Max Shachtman

The New Rift in the Lovestone Group
– and the New Party

(November 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 51, 11 November 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

After having been slain so often, the very much alive flesh and blood specter of “Trotskyism” has risen again to disturb the equanimity of the Lovestone group. A call has been issued for a national conference next month, and the current issue of the Workers Age prints a discussion supplement in which are published the statement of the majority On the ‘New’ Party and Trotskyism, and the minority statement by Zam For a New Perspective for Our Group. The dispute is the second one in a year to wrack the frail body of the American Right wing, and the latest one promises to have even more far-reaching consequences than the one which preceded it.

That the discussion should revolve around the recent German events and the problem of a new Communist party and international arising out of them, is already highly significant. In the first place, it is a warning revelation of how the overwhelming pressure of international (the so-called “foreign”) questions inexorably crushes every futile attempt to establish a revolutionary organization and policy on purely “American” issues (whatever they may be!). In the second place, it again attests the fact that the regenerated Communist movement will and can come into existence primarily on the basis of the position taken towards the August 4th of Stalinism; its capitulation to Fascism in Germany. And not as an isolated instance, or an episodic incident, but as the crowning point of ten years of policies which have converted the Communist International from the general staff of the world revolution, into a brake on the world revolution operated by the omnipotent Stalin secretariat.

The attitude to be taken to the problem referred to has already aroused stormy discussions in most sections of the radical labor movement of Europe. However contented conservative officials may be with the way matters have gone up to now, however reluctant they may be to engage in a discussion of the problem of the new International which is now posed as imperiously as it was after August 4, 1914, the discussion is nevertheless forcing its way into the pores of one organization after another. Not even the Lovestone group is exempt from this penetration. And if the official Stalinist parties will be among the last to reveal an open concern with the problem and to bring forward a sector which will contribute serious forces to the new movement, it is not because they enjoy any organic immunity from it, but only because the molecular processes of differentiation already at work have not yet gained sufficient strength to break the momentarily effective stranglehold with which the bureaucracy is throttling all criticism and progress.

The Lovestone group suffered a blow several months ago when the group supporting the views of Gitlow – which has now taken a favorable position towards the slogan of a new Communist party and international – broke away from it. The new internal struggle is an echo and a continuation of that rupture. The statement of H. Zam, the official and solitary representative of the minority on the National Committee, declares for a new Communist party in the United States and in every other capitalist country, that is, for a new Communist International outside of the Soviet Union and exclusive of any Russian section. Zam’s membership on the National Committee facilitates for the time being his role as official representative of the new current, although the genuinely progressive tendency in the Lovestone group does not and cannot find in him anything more than a fortuitous and unauthentic spokesman. But although truer voices will speak out tomorrow, it is the two “official” currents which concern us at present, the official statements in the discussion supplement of the Age.

Let us first examine the declaration of the Committee majority.

The Lovestone document – interspersed with the customary falsehoods, inventions, distortions about the “Trotskyites” – proceeds from the idea that no new course is needed for the simple reason that no change has taken place in the situation. The sole criticism that Lovestone musters up boldness enough to make of the disastrous course of Stalinism in the German sitviation, is contained in the weasel words about “its failure to apply effective tactics to realize its correct Communist principles and aims”. Nothing more!

The fact that the Communist party was deliberately prohibited by its own and the Moscow bureaucracy from effecting that elementary, obviously imperative and obviously correct united front which would have crushed Fascism before it came to power; the fact that the Fascists were allowed to come into power and to consolidate it without the Communist party lifting a finger to organize the slightest resistance to them; the fact that the last of the parties in the Comintern that retained a mass basis up to then now lies crushed, bleeding from a thousand fatal wounds, completely incapacitated – that is, has collapsed; the fact that the catastrophic course which rendered this outcome inevitable has been officially canonized by the Comintern and all its sections without the slightest attempt at self-criticism or revaluation; these facts and dozens of others which proclaim from the housetops the collapse of the Communist International – are blithely dismissed with the observation that, although they had correct Communist principles (the nationalistic dogma of socialism in one country!) and aims (the “people’s revolution” and the “national” emancipation of Germany!), the Stalinists were not so effective with their tactics. Here you have revived the theory that if the monarch lost both battle and kingdom, it was only for want of a horse-shoe nail. The story was plausible and amusing in kindergarten books. In the present case, it is nothing less than a despicable attempt at whitewashing the Stalinist criminals who are responsible for the tragedy of the German proletariat and, implicitly, their discharged Right wing flunkies who seek re-hiring.

Genuine Opposition to Fascism

The Stalinists in Germany have not had their August 4th, argues the thesis. “No one can doubt the sincerity and genuineness of the official C.P.G.’s opposition to Fascism at any stage of development,” it declares. There is no way, however, of measuring sincerity in politics. There is no such thing as a “sincerometer”, as Lenin once told Serrati, nor is there a need for one in politics. Sincerity does not weigh decisively on the scales of the class struggle, and what is important is not an instrument to measure it (and there is none), but an instrument with which to take the measure of political tendencies, of programs, of actions. That instrument is Marxism.

No sincerer opponent to the imperialist war ever lived than Eugene Debs. He was however debased to the function of window-dressing for the party which represented in this country the International of capitulation and betrayal. In his day, there were not a few rogues who sought to conceal their own shame and criminal record under his untarnished mantle, just as years later the Italian social democrats who paved the way for Mussolini hid behind the coffin of the immortal Matteotti. This revolting practise does not become one whit more alluring when the Stalinist bureaucracy and its Right wing attorneys take refuge behind the magnificent conduct of Dimitrov at Leipzig and Berlin or demagogic references to the thousands of party militants prostrate under the heel of Fascism. What is decisive is not the heroism of Matteotti; it is not the superb courage of the martyrs to fascism who are now in its docks and concentration camps. What counts is the systematically fatal policy of Stalinism which led to the situation where Torgler is in the docks instead of Hitler, where the Communists and Socialists are imprisoned instead of the mad dogs of reaction!

The “Existence” of the German C.P

“The C.P.G. certainly exists although greatly reduced in numbers, and still includes in its ranks some of the most advanced and most courageous class conscious workers of Germany, an essential element for the reconstruction of the C.P.G.”

Upon this fact, says Lovestone, “any realistic policy in Germany must be based”.

A fact it certainly is, but it is not upon that that the policy must be based. In 1917, and 1918, the same and more could have been said about the American Socialist Party. Hundreds of its militants were imprisoned by the Wilson regime, its papers suppressed, its meetings prohibited. Yet the proletarian revolutionists declared that the old party no longer sufficed – a new one had to be built. The old party, its program, its bureaucracy, had failed to meet the test of the war, to learn the lessons of the collapse of the Second International and to absorb the teachings of the Russian revolution. The Communists of that day did not (Lovestone deliberately attributes such a stupid attitude to us today) thereupon give up hope of winning over the “most advanced mid most courageous class conscious workers” in the Socialist parties. Quite the contrary. They set themselves that task and accomplished it with varying success, winning over the majority in some cases. But this was nowhere done on the basis of continuing with the attempt of “reforming” what was beyond reform, but of building up new and independent Communist parties.

When Lenin in 1914, and the Comintern in 1919, declared that the Second International was dead, the Lovestones of that day made the clever retort that there were hundreds of thousands and even millions of workers still in the ranks of the social democracy, which as a matter of fact even experienced a period of growth after the world war, without bringing the Second International to life again. But as is known to most six-year olds, it was never a question of the physical existence of the Second International. It died on August 4th as a revolutionary or progressive force. It was on that historic day that the progressive function it had fulfilled in the two preceding decades – the function of breaking the proletariat away from the bourgeoisie and organizing it into independent mass working class parties – came to a dead stop. The possibilities for progress within the framework of the old International were completely exhausted and a new one had to be built on different foundations.

1914 and 1933

The collapse of 1914 and the collapse of 1933 have this in common essentially: the possibilities for progress, for reform of the Stalintern have now proved to be completely exhausted. Just as the collapse 39 years ago was the expression of the socialist bureaucracy’s attempt to save its own hide and its organizational base at the expense of the interests of the proletariat, so the collapse today expresses the Stalinist surrender of the interests of the German proletariat, of the world revolution, in order to preserve the interests of the reactionary bureaucratic caste which has usurped the Soviet state apparatus and which counterposes the building of socialism in Russia to the extension of the revolution on a world scale. Therein lies the August 4th of the International today.

It is not hopeless, insists Lovestone: “The official Communist party is today more accessible than ever to the influence of the Opposition struggle carried on by our group.” Precisely so did the Kautskys and other Centrists argue against Lenin and the Bolsheviks in the formative period of the Comintern. Lovestone has here dislocated the subject and the object, for the sentence should read: “The Lovestone group is today more accessible than ever to the influence of the Stalinist party.” When the apologists for social patriotism out. side the ranks of the Second International clamored loudest that the old socialist parties were on the verse of succumbing to their influence, of being won over to “revolutionary” Kautskyanism – the noise served only to cover up the retreat of the Centrists into the camp of the social patriots. If Lovestone is painting up the Stalinist parties to make them look pretty and robust, rejuvenated instead of sterile, it is only with a view to the approaching return of the Right wing to them.

What Lovestone writes about the relationship between the German events and the Comintern, or between them and the C.P.S.U., in his anonymous polemic against Zam, is quite correct, even if it deals a stiff blow to the whole body of dogma erected to justify the queer policy of international Brandlerism. In defense of this policy, Braudlerism has contended that while Stalinism is more than capable of pursuing a wrong policy in the capitalist countries, it is capable of pursuing only a correct policy in the U.S.S.R., where it is historically necessary, justified and irreplaceable. Now Lovestone argues from exactly the opposite the standpoint: if new Communist parties are to be built in Germany and the rest of the capitalist world, “very obviously, this means a ‘new’ party in the Soviet Union” because “the C.P.S.U. and the C.I. ... are at least as responsible for this (the German) course as the C.P.G. leadership itself”.

A Brandlerist Contradiction

This is quite correct, even if it does not constitute the only reason why a new Communist party must be formed in the Soviet Union. But how is such a line of reasoning to jibe with the previous Brandlerist philosophy according to which Stalinism in Russia was an entity by itself, separate and apart from Stalinism in the capitalist world? That Stalinism had to be defended in Russia regardless of what criticisms or attacks were made upon it elsewhere? That in a capitalist country independent “Communist parties” (Alsace, Sweden) were permissible provided they condoned the Stalinist robbery of the Russian party’s independence? The philosophy is simply ignored – not, god forbid! because it has been discarded by the Brandlerites, but pardoxically enough because in this particular instance a pseudo-internationalist universality is needed by Lovestone & Co. for his unaltered defense of Stalin’s security in the national apparatus.

The nationalist philistinism of the Lovestone position sticks out like a swollen thumb in his rejection of the new party for the United States.

“Neither political nor organizational relations in the revolutionary movement of this country have changed materially in the last period of time ... To urge the formation of a new party in the U.S.A. on the basis primarily of alleged changes in the Communist movement in Germany, as do both the Trotskyites and others (that tells Zam where he belongs! – S.), discloses a hopeless divorce from the actualities of the labor movement and class relations in the United States.”

How genuine and touching a tribute to the spirit of the late Morris Hillquit! It will be remembered how the recently deceased fulminated against the Left wingers in, his party in 1919 because they wanted to build a new party and discard the old “on the basis primarily of alleged changes” produced by the equally alleged Russian revolution, and not on the basis of “the actualities of the labor movement and class relations in the United States”. Hillquit wrote more gracefully and persuasively; otherwise the arguments are identical, equally reactionary and intentionally misleading.

Culmination of Ten Years

The Left wing demanded a Communist party in 1919 not simply because “something” had happened in Germany in 1914 or in Russia in 1917, but because August 4th had sealed the fate of the Second International, its program, its philosophy, its tactics and because November 7th had verified the need of a new international, introduced a new program and new tactics of world wide applicability. We propose today a new International and new Communist party not because a little slip was “sincerely and genuinely” made in Germany, but because the German events mark the culmination of ten years of Stalinist revisionism, because the old Comintern has collapsed, because it was shipwrecked after the bureaucracy threw overboard its revolutionary internationalist ballast, sails, rudder, helmsmen: because the German events were the outcome of ten years of the dismemberment of the body of Leninist ideas put into the foundation stones of the International, ten years of socialism in one country, of repudiation of socialist intervention, of capitulation to the petty bourgeoisie, of objective aid in the preservation of the discredited social democracy, of “social Fascism” and the united from from below, of strangling the Chinese revolution and the British revolutionary movement, of poisoning the ideological wellsprings of the Communist parties, of corruption, degeneracy and usurpation, of enormously enhancing the dangers to the Soviet republic, of systematically crushing the vanguard movement and reducing the International to a foreign agency of the Soviet bureaucracy.

It is not we who are hopelessly divorced from actualities, but the Lovestones who are hopelessly fascinated and in love with the prospect of being graciously permitted to trawl back to the antechamber of the Stalinist chancelleries. In a deeper sense than is generally recognized – there lies the difference between us. That is why Lovestone continues to prop up the collapsing structure of Stalinism by means of specious argument and falsification.

Shachtman button
Max Shachtman
Marx button
Marxist Writers’

Last updated on 5 January 2016