Rosa Luxemburg speaks for the S.L.P. (Hass, 1941)


Extrait de The Socialist Labor Party and the Internationals, article d’Eric Hass publié dans Fifty years of American Marxism, 1941, et repris en brochure en 1949. L’extrait montre que Rosa Luxemburg a défendu les deleonistes américains du Socialist Labor Party (S.L.P.) face à Morris Hillquit, du Socialist Party rival, qui voulut en 1909-1910 faire retirer sa représentation au Bureau socialiste international.

(…) When the S.P. and S.L.P. delegations finally met in joint session, De Leon moved the status quo so far as votes in the Congress and on the Bureau were concerned. Prior to the Stuttgart Congress each nation had two votes in the Congress, but at Stuttgart the system was changed. Of the fourteen votes given the American delegation, the S.L.P. had three, the S.P. eleven. The S.P. was not satisfied with this arrangement, however, and at the joint session Spargo moved that the S.L.P. be given. But Spargo added that the SP delegation had strict instructions to cast their votes for both seats on the Bureau. On this point the S.L.P. would not yield.

The question was appealed to the Bureau, before which De Leon neatly punctured the S.P. claim to 53,375 members. He also showed by the decline in the S.P. vote in the large cities that their claim to an increase in influence among the workers was a gross exaggeration. In conclusion he exhibited Berger’s report of what had allegedly occured at the 1909 session of the Bureau and contrasted it with the official Bureau report in order to demonstrate the degree of reliability that could be attached to utterhances of the S.P.

Hillquit replied, said De Leon, with a « regulation anti-SLP speech of the SPite: The SLP was dead; only De Leon was left; the S.L.P. had 53.375 members; the S.L.P. was only a tremendous impediment to the S.P., hurting the S.P. everywhere; and more to the same effect. »


Hillquit was answered in a neat, incisive speech by the uncompromising Polish Marxist, Rosa Luxemburg, who said:

‘ The leading feature of Hillquit’s speech is an inextricable contradiction to me. I do not under- stand how, if the S.P. is as large as it claims and the S.L.P. consists of De Leon only, one single man could so tremendously hurt 53,375 others. »

With this the matter of representation on the Bureau was considered settled in favor of the S.L.P., and the question of giving the S.P. thirteen of the fourteen votes in the Congress was taken up and voted on. Ten members of the Bureau voted for the status quo, thirteen to give the S.P. the two extra seats. Of this decision De Leon wrote:

« A European wit who was present remarked that what gave the Socialist Party that majority of three was the speech of Rosa Luxemburg; that she, being violently hated by the nationalists of Eastern Europe, whatever side she took they took the opposite. I answered that I would rather have one vote for the S.L.P. with Rosa Luxemburg’s speech than our former three without that speech.»

On the question of representation on the Bureau the S.P. had been roundly routed in each attack. But there is a singular obstinacy about the reformer which impels him to return again and again, each time hopefully, with a new deception from his inexhaustible bag of tricks. Hillquit was no exception. The resolution he had introduced in order surreptitiously to remove De Leon from the Bureau, but which he denied was for that purpose, was reintroduced with an amendment providing that « no party shall have representation on the Bureau unless it cast two votes in the Congress. » If adopted, it would have automatically eliminated S.L.P. representation. Alas for Hillquit, this subterfuge, too, failed.

« It was an instance,» wrote De Leon, « in which the theory was demonstrated that dishonesty betrays stupidity. Civilized legislative methods demanded that the purpose of a law be expressly stated. To get the S.L.P. in Congress reduced with express assurances that there was no purpose to remove the SLP from the Bureau, and then bring in a proposition whereby the reduced vote would be made the ground for automatically vacating the SLP seat — such a move was obviously so dishonorable that it, better than aught I could have proved, illustrated to the Bureau what the S.P. methods are which the S.L.P.was constantly forced to wrestle with; the move was so transparently underhanded that the large majority of the Bureau must have promptly seen through it. Despite the repeated efforts on the part of Hillquit to bring up his original proposition, which would have dragged up behind it that typical Hillquitian amendment to his own motion, the Bureau showed it aside. »

This was the final attempt to get the S.L.P. unseated. The ‘scourge’ of the S.P. remained on the Bureau – to the boundless exasperation of Hillquit and his pals.

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