Get to know your 1930s Old Left lineage tree

C Hartley Grattan, “Red Opinion in the United States”, Scribner’s Magazine Novemeber 1934

How far Left can one go without ceasing to be a member of His Capitalist Majesty’s Opposition?  That is a hard question to answer, for the gradations around the point where the final step is made outside the capitalist pale are infinite.  […]
Assuming that the fatal steps of which we speak is made somewhere in the socialist ideology we may line up the parties of the Left as follows: (minor additional examples will be cited later):

SP – AWP – CP (Opposition) – CLA – SLP.  What do these mystic letters mean?  They mean Socialist Party, American Workers Party (familiarly known as the Musterites), the Communist Party of the Right Opposition (familiarly, the Lovestoneites), the Communist Party USA (Section of the Third International), the Communist League of America the Left opposition of the CP (familiarly known as the Trotskyites), and the Socialist Labor Party (familiarly known as the De Leonites).  The Right and Left oppositions of the CP are not recognized as such by the CP.  They are built around expelled members of the CP and have connections in other countries with groups ideologically closely similar and standing in the same relation to the CP.  The Socialist Party also has international affiliations.  It is a member of the Labor and Socialist International (familiarly known as the 2 1/2 International) with headquarters at Zurich.  The AWP and the SLP are not affiliated with international bodies nor are any of the minor groups to be mentioned incidentally. […]

Any ardent communist controversialist can give a bourgeois writers lessons in invective.  Nothing like it has been seen in America since the decline of personal journalism in the nineteenth century.  The abuse exchanged by the communist groups far surpasses in violence anything leveled against them individually or collectively by the bourgeois press.  Arnold Peterson of the Socialist Labor Party denies the right of the Communist Party to the designation “Communist” and unifromly refers to the group as the “Anarcho-Communists”, arguing that they are corrupted by the ideas of the Russian anarchist Bukunin against whom Marx fought tooth and nail, and describes them thus:  “They represent a hopeless mixture of pure lunacy, almost unbelievable imbecility, unscrupulous crookedness, brazen insolence and total contempt for the intelligence of those whom (presumably) they desire to reach.”  (Virus of Anarchy p 24).  Not content with repeating this, the SLP again through Peterson, its chief ideologist at present, puts out a pamphlet entitled WZ Foster — Renegade or Spy? recounting Foster’s career, quoting from his testimony before the Senate Committee which investigated the steel strike of 1919 (which is pretty damaging) and developing in general Daniel De Leon’s characterization of him as “a preambulating lump of erratic contradictory foot-in-the-mouthedness.”  Let us look at some Communist Party characterizations of opponents.  In New Masses, February 20, 1934, an anonymous editorialist, writing under the title “Disguised as Marxists,” tried to dispose of a group of Left parties […]

Of course these blasts are returned in kind by the men and parties attacked.  The vigor of the attacks is almost in direct ratio to the power and influence of the men and parties being attacked and they are also tempered or intensified by political necessity.  The Socialist Labor Party, being abjudged unimportant, is rarely mentioned in the Left press, but that only intensified the SLP’s attacks.  The Lovestoneites (Communist Oppositon) temper their criticisms because “The Communist Opposition fights for its readmission into the official party . . . ” (BD Wolfe, What Is the Communist Opposition? p 5), but Wolfe in the same pamphlet can say “Foster writes a book — Toward an American Communism — which might as well have been written on Mars for all the reflection of American realities.”  (17)  This group is also in favor of the readmission to the official party of the Communist League of America (the Trotskyites) but only if they give up a substantial portion of their ideas and in any case it is a pretty empty gesture since the Communist Party and the Trotskyites are worse folks still, “counter-revolutionaries”.  […]

Social-fascism is, then, a term used to denigrate any thing, tactic, or argument which deflects the attention of the working class from the revolution which is alleged to be in the keeping of the official Communist Party.  In America the Communist Party contends that this is true of the AWP, the Socialist Party, and many other groups and individuals.
The proof of the contention is difficult to prove short of an actual stifling of an actual revolution but the Socialist Party certainly does play down the class struggle or tries to, rejects the dictatorship of the proleteriat, and hopes and argues for a peaceful transition to socialism.  Indeed the Socialist Party is jockeyed by argumentation into the position of the “third party of capitalism”.  Under the drum fire played upon it from all sides, for the Communist Party is not alone in attacking the Socialists as we have seen [–]


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