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Albert Glotzer

The S.P.’s Continental Congress

Communists Must Break Thru ‘Closed Door’ Policy

(April 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 24, 29 April 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The role of social reformism, how it arises and grows, has been sufficiently established by the Marxists since the post-war period. It grows simultaneously with the advance of the revolutionary movement. Its aim is to act as a brake upon rising tide of struggle. The more acute the class struggle the more active do the reformists become. They pretend at a struggle, only to retreat, cripple and destroy such conflicts at their decisive moments. In the “democratic era” of capitalism they flourish like the proverbial mushrooms after a rain. When capitalism resorts to an open and naked dictatorship (Fascism) as in Germany they are thrust aside as a hindrance to the process of completely decapitating the proletariat.

Quite contrary to the “third period” theorists of Stalinism, social reformism in the United States is not dead, nor is it in the process of extinction. The “span of life” of reformism in this country is not the point under discussion at present. The decisive question is whether or not reformism has the possibilities of activity and growth under the given, conditions and state of class struggle in the United States. And to this we must answer in the affirmative. To decry the “Fascist Hoover Government” and “Fascist Commissions” as the Daily Worker does in its most delirious moments, results only in confusion and error. In doing that it signifies that the path of reformism has already been beaten and is covered with the footsteps of American Fascism.

Four years of crisis have torn deep roles in American capitalism. They have posed weaknesses that appeared absent during the “prosperity” years. The impact of the crisis is demonstrating to American imperialism more clearly than ever, that it must direct and base its economy on a world scale. We will witness a greater participation of the United States in world affairs on the political field, and an intensified activity in the sphere of international economy. In preparing for this stage, American capitalism must first of all settle accounts at home. It proceeds to lower the standard of living of the American working class nationally. Since the crisis a series of uninterrupted wage-cuts has taken place. This process is being completed. And it is being completed thus far, without apparent resistance by the working masses.

Whatever the level of recovery may be it will be carried through by smashing the living standards of the masses. That is inherent in the situation. American capitalism has not yet been seriously burdened with the problems of relief and social insurance. With brutal callousness it has resisted every demand for these. To expect that these demands would have been granted without an intensive struggle on the part of the workers is a serious error. It is precisely because on a national scale such struggles were absent and serious resistance was not recorded, that the ruling class in this country was able to carry through its drive against the masses to lower their living standards and at the same time refuse aid to the unemployed without serious difficulties.

The weakness of the subjective factor: the state of consciousness of the American workers, are flowing from this the absence of a mass Communist party with correct policies, and a militant labor movement, is in the main the reason for the lack of great class battles. Whatever struggles have taken place were at best sporadic, intensive though some of them may have been. The gains however were small and localized and thus their scope is entirely too narrow. The bulk of the struggle was carried on almost primarily through the direct initiative and activity of the Communists.

Growing Mood of Struggle

The crisis will prove to be a great impulsion to the class conscious development of the American workers. This is evidenced by a growing mood of struggle seen in great demonstrations of unemployed, the auto strikes, the movement of the Illinois miner’s and the recent organization of the “Progressive Trade Union Educational Committee” at Gillespie. In all of these events the Communists have played an active and leading role. This role will increase with the development of the struggle. It is important to remember this.

With these remarks let us examine the call for a “Continental Congress of workers and farmers for Economic Reconstruction” to be held in Washington on May 6 and 7. The leading elements in framing the call and the conference are the socialists and their allies in the American Federation of Labor. Page one of the call is adorned with a cartoon showing how labor is driving the moneybags out of the Capitol. This cartoon is supposed to describe the statement of William Green, arch-reactionary head of the A.F. of L., also appearing on page one, as an introduction to the call itself.

Green declares:

“For we shall soon be on the march ... We shall FIGHT with every legitimate weapon at our command ... We have come to what we are determined shall be the END OF SUFFERING ... We prefer the council table, but we do not shun the BATTLEFIELD ... I am ready to LEAD the hosts of labor into a BATTLE ... The die is cast for THE BATTLE out of which labor expects a new America!” (Emphasis mine – G.)

What strange words, coming from the reactionary leader of the organized labor movement who has done everything in his power to throttle the slightest note of militancy in its ranks. The apostle of class collaboration will lead the hosts of labor into a battle, a battle for a new America!

This is the introduction to the call addressed to the workers and farmers of the United States, to convene and “draw up a program to right the grievous wrongs we have suffered and set up a national council of the working people in the city, state and. nation to ensure its realization”. And to this congress are invited

“(a) Progressive organization of farmers; (b) Organization of Labor; (c) Cooperative Societies; (d) The Socialist and Farmer-Labor Parties, single taxers, and other liberal political groups; (e) Labor fraternal bodies and unemployed leagues WHOSE PURPOSES ARE IN HARMONY WITH THE OBJECTS OF “THIS CONFERENCE.”

The call further declares:

“Through vigilance, the strength of a just cause, and the pressure of our democratic mass strength we shall ENDEAVOR to win for all men, women and children of this Nation a TRUE FREEDOM. – FREEDOM FROM POVERTY, HUNGER AND ECONOMIC SECURITY”. (Emphasis mine – G.)

The mere statement of Green, veneered with a dash of militancy, is an indication, above all, of a fear of a developing movement of the American proletariat for militant struggle. This fear is accentuated by the thought that this developing movement may form under the leadership of the Communists who have until now been the main factor in those class struggles already taking place. It is axiomatic that when a Green wishes to do battle in the interests of the proletariat the real purpose in such militancy is to check the movement of the workers, to choke it before it begins, or if unsuccessful in that, to canalize it into the stream of reformism.

Aim of Conference

In that respect at least there are no differences between Green and his socialist comrades who signed the call and have taken the initiative in bringing about the conference. They are going to bring about a true freedom, a freedom from poverty, hunger and economic security. Under what kind of program will this political, economic and social change take place? Under the program adopted at this congress that will be attended by the widest variety of elements. Is this a merely another Utopian plan? No, its main aim is to head off and destroy at once the growth of the revolutionary movement. To do this it is not enough to organize a united front movement in the struggle for the demands of the suffering unemployed. These people must rely upon something else; a substitute offering for social reorganization that will sound “reasonable and capable of achievement” and yet be a far cry from the revolutionary program of the Communists.

Isn’t this clear in the nature of the call? To secure this aim all organizations are invited except the Communists and revolutionary workers. Even the single taxers (!) are invited. But the Communist party, the T.U.U.L. and the Unemployed Councils, the revolutionary wing of the proletariat are not invited. The intention is to build a movement that will go into “battle” for a “true freedom”. What kind of a battle and what kind of true freedom will this be when the heart of the proletariat is to be excluded from participation? The answer is: there will be no battle nor a true freedom if the leaders of this movement carry through their purpose of excluding the revolutionists from the conference. The real aim is the building of a reformist movement that will attempt to check the rising class conscious American proletariat.

That the socialists, who consistently profess their “adherence” to Marxism and socialism, take the lead in this movement only testifies to their theoretical and political degeneration. It is in the name of Marxism that they are creating this movement. It is in the name of socialism that they are attempting to bring about a true freedom in joint “struggle” with the reactionary labor leaders, liberal political groups, single taxers, etc.

The Communist, revolutionary and militant workers must break through the closed-door policy of the congress. The congress without doubt, will be attended by many workers’ organizations of all shades of opinions and aims. While exposing the program of disunity and reformism, the Left wing must counter with the demand for a genuine united front. It must fight against the exclusion of any section of the working class. It will have to present a counter-program of action, free from the confusing reformism designed to throttle the growing class consciousness of the American workers. Such a tactic, intelligently and correctly carried out, will win the support of the workers assembled in the congress. It may prevent the emergence of an organization whose main purpose will be that of fighting the Communists, and turn it into an organization of militant class struggle whose purpose will be to fight for the interests of the working masses.

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