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Leon Trotsky 19300315 Letter to the Editorial Board of The Militant

Leon Trotsky: Letter to the Editorial Board of The Militant

March 15, 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 13. Supplement (1929-1933), New York 1979, p. 30 f., title: “Progressives in the United Mine Workers”]

To the Editorial Board of The Militant

Dear Comrades:

After reading the statement on the miners’ situation and discussing this question with Comrade Shachtman, I tried to formulate my comments on this question in a sort of amendment, which is not destined for immediate publication but for such a use as the circumstances would indicate:

The adherence of Howat and Brophy to the corrupt bureaucracy of Fishwick and Company is one of the indications of the weakening of the revolutionary positions in the trade unions. Howat and Brophy are not unconscious elements who honestly but confusedly swing from right to left, but they are experienced politicians who are now turning from left to right. They are careerists who no longer find it useful to cover themselves with sympathy for communism, because they consider it sufficiently weakened and compromised.

In the present conditions, the principal danger in the trade unions is represented by elements of the type of Howat and Brophy. It is they that are, and above all will become, the whips in the service of the Green bureaucracy. They are beginning in the United States to play the same role which was played in England in the critical after-war years by Purcell, Cook, and Company, and by Edo Fimmen on an international scale. No illusions at all are permissible about these gentlemen who call themselves by the absolutely inconsistent name of progressives; in the best case it can signify an Americanized species of trade unionist centrism. It is an elementary duty systematically to unmask and discredit them before the masses on the basis of experience of the trade union movement itself. But precisely for that purpose it is necessary that the revolutionary elements take active part in the UMWA and utilize the present struggle between the two cliques for deeper penetration into the rank and file.

The swing of Howat and Brophy to the right reflects the past period during which the working masses of the United States developed in a sense diametrically opposed to the revolutionary cries of ‘radicalization’ by the party. But it is very probable that the situation in the masses of the United States can seriously and radically change in the next period. After the years of prosperity and crisis, the unemployment, etc., can give great impetus to the leftward movement, along the revolutionary path. All the more necessary is it to exploit the contradiction within the reformist trade unions developing between the bureaucracy, especially the progressives, and the masses. We will be unable to isolate, to condemn to impotence the Lewis and Fishwick machines unless we crush implacably their whips, Howat, Brophy, and Company.”

L. Trotsky