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Susan Green

We Can Win, We Shall Win!

(26 April 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 17, 26 April 1943, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In our issue of February 15 – under The Readers of Labor Action Take the Floor – we published a letter from “Shipyard Worker, San Francisco,” in which he stated his “substantial agreement” with the views expressed in Labor Action but requested us to “devote a column or two of your paper to explain how socialism in our time can come about and why it will, if indeed, you believe it will.”

He also wrote in this letter:

“I know men of like opinion with my own who would go to the point of death for their views, yet these men have no wish to be martyrs for the sake of being martyrs alone. They wish the assurance of conviction that even if they are lost in the fight, that the fight itself is not lost. Not a sure thing, mind you, but just a reasonable chance.”

This May Day issue seems the appropriate place for answering this friend who is a bit doubtful about us as well as about himself.

Capitalist Disease Has Only One Cure

Let me ask our San Francisco friend this question: If a man is suffering from a fatal disease and his only chance of survival is an operation, is he being a martyr if he submits, himself to this operation? You’d say, No. He’s acting intelligently.

While this is an old analogy, it still serves well to make the point. Our reader agrees with us substantially. Therefore, he must see that society is suffering from the rotten, cancerous, fatal maladies of decaying capitalism. He understands, undoubtedly, that all the schemes for bolstering the system are, at their best, palliatives .that cannot cure – and, at their worst, strictly dope.

What choice has the intelligent worker? He can either resign himself to the progressively worsening fits of the capitalist system – bigger and better wars; more widespread unemployment; labor’s cruel suppression under totalitarianism, the newest symptom of the disease; and to the eventual collapse of civilization, tragic and complete. Or he can submit himself to the operation known as social revolution!

The capitalist system is not the first rotting, exploitive system whose poisonous carcass had to be removed by social revolution to allow humanity a new lease on life. The slave system of the Roman Empire was swept away by social revolutionary forces. Feudalism was ushered out by history by great and inspiring revolutions. The thirteen American colonies in 1776 obtained by revolution a national independence that no other British colony acquired.

The Russian Revolution cleaned out the rubbish heap that pompously called itself the Imperial Russian Empire and a few months later drove the capitalists and landlords out of their strongholds. That the Stalin bureaucracy, as the new ruling class, now has to be sent to keep company with the Czar, the capitalists and the landlords, does not alter the efficacy of revolution as the instrument for social betterment.

Must not the intelligent worker place himself on the side of historical progress – as the ailing individual must place himself on the side of medical and scientific progress?

Is There a “Reasonable Chance”?

Our San Francisco friend wants to know “how socialism in our time can come about” and if he is “lost in the fight, that the fight itself is not lost.” He says: “Not a sure thing, mind you, just a reasonable chance.”

I invite him to cast his appraising eye on the European continent. Will those suffering people in Nazi-invaded lands be content to drive out the Nazis only to welcome back their old masters? Because socialists have been driven underground, has socialist thought and the socialist objective perished? Quite the contrary. Besides, the political commingling of “democrats” and fascists makes it clear to the European masses that the “democratic” imperialists no more than the Nazis will give them simple human freedom. Is there not a “REASONABLE CHANCE” that the people of Europe, whose sufferings have made them deadly earnest, will have to make a try at the socialist solution – in our time?

Suppose that the United States does establish its military police and its food commissary for ruined Europe – to keep down revolution with plenty of bullets and a few crumbs of bread. How long before that volcano must erupt?

Now consider our own country. Who do you suppose will be the goats of the post-war military dictatorship envisaged by our .imperialist planners? The workers, of course. When Rickenbacker, representative of the crudest self-interests of his class, calls for the outlawing of strikes, the suspension of the forty-hour week, the banning of the closed shop, the prohibition of double time pay and the institution of incentive wages – in his wishful thinking he is already fastening the burdens of the post-war global dictatorship upon the American workers’ backs. Will the workers stand for it?

There is a REASONABLE CHANCE that they will not – fe that they will fight like hell for their unions, their social gains, a living wage, against the heavy taxation that will be their post-war lot, for jobs for the unemployed, and so on. Under post-war conditions, these fights, these strikes, must necessarily assume not only a political character – that is, against the capitalist system – but also an international character.

Our San Francisco friend is worried that today he cannot persuade his union to his point of view. He says: “A worker who sought to speak the truth about this war would hardly get his mouth set for the words before he’d be pounced on from a dozen sides.” What of it? Today he can open his mouth on union issues, on the folly of the no-strike pledge. Tomorrow he may be able to persuade his union about the necessity for independent political action. And if he himself is not around to issue the call for social revolution, he can be sure that the era we live in will make that call compelling.

The Working Class Can Win the Fight

Will this fight be lost?

Many workers ask this question with Russia in mind. The 1917 Revolution has not brought socialism to Russia, but a new exploiting class ruling through a barbarous dictatorship. Again let me make a comparison with something very easy to grasp.

Suppose a country doctor is called to a patient and finds it imperative to perform an emergency operation in a farm house, without proper antiseptic conditions, without a nurse, without an anesthetist, without the full range of instruments for drainage of pus, etc., etc. The operation itself is successful, but later an infection sets in, necessitating another operation. Let us hope this time the patient can be removed to a modern hospital and the operation performed under favorable conditions.

Did the development of the infection prove that the cause of surgery is lost? No more does the counter-revolution in Russia prove that the cause of socialism is lost. Stalinism is the infection produced by the “farm house” conditions of the Russia in which the first socialist revolution took place – and because the Russian people got no revolutionary support from the workers of the more advanced countries of the West, just as the isolated country doctor got no assistance from the outside.

Yes, the infection of Stalinism necessitates another operation – another revolution. But this time the conditions will be better for success, because the overthrow of Stalin will be part of the European revolution as a whole. The working people of all Europe together will be fighting for a socialist federation of their countries – so that the backward and the most advanced will merge their resources.

What about us here in the USA? American capitalism looks huskier every day – with its tremendous plants, its pile of gold, and now its intimidating array of air, naval and military strength. What can the American working class do against this powerful fortress of entrenched wealth?

What, indeed, but the simplest, most natural thing in the world – just step out from under the capitalist fortress – WHICH IS SUSTAINED BY LABOR!

Workers have learned from their own strikes and sit-downs the elementary lesson that those tremendous plants are useless without them. The accumulated wealth of the capitalist class is wealth the workers produced but never got. The military strength of this country is the sum total of war material produced by labor and of soldiers, sailors, marines and flyers stemming mainly from the working people. Let the working class merely decide to use its labor and life for a better purpose than to sustain this capitalist fortress – and socialism will have that “reasonable chance” our reader is worrying about.

There is, of course, the question of leadership. Who will form the necessary vanguard? A political party is necessary to give force and direction to the struggle to mobilize the most advanced sections of the working class.

The Stalinists are tools of the Kremlin who exploit their connections with labor to carry out Stalin’s fluctuating international policies. The top union leadership is sold on capitalism and ties organized labor to a policy of class collaboration.

There remain the WORKERS PARTY, the supporters of Labor Action, a handful of true revolutionaries in other organizations – and the thousands of advanced and militant workers who, like our San Francisco reader, are or will be “in substantial agreement.” Out of this grouping will be built a WORKERS PARTY that will combine clarity of socialist program with the size of a mass organization and the proportions of working class leadership.

But not by worrying about being martyrs, about putting our necks “on the chopping block,” as our San Francisco reader expressed it. If we keep our heads and courage in our hearts, we can weld a revolutionary party of class-conscious, disciplined, purposeful militants for whom “socialism in our time” will be a realistic slogan with a very, very “reasonable chance” of success. And we recommend to our San Francisco reader that, as a first step, he join the Workers Party.

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