Max Shachtman


The Politics of Gus Tyler –
A Genuine Case of Rotten Liberalism in the Party

How the Centrist Leadership of the Clarity Group Reacts to the Crisis
Confronting the Socialist Party at the Decisive Stages of the Struggle

(August 1937)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 1 No. 3, 28 August 1937, pp. 6–7 & 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The liberal is the political product of the most hopeless and helpless class in modern society – the bewildered, desperate, floundering petty bourgeoisie. If only the two great social classes would behave with cultured restraint and mutual consideration, he thinks, society could be preserved from explosive shocks – above all, the liberal could be preserved from mental discomforts and his inevitable fate. As the inexorable class struggle sharpens, with the proletariat assembling more definitely in the camp of revolution and the bourgeoisie in the camp of Fascism, the liberal can think of no better counsel to give than to instruct the Fascists in the eminent superiority of the democratic way of exploiting the masses and preserving private property and to admonish the workers not to “provoke” Fascism by their militancy and boldness. The uncontrollable social forces that make the two antagonistic camps irreconcilable, that make the complete victory of the one at the expense of the other, inescapable, appear to the distorted eye of the liberal only as impertinent interlopers in what should be a world of Urbanity, Love, Virtue, and above all, Peace.

The Liberal and the “Sectarians”

It is not, mind you, that he is not as much opposed to Fascism as anybody else, he always hastens to assure the proletarian revolutionist. He’s as much opposed to it as the next man. But you must not be so aggressive, so discourteous, so violent, for he who takes up the sword shall perish by the sword. And when the revolutionists ask the liberal – ever so politely! – to step aside quietly so that they may come to grips with reaction and smash it before it has grown, too strong to be halted, the injured liberal throws up his hands and exclaims: “Impossible sectarians! Not even their best friends can work with them!” Almost a century of experience of revolutionists with petty bourgeois liberalism has more than earned the latter the adjective “rotten”.

In the Socialist Party today, we have a genuine case of rotten liberalism in the persons of the Clarity leadership, and mere specially of its most active journalistic apologist, Gus Tyler. Tyler has not found it difficult in the past to acquire at reasonable rates a superficial reputation for a radicalism which malicious tongues sometimes whisperingly characterize as “Trotskyism”. But in the three-cornered struggle that has developed in the party, for more than a year, Tyler has demonstrated with increasing clearness that underlying his radicalism is something that vitiates it at every decisive and crucial moment. He is at bottom a Party liberal – left wing, to be sure, a “friend of the. Trotskyists”, of course, even their “best friend”, but nevertheless a liberal.

The last lingering doubt which some may have foolishly entertained on this score has been dispelled by Tyler himself, in the form of his two recent caucus circulars and the editorial in the August 21, 1937 issue of the Clarity faction organ, the Call.


Political problems can only be analyzed and resolved politically. It is necessary to state this platitude because so many “leaders” still think it can be done otherwise – by means of gossip, old wives’ tales, whispering campaigns, small-time maneuvers, apparatus combinations and cleverly put-over and promptly forgotten resolutions for the files. The crisis in the party is a political crisis. It is precipitated by the clash of antagonistic programs and the groups that advocate them. The programs and the groups must be estimated politically.

The right wing solution of the crisis is at the same time its program. Two sentences sum it up completely and accurately: It aims to liquidate the SP into a reformist, anti-revolutionary Fabian society, operating within a “Labor party” as an “educational force”. It can do this only by first expelling the biggest obstacle to this course, the left wing. Since it does not have the support of the membership, it can achieve its ends only by bureaucratic and arbitrary action. For anyone who sees and thinks politically, this means that the responsibility for the split now taking place lies exclusively on the shoulders of the right wing. All talk about discipline”, “violations”, “Trotsky’s orders”, “secret letters” and the like, is just so much tawdry trimming for a plain reality which requires none.

The Left Wing and the Right are Irreconciliable

The left wing, like its right adversaries, realizes that the opposing standpoints are irreconcilable. The best will in the world, on either side or both, cannot reconcile liquidation with the struggle against it, reformism with revolutionary Marxism. Up to a certain point, it is possible for the two views to remain under one roof, as proved by the pre-war Second International and the SP since the Detroit convention. But beyond that point, that is, beyond the point where the views crystallize fully on burning questions of the day and come into head – on unpostponable collision, not all the wise and good men in the world can keep the proponents of the antagonistic views together. It has been tried before without success. The fatal mistake of Gus Tyler is to try it again.

The left wing has said that those who give political support to the People’s Front after it massacred the Catalonian workers, are the defenders of the butchers and assassins of the Spanish workers. Is that true, is it politically correct ? Tyler does not stop to ask this decisive political question, as a revolutionist would. It is true that at the Philadelphia N.E.C meeting he mumbled that Caballero and Co. had played the same role in Barcelona as Scheidemann and Noske had played when they crushed the Spartacists in blood. But that was just a speech, a “radical speech”, and had no political consequences for Tyler. In his caucus circular, he does not bother with the detail about taking the side either of Noske or Spartacus; he confines himself to the indignation of the Party liberal who is outraged because the left wing calls a spade a spade: “When one resorts to such characterization, the next logical question: Can you be in the same party as ‘butchers and assassins of the Spanish workers’?”

Good. Let us ask in turn: Is it not true that the Zam-Delson statement on the New York municipal elections calls the Thomas-Altman position a “hidden and cowardly support” of LaGuardia, a “capitulation to the backwardness of the workers”, “putting the Socialist party on the auction block”, and a “betrayal of socialism’’? Is not “the next logical question” to Tyler: “Can you be in the same party as betrayers of socialism?”

For our part, the answer is unambiguous: We fight tooth and nail against the LaGuardia-socialists. We have no intention whatsoever of being in the same party as betrayers of socialism, much less of making a combination of any kind with them.

”There is proof positive that the Trotskyist wreckers want a. split!” Tyler will exclaim. Again, there speaks the Party liberal. It is not at all a question of “wanting a split”. The revolutionist merely recognizes the fact that a split in the S.P. is just as unavoidable today as it was over a year ago, and for the same basic reason. At that time, no power in the party was able to prevent the separation of the corrupt Old Guard from the rest of the membership, although the “sectarian Trotskyists” were not to be found in the ranks of the party. Today, a similar situation has arisen with the “new” Old Guard of Thomas-Altman-Lewis-Wisconsin. At that time, the real problem was not the prevention of the split, but the reduction of the split to the smallest proportions and the consolidatoin of the party on a revolutionary basis against the right wing splitters. And, precisely because the “Militants” of that time (Altman-Thomas-Tyler-Zam) did not understand the problem correctly, the split was a big one and the party was not properly consolidated. By their vacillation, by their grovelling before McLevy, the “Militants” ended up with McLevy taking the whole Bridgeport organization. By the same policy towards the Reading Old Guard, they ended up with a crippled organization in Pennsylvania. Is it so difficult to foresee that the same policy today will only result in the Hoan-Porter crew keeping the whole Wisconsin organization and in Thomas and Altman having similarly unnecessary success in New York and elsewhere?

Now, what does Tyler reply to the question which we (and the situation itself) have, put to him?

How Does Tyler Answer the Decisive Question?

We know the stinging words with which Tyler describes the right wing. For a serious revolutionist, such characterizations would preclude completely the possibility of collaborating with such elements – and most certainly not against the left wing. As to the latter, Tyler, only five months ago, gave the following political estimate, again, in words:

“The Trotskyists, as opposed to the various right wing and centrist tendencies in our party, are essentially revolutionaries. On the basic questions of a revolutionary program: the state, Popular Front, and the war question, they stand with the revolutionaries against the right and centrist elements. The Trotskyists, moreover, stand with the other revolutionaries in the party against liquidationism, against parliamentary socialism, against pacifism, against popular frontism, against national defensism. Hence, on all the basic revolutionary questions the Trotskytes and all revolutionary socialists should be able to work together.”

To be sure, Tyler expressed opposition to the “methods”’ and the “psychology” of the Trotskyists, and pointed out the difficulty of “assimilating” them; but even this difficulty he then laid at the door of the rest of the party. The important and decisive point, however, is this: according to his own words, Tyler (and presumably, the group for which he speaks) has absolutely nothing in common politically with the right wing (i.e., the liquidators and betrayers), whereas with the left wing, he has a common political platform “on the basic question of a revolutionary program”.

For a genuine revolutionist, and not for a wordy Party liberal who does not think or act politically, such a judgement as made by Tyler would dictate the following course:

“Even if, as a result of some poorly digested texts of Lenin, I must carry on my ‘fight on two fronts’, it is nevertheless plain that I must make a solid block with the Trotskyists, with whom I have so much in common – politically, fundamentally – to fight mercilessly and at every point against the liquidators and traitors with whom I have nothing in common. This is a course which my own written documents make it impossible for me to escape.”

Only – and here is the rub! – in the same issue of Socialist Clarity from which we have already plucked such a perfect Tylerian flower, he had something just as perfect to say: “Many years ago, there developed inside the labor movement a tendency which, while ready to underwrite almost any sort of a document, consistently refused to make such basic principles a guide for day by day action.” Ay, there’s the rub! For Tyler was not only giving a terse and flawless description of centrism in that sentence, but an autobiographical characterization of himself and of the “Clarity” group.

We already know Tyler’s “basic principles”, and the “documents” he is “ready to underwrite”. Let us, however, look briefly at his “day by day action”.

Tyler wrote a radical anti-war resolution for the Chicago convention. With that document, he considered his revolutionary work accomplished. He fumes indignantly at us in his caucus circulars because we still refuse to take his “radicalism” seriously. The Party liberal simply cannot understand that, for revolutionists, political documents cannot remain on paper but are written to be executed, particularly against those at whom they are directed. Have Tyler and Co. lifted a finger to put that resolution into effect in those circles where it was supposed to do the must good: the LID (as pacifistic as ever), the Italian Stampa Libera (completely Stalinized), the Milwaukee Leader (the same today as yesterday), Meta Berger and similars (still in the American League against War and Fascism)? No, not one finger, for that would have offended the right wing allies of the Clarity leadership.

Together with Tyler, we adopted at Chicago a fairly good trade union resolution. We meant it And Tyler, Zam and Co.! Have they enforced it against Gross, Baron and the other petty trade union bureaucrats in the party whom Tyler now calls the “social base” of the right wing? Have they enforced it in the Wisconsin organization, where it was so urgently required? Just the contrary. As we proved in the last issue of the Appeal, the Clarity leadership capitulated shamefully to the Wisconsin right wing on this question.

What significance has the equally good Unemployed Resolution of the convention when Tyler’s NEC has allowed the WAA, founded and built by the SP, to become a watch-charm on the chain of the Communist Party, only because it did not dare take the indicated vigorous measures against the right wing’s protegée, the Stalinist stooge, David Lasser?

Who Picked the NEC and How Does It Act?

In his gossipy grocery-store caucus letters, Tyler gets pathetically angry with the “Trotskyist school of falsification” and with Glen Trimble in particular for the latter’s entirely apt description of the “Clarity NEC” as a body “handpicked by Wisconsin”. Yet, for a person with a political eye, that description fits like a glove, is it not true that Norman Thomas wrote Paul McCormick that he was opposed to the Appeal group having any representation at all in the incoming NEC, and that the Thomas opinion prevailed? Is it not true that when we proposed Albert Goldman for the NEC slate, Maynard Krueger declared to us, in the presence of Zam, Delson, John Fisher and others, while they were waiting humbly for an audience in the anteroom of the Wisconsin-Altman-Lewis delegations: “Wisconsin will never agree to Goldman? Is it not true that the Clarity leadership demanded that we withdraw our four NEC nominations from the Chicago convention floor on the ground that, unless we did, the Wisconsin gang would not vote for and carry the “Clarity” slate? Is it not true that Trager was permitted on the NEC only when Clarity gave Wisconsin assurances that he would not continue as Labor Secretary? Is it not true that the only reason why the two theoretical leaders of Clarity are not even members of the NEC today (Zam and Tyler), is that Wisconsin vetoed it? What amount of corridor muttering can cover up these simple facts?

But didn’t the NEC “endorse the Trotsky Committee” and confirm such a radical fellow as Tyler in the editorship of the Call? True, true. But what did that mean in practice. Tyler himself reveals this when he makes his abject apologies to Altman and Co. in order to prove that under his direction the Call was not at all deservant of criticism from the right. In order to show that there is really no cause for complaint from Altman and Wisconsin, Tyler bleats in his circular:

“Why are we not attacked for carrying virtually nothing on all the executions recently? Why are we not attacked for not mentioning the new drive against the socialists in Russia – except in the one article which is attacked? Why are we not criticized for making front page news out of a world-shaking event – the new reaction in Russia? Why are we so violently criticized because we dare to write a single article in fourteen weeks, which is critical, after long columns calling for the defense of the Soviet Union? ‘Why?’” (Fitting questions that deserve a fitting reply!)

Again: “Another charge (2 out of 7 charges) is that one of our prime concerns is the Trotsky trials. This is absolutely untrue. We have allotted six and one-half columns to the matter of the Trotsky investigation in Mexico during the last fourteen weeks. For ten weeks we ran nothing on the investigation, although our party has endorsed the American Committee. All our news dealt with statements of John Dewey. We gave a little more than 3 per cent of the available space to the Mexico investigations.” – In day by day action, as we see, the difference boils down to Tyler’s apologizing for 6 and one half columns in 14 weeks and silence in 10 weeks and Altman’s demanding no columns at all for 52 weeks in the year.

“We have implied criticism of Blum’s policy of non-intervention, we have been openly critical of Negrin in one issue. We have not run any articles outside of these, attacking the French party, the British party, the Spanish party, the Belgian party, the Dutch party. We did not attack these parties despite the fact that they were committing criminal errors and damaging the cause of international socialism.”

Criminal Silence About Criminal Errors

The space of the Appeal is very precious, but we cannot refrain from reiterating Tyler’s own supine apology to Altman, his confession of rotten liberalism, his self-characterization of a whole political line of action:

“We did not attack these parties despite the fact that they were committing criminal errors and damaging the cause of international socialism.”

The left wing want to speak out in condemnation of the crimes of the Blums and Negrins of the whole world, including America, crimes which are wrecking our international cause. The right wing wants to speak out in praise of these crimes. The contribution which the rotten liberals of Tyler’s “school” make in practice to the dispute between these two annoying extremes, is to remain silent about the crimes, on the smug theory that this surely ought to satisfy the “splitters” and “keep the party united”. But in law and in politics, knowledge of guilt and silence makes one an accessory to the crime after the fact. And this gives us Tyler’s role – the role of the Clarity leadership – in a nutshell: To strike the real blows at the left, with whom “we agree politically”, using all the stock reactionary arguments of the right wingers (“sectarians”, “splitters”, “unassimilables”), and to cover with silence the crimes of the right, with whom “we have nothing in common politically”.

Are more proofs needed? Let us review the most recent examples:

At the Philadelphia NEC meeting, the test question before all party tendencies was the crisis in Spain. The majority resolution stood for political support to the People’s Front in the concrete, designating it as the ‘’provisional revolutionary government”. Tyler, under our pressure, presented a “little reservation”. He merely argued that this “provisional revolutionary government” had acted the same way in Spain as Noske and Scheidemann had acted in German in 1919 when they led the counter-revolution to a victory against the Spartacists. In other words, he spoke for one side of the barricades.

The left wing, taking its words seriously launched a struggle in the party and the YPSL against the resolution which supported the Popular Front counter-revolution, that is, we identified our day by day action with our documents. And Tyler? Faced with the necessity of a choice in action, he turned into the most virulent defender of the NEC resolution. His words about Noske and Scheidemann had merely been an oratorical exercise, similar to those practiced by members of college debating teams who take either side of an argument with equal facility. We opposed the resolution. Altman, Raskin, Lewis, Zam, Burt, Delson and Felix supported the resolution Tyler ended by ranging himself alongside of Altman and Wisconsin, with the sickly explanation that the latter had voted for the resolution out of incomprehension of its contents. The convention dispute on the abstraction of People’s Frontism dissolved into agreement between Tyler-Clarity and Altman-Wisconsin on the concrete People’s Front in Spain. The only remaining difference is that the right wing wants to improve on its victory and go further, whereas the Clarity group won’t go unless it’s dragged. As for the revolutionists they cannot be dragged.

At the New York NEC meeting, the test question before all party tendencies was the inner-party crisis. The left wing proposed: Condemn the right wing splitters; condemn the Wisconsin opportunists who are disgracing the name of socialism; prohibit in advance the LaGuardia sell-out. Tyler-Clarity found no common language with us, who “are essentially revolutionaries”. They did find a common language, a common resolution, with those they attack in words as “betrayers of socialism”. The gag-law, it is true, was advocated in different ways by Tyler, by Thomas, by Raskin. Naturally, the right wing, being bolder, more resolute and more consistent, demanded sharper measures against the left. But the big political fact, which completely overshadows the corridor gossip about what Thomas murmured and what Altman shouted, remains this: The final resolution does not bear the signature of the left wing; it does bear the signature of Thomas and Tyler, of Raskin and Zam, of Baron and Trager, of Lewis and Delson, of Altman and Medwell. The big political fact remains this: Altman, Thomas and Lewis brought their charges against the left wingers and expelled them from the party entirely on the basis of Tyler’s gag-law. The big political fact remains this: while the left wing challenged the Clarity resolution, the right wing became its most ardent champion. The big political fact remains this: while the left wing is being systematically clubbed with the gag-law, not a single right winger has his position adversely affected by it. Once again, we see what rotten liberalism in the party means in practice.

The Party Liberal Asleep ... and Aroused

Finally: we are expelled from the party in which Tyler and Altman sought to gag us. The referendum against the gag-law, legally and properly initiated by us, is cynically sabotaged by the NEC. Edlin, the Altmanite, continues his weekly attack upon us in the columns of the Tammany Jewish Day, where he regularly discusses all the party’s internal affairs from the Altman caucus standpoint. Valenti, the Altmanite, continues his open attacks upon us in the columns of his paper, Stampa Libera, for which he is soliciting funds on the claim that it will be the only Italian daily in the elections to support LaGuardia. The Altmanite editors of the official Jewish party organ, the Shtimme, make a public attack upon us in the editorial columns, as far back as the beginning of July. The Altmanite, Lasser, continues his scandalous attacks on our comrades in the columns of the Daily Worker. The Altmanite, Thomas, continues his appeals for the LaGuardia sell-out in the columns of the Call. We are excluded from the Call, whose board is divided between Clarity and the right wing, without a single left wing representative (in accordance with the practice of the “fight on two fronts”. The Altmanites announce to the capitalist press, in a news release which Zam and Delson call a “betrayal of socialism” (Nothing less!), the plan to withdraw the party mayoralty candidate – (before the NEC has “acted”, before the New York referendum has begun. All these acts are committed by the right wing liquidators without a single measure being taken against them by the brave Clarity leadership. The editor of the Call sails along serenely oblivious to such trifles.

Gagged inside the party, we certainly refuse to be gagged and paralyzed outside of it. We issue the Socialist Appeal in order to state our case, just as Altman, Tyler, Zam and Thomas issued the Socialist Call two years ago without asking the permission of the Old Guard after the latter had locked them out of the party. We reply in the New York Times to the treacherous statement of Thomas and Altman in the same paper, in an attempt to uphold the honor of revolutionary socialism by showing that the bulk of the party membership does not support the LaGuardia deal.

Instantaneously, the editor of the Call, entirely fresh and unscathed from his struggle against the right wing front, gets into real action against the left wing front. Instantaneously, the NAC of the party, whose mouth was full of water all these weeks that Thomas was carrying on negotiations to sell the party down the river and preparing and carrying out the illegal mass expulsion, gets into real action, just as it got into action when California’s charter was so promptly suspended without even the formality of a hearing. Tyler hastily writes and the NAC approves an editorial for the Call on the crisis in the New York party.

What does the editorial do? Does it condemn the “betrayal of socialism”, the putting of the SP “on the auction block” by the horse-traders, the sell-out which has been all but consummated? Does it condemn the mass expulsions in New York which the Clarity group at the City Central Committee denounced as “illegal”, which they formally refused to recognize? Does it declare that Clarityite branches in New York (for miserable reasons which we shall explain on another occasion) have refused to unseat “expelled” left wingers, have continued to recognize the “expelled” as regular members, have defied and flouted the authority of the Altman group, which is presumably the official party administration in New York?

Not at all! Not a hint of all this appears in the editorial of the paladins of struggle on two fronts. Instead, with all the viciousness of which your truly timid liberal is capable when he has become completely disoriented and desperate, there is a savage attack upon the left wing, utterly mendacious in its falsehoods.

It Seems That We Have not Been Expelled At All!

Our assertion that we were expelled in order to facilitate the LaGuardia deal – a fact realized even by political infants, and repeated often enough by Clarityites as well – is characterized as “a brazen lie”!

Not only a lie, but a brazen one! But didn’t the Clarityites, in their caucus statement just a few weeks ago (The Die Is Cast) declare:

“It is Altman who mobilized the campaign against the Trotskyists months prior to their split perspective, impelling them in that direction and provoking them into a counter-offensive ... It is the Altman group which is brazenly embarking on a policy of suspensions and expulsions for minor or manufactured offenses in order to deepen the crisis in the party. It is the Altman group which show their Popular Frontist and reformist tendencies by attempting to force us into a ‘Browderian’ support of LaGuardia.”

But, according to Tyler now, Altman hasn’t split the party or expelled us. It is we who have left the party; we walked out, and Altman is entirely guiltless. Tyler has the infuriating effrontery to write: “Not all the Trotskyists have left (!!) the SP; many still remain. Their very presence proves that Trotskyists are not expelled for what they believe.”

A falsehood in every word; worse, a deliberate falsehood; still worse, a deliberate falsehood calculated to cover up the wretched crimes of Altman and Co. Only a few weeks ago, in the Clarity document just cited, they said: “It is Altman who is excluding and expelling people from the party for political beliefs, returning to the heresy-hunting of the Old Guard.” Today, the same Tyler who admitted covering up the crimes of the European social democracy by his silence, rushes to cover up the crimes of the American right wing by his loud lies. Today, it appears, there is “proof” that we are not expelled for political beliefs. In fact, we have not been expelled at all – that was merely a hallucination from which Clarity suffered yesterday and from which we still suffer; we were not expelled, dear reader of the Socialist Call, we left the SP!

Read Altman’s official statement on our expulsion and Tyler’s official editorial. Except that Tyler is more repulsive in his baseness, the two are politically (and in places textually) identical. Both of them announce that we are the “splitters”, that we are the “disrupters”. Both of them charge that the basis of our expulsion is our “allegiance to an opponent organization,” the Fourth International.

Only, Tyler, who cannot write an article that does not reveal his sickening liberalism, does not forget to add in pious justification of the expulsion: “During the last year the Trotskyists have broken from every party in the world with which they were affiliated – in order to launch their Trotskyist International.” The sentence is a platform. It is true that the “sectarian Trotskyists” did not remain in the French Socialist party. They were expelled by Blum and Co. for the simple reason that they fought vigorously and consistently against People’s Frontism and social-patriotism. If Tyler were in France, would he have fought with the patriots or with the internationalists? Would he be today in the camp of the expelled or of their bureaucratic expellers? That is the question! Similarly in Belgium, where the left wing was expelled by the reformist bureaucracy which would tolerate no criticism of its betrayals, of what Tyler calls, in his caucus circular, “criminal errors and damaging of the cause of international socialism”. Similarly in Spain, where the Trotskyists were expelled from the POUM because they opposed support of the People’s Front and entry into a bourgeois coalition government. With whom would, or does, Tyler stand? The Party liberal doesn’t say. He merely tells his readers that the Trotskyists were not expelled by Altman (or by Blum!) for their revolutionary opinions – Oh no! – they deliberately broke, you see, from every “party” because they are incorrigible sectarians.

The Party Liberal Five Months Ago and Today

Could Altman do better? Whether he can or not, he certainly doesn’t need to. In order to give countenance to his treacherous political campaign and his mass expulsion, he need only quote from the Clarity leadership. Months ago, Tyler seemed to be on the verge of understanding the mechanics and politics of the right wing drive against the revolutionists. In his article for the short-lived Socialist Clarity, he wrote:

“Leading comrades, especially in the large and important New York organization, did not want Trotskyists in the party to begin with, were just praying for them to make slips to be played up, set to work to hasten the day when they could expel the Trotskyists and say: ‘I told you so!’ (Just as Tyler is doing today! – S.) Instead of a serious effort at assimilation, we are treated to the spectacle of groups being formed with but one program: ‘expel the Trotskyists.’ Around this slogan a campaign is conducted. A hysteria is created in the Party – a split atmosphere. Name-calling and rumor are substituted for political argument; horror tales are invented; differences are exaggerated and common purposes minimized. In this unhealthy atmosphere, constructive work is impossible. We must put a stop to these splitting trends in the party. And we must stop them immediately.”

That was months ago, just on the eve of the convention, at which Tyler, in his private discussions with us, expressed his perturbations about what would happen when Thomas returned from Europe with a full-fledged reformist line for People’s Frontism and for Trotsky-baiting in the party, about how pretexts would be trumped up for a split drive against the “Trotskyists”, about how imperative was a shoulder-to-shoulder fight against Thomas and his allies, giving no quarter and asking none.

For all his verbose radicalism, however, Tyler, the very left wing of the left wing of the Clarity group, remains true to type in the crisis. He is now the purveyor of arms and ammunition to Altman. In his caucus letter he wrote a few weeks ago, in contrast to his March article:

“The latest trick of the Trotskyists – an attempt in my mind on the part of a top group to whip the rank and file into line – is to proceed recklessly to violate elementary discipline and then – when brought on charges – to cry: persecution! The existence of a real campaign of petty and major persecution preceding this. of course, gives the semblance (!) of truth to the new outcry. But how long can we tolerate this – especially when the perspective of the Trotskyists toward making a party of their own becomes ever clearer.”

All that Altman has done is to give a prompt and vigorous reply to the question in Tyler’s last sentence by saying “We can tolerate it no longer”, and to make use of Tyler’s first sentence in order to justify the expulsions. What better function could Tyler perform for Altman than to make it possible for him to say: “Even Tyler, who is practically a Trotskyist, charges them with reckless violations of discipline. Tyler has asked me, Altman, how much longer I will tolerate this, and my answer is – not for another minute.” And if this is the assistance given the right wing by the “most left” of the Clarity leaders, it is not hard to realize the role played by the other liberals who make no claim to being so “radical”.

The pernicious part played in the party crisis by the rotten liberalism of the Clarity leadership – at once cover and prop of the right wing – is sometimes obscured for some observers by the indubitable fact that the centrists and right wingers are often at odds on many questions. They polemize against each other often enough, and sometimes raise their voices above the point of polite social intercourse. This is quite true. And even though, in concrete practice, their differences, as indicated above, do not prove to be of a fundamental nature, it is not at all out of the question that, given the present relationship of forces in the party, the right wing and the centrists will present the party with a second split – this time between themselves. We leave to another article an examination of the reasons for this impending split in the bloc of the right wing and the center and a consideration of the fatal, truly sectarian perspective which the Clarity leadership is now opening up to the followers of its political line.

Max Shachtman

Marxist Writers’

Last updated on 20 November 2014