Felix Morrow

Thomas-Lovestone Groups Yield to
the Pressure of “Democratic” Imperialists

(3 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 84, 3 November 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Having adopted the Roosevelt war program at their respective conventions, the CIO and AFL bureaucracies proceeded to carry out along with its other aspects, the anti-Soviet orientation of that war program. The AFL convention adopted a resolution for a boycott against all Soviet goods. The needle trades bureaucrats, heading the American Labor Party, in their pro-Anglo-French resolution of Oct 4, made clear their support of a war against the Soviet Union. That would be a holy war, according to the brazenly, war-mongering New Leader, organ of the Social-Democratic Federation.

No revolutionist can support either the Anglo-French-American camp or the Hitler-Stalin camp in the American labor movement. The task of the revolutionist is to build and recruit into the third camp: the camp of revolutionary struggle against war.

On all questions connected with the war, the third camp stands on a different program than that of the two war-camps. This is equally true of our attitude to the Soviet Union. We neither join the democratic war-mongers in their war against the Soviet Union, nor do we join the Hitler-Stalin camp in their justification of Hitler and Stalin.

Trying to Straddle Unbridgeable Gaps

But, beside unequivocal spokesmen for the three camps, there are also those in the labor movement who are trying to straddle between two camps and who, to justify this impossible acrobatic stunt, deliberately blur and confuse the issues. Up to the Stalin Hitler pact, the Stalinists used to have many allies who performed this task of confusion; but these are falling away beneath the blows of the democratic war-mongers. But there are other purveyors of confusion, who are useful to the democratic war-mongers. We refer to the Socialist party of Norman Thomas and the Lovestoneites (Independent Labor League).

Lest they no longer receive crumbs from the tables of the CIO and AFL bureaucracies, the Thomas-Lovestone groups try to keep one foot in the camp of the democratic war-mongers. We have written several articles describing this gymnastic feat, particularly on the Thomas-Lovestone support of the American Labor Party’s pro-war resolution of Oct. 4, and their servile whitewash of the CIO- AFL declarations for Roosevelt’s war program.

On the question of the Soviet Union, as on all others connected with the war, the Thomas-Lovestone groups adapt themselves to, cater to the prejudices of the camp of democratic war-mongers.

Until the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact, the Thomas-Lovestone groups recognized that the Soviet Union still retains the economic conquests of the October Revolution – nationalized property; the Lovestoneites still stood for the defense of the Soviet Union against imperialism, and the Socialist party stood for something like that (it is hard often to find out what the S.P. stands for programmatically); the Thomas-Lovestone groups also recognized that there was a conflict between the Stalinist bureaucracy and the interests of the Soviet Union.

All this the Thomas-Lovestone groups appear to have dropped overboard without notice after the Hitler-Stalin pact. Why? They give no explanation. But they now write of the Soviet Union in terms which they never employed before.

Lovestoneites Silent on Defense of the U.S.S.R.

The Lovestoneites, in their convention resolution on the war, evade the question whether the Russian workers should defend the Soviet Union against the capitalist world. All they say is:

“Tomorrow, if Stalin succeeds in driving his own people into war on the side of either imperialist block (already he is aiding Germany), we must give solidarity and support to the Russian people against their own war-makers also.” (Workers Age, Sept. 16)

But if Stalin remains in power, shall the Russian workers defend the Soviet Union? The Lovestoneites do not say. And not to say, means no defense.

The Thomasites call upon Roosevelt to apply the embargo on arms against the Soviet Union; and when we sharply call Thomas to account for this anti-Soviet act, the Lovestoneites rush to Thomas’ defense, with the broad implication that the Trotskyists have become Stalinists. (Workers Age, Oct. 21) [1]

A New “Theory” on the U.S.S.R.

The Thomas-Lovestone groups justify this anti-Soviet position by characterising the Soviet Union in new terms: as an imperialist regime or program. Thomas’ paper says editorially:

“Russian Bolshevism, which was never socialistic, not any more than is Hitler’s brand of national socialism, has embarked on an imperialist program.” (The Call, Sept. 30)

And Lovestone’s paper approvingly reprints a declaration of the British Independent Labor Party, which says:

“Russia’s present move marks the final stage in the departure by the Stalin regime from the principles of international socialism and its adoption of purely imperialistic power politics.” (Workers Age, Oct. 28)

The pseudo-radical application of the term, “imperialism,” to the Soviet Union actually enables the Thomas-Lovestone groups to smuggle into the labor movement a reformist theory of imperialism.

Lenin taught us that imperialism is the last stage of monopoly capitalism. He developed the scientific definition of imperialism, and he waged war against all other definitions of imperialism. And with good reason. For he was thereby fighting against Kautsky’s theory of imperialism, which hides within it a justification of the warmongers.

“The important thing,” wrote Lenin, “is that Kautsky detaches the policy of imperialism from its economics, speaks of annexations as being a policy ‘preferred by finance capital,’ and opposes to it another bourgeois policy which he alleges to be possible on the same basis of finance capital. The result is bourgeois reformism instead of revolution,” Lenin pointed out, for the fight is reduced to supporting one bourgeois policy against the “worse” one.

They Sabotage Struggle Against Stalinism

The Bonapartist bureaucracy which exists as a parasitic disease upon the body of the Soviet Union must be destroyed, or it will destroy the Soviet Union. But the struggle for the destruction of the Stalinist bureaucracy is not helped, but is rather sabotaged, by concessions to the democratic war-mongers. That is the crime of the Thomas-Lovestone groups.

That they are yielding to the wave of democratic chauvinism is obvious if one analyzes the logic of their present position. By what logic could they be for the defense of the Soviet Union in the period of the Franco-Soviet pact and against it now, in the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact? How is it possible to abandon now the fundamental distinction between the Stalinist bureaucracy and the Soviet Union? Only by one kind of logic: the logic of democratic patriotism: it is all right to defend the Soviet Union when it is allied with the democratic imperialists, but not when it is allied with the fascist imperialists. That is the open, avowed logic of the American Labor Party bureaucrats in their Oct. 4 resolution – and to this logic the Thomas-Lovestone groups have succumbed.

Unlike the ALP bureaucrats, the Thomas-Lovestone groups try to palm this off as “revolutionary.” To expose this fraud one need only compare their intransigent language about Stalin with their dulcet tone about the war-mongers in the camp which is opposed to Stalin – the British Labor Party, the French Socialist party, the CIO, AFL, ALP, etc.

For Defense of the Soviet Union

This article need not repeat at length that which has been made so clear in our numerous documents: our draft theses on war (1934), the program of the Fourth International, Trotsky’s latest document, The USSR in War (November New International), etc. Our defense of the Soviet Union has nothing in common whatsoever with the “defense” provided by the Stalinist bureaucracy. We have been and remain the irreconcileable enemies of the Stalinist bureaucracy. We said, already in 1934, (War and the Fourth International), drawing the political conclusions from our analysis of the Bonapartist bureaucracy and the property relations established by the October Revolution:

“a) Only the proletarian revolution in the West can save the USSR as the workers’ state in case of a long protracted war.

“b) The preparation for a proletarian revolution in ‘friendly,’ ‘allied,’ as well as enemy countries is conceivable only with the complete independence of the world proletarian vanguard from the Soviet bureaucracy.

“c) The unconditional support of the USSR against the imperialist armies must go hand in hand with revolutionary Marxist criticism of the war and the diplomatic , policy of the Soviet government, and with the formation inside of the USSR of a real revolutionary party of Bolshevik-Leninists.”

They Called Us “Anti-Soviet”!

It is ironical to recall today that this position was characterized as “anti-soviet” by the Thomas-Lovestone groups. How many times was that epithet thrown at us by Thomas’ caucus leaders, Jack Altman and Murray Baron, in their expulsion campaign against us (1936–1937)! The Thomasites, as usual, didn’t attempt to organize their thoughts in orderly form, but the Lovestoneites did. Here is what they wrote about our 1934 – and present – position:

“Trotsky is building an international upon the basis of an extreme anti-soviet and anti-comintern orientation.”

“In this respect [socialism in one country] the Central Committee, and after its disruption, Stalin and his group, in spite of various crudities of formulation and blunders in detail, have been correct, and Trotsky’s fiercely eloquent phrases about not ‘socialism in one country’ but ‘world revolution,’ served only to cloak a purely negative and defeatist pessimism as to the possibility of building socialism.”

And after denouncing us because we said that the Bolshevik party and the trade unions no longer existed, and for saying that the Russian state is proletarian only in its property relations; and after getting particularly incensed because we said that the bureaucracy “was an instrument of counter-revolutionary forces,” the Lovestoneites concluded:

“Error has its logic as well as truth. One wrong step leads to another, so that today the Trotskyites are proposing to imperil the unity of the Russian proletarian rule by trying to form a rival, and of course, conspirative, party in the Soviet Union ...” (What Is the Communist Opposition, by Bertram D. Wolfe)

Clay in the Hands of the Potters

When they called us anti-soviet and today when they are anti-soviet, the Thomas-Lovestone groups were motivated by the same considerations: they always take the easiest road. When the entire capitalist world was at the bottom of the trough of the economic crisis (1934) and during the honeymoon of Stalin with the democracies (1935-1937), it was easy to be pro-soviet – more exactly, pro-Stalin. During those momentous years, nothing could blast the Lovestonsites loose from their pro-Stalinist position. They even dared to defend the infamous Moscow trials against Zinoviev-Kamenev and Radek-Pyatakov! Only after the execution of the Red Generals (June, 1937) did they, in the dark, without any explanation, abandon their apologies for the Moscow trials. But today, when the Soviet Union is allied to the enemy of the friends of American imperialism, the Thomas-Lovestone groups repudiate not merely Stalin, but the Soviet Union. As they yielded previously to the pressure of the Stalinist regime and its democratic allies, now they yield to the pressure of the democratic imperialists. Can one imagine, for a moment, that these people will stand up under the pressure of the war-mongers when the war comes here?


1. Truth being insufficient to make the point, the Lovestoneites resort to invention: they quote me as saying at a public meeting that anyone who condemned the Russian invasion of Poland was an enemy of the Soviet Union, and that I also said that the Red Army – and they put it in quotation marks! – was “bringing liberation and socialism to the Poles.” What I actually said was a mere repetition of the estimate of the Polish invasion which Leon Trotsky made in the Socialist Appeal, Oct. 10.

Last updated on 19 April 2018