom of contract, free- 
dom of enrichment and exploitation. In 
the days of monopoly, imperialism, and 
super-bureaucracy, that has turned into 
a reactionary dream. You abandoned 
that school of "liberalism" when you 
abandoned Hoover. And it had become 
nothing but a campaign phrase long be- 
fore that. "Going left" is moving for- 
ward; such liberalism is looking back— 
and the Biblical parable is not amiss: 
When the time is come to leave Sodom 
and Gomorrah, tliose wlio look 'back ^iV\ 
turn to . . . "liberals." 

Or could you want to be one of those 
wishy-washy, gaseous vertebrates, not- 
here-not-there, on-the-one-hand-on-the- 
other-hand, we-welcome-we-d ep 1 o r e, 
there's-much-to-be-said-on-both-s ides, 
seeing-two-sides-even-if-there's-only-one, 

liberals that wring their hands at work- 
ers and bosses (but especially at work- 
ers!) that scurry across no-man's land 
at zero hour and get in the way of both 
sides (but especially of the workers sine© 
all too often they have more influence 
there) ? Read the Natioti and the N©W 




THINGS WE WANf TO IHOW 



Eepublic — then read the Workers Age. 
II the former give you a mild pain in 
the neck (to put it politely) and you 
like the latter, as your remarks indicate* 
then you're insulting yourself to call 
yourself a "liberal" with or without the 
*^bourgeois." 

Of course, I can give you no guaran- 
tees. Hoover to Roosevelt, to Thomas, 
is a line of development. But if you 
stop there! Thomas is really a liberal 
thinly clad in ribbons of socialist phra- 
seology. If your development stops 
there, you may turn out to be a liberal 
after all. 

How much there will be a place for 
you in our movement depends largely 
upon you. There are intellectuals who 
come to us expecting to teach before 
they start to ieam. Silver tongues and 
facile pens have all too easily won places 
of leadership for elements unripe and 
otherwise unfit. The Socialist Party 
has made lawyers, doctors, preachers, 
journalists, dentists into its general 
staff! It has rushed to nominate every 
latest "prominent" band-wagon jumper 
as spokesman and standard bearer. 
Charles Edward Russell, Alan Benson, 
Norman Thomas — typify men who have 
been made spokesmen before they knew 
what they were speaking for! What 
should have been the fruit of earnest 
labor, of years of serious study, of years 
of testing in struggle, was thrust upon 
them without labor, study, or testing. 
Russell and Benson are gone — back 
whence they came — and Thomas will 
never know beans about social science, 
about the Marxian foundations on which 
our movement is based. So you see, 
working class distrust of intellectuals is 
a healthy instinct. But for those who 
can really make the grade, prove their 
devotion, master our theory and prac- 
tice, cut the navel string that binds 
them to their old views, connections, 
and prejudices, and prove themselves 
worthy of trust and the rights and duties 
of membership—for them we have a full 
comradely welcome, are ready to use 
their abilities to the full, and make no 
distinction as to origin and "previous 
condition." Why, Marx, Engels, Lenin 
(and since the party likes to mention 



him In thi $mm$ b»wth, 1 might add, 
Stalin) weft all ltti«Ili«twftl» in origin! 
Surely our mov«m«n| imM a place for 
them. But you must fa th« whole way 
— haart and hitt<l JoyitHy and under- 
gtanding and action^ II fm want equal- 
ity (wi olf«r nelthir mw% not less) 
with the fmt ol m. 

Nor do w« ftfr#« with th« present 
policy of thi Ofllciftl 0§inmurti»t Party 
or maklnt ip«ct»l hftll-w«y hou«©« for 
intelleotUttl«*-«-««coiMiH*lHi« p»rti©i with 
second*cltt»i (^Iti«fiushi|j, dutk*, but no 
rightg, *'thriU»" but no ginuint Com- 
munist activity, ThoM International 
Labor Defend brimchei, Frlfml* of the 
Soviet Union (**frlindi/' but not Imi* 
tators, Soviet Unlcinj but not Soviet 
America), L«afUi« Afiltiit War and 
Fascism, P«n-aiiid«llttmmir and John 
Reed Club«, art m% m thty prtttnd to 
be, united itmtt$ of workinf^clABi or- 
ganizatioui for o<jmmon atm«j but Com- 
munist-controUid organlnatiwnM for chro. 
nic sympflthi««ri who are eottd«mn©d to 
be incurable inmatft* of hftlf*way houses, 
asylums for w«ak Inttllwtu^li who are 
discouraged from goinf thi whola way, 
homes for weary wandertfi, iseond-class 
parties for •tcond-clttift eltliin» under 
control of a ftrst-ckii fraction, 

If you're worth yaur «alt> you'll want 
full citizenship, m your m%i qu^ition 
shows. 



PROMISES OF THE RIVOLUTION 

The revolutionary mov^mc^nt does ask 
sacrifices; of you: time, t^n^rfy^ devotion, 
funds for the building of our prm» and 
movement, occupancy of m advanced 
place on j^he Hring lint of th« ela^a wir. 

Some mer* make history consciously, 
some dimly understand what 1« hapi^en- 
ing, and some Juit hav© it happen to 
them and aon't know what atruck them. 
But from history thert is no escape. It 
"happens" to all of u«. 

We cannot promise you a picnic. But 
we do promise you an increase in self- 
respect and understanding, escape from 
the miserable role of puppet plaything of 
historical forces, development into a 
conscious contributor to the making of 
the history of your own time, a piacc 
cl honor in the most significant task 



:3 



•^'^^- vi.* 9iL tf''-'^'*'****Win i hwia«awi i ^^ 



^hat any livingr man with evea fn ,« 
possibly engag^te *' ^""^ ^'^^' "«" 

round, -aat will notTalceTnTthXh" 
America isn't Russia— we will nnfZ 

conotr ArL ^- '^'=''^^^" "--t! 
easier ?;r R ^°'^ recognized, it was 

re%|u«t ,^^ror^St^o?t"^' 

quick to acknowledge that \nJ. T^ 
Victor of ,,, p^oXia^nlevofutTont 
thi.^f T ?^ *"« advanced countrie" 
shLrf ; "^'"Vt.^" ^" probability, take a 

Yet even with the marvelous mass- 
production capacities of the AmeXn 
belt-lme you can count on goinr^th 

and tf Tor*' r '"' ^ ^'^"^ -^ ^hen 
and If you get one, you'll have to drive 
It yourseU. You can certainly count Jn 
being without a chauffeur. You're Zth^ 
kmd to be bothered by that I Lati4e 
Your own letter says: "I'm wilHng to 
make any reasonable sacrifice. I'm liu! 
ing to give up my car and chauffeur and 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



9 

tiiat I see all around me." 

pxivueges, as your question nuts ft 

ZZ '^'T^- ^°" '^'^ '>°* "work wftryour 
hands." Bram-workers, doctors, teacherT 
engineers, journalists, if they lit wHh 
progress and not against it^ ^ fi„'5 
themselves part of the new ruling class 

old Th±'''^'^.'^^^ '^^^^r were^of the 

tiL * ® y'^° "^''eht hell" in Russia 

tried to raise hell first. It was the de 

iberate sabotage of great secTfons of the" 

ntelligentsia, as the Russians call you 

that increased the difficulties of the 

new regime and reaped the whiriw nd 

of its own sowing. As to what will 

happen to your "class" here, iTdepends 

'"large measure on what your '?lass'' 

doTbt'^o^t^Tr -^rt^ •'«" -"' - 



vo^r n '^ *' professions you and 
your fellows represent will have a new 
meaning and a new dignity T a new 
society where human dignity wiH takT 
oTSr-'Ca^n T ^T^^^^^-^Vrtl 
him°"%. ?r ""^^'^ mo"ey out of 
mm. , Is there money in it'"- "Vn„ 
are getting paid for it, aren't y;u '?" and 
all the rest of the degrading formulas 
that prostitute intellect as thfy sacn"flee 
Physical strength and skill on'^the Iltar 
of that insatiable Moloch, Almighty Dol- 



Chapter II 

COMMUNISM AND DOGMA 
(Answer to Question 4) 



ndlher of th^ ^"'°"* ^^"^ ^"d Lenin- 
t ttither of them ever set up to be omnis- 

Btent or omnipotent. When Marx lookeH 

M. He and Engels were never tired of 
.belunng to their comrades-in-arm "our 
;j.«m;y ,a no dogma but a guide to ac- 



i^^^^'^vf ^^ »°* a creed to be memor- 

S;n's ^o'"^ ^"-"^ '■''"'^'^ °« «"te ot 
an dnnt / "wversal key that unlocks 
all doors and solves all problems without 
the trouble of thought. It is a meThod 

And uTIr" -^«PP'-d in'ctS 
AM It IS an accumulated and accumu- 
lating body of knowledge acquired byTh. 
application of that method to the prob! 



10 



THINGS: WE WAICT^TO 



lems posed to contemporary man by na- 
ture and society. 

As a method its core lies in the con- 
ception of life as something fluid, chang- 
ing, in process, as a ceaseless transfor- 
mation of all things, now slowly and 
gradually, now rapidly and abruptly, 
from what they were into what they will 
be next. 

Further, Marxist method demands 
realism, concreteness, recognition of the 
infinite variety, the manifold complexity, 
and specific peculiarity and "sly tricki- 
ness" of every particular instance, con- 
crete institution, specific moment, and 
actual problem. Surely there is no room 
for dogmatism, universal solve -alls, and 
sterile creed-reciting in such a method. 
As a concrete body of knowledge, 
Marxism represents the accumulated and 
accumulating results of the application 
of that method to the analysis of the 
world in which we live, and especially, 
to society. Its method is a scientdic 
method raised to the highest level that 
human thought and methodology have so 
far attained. Its accumulated and accu- 
mulating knowledge is providing a so- 
ciology or science of society, which is so 
much the science of society, that its op- 
ponents bend all their efforts to _ prov- 
ing" that no science of society is pos- 
sible, for they have nothing to offer m 
its place. 

Yet even that accumulated body of 
knowledge is not static, fixed, unalter- 
able. For is it not knowledge of a world 
in flux? Is it not changing and grow- 
ing knowledge of a changing world, of 
a world which we seek to change fur- 
ther, and is not acquired by a method 
that has the concept of change as the 
very heart of it? Surely, no room for 
dogmatism here! ^^ 

Your suspicious attitude towards quo- 
tations from a sacred text" is a healthy 
one Thus when the Daily Worker writes 
as it did a short time ago: - Alexander 
Bittleman is writing a book m which he 
will prove by copious quotations from 
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin that 
America will develop along a revolution- 
ary path," the very announcement un- 
consciously condemns the book as rab- 
binical talmudism or priestly exegetics, 



as aomethiJif wllirty Mm. to the spirit 
and method of Mwiiiro. 

But so Ut ymt ftWitwde iB healthy 
only In a ntgfttivt ••tilt, hialthy as a 
negative mm^m t§ th« MllftouB use of 
mcmd tmU, to Ihi cfftrnplrig and hog- 
tying of thoughts iiviitlgtttlon and ex- 
parim«nt, by th« ii«d hwid of past au- 
thority mA dofwft. ¥«t ym cannot stop 
there, f Of ym ftW Itt danpr of "throwing 
out the b»by ilonf with tht dirty bath 
water." 

THl BQhM W AUTHORITY 
In our nml to mmt ai tiin^t cramping 
dogma, w« mwit m% work ourMtlveg into 
the impoMiibk sifcWRtion ^hm we^dare 
not exftmin« th* thayf ht of groat think- 
ers, th# iichlivimint« of treat icientists. 
No one mn «t«dy bi()kffl«»l ©volution 
today and mmk© my mnifmiiom to its 
further ©lucidfttlon, without mmtmmg 
the contribution of Dttrwln, Mmdeh 
Lamarck* W«!Mmftn, Morfan, Mueller 
etc. What thty mf h not deoiiive and 
final but vftitly Importfttti So one can- 
not be an actlvt worker In tht fteld of so- 
cial sci#nc© todfty withwt m»^t«rmg the 
contributioni of Um% Wd Ingjls and 
Lenin and othir MftfXiit*. ^^^ *<^ 
"prove" thingi » U littlilmM with quo- 
tations. Whtt thi grtttt founders of 
modern social %dmm hivt to my is not 
decisive and finttl, but vmtlf Important 
Even the Encyclopadltt ifitiinnlcft (of all 
places!) has eom» grudgingly to recog- 
nize that: 

"It is an exaggeration of the theory 
which makes it an yxplftimtion of all hu- 
man life, but th« whok «eksnce of dy- 
namic sociology r0it« upon the POBtulate 
of Marx."(EncydorHulIa Brittanica, 13th 
edition, article on **Hist(>ry"). 

To sum up, we Communists do not ap- 
prove of the dogmatic um of authority 
as a substitute for obwervation, m a ham- 
stringer of thinking, m a fiftcred text. 
But neither do we reject out-of-hand the 
authority of the leading thinkers and dis- 
coverers in the field of social science, nor 
seek originality just for Its own sake on 
the basis of our own puny individual 
powers starting from scratch. Knowl- 
edge is cumulative, building upon the 
past, but perpetually renews itself out 



mmm 



* '»i iij»g' 



f ril'iiiWii'Mil.fttin'ilTii 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



11 



of the fountain of the living present. 
The problem is to select the best author- 
ities, and to use them as an aid to the 
further development of our science; to 
climb on the shoulders of these giants so 
that we can see as far as they, and per- 
haps a Httle beyond. Used in that sense, 
the gigantic figures of Marx and Engels 
and Lenin will give man a lift for a long 
time to come. 

From these few remarks, it will be 
clear that no healthy Communist move- 
ment would expel any one for getting up 



at a meeting, as you suggest, and declar- 
ing. "I know Lenin said that^— but I 
think he was wrong," 

Of course, such remarks would not 
help much unless they were supplement- 
ed by an analysis of why you thought 
his views on that point were wrong, mid 
what was wrong about them. If you did 
that, you would be a really useful mem- 
ber of our movement. And if it turned 
out that you were wrong, you might 
learn something, and become a more use- 
ful member of our movement, anyhow. 



Chapter III 

COMMUNISM AND WAR 

{Answers to Questions 5 and 6) 



You charge us Communists with ex- 
aggerating the danger and nearness of 
war. It cannot be exaggerated, for we 
are in a period of growing international 
antagonisms and mounting war prepara- 
tions. Armies are bigger, guns more 
powerful, fleets larger, gases more de- 
structive, planes more numerous, plans 
more complete, peace talk more alarm- 
ingly frequent, than in 1913 on the eve 
of the last war. Even the politicians at 
the head of governments are forced 
to admit that now. 

We foresaw it a little earlier ? Warned 
a little earlier? What would you have 
us do ? Close our eyes to the war prep- 
arations? Miss the significance of all 
the peace talk? Go to sleep until war 
actually breaks out? Leave the working 
class unprepared and unf ore warned ? On 
the contrary, our analysis enabled us to 
foresee it. Our obligation is to carry on 
a consistent and persistent day to day 
campaign to explain, to enlighten, to ex- 
pose, and to struggle against each step 
in war preparations. Only thus can we 
build up the understanding and organ- 
ization necessary to avert or postpone 
war. And failing that, only thus can 
We develop the mass organization neces- 
sary to utilize the war situation, to put 
a revolutionary end to the war and the 
war-making system. 
But you are wrong in thinking that we 



have exaggerated the nearness of war, 
pretended to establish an exact date. 
We are not fortune tellers. We can for- 
see what is coming. But no man can 
tell exactly when it is coming. Certain- 
ly, we have never pretended to. 

I think I have written more on war 
than any other Communist in America. 
I wrote a series on war in 1928 when I 
was editor of the Communist and direc- 
tor of the propaganda department of the 
official Communist Party. I wrote an- 
other in 1930 when I was associate edi- 
tor of the Revolutionary Age (today 
Workers Age), organ of the Communist 
Party (Opposition). These writings are 
neither untypical nor unrepresentative. 
Examine them and see whether your 
implied charges are justified. 

Take the series in the A^e, entitled 
"The Next War". They were alarming 
enough in all conscience and intended to 
be so, for the facts they narrated were 
alarming. But this is what I wrote about 
the menace of war: 

"Under capitalism war is inevitable. 
The coming madness is being prepared 
with headlong speed. It may come to- 
morrow or be delayed a decade, just as 
the war of 1914-1918 was brewing from 
the beginning of the century and near* 
ly began several times before it brokt 
out." (Revolutionary Age, Vol. 1, Num- 
ber 13, May 1, 1930). 



12 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



And two years earlier in the series on 
war published in 1928 I wrote: 

"Our struggle against war does not 
blind us to the fact that war may break 
out in the long run in spite of our 
struggle, because the very nature of im- 
perialism is such as to make war inevit- 
able until imperialism and capitalism are 
overthrown. But the struggle against 
war can give us a chance to strengthen 
our forces and build up today a power- 
ful opposition to war at home and in 
other imperialist countries, as well as 
strengthen the Soviet Union." (The 
Communist, July, 1928, VoL VII, Num- 
ber 7, Page 463,) 

Does that sound like exaggeration and 
alarmism or sober realism and common 
sense ? 

ABOUT PACIFISM 

Now as to our tactics. You charge 
that "we encourage pacifism". We do 
not. Again a quotation will clinch the 
point: 

"Only under the leadership of the 
working class can a real struggle against 
war be conducted- The liberals such as 
Wheeler, Borah, etc., delude with Con- 
gressional investigations . . . (you can 
now add the Norris munitions investiga- 
tion) and cause the protests of the mass- 
es to evaporate in wordy phrases and 
thoroughly dangerous pacifist illusions." 
(Communist, July 1928, VoL VII, Num- 
ber 7, page 461). 

You charge us with being "against 
war per se". We have never said so. 
We are in favor of a revolutionary war 
for the freedom of India and Ireland as 
Marx favored the Northern side in the 
Civil War for the abolition of slavery, 
and as we would have supported the 
war for American independence in 1776. 
In each war our attitude is determined 
by the social significance and class for- 
ces involved. We oppose all imperialist 
war; we support wars for freedom, we 
are ready to defend the v/orker's govern- 
ment in Russja, as we would be ready to 
defend a worker's government in Amer- 
ica, with our lives. I don't know where 
you could have gotten an impression to 
the contrary. Certainly our press has 
tried to make that clear. Can it be that 
you are mixing Communist writing with 



thoge you have seen in liberal, pacifist, 
and socialist press, as your letter pre- 
viously confused liberalism, communism 
and Morman Thomasism? Take these 
wordi for example: 

"In a eauntry likg China, where war 
ragea bttween revolution and counter- 
revolution (1 wrote this in 1928) the 
slogan *Piftee*, without th<j previous vic- 
tory of the struggle of the masses 
against impi*riaHMm, ha» a definitely 
counter-revolutionary meaning We do 
not wish peace for imperialism in China 
and peace for Chinese enslavement. We 
wish victorioui r«voIuti«onary war." 
Communist, Vol. VO, Nwrnlwr 9, page 
579-580). 

Is that not clear enough? And this? 

"We CommunistB do not fight against 
war *in general'. We fight against im- 
perialist and counter»r<JVoUUionary war 
but support and lead revolutionary wars 
of the proletariat and nationalist wars 
of oppressed nations.** (Communist, Nov. 
1928, Vol. VII, Number 11, page 714). 

Certainly you cannot accu«(3 us of in- 
consistency or unclarity hera. 

AS TO MILITARISM 

You write that we "carefully preach 
the doctrine that the building up of 
military machines is a certain cause of 
war". Once more a single quotation is 
sufficient to clear up a misunderstand- 
ing: 

"There are those who believe that the 
war preparations are bringing on the 
war, that the cause of war is prepared- 
ness. That is like the argument that it 
rains because people take umbrellas out 
into the street. Preparedness m a symp- 
tom of the approach of war not the 
cause of its approach. When we see gov- 
ernments preparing for war we can 
know that they are expecting war, that 
war is on the way I'* (Revolutionary Age, 
I, 18. August 1, 1930). 

Why do we oppose war preparations 
in America? Because we know that 
each expenditure is a step in preparing 
imperialist war. Because we know that 
the terrific arms expenditure, over $800,- 
000,000 acknowledged outlay for this 
year without counting the PWA and 
other concealed appropriations, puts a 



mm- 



jffammiiM-MiiiMtmiiiini^^ 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



13 



heavy burden on the people and misuses 
funds that might be more usefully em- 
ployed in fighting disease, relieving un- 
employment distress, in education (while 
schools are closing for lack of funds the 
armament expenditures have mounted 
steadily each year and are the highest 
of any country in the world). Because 
we know that the armaments are to be 
used by an imperialist government 
for imperialist purposes which we re- 
ject. Because we know that a heavily 
armed imperialist power curbs freedom 
at home as part of its war preparations 
and uses its armed forces to break 
strikes and crush workers organizations. 
And so on. 

Then why are we opposed to militar- 
ization of our high schools and colleges ? 
Because, in addition to the reasons al- 
ready given, we know that the main 
function of that playing at soldiering, 
for it is mere playing at soldiering, 
is propagandistic, the development of 
the war spirit, psychology and morale 
among the youth of the land. 

Still you object, and your next objec- 
tion is important. You write: "If you 
are in earnest in desiring an armed revo- 
lution, why don't you urge those lads to 
learn all they can about weapons, so 
that they'll be worth something when 
the trouble starts." 

Here again a quotation will clarify 
matters. In an article entitled "The 
Next War: What's To Be Done" I 
wrote: 

"And if, in spite of our efforts, war 
does come— and the likelihood is great 
— then we must go into the armies, into 
the factories, and continue our fight 
against war ... . There is no other way 
out of the war and the war system, no 
shorter road, no easier way. 

"The master class will put us in charge 
of artillery and tanks and planes and 
ships. They will put machine guns and 
gas grenades and bayonets in our hands. 
And they will bid us use them against our 
fellow-workers, to destroy factories, wipe 
out cities, ruin farmlands, annihilate the 
physical basis of modern production and 
culture, and murder each other by mil- 
lions and tens of millions. 

"We cannot avoid it by refusing to 
take the guns, by individual acts of hero- 



ism and resistance. *An oppressed class 
which does not learn the use of arms, 
to possess them and to bi»<;o!iie pracusod 
in them, is only fit to be oppressed and 
handled like slaves.' (Lenin). We must 
take the guns and gas grenades and 
bayonets, and use them, not on each 
other to wipe out mankind, but we must 
use them upon the greedy madmen who 
drive us into war, use them to destroy 
the profit-hunting, man-slaying, unem- 
ployment-and-war-breeding, capitalist 
system, and build a decent human world 
where human lives are valued higher 
than dollars, and exploitation, unemploy- 
ment and war are unknown." (Revolu- 
tionary Age, Vol. ir, No. 22, May 1. 
1931). 

RUSSIA'S ARMY 

Why then do we favor military pre- 
paredness in the Soviet Union ? The an- 
swer is clear. The Soviet Union is no 
imperialist power. It enslaves no colo- 
nial land. It has opened wide the gates 
of the Czarist prison house of peoples* 
It is a free union of free people. It 
seeks neither profits nor colonies any- 
wheres in the world. It has abolished 
capitalism. It is building socialism. In 
it the workers rule. Its Red Army is 
not, to use your phrase, "provocative of 
war." It is a deterrent of war. It is 
the defender of the only land where the 
war-making system has been abolished. 

One last quotation: After the passage 
cited above which begins '*We Commu- 
nists do not fight against v/ar 'in gen- 
eral',"^ follows another which reads: 

"Neither are we against armies and 
the military 'in general'. On the con- 
trary, we are in favor of the working 
class obtaining military knowledge, but 
for their own aims and not those of the 
bourgeoisie. Whilst we carry on a de- 
termined fight against bourgeois armies 
and bourgeois militarism, we are in fav- 
or of a proletarian mihtia . . . and of 
the proletarian Red Army. . . 

"The Red Army is not a ^Russian Ar- 
my'; neither is it merely an army of 
the Soviet Union, but since this is the 
fatherland of all workers of all coun- 
tries (the beginning of a workers' 
world), it is an army of the internation- 







m^s^ 



14 

al proletariat, 
pp. 714, 715.) 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



(Communist, Vol. VII, 



TOWARDS A WORKERS WORLD 

**Why not admit," you conclude, "that 
your policy leads to War and that you 
think that War justifiable ? I'd like you 
better if you did." 

I have already admitted, nay insist- 
ed that we consider wars for freedom, 
war for defense of the Soviet Union, 
justifiable. However, I deny that our 
policy "leads to War". The Soviet Union 
has amply proved that it is following an 
insistent, earnest, tireless policy of 
peace. Therein it has earned the grati- 
tude of the masses, the "common peo- 
ple", of all lands. We are no less tire- 



leas in our of pOilMoft %o war in our own 
country. It mmm ttltold misery for the 
many, blood»t«i?w4 proliti for the few. 
We desire to ohinfl the world. But we 
do not worship vioiwii* We should pre- 
fer to 0hmm it PtMtlully* But change 
it w© mmtt tot till Wi do we will stag- 
ger from dipr«»8to t« d^pregsion, be 
driven from war to Wftf» until we abolish 
the root of d^ptmuim m4 war* the profit 
system. Ther« k m way out of the 
jungle of wari until that iy«tim is end- 
ed. Then we will hftvt « wMle»s world. 
Our policy in th© only f olky that leads 
to abiding peace on iftrth. If fight we 
must, and capitalism liftVW no alterna- 
tive, the struggle for th»t policy U the 
only war in which w« Wi willing to en- 
list. How about yow? 



Chapter IV 

DEMOCRACY AND DICTATORSHIP 

(Answer to Question 7) 



We Americans have been brought up 
to regard the term "Dictatorship" as a 
term of abuse rather than of political 
analysis. Just as we have been taught 
that "there are no classes in America" 
and no ruling class (in the land of the 
most open control of government by big 
business that has ever been known any- 
where) so we are taught to think of the 
government or state as a mere expres- 
sion of the undifferentiated and un- 
animous will of "the people" of a class- 
less society. But as a matter of simple 
fact our government, like all govern- 
ments throughout history, though it rests 
as far as possible on persuasion and un- 
conscious and habitual acceptance, de- 
pends ultimately on courts, injunctions, 
police, prisons, national guard and armed 
forces, in short on force, for the preser- 
vation of the status quo, the maintenance 
of "law and order" (capitalist property 
law and the capitalist social order) and 
the continuance of the present property 
and class relationships. You do not even 
have to challenge the existing social 
order to have the government "crack 
down" on you. A mere strike for a 



shorter workday, a few mn%n more pay, 
or union recognition^ brings courts and 
police (clubs and injunctions) into action 
on behalf of the interesti of the do- 
minant class. And if the strike ia of any 
magnitude, the national guard and the 
army (gas bombs, bayonets und machine 
guns) go into action as wall, San Fran- 
cisco, Toledo, Minneapolias, New Orleans, 
and the textile strike, to cite only a few 
instances of the past year, all give proof 
of that. 

In this the United States ii no excep- 
tion. All the governments of the world, 
including England and France, Germany 
and Italy, the United States and the 
Soviet Union, are dictatorships in the 
sense (1) that they rcpreaent the do- 
minance of some one class over the rest 
of society, (2) that they maintain and 
defend a given social order, (3) and that, 
while they use means of propaganda, 
education, and persuasion, they depend 
ultimately on force for their maintenance 
and the maintenance of the social order 
they represent. As Professor Laski aptly 
puts it in his latest book, The State in 
Theory and Practice: "So long as the 



«iiwuti-w i !» ! ii:v» '> *»*" i H i: "» i 



IMiii 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



15 



i 



% 



% 



A 



state expresses a society divided into 
economic classes, it is always the ser- 
vant of that class which owns, or do- 
minates the ownership of, the instru- 
ments of production." 

The chief differences between the 
United States, England, Germany mid 
Italy on the one hand, and the Soviet 
Union on the other, lies not in the fact 
of dictatorship in the sense of class rule, 
but in the question as to which class is 
the ruling class. In this sense, further, 
England, the United States, Germany 
and Italy, despite the differences in their 
state apparatus and forms, are all bour- 
geois or capitalist dictatorships. The 
Soviet Union, on the other hand, and it 
makes no bones about it, is a proletarian 
dictatorship—the working class owns 
the industries, controls the government 
(in alliance with these "non-proletarian 
toilers" you asked about) and runs the 
government in its own interests as a 
government over and against the inter- 
ests of the remnants of the capitalist and 
feudal landowning classes in the Soviet 
Union and their supporters in other 
lands. 

ON THE FORM OF GOVERNMENT 

Of course, there are enormous and 
highly important differences in the forms 
that these various class dictatorships 
take. 

Thus there are republics (France, the 
United States), monarchies (England, 
Italy). There are limited monarchies and 
absolute monarchies. England (with a 
king) and France (without one) have 
more ''responsible " governments than 
the United States. The President of the 
United States has more economic and 
political power formally vested in him 
than the King of England or the Presi- 
dent of France; or even, considering his 
freedom from legislative control and 
from the necessity to resign when out- 
voted, than the Prime Ministers of those 
countries. These things make important 
differences in the form of government, 
but obviously not in the essence of these 
governments, for all of them are cap- 
italist governments. 

Then there are survivals in some coun- 
tries of feudal classes with privileges and 
powers directly defined by personal, 



caste-status law as well as indirectly by 
property possession as with the British 
aristocracy, whereas in more thoroughly 
bourgeois countries, there is formal 
equality before the law and privileges 
and powers are determined exclusively by 
economic possession and property law. 
This country is not free from pre-cap- 
italist laws, however, as proved by the 
existence of the semi-feudal share-crop- 
per system in the South and the Jim- 
Crow laws which are personal-distinction 
laws surviving from the caste status of 
slavery. It is important to fight for the 
elimination of all these pre-capitalist 
survivals, king, lords, share-cropper sys- 
tem, etc., yet if they are all eliminated, 
you still have nothing more than pure 
capitalist government with that formal 
equality before capitalist law which 
Anatol Prance so neatly satirized with 
his famous aphorism: 

"The Law in its majestic Equality for- 
bids the Rich as well as the Poor to 
sleep under bridges and beg their bread 
from door to door." 

WHAT ABOUT DEMOCRACY? 

It is also true that in America, as in 
England and France, there is the op- 
portunity for great numbers of people 
(all those adults who can afford a settled 
residence in some states and in others 
all who can pay a certain poll tax) to 
vote every so often as to which particular 
group of persons are to adopt laws com- 
patible with the general constitution of 
capitalist society, and enforce capitalist 
law and maintain the capitalist order. 
But it is obvious that this is really an 
opportunity to choose within the narrow 
limits indicated above, and to choose be- 
tween two parties both of which are for 
capitalism and both of which are con- 
trolled by big contributors. Moreover, 
under capitalism, not merely campaign 
funds and party machines of the big 
parties, but also big newspapers, the 
radio and other organs for forming 
public opinion, are controlled directly and 
indirectly by big business. Consequent- 
ly, democracy, in capitalist countries, is 
really, despite thin disguises, easily re- 
cognizable as capitalist democracy, i.©. 
democracy for the capitalist class in de- 
termining its own class policies and its 



:^ 



/ 



w 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



manner of controlling the working class. 
This does not obviate the fact that such 
democracy for the capitalist class is at 
the same time dictatorship over the 
working class. 

In the Soviet Union, on the other hand, 
there is also an interplay of dictatorship 
and democracy. There it is a question 
of democracy not for a small minority, 
but for the great majority, and of dic- 
tatorship; not over the great majority, 
but over a small minority. Incidentally, 
the forms of proletarian democracy are 
also superior: election directly from fac- 
tories, regiments, collective farms; the 
requirement that soviet delegates report 
frequently to their constituents, must ac- 
cept instructions as to how to vote (im- 
perative mandate), are subject to recall 
at any time, etc. It is because Soviet 
democracy is democracy for the great 
majority that it can so frankly avow its 
character as a dictatorship (of the 
proletariat) over the small minority (the 
old possessing classes). And it is be- 
cause American democracy is really a 
democracy for a handful that it muit 
conceal as far as possible iti charsetif 
as dictatorship of that handful of momf 
kings over the grtat majority and w»# 
all the arts of hypocriiy, miiiducfttlon, 
and befuddlement, to conceal Itg eharme- 
ter as a dictatorship (of the bour- 
geoisie) over the great majority (th© 
workers and working farmers). 

AS TO FASCISM 

Still the matter of relative preserva- 
tion of democratic forms and civil liber- 
ties, however, meager and insubstantial, 
is important in capitalist countries. In 
proportion as capitalism decays, in that 
proportion it destroys even that limited 
capitalist democracy and its limited bour- 
geois democratic liberties, in favor of 
purely autocratic, personal, naked dicta- 
torship, dictatorship a la Mussolini and 
Hitler. Here even the capitalist parties 
must go out of business, and to preserve 
its economic power and privileges the 
capitalist class gives up even its own 
democracy to a set of hired bullies under 
a personal autocrat. If capitalist demo- 
cracies smash strikes, capitalist auto- 
cracies of the Hitler type smash all 
trade unions. Still capitalist democracies 



and capitalist autocracies have this es- 
sential feature in common, as have cap- 
italist monarchies and capitalist repub- 
lics, namely, that they are all varying 
forms, better or worse forms, of the dic- 
tatorship of the capitalist class. 

And one more important difference. 
Capitalist dictatorships aim to keep the 
subject class permanently subject. But 
proletarian dictatorships aim to eliminate 
the roots of their subject classes, wipe 
out all class distlnctiona and build a 
classless society where no class dictator- 
ship is necessary or possible. 

CLASS AND PAIiTY 

From what I have said »o far, you can 
see that we mean dictfttorihlp of the 
proletariat, not dictatorihlp of the Com- 
munist Party, Where then do parties 
come in? 

A clsiBH cannot vuh dlrictly, every 
member of it, mmy d«y^ saying his say 
on every question m It comm up, and 
©very mtmbir of It divoting hla full 
time to pollilQ* mi f ovtrnment. Each 
olftSB divtbpi ill &mn paity or parties, 
ft vAWfuafi ^1 Its mm% politically con- 



tn Ammlm Ihfi ts partially concealed 
by thi imt that both major parties are 
partlfts of th# same class, lirve the in- 
tarests ol the same clasB and often of 
the same lection of it (that's why the 
Duponts can divide the membera of their 
family between the two parties). And 
both parties hypocritically pretend to be 
the party of all classes. That helps to 
explain the incredible unprincipledness, 
hypocrisy, and corruption of American 
political life. It also explains the con- 
fusion that makes farm-blocs and labor 
blocs, on a class basis, cut across party 
lines. In France, on the other hand, each 
party and there are many, is a little 
more specific as to program and as to 
which class it represents. The Commun- 
ist Party makes no pretense to being 
a classless party. It is the party of the 
working class. Its platform is insistent- 
ly, unevasively clear; the overthrow of 
capitalism, the rule of the workers, the 
establishment of a new social order. It 
appeals to other classes oppressed by the 
same financial dictatorship, only insofar 
as it believes and can demonstrate, that 



M MMtiMHff 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



17 



the victory of the working class will 
also aid poor farmers and other op- 
pressed sections of the population. 

"NON-PROLETARIAN TOILERS'^ 

That brings me to your question about 
Herberg*s formula: "the position of the 
proletariat in the midst of the non- 
proletarian toiling masses." The prole- 
tarian is the worker proper, he who 
does not own his means of production 
but must sell his ability to labor, his 
hand and brain, to the owners of the 
means of production. The non-proleta- 
rian toiling masses include artisans who 
own their own tools and means of pro- 
duction and work for customers or the 
market, peasants and poor farmers who 
own their own land, etc. They must still 
toil to live, but they live by ownership 
of their means of production and by 
self-controlled labor. In Russia, they 
form the vast majority of the population, 
and the proletariat has the special prob- 
lem of winning and keeping their con- 
fidence, of serving their interests as well 
as its own. That is why the Soviet gov- 
ernment has often been called a dictator- 
ship of workers and peasants, of the 
workers supported by and allied with the 
peasantry, 

AS TO BUREAUCRACY 

In view of all the above, it is obvious 
that the proletariat, and in a more limit- 
ed sense the peasantry, exercise their 



dictatorship through the vehicle of the 
Soviet government, and under the lead- 
ership of the Communist Party. But 
the authority of the party is grounded 
not in coercion, but in mass confidence 
and mass support. The Party must judge 
the needs of the masses well, express 
them adequately, be linked up insepar- 
ably with the masses, constantly recruit 
their best and most advanced elements, 
deserve their confidence and win it afresh 
each day, by every move, for every pro- 
posal, for every action. 

For this reason the party needs to ex- 
plain not command, when dealing with 
the class it represents. It needs to pre- 
serve democracy within its own ranks 
and democracy for the masses within 
the government it leads. 

I do not wish to conceal the fact that 
certain bureaucratic weaknesses have 
crept into the inner party life of the 
Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 
and even, tho much less so, certain 
bureaucratic weaknesses in the democ- 
racy for the masses afforded by the 
Soviet government or proletarian dicta- 
torship. 

But with all those defects, the Soviet 
government is not merely a government, 
the only government, in the interests of, 
for and by the masses, but it is the 
widest, completest, most thorough going 
democracy in the world today. 



Chapter V 

ON EXPULSIONS AND PARTY CONTROVERSIES 

{Ansiver to Question 8) 



How do we justify the expelling of 
persons loyal to Communism and cap- 
able of furthering the development of 
our movement ? We don't"; If we could 
endorse such things we would not now 
be in the Communist Opposition. If the 
Communist International were today in 
a healthy condition, if it were based 
upon a sound structure of inner party 
democracy combined with centralized 
leadership and discipline in action, if it 
were not disrupted by factionalism, if it 



possessed a collective leadership in place 
of a monopoly of leadership by the Rus- 
sian party and an unhealthy tendency to 
personal monopoly of leadership within 
that party — undoubtedly the Communist 
International would have avoided many 
losses and defeats and would have been 
spared the disruptive crises of the last 
six years. In that case Jay Lovestone 
would no doubt be secretary of our par- 
ty today and recognized as one of the 
outstanding leaders of the Communiit 




IB 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



International and M. N. Roy, in his In* 
dian prison, would be mentioned together 
with Thaelmann in every demand by 
Communist-controlled organizations for 
the release of our proletarian heroes 
from the bastilles of reaction. To the 
shame of our movement be it said that 
the petty vindictiveness of factional con- 
siderations even follows our menibers 
into the dungeon, and the International 
of revolution makes common cause with 
rrritish imperialism in a conspiracy of 
silence to conceal the fact that the out- 
standing leader of the Indian revolution 
is lying helpless and ill in a jail in In- 
dia! 

HOW TO CORRECT IT 

"How are you going to correct it?," 
you ask, "and make such sacrifice im- 
possible in the future." No honest, think- 
ing man will give you guarantee for the 
future of even the best movement — and, 
in our opinion, the Communist move- 
ment, even with all its defects, is the 
beat movement in the world today. 

But of this much you can be sure; 
The Communist Opposition has dedicated 
itself to the task of strengthening the 
Communist movement, of making it more 
fit for its large tasks, by fighting against 
iuch a state of affairs till they are cor- 
rected. History and the needs of our 
movement demand (that the fight be 
fought and won. Recent developments 
give increasing evidence that it will be 
won. And when that fight is over, when 
inner party democracy has been restored, 
when ft genuine world collective leader- 
ship has been developed, then such a 
crisis Ib far less likely to occur again. 
By making the present in proper fashion, 
man does what he humanly can to shape 
the future. To gbre other guarantees ex- 
cept those arising out of your own activ- 
ity and the objective possibilities, is 
quackery or fortune-telling. You, and 
those like you, who want to see such 
things corrected, if your desires are not 
to remain mere impotent dreams, must 
join the ComrauniBt Opposition in its 
fight for Communist Unity and inner 
party democracy (these do not make up 
all but they do make up an important 
part of our aims), and thus help to 



secure th^ kind of future for our move- 
ment that yott diiire. A Victory for the 
Communigt Oppoiitlon would be the best, 
the only poi$ibk guarantee, that such 
things could not readily occur again. 

Her© I might itop, but your question 
really contains iivaral other implications 
and iBnm$ that rtquire analysis and 
answir. E»p«cl»lly there are two con- 
cealed questions (1) Why we there such 
differencei and divl»idn§ in the Com- 
munist mov«m«nt? md (2) What is our 
attitude on Trotaky whose name is omit- 
ted from my discuigion above? The 
second question I hflva taken up at 
length elsewhere (8««, for example, the 
appendix on "Trot»ky ftnd Trotskyism" 
in "What is th© Communist Opposition" 
—Workers Age Pub. Q(h, U cents). But 
both questions howovar briefly, should 
be answered hem, 

Many people are ft^tonlihad, even ali- 
enated, by the sharp eontroversies that 
go on in the radical movfment, But a 
little reflection will convince you that 
such controversy, within ctrtftin limits, is 
inevitable and necessary. All living or- 
ganizations attempting to adapt them- 
selves to a changing and complicated 
world and to solve daily new and hither- 
to unsolved problems, will naturally and 
inevitably develop much diicussion, dif- 
ference of opinion and controversy. The 
evil lies not in the discugalon and differ- 
ence of opinion. That is rather a sign 
of health— and of the complexity and 
constant alteration of the problems to be 
solved. 

But the evil lies in the choking off of 
such discussion, the outlawry of serious 
earnest consideration of fundamentals, 
the artificial creation of differences, the 
substitution of abuse and excommunica- 
tion for analysis and refutation, of com- 
pulsion for conviction, of dogmatic credo 
for scientific analysis, of churchly obe- 
dience for conscious understanding, of 
heat for light, of the dogma of the in- 
fallibility of the leader for the winning 
and ever fresh rewinning of leadership 
(i.e. acceptance of one's proposals) thru 
clarity and soundness, the splitting of 
the movement to avoid discussion, the 
substitution of considerations of face- 
saving for considerations of movement- 



si^^a^ ag^amwjmw i it» - ^-4'' - Wi!iw ^ 



mmm^m 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



19 



building, putting the desire to appear to 
have been right above the eagerness to 
be right and keep right, and if an error 
of judgment has been made, to correct 
it as quickly, openly and c6mpletely as 
possible. 

Lenin, who differed both temperamen- 
tally and consciously from Stalin in this 
matter, summed up his view on the cor- 
rection of errors in unforgettable words: 
"The attitude of a political party 
toward its own mistakes is one of the 
most important and surest criteria of 
the seriousness of the party and of 
how it fulfills in practice its obliga- 
tions towards its class and towards 
the toiling masses. To admit a mis- 
take openly, to disclose its reaions, to 
analyze the conditions which gave ri^e 
to it, to study attentively the means of 
correcting it — these are the signa of 
a serious party. * , . . " 
Certainty, such methods of correcting 
errors, help, as you rightly demand, "to 
prevent their possibility in the future." 

AS TO EXPULSIONS 

We of the Communist Opposition are 
not against expulsions in principle. A 
voluntary movement has the right and 
duty to defend itself against infiltration 
by elements that do not agree with it in 
fundamentals, that refuse to carry out 
its basic decisions, or that discredit it 
and betray its basic aims. 

Expulsions only become a sign of ill 
health when they are used to prevent 
analysis of realities and discussion of 
tactical questions, when expulsion is used 
against those who are loyal to the prin- 
ciples of Communism and willing to car- 
ry out the will of the majority after a 
fair discussion has been held, till another 
opportunity for discussion shall come. 

Nor are ability and services to the 
movement in the past sufficient to justify 
present actions. To use an historic anal- 
ogy, no one can, deny that Benedict Ar- 
nold did heroic service in the revolution- 
ary cause before he deserted it. So La- 
fayette, Mirabeau, Danton, led the early 
stages of the French Revolution till it 
went beyond their limited aims, and then 
they became its enemies. So too the 
revolutionary movement owes vast debts 



to Kautsky and Plechanoff, yet both in 
later years became opponents of their 
own earlier words and deeds and the 
movement they had helped to build. No 
revolutionary leader can live on his past, 
but must win afresh each day his right 
to leadership and a belief in the correct- 
ness of his views. When he goes off the 
track, his very past reputation makes a 
former leader all the more dangerous. 

So in the fact that Lovestone, Roy, 
Trotsky or Stalin served the revolution 
well yesterday, there is nothing which 
would prove conclusively that he is still 
correct and still serving well today. 
Therein lies one of the dangers in the 
Stalin cult, or Thaelmann cult. 

The fact that Lovestone, Roy or Trot- 
sky stands today expelled does not neces- 
sarily prove that any of them was right 
and unjustly handled (as your letter 
seems to imply), any more than it proves 
that he was wrong and justly handled 
as, official party members are taught to 
believe. 

In the same way, the fact that Lenin 
before his death earnestly demanded the 
removal of Stalin as secretary of the 
Russian party is in itself no proof that 
he is not a good secretary today, any 
more than the fact that he is secretary 
today is in itself proof that he is the 
best possible or even a good secretary 
of the Communist Party of the Soviet 
Union. Of course, a man's past is of 
some consequence in estimating his pres- 
ent and probably future, but his present 
is overwhelmingly more so. 

AS TO TROTSKY 

Now a word as to Trotsky. It would be 
outside the scope of this series to analyze 
his role in detail here. But this much 
at least should be said in answer to your 
question. 

Trotsky's services to the Russian rev- 
olution are undeniable. It is truly shame- 
ful to see how attempts have been made 
to rewrite the history of the years 1917 
to 1920 in such fashion as to omit th© 
heroic pages that Trotsky inscribed 
there. To such depths does petty, shame* 
less factionalism lead, to falsiflcation ol 
historical truth, to brazen forgery I 

But no factionalism nor sycophancy 0I 



rn 



-'«< J 



m 



THINGS WE WAOT TO KNOW 



professional adulators of Stalin and pro* 
fessional slanderers of his opponents, la 
capable of permanently beclouding the 
record of those years. It is Trotsky's 
own actions of today that are cancelling 
out his merits of yesterday. It is the 
Trotsky of today that is the enemy of 
what the Trotsky of yesterday contrib- 
uted to the proletarian cause. 

Trotsky, like Stalin, tried to build an 
international faction as a tail to his aims 
in the Russian Party. Both were ready 
to disrupt the world communist move- 
ment for the sake of victory in that con- 
troversy. But in their differences on in- 
dustrialization, attitude towards the peas- 
antry, estimate of the present stage of 
the Russian revolution and its tasks in 
relation to the world revolution, Stalin 
was in the main overwhelmingly right 
and Trotsky overwhelmingly wrong. 

This is not said to justify in any way 
the shameful factional treatment and de- 
portation of Trotsky meted out by Stalin 
and his faction. The writer of these 
lines, when serving as representative to 
the Executive Committee of the Commu- 
nist International in 1929, on being asked 
to express his opinion on the proposed 
deportation of Trotsky, recorded his 
vote against it. (To my chagrin I learn- 
ed that Trotsky had already been secret- 
ly deported at the time the sham "con- 
sultative vote" was being taken). 

I agree with you, then, that Trotsky 
had '-earned a right to present his case 
in the land he helped to create," Cer- 
tainly, it was not Lenin's way of defeat- 
ing a mistaken opponent. He did 
not lightly resort to administrative meas- 
ures, to mechanical discipline, expulsion 
and daportation, His method was that 
of annihilating his opponent ideological- 
ly, of using him as on object lesson for 
exposing errors and clarifying sound 
views, of winning his followers, and even 
the champion of a wrong view himself 
by patient and energetic explanation and 
analysis. Lenin was not opposed, either, 
to the use of expulsion as a last resort 
for incurable violators of party decisions 
or those who had actually abandoned the 
fundamental principles of communism. 
But expulsion and other measures of 



mechanicnl discipline were a last resort 
"" ' not a substitute for tactical contro- 



I mm pMpartd to admit then, that per- 
ft wlgfr and more capable leader- 

[> might have saved Trotsky from his 
sath, But the fact is, I think, 
indiipytAblii that i;yhatever the provoca- 
tion, it iom not juitlfy, it merely helps 
to explain in a p*ycholog:ical sense his 
present uneommuni^t, nay anti-commu- 
nist position. Today, whatever his sub- 
jective Intention! may bo, and I shall 
not try to judge thim, his objective role 
is to mobllissi labor ientlment against 
the Soviet Union. Ha hm ordered his 
followers in Franca to intur the Socialist 
International. He htti departed ever far- 
ther from Commnniit fundamentals, in 
his estimate of thi Bovkt State, in his 
attitude towards thi Communist and So- 
cialist Internationak. Ha has even come 
out for Civil War In th# Soviet Union 
and thus become an opm enemy of the 
class and land he once lerved so faith- 
fully. 

I am willing to grant you that he has 
had much provocation* But so have we 
of the Communist Opposition had much 
provocation. Against us too, lies and 
slanders and historical fakiflcation and 
forgery have been used. We too have 
been expelled, villified, consciously pro- 
voked in an effort to make us desert Com- 
munism, go over to the Second Interna- 
tional, or more openly to capitalism. Yet 
we have remained loyal to the principles 
of Communism in the face of all provo- 
cations. We have met slander with meas- 
ured argument and analysis. We have 
continued to fight for the strengthening, 
the correction, the reunification of the 
Communist International We have been 
the clearest and most effective opponents 
of Trotskyism (the Party slander-meth- 
ods are not very effective) and the clear- 
est and most effective explainers, popu- 
larizers and defenders of the Soviet 
Union. That is why I have to separate 
the names of Loves tone, Roy, and Wolfe 
from the name of Trotsky, which you 
have coupled with them in your letter. 

And that is why the official faction of 
our party and international have not 



■^ 






^smsm»^ mtm>m < ^m im a m M, 



9S!mij 9 mt,/M!.m'm'-m!i-«imii,.''j 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



21 



hn^ii able to make their slanders stick 
agninst us. That is why they have had 
gradually to change the character of 
those slanders. (They are far less crude 
today). That is why they have had to 
enter into blocs with us in certain coun- 
tries for common action. That is why 
they are compelled to tell us that the way 
is open for our return to the fold (if we 
will "acknowledge our errors"!). And 
that, plus the fact that our tactical line 
has been sound and our aims expressive 
of the real needs of the Communist move- 
ment, explains why bit by bit, shame- 
facedly, ineffectually, piecemeal, they 
have had to begin to adopt portions ot 
our tactical program and acknowledge iti 



correctness, if only by the tribute of 
imitation. 

And that is why we can feel confident 
that our fight will end, sooner or later, 
with our aims accomplished, with Com- 
munist unity achieved, with inner party 
democracy restored, with a sound tactical 
line, the line we have fought for and de- 
fended. And the fight will not have been 
in vain, for, with all its costs and losses 
it will have given its own reasonably sure 
gn grantees of a sounder movement on a 
healthier basis. Then, to use the terms 
of your letter, we will have ended "a 
system which is capable of such mis- 
taken. And, more important, . . . will 
prevent their possibility for the future." 



Chapter VI 

COMMUNISM AND AMERICANISM 

{Answer to Question 9) 



You say you are proud of what our 
country has stood for in the past? So 
are we. We are proud of the fierce re- 
sistance of the American colonials to 
British tyranny. Proud of the American 
Revolution. Proud of its role as inspirer 
of the French Revolution. Proud of the 
Declaration of Independence with is pro- 
clamation of the eternal right of the peo- 
ple to freedom, equality, control of their 
government, and the right to alter or 
even abolish their government whenever 
they feel that it does not serve their 
needs. 

We are not proud of the Constitution 
rooted in privilege, property, slavery and 
distrust of the masses; but we are of 
the Bill of Rights forced into that docu- 
ment by the more revolutionary of our 
forefathers. 

In 1931, we almost alone celebrated 
the hundredth anniversary of the found- 
ing of the Liberator. Only we today re- 
member with gratitude and understand- 
ing, and draw inspiration from the hero- 
ic struggles of Thaddeus Stevens and 
Wendell Phillips, and the leaders of the 
slave revolts, which in most histories go 
even unrecorded. The American govern- 
ment which commemorates the hun- 



dredth anniveriary of every little, pidd- 
ling nobody and nothing, left the hun- 
dredth anniversary of the heroic deeds 
of those titans of our history, the aboli- 
tionists and Negro leaders of slave re- 
volts, unpostage-stamped, uncoined, un- 
medalled, unexpositioned and unrecord- 
ed! 

WE CLAIM THE HERITAGE 
The Bill of Rights today belongs to 
us. The master class honors those rights 
today by their breach and not by their 
observance. That immortal document 
which proclaims the right of revolution, 
the Declaration of Independence, is out- 
lawed by our present rulers. Commun- 
ists are arrested for asserting that right. 
We can truly say to the Tory reaction- 
aries today: We claim the heritage you 
reject. The tradition of progress is ours, 
not yours. The love of freedom is ours. 
The belief in equality is ours. We are 
definitely more consistent and truer 
guardians of the American heritage 
than you. You betray it. We defend it 
and seek to enlarge it. You reactionarlii 
fight against the generous dream m 
which this land was built. We flg>it *" 
make that dream a reality. You Uii 




THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



to block the present. We use the 
past to build the future. 

AS TO THE FLAG 

You think the American people are 
blindly attached to the Stars and Stripes, 
prize the symbol and reject the reality. 
Don't you believe it. We Americans are 
no exceptions. So were the colonials once 
attached to the British Union Jack. 
Under that flag they fought in the 
French and Indian wars. In 176B they 
marched back, victorious in the last of 
those wars, drums beating, colors flying, 
heads high, proud of their status as 
freeborn Englishmen. Only twelve years 
later, Americans largely of the same 
generation, fired on the union jack at 
Lexington, bore a red flag with snake 
and pine tree at Bunker Hill, declared 
their independence at Philadelphia. 

So were the Southerners proud of the 
Stars and Stripes. Yet they fired on 
them. Cheered another flag. And today 
are flying the stars and stripes again. 

So the German masses have cheered 
the Imperial banner, then the Repub- 
lican, and latterly in great numbers, the 
swastika flag. And in time, as surely as 
the sun will rise tomorrow, they will be 
rallying behind the red flag of prole- 
tarian revolution. 

Or take the Russian people. Were 
they not attached to the "little father" 
and the church, the ikons and the flag? 
But when these came to symbolize in 
their minds all the things they hated: 
oppression, tyranny, starvation, im- 
perialism, war, and when they learned 
to hate those things, they learned to 
hate thair symbols, the very symbols 
they had reverenced so blmdly. That 
was one of the signs of the revolution- 
iKation of the masses. They were rally- 
ing to other symbols because they were 
rallying to other things. The American 
masses still believe in the symbol be- 
cause they do not yet sufficiently dis- 
believe in the things it stands for today. 

AS TO LOVE OF COUNTRY 

We Communists yield to no one in 
love of country. Country is not an empty 
word — country is a land inhabited by 
people. Those who pillage it, those who 



tixi)luii itH Inhabitants, those who make 
it hated abruadj those who spread misery 
in it, thoftu who maintain poverty in the 
midit of its abundant plenty, those who 
prepare wars tat it,— let them not talk 
of love of countrsrl To them we are dis- 
loyaU To Ametlean capitalism and im- 
perialism wo are dtttloyaL To the inter- 
ests of the great masses of American 
workingmen &nd warking farmers, to the 
interests of the vaat majority of the 
American piopk w« arg unswervingly 
loyal. 

No one iV«r hmtd m voicing the 
treacherous slofftn? *'Our country right 
or wrong!" On th« contrary, so long as 
we find anything wrong in *'our" coun- 
try we will fight liki hell to aet it right. 
And if I put the "our'* in quotation 
marks now, it h oil behalf of the great 
mass of Americani who do not own the 
country altho they hftVi built it. In that 
sense, it is one of the alms of our move- 
ment to make the country "ours" with- 
out the quotation mftrka. There can be 
no task involving greater loyalty to the 
majority of the American people than 
this. 

THE "NATIONAL FIUDF/* OF THE 
COMMUNISTS 

We Communists are not devoid of 
"national" pride. If I put the **national" 
in quotation marks, it is to indicate that 
our nation, like every nation, is not a 
unit. It has its class divisions, and every 
American must decide whether to be 
loyal to the great mass of American pro- 
ducers or to the little oligarchy of 
American money kings. It is a socially 
ignorant or scoundrelly U8© of the term 
"national" that seeks to conceal that 
fact. 

And it is that awareness which charac- 
terizes our "national" pride. We are 
generally proud of the things of which 
the master class is ashamed and ashamed 
of the things of which they are proud. 
We are proud, as you have seen, of the 
traditions of the Revolution, proud of its 
role in world history, proud of the gener- 
ous purpose of transcendentalism and its 
noble, if unavailing and unrealistic 
utopianism, of the broad equalitarianism 
of Whitman, the anti-plutocratic spirit 
of Jacksonian democracy and populism, 



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THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



23 



the unawed opposition of the "muckrak- 
ers'* to the gigantic trusts, proud of the 
brighter pages in the history of the 
American labor movement. We are 
proud, too, of the fruitful genius and 
plenty-producing marvels of American 
inventiveness and technical achievement. 
Therefore do we hate with a deep 
hatred all that is slavish and corrupt in 
our national life, all the "hoggish, cheat- 
ing and bedbug qualities," as Walt Whit- 
man Called them, in the past and present 
of America. Therefore do we hate the 
abuse of the machine for the enslave- 
ment of man, in place of his emancipa- 
tion. Therefore do we hate the humbug- 
gery and demagogy and corruption of 
present-day American government and 
politics. Therefore are we ashamed of the 
national auction sale of human weKare 
and happiness on the ignoble altar of the 
almighty dollar. Therefore do we scorn 
to see our land appear before the world 
as the hypocritical preparer of war in a 
smoke-cloud of unctuous pacifist phrases, 
as the brutal jailer of Latin America, 
the pavmbroker Uncle Shylock, the 
wielder of the big stick, the symbol of 
world reaction. 

OUR INTERNATIONALISM 

Today there can be no conflict between 
honest, worker-and-farmer-loyal nation- 
alism and internationalism. The world is 
so interconnected in economy, in war and 
peace, in historic fate, that a separation 
from the economic and historic fate of 
the rest of the world is the dream of 
the ignorant and the rascally deception 
of the scoundrel. 



The highest nationalism today is not 
the nationalism of a Hitler. He is dis- 
loyal to the interests of the masses of 
the German people. The highest nation- 
alism today is, at the same time, inter- 
nationalism. That is the nationalism of 
the Communists. It represents loyalty to 
the masses of our people, and their allies 
and comrades in arms, the masses every- 
where. The real interests of our people 
coincide with the interests of the toilers 
and oppressed thruout the world, "Wall 
Street," a little handful of bankers and 
money kings, not only rules us; it tyran- 
nizes over much of the world. Our strug- 
gle helps the masses elsewhere j their 
struggle helps us. 

And even in that we are determined 
to be profoundly "national." We are 
determined. to do our duty above all in 
"our own" country, to defeat "our own" 
master class. And we rejoice to know 
that history has given the American 
people a tremendous historic role, that 
in defeating our own master class, we 
defeat the most powerful and oppressive 
master class of all, plant the banner of 
freedom in the very center of the citadel 
of world capitalism and world reaction, 
and thereby America's workingmen and 
poor farmers make a tremendous con- 
tribution, not only to their own freedom, 
but to the freedom of all peoples thruout 
the world. 

When you have thought thru your own 
declarations of loyalty, you will want 
to pitch in and help us make "America 
First" in the struggle for freedom, to 
put it again in the vanguard of the free 
peoples of the earth. 



Chapter VII 
LIBERALS AND COMMUNISTS 

{Answer to Question 10) 



You make a plea for broadminded- 

ness. 

To be broad-minded in the sense of 
training one's mind to examine the whole 
range of possibilities, take in all details, 
see things in their complexity and many- 
sidedness, be always in quest of allies, 
always receptive to new developments — 



in that sense "broad-mindedness", am- 
plitude of curiosity and criterion, is th© 
duty of every revolutionist. 

But that same breadth of vision muii 
be inextricably linked up with 
ness of purpose, surety of dir^c^on,^ 
tolerance of weakness and 
sharpness of mental focus. B< 



,^-- 



Bi 



THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



thing in relation to the central task of 
our time, sharpens the vision and clari- 
fies the focus. Trying to see everything 
without orientation as to important and 
unimportant, relevant and irrelevant, 
blurs the vision and ultimately guaran- 
tees that you will see nothing straight. 
A broad man sharpened to a point, is a 
good revolutionist. A broad man without 
a point, or a narrow man without 
breadth — cannot make a good revolu- 
tionist. And if we see big things big 
and little things little, we will still have 
to recognize that of the two evils, the 
lesser is a man all point without breadth 
than a man with such "breadth" that he 
misses the point. So much for "broad- 
mindedness". 



AS TO SINCERITY 

The liberal, you tell me, is sincere. 
Some are; some aren't. Some liberals 
are muddleheads; some are myopics with 
diffused vision; some are time-serving 
chameleons with a gift for taking on a 
protective coloration according to their 
momentary surroundings; some are radi- 
cals in a process of degeneration into 
conservatives and some are embryonic 
radicals. Your penchant for liberalism, 
as your letter makes clear, is of the last 
type. It is liberalism on the road to be- 
coming radicalism. 

A bridge can be crossed in either di- 
rection. Liberalism influencing the radi- 
cal movement is a bridge traversible only 
in the wrong direction, a road back, a 
path to degeneration. Liberalism infil- 
trating the conservative camp may be 
a bridge to radicalism. There are lib- 
erals and liberals. 

You ask us to grant the sincerity of 
the liberals. To some of them we grant 
it freely. But sincerity in itself, while 
It IS a personal virtue, is not necessar- 
ily a social one. Many a dangerous re- 
actionary is sincere. Torquemada was 
no doubt terribly in earnest. Hoover 
was patently more sincere (more openly 
reactionary) than Roosevelt. Many a 
l3eliever in Czarism, capitalism, imper- 
ialism, fascism, is sincere in his beliefs. 
Sincerity is an added, nay an essential 
virtue, if you are sincere about the right 
things. Sincerity in an opponent makes 
him easier to estimate and respect. 



Shif tilings iiud Insincerity we can never 
respect. But when I am told a man is 
sincere, that da$g not stop me from ask- 
ing "SIncar© for what?" Sincerity is a 
subjectlva mm^t; we are above all in- 
tereated in an objactive matter: the so- 
cial philosophy and aims in which the 
sincerity k eniigttd, 

CONSERVATIVES, REACTIONARIES 
AND REVOLUTIONISTS 

Socially speaking we can divide men 
into conservativ@g, reactionaries and 
revolutionaries, Any one of them may 
be sincere. A consarvative, strictly 
speaking, is one who ia satisfied with 
things as they are and wants to keep 
them so. Ideologically his views cor- 
respond to the needs of the ruling class, 
tho individually he may be poor as a 
church mouse. 

A revolutionist is one who sees that 
things are radically wrong and need a 
fundamental social change. He is the 
champion of the needs of the progres- 
sive classes, above all the working class, 
A reactionary, in the literal sense of the 
term is also one who i.s not satisfied 
with things as they are. He wants to 
g-o, not forward but backward, to things 
as they used to be. Many of those who 
are called liberals today are really of 
this type. They are opposed to the 
domination of big business. They do 
not comprehend the inevitability of the 
development of large, scale production. 
They lack the courage and understand- 
ing to press forward to the social owner- 
ship and control of these large social 
forces. They sigh for the good old days 
of petty industry and free competition. 
Such liberals, if they acquire influence 
over the labor movement, only blunt the 
fighting edge of its weapons and weak- 
en its will to combat. 

We have no sincerometers to measure 
their sincerity. We can measure their 
clarity of understanding and the sound- 
ness of their proposals. We can demon- 
strate that the task you set for them, 
"to make an impossible situation as 
tolerable as possible" is itself impossible 
m the period of capitalist decline, and 
that that "impossible situation", by its 
very nature, must become ever more in- 
tolerable. 



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THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



26 



WE QUESTION THEIR 
UNDERSTANDING 

When the liberals of the Norris, La- 
Follette type oppose the grrowing naked- 
ness and brutality of capitalist dictator- 
ship, to a limited extent we can work 
with them. When they tell the workers 
to stay in the boss parties whose cor- 
ruption they must know even if they are 
myopic enough not to grasp their class 
character and control, we consider them 
mischievous misleaders. When their 
"insurgency" consists of see-sawing per- 
petually between the two boss parties, 
we can have no use for such "independ- 
ence". When they head a movement of 
revolt from the two party system, as 
did the elder LaFollette, only to head it 
off and, when it has spent its force, to 
lead it back into the fold again, we must 
fight them in order to further the poli- 
tical development of the working class. 
When they go to the Socialist Party and 
then, like the dog in the proverb to his 
vomit, return to the Republican Party 
again, as did LaGuardia and Blanshard, . 



we must either quistJott thilr tincerity 
today or their slncerit^r mhm they de- 
clared themselves SockUgfeg, or a| any 
rate, ftheir ability to wiidiawtaiid th© 
elementary meaning of th0 philosophy 
and platform they once proltHied* Wh«n 
they tell us the boss parties mn b# **f$- 
formed" (honest boss parties would be 
in no essential better for the workers 
than parties dishonestly, that is corrupt- 
ly in the service of the bosses) we must 
expose their role as supporters of capi- 
talism which today has corruption eat- 
ing at the very heart of it. When they 
tell the workers capitalism is all right, 
all it needs is a few plaster patches on 
its sores, we must expose their ignor- 
ance of the society in which they live 
and their inability to be the leaders of 
men. 

In short, we do not direct our fire in 
the main against the sincerity, or lack 
of it, of their measures, but against the 
ineffectualness of what they propose, the 
mischievous falsity of what they preach. 



Chapter VIII 

ON THE "RED TERROR" 

{Answer to Question 11) 



ON THE KIROFF CASE AND THE 
"RED TERROR" 

Sergius Kiroff was president of the 
Leningrad Soviet, member of the Po- 
litical Bureau of the Communist Party 
of the Soviet Union and a dearly be- 
loved and capable leader of the Russian 
people. He was assassinated by a man 
who admitted, even boasted, that his mo- 
tive was political and part of a general 
plot for the assassination of a number 
of Soviet leaders in the hope of upset- 
ting the Stalin regime. The Russian 
State Political Police had been gather- 
ing evidence for months of a widespread 
network of emigres who had reentered 
the Soviet Union under passports of for- 
eign governments or smuggled across 
Finnish, Lettish and Polish borders. They 
httd further been watching a number of 
foreign spies and agents. They had made 



no arrests as yet, but were waiting to 
unearth all connections. They delayed a 
little too long and it cost the life of 
Kiroff. This costly delay explains the 
removal of certain officials of the Poli- 
tical Police (OGPU) and also the swift- 
ness with which they were able to make 
so many arrests and produce evidence 
against so many people. 

THEY DON'T ALWAYS CARRY 
DOCUMENTS 

Of course, it was not possible in all 
cases to produce proofs that were un* 
challenged by the accused or their iym* 
pathizers. 

First, not every plotter is fooHnh 
enough to carry around documents, ju«t 
so that uninformed or prejudicod f*»r 
eign opinion may be satisfied Umt h** 
was really guilty. Beginning with th« iia 






THINGS WE WANT TO iCKOW 



assination of Volodarsky and Uritsky 
and the shooting of the German Am- 
bassador Count von Mirbach (this last 
in the hope of provoking a war with 
Germany), and the wounding of Lenin, 
and continuing to the plot of the British 
engineers and the assassination of Kir- 
.off, the workers' government has been 
assailed again and again by these treach- 
erous methods. And the attackers by 
now have enough experience to know 
how to cover their traces and are no 
longer so clumsy as to facilitate their 
own prosecution. 

In the last analysis, any proofs pub- 
lished by any government must depend, 
in large measure for their credibility, 
on the questioner's trust in the good 
faith and justice of that government. If 
you lack that, what is to prevent you 
from saying that any and all documents 
and proofs are forgeries? 

FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS 
INVOLVED 

Second, the Soviet government was 
not willing to make public all documents 
and other proofs. In the present situa- 
tion of international tension, some of 
these involving foreign governments 
would have brought on the danger of 
war. The governments in question would 
have "indignantly" denied the charges 
and demanded an apology and retraction 
to satisfy "wounded national honor". 
Yet, at least one diplomat was quietly 
and hastily withdrawn, and altho a num- 
ber of foreign spies and agents of sev- 
eral countries were shot after a brief 
investigation, no foreign government 
protested th^ execution of its citizens! 
Does that not testify eloquently to the 
accuracy of the knowledge of the Poli- 
tical Police, and the justice of the execu- 
tions in those particular cases? 

HOWLS THAT SHOWED WHOSE 
PAW WAS CAUGHT 

The howl set up in certain circles has 
a suspicious ring like that of a wolf* 
pack cheated of its prey. Not a peep 
from these people about the killing of 
Kiroff. Not a word of indignation at 
this form of attack upon the proletarian 
government. Even editorials putting the 
blame on the Soviet regime which "by 



its natur© provokes such actions". But 
when the proletarian government acts 
to defend itmlt and to strike terror into 
tha hearts of the terrorists, then the 
chorus suddenly finds its voice. 

Tract this voice back to its source and 
you will find the white guardist Rus- 
sian emirve pmm openly advocating, 
predicting, promising the assassination 
of Soviet leaders for months before the 
deed was carried out. And after that 
murder, such worda of approval as 
those in the Harbin Vremya of December 
3, 1934, 

"In the struggle against Bolshev- 
ism there is no room for ethics and 
humanity and everything is appro- 
priate which weakens the Bolsheviks 
and strengthens the means of strug- 
gle against them. Therefore we do 
not wonder that among the appro- 
priate means of struggle also individ- 
ual terror appears from time to time, 
and various reprtsentatives of the 
Communist power fall victim to it." 

A PRIESTLY BENEDICTION 

And Osservatore Romano, papal or- 
gan, gave its benediction of the assas- 
sins in these words: "Not all blood- 
stained hands are called base; and not all 
murders — crimes." 

Finally, what shall we think of the 
Trotskyit^ organ De Arb^id in Holland 
when it writes (December 22, 1934): 

"If the shot of Nicolaeff (the as- 
sassin — B.D.W.) would at least result 
in the opening of the eyes of the Rus- 
sian workers to the danger of this 
transition system (the Stalin regime 
is supposed to be a transition to capi- 
talism in the eyes of the Trotskyites 
BD.W.), then this political assas- 
sination has had a good side!" 

THE EQUIVOCAL POSITION OF 
TROTSKY 

I do not for a moment wish to lump 
all these protestants together. I wish 
expressly to reject the insinuation that 
Trotsky plotted or desired the assassi- 
nation of any Soviet leader. Yet I can- 
not overlook the fact that Trotsky has 
come out for civil war in the Soviet 
Union, declared even that it is already 
on, (See The Militant, August 26, 1933). 



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THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



27 



But a civil war needs great masses. When 
its advocates in the Soviet Union are re- 
duced to a little handful, any efforts 
at carrying on a civil war that "is now 
on", can only be reduced to individual 
acts of sabotage and assassination. 

If you were in Trotsky *s shoes, would 
you not hasten to denounce the assas- 
sination of Kiroff and those responsible, 
in no uncertain terms ? Would you find 
"explanations" bordering on apologet- 
ics? It is easy to prove that Trotsky 
knows better than he writes when he 
offers the excuse that such an assassi- 
nation plot could only take place because 
of the nature of the Stalin regime. The 
whole history of such political murders 
from Uritsky to Kiroff, a history well 
known to him, gives him the lie. 

Further, he knows better than he 
speaks when he charges that the repris- 
als were characteristic of Stalin and un- 
heard of before he became the dominant 
leader. We of the Communist Oppo- 
sition have had and have many uncom- 
plimentary things to say about Stalin. 
But in all fairness it should be said 
that the shootings following the Kiroff 
murder were not something new in the 
history of the struggle of the Russian 
proletariat to maintain and consolidate 
its victory. The same methods of meet- 
ing the same type of provocation were 
employed in Lenin's day, when Trotsky 
was a power in the Soviet Government. 
The same arguments now raised by 
Thomas and Trotsky were then raised 
by Kautsky and brilliantly answered by 
Trotsky in a book that contributed much 
to my education, the pamphlet entitled 
"Terrorism and Communism". When 
Uiitsky was murdered, when Von Mir- 
bach was shot, when Lenin was wound- 
ed, each time executions on a far more 
<»xtensive scale followed. 

The trial of the Social Revolutionar- 
ies in 1922, the Party that plotted the 
two latter attacks, was preceded by a 
number of executions. Trotsky was at 
that time a member, the outstanding 
one, of the extraordinary commission 
with unlimited power that executed these 
pt»ople wholesale even before the formal 
trial began. 



ON LEGAL FORMS 

Th© tml i&8U8 Involved k out which 
Trotsky once eKplftined so adequately, 
but has since, alus, forgotten, When a 
revolutionary government and g new $o» 
cial system are in danger, we cannot ap- 
ply to it the legal stand&rdi that wo hiive 
unconsciously derived from the proced- 
ure of a long established and unchal- 
lenged regime and social order, ' At- 
tempts at assassination of iti leaden to 
provoke counter-revolution and encour- 
age foreign intervention and attack, can- 
not be treated as mere crimes of pas- 
sion or simple infractions of a legal 
code. Each regime and social order, 
once stabilized and unchallenged, devel- 
ops its own legality. Its neighbors, its 
whole population, even its criminals, rec- 
ognize its social order and do not ques- 
tion it. But the bourgeois social order 
was born in revolutionary terror and took 
energetic measures of revolutionary de- 
fense. So it was in the French Revolu- 
tion, Cromwell's Protectorate, the Ameri- 
can Revolution, our Civil War and Re- 
construction Period. But once its system 
is secure, unquestionably accepted and 
unchallenged, then it evolves a legal code 
of procedure for dealing not with attacks 
upon it as a system, but with infractions 
of its generally accepted rules. When the 
bourgeois order is faced with an imme- 
diate serious challenge by the proletar- 
iat, it returns to a regime of open force, 
this time not in the interests of pro- 
gress but of reaction. So we cannot 
judge the Soviet's measures of defense 
against attack, beleaguered as it is by 
foreign and domestic enemies, in the 
same terms as we do America's handling 
of Diilinger or Hauptmann or Insull. 

The Soviet Government had to choose 
between two courses: 1) to act swiftly 
and ruthlessly against those implicated 
so that the action should serve as a 
warning to all who entertained similar 
notions in the U.S.S.R. and abroad; or 
2) to follow a slow, deliberate, cautioui, 
ultra-juridical process which would bi 
taken as a sign of weakness and »!| 
for speeding up before the rest 
plotters should be grabbed, 
chose wisely is given indirect but Inlit* 
esting confirmation by the priis e^tW^ 
ment cited above. And again it 1» ^<M^ 




THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



If! 

In' 



finned by the estimate in the conserva- 
tive French paper Le Temps which 
wrote. 

_ "It should be stressed that the an- 
ti-bolshevik terrorism is obviously di- 
rected less toward the satisfaction of 
Its hatred against the leaders of the 
revolution, than towards pressure 
against the relations between the Sov- 
iet regime and other lands. Proof 
of this can be found in the previous 
attempts on the lives of the German 
ambassador Mirbach, on the com- 
mander of the German troops in Kiev, 
Eichhom, on Vorovsky, Ahrens and 
Voykov, and finally on the German 
consul Twardowski and the French 
President Doumer." 

In conclusion then, whatever ei-rors 
may have been made in the handling of 
this case are secondary in comparison 
with the dominant fact that an outstand- 
ing leader, high in the councils of the 
proletarian government was murdersd as 
part of a plot against that government. 
The act was an act against the proletar- 
ian power. The dictatorship v/hich in 
1917 made the mistake of abolishing the 
death penalty prematurely and freeing 
General Krasnov on "his word of honor 
as a gentleman" only to have him lead 
one of the counter-revolutionary armies 
and take thousands of lives, has learned 
thru repeated attacks the costly lesson 
that It must act promptly, not merely 
to punish all the guilty, but much more 
to prevent the wider bloodshed of civil 
war and the recurrence of such crimes. 
In the Soviet code of justice, the most 
enlightened in the world, personal mur- 
ders, petty thefts, etc., are treated as 
mental disorders. There is only one 
capital crime, a crime which attacks the 
workers' rule, which threatens to drown 
It in blood. From a social and historical 



standpoint, firmness here is inexpensive 
indeed. The capitalist regimes in Eu- 
rope take a far greater toll of lives in 
maintaining their inhuman systems 
than the Soviets have taken altogether to 
make a revolution and build a new world. 
Compare the present regime in Spain, in 
Germany, in Hungary. Every counter- 
revolution has taken a toll of thousands 
for every life taken by the revolutionary 
justice of the proletariat, and if the Sov- 
iet Government should relax its vigil- 
ance, it would mean that Russia would 
be bled white. 

A WORD OF CRITICISM 

With all this in mind, I must still in- 
dicate one criticism of the Stalin group 
in its handling of this case. It has at- 
tempted to exploit this incident in such 
a way as to use it as an insurance pol- 
icy against all future opposition, even 
revolution-loyal,, legitimate and con- 
structive opposition within the party. 
It has made the claim that the Nicola- 
eff assassination is the "inevitable log- 
ic" of any opposition against Stalin and 
his group. Here Stalin shows once 
more one of his most serious shortcom- 
mgs — his all-too-frequent degeneration 
from a party leader into a faction lead- 
er, his all-too-ready application of fac- 
tion strategy to the solution of funda- 
mental problems. But despite this, the 
Workers Age did not hesitate to endorse 
the general conduct of the case. Now 
that you have examined the evidence 
here offered, (and much more could be 
offered) I think you will agree that our 
second editorial, in its last paragraph 
(issue of January 5, 1935) if anything 
erred on the side of being over-critical, 
and that our two editorials of defense 
were essentially correct, and Norman 
Thomas's article of attack was funda- 
mentally wrong. 



Chapter IX 
ON DEMONSTRATIONS AND MASS PICKETING 

{Answer to Question 12) 



First as to mass picketing. When a 
judge issues an injunction forbidding 
union officials to organize or workers 
to strike or picket, when the police pro- 



ceed to club or haul in any one who 
tries to picket and the judge acts as ac- 
cuser, judge and jury and sentences the 
pickets for lese majeste ("contempt of 



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THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



29 



court" — who wouldn't have contempt for 
such a court and such enslavement or- 
ders?) — there is only one recourse for 
the workingmen: to violate the injunc- 
tion, to picket in such numbers, not 
twos or threes but hundreds and thou- 
sands, that the injunction is smashed 
and the strike is won. If we're not will- 
ing- to do that, we might as well accept 
industrial serfdom in the first place, for 
courts, injunctions, police, guardsmen, 
private gunmen, clubs, gas bombs, are 
used in every significant strike, 

AS TO MASS DEMONSTRATIONS 

Mass demonstrations, too, have an im- 
portant function. Throughout history 
they have been a means of expressing 
the popular will. It was a mass de- 
monstration that began the attack on 
the Bastille. It was a mass demonstra- 
tion that brought the King back to Paris 
as a hostage when he was plotting coun- 
ter-revolution and foreign intervention 
at Versailles. A mass demonstration ini- 
tiated every real step forward in the 
early stages of the French Revolution. 
In times of rapid advance, when great 
sections of the mass became politically 
awake for the first time, then the "peo- 
ple's representatives" in Parliamentary 
bodies prove unrepresentative indeed 
and government officials can be made to 
take a step forward only when they get 
a strong kick from behind, when they 
feel the pressure of the popular will. 

The history of our own land should 
teach you better than to reject such 
manifestations of the popular will. A 
mass demonstration on Boston Common 
fired on by soldiers, went down in his- 
tory as the Boston Massacre. The more 
progressive wing of the "fathers of the 
country" thought the right of mass de- 
monstration important enough to force 
it into a reactionary Constitution as the 
first amendment in the Bill of Rights. 
Mass demonstrations of working men in 
England prevented the British govern- 
ment, from coming to the support of the 
South during the Civil War. Mass de- 
monstrations saved the life of Tom 
Mooney though they were not powerful 
tnough to free him. Were it not for the 



power of mmn prtssure tht ieottaboro 
boys w«>uUi Itmg be rottfiif in 



I will grant you that our Piu-tjf** nmm, 
demonstrations have not lilwuy^ hmn ill 
that they should be, that Brimntimii an 
adventurist policy has b^m\ iniiHimd, that 
often it seemed as if an effort 
being made to make them C"mmuf 
demonstrations instead of maws dtnnon* 
strati ons, that sometimes they hav^ hp^n 
held with a broad program and u nar- 
row popular base whereas they should 
have only one or two elementary dt^- 
mands that millions can support,— a 
"narrow program" with a broad base. 
If you examine the issues of the Revo- 
lutionary Age (predecessor of the Work- 
ers Age) of April 7, May 1, and May 21, 
1930, you will find criticism of adven- 
turist tactics in ill-prepared mass de- 
monstrations then being conducted by 
the Communist Party. But that does 
not signify for a moment the rejection 
of mass demonstrations. It is merely 
a discussion of measures for more ef- 
fective mass demonstrations, better pre- 
pared, drawing in greater masses, lead- 
ing them to further confidence and ac- 
tivity and harder for the police to attack 
or break up. 

Nor is it correct to regard such de- 
monstrations as having the aim of "get- 
ting off steam", or "creating martyrs", 
or "creating turmoil and confusion and 
riots." We will not call upon you to 
stick pins into policemen's horses nor 
bite their legs nor shout insults at the 
police. But you will be expected to rec- 
ognize that mass demonstrations are a 
weapon of democracy in the most popu- 
lar sense of that term, a speedy, im- 
pressive means of expressing the popu- 
lar will, a way of curbing tyranical 
governments and compelling officials to 
listen, a force for mobilization and de- 
monstration of strength, a means of call- 
ing the attention of as yet inert masses 
to their own needs, a step towards great- 
er political self-activity of the massei^ 
at appropriate times a means of winning 
the neutrality or active support of iaa* 
tions of the army, militia and polloi, ft 
transition at some stages to higher f ormi 
of popular political activity. 




THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 

Chapter X 

ON COMMUNIST DISCIPLINE 

{Answer to Question 13) 



The Communist Party should not be, 
as a recent number of the magazine 
Communist International (No. 19, 1934) 
declared, "a party of those who think 
alike and act alike." There are a few 
fundamentals in which all Communists 
think alike. They are: 

1. Capitalism has outlived its historic- 
al usefulness, 

2. Socialism should take its place. 

3. This requires the winning" of state 
power by the working- class supported by 
the poor farmers and other allies of the 
workers. 

4. Experience teaches that the ruling 
class will not give up its power without 
an armed struggle. 

5. The workers cannot use the old 
machinery of capitalist government for 
their purposes any more than the bour- 
geoisie was able to use the feudal state 
formB. The workers will have to break 
up that state apparatus and construct 
their own on the basis of workers coun- 
cils (Soviets). 

6. The proletarian dictatorship is not 
permanent, but a transition form for the 
purposa of establishing a classless so- 
cialist society. 

That is the fundamental program of 
Communism, and its acceptance, plus a 
willingness to work in an organized man- 
ner to bring it about, is all that a healthy 
Communist Party should require of its 
members. If you accept that program, 
you should Join us. As to tactical mat- 
ters, how best to realize that program, 
how to bring the working class a step, 
the next step, nearer to its achievement, 
in this there ii room for difference. Not 
only room for difference, necessity, even 
inevitability of difference. The deci- 
sions of the party, especially where it is 
legal and free to meet readily for dis- 
cussion, should be democratically ar- 
rived at by full discussion as the product 



of the collective wisdom of its many 
members, but each bringing to the col- 
lective decision his own initiative, his 
own thoughts, his own experiences, ob- 
servations, point of view. The collective 
wisdom in the long- run is always su- 
perior to the wisdom of a single individ- 
ual whether he be the latest recruit who 
may think he knows more than the whole 
party or the oldest and wisest leader. 
In fact, a party which exacts uniformity 
of details, unquestioning acceptance of 
all tactical proposals from on high, dis- 
cussion only as to how to execute deci- 
sions, blind obedience to a leadership 
however capable, implicit faith that if 
it is quoted from Stalin or Lenin or 
Earl R. Browder it must be right, such 
a party is bound to make mistake after 
mistake and, far from furthering- the 
fundamental program of Communism, is 
bound to injure it and hinder its pro- 
gress. 

Communist discipline, therefore, does 
not require you "to let some official 
party committee do your thinking for 
you." On the contrary, it expects you 
to do your own thinking and contri- 
bute to the collective thinking- of the 
party. A blind follower can never be a 
good Communist. A party of blind fol- 
lowers with a few "omniscient, omnipo- 
tent, infallible" leaders, is bound to make 
mistakes. In the long run it cannot be 
a good Communist Party. 

Of course ,the Communist Party is not 
a debating club; it's a party of action. 
It must debate, then decide, then act; 
then, after a suitable trial, review its 
decisions and actions in the light of prac- 
tical exerience, or changing conditions. 
It cannot insist that its members should 
agree with all its decisions, think they 
are correct. That would be a ghastly 
caricature of discipline. It would pro- 
duce puppets, not revolutionists. But 
it can and must insist that those who 
disagree subordinate their will to that of 



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THINGS WE WANT TO KNOW 



81 



the majority, and loyally carry out the 
decisions until they succeed in having 
them changed. 

Unfortunately, the party today has 
forgotten these elementary truths and 
expels people for reservations, doubts, 



disagreements, thoughts, «Vin qn%Btionn 
asked only at Inner party mietlnfsl Your 
attitude ai expres»ed in your qttistion 
comes far closer to a healthy 0§mmtttti«t 
attitude than that which prevaili in th@ 
party today. 



Chapter XI 

WHAT'S TO BE DONE 

{Amwer to Question 14) 




As to your postscript it provides an 
answer to your last query. You "do not 
question our basic beliefs and policy." 
You are "fully conscious of the defects 
of our capitalist system'^ You'd "like 
to see something done about it". You 
are "willing to make any reasonable sac- 
rifice ... if by so doing you can help 
put an end to the stark misery and suf- 
fering that you see all around you." You 
have had certain doubts and have raised 
them clearly and frankly and I have 
tried as frankly and clearly to answer 
them. If any of my answers leave you 
unconvinced, give your objections and I 
will try to meet them. My answers may 
not always be satisfactory to you but all 
your questions can be answered, for our 
position, I think, is impregnable. It is 
rooted in the highest cultural and social 
achievements of man. It is supported 
by and derived from the most advanced 
developments of philosophy, economics, 
social science, and the experience of his- 
tory. The achievement of its aims repre- 
sents the highest task to which a think- 
ing, feeling person can devote himself 
today. 

In the midst of the madness of hunger- 
producing plenty, of million-murdering 
war and civilization-strangling fascism, 
it represents the struggle for sanity; for 
individual sanity maintained by fight- 
ing the surrounding madness called 
capitalist civilization; for social sanity 
gained by the building. of a saner world. 
The intellect that tells you there is some- 
thing wrong, the heart that will not let 
you surrender to the heartless enjoy- 
ment of the "car and chauffeur" in the 

June, 1934, 



midst of the charnel house that sur- 
rounds you, the reason that rebels at the 
irrationality of needless suffering and 
destruction and waste, they were not giv- 
en to "fust in us unused." They will not 
let you rest. They led you from liberal 
to socialist, from socialist to questioner 
of communism. 

You have one question left. You're 
afraid of the hopping abilities of the 
band-wagon boys. Here in all honesty 
I must tell you, I can give you no guar- 
antees but the guarantees you give 
yourself. Join the Communist Oppo- 
sition. Build it. Make it strong. 
Fashion it after your best instincts. 
Contribute to it your best wisdom. 
Bring to it the worthiest men _ and 
women you know. Help to shape it 
according to the honest fears and hopes 
that reveal themselves behind the hard- 
boiled wise-cracks in your letter. Help 
to build it right and keep it right. It is 
fighting for a healthier movement, free 
from the defects that have aroused your 
doubts. Its victory will mean a united 
Communist Party, a realistic party, a 
thinking, disciplined, self- critical, honest 
party, a party equal to the large tasks 
that history has thrust upon the Amer- 
ican working class. 

Your active support, your contribution 
to our thought and action, will help to 
strengthen our movement and, in propor- 
tion to your abilities and devotion, help 
to hasten the day of its victory. 

So I answer your last question, 
**Where do I go from here?" with the 
words: "You join the Commiinist Oppo- 
sition!" 

—BERTRAM 0, WOI.f 1 



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