Felix Morrow

Can One Justify the ALP War Position?

The Lovestoneites Provide a “Left Wing” Apology
for the ALP Leaders’ Support of the War Camp
of Anglo-French Imperialism

Every Worker Opposed to the War Must Take a Position
Against Both War-Mongering Camps in the ALP

(17 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 79, 17 October 1939, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The “resolution on the present European conflict”, adopted October 4 by the state executive committee of the American Labor Party has become a touchstone for determining where every group and individual in the labor movement stands on the war question.

There are three positions on the ALP resolution:

  1. The pro-Anglo-French camp: The resolution was theirs, and openly expressed their pro-war views.
  2. The Hitler-Stalin camp: Constituted by the Stalinists, their stooges and supporters, as war-mongering as the pro-Ally camp, but in the opposite trenches.
  3. The Third Camp: The camp of the revolutionary struggle against war. It is opposed both to the pro-Ally and pro-Hitler camps. The Socialist Workers Party unequivocally places itself in, this third camp.

You Must Choose One of These Camps

No group in the labor movement can avoid aligning itself with one of these three camps; and where each group stands is determined by where each group stands specifically on the ALP resolution. For all general principles have meaning only as they are concretised by specific positions taken on significant occasions, such as the ALP resolution.

Both the pro-Ally anti pro-Hitler camps, as we explained in our last issue, are deliberately spreading confusion on the issue involved in the ALP resolution. Each dubs the other war-monger and attempts to conceal its own pro-war stand. The pro-Hitler camp employs ultra-radical phraseology against its opponents, and the pro-Ally camp is defended on its flanks by a “left wing” which also employs anti-war language. Every utterance from either camp must be carefully analysed to squeeze from it its real meaning.

Lovestonites Come to Defense of Resolution

We now have before us the latest “left wing” attempt to confuse the issue: the Lovestone (“Independent Labor League”) explanation of why its members voted for the pro-Ally resolution. Let us analyse the explanation, because it is a particularly “clever” defense of the ALP resolution. In analysing it, we will be enabled all the better to see the full implications of the ALP resolution.

The heading of the Lovestone explanation (Workers Age, October 14) is: “ALP brands Stalinists as enemies of labor – denounces CP for backing Hitler pact.” Neither in the head nor anywhere in the story is there a single hint that the ALP resolution declares for the Anglo-French camp! There is not a single quotation from the resolution!

On the resolution, all that the Lovestone story gives is this very brief (and untrue) description:

“This resolution was an illogical combination of two unrelated matters – an endorsement of the Administration policy of repeal of the arms embargo, the strongly stressing the necessity of keeping America out of war; and a condemnation of the Russo-German pact and Stalinism in America. The discussion was largely centered around the latter point, which was obviously uppermost in the hearts and minds of the assembled delegates ... The ... viewpoint on the embargo was defended by Julius Hochman, general manager of the Dressmakers Joint-Board, Alex Rose, state secretary of the ALP and others, who, however, stressed that with them too, keeping America out of war was uppermost in their minds.”

The Resolution Speaks Out Clearly for Allies

Now let us compare this description of the resolution with what the resolution really says:

1. The fundamental motivation of the resolution is given in these paragraphs:

“... we herewith give expression to our views on the present conflict abroad ...

“The great majority of the American people have looked forward to the day when the remaining democracies on the European continent would find the strength to resist the brazen aggression of Hitlerism. The present war in Europe – the direct result of the Nazi invasion of Poland – has finally brought to a decisive struggle the conflict between the European democracies and the Hitler regime. In this struggle the fate of Europe hangs in the balance. A victory for Hitlerism will inevitably mean further territorial aggression, the spread of intolerance, the ruthless suppression of civil liberties and personal freedom and perhaps the final destruction of civilized life – as we know it – on the European continent.

“The American Labor party has consistently and emphatically opposed dictatorship everywhere, in any form – both from the right and the left ...”

In another paragraph the resolution says:

“The great majority of the American people have watched the developments of the last few weeks in Europe with deep sympathy for the cause of the Western democracies that are fighting for the preservation of those democratic values and liberties which we in this country treasure so dearly.”

Such is the political position on the war laid down in the ALP resolution of October 4: unequivocal alignment on the side of the Anglo-French imperialists.

2. It is from this pro-Ally standpoint that the resolution condemns the Stalinists and the Stalin alliance with Hitler. It says:

“They (the Stalinists) know that the democratic institutions in all the democracies of Europe, as well as the fate of millions of workers are at stake. Their callous disregard of this fact stamps them as anti-democratic, anti-humanitarian, anti-labor, and the blind servants of Russian international policy.”

It is, therefore, as democratic-imperialist patriots, and not as working-class internationalists, that the ALP leaders attack the Stalin alliance.

3. The same patriotic standpoint is the motivation for the resolution’s support of Roosevelt’s proposal to lift the embargo in order to aid Anglo-French imperialism. This is the real and logical motivation for lifting the embargo. In order, however, not to embarrass Roosevelt, the ALP resolution supports the Roosevelt proposals in Roosevelt’s hypocritical terms, as a “neutrality” measure, although its assertion of neutrality at that point is in flagrant contradiction to its lengthy declaration in favor of the Allies.

Covering Up the ALP Position

We are now in a position to contrast the actual content of the ALP resolution with the Lovestone description of it. The Lovestone description conceals the pro-Ally motivation of the document. The Lovestone description conceals the fact that the resolution’s attack on Stalin flows solely from this democratic-imperialist standpoint. The Lovestone description repeats at face value the hypocritical alibi of the ALP bureaucrats that, though supporting the lifting of the embargo, they “stressed that with them too, keeping America out of war was uppermost in their minds.” In all these ways the Lovestone description is a deliberate falsification, designed to cover up the war-mongering ALP bureaucrats.

The Lovestoneites voted for that war-mongering resolution. The only explanation they offer for their vote is this sentence:

“Since it proved impossible to divide the resolution, it was voted on as a whole and carried 605 to 94, the latter figure indicating the strength mustered by the Stalinists and their sympathizers.”

That explanation is as spurious as the Lovestone description of the resolution.

At the October 4 city conference of the ALP, to which the sentence refers, NOBODY demanded a vote to divide the resolution. Neither the Lovestoneites nor the Norman Thomas Socialists attempted to employ the many parliamentary methods available – division of the resolution, separation of the questions, amendment, substitute motion, etc. etc. – to separate the pro-Ally and pro-Roosevelt sections from that dealing with the Hitler-Stalin pact. So much for the question of fact.

Far more important, however, is the question whether “to divide the resolution” would have made any difference. If it could have been divided, the Lovestoneites are saying, then a proletarian internationalist would have been flawlessly correct in voting for the sections dealing with the Hitler-Stalin pact.

Absolutely false! The proletarian internationalist criticism of the Stalin regime has nothing whatsoever in common with the anti-Stalin attacks of imperialist patriots. Isn’t it obvious? Coughlin attacks the Stalinists, but we don’t vote for his attacks. The Pope denounces the Stalinists, but no Marxist can associate himself with those denunciations, nor with those of Hearst. Neither can a Marxist associate himself with the attacks on the Pact of any agent of imperialism, even if that imperialist agent is an ALP bureaucrat.

Far From Being a Marxist Criticism

How, we ask, can anyone who calls himself a Marxist, internationalist, revolutionist vote for the democratic-imperialist denunciation of Stalinism contained in the ALP resolution? What is the crime of Stalin and the Communist parties, according to those sections of the resolution (we have already quoted the relevant parts above)? The crime adduced is that the Stalinists have a “callous disregard” for the fate of the Anglo-French camp. To vote for these sections of the resolution could only mean, logically, the opposite of the Stalinist “callous disregard” – namely, to express a warm regard for the fate of the Anglo-French camp. It means to be a partisan of the Anglo-French camp. That’s what the writers of the resolution meant it to be! No Marxist could vote for that. But the Lovestoneites did. And the Thomasites did.

The condemnation of the Pact for which a Marxist would vote would be one which no Antonini, Rose, Hochman, or other ALP bureaucrat could vote for. For that criticism would stigmatize as the root cause of all the other crimes of Stalinism the Stalinist abandonment of international revolution – and the ALP bureaucrats stand with Stalin on this basic question. As for the crimes which flowed from Stalin’s anti-revolutionary policy and the consequent conversion of the Communist parties into agents of his reactionary foreign policy, so many of these crimes were heartily approved by these ALP bureaucrats! The Franco-Soviet pact and the consequent subordination of the French working class to their bosses via the Popular Front, in the midst of the revolutionary strikes of June 1936; the Stalinist-Socialist votes for the French military budgets and the military loan to Poland; the crushing of the Spanish revolution in favor of bourgeois democracy (which meant in reality in favor of Franco); the subordination of the American trade unions to Roosevelt – none of this could be left out in characterizing Stalinism, and none of this could the ALP bureaucrats vote for, since they and their European brothers were with Stalin in all these crimes.

Under no circumstances, we conclude, could internationalists and democratic-imperialists vote for a common denunciation of the war position of Stalinism. In that very phrase, “to divide the resolution,” the Lovestoneites reveal their complete inability (on unwillingness) to understand the difference between proletarian and bourgeois criticism of Stalin.

Last updated on 19 April 2018