Max Shachtman

After the Dissolution of the Comintern

New Stalinist Plans
to Undermine Labor

(July 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 30, 26 July 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(Part II)

Despite tremendous efforts of propaganda, of exploiting the widespread admiration for the fighting qualities of the Russian army, and even of direct and indirect attempts at bribery and corruption, the Stalinists have not yet succeeded in gaining control of the labor movement in the capitalist democracies. They want that control and they need it. It is one of the means they need for exerting pressure upon their partners in the imperialist war, in order that they – that is, the Stalinist bureaucracy – may extract greater concessions during the war and the “peace” to follow, in the form of a greater share of the war booty, of new countries for the Kremlin to exploit and new peoples to oppress.

To put it more simply, Stalinism needs the labor movement, or control of the existing labor movements, not in order to advance the position of the workers or to defend their interests, but purely and simply as a blind and docile instrument for upholding and extending the tyranny of the Russian bureaucracy, both at home and abroad.

Inside his Russian empire, as is known, Stalin has long ago wiped out all vestiges of an organized labor movement with an even greater thoroughness than Hitler displayed, and it is noteworthy that there has not even been a mention of a Russian labor movement or its activities throughout the war. But outside of Russia, in those countries where the labor movement does exist and does possess influence, the Stalinists want to control it.

From their own point of view, such an attempt to gain quick control is all the wiser in view of the fact that there is mounting evidence of the labor movement’s swing to the left, that is, toward greater and greater independence from the imperialists, the war machine, and the capitalist parties. For every sign of this swing today, there will be two tomorrow and two hundred as the war draws to a final decision.

The shift to complete working class independence would be like a death-blow not only to the capitalist politicians and their politics, but also to Stalinist politics. The sooner and more thoroughly the Stalinists can infiltrate the labor movement and gain control of it, the better position they will be in to impede the swing to class independence.

A change of name, a change of form, a change of approach – these are calculated by the Stalinists to achieve their ends more efficiently than the maintenance of the fiction of a Comintern, or of Communist Parties.

Stalinists – Extreme Right Wing

This is a fact, and it holds true particularly for the labor movement of the United States. The Communist Party – in its present form or in its disguise of tomorrow, under its present name or the new one it may take – is today at the extreme Right Wing of the labor movement. It constitutes the best organized and most reactionary force in that movement.

The old-style labor bureaucrats are a secondary (but by no means unimportant!) danger, by and large and as a rule, in comparison with the danger of Stalinism, which Leon Trotsky once so rightly described as the “syphilis of the labor movement.”

The “native” labor bureaucracy, reactionary, incompetent and capitalistically-minded though it is, is nevertheless compelled from time to time, in defense of its own narrow interests, to defend the broader interests of the working class, and at all events, to preserve (though their methods do not at all assure success!) the labor movement which makes their existence possible.

The CP bureaucracy is concerned exclusively with the defense of the interests and power of the ruling despotism in Russia. Where these interests demand the crushing of the labor movement, the CP does not hesitate for a moment to do the crushing, as it did not only in Russia but also in Spain.

Unions Need to Be Vigilant

That is why the labor movement in this country (and in all others) must now be doubly vigilant against Stalinist infiltration and sapping of its ranks. We say doubly vigilant because the Stalinist campaign will henceforward be more insidious, and probably more difficult to detect. That is precisely what the Stalinists are counting on. That is why the militants in the labor movement, who want to see it become strong, independent, effective, fully free of all influences alien to its interests and mission in society, must be wide awake and prepared for combat.

There is work to be done, and done immediately. One of the first and most sinister steps in the new Stalinist campaign was mapped out at a conference called ostensibly by the Daily Worker, but actually by the Communist Party, for which it speaks, on June 10, in New York’s Webster Hall. On June 3, the Daily Worker (page 8) intimated what the conference was all about:

Is the Daily Worker useful to the labor movement in the broadest sense? If so, CAN IT THEN BECOME OFFICIALLY PART OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT, to be used by the labor movement fully, as part of its educational and organizational program? ... (My emphasis – M.S.)

It is our opinion that we BEGIN, first, on a small scale in the shops, in the local unions, etc., to convince the trade unionists that the Daily Worker and The Worker are invaluable to their struggles and THEY MUST HELP TO MAKE IT AN OFFICIAL PART OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT (my emphasis – M.S.) by constant use and reference to the Daily Worker in all their activity.”

Threatens Labor Independence

These two sentences really give away the whole strategy of the campaign. The Stalinists are out, first of all, to foist their paper onto the organized labor movement as its official mouthpiece. If successful, this would mean that the labor movement has no mouthpiece, is really gagged, and that the Stalinist bureaucracy would be able to speak officially in the name of the organized American working class.

The Stalinists already have control of some of the unions in this country. They may try out their scheme with these unions first. As usual, they would try it out to see how it works and how strong the reaction against it would be. If they get by with such unions as, let us say, the National Maritime Union, or the Office and Professional Workers Union and others under their domination, they will take the next step. A few successes along this line would mean the enslavement of the American labor movement, for its Stalinization could mean nothing else.

It must be prevented. It must be stopped before it gets well under way. The militants in the labor movement must inflict a stiff defeat upon the Stalinists that they will be a long time forgetting.

We will return to this question, and to the question of how to blow up the Stalinist drive, in future issues of Labor Action.

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