American unionists ask Joseph Stalin a question

“QUESTION IX: American labor leaders justify their struggle against the Communists on two grounds: (1) The Communists are disrupting and destroying the labor movement by their factional fights inside the unions and their attacks on all union officials who are not radicals, and (2) American Communists take their orders from Moscow and hence cannot be good trade unionists since their loyalty to an outside foreign body is placed above their loyalty to the union. How can this difficulty to adjusted so that American communists can work jointly with other sections of the American labor movement?

REPLY: I think that the attempts of the American labor leaders to justify their struggle against the Communists do not stand examination. No one has yet proved nor can it be proved that the Communists disrupt the labor movement. But it can be taken as fully proved that the Communists are the most loyal and boldest champions of the labor movement all over the world, including America. Is it not a fact that during strikes and demonstrations the Communist workingmen take their place in the front ranks of the working class and receive the first blows of the capitalists, whereas the reformist labor leaders take shelter in the backyards of the capitalists?

How can Communists refrain from criticizing the cowardice and the reactionary policies of the reformist labor leaders? Is it not clear that such criticism can serve only to stimulate and strengthen the labor movement? True, such criticism destroys the authority of the reactionary labor leaders, but what about that? Let the reactionary labor leaders answer the criticism, not expel the Communists from the unions. I think that if the labor movement in America desires to live on and develop, it cannot avoid a conflict of opinion and of tendencies within the trade unions. I think that the conflict of opinion and of tendencies within the trade unions, criticism of the reactionary labor leaders, etc., will continue to grow notwithstanding the efforts of the reformist labor leaders to prevent it. The working class of America stands in absolute need of such conflict of opinion and of such criticism in order that it may be able to choose between the various tendencies and finally to take up its stand as an independent organized force within American society. The complaints made by American reformist leaders against the Communists merely indicate that they are not sure of the correctness of their case and do not feel strong in their position. That is why they fight criticism like a plague. It is a remarkable fact that the American labor leaders are more determined opponents of elementary democracy than many capitalists in America.

The assertion that the American Communists work under “orders from Moscow” is absolutely untrue. There are no such Communists in the world who would agree to work “under orders” from outside against their own convictions and will and contrary to the requirements of the situation. Even if there were such Communists they would not be worth a cent. Communists bravely fight against a host of enemies. The value of a Communist, among other things, lies in that he is able to defend his convictions. Therefore, it is strange to speak of American Communists as not having their own convictions and capable only of working according to “orders” from outside. The only part of the labor leaders’ assertion that has any truth in it at all is that the American Communists are affiliated to an international Communist organization and from time to time consult with the Central body of this organization on one question or another.

But what is there bad in this? Are the American labor leaders opposed to an international workers’ center? It is true they are not affiliated to Amsterdam, not because they are opposed to an international workers’ center as such however, but because they regard Amsterdam as being too radical (laughter). Why may the capitalists organize internationally and the working class, or part of it, not have its international organization? Is it not clear that Green and his friends in the American Federation of Labor slander the American Communists when they slavishly repeat the capitalist legends about “orders from Moscow?” Some people believe that the members of the Communist International in Moscow do nothing else but sit and write instructions to all countries. As there are more than 60 countries affiliated to the Comintern, one can imagine the position of the members of the Comintern who never sleep or eat, in fact do nothing but sit day and night and write instructions to all countries. (laughter). And the American labor leaders believe that with this ridiculous legend they can cover up their fear of the Communists and conceal the fact that Communists are the bravest and most loyal workers in the labor movement in America.

The delegation asks for a way out of this situation. I think there is only one way out: leave room for conflict of opinion and of tendencies within the American trade unions, give up the reactionary policy of expelling the Communists from the trade unions, and give the working class of America an opportunity of making a free choice of these tendencies; for America has not yet had its November Revolution and the workers there have not yet had the opportunity of making their final selection from among the various tendencies in the trade unions. “

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