1910s >> 1919 >> no-184-december-1919

Outlook For Socialism In America

Since last writing these notes three conventions have been held in Chicago (Sept. 1-7), and the dyed-in-the-wool social reformers and opportunists have remained in the Socialist Party of America. The great bulk of the delegates, however, formed the Communist Party. This is composed to the extent of about 75 per cent. of foreign-speaking federations, Russians predominating. They adopted a program and manifesto slavishly imitating that of the Moscow Bolshevist Conference in 1919. It is based on the idea that capitalism has collapsed and that now we are in a revolutionary crisis. Mass Action is therefore advocated, and it means the spontaneous instinctive rising of workers, organised or not. It is insurrection doomed to failure. The platform also stands for Industrial Unionism without specifying any organisation supporting it. Educating the workers in Socialism is ignored, and we are told “now is the time for action.” The program and manifesto are written in a language all their own, and as far as the average worker is concerned it might as well be written in ancient Greek.

The “left wing” element split, part going with the Russians and forming the Communist Party, another part joining together under the name of the Communist Labor Party, whose strength is mostly drawn from the West. This party contains confusion enough for a dozen parties—reformers and Bolsheviks side by side with avowed I.W.W.s and Nationalists. The leading spirits are Jim Larkin, the supporter of a Labour Party for America, Jack Carney, late of the London Daily Herald League, John Reed, the Bolshevik envoy who never acted, Max Eastman, pacifist and dilettante utopian. Later these two parties may unite, as both of them are but echoes of the Bolshevik movement, however little they understand its significance. The Communist Labor Party endorses the I.W.W. and is Syndicalist in tendency.

The combined activity of these two parties is having little more effect than causing police raids and arrests, and making it harder to hold meetings and conduct educational work.

Apart from these groups there is growing, slowly but surely, a number of groups throughout the country holding to the Marxian position. Study of the classics of Socialism combined with reading the Socialist Standard and the work of those who have been connected with the Socialist Party of Great Britain, are large factors in the Marxian movement here. The “Proletarian,” a monthly of Detroit, promoted by the Proletarian University, has been doing good work, but some of the elements associated with it are not yet fully conscious of the correct policy for the workers. The delegates of the Michigan State worked together with Russian Federations to organise the Communist Party, but found themselves in a hopeless minority. Michigan’s platform and policy drawn up specially for presentation as the basis of the new party was superior to that of the Russians, which was adopted. The Michigan platform, however, was a mixture of excerpts from Bolshevik manifestoes, Industrial Unionism, etc., which fitted in strangely with the Marxian ideas also inserted. These confusing ideas were a concession to the Russians and the Mass Action element of Louis Fraina and his satellites. If the Michigan delegates had kept to the former and fairly clear position long since conciated with the “Proletarian” the chances for a new party here would be brighter.

The Socialist Party of the United States was formed in 1916 in Detroit from a group of comrades who seceded from the Socialist Party of America together with some members of the Socialist Party of Canada and the Socialist Party of North America. They afterwards took the name of the Worker’s Socialist Party of U.S. They promoted lectures and study classes, and conducted much educational work, but lack of preparation outside the motor city hampered their activities, and the entry of America into the war drove the most active workers to distant parts of this and other lands doing “war” work.

When the Michigan State of the S.P. of A. showed signs of becoming Socialist and was expelled, many of the remaining members joined the expelled S.P. and looked forward to seeing a real party at last! Proletarian or Marxian clubs have been formed in New York City, Cleveland, Portland (Oregon), and San Francisco, and intensive educational work is going on which may result soon in the secession of the Marxian minority element from the Communists and their linking up with others in the building of a Socialist Party on sound lines. At present persistent criticism and education of the best elements is the road ahead.

Great strikes are the order of the day here as elsewhere. Judge Gary, the head of the Steel Trust, has driven the steel workers to strike and refuses to allow them to organise or arbitrate. These are the men who worked night and day to make the steel to win the war. The strike is gradually dying under the influence of armed force and hunger. This is a A.F. of L. strike as the steel workers have only just been organised and the organiser of the strike is a Syndicalist, William Z. Foster.

The Workers’ International Industrial Union is progressing—backwards. It adopted a resolution, demanding Irish self-government, which is full of national sentiment, and another resolution advocating steps being taken to secure unity between the W.I.I.U. and the I.W.W. Such is the clarity of our De Leonites !

William D. Haywood has been released on bail from prison pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. He at once gave the Associated Press the following statement (July 28, 1919):

This is strictly in line with their tactics at the trial, when they tried to show their loyalty by producing soldier members as witnesses.

The Non-Partisan League in the North West is growing amongst the farmers and so-called Radicals. Many prominent S.P. men have joined it to get the pickings in the way of fat jobs. Arthur LeSueur and Walter Thos. Mills are two ex-members of the S.P. Executive who have secured plums and are touring for the league in the two Dakotas, Montana, etc. This body promotes reform agitation of an agrarian kind, especially amongst the farmers and their slaves. It has a program of capitalist reforms, and owing to pacifist and Syndicalist tendencies it has many supporters among the I.W.W. and so-called Socialists. It has many members elected to State legislatures.

The present position of the S.L.P. of A. reminds one of Huxley’s picture of the prospects of the Catholic Church, once so fair, now facing disaster. The lowest ebb that has ever been reached in its career was recorded recently when practically all its prominent members sailed out into other fields. Edmund Seidel, the Editor of the “Weekly People,” was expelled and is now the candidate for New York for the rotten S.P. of A. Rudolph Katz, author of “With De Leon since ’91,” and an official of the I.W.W, was expelled after nearly 30 years in the S.L.P. Like Siedel he began to flirt with the S.P. as he thoughtlessly imitated, the unity craze of the S.L.P. The Presidential Candidate of the S.L.P. at the last election (1916), Arthur E. Reimer, resigned as he thought the war might have a democratic tinge and he no longer believed Industrial Unionism was essential. The Vice-Presidential candidate, Caleb Harrison, was expelled, and the Chicago Local were expelled because they would not expel Harrison —Harrison was a delegate to the spurious Communist Labour Party. The Philadelphia Local was dissolved, also New York City, and had to be re-organised as Industrial Unionism mixed up with Socialism causes gymnastics and ideas fruitful of confusion.

Not satisfied with repeating De Leon’s nonsense about religion being a private matter against Marx’s idea that it was the “opium of the people,” the S.L.P. and the W.I.I.U. are discovering fresh “facts.” Verily, as Marx says in the “Eighteenth Brumaire,” man makes history, at least, the S.L.P. man does, and makes his facts as he goes along. The “First of May Magazine,” issued by the W.I.I.U., tells us in an article on Marxism and De Leonism:

“Great as the achievement of the system of Marx is, it nevertheless contains a serious flaw or defect, which if left unnoticed would have caused considerable disorder and chaos in the ranks of the working class. In fact, it already in the past was a great source of mischief and confusion, and would have inevitably led the movement into disaster, if not in time noticed and rectified by the great American thinker, Daniel de Leon. De Leon has supplemented, or rather complemented Marxism; he has, so to speak, re-enforced this wonderful theoretic structure.”

And later we are told :

  “It is the HOW of the revolution, the HOW of the transformation, the HOW of the collapse of Capitalism that Marx fails to supply an adequate answer to and the solution of which we are indebted to De Leon.”

Such is the dementia produced by Industrial Unionism. Previously they used to argue that Marx supported Industrial Unionism, and they invented imaginary conversations Marx “had” with imaginary people in the land of Nod, to prove their point. But they now find Marx was wrong—only a De Leon could discover the “value” of organising a revolutionary union without revolutionists to take and hold that which the armed forces will keep from them.

Truly the S.L.P. and W.I.I.U. are for weakly people.

Adolph Kohn

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