Max Shachtman, national chairman of the Workers Party, before the Loyalty Board of the United States Department of Commerce, on January 14 1949.
MAX SHACHTMAN was called as a witness, was duly sworn, and testified as follows:
By Chairman Short:
Q. Will you state your full name to the reporter?
A. Max Shachtman.
By Mr. Migdal:
Q. Mr. Shachtman, will you identify yourself please, for the Board?
A. I am National Chairman of the Workers Party.
Q. Do you know T.?
A. I met him this morning
Q. Had you ever seen him before?
Q. Had you ever heard his name before?
Q. Do you know the members of the Workers Party?
A. Yes. By and large, I am acquainted with them personally.
Q. How does it happen, Mr. Shachtman, that you know the members of your Party personally?
A. We are a very small organization, and in my capacity as National Chairman I travel about the country from branch to branch of our Party, and I meet the members of the organization, and am therefore familiar with them.
Q. Did you, at my request, make a check to determine whether Mr. T. was a member of your Party, or was carried on your rolls in any way?
A. I inquired of our New York Organizer, who is even more intimately familiar with the members of this City than I am, and he knows of no T.
Q. Now, may I ask you some additional questions: Do you know J. or N. D.?
Q. Are they members of the Workers Party?
A. I don't know them.
Q. Do you believe if they were members of the Workers Party that you would know them?
A. Yes, unless they are members in some small community I haven't visited recently.
Q. If 1 tell you they are residents of the City of Buffalo, New York, would that help you in any way?
A. Yes. I know all the members of our organization in Buffalo; at least, I have known them up to quite recently and unless they joined in the last three or four months, I am quite sure I would know who they are.
Q. And you do not know who they are?
Q. Do you know W.?
A. From where?
Q. Buffalo, New York.
A. No. I am not familiar with that name at all.
Q. Is he a member of the Workers Party?
A. As far as I know, no.
Q. Do you know S., of Buffalo?
A. Yes, I know him.
Q. Is he a member of the Workers Party?
A. No. To the best of my knowledge, he is a very close sympathizer of our party, but not a member. I know him quite well, as a matter of fact.
Q. You are certain he is not a member of your Party?
A. Quite certain, in his case—perfectly sure.
Q. Did you ask him to join?
A. I, personally, no.
Q. Has he had opportunities to join?
A. Oh, yes. Everyone has an opportunity to join.
Q. And has he taken that opportunity?
A. No, So far as I know, no.
Not a Secret Organization
Q. Now, I would like to ask you some questions about your Party generally: I would like to know whether your Party has a position with regard to the Soviet Union?
A. Yes, formally adopted by resolution at the last National Convention.
Q. Speaking generally, would you say that your Party is pro-Soviet Union or anti-Soviet Union?
A. I think the answer to the question would be more enlightening if you asked about our attitude toward the present regime. We have nothing against any country.
Q. Will you describe your attitude, then, toward the present regime of the Soviet Union?
A. I would say it is irreconcilably hostile to it, and has been since the inception of our organization.
Q. Do you suppose that any member of your Party, ar anyone in sympathy with the aim of your Party, would, under any circumstances, act with others, in the interests of the Soviet Union?
A. No. Utterly inconceivable. I might add that there are masses of evidence to demonstrate this incontrovertibly, that would occupy this board for several days.
Q. Could anyone who has a sympathy for the Workers Party, or could any member of the Workers Party, have a loyalty to or above any country other than the United States of America?
A. No. That is likewise inconceivable.
Q. Could any member of your party be interested in any way with destroying the constitutional form of Government of the United States?
A. Well, will you be a little more specific about that?
Q. Well, what I mean it, is your Party prepared to use force or violence or subversive or secret and conspiratorial methods for the purpose of overthrowing tho Constitution of tho United States?
A. It is a long question. In the first place, we are not a secret organization In any sense. We are a public political organisation. Members of our organisation conduct campaigns for public office. I have been on the ballot. Their position on the ballot has not been contested. Our propaganda, educational and general political activities are quite well known, especially in the labor movement where we function most actively—so far as the question of secrecy and conspiratorial methods are concerned.
I might add further that the meetings of our branches, which are the basic units of our organization, are always open to non-members. We hold public meetings at all times. Our press is public and has been accorded second class mailing; rights by the Post Office Department.
Our membership press, that is, our bulletins, are publicly available. By press, I mean that press in which we discuss our own Party problems. Those are publicly available.
Q. Well, will you address yourself to the question of force and violence?
A. The answer is no.
Q. Will you elaborate on that? Does your Party have any policy with regard to the use of force and violence in achieving any change?
A. I wouldn't say that our Party had adopted any formal document on the matter. I can give you the general consensus of our Party that is more or less codified and formalized in literature that our Party has issued.
Q. Will you do that?
A. I could refer you—I regret I don't have a copy with me—to a little booklet that I wrote recently on tho Program and
Principles of our Party, and which is considered a standard presentation of our Party position, so to speak. On that score, I would say that our Party holds the position that It Is necessary to win tho support of a majority of the population In order to carry through a radical, fundamental transformation of the social order In tho United States.
This radical, social transformation is for us the establishment of a socialist society. We are a Socialist organization.
Q. Is it your intention, as a Party, to nominate candidates for election to public office?
A. We have done so within the limits of our strength, or, I should really say, of our weakness. We are a very small organization, I state again. We have run candidates in New York. I have been a candidate of our Party on several occasions. We have had candidates in Pennsylvania, in Illinois, in Michigan, in California.
The Meaning of "Subversive"
Q. Has your organization had a hearing for the purpose of determining whether your organization is subversive within the meaning of the Executive Order of the President and the Directives thereunder?
Q. Has your organization ever made an application to be delisted?
A. Yes. In my capacity as National Chairman of our Party, and under the instructions of the Executive Committee of our Party, I addressed a letter to Attorney General Clark requesting that he grant a hearing to our representatives in order that they might submit the position of our Party and demonstrate the injustice, the iniquity of the Department of Justice having placed our name on the so-called subversive list.
Mr. Clark replied, saying in effect that he would be glad to listen to a representative of our Party at his office in Washington. I said Mr. Clark. It was an error. It was his assistant—Assistant to the Attorney General.
Q. Has a hearing yet been held on the question?
A. No. Upon discussing tho matter, our Executive Committee decided, and tho decision was made in consultation with the American Civil Liberties Union, to request the Attorney General, once he had agreed to listen to our representative, to Inform us of exactly what charges had been directed against us, what evidence had been presented to him, and what
evidence he had at his disposal to sustain those charges. We considered, of course, that It was Impossible for us to appear before the Attorney General without so much as the remotest Idea of what charges had been presented against us to justify placing us on tho list, or what evidence had been adduced before the Attorney General to sustain any such charges.
The Office of the Attorney General thereupon replied saying that in accordance with the Executive Order which directed the Attorney General to compile such a list, his office was not authorized to inform us of what charges had been directed against us, our Party, or what evidence, if any, had been submitted to sustain these charges.
Under those circumstances, we were absolutely helpless. I, for example, as a representative of our Party, cannot appear before any body, or any Board, or any Governmental institution in order to refute charges, the nature of which I am utterly unaware of, to reply to evidence the nature of which I am entirely unaware of. We are, therefore, holding the matter in abeyance until further consultation with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has interested itself in the case of the Workers Party, and which on previous occasions has already intervened with the office of the Attorney General in Washington in that connection.
Delay has been occasioned by the fact that the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Roger N. Baldwin, has, for some time now, been in Germany. Upon his return the matter will be pursued by our Party.
Q. Is your Party, or can your Party be described as Totalitarian, Fascist, Communist, or subversive, or any of them?
A. I will take the last one first.
It is not exactly clear to me what is meant by subversive. I know all sorts of invidious connotations have been given to it. If the question were a little more precise, I could answer more precisely.
Q. May I ask you to leave that for a minute? Take the first three.
A. The first three are much easier.
Q. Could your Party in any way be designated as Totalitarian, Fascist, or Communist?
A. In no sense whatsoever. In no sense whatsoever. We are an anti-totalitarian organization, and have been since our inception.
So for as being a Fascist organization is concerned, our Party has not only been emphatic in its opposition to Fascism In all its forms, but has even organized public demonstrations against Fascist organizations in this country. If I may, I can call your attention to tho fact that I personally led a demonstration in the City of New York In 1938, against the German-American Bund which was holding what we considered a very provocative meeting in Madison Square Garden.
So far as being a Communist organization, if by that is meant an organization in sympathy with the present regime in Russia, or in sympathy with the Communist Party in this or any other country, anyone familiar with the activities or program of our Party would consider the question an offense- ridiculous. Our organization was founded, as a matter of fact, on the basis of three leaders having been expelled from the Communist Party and the Communist International on October 27, 1928. Since then, if anything, the gulf between the two movements has widened unbridgeably. I think it would be enough to read almost any issue of a periodical published by the Communist Party in this country to see what it says about our organization, and there will be no doubt in anyone's mind as to what view it has of us. Or read any issue of our periodical to see what view we have of the Communist Party.
Q. Now, will you define for me, in your own way, whatever you think the word "subversive" used in this connection means, and tell me then what your attitude is about the possibility of holding the Workers Party as a subversive organization?
A. I might say that in the sense in which it is currently used, the Workers Party is decidedly not a subversive organization.
The general connotation of the term "subversive", as I gather it, is some sort of a conspiratorial, or semi-conspiratorial organization which is plotting for a sort of coup d'etat, violent overthrow of the Government by a minority, or which is operating as an agent of some foreign reactionary institution. None of these current concepts of the term "subversive" In
any degree applies to our Party.
Q. Has your Party ever adopted a policy of advocating, or approving the commission of acts of force or violence to deny others their rights under the Constitution of the United States?
How could that be? A good deal of our activity is necessarily devoted to righting for democratic and constitutional rights for minority groups, one of which is the Workers Party itself. Far from advocating or supporting the restriction of democracy, we devote ourselves to a considerable degree to a fight to extend them.
Q. What, for example, would be the attitude of the Workers Party to the recent change of Government and methods used therein in Czechoslovakia?
A. We have attacked and denounced that in most vigorous language in the popular press and in our scientific press, at public meetings and inside our own organization, in Europe.
Goal, Method of Socialism
Q. Would you say that the Workers Party could be described in any way as seeking to alter the form of Government of the United States by unconstitutional means?
A. No. Decidedly, we ask to alter the form of Government of the United States. We are Socialists. We are opposed to capitalism. We are for Socialism. There is absolutely no secret about that.
As for employing force or violence to impose the will of the minority upon the population, from our point of view that is preposterous. That could not possibly lead, leaving aside all other considerations, to our objective, a Socialist democracy.
Q. Would you say that the Workers Party, its members or anyone in sympathy with the Workers Party, could or would, under any circumstances, engage in sabotage, espionage, or attempts or preparations therefor, or knowingly associate with spies or saboteurs?
A. No. I mean, there may be some sympathiser attracted to our Party on the basis of Lord alone knows what. He is, perhaps, an irresponsible person. I don't know of any such person, in any case. But anyone attracted to our Party, as a member or a sympathizer, on the basis of what the Party stands for or does—I don't know how that could be conceived of, no.
Q. I repeat to you substantially the same question with regard to members or sympathizers of your Party, the question being: Could they in any way engage in treason or sedition, or the advocacy thereof?
Q. Could they, under any circumstances,—
A. (interrupting)—May I elaborate on one point in particular?
A. Which, if I may say so, strikes me as particularly absurd. Take the matter of treason. Treason is, as I understand it, defined constitutionally or by statute, I am not quite sure now, as collaboration with some foreign government against the interests of the United States—roughly. But we are not less hostile to any other government on the face of the earth than we are to the Government of the United States. It simply could not enter the mind of any of our members to collaborate with other governments.
All the governments In the world, so far as we can see, are capitalistic governments, in most cases much more reactionary than the capitalistic government in the United States, or Stalin's government, for which we entertain a particularly vigorous and irreconcilable opposition. To collaborate with such governments for tho purpose of opposing the Government of the United States Is. from our political point of view, a complete absurdity.
I might add that if any member of our Party were mad enough so much as to contemplate such collaboration, though we are extremely lenient about differences of opinion in our Party, we would nevertheless promptly expel him from our ranks.
Q. Now, as to any intentional unauthorized disclosure to any persons under circumstances which may indicate disloyalty to the United States of documents or information of a confidential or non-public character obtained by the persons making the disclosure from the government of the United States, is it conceivable to you that any member of your Party, or anyone in sympathy with the ideals of your Party, would, under any circumstances make such an unauthorized disclosure?
A. Absolutely out of the question. We are not an espionage organization. We are a political organization forthe purpose of pursuing, certainly at the present time, almost exclusively educational aims.
Q. As to the question of performing or attempting to perform one's duties, or otherwise acting so as to serve the interests of another government in reference to the interests of the United States, would you say that any member of your Party, or
anyone in sympathy with the ideals of your Party, could so act?
A. Flatly, I say that would be impossible.
Q. As to membership in, or affiliation with, or sympathetic association with, any foreign or domestic organization, association, movement, group or combination that could be described as Totalitarian, Fascist, Communist, or subversive, or as having adopted a policy of advocating or approving the commission of acts of force or violence to deny other persons their rights under the Constitution of the United States, or seeking to alter the form of Government of the United States by unconstitutional means, will you say that any member of your Party, or any person in sympathy with the aims of your Party, could be described in that fashion?
A. It is implicit in what I have said to the preceding questions, that that would be absolutely impossible.
Democracy in the WP
MR. MIGDAL: I propose now to have Mr. Shachtman say something about the nature of the aims of the Party, and the kind of Party discipline exercised, so that I can then in that way lay some foundation for my feeling about what sympathetic
association with one of the members would mean, and that will be the direction of my next questions.
By Mr. Migdal:
Q. Mr. Shachtman, does your Party require any special discipline of its members?
A. We require the payment of dues. A prolonged lapse of that would mean that the offender is dropped from the rolls of the Party. But that is normal in any organization.
We require a certain minimum of activity from every member: attendance at meetings more or less regularly; distribution of our press; assisting in the convening of public meetings where we present our point of view.
Discipline outside of the organization is confined more or less to the following:
We require of every member that he shall so conduct himself In his political life as not to throw any discredit upon or do harm to the labor movement in general or his own Party, the Workers Party, In particular. Inside of the organization I doubt if you will find another political party or group in this country which not only admits but encourages as wide a range of differences of opinion as the Workers Party. That, too, could easily be documented. I referred before to a bulletin that we issue primarily for the Party members, but which is generally available to the public. This is a discussion bulletin which takes up all sorts of problems of the Socialist movement. You would see controversial articles in there written by different members, and even leading members of our organization, which represent a considerable range of difference of opinion.
In no case, in the almost nine years of existence of our Party as an independent organization, has there been a single case of discipline being exercised against a member, or expulsion of a member from our Party because of differences of opinion he may have had with the officials of the Party.
As a matter of fact, I know of only one single case of expulsion for any ground from our Party. That was quite recently. We expelled a member of our Party for having failed to support the workers in a given plant who went out on strike. We consider that any member of our Party who does not go along with the decisions of the trade union to which he belongs cannot properly represent our Party among the workers. That is the only case I know of, of an expulsion in the almost nine yearsof the existence of our Party.
Q. Within your Party, do you have major differences of opinion with regard to such current issues as, for example, support of the Marshall Plan, the position of the United States with regard to functioning within the United Nations, the Palestine question, domestic legislation, and will you say something about all of them, please?
A. Except for the question of the functioning of the United States in the United Notions, which has not arisen as a dispute in our organisation, all of the other questions you mentioned have been the subject of discussion, dispute, controversy In our Party, in which extreme differences of opinion have been presented, and, without saying tolerated—I shouldn't
say tolerated—that sounds—well, it Is inadequate— encouraged. I can give you two or three examples if you wish.
On the Marshall Plan, for example, there are many of our members who oppose it, and many of our members who are for giving it a form of conditional support, or partial support. Both points of view have been presented inside our Party, in the
bulletin, and in our public press which—almost every issue has a section devoted to discussion.
Or, take the matter of Palestine: There are not less than three or four different points of view that exist in our Party. Some are for the support of the movement to make Palestine a Jewish State; others are for supporting the movement to make Palestine a bi-national State; still others are for supporting a movement which would give the native Arab population such political parity with the Jewish population as would, in effect, make it bi-national, but in which the Arabs would have a majority.
That seems a wide range of difference of opinion— at one extreme, those who would convert it into a Jewish state, and at the other extreme, those who would want Palestine converted into what would be an Arab state. I doubt if more extreme positions on such a question could exist. Nevertheless, they do exist. They are being currently discussed—as a
matter of fact, particularly so in view of the fact that the Party is on the eve of a National Convention. Preceding the National Convention there is an especially intensive period of discussion of the question.
Opposite of Stalinist Party
Q. Now, may I ask you to describe for me what you consider to be the chief difference between the Communist or the Totalitarian parties and your own Party?
A. There are several, and they are fundamental. When I say fundamental, I mean they make any collaboration, any cooperation between us in almost any field a political impossibility.
The Communist Party, as Is commonly known, Is in the service of the present Russian regime. I can only repeat that we are Intensely hostile to that regime. Those who used to be akin to us In Russia have either been executed or Imprisoned, or are in concentration camps, or In slave labor camps. Under those circumstances, It would be very difficult for us to entertain the slightest sympathy with the present regime.
Q. May I interrupt, for I don't think you understand the question. 1 mean, in terms of party discipline and loyalties outside of the United States, can you describe any serious differences between yourselves and, say, the Communist Party?
A. As far as relationships abroad are concerned, I can really repeat my position in a somewhat different way. We consider, and we have denounced the Communist Party as being nothing more than a tool of the Kremlin. We have no international affiliation ourselves, and certainly with regard to Russia, we have a hostile attitude that I described before.
As far as internal discipline is concerned, there is no party democracy in any Communist Party. There is no discussion in any Communist Party. Decisions are simply arrived at at the top, in the leadership. Those decisions are usually transmitted
from Russia, and the ranks are simply required to carry out decisions arrived at without consulting them.
That Is impossible In our party. All decisions taken in our Party are preliminarily discussed by the membership. They are decided by the membership. Our leading committee is an executive committee in the literal sense of the word. It executes decisions arrived at by the members.
Q. Now, if someone were in sympathy with the general ideals of the Party, would it be possible to describe the way in which that man would act under any special circumstances?
If I may explain my question just a little more, what I mean is this: If I were a member of the Communist Party—I think all of us in this room would agree, for instance, if it took a hostile attitude towards the United States, I would; or conversely, if it took a soft attitude toward the United States of America, then 1 would; or, if they took a specific position—if the Soviet Union took a specific position with regard to Palestine, then the members of the Communist Party in America and elsewhere in the world would take that kind of attitude.
So that, with regard to the Communist Party, it would perhaps be possible to say that you can determine the attitude of the members of that Party, or their sympathizers, by knowing wliut tliu Soviet Union is doing at any given moment?
A. I would agree with that, yes.
Q. Now, with regard to a sympathizer with your Party, could you define the way in which he felt about anything from knowing that he was a sympathizer with the general ideals of your Party?
A. In no way. Our position is not determined by nor dependent upon the position taken by any government, let alone the Russian government.
Q. Would it necessarily be so that a sympathizer with the ideals of your Party could be assumed to agree with any position of the Party taken by even the majority of its membership, as an automatic thing?
A. No, of course not. I tried to point out there are differences of opinion inside our Party, and if that prevailed, then there must certainly be an even greater range of differences with the official positions of the Party among our sympathizers,
that is, among those less intimately associated with the Party.
Problem Before the Board
Q. Is there anything more you would like to say to the Loyalty Board convened here that you think would be of assistance to it in coming to a determination of this case?
A. Well, perhaps I could summarize the problem as I see it, that is, the problem that confronts this Board. Unless I am radically mistaken, what the Board is concerned with, and what the authorities who are responsible for setting up this, and what similar Boards are concerned with, at least primarily, is that government institutions shall not make possible or facilitate the work of those who in any way serve the Russian regime.
My impression is that that is a primary consideration. Mr. T„ as I understand, is involved more or less on such a basis. If Mr. T is a sympathizer of our Party, then I am all the more anxious to see that he is not unjustly discriminated against, or discriminated against on unwarranted assumptions. If his offense is supposed to be his sympathy for our Party, I consider there are no grounds for any action to be taken against him.
Our Party was actually formed in the United States in April 1940—literally on the basis of its opposition to the support of Russia in the war, some months after the Stalin-Hitler pact had been signed.
The majority of the Party to which we belonged at that time, called the Socialist Workers Party, while hostile to tho Stalin regime, nevertheless considered that Russia was some sort of workers state, and that It should be supported in the war, not because of the Stalin regime, to which, I repeat, they were hostile, but In spite of that regime. We represented a minority of that party. I belonged In that minority personally. We said that under no circumstances could we support Russia In the war, that we had, as socialists, nothing In common with the Russian regime.
You will certainly understand the gravity of the dispute and the seriousness with which we took it, if I say that it is on that issue that the Socialist Workers Party split in two.
The then minority constituted itself as an independent organisation, the present Workers Party. That was in April 1940, a few months after the Second World War began.
It may be thought that once the Stalin-Hitler pact was broken, and Russia, by political and military expediency, found herself on the side of the United States, that the position of the Workers Party would change. In no way did that occur. We opposed the Russian regime before the war, during that period of the war when it was allied with the Western Powers,
and since the war came to an end.
Q. May I ask you whether the members, of the Workers Party served in the Armed Forces in the United States during the war?
A. Of course. We are not pacifists. We have no conscientious objectors among our members.
Q. And you consider yourselves loyal American citizens who would participate in a war?
A. Certainly. Any number of our members served in the Armed Forces, in our battlefronts as well, and with distinction. All of them, so far as I know, entered the Army as ordinary soldiers, as privates. When they were discharged, some of them ranked as high as Lieutenants, Captains. At no time that I know of, and I think I am familiar with virtually every case, was any question raised about the conduct of any of our members in the Armed Forces. Not once that I know of.
Mr. Migdal: Docs the Board have any questions?
Mr. Ryan: I have one or two.
Defining a Trotskyist
EXAMINATION BY THE BOARD
By Mr. Ryan:
Q. Mr. Shachtman, you have testified that the Workers Party has gone on record as opposing the present Russian regime.
Q. Have they gone on record favoring any former Russian regime?
A. Yes. In the general sense, yes. We were supporters of the Russian Revolution of 1917, yes. We considered that a socialist revolution.
Q. The Trotsky Revolution?
A. Well, what is commonly called the Lenin-Trotsky Revolution, yes.
Q. Well, I would like to ask you this question:
The Board has heard several definitions, and I would like to have your expert definition of a Trotskyite. What is a Trotskyite?
A. Well, now, I can give you only my own opinion. If you read the Daily Worker, an organ of the Communist Party, you will read some rather violent definitions of what a Trotskyite is.
Far from feeling any friendliness toward us, or toward any Trotskyite, we are described as fascists, vipers, wreckers, and other names which only the presence of our reporter prevents me from repeating.
In general, I can say this: Our support in a general way, that is, not the support of every single word and every single act of Trotsky—while we supported it in a general way, it was based upon two considerations:
One, that it was Trotsky primarily who began the fight against the bureaucratisation of the Russian regime as early as 1923. and who thereby became the arch enemy, and finally the victim of the Stalin bureaucracy. Trotsky raised a demand and carried on a fight for workers' democracy in Russia as against bureaucracy and against the totalitarian regime. We
in the United States—I was a member of the Communist Party almost from its founding in this country—we In the United States were so far from Russia that we really know vary little of what was going on, although we had the impression we knew everything.
It was only In 1928, five years after Trotsky began the straggle, that we began to get the details. We took a position In favor of that fight and against Stalin, and we were immediately expelled from the Communist Party, although we had been founders and leaders of that party.
The second question—I am speaking of the main reasons—
Q. About what time was this?
A. October 27. 1928—a little better than 20 years ago. Three of us who were members of the Executive Committee, It was called at that time—yes, the Executive Committee of the Communist Party—were summarily expelled from that Party after a trial which lasted a few minutes, really. I think It is that time that dates our opposition to brief trials, you know—it developed almost into a prejudice on our part. We were expelled because we supported Trotsky in his fight for democracy, and because we supported him in his fight for internationalism and against the nationalist position taken by the Stalin
This nationalist position, which some of you may know, or should know, finally degenerated into the present imperialistic position of the Russian regime, the occupation of foreign countries, the subjugation of people, the suppression of all social and democratic institutions, especially of labor movements, and the like.
The hostility against us was from the beginning very strong. I c»n tell you that we suffered very heavily at the hands of the Stalinist leaders in the United States. The very first public meeting we attempted to hold, in November, 1928, to present
our point of view as to why we had been expelled from the Communist Party, was in the Labor Temple in New York, at Second Avenue and 14th Street.
I remember it very vividly. A big crowd of thugs and tough guys, organized by the Communist Party, was sent there to break up our meeting by physical violence. We defended ourselves as best we could.
The meeting was broken up. It was only the second meeting that was successful, and because we had on the platform a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union, and, frankly, it was because we had prepared to defend ourselves from the Communist Party. More than one meeting, especially in those days, when we were even smaller than we are now, was broken up by the Communist Party, and I, myself, personally, physically, felt how they broke them up. Such attempts have not been made in recent years, because we are a little more experienced in defending our meetings, and, frankly,
where attempts have been made, we have given as good as we have gotten. It has discouraged that sort of thing.
If the committee had unlimited patience, which I am sure it does not have and should not have—I will say I can give you a wealth of details to show the absolute abyss that exists between us and the Stalinites. In this country or any other country, and how completely inconceivable it would be for any of our members or sympathizers attracted to our movement on the basis of what we actually stand for to act as collaborators or agents of the Communist regime or the Stalin party—such things as espionage, or stealing documents— it simply Is not possible.
Q. You mentioned your publication a moment ago. What is the name of it?
A. We have a weekly publication called "Labor Action." We have a monthly magazine, a more or less scientific magazine, called "The New International." And then we publish a mimeographed bulletin for discussion of the problems of our Party, or socialism in general, called "The Bulletin of the Workers Party." All three of those are the public press.
Q. I have one more question, and you have been very kind in answering my questions so far.
A. I consider it not only a duty but a pleasure.
Presidential Election Policy
Q. The Socialist Workers Party have what relation to the Socialists?
A. Well, now. we are not the same as the Socialist Workers Party. That is the organization to which I referred before as the one which split in 1940 over the Russian question. I can only reply for our own Party, the Workers Party, as to its relationship with the Socialist Party.
We have many differences with the Socialist Party, but I might point out that in the last election, the last Presidential election last November—this November past—we. ourselves, had no presidential candidate—that is. no one nominated by our own Party.
We do not pretend to a strength we do not actually enjoy. I do not boast about this fact. I simply state it as a fact. We are a tiny organization primarily occupied with educational work. It is only on rare occasions, and in local situations, that we even put up candidates for election.
Having no candidate of our own, being opposed to the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, being opposed likewise to the Progressive Party, which we consider as being too intimately connected with the Communist Party to deserve the support of the Socialists or workers In general, we told our supporters In our press to support any one of the three
existing small socialist organizations which did have presidential candidates. We asked them to choose— it was a matter of indifference to us—the candidate of the Socialist Party, Mr. Thomas, or Mr. Teichert or Mr. Dobbs.
We, so to speak, endorsed all three, and offered our support of the choice of one of those. We had none of our own.
MR. RYAN: Thank you.
WP and Russian Question
MR. MIGDAL: I would like to ask one more question, and I think we will be through,
By Mr: Migdal:
Q. You have described the history of the Workers Party, and its being rooted in a feeling about Trotsky, and what Trotsky was doing within the Communist Party, and of the Soviet Union.
Now, I ask you whether someone—take someone at maturity in 1940 or 1941, and who is now, has been a sympathizer with your Party, would be a Trotskyite. or whether, from that sympathy with the aims and ideals of your Party, would you say he is or is not a Trotskyite?
A. Here I have to be a little more precise. I consider myself a Trotskyite in the broad sense, supporting in general the socialist views that Leon Trotsky had.
It does not follow from that, it could not for me, it does not follow for any of our members, that we agree with Trotsky on every question, that we agree with him in small questions, or even in all large important questions.
I refer you to the fact that in the dispute in 1940 which led to the split in the Socialist Workers Party, the main dispute was carried on between myself, as representative and spokesman of the minority, and as spokesman for the majority, Leon Trotsky, who was at that time in Mexico, on the question of Russia. That can easily be documented.
Trotsky wrote a whole book—a whole book which is publicly available—called "In Defense of Marxism" the bulk of which is devoted to a polemic against me and against our friends, our comrades, because we took the position on Russia that we did take, a position with which he disagreed.
We, in turn, of course just as vigorously—and permit me to say respectfully, because we had, and still have, a great respect for Trotsky as a socialist —to which we just as vigorously replied. For anyone who is familiar with the radical movement in the United States, that event is quite well known.
Since then our distinguishing feature, that which either attracts those whom it does attract, or repels those whom it does repel, has been the position we took on the so-called Russian question.
Q. That position was in opposition to the position that Trotsky took on Russia?
A. Oh, in almost diametrical opposition.
Mr. Migdal: I have no further questions.
Force and Social Revolution
By Mr. Waddel:
Q. There is just one point that isn't clear to me.
Is it not true that prior to 1928 the Communist leaders—that would include Lenin, Trotsky, and the others—adhered to the Marxian view that while socialism should be introduced through at least democratic practices wherever possible, if that were not possible, then violence should be used, and that the existing capitalistic government should be overthrown by violent revolution? Is it, or is it not, true that that was the general belief of the early Russian Communists?
A. No. The general interpretation of their belief, that is, a much more accurate way to state it, if I may—actually, all those who consider themselves—how shall I say it—more or less orthodox Marxists—the term is not too strictly interpreted, and Lenin was one. and Trotsky was one—took the point of view held by Marx and Engels, who are the two founders of what we call scientific socialism.
Our aim—the form of government which Is most conducive to tho advance of socialism Is the democratic republic. It Is for that that we form political parties, present candidates, seek to get them elected, try to get tho greatest amount of support from the electorate, and so forth.
When is violence indicated? I don't want to diplomatize with this Board at all. I am absolutely in favor of violence under certain circumstances—no question about that. If that statement imperils Mr. T.'s job, I regret it, but I am compelled to make the statement. But only under certain circumstances, not all.
Any intelligent socialist would be preposterous to be for violence for the sake of violence, since the aim of socialism is to establish an order of peace, and it is inconceivable that they would be for violence just for the sake of seeing bloodshed.
Violence, however, is justified from the socialist point of view when the regime against which socialism directs itself makes it impossible for the socialist movement or the labor movement, or the people at large, to enjoy and to exercise their democratic rights.
I will give you two examples that actually occurred, and one hypothetical example:
Under the Czarist regime, which was autocratic despotism, no politically thoughtful and progressive or social-minded or liberal person in the United States ever dreamed of frowning upon those Russian revolutionists, of all schools of thought, who more or less openly proclaimed that they sought to overthrow the Czarist regime by violence inasmuch as there was no other way to alter the regime.
It was a regime of violence, and there was nothing else one could do except overturn it by violence. I might say that the sympathy of all of the United States was with the Russian Revolution back before the war.
Take a more recent example—the Hitler regime.
How can I change that regime, I, a German? Simply by educational activity? How change it except by putting up candidates in an election and getting a majority of the Parliament? There is no Parliament, there are no elections! How can I change the Hitler regime? By force—an army. You sent an army. I don't think those are peaceful means. If they weren't violent, they were very vigorous, and in that manner the Hitler regime was changed.
How can peaceful means be conceivable under such circumstances?
Now, suppose in the United States a Ku Klux Klan regime were to replace the present regime, or some fascist regime which denied us all democratic rights, and when I say us, I mean not only the Workers Party but the people in general, where you would have no elections—none that could be called genuine elections? How can such a regime be altered in any way by peaceful means?
We would unhesitatingly, those of us alive and those retaining courage, unhesitatingly propagate the idea that it is necessary, once we are strong enough, to overturn this regime by violence.
During the war our Party supported the national underground resistance movements in Europe that were fighting with violence against the Hitler regime.
But to speak about our seeking violence against the regime in the United States today—it is ludicrous. Why? I regret to say this, but we are an insignificant minority. Our Party members, plus our Party sympathizers, plus those who vote for us,
multiplied by ten, are still an insignificant number.
If every single one of us, every single one of us enumerated, had a rifle in his possession now, we could all be dispersed by five policemen, if we were mad enough to think in such terms.
As I said, gentlemen, we are an educational organization. We seek first, over the whole next period—I hope it is shorter than it probably will be— to win the minds and the hearts of the bulk of the people of this country.
I might add something that may be of interest to you, gentlemen. So much are we an educational organization that at this very moment there is an active discussion in our party ranks over a proposition submitted by myself, personally, to relinquish the name "Workers Party," not because of the first word in it, but because of the second word, because I have contended that we can't deceive ourselves, let alone anyone else. We are not a political party in the proper sense of the word. An organization with a few hundred members should not call itself a party. The Democratic Party is a party. The
Republican Party is a party. The Communist Party is a party, that is, In the sense it has enough strength to accomplish things, good or bad—I leave that aside.
We, unfortunately, are not. I have therefore proposed that we take a name which will indicate more clearly than does the name "Workers Party" that we are an educational organization. We hope one day to become a party, but we are not one now.
I have reason to believe that at our convention a sufficient majority of the delegates representing the membership of our organization will support this proposal to abandon the name "Workers Party", and to adopt one which will indicate primarily the educational nature of our movement.
By Mr. Ryan:
Q. Will the convention be held in New York?
A. In all probability.
Chairman Short: We certainly thank you very much.
Mr. Migdal: I would like to ask one more question.
By Mr. Migdal:
Q. You do not, or do you, attribute any of the views you have here expressed to Mr. T.?
A. I am sorry for this, but I do not know Mr. T.—what his views are I do not know. I know only what you have told me, namely, that he is a sympathizer of our party. If I know him—I am trying to say, if he is as much of a sympathizer as those I know personally, I would say, broadly speaking, in a general way, he would undoubtedly sympathize with the general aims of our Party.
Q. But you don't know how close, a sympathizer he is. and you have never known him before In your life?
Mr. Migdal: Thank you.
The Loyalty Board decided that the Workers Party sympathizer, whose name has not been made available to the press, is confirmed in the position he has held in the Department of Commerce for a year and a half in view of the board's
finding that there were no reasonable grounds for the charge of disloyalty in the first place. The department has therefore closed the case.
Labor Action, 21 March 1949
COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT OF TESTIMONY BY W P CHAIRMAN IN LOYALTY BOARD HEARING
Is Socialism Subversive"? Shachtman Testifies for Workers Party
[Labor Action Introduction, 1949
We publish here the official transcript of the testimony given by Max Shachtman, national chairman of the Workers Party, before the Loyalty Board of the United States Department of Commerce, on January 14 1949, in the case of an acknowledged sympathizer of the Workers Party who was under "disloyalty" charges as an employee of the department.
The testimony is taken from the official records of the board, which have been made available to us through the courtesy of Lester C. Migdal, attorney for the department employee in the case.
The only changes made in the transcript have been minor corrections of stenographic errors.—Editor of Labor Action].