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The Vanishing LaFollette Illusion
THE LaFollette Illusion is still here. It still has enough vital ity to hold the minds of consider able masses of workers and poor farm ers and to inspire them with rosy hopes in the beautiful future of a petty-bourgeois paradise. But it is already beginning to crack. It has been pricked in a number of vital places and is beginning to shrink and shrivel. The process of vanishing has begun. It was quite natural, and in line with political developments all over the world, for this LaFollette illusion to take hold of the awakening labor ing masses of the country. Econ omic as well as psychological factors have been at work for quite a num ber of years to produce a widespread belief among certain sections of work ers and poor farmers in the self sufficiency of petty bourgeois liberal ism, pacifism and democracy. These factors are still in operation. The re sulting illusions are still active in the minds of considerable numbers of the oppressed masses. But the belief in the political effectiveness of LaFol lette and his group is weakening. It is giving way to doubts and critical reflections. To be sure, it is not yet complete disillusionment. It is, how ever, the beginning of it. The Progressives in Congress The workers and poor farmers who are able to think politically are be ginning to ask the question: Wha has the Progressive group, under thi leadership of LaFollette. done for m in this present session of Congress'. Has it given expression to our real needs and desires? Has it raised its voice of protest and condemnation against the iniquities of .capitalist exploitation on the farms, in the shops, factories, mines and railroads? In vain will the workers scan the records of congress to find anything substantial to gladden their hearts. The only outstanding feature in the accomplishments of the present ses sion of congress is the various in vestigations. But what is their real value? Denby, Daugherty and Burns are gone, it is true. The prestige of the old guard in the two capitalist parties has been undermined. This, too, is true. And altho the investiga tions have not been conducted as thor oughly and on as wide a basis as they should have been conducted, still the masses have had a chance to learn a good deal about the inner workings of the machinery of the cap italist state. But wherein did all this benefit the workers and poor farmers? In what way did it strengthen their hands and enable them to fight their battles against their exploiters more effect ively? In no way and in no place have the workers and poor farmers become stronger as against their enemies because of these investiga tions. For that matter, the entire record of the LaFollette group in Congress did not add a single particle of strength to the struggle of the mas ses against the rule of capital in the Unitied States. Why? The answer to this question contains the entire solution to the present situation as far as the work ing masses are concerned. Here is the answer: Because the workers and poor farmers had no political party of their own. • * * Middle Class Liberalism Versus Class Independence. LaFollette and his group in con gress have been playing middle class liberal politics. Not very effectively, not very efficiently, but that was their game. A consistent defense of the | Interests of the manufacturer, mer chant, small banker and well-to-do farmer as against the domination of Big Business. No one who is opposed to capitalist domination, even from a workihg class point of view, will attempt to disparage or discourage this middle class fight against Big Business. Let them fight, and the harder the better. But where does the worker and poor farmer come in on this show? That’s what we demand to know. And here we must repeat as em phatically as we can what we have been saying right along. No middle class liberal, no matter how honest, and no middle class “third” party will want or be able to fight the battles of the workers and exploited farmers. For this we need no better proof than the performances of the LaFollette group in the present session of Congress. The political struggle is a class struggle, a fight between various classes and social groups over mate rial, economic interests. The proper tied middle-class group, whom La- Follette -represents politically, have perfectly" definite, concrete economic interests which are distinct from and apposed to the interests of the work ing class and exploited farmers. Such being the case, how can any one expect the middle-class liberal group to defend the interests of the laboring masses? Politics is no char ity, nor is it child’s play. It is seri ous and grim business. ly, only those classes can expect to benefit by politics and political action which are organized in their own parties and fight their battles under their own leadership. The workers and poor farmers must, therefore, have a political party of their own. LaFollette does not like that idea, of course. Why should he? He knows that a class-party of workers and poor farmers —a Farmer-Labor party— means independent political action by the laboring masses. It .means that the workers and poor farmers will not permit themselves to be utilized WHO.CARES FOR IT? By OSKAR KANEHL. Workers slain. Who cares for it? Worker-widows. Who cares for it? Worker-children orphaned. Who cares for it? Who hunger and freeze and die on the street. Workers slain. Who cares for it? Workers slain. Who cares for it? Murderers are rubbing their hands. Murderers have passports. Murderers have- mild judges. Workers slain. Who cares for it? Workers slain. Who cares for it? Ministers are sinking their backside in easy-chairs. Ministers are fattening murderer-guards. Ministers are cringing behind laws of the land. Workers slain. Who cares for it? Workers slain. Who cares for it? Workers, living! We are for itl By the blood of our dead brothers: We, livings will give you answer. Workers slain. WE care for it. —Translated by Paul Acel. and exploited politically by and for the middle classes. And that’s pre cisely what hurts and worries the La- Follette group when they see the June 17th Convention and the movement towards a class-party picking up ever new strength and volume. This was also one of the main reasons why La- Follette had finally decided openly to attack the June 17th Convention and to attempt to destroy it. The LaFollette Attack We do not believe this attack on the farmer-labor movement to be the result of “bad counsel” as some of our associates in the June 17th con vention seem to believe. We don’t think so. The senator is no longer a baby in politics. He knows the game as well as, if not better than we. His attack, as we see it, is the result of economic class-opposition of the petty bourgeoisie against the political inde pendence of the working class. The liberal middle-class, just as well as the reactionary labor leaders, will suffer losses economically by the formation of a cl&ss-party of workers and poor farmers. The June 17th con vention promises to result in the for mation of such a party. Consequent ly, "Down with June 17!” In other words, LaFollette is fight ing here in the interests of the pro pertied and well-to-do middle class and against the exploited workers and farmers. So that from this point of view we would take no particular objection to the wording of the sen ator's statement. We would merely explain to the workers the class i nature of the attack and call upon them to resist and strengthen their positions. i There is, however, one feature in • this LaFollette statement which we s feel compelled to protest against most i strenuously. It is the charge of bad faith that he makes against the Com ■ munists. He says: “Their pretense that the Commun ists can work with the Progressives, who believe in democracy, is de liberately to deceive the public. The Communists are antagonistic to the Progressive cause and their only purpose in joining such a movement is to disrupt it.” Now, Senator, let’s not get confused because of a wrong terminology? This situation demands above all clear thinking, particularly on the part of the workers. What do you under stand by "progressives” and “pro i gressive cause?” We’ll tell you what we understand by it. Generally speak ing, a progressive is one who favors and works for a militant, aggressive and fighting policy (methods of strug gle and form of organization) on the part of the workers and poor farmers against capitalist exploitation. More specifically, and with regard to polit ical action, a progressive is one who earnestly, sincerely and militantly fights for the formation of a class party of workers and poor farmers. And, consequently, he who is in different or opposed to independent political action by labor; he who is willing to permit the middle-class liberals to exploit in their interests the political power of the workers and poor farmers; he who fails to sup port the June 17th Convention and enable it to create a powerful Farmer- Labor party is not only not a progres sive but a rank reactionary. This is our conception. If the sen ator accepts it. and considers him self a progressive in this sense, then he will have to “revise” his statement against June 17th considerably. He will then have to change somewhat his tactics in Congress. And, lastly, he will have to come to the June 17th Convention and help build a class party of workers and poor farmers. We realize, of course, that there are yet other kinds of progressives, for instance, the progressive block in congress of which senator LaFollette is the leader. We also know that as between Coolidge, Pepper, Lodge, etc., who represent big capital, and La- Follette, Magnus Johnson, Wheeler, etc., who represent small capital, the former are reactionary and the latter are progressive. But this is not the sort of progress that the workers are exclusively inter ested in. The workers and poor farm ers want primarily their own pro gress, which they can bring about only by an organized struggle in their own interests. And for this they need a political party of their own. That’s why the test for progress at this day in the labor movement is a farmer-labor party. By A. Bittelman Gompers and C. P. P. A. Not Progressive To illustrate this point a little more fully, we might take Gompers, for example. Gompers is one of the bit terest enemies of independent politic al action. He is 100 per cent with La- Follette as far as the June 17th con vention is concerned. In fact, they are both working hand in hand to hamper the movement for a class party. Now, if LaFollette is a progressive, Gompers too would have to be con sidered a progressive, wouldn’t he? Well, we would propose that Senator LaFollette go down to a meeting of trade-union progressives and try to prove this point there. We can just imagine the reaction. Or, take the C. ’P. P. A. They, too, call themselves progressive—“Conference for Progres sive Political Action.” But what does it really mean from the point of view of labor and exploited farmers? It means that at best the C. P. P. A. is “progressive” only in the sense in which LaFollette is. That is, the C. P. P. A. is working for the promotion of middle-class liberalism which is opposed and antagonistic to the pro gressive movement among the work ers and exploited farmers. It was, therefore, perfectly natural for LaFollette, Gompers and the C. P. P. A. almost simultaneously to begin an attack against June 17th and against the idea of a class-party. That’s why, from the point of view of labor, this whole combination is totally and thoroughly reactionary. An interesting, tho not very import ant, sidelight in this whole affair is the pitiful role of the Socialist Party. This remnant of “bygone greatness” is tolerated in the C. P. P. A. pre sumably in order to make the whole thing look a little more “progressive.” It would seem logical, therefore, to expect from the Socialist Party at least a little “kick” against the domi nating influence in the C. P. P. A. and in favor of independent political action. Because it is only thus that the Socialist Party could yet main tain its prestige, and thereby fulfill its pretended function of a “Left Wing” in the C. P. P. A. But the leaders of the Socialist Party have so little vitality left in them that they have ceased even to pretend. They have completely sur rendered to the reactionary leadership of the C. P. P. A. and are merely doing the bidding of their masters. Under these conditions, we wonder how long yet will the masters of the C. P. P. A. be interested in keeping with them the Socialist Party ballast? The Lines Have Been Drawn Clearer Because of the eleventh hour des perate attack on June 17th by La- Follette, Gompers and the C. P. P. A., the lines between middle-class liberal ism and working class political in dependence have been drawn clearer and tighter. The reaction to this attack by the farmer-labor movement all over the country was splendid. It convinces us again that the time is ripe for a powerful class-party of workers and poor farmers, and that the June 17th convention will be able to fulfill its historic mission. The old slogans take new flesh and blood. They assume, in the face of the recent attacks, new significance and importance. Let’s remember them— A class party with class candidates for the national elections of 1924. Tough Time for Jobless in Blue Grass Kentucky LOUISVILLE Ky., June 6.—A1l ths harness shops here are “shot” and a man out of work canot get a job any where. Louisville and Nashville Railway has just laid off 400 mea and are planning to lay off more. The Ken tucky and Indiana Railroad men work 7 hours a day. Clothing workers find it difficult to get enough work to make a living wage; and, altho buildings are going up, the labor surplus is so great that there are no jobs.