Reds in America - Richard M. Whitney

Future Plans of the Communist Party of America

As a result of the Bridgman raid there came to light an interesting document from Moscow, signed by the "Executive Committee of the Communist International," Bukharin, Radek and Kusinen, entitled "Concerning the Next Tasks of the Communist party of America." It was carefully marked "not for publication." In this document the Communists are instructed to stir up racial strife, not only among the negroes, but between nations. It urges the Reds to foment distrust between the American nation and the British, the Japanese, the French, and between any two or all four, in the hope that this will lead to war and thus to destruction of capitalist nations which will open still wider the way for Communism.

They order that the class struggle be continued with increasing intensity in order, among other things, to relieve the pressure upon Soviet Russia. They insist that new and more impossible demands be made upon the Government of the United States, not in the hope of their being granted, but that may furnish additional grounds for propaganda and attacks upon the Government and thus intensify the class struggle. Suggestions are made of subjects upon which the demands may he based and the fight waged.

This document, smuggled by an authorized Soviet courier into this country for the guidance of the Communists here as commanded from Moscow, is cleverly constructed, full of suggestive hints, orders the establishment of what has become the Workers' party, contains reprimands for mistakes made by the Communists in the past, and plans for the future. It was taken to Bridgman by J. Lovestone and reads as follows:

"In the earlier stages, the Communist movement usually lacks the broad, directing viewpoint from which can be found the guide-posts for its various steps. Inexperienced Communists, for example, attack imperialism only in general, in its universal aspect, without exact information and minute attention to the unique manifestations of imperialism within the given country. They do not in any way direct their attacks for the purpose of playing up against each other the antagonistic interests of various imperialistic groups. Also, the representatives of false tendencies in the labor movement they attack in general terms, with indiscriminate battle cries having perhaps the desired application to some, but having in regard to others perhaps the exact opposite of the desired result. In a word, they strike around with their eyes closed, against all opponents of Communism in the same manner as against all opponents of their own narrow Communist groups. They fight as a little sect fights against the entire outer world.

"Such primitive methods of battle, even when combined with the greatest zeal and heroism, are not dangerous to the enemies of Communism.

"The Communists begin to be effective in the political struggle only when they adopt concrete strategic aims for their movement based upon a thorough examination of the facts. With a determination, purposeful drive to these aims, with the subjection of every phase of our movement to this principle, our movement begins to be effective.

"In order to assist the American comrades in working out and formulating their line of action, the Executive Committee of the Communist International proposes for their examination the following main points:

  1. "As the greatest force opposing the proletarian world revolution appears at the present moment to be the counter-revolutionary world alliance of American, English, French and Japanese capitalism, it is of vital interest to the proletarian revolutionary movement to work against the establishment and consolidation of this alliance, to attack its advocates most ruthlessly, to cut its tap root, if possible, to disturb its growing unceasingly, and adroitly to make use of the conflicting interests within it. The narrow nationalism of the American Japanophobes and Anglophobes is not liberal or humanitarian nor friendly to labor, and is not in the slightest degree more acceptable to us than was the attempted bourgeois nationalism of the League of Nations. And yet, to the extent of its own cupidity, it really hinders and disturbs the process of uniting the counter-revolutionary forces in the capitalist world. To the extent that this narrow nationalism (Japanophobia and Anglophobia) attacks and tends to smash the outside world-robbers (and also, let us hope, to smash itself)—to this extent it is doing the historic work of self-destruction of the capitalist world system; and in this work it must not be hindered by us. Therefore, though we will not, in the role of social-patriots, help the chauvinists in their predatory ventures, we will make use of chauvinistic blindness on behalf of the proletarian revolution.
  2. "Soviet Russia, as the mainspring of the international revolutionary movement of the proletariat, must be supported in every way. It must be supported with economic help through the self-sacrifice of the workers of all countries. And, most of all, it must be helped through the class struggle of the workers in all capitalist countries against their own bourgeoisies. The fiercer the class struggle of the American proletariat rages, the less will be the pressure of the international counter-revolution upon Soviet Russia. In this respect the Communists must learn how to make use of the conflicting interests of the various factions of the bourgeoisie, how to turn the greed of the bourgeoisie for profits, and how to exploit the various tendencies growing out of greedy speculation, to the advantage of the Russian Revolution, and thus to the advantage of the proletarian world revolution.
  3. "The prerequisite of victory for the working class is that the working class unite itself for the class struggle. To bring about this unification, isolated action participated in solely by Communists will not suffice. It is necessary to bring about common mass action of workers who are not yet Communists. For this purpose the Communists must penetrate the working masses to the utmost, must work together with them, must live and fight with them and lead them forward in both major and minor battles. The uniting of the workers in general class-struggle organizations, and the joining of the various ones of those organizations into close relationships—this and not merely to attain Communist purity and perfection of program—is the task now facing the Communist party of America. The consciousness of the working masses is naturally very unclear at this time, half-bourgeois, and undeveloped from the standpoint of the revolutionary vanguard. But, generally speaking, it will develop more clearly only during the process of the struggle itself against the bourgeoisie and through experience in the general class struggle organizations.
  4. "As a matter of course, not all organizations to which workers belong can be used as instruments of the proletarian class struggle, just as not every action of the worker can further the struggle. But the question of the possibilities of given organizations must be examined and judged on its own merits in each case. It is unthinkable, for instance, that a colossal trade union organization such as the American Federation of Labor could be composed entirely of enemies of the working class, as are such capitalist organizations as the Ku Klux Klan or the various professional strikebreaking bodies. Here a distinction must always be made between the reactionary, traitorous leadership and the unconsciously petty-bourgeois-minded mass which we have to win. And just so, one must not consider any mass movement of the unemployed, no matter how primitive, faltering and unclear, as being hopelessly and permanently under bourgeois influence. The general elections, in which hundreds of thousands of workers take part, cannot be rejected as being merely a peaceful movement with which the Communists will have nothing to do. Further, certain mass organizations, which not only are not communistic, but are not proletarian in composition, must be utilized by Communist strategy for the benefit of the proletarian class struggle. As, for instance, the existing mass movements of small farmers (who are, in a sense, semi-proletarian), and even movements of middle-class farmers under some circumstances. Another instance is the negro mass movement for racial betterment, which movement often attempts deliberately to avoid proletarian class character but must include great masses of toilers. Communist strategy must utilize these movements as auxiliary forces, or, at least, must win them to benevolent neutrality in the class war.
  5. "In the present period of the dissolution of the capitalist system, the most important tasks of the Communists of all capitalist countries is the revolutionizing of the proletarian class struggle. The fighting proletariat is to be led from one stage to another in the revolutionizing process by means of suitable slogans. They must help the proletariat to free itself from the illusions and false traditions that limit its vision and fetter its activities and to counteract the fossilizing influence of the trade union bureaucracy. One must organize the proletariat for the historic training school, in which it will learn to become the conqueror of capitalism.

"Only the Communist party can do this. The organization and training of the Communist party as leader of the revolutionary movement is, therefore, the fundamental task of the Communists.

"The Communists, must now take the lead in the struggle against the reduction of wages. This struggle, in its various forms, is especially adapted for uniting the largest masses of workers in one organization for the common struggle. The conservative labor leaders will find themselves placed in a most difficult position through this struggle, where they will soon be forced plainly to unmask their cowardly wobbling and their treacherous role, and where they will bring upon themselves the wrath of the struggling workers. In America almost nothing has been done so far in this direction, but it must he done thoroughly before one can ever think of the victory of the working class in the revolutionary struggle.

"The organization of the unemployed is an equally important and difficult task. In this movement, just as much as in all other minor battles, the Communists must select their slogans, according to the circumstances, and intensify them as much as possible, from the immediate needs of the day to the general worker's control of capital-industry. Right now they must make a special demand for state support of the unemployed out of the military budget.

"The Communist party must remember that it is not its purpose to reform the capitalist state. The purpose of the Communist is, on the contrary, to cure the working masses of their reformistic illusions, through bitter experience. Demands upon the state for immediate concessions to the workers must be made, not after the fashion of the Social-Democratic parties, which try to make those demands within the limits which the state can grant them while retaining its strength intact. Communist demands for immediate concessions to the workers are> formulated, not to be 'reasonable' from the point of view of capitalism, but to be reasonable from the point of view of the struggling workers, regardless of the state's power to grant them without weakening itself. Thus, for instance, a demand for payment out of the Government treasury, of full union standard wages for millions of unemployed workers is highly reasonable from the point of view of the unemployed workers but damaging from the point of view of the capitalistic state and the capitalistic wage competition which the state defends.

"We suggest a few examples of the type of demands that may be made. It must be clearly understood that those are merely examples for illustration, and are not binding, nor are they to be concretely regarded even as advised by the Comintern.

  1. "That all combinations or agreements having the purpose of reducing the rate of wages or the purpose of common action against labor organizations, shall be made in law a criminal conspiracy.
  2. "That no injunction shall be issued against workers for activities toward raising the rate of wages or reducing the hours of labor.
  3. "A constitutional amendment forbidding such laws as the Kansas Industrial Court Law.
  4. "A constitutional provision guaranteeing the unlimited right of peaceful picketing,
  5. "For disarming of all private detective cops in strike regions, or elsewhere. All organizations for the purpose of forming armed bodies to engage in activities against strikers to be declared criminal conspiracy.
  6. "That no process of law, criminal or otherwise shall be allowed forcibly to detain any regularly elected labor union official from his union duties during the process of a labor dispute.
  7. "Constitutional amendment forbidding the use of military or naval forces in any matter connected with a labor dispute.
  8. "Legal provision for the maintenance of order in strike regions by the appointment of members of the labor unions involved, such members to be nominated by the labor organizations, and armed from the public supplies for the purpose of maintaining order during the period of the strike.
  9. Constitutional provision abolishing the United States Labor Board and prohibiting the Executive to interfere in labor disputes.
  10. "Favoring a close alliance of the United Mine Workers of America with the railroad brotherhoods and all other unions, for common action to raise the standard of living of all workers in both industries.
  11. "General amnesty for all persons imprisoned as a result of strikes or other incidents of the labor struggle. General amnesty for all persons convicted of crime in any way relating to the labor movement, or into whose criminal trial any evidence was offered against the defendant regarding the latter's views of the class struggle or political views. General amnesty for all prisoners convicted of political offences.
  12. "For the Plumb plan, amended to give labor a majority of directors.
  13. "Immediate bonus of $500 to every soldier or sailor enlisted in the United States forces during the World War; $1000 to those having been granted wound stripes. A payment of $5000 (in addition to all payments otherwise provided for) to the dependent of every soldier or sailor who died in the service during the war period. Funds for this purpose to be taken from military and naval budgets, respectively.
  14. "For the unrestricted rights of soldiers and sailors to organize in unions. Immunity for all grievance committees of private soldiers or sailors. No private soldier or sailor to be judged by a court-martial except composed entirely of private soldiers or sailors elected for the purpose within the military unit concerned.
  15. "Absolute prohibition of foreclosures upon farm property for debts,
  16. "For national credit, to the full value of his farm, to every fanner holding less than $20,000 worth of farm property, the money to be advanced out of the national treasury at interest to cover the cost of the loan transaction.
  17. "For national credit, to the full extent of their holdings, to ail farm cooperatives, on the same basis.
  18. "National monopoly, and operation at cost, of all grain elevators except those in the hands of bona fide farmers' cooperatives, or which in future may be established by such organizations.
  19. "The liquidation of the Ku Klux Klan, invoking the criminal conspiracy laws in prosecuting all persons connected with the organization.
  20. "Condemnation of the Washington Conference as a preparation for a new World War. Condemnation of the imperialistic partitioning of the Far East and other regions for exploitation.
  21. "Warning of World War to grow out of secret and other arrangements made in Washington Conference, condemnation of this in advance as imperialistic War.
  22. "For the immediate recognition and unrestricted trade with Soviet Russia. For the re-establishment of postal agreement with Russia.

"These and other similar demands must be considered only as starting points for broader, sharper, more universal slogans. In their agitation the Communists must point out that the problems will not be solved through these measures, but that we support these demands of the masses so that the very course of events itself may unmask the capitalist state and the opponents of the working class, and prove to the masses the necessity of the final struggle for power against the capitalist state itself. In this unmasking process, the Communist must make use of every device to discredit the opposition. At times they must develop a direct attack, brand every mistake, every crime, every refusal of the demands of the toiling masses and constantly demonstrate the solidarity and identity of the capitalist class with the capitalist state.

"The Communists must participate as revolutionists in all general election campaigns, municipal, state and congressional, as well as presidential. Not in the same manner as the social-traitors and centrists, not in order to avoid violent revolution and substitute parliamentary activity for revolution, but, on the other hand, in order to use even the election campaigns to revolutionize the workers and lead them forward, to sharpen their class consciousness and to bring them together and unite them under Communist leadership. Class conscious, courageous and wise Communists, as elected representatives of the worker, can always find the possibility in the various institutions of the bourgeois state, in one way or another, to give effective object lessons to revolutionize the working class. Besides the Communist party can conceal its underground apparatus and develop it very effectively within the outer framework of the legal campaign organization and the election activities.

"In all these minor struggles, as well as in the final revolutionary battle of the proletariat, the party organization must be the leader of the struggling workers.

"Its weapons are manifold and vary, according to the situation, from entirely legal propaganda, from election campaigns, from modest movements for increase of wages and from peaceful demonstrations to the revolutionary strike and to the various forms of revolutionary class struggle.

"In agitation and propaganda Communists cannot be satisfied with mere dogmatic presentation of Communist principles of the propagandizing of the armed struggle under all circumstances. They must not permit themselves to appear to the masses as fanatic bomb enthusiasts who know nothing about the realities of life. They must understand how to lead the working masses from the struggle for the satisfaction of their first concrete needs on to such a battle that the struggling masses themselves will begin to believe in success and victory.

"The legal party press is under all circumstances a most important weapon to the Communist party. Just as the political movement of the workers of America has remained very backward in regard to matters of organization, so the revolutionary labor press is also as yet very weak. Its development is at the present moment the most urgent task of the party. As long as the party does not possess at least one or two legal dailies in the English language it is still crawling around on all fours- The party must do everything in its power in order to secure decided influence and direct or indirect control over as many existing papers of various labor organizations as possible. Especially it must try to win control over the labor union press. In addition, the party must publish an illegal official organ.

"All good possibilities of both the legal and illegal activities must be utilized by the party energetically. He who wants to liquidate the illegal activities is no Communist at all, and neither is that type of conspirator who does not want to know anything about legal activities.

"Under existing circumstances it is impossible for the Communist party in the United States to be a legal party. Of course the party can develop open labor organizations- It can even build a legal revolutionary workers' organization. It can even also launch a legal revolutionary Labor party. It must launch also such legal party, with the purpose that the Communists can openly enter its ranks without permitting the police to know which of the members are Communists and which are not. But the underground organization whose membership consists entirely of Communists must not be liquidated. On the contrary, it must be built ever firmer and stronger. It must guide and control the legal revolutionary party through its members. Every Communist, that is, every member of the underground party, must submit to an iron discipline and must act in accordance with the directions of the leading organs of the underground party in all legal as well as illegal activities.

"As a matter of course, all real Communists in the United States will subscribe to this. The Executive of the Communist International knows that the Minority of the Party Executive does not deny the advisability of taking advantage of legal opportunities, although this Minority opposes the rapid and energetic procedure of the Majority in founding the legal revolutionary party. The distinction is, in the judgment of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, without good ground. The fact that the Party Executive is proceeding rapidly and energetically with the formation of the legal party organization is not a fault. It would have been a fault to wait with the launching of the legal party until the underground organization had developed 'sufficient strength,' The development of the underground organization can best be furthered through these very activities of its members in the ranks of the legal party. Historic progress is not such a simple matter as to leave us the liberty first to complete the development of the underground party apparatus, and only then to begin the building of the legal party organization. In this manner the very best opportunities for the launching of the legal party would be lost.

"The centrists would have a free field for their efforts at founding an independent opportunist party. This opportunity must not be left to them. The Communist party must take the initiative in the formation of the new legal party and must take the control firmly into its own hands. It must be careful to assure itself the actual control over all the leading organs of the legal party. For this reason the legal organization must take the permanent form of a party organization. Some other loose organization form would be very much more difficult to control and to guide. Furthermore, the development of a solidly organized legal party, in which members of the Communist party have at least the majority on all important committees, will make possible the control of still other anti-capitalistic organizations through this legal party.

"For the foregoing reasons we draw your attention to the following for your guidance:

  1. "The Communist party of America is as yet far from having satisfactory connections with the masses. The means of contact must be constructed with the greatest possible speed.
  2. "Connection with the masses essentially implies a public operation. Secret operations, even with the widest possible ramifications, cannot be satisfactory mass operations. The means of public contact with the masses must be principally:
    • A legal press, including at least one daily English legal newspaper, acting with the necessary disguise as a central party organ.
    • Organized grouping of sympathizers within the trade unions.
    • An overground political party.
  3. "Certain indispensable accompaniments to the highest developed capitalist form of society leaves weaknesses in the capitalist structure that have to be taken advantage of by a Communist party of action. The Government of the United States will not now permit a 'Communist Party' to exist but it is compelled to permit 'parties' to exist in an almost unrestricted variety, for the purpose of its own preservation. The capitalist class builds its regime upon the rock foundation—the mass illusion—that social questions are solved in the sphere in which these parties operate. The state attempts, wherever it can, to exclude a truly proletarian revolutionary party from the public field. It attempts first, to exterminate the revolutionary party into subservience to capitalist law which makes revolution impossible, or third, at least to confine the revolutionary party's operations to the narrow sphere that can be reached secretly.

    "A Communist party must defeat all these attempts. It must not be exterminated. It must unequivocally refuse to obey capitalist law, and must urge the working class to the violent destruction of the entire legal machinery. It is equally the duty of a Communist party to defeat by any means that may be necessary, the capitalist government's attempt to confine the revolutionary party to the underground channels in which it is even more concealed from the masses than it is from the government.
  4. "The program of the legal party will have to be somewhat restricted. Special measures and slogans which, while not stating the illegal Communist purpose, will objectively have the revolutionary effect upon the masses, must be adopted. The Legal party must at all times, go as far toward the Communist program as possible while continuing a legal existence.
  5. "The entire membership of the underground party, the real Communist party, must join the open party and become its most active element. Communist party members must, at all times, hold the positions of leadership in the Legal party. In addition to the entire Communist party membership, the Legal party should admit to its ranks the more advanced workers who accept the principle of the class struggle, and the abolition of capitalism through the establishment of the workers' power. Working class organizations that subscribe to these principles can be admitted to or affiliated with the Legal party, as a body, within the judgment of the central executive committee of the Communist party.
  6. "The Executive of the Communist International has resolved to support the position of the majority of the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America in favor of the immediate construction of a legal political party on a national scale, which will act as an instrument of the illegal Communist party for participation in legal activities, such as electoral campaigns, etc. The executive of the Comintern takes this position after having been informed that the Minority of the Executive Committee of the Communist party of America accepts 'in principle' the tactic of the legal work of various sorts at the present time, but rejects the tactic of the immediate construction of a legal political party on a national scale with the Communist party membership as its nucleus. The ruling of the Communist International must be accepted as obligating every member of the Communist party of America, minority or majority, to work diligently in the immediate construction of a legal political party. As a rule, party members who fail to participate whole-heartedly in the legal work, or who sabotage that work must leave the party.
  7. "But in carrying out these instructions, the party must guard itself against the tendency to repudiate or neglect the illegal work—the tendency to become legal in fact as well as in outward appearance. This tendency will be found especially among 'intellectual' party members who have little experience in the brutal physical phases of the class struggle to which the rank and file workers are always exposed, but from which the intellectuals engaged in legal political work are sometimes shielded. Upon finding themselves in the easier life of legal activities, many will forget that no matter what manoeuvres may be made upon the public stage, the final class struggle must he, until its end, a brutal fight of the physical force. A certain element of the party membership will inevitably forget this fundamental principle (which no humble worker in the class struggle is allowed to forget) and will come forward with naive proposals for liquidating the illegal machinery of the party. Such tendency is very dangerous to a proletarian revolutionary party. The actual liquidation of the underground party would mean the liquidation of the revolutionary movement. Party members who persist in such a view must be ruthlessly expelled from the illegal party.
  8. "The underground organization of the Communist party must not sink into disuse, but, on the contrary, must constantly extend its illegal machinery further and further, in proportion to the growth of the illegal party. While coming out in the open, the Communist party must not make the mistake of being trapped in the open by exposing its national or district Communist party headquarters, records or illegal machinery, its underground printing arrangements or the personnel of its Central Executive Committee. The central executive committee headquarters (of the party proper) mast continue to be guarded in secrecy (and even the problem of redoubling its security from discovery should be constantly studied). The underground machinery of the Communist party is not merely for emergencies, but for constant and permanent use. Down to the lowest unit— the group of ten—every branch and stem of the party structure must continue to keep its secret addresses and meeting places and to use these in constant underground functioning. Every member, no matter what his work is in the legal party, must also perform his duties in the underground organization.
  9. "The party underground press must continue. The means of publishing unknown to and in spite of the capitalist authorities must be always kept in hand and in use. Under bourgeois rule, no matter how 'liberal' it may be, a Communist party must never relinquish its facilities for underground press and, under the circumstances now prevailing in the United States, the active functioning of tjie underground press cannot be abated. But it would be foolish to print any considerable amount of literature underground that could be printed legally. The legal political party will be able to take upon itself the printing of a large portion of the literature that is not definitely illegal. It may also be made sponsor for a great many legal Communist newspapers. Legal newspapers must form a very large part of the work of a mass party. The illegal press must carry the propaganda that the legal press cannot carry, thus making sure that the full Communist message is made clear at all times.
  10. "The intellectual workers in these legal institutions of the party must be subject to the same discipline, wage scale and regulations as underground party workers. It must always be remembered that the real revolutionary party—the American section of the Third International—is the Communist party of America and that the Legal party is but an instrument which it uses to better carry on its work among the masses. Only through membership in the American Section—the Communist party of America— can American workers become members of the Communist International.

"Dear Comrades: It would be entirely useless to quarrel over the question whether extensive or intensive methods are preferable in your Communist work. You must learn how to make a practical combination of both of these methods under all circumstances. Unite for your common work, not for the liquidation of either the legal or illegal revolutionary activity but for the liquidation of the really damaging liquidation tendencies of the labor movement.

"It is, as a matter of course, very necessary that you make alt preparation in your underground party convention for the public convention at which the legal Revolutionary Party is to be launched- But before as well as after the party convention the minority members of the party executive must submit to the decision of the majority loyally and without question. Without this party discipline. Communist party activities are impossible. The Party Central Committee must, of course, understand how to train the party membership sensibly and practically for the observance of the party discipline and, generally, for the centralization of party activities. It must understand and it must constantly learn still better how to lead the entire organization. On the other hand, it is the duty of every member to support the authority of the party executive. It is foolish and harmful, for instance if factional opposition accuses the party executive of oppressing the foreign language organizations. You must make an end of such accusations, comrades.

"We hope that in your coming party convention, all of you will give evidence, in your resolutions and actions, of firm, organic unity, and that your party will prove its ability to measure up to the great responsibilities that stand before it.

"With Communist greetings,

"Executive Committee of the Communist International

"(Signed) N. BUKHARIN, K. RADEK, O. W.