A Challenge to the Socialist Party of America

[As our American comrades, the Workers’ Socialist Party, have no journal of their own, they have asked us to publish the following statement. We are willing to allow reasonable space for a reply by the Socialist Party of America.— Ed. Comm.]

In every capitalist country there are organisations that call themselves Socialist and claim to stand in the interests of the working class, while their activity consists in misrepresenting Socialist teachings, distorting Marxism, and generally seeking to keep the workers’ attention focussed on any or everything but their real interest, the attainment of Socialism. The Labour Party in England is an example; their would-be imitator in the United States, the so-called Socialist Party of America, is another, amongst many others. Innumerable instances have been quoted in the Socialist Standard giving evidence of the unsound and treacherous nature of these Parties. Below is presented a further example of how such organisations make their sly attacks on the Socialist movement, and how they hedge and evade when brought to task by Socialists.

James Oneal, editor of The New Leader (New York), an official publication of the Socialist Party of America, wrote an article in his paper in which he misrepresented the Workers’ Socialist Party; whose Executive Committee thereupon sent a reply (appended below) asking for publication in The New Leader. We considered this to be no extraordinary request, more especially in the light of the following occurrence:

A news item recently appeared in the New York World-Telegram, which is an open supporter of capitalism, telling of internal controversy in the S.P. of A., pointing out a split between two of their “leaders” and their respective factions over their trade union policy. One of their members wrote to the capitalist sheet, setting forth his claim that the reporter had erred. Incidentally, this letter, signed by another S.P. of A. “leader,” Julius Gerber, contains the admission:

   “The Socialist Party permits its members the widest latitude of opinion and expression, and Mr. Thomas, differing with the majority, not only of the national executive committee but of the membership of the party, has a right to hold and express his opinion.”

We submit that the sentence quoted bears out in full all that we claimed against the S.P. of A. in our letter to The New Leader. The New York World-Telegram printed Gerber’s letter within five days. We thought the “Socialist” paper, which claims to be interested in all the problems of the working class, would show at least as much courtesy.

Our letter to The New Leader follows: —

Letter of the Workers’ Socialist Party to the Socialist Party of America.To the Editor, January 13th, 1933.

New Leader,                             7E, 15th Street,
New York, N.Y.

Dear Sir,

   Under instructions from the Executive Committee of the Workers’ Socialist Party, I am sending you the enclosed letter, which concerns itself with an article, signed by yourself, which appeared in the New Leader of January 7th, 1933.
In our estimation, your article contained an error, which should be corrected through the same medium in which it was made. Therefore, as a matter of courtesy to us—and the facts—will you please publish the enclosed in the New Leader at your earliest opportunity?
Yours truly,
(Signed) Scott Frampton,
National Secretary.

“To the Editor, New Leader, 7, E. 15th St.,
New York, N.Y.

“Dear Sir:

“Mr. James Oneal’s musical number, ‘The Chorus of Chaos,’ in the New Leader of January 7th, 1933, very carelessly includes the Workers’ Socialist Party in a list of what Oneal designates as Socialist organisations. The accurate heading for his inventory is ‘Organisations that advocate use of the ballot.’ Only one of the groups listed can successfully maintain its claim to be Socialist: that is the Workers’ Socialist Party. The others may bear labels, but it can be easily demonstrated —by a Socialist—that they are all not only not Socialist, but anti-Socialist and anti-working-class. It is worthy of note that Oneal considers his own Party, the so-called Socialist Party of America, a member of the Chorus of Chaos. The Workers’ Socialist Party declines the nomination, and maintains itself to be the only Socialist Party in the United States.

“Says Mr. Oneal, anent the groups listed by him, ‘ . . . let them endeavour to formulate a fundamental programme and philosophy and they will find some difficulties,’ the inference being that none of the groups have a fundamental programme. The Workers’ Socialist Party refusing to be included, this inference is correct for the remaining organisations.

“Mr. Oneal writes : ‘If we could get representatives of the whole twenty groups into an orchestra, what a symphony this amalgam of communism, syndicalism, parlour bolshevism, socialism, impossibilism, opportunism, liberalism, progressiveness, intellectualism, technocracy, radicalism and agrarianism would be! ’ Why the ‘If’ ?


“Let us give ear to Mr. Hillquit for a moment. He felt it necessary lately to call upon the ‘Socialist Party of America’ to ‘determine fundamental questions of Socialist principles . . .’ (The American Socialist Quarterly, April, 1932). After a third of a century of its existence he admits his Party does not yet know the fundamental principles of Socialism. Says he (same place) ‘It must appear before the people with a clear-cut, convincing and aggressive programme and a consistent and harmonious social arid political philosophy. And it is on this point that our Party is somewhat weak.’


“On this point, as well as on fundamentals, the Workers’ Socialist—Party is clear and Socialist. It holds—


” ‘That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e., land, factories, railroads, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class by whose labour alone all wealth is produced. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess. That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.’ Furthermore, there is no confusion of the issue by a clutter of prescriptions of social paragoric reform ‘demands.’ Of course, the clear-cut Socialist programme does not attract non-Socialist support. Mr. Hillquit knows this.


“Hillquit had this in mind at the New York City convention of his Party, January 16th and 17th, 1932, when he was voicing his opposition to the proposal to restore the reference to the class struggle to the application card. ‘He felt that 75 per cent. of new members signing the blank would not know what the class struggle meant.’ (New Leader, February 6th, 1932.) Evidence is at hand that they would be unable to find its meaning, after signing, within the ‘Socialist’ Party of America. At their convention in May, 1932, Hillquit explained this in part, as follows:


” ‘There is opposition to me because I represent working classes, Marxian Socialism as against three other trends which have appeared in our party,’ Mr. Hillquit declared. ‘One of these trends is the militant group, a well-meaning, immature movement that will eventually settle down but is at yet untamed and dangerous. Then there is the movement of extreme opportunism, appealing to intellectuals and college men. Then, thirdly, there is the practical, ‘get-something- to-day’ school of socialism; get control of a city and show the people a good sewer system as an achievement. That is not my type of socialism, and to-day all these factions are in unholy alliance against me.’ (Herald-Tribune, May 24th, 1932.)


“Thus a ‘leader’ agonised. In contrast, the Workers’ Socialist Party declares that the emancipation of the working class ‘must be the work of the working class itself.’ But then, we are not a member of Mr. Oneal’s orchestra.
“At this same convention (see report quoted) ‘Charges of Ku-Klukism in the party, anti-Semitism and sectional bitterness were hurled by supporters of Mr. Hillquit in more than three hours of furious debate. Mayor Hoan’s backers pleaded for a party more popular and practical, one not fashioned along the lines of doctrinaire Marxism.’ j
“The Workers* Socialist Party declares that ‘. . . the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.’ But then we are not angling for politically ignorant votes for Milwaukee, office-holders.


“We could go on almost indefinitely, covering the whole history of the ‘Socialist’ Party of America, showing that its aim is not socialism, that it is not made up of Socialists—in fact, a Socialist would not even apply for admission. The New Leader columnist, S. A. de Witt, put it nicely: ‘And we simply just cannot go on much further along the line of opportunistic social reform, and still keep our identity as Socialists.’ (New Leader, Aug. 30th, 1930.) ‘Identity as Socialists,’ indeed! amongst a pack of pedlars of every imaginable half-baked quack nostrum, from early Christianity, through advocacy of the capital levy, and to ‘controlled’ inflation, pleading to help the capitalist dunderheads to monkey with the currency, and weeping to the workers what a whacking they will suffer if the inflation does take place! (Thomas’s column in the New Leader, June 25th, 1932.) Out of their own mouths they stand condemned of having no claim to call themselves Socialist. They are the ‘orchestra’ that Mr. Oneal suggests; but that they make a symphony playing all those old, worn-out reform tunes of capitalist composition— really, that would be carrying the simile a little too far.


“On the other hand, Mr. Oneal could easily have informed himself of the fundamental programme of the Workers’ Socialist Party; it appears in the form of a brief, but sufficient, Object and Declaration of Principles,  on every piece of literature that Party distributes. He can find it on the back cover page of the Socialist Standard, to be had at the Rand School bookstore. We have quoted it, in part, above. This programme is the one clear note that Mr. Oneal’s unmusical (that is, un-Socialist) ear failed to distinguish above the clash and clatter of his Chaotic Chorus, the so-called Socialist Party of America.”

The Executive Committee.
Workers Socialist Party of the United States.

The Socialist Party of America Refuses Publication

In the New Leader of January 21st appeared this reply: —

  We have received from Scott Frampton, national Secretary of the Workers’ Socialist Party, nearly five pages disagreeing with the item in the New Leader of January 7th, entitled “The Chorus of Chaos.” The letter presents the case for the Workers’Socialist Party, which “maintains itself to be the only Socialist Party in the United States.”
We have a high respect for the devotion of this group to education in fundamentals of Socialist philosophy, but we submit that the sentence we quote above justifies the caption we gave to our item. The claim of the Workers’ Socialist Party is the claim of the S.L.P., the Socialist Party, the Communists and others, and these mutually conflicting claims constitute a “chorus of chaos.” The letter of Comrade Frampton enumerates the reasons for the claim his party makes.
We have no desire to open our columns to a general debate between the organisations we mentioned regarding the respective claims of each. Our statement was a general one. It did not single out the Workers’ Socialist Party, nor did it exclude the Socialist Party.
If there is to be a debate on this theme, the New Leader is content to call attention to the theme, but not to provide the forum for discussing the merits of the various organisations.

Their last paragraph can only mean that they are ‘content’ to attack the Workers’ Socialist Party, but refuse to discuss the matter. The reason for this is dear. There are workers, now members of the S.P. of A., who are honestly and sincerely anxious to find out about Socialism. The leaders dare not face a discussion in their press with Socialists; they know how easily we can demonstrate their anti-Socialist character, and that they, would lose members as a result. They also know that the ‘claim of the Workers’ Socialist Party’ is NOT ‘the claim of the S.L.P.’ S.P. of A., etc. The S.P. of A. is the result of a split in the S.L.P., more than thirty years ago, because of that party’s unsound, un-Socialist make-up, its ‘chorus of chaos.’ The ‘Communist’ Party is the result of a split in the S.P. of A. for the same reason. And the ‘chorus of chaos’ is not made up of  ‘these mutually conflicting claims,’ but is exactly what we showed it is in our letter to the New Leader.
To say that the Workers’ Socialist Party was not singled out is weak. The inclusion of Socialists in with a mess of anti-Socialists is nothing else but ‘singling out’; it is an attack. This same New Leader, of January 21st, claims editorially, that ‘ . . . this evident desire for thorough knowledge of Socialist principles is welcome.’ We insist that if they mean welcome to the S.P. of A. ‘ leaders,’ then they would have taken up our challenge and thrashed the matter out for the benefit of all those workers who read the New Leader. But evidently they are content to remain the anti-Socialist Party of America.
The National Executive Committee of the Workers’ Socialist Party (U.S.A.), 
per Scott Frampton, Nat. Secretary