The goal of the socialist is to consolidate political power. Only then can he build his ideal world by eradicating the “evils of capitalism.” The socialists’ cynical dislike of the existing system opens the way to the building of an even more cynical system — far from the ideal world they are trying to create. True-believing socialists can appear formidable, of course, even ferocious; or they can sound silly, even childish.
One of the most interesting socialists of the twentieth century was Benjamin Gitlow, who began as a true-believing communist and awoke to its immorality after a confrontation with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. In his introduction to Benjamin Gitlow’s book, The Whole of Their Lives, Max Eastman described Gitlow as an ideal Marxist, and “the first man arrested in the United States for advocating communism.”
His trial occurred in 1919 in the midst of the famous ‘red raids’ of Attorney General Palmer. Clarence Darrow undertook to get him off by hushing the implications of the subversive things he had said. But Gitlow would have nothing to do with that. He was a revolutionist, and he insisted that Darrow defend him on the sole ground of the ‘right of revolution.’
Because he advocated the overthrow of the U.S. Government, Gitlow was convicted and sentenced under New York’s Criminal Anarchy statute of 1902. Gitlow made no attempt to hide his communist motives. During the trial, he denounced the U.S. political system as a “capitalist dictatorship.” He addressed the jury as follows:
The socialists have always maintained that the change from capitalism to socialism would be a fundamental change, that … we would have a complete reorganization of society, that this change would not be a question of reform; that the capitalist system … would give way to a new system of society based on a new code of laws, based on a new ethics, and based on a new form of government. For that reason, the socialist philosophy has always been a revolutionary philosophy and people who adhered to the socialist program … were always considered revolutionists, and … I am a revolutionist.
In its wisdom, the jury found him guilty. He served three years in Sing Sing Prison before being pardoned by Governor Al Smith. After leaving prison his revolutionary career was even more spectacular than before. Gitlow went on to occupy “every important post in the American Communist Party:” According to Eastman, Gitlow became editor-in-chief of the Communist Party’s newspaper, he became a —
member of its Political Committee, member of its Secretariat of Three, General Secretary of the party, director of its strike and trade union policy, secret leader of the Passaic textile workers strike, the biggest communist strike in our history, and twice the communist candidate for Vice President. He made his first trip to Moscow in 1927 at the special request of the Kremlin. An extended conversation with Stalin on the problems of the American movement ensured him the highest advancement. He became a member of the executive committee both of the Red Trade Unions International, and within the latter was elected to the Presidium, the inside ruling group of the world communist movement.
Gitlow was one of America’s top communist leaders. But then something happened. He began to doubt the goodness and infallibility of Joseph Stalin, the number one boss in the worldwide communist movement. While attending the May 1929 session of the Presidium of the Communist International in Moscow, Stalin wanted to reshape the American party to his specifications. Therefore Stalin presented an “Address to the American Party” in which he denounced the American communist leaders as “right deviationists” and “unprincipled opportunists.” In this way Stalin hoped to subordinate America’s communist leaders to himself. In reaction, the American communists banded together, rebuking Stalin.
Like Moses coming down from Sinai, Stalin personally descended on the Presidium of the Communist International. He stepped up to the podium and laid down the law. He addressed the assembled communists as follows:
…the extreme factionalism of the leaders of the majority [of the American delegation] has driven them into the path of insubordination, and hence of warfare against the Comintern…. And now, the question arises: do the members of the American delegation, as communists, as Leninists, consider themselves entitled not to submit to the decisions of the Executive Committee of the Comintern on the American question?
The American delegation was terror-stricken by Stalin’s statement. Being accused of factionalism and insubordination by Stalin, they imagined the worst. What would Stalin do to them? Were they safe? Would they be expelled from the Communist International? Characteristically, Stalin demanded that each member of the American delegation stand up and declare his position. One by one the American communists, frightened by the angry Soviet dictator, submitted. Gitlow was the last American to speak. He said,
I cannot accept the demand put upon me to discredit myself before the American working class, for I would not only be discrediting myself and the leadership of the party, but the party itself which gave rise to such leadership…. Not only do I vote against the decision, but when I return to the United States I will fight against it!
A long whistle was heard from the crowd. Stalin strode back to the podium, enraged. The Soviet dictator spoke as follows:
True Bolshevik courage does not consist in placing one’s individual will above the will of the Comintern. True courage consists in being strong enough to master and overcome oneself and subordinate one’s will to the will of the collective, the will of the higher party body…. And this is true not only in respect to individual parties and their central committees; it is particularly true in respect of the Comintern and its directing organs, which unite all parties of communists throughout the world…. They talk of their conscience and convictions…. But what is to be done if the conscience and convictions of the Presidium conflict with the conscience and convictions of individual members of the American delegation? What is to be done if the American delegation receives only one vote for their declaration, the vote of Comrade Gitlow, while the remaining members of the Presidium unanimously declared themselves against the declaration?
Such was Stalin’s logic — the logic of political discipline. It is important to remember that the Communist International movement is and was ruled by consensus. Democracy in the communist movement did not mean voting your conscience. Democracy meant agreement, not dissent. In practice, collectivism requires consensus. It was so under Stalin, and it remains so in today’s Russia (which is still secretly communist) and China (which is openly ruled by the Chinese Communist Party). Because he did not accept the communist consensus, Gitlow was booted out of the communist movement. According to Eastman,
From being a high official in a power-structure supposedly on its way to take over the world, he became an obscure, penniless, professionless and well-nigh friendless person, walking the streets of New York looking for a job.
Gitlow was one of the chief organizers of the left in the United States. You could say he was one of the Founding Fathers of the so-called “progressive movement.” As such he understood how the communist organization functioned in America — behind the scenes. He knew the strategic thinking of the Comintern. He knew everything the communists were doing in those days.
Because of his break with Stalin, Gitlow came to oppose communism and publicly warned of its methods. According to Gitlow it would be incorrect to view the Communist Party as a small and irrelevant faction of the left. Since the Russian Revolution the left in America and Europe has become, over time, a diverse group of political sects unwittingly dominated by a very small cadre of communists who are practiced in the arts of clandestine manipulation and control. Gitlow explained as follows:
During the period in which the Communist Party operated as an underground organization, they injected themselves into practically every phase of American social and political life. In their activities the communists were guided by an all-inclusive policy based on the tactics of the United Front.
Lenin was the originator of “the tactics of the United Front,” which placed communists inside various non-communist organizations for the purpose of gradually bringing those organizations into alignment with communist plans. In this way the left was reorganized and the communists provided focus to the whole. Gitlow wrote:
By the skillful application of the United Front policy, the communists have become an important and often a decisive force in movements and actions, political and non-political, from which they would otherwise be excluded. The employment of United Front tactics forced the communists to learn how to deal with persons and movements not in their camp. Thus the communists developed into able negotiators and astute politicians. Once the communists got their toes into the narrow opening of a door to an organization, they usually succeeded in squeezing themselves bodily into the organization and either capturing the organization or dominating its affairs.
On the surface the casual observer sees no communists at all. There is only an apparently respectable organization working for a “good cause.” On close inspection, however, many an organization will be found supporting policies that bring advantages to the communists. Take some cause which anyone might think legitimate, dress it up with slogans, and repeat those slogans thousands of times. Consequently, new laws will be adopted, new ways of thinking will be advanced. Who meanwhile notices that Marxist ideas are more and more taking root? — that capitalism is more and more hamstrung? The activists need only a cause, from the oppression of women or minorities to global warming or gay marriage. As Gitlow explained,
The communists thereby create popular movements involving large masses of people, through which they can project their views publicly on a much broader basis than if they acted independently. Since the communists comprise the only closely knit , disciplined forces, they have relatively little difficulty getting the upper hand in the United Front. By playing on the vanity of prominent, influential persons, giving them honors, positions and places on committees with pompous-sounding names, and by cleverly exploiting United Front tactics, the communists, in recent years, have won for themselves the leadership of many causes of a progressive and humanitarian character.
Gitlow’s statement, above, was first published in 1948, over seventy years ago. It is as true today as it was then. The communists were controlling or dominating various non-communist organizations in 1948. And yes, they are doing the same thing today, in 2019. We have been fooled into thinking there has been a “break with the past.” We imagine there isn’t a Comintern anymore. We imagine that communists in the United States no longer follow a strict party consensus established in Moscow or Beijing. Without understanding the United Front tactics of the communists, we are helpless to stop their advance. And they are advancing.
In decades past the communists infiltrated many organizations on the left. Today they also infiltrate the right, which has become incredibly soft. How is this possible? Because the communists were infiltrating the right from the outset, when the right was strong in numbers and conviction. Today it is child’s play for them.
In 1921 the communists created a movement which came to be regarded as the most important anti-communist movement in the world. It was called the Monarchist Alliance of Central Russia. A Moscow bank served as its headquarters, and was for that reason informally known as the “Trust.” Its agents linked arms with the White Russian diaspora, planning assassinations, issuing fake passports, infiltrating Soviet government ministries. All the intelligence agencies of Europe believed in the Trust’s authenticity. They also relied on it for intelligence purposes.
Because of the Trust, the Soviet special services gained entry into anti-communist organizations around the world. Because of the Trust, communists got to know the weaknesses of the West’s intelligence services. History books rarely mention the Trust for a very special reason: when Soviet intelligence revealed it was fake, the embarrassment was so great, and the humiliation so painful, everyone wanted to forget about it. So they did.
Under Lenin the communists learned to infiltrate everywhere, to pretend anything to anyone. There was no limit to the lies they would tell, no fraud too fantastic, no dupe too incredulous, no conspiratorial method too harebrained. They made the outlandish acceptable. And now, look at the politics of today. What is not outlandish?
I have just now given you the key, the explanation for it all.