Chapter Nineteen: Building the Party of the New Type (1919-1929)

19. Building the Party of the New Type (1919-1929)

C.E. Ruthenberg passed away in 1927, a
sad loss for the US Communists.  

To cope with the tasks of the American class struggle the working class needs what Lenin called a party of a new type. This party, as Stalin explains it, must be a party able to "see farther than the working class; it must lead the proletariat and not follow in the tail of the spontaneous movement. , . . The Party is the political leader of the working class." It must be "a militant party, a revolutionary party, one bold enough to lead the proletarians to the struggle for power, sufficiently experienced to find its bearing amidst the complex conditions of a revolutionary situation, and sufficiently flexible to steer clear of all submerged rocks on the way to its goal."1 The party, self-critical, democratic, and disciplined, must fight in the vanguard of the struggle, yet be most intimately interwoven with every fiber of the proletariat. It is a party which does not substitute wishful thinking and empty slogans for the real situation, objectively or subjectively. The party of the new type stays with the working class and the people at every stage in their struggle, providing the best solutions for all the problems of a given period, leading to the final stage where the toiling masses find it necessary to change the basic social relations.

During the decade from 1919 to 1929 the Communists laid the first foundations of such a Leninist party in the United States, the stronghold of world capitalism; that is, they largely absorbed the general principles of Marxism-Leninism, united the Communist forces, withstood the first great attack of the government, fought their way to legality, began to learn to practice self-criticism and discipline, and cleansed their ranks of various opportunist elements. They also participated in many broad, united front mass struggles, displaying, as we have seen, no little Leninist initiative in so doing. The Communists were establishing political contacts with the working class, and specifically with the trade unionists, Negro workers, women, youth, and foreign-born. They had begun to master the Leninist task of combining the fight for socialism with the everyday struggles of the masses. The Party also displayed a real international spirit, with its fight for the defense of the Soviet Union, its energetic "Hands Off China" campaign, its vigorous fight with the Communists in Latin America against American imperialism, its constant co-operation with the Canadian Communists, and its active support of the work of the Red International of Labor Unions and the Communist International. All these tasks in the building of a party of the new type were comprised in the general slogan, "Bolshevization of the Party." Nevertheless, at the end of the decade, the Party was still too largely agitational in character and it retained many sectarian weaknesses.

In 1925, at the fourth convention of the Party, then called the Workers (Communist) Party, an important organizational step was taken in the Bolshevization of the Party by the reorganization of the Party from its old "language federation" basis to one of shop and street branches with fractions of the national groups to work among their specific organizations. In this convention the Party contained 18 "language federations" (national minority group organizations), the largest of which were the Finns, 6,410; Jewish, 1,447; South Slavs, 1,109; Russians, 870; Lithuanians, 850; and Ukrainians, 622.

Twenty-seven papers were reported as left-wing papers. They operated upon an independent basis, being usually owned by broad united front groups. (See table on page 262.)
During these years, especially after the organizational changes of 1925, the Party's membership fluctuated considerably. The statistics show: 1923, 15,395; 1925, 16,325; 1929, 9,642. The Y.C.L. ranged from 1,000 members in 1922 to 2,500 in 1929. In 1929 the Party had 25 shop papers. On Friday, June 21, 1929, the Daily Worker suspended publication for one day, the only time in its 28 years of stormy life. The Workers School, established in October 1923, had at this time about 1,500 students. On January 24, 1927, the Party moved its headquarters from Chicago to New York, and at its 1930 convention it changed its name to the Communist Party of the United States.

The fourth and fifth conventions of the Party (in 1925 and 1927) laid great stress on more completely involving the Party membership in trade union work. The main bulk of the Party workers, foreign-born, worked in unorganized industries, and traditionally had devoted themselves chiefly to political agitational work. This situation was largely changed by decisions to form shop groups and have trade union secretaries in Party branches, by the establishment of mixed nationality branches, and by stress upon the need to give leadership in the workers' economic struggles.
The Left Wing Press (Part one)
These and ensuing conventions put growing emphasis upon concentration work; that is, the strengthening of the Party's work among the miners, steel workers, railroaders, maritime workers, chemical workers, and others employed in the basic and trustified industries. These are the
heart of the working class, and without their support no trade union movement or workers' political party can succeed in either its immediate or ultimate goals. It was upon the basis of this concentration principle that generally European Marxist parties and the trade unions, historically, have always devoted special efforts to winning the affiliation of the workers in the basic industries. By the same principle, in reverse, the basic weakness of the American trade union movement was expressed in the fact that it long refused to concentrate and to base itself upon the workers in the trustified industries. When the C.I.O. finally did successfully achieve this concentration, the effect was too raise the whole American labor movement onto a higher plane. The Communist Party, in its concentration work, is simply applying with characteristic Communist clarity and vigor the long-established labor principle of centering upon the workers in the key and basic industries, who are the main foundations of the working class.
The Left Wing Press (Part Two)

In the 1928 presidential elections the Workers (Communist) Party put up national candidates, with William Z. Foster heading the ticket. The Party was on the ballot in 32 states; it put on a very active campaign, and polled 48,228 votes, an increase of 15,000 over 1924. In this campaign, the Party fought against the war danger and aggressive American imperialism; it demanded farm relief and social insurance for the workers; it advocated a labor party; and it called for the repeal of the Volstead Act and the Eighteenth Amendment(prohibition).

The gravest weakness of the Party during this whole period was the prolonged internal factional fight. As we have seen, this fight began in 1923 over the question of the labor party. Although this specific question, after the LaFollette campaign of 1924, ceased to be a matter of sharp dispute within the Party, the factional struggle nevertheless continued around many other questions, hampering the Party in all its activities. Time and again efforts were made by the main Ruthenberg-Pepper and Bittelman-Foster groups to compose their differences and to establish Party unity, but to no avail. Further events were to show that Party unity could be achieved only by the elimination of the disruptive non-Communist elements from the Party—the Cannonites and Lovestoneites.


As an essential phase of building itself into a true Leninist organization, the Party during its first decade paid increasing attention to work among the masses of women. In 1921 the Party set up a National Women's Commission. The Party based its main orientation upon women in industry, but it also conducted considerable activities among housewives. United front Women's Councils were a factor in these years. All the national group federations, in their respective spheres, interested themselves in women's work. During the 1920's the number of women in the Party did not exceed 20 percent, although in the 1930*5 it reached almost double that number.

Communist women workers, besides being generally active politically, were a very important force in many strikes during this period, particularly in the needle trades and the textile industry. Women displayed great activity in labor defense work. In such notable struggles as those for Mooney and Billings, Sacco and Vanzetti, and MacNamara and Schmidt, they led the fjght all over the country. Women were also outstanding fighters against the high cost of living and all forms of militarism.

During the early 1920's the Party took a sectarian position regarding special protective legislation for women, and it was neglectful of the particular demands of Negro women in industry. The Party organ, The Working Woman, for March 1929, had as slogans, for International Woman's Day, equal pay for women; higher wages and shorter hours; better working conditions; an end to child labor; maternity leave and benefits for working mothers; social insurance for unemployment, sickness, accident, old age, and maternity; opposition to the high cost of living, the open shop, the war danger, and "imperialism that breeds war."

The Young Communist League, the name of which varied with the changing titles of the Party, shared most of the weaknesses and strengths of the Party. About 1923, breaking somewhat with its early sectarianism, it started to develop specific youth demands and to lay the basis for children's organizations and sports activities. Its 1927 convention showed a marked orientation toward trade union work, with active youth participation in a number of strikes. The League had the disadvantage of having a weak industrial base, most of its members being students. The factional strife in the Party reflected itself in the League and hindered its development. A special brand of youth sectarianism, "vanguardism," was stimulated by the factionalism in the Party. This deviation, based on the notion that the youth, just because they are young, are more class-conscious than adult workers, tended to narrow down the League from the broad organization that it should have been into a sort of "junior Communist Party."


On March 2, 1927, the Party suffered a grievous loss in the death of its general secretary, Charles E. Ruthenberg. He died of appendicitis, which in his overwork he had neglected. Ruthenberg, 45 years old at the time of his death, was the outstanding founder and leader of the Communist Party. He was a sincere, determined, and intelligent fighter. Joining the Socialist Party in 1909, Ruthenberg was especially influential in Ohio. He came to national attention during the well-known "Article 2, Section 6" fight at the S.P. convention of 1912, and he also played a decisive role in the emergency, anti-war convention of the S.P. in St. Louis, in April 1917, as well as generally in the fight against the war. He was particularly effective in the struggles to form the Communist Party, to unify it, and to win it a legal status.  He was active also in theParty's early mass struggles, notably around the question of the labor party. His bold testimony on the stand in the 1917-20 and 1922 Communist trials was an inspiration to the Party. During the factional fight Ruthenberg enjoyed the confidence of both warring groups, so that even during its bitterest phases he remained general secretary.

Ruthenberg was deeply hated and attacked by capitalist reaction, and he spent several years in prison. He was an outstanding student of Marx and Lenin, and he was a powerful influence in giving the young Communist Party a fundamental theoretical grounding. He was widely known and respected among the Communists of the world.


One of the main international events of this general period was the sixth congress of the C.I., held in Moscow, July-August, ig28. Bringing together leading Marxists from all over the world, it sounded a note of militant struggle. The C.I. Executive Committee, at its meeting of March 1925, had declared that Europe, with American financial help (Dawes plan, Young plan, etc.), had succeeded in "relatively," "partially," and "temporarily" stabilizing itself, after the revolutionary storm of the previous few years. But the sixth congress, three years later, pointed out that even this "relative, partial, and temporary" capitalist stabilization had already come to an end and that the world perspective was one of a deepening of the general crisis of capitalism and a sharpening of the class struggle internationally.

The sixth Comintern congress, at which the first complete program of the C.I. was formulated, analyzed the post-World War I international situation in three periods. The first of these periods, lasting approximately from March 1917 to the end of 1923, was marked by a series of revolutions and revolutionary struggles in Russia, Germany, Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria, China, India, Korea, and elsewhere. The second period, from early in 1924 to the end of 1927, the time of "relative, partial, and temporary stabilization," was signalized by a growing offensive on the part of the employers and by a comparatively defensive struggle by the proletariat and its allies. The third period, beginning in 1928, when the precarious capitalist stabilization came to an end, opened up a new wave of struggles—between workers and employers, between capitalist countries and colonies, among the imperialist powers, and between the capitalist and socialist sectors of the world.

The concept of the "third period" was hotly debated in the labor movement all over the world, including the United States. It was at the sixth world congress that the fight against the Bukharin group in the U.S.S.R. began to take definite shape in the C.I. over questions of the stabilization of capitalism, the fight against the right wing, etc.—but of this more later. The soundness of the Congress line of intensified struggle was ultimately and dramatically demonstrated by the facts that within the next decade there developed the great world economic crisis, fascism spread over most of Europe, and World War II broke out.

The Comintern congress of 1928 called for a sharpening of working class struggle on every front. It urged a militant fight against the right-wing elements in the Communist parties, and it intensified the attack against the opportunist Social-Democrats, who were stigmatized as "social fascists" because, in the name of socialism, they were breaking down the workers' resistance before advancing fascism. The central slogan of the congress was "Class Against Class." The right was the main danger, because these opportunist elements in the parties and throughout the labor movement had assumed that the previous partial stabilization of capitalism indicated a permanent healing of the diseases of that social system and therewith a softening of the class struggle.


A development of prime importance at the sixth congress was the profound discussion of the colonial question. The American delegates, as well as those of many other countries, participated deeply. Out of this discussion came the analysis of the Negro question in the United States as a national question. Whereas, the Marxists in the United States had traditionally considered the Negro question as that of a persecuted racial minority of workers and as basically a simple trade union matter, the Party now characterized the Negro people as an oppressed nation entitled to the right of self-determination. This position was developed in full in a further resolution in 1930. This new understanding of the Negro question raised the Party's work among the Negro people to a far higher Leninist level.

This view of the Negro question was founded upon the actualities of the situation of the Negro people and the principles previously evolved by Lenin and Stalin, the world's two leading authorities oh the national question. Lenin, in the colonial theses of the second congress of the Comintern, which he wrote in June 1920, already recognized the position of the American Negroes as that of an oppressed nation. The theses called upon the workers of the world "to render direct aid to the revolutionary movements in the dependent and subject nations (for example, in Ireland, Negroes in America, etc.), and in the colonies." (Italics mine— W.Z.F.). 2

Stalin, who is the world's greatest living expert on the subject, has defined a nation as an "historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture."3 These are scientific bases of nationhood. According to these criteria the Negro people in the so-called Black Belt in the American South, where they form the majority of the people, constitute an oppressed nation. Commenting upon the Negro people's development of nationhood, Allen says: "Slavery contributed a common language, a common territory, a common historical background and the beginnings of a common ideology, characterized chiefly by aspirations for freedom. In the period of capitalist development, unhindered by chattel slavery, the conditions arose which made it possible for the Negro people to develop more fully along the lines of nationhood. The Negroes were drawn more directly within the process of capitalism, thus evolving the class relationships characteristic of all modern nations." 4 The Negroes in the North, under this general definition, are an oppressed national minority.

Haywood elaborates further: "Within the borders of the United States, and under the jurisdiction of a single central government, there exist, not one, but two nations: a dominant white nation, with its Anglo-Saxon hierarchy, and a subject black one. . . . The Negro is American. le is the product of every social and economic struggle that has made America. But the Negro is a special kind of American, to the extent lat his oppression has set him apart from the dominant white nation. Under the pressure of these circumstances, he has generated all the objective attributes of nationhood." 5

The practical consequences, in policy, of the Communist Party's new position on the Negro question were that, in addition to pressing as before for full economic, political and social equality in all their ramifications for the Negro people, the Party also raised the slogan that the Negro people should have the right of self-determination in the "Black Belt" of the South on the basis of the break-up of the plantation system and the redistribution of the land to the Negro farmers. The demand for self-determination did not mean, however, that the Party advocated the setting up of a "Negro republic" in the South, as its enemies asserted. But it did mean that the Party, henceforth, would insist that the Negro nation should have the right of self-determination, to be exercised by it whenever and however it saw fit to use this right.


As we have seen in earlier chapters, the Communist Party from its foundation has increasingly interested itself in the fight for justice for the bitterly exploited and harassed Negro people. Among the earliest organized expressions of this Communist policy was the formation of the African Blood Brotherhood, with its paper, The Crusader. This body, an offshoot of The Messenger group in New York during the early 1920's, together with split-offs from the left wing of the Garvey movement, made a militant fight for Negro rights. It participated in the Negro Sanhedrin, held in Chicago in February 1924. The organization, however, did not achieve a mass basis; and in Chicago, in October 1925, the American Negro Labor Congress was launched. 6 Its outstanding leader at this time was Lovett Fort-Whiteman, and its journal, The Negro Champion.

The central significance of the American Negro Labor Congress was its indication of the growing importance of the proletariat in the developing struggle of the Negro people. The A.N.L.C, in advocating aggressively its demands for full economic, political, and social equality for Negroes, laid special stress on the trade union question. It especially fought for the admission of Negro workers into the unions. Its general organizational form was that of local councils composed of Negro labor unions, trade unions that did not discriminate against Negroes, and groups of unorganized Negro workers. 7

The A.N.L.C. did valuable agitational work for several years but it, too, remained small and was largely limited to Communists in its membership. In this organization's work, new leaders of the Negro people came to the front, including James Ford, Harry Haywood, Maude White, and many others. Cyril Briggs, in describing Communist work in this period, says, "The Party led the Negro fig and date workers' strike in Chicago, the laundry strike in Carteret, N. J., the Colored Moving Picture Operators strike in New York. In addition, we organized the Negro Miners Relief Committee, captured the Tenants League from the Socialists, held classes and forums in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc." 8

The A.N.L.C. was superseded in 1930 by the League of Struggle for Negro Rights. The latter's national secretary was Harry Haywood, and its journal was The Negro Liberator. The League, in making its fight for Negro rights, based itself upon a general struggle for Negro national liberation. This organization did much pioneering work in the South during the ensuing years.

The tireless and resolute fight of the Communist Party during the Coolidge period won much attention and support from the masses of the Negro people. Gradually a substantial body of Negro Communists was built up. The growth of Communist influence among the Negro people was particularly marked after the Party's recognition of the national character of the Negro question and its application. At the Communist Party's sixth convention, in March 1929, Jack Stachel reported that there were about 200 Negro members, but a year later, in the membership drive beginning March 6, 1930, which brought in a total of 6,167 recruits, no less than 1,300 of these were Negroes—so rapidly was Communist sentiment growing among the Negro masses.


Among the major steps taken during this decade of 1919-29 toward the building of the Party of a new type was the expulsion of the Trotskyites on October 27, 1928. This group was led by James Cannon, who had long played an active part in the Party leadership (Bittelman-Foster group) as an inveterate factionalist. This Trotskyite development also had a direct relationship to the sixth congress of the Communist International.

For several years prior to the sixth Comintern congress Trotskyism, which Lenin had long fought, had become a malignant pest in the Soviet Union. Leon Trotsky, always an opportunist and adventurer, made a reckless grab for the leadership of the Communist Party after the death of Lenin in 1924. The substance of his "ultra-revolutionary" program was the provocation of a civil war against the Soviet peasantry as a whole and the unfolding of an aggressive foreign policy that could only have resulted in bringing about a war between the capitalist powers and the Soviet Union. Trotsky's central argument was that socialism could not be built in one country and that, consequently, an immediate European revolution was indispensable. His policies to force such an artificial revolution would have been fatal to the Russian Revolution and would have brought about the restoration of capitalism in Russia. 9

The Soviet people wanted none of Trotsky's destructive program. The brilliant Stalin proved in theory (and the experience of the ensuing quarter of a century has completely demonstrated his correctness in practice) that it was possible to build socialism in one country, the Soviet Union, and that the Communist Party's policies were leading to precisely that goal. As a result the Communist Party, the Soviets, the youth, the trade unions, and the various other mass organizations overwhelmingly defeated the Trotsky program, which had been given strong support by the opportunist Zinoviev-Kamenev group.10 Inasmuch as all these elements, in their struggle against the Party, had proceeded to criminal means of sabotage and other violence, this whole group of leaders were expelled as counter-revolutionaries by the fifteenth congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in December 1927.

At the time of the sixth congress of the Comintern in 1928 Trotsky was in exile, as a criminal against the Revolution. He made an appeal to the congress to try to get it to repudiate the decision of the Communist Party and the government of the Soviet Union. The congress, however, overwhelmingly rejected this insolent proposal. Nevertheless the scheme found a secret supporter in James Cannon, one of the Communist Party delegates from the United States. Upon Cannon's return to this country he began at once to spread clandestine Trotskyite propaganda with his friends. They advocated withdrawal from the existing unions, abandonment of the united front, and carried on a bitter factional struggle. The Bittelman-Foster leaders, learning of what was going on, preferred charges against Cannon, Max Schachtman, and M. Abern, and all three were promptly expelled by the Party as splitters, disrupters, and political degenerates. About 100 of Cannon's followers were also finally ousted from the party.

Upon their expulsion the Trotskyites formed themselves into, an opposition league, which, after several internal splits and two slippery amalgamations—the first with the Musteites in 1934, and the second with the Socialist Party in 1936-finally emerged, in January 1938, as the Socialist Workers Party, an organization which has since averaged only a thousand or two members. The reason-for-being of this party, which is the American section of the so-called Fourth International, with its pathological antagonism toward the Communist Party and the Soviet Union, is to serve as a tool of reaction. It carries on its counter-revolutionary work against the Party and the U.S.S.R. under cover of a cloud of super-revolutionary phrases.


The sixth world congress of the Comintern was followed by the expulsion, in June 1929, of the Lovestone group of right opportunists, numbering some 200 members, including Lovestone himself, B. Gitlow, B. Wolfe, and H. Zam, the latter being head of the Y.C.L. Jay Lovestone, a petty-bourgeois intellectual, came into the Party from the Socialist Party at the beginning. Like Cannon, Lovestone was a professional factionalist and intriguer. Upon the death of Ruthenberg in 1927, he, as a leading member in the Ruthenberg-Pepper group, managed by factional methods to become executive secretary of the Party, a position which he held for two years.

Lovestone's opportunism was brought to a head by the penetrating analysis and fighting perspective developed by the sixth congress of the Comintern. The substance of Lovestone's political position was that while the "third period" of growing capitalist crisis and intensifying class struggle, as outlined by the congress, was valid for the rest of the world, it did not apply to th» United States. To justify this contention, Lovestone restated in Marxist phraseology, the traditional bourgeois theory of "American exceptionalism." That is, that in its essence capitalism in the United States is different from and superior to capitalism in other countries and is, therefore, exempt from that system's laws of growth and decay. What Lovestone did was to found his analysis upon the specific features of American capitalism, upon its minor differences from capitalism in other countries, instead of upon its basic sameness with capitalism the world over. Lovestone sought to buttress his opportunist conclusions by arguing that his theory of American exceptionalism fitted in with and was based upon Lenin's law of the uneven development of capitalism. The main practical conclusions from Lovestone's position were that while capitalism in the rest of the world was in deepening crisis and could anticipate revolutionary struggles from the workers, capitalism in the United States was definitely on the upgrade and no sharpening of the class struggle could be expected. Lovestone was supported in his opportunistic theories with especial vigor by Pepper and Wolfe.

These opportunists had already been developing their exceptionalist theories before the sixth congress, and they intensified them after that gathering. At first they wrote in terms of cunning implications, but gradually they grew bolder in their expressions. The May 28, 1928, plenum of the Central Executive Committee, where they had the majority, officially accepted the Pepper idea that "An analysis shows that there is a basic difference between European and American conditions at present." Wolfe outlined a glowing "Program for Prosperity," grossly exaggerating the economic perspectives of American capitalism. Lovestone developed a whole body of revisionist theory-that the industrialization of the South would automatically wipe out the Negro question as such by making proletarians of the Negro masses; that the "Hooverian Age" of American capitalism corresponded to the "Victorian Age" of British capitalism; that American imperialism was a "cat's-paw" of British imperialism; that in analyzing world capitalism primacy had to be given to the external contradictions—the latter an expression of Lovestone's position that American capitalism, unlike capitalism elsewhere, was sound at heart; that there was no prospect of an economic crisis in the United States, and so on.11

Meanwhile Lovestone had been intriguing with the right-wing forces throughout the Comintern who were fighting against the political line of the sixth world congress. At the same time he absorbed the Trotskyite position that the leadership of the Comintern and Soviet Communist Party were in decay and that the Russian Revolution was being destroyed by a Thermidorean reaction. Lovestone sewed up an alliance with Bukharin, the leader of the international right wing, who was then developing his opportunist fight against the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Communist Party, at the outset of the first five-year plan, was aggressively pushing the work of industrialization, farm collectivization, and struggle against the kulaks (big farmers) and village usurers. Bukharin and his group, on the way to counter-revolutionary activities, held to the theory that world capitalism had definitely stabilized itself and was becoming "organized." They directly opposed the Party line, proposing instead to slacken industrialization, to halt farm collectivization, to abandon the struggle against the kulaks, and to liquidate the state foreign-trade monopoly. Stalin demonstrated to the Party the fatal consequences of Bukharin's policy, and the defeated Bukharin early in 1929 formed his unprincipled, and eventually fatal, bloc with the expelled Trotsky-Zinoviev counter-revolutionary cliques. These elements reflected the interests of the remnants of the former ruling classes in Russia. It was with these reactionary forces that Lovestone and Pepper aligned themselves. 12 This pair reflected these renegade currents in the American Communist Party.

In the field of practical Party work Lovestone's revisionism manifested itself in tendencies to concentrate upon struggles over inner-Party control rather than mass work, to neglect the fight for Negro rights, to underestimate the role of the new T.U.U.L. industrial unions, to fail to give full support to left-led strikes and organizing campaigns, to underestimate the importance of the fight against Social-Democracy, and to soften the Party's ideological attack upon the current intensive class collaboration policies and prosperity illusions of the top trade union bureaucracy. Lovestoneism definitely slowed down the mass struggles of the Party in the crucial 1927-29 period.

The development of Lovestone-Pepper revisionism greatly sharpened the factional fight within the American Communist Party. The Bittelman-Foster group actively challenged the whole Lovestone-Pepper line, arguing that it gave a wrong estimation of the international situation, of domestic economic perspectives, of the position of Social-Democracy, and of the radicalization of the workers; in other words, that it contradicted flatly the realities of the political situation and the validity of the sixth congress political analysis in the United States. The internal controversy came to a crisis at the sixth convention of the Party, held in New York, beginning on March 10, 1929, at which the Lovestone-Pepper group had behind them a majority of the delegates. After futile discussion, the convention unanimously decided to seek the advice of the Comintern in the solution of this problem.

During the next weeks the C.I. held elaborate discussions on the questions submitted to it by the American Party. Our Party's persistent internal struggle attracted wide attention among all delegations. Leading Marxists from many countries participated in the discussion—from France, Germany, Britain, China, Czechoslovakia, Canada, U.S.S.R. Stalin, who was a delegate, spoke on the question.13 He criticized both groups for their narrow factional attitudes and for their overestimation of the strength of American imperialism. He said, "Both groups are guilty of the fundamental error of exaggerating the specific features of American imperialism. . . . This exaggeration," he stated, "lies at the root of every opportunistic error committed by both the majority and minority groups." He also remarked that "this is the basis for the unsteadiness of both sections of the American Communist Party in matters of principle."

Further, on the key question of American exceptionalism, Stalin said: "It would be wrong to ignore the specific peculiarities of American capitalism. The Communist Party in its work must take them into account. But it would be still more wrong to base the activities of the Communist Parly on these specific features, since the foundation of the activities of every Communist Party, including the American Communist Party, on which it must base itself, must be the general features of capitalism, which are the same for all countries, and not its specific features in any given country." Stalin also gave a brilliant Marxist forecast of the coming American economic crisis. Said he: "The three million now unemployed in America are the first swallows indicating the ripening of the economic crisis in America." This he said on May 6, 1929, at a time when the bourgeois and Social-Democratic theoreticians, glowing with enthusiasm for the "new American capitalism," were shouting all over the world that economic crises were now a thing of the past for the United States.

Stalin heavily stressed the menace of factionalism in the American Party. He said that "factionalism is the fundamental evil of the American Communist Party." The long struggle, become a fight for power between the two groups, he characterized as "unprincipled." He declared further that such "factionalism is dangerous and harmful, because it weakens communism, weakens the offensive against reformism, undermines the struggle of communism against Social-Democracy in the labor movement." Democratic centralism requires free discussion in the Party, combined with sound discipline; but the type of struggle that went on in the American Communist Party had become destructive.

The commission, made up of delegates from Communist Parties from many countries, finally outlined its position in an "Address to the C.P.U.S.A."14 This statement developed the explanation of the validity of the sixth congress analysis for the United States, indicating the approach of an economic crisis, with an intensified class struggle. On "American exceptionalism" it said: "The ideological lever of the right errors in the American Communist Party was the so-called theory of 'exceptionalism,' which found its clearest expression in the persons of comrades Pepper and Lovestone, whose conception was as follows: a crisis of capitalism, but not of American capitalism; a swing of the masses to the left, but not in America; a necessity of struggling against the right danger, but not in the American Communist Party."


Lovestone and Gitlow rejected this outcome, and upon their return to the United States, they made a determined attempt to split the Party. But in this they failed completely, almost their entire group repudiating them and rallying to the support of the Party. Finally, as we have already noted, a couple of hundred of them were expelled by the Party for factionalism and disruption. The Central Executive Committee issued an extended statement explaining the basis for their expulsion.

During this period the Central Executive Committee set up a leading secretariat of four: Robert Minor, Max Bedacht, W. W. Weinstone, and William Z. Foster—that is, of representatives of the former inner groupings in the Party. This secretariat then proceeded to do away with the remnants of factionalism and to unite the cleansed Party. It was thebeginning of a Party unity which, not without many flaws, was to last for almost fifteen years. The elimination of the unhealthy, non-Communist Trotskyite and Lovestone elements, who were basically responsible for the unprincipled aspects of the factional fight, had finally made it possible to unify the Party. Thus, the six long years of sharp factionalism from 1923 to 1929 came to an end. The achievement of Party unity was another long stride toward the building of a Leninist Party of a new type in the United States.

The future course of events quickly and fully justified both the political and organizational line taken by the Party during this situation. The outbreak of the great economic crisis in October 1929, only a few months after Lovestone's expulsion, dealt a smashing blow to the bourgeois theory of "American exceptionalism," and it was also a conclusive demonstration of the fundamental correctness of the analysis of the sixth congress. As for the Lovestoneite leaders, they soon fell into the political degeneration which is the common fate of renegades from communism. For a few years, making pretenses of being Marxist-Leninists, the Lovestoneites maintained an organization conducting anti-Party propaganda, but eventually the group fell apart in complete political demoralization. Lovestone became an open enemy of communism and the Soviet Union. He is now an anti-Communist expert and specialized booster of American imperialism in the service of the reactionaries, David Dubinsky and Matthew Woll. Wolfe, become a professional defender of capitalist "democracy," busies himself publicly with devising plans on how American imperialism might overthrow the Soviet Union and the Chinese People's Republic. And as for Gitlow, he has degenerated into just another  bought-and-paid-for government,  anti-Communist stoolpigeon.

1 Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, pp. 108-09.
2 Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. 10, p. 235.
3 Joseph Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, p. 12, N. Y., 1942. 
4 James S. Allen, Negro Liberation (pamphlet), p. 21, N. Y., 1938. 
5 Haywood, Negro Liberation, pp. 140-41.
6 Robert Minor in The Workers Monthly, Dec. 1925.
7 Program of the American Negro Labor Congress, N. Y., 1925.
8 Cyril Briggs in The Communist, Sept. 1929.
9 Trotsky also condemned Comintern policy in China, but Mao Tse-tung and other Chinese leaders have repeatedly affirmed that the Chinese Revolution was fought to a victorious conclusion primarily along the lines suggested by Stalin many years ago.
10 Joseph Stalin, Problems of Leninism, N. Y., 1934.
11 For material on the Lovestone controversy, see The Communist for 1927-29.
12 History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, pp. 291-95.
13 Joseph Stalin, Speeches on the American Communist Party, N. Y., 1929.
14 Daily Worker, May 20, 1929.

Chapter 20

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