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T. Stamm

Party May Day Conference Reveals
Inner Dispute on United Front Policy

(April 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 21, 1 April 1933, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Five hundred and thirty delegates from one hundred and sixteen organizations gathered to constitute the New York United Front May Day Conference, on Sunday, March 19th. For the most part they were the same delegates who make up all the party united front masquerades hereabouts. Its breadth can be seen from the credentials committee report: four AF of L unions were represented by six delegates; there were no representatives from the Socialist party or YPSL.

The proceedings were the usual six-cyclinder, Stalinist machine affair. In last Sunday’s dull routine points of great importance for the movement as a whole stood out and must become known to our movement.

Hathaway made the report. His speech was marked by the utmost confusion on the question of Fascism in Germany and the fight against it. According to him, the danger of war has become more acute since Hitler’s accession to power, not because the inevitable development of a triumphant Fascism makes it the spearhead of the imperialist intervention of the USSR – according to Hathaway; the danger lies in Hitler’s attempt to organize an anti-Versailles bloc to recapture the territory of Germany lost to the Allied power’s.

Hathaway’s analysis of the perspectives of German Fascism were the last word in confusion. He foretold its mechanical collapse! Italian Fascism, said he, improved the conditions of the masses because it came to power in the upward curve of the economic conjuncture! But Hitler has come to power in the period of the downward curve! The workers will become quickly disillusioned with Hitler’s bankrupt program and the German Communist Party will continue the struggle against Hitler, taking advantage of his every failure to fulfill his demagogic promises!

But Hathaway surprised us mightily when he spoke on the question of broadening the conference and the united front. We thought he was reading from the Militant! To be sure, his speech on this point does not settle the question. He and his fellow-bureaucrats remain today the same Centrists there were yesterday and the day before. It is not excluded that, under the pressure of events, the C.I. turn and the criticism of the Left Opposition, they may, for a time, make an effort to carry out a correct united front policy. But even in this case, in view of the past, and the dubious circumstances surrounding the new half-turn, it will require more than occasional speeches to prove that a turn is being made in reality. That is in the best case.

How far the party is from a genuine turn can be seen from what followed. Wagenknecht, in the discussion following Hathaway’s report, spoke for the united front from below. In the discussion both points of view found supporters. This can mean only that the utmost unclarity and possible dispute exists in the party on the united front question, which became obvious some time ago – and it is breaking out into the open. This was to be seen in the discussion between Nessin and Winter in the session of the Mooney Conference Organization Committee reported elsewhere in this issue. It was to be seen again in the discussion between these two faces of the Stalinist Janus which took place in the resolutions committee of the May Day Conference.

Here, again, as in the Mooney Committee session, Nessin leans far to the Right. Winter’s position is not as clear. He appeals to stand half-way between the ultra-Leftist position of yesterday and the Right wing position of Nessin. No doubt further developments will make the picture clearer.

In the days when the Left Opposition was hammering on the gates of the Stalinist, conferences organized under the ultra-Leftist sign of the united front from below the difference between our position on the united front question and the Lovestonite position was not as clear to the Communist workers as a whole as it is becoming today. This great advantage for us is an indirect result of the party’s half turn on the united front question.

Heretofore, we had to fight for admission to the conference. That is how we won the respect of the party membership.

Today we are all seated. We utilize the opportunity and the beginnings of worker’s democracy accorded the Left Opposition to explain our conception of the united front, to elucidate our policy of face to the party, and to throw our weight into the scale to broaden en the conference from the point of view of strengthening Communism. The Lovestoneites pursue a different policy. They fill their conception of the united front with a content manifestly hostile to the party and sympathetic to the social democracy. As a result, they antagonize the conferences they attend. In this negative way. they differentiate themselves from us and help us make clearer the differences on this point among the three wings in the Communist movement.

The resolutions adopted by the conference were not satisfactory. The main resolution on May Day gave a false perspective of the war danger; it was Hathaway’s. The Resolutions Committee voted down our motions to include demands for the six hour day and long term credits for the Soviet Uinon. The latter demand was simply ignored. In rejecting the first Winter explained that we have to distinguish our demands from those of the demagogic AF of L leadership! The special resolution on Fascism avoided most of the errors of Hathaway’s speech but was an abstract protest. The Committee rejected our proposal to demand a united front of all working class organizations in Germany against Fascism.

The conference decided to issue an open letter to the Socialist party and A.F. of L. inviting them to participate in the organization of one united May Day demonstration. The conference agreed to allow all organizations participating in the demonstrations to march under their own banners. Hundreds of thousands of leaflets will be printed calling on all workers and workers’ organizations to unite for a gigantic demonstration. The Left Opposition will do its utmost to achieve this aim.

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