Immigration at Stuttgart

From Marxists-en
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The resolution on Immigration adopted by our last International Congress has called forth a discussion of this subject in our press which could have been more apropos before the Congress, but ought to be welcomed even at this late date. It is unfortunate, however, that the discussion has assumed a somewhat personal character. Our Party’s delegates at Stuttgart have been criticized for neglect of duty in not pressing the “American” point of view. It is quite natural that I should be criticized more than any other delegate, and should feel the general criticism more keenly, because I not only “failed and neglected” to press this point of view, but actually opposed it, doing my level best to defeat the resolution proposed by our National Committee. That my position should be criticized was to be expected and I am not surprised to find Comrade [Morris] Hillquit, the author of the ill-fated resolution, complain of me, although he refrains, in very comrade-like fashion, from openly criticizing me. But there is no mistaking the temper in which the following passage which I quote from Comrade Hillquit’s article in The Worker, was written:

“When it came to a vote,” — says Comrade Hillquit, — “we found that on the particular point in issue we could probably count on the support of Australia and South Africa, each represented by one delegate, as against almost 900 delegates representing the other twenty-two countries. And what was worse, the American delegation was by no means a unit on our proposed resolution: The Socialist Labor Party had naturally taken the extreme impossibilist view of opposing not only all restrictions of labor immigration, but also all safeguards against the dangers arising from it, and even among the delegates of our own party there were those who were opposed to all restrictions, and refused to be bound by our own resolution on the subject.”

I feel therefore in duty bound to inform the comrades of the reasons which actuated me in the course which I adopted at Stuttgart, and incidentally to state just what happened at the Congress, as Comrade Hillquit’s article in The Worker leaves much to be desired on these points both in clearness and accuracy. Comrade Hillquit makes a labored attempt to create the impression that the “American” Resolution was not rejected in toto and that the resolution actually adopted was a compromise. What actually happened was quite different: our resolution was rejected in toto “on the particular point in issue,” by the overwhelming vote of the other twenty-two countries, and there was no thought of a compromise. Comrade Hillquit makes out the semblance of a compromise by simply misstating the position of the other comrades, including my own, on the subject. Not only that: he even misstates the meaning of our own resolution, although it is his own handiwork and he ought to know it. According to Comrade Hillquit (in the Worker) our resolution is not opposed to “involuntary” or “natural” labor migration, but merely to the “importation” of foreign labor. It follows of necessity that those who were opposed to this resolution must have been in favor of such importation. And Comrade Hillquit is not slow to draw this conclusion: so he states in one place that the “extreme left” at the Congress “stood for absolutely free labor migration without any restriction or even safeguard,” (whatever that may mean). And in another: “even among the delegates of our own party, there were those who were opposed to all restrictions.” This statement is evidently referring to myself. The compromise, according to him, consisted in the congress expressing itself for the exclusion of “contract-labor.”

A mere recapitulation of the facts as Comrade Hillquit would have us understand them shows that he must be mistaken somewhere. For, the following very pertinent questions naturally suggest themselves: 1st. How is it possible that at a gathering of socialists there should be even an “extreme left” that should be opposed to the prohibition of the importation of contract-labor? And if by some chance such “enemies of labor” and “reactionaries” smuggled themselves into the Congress and got representation on the Immigration Commission, is it likely that it would have taken the commission two days of hard fighting to dispose of them? 2nd. If Comrade Hillquit’s statement as to the meaning of our resolution is true, then our resolution was actually adopted. Why, then, does he call it a compromise in one place and a defeat in another? Why does Comrade Hillquit complain that “we were beaten, hopelessly beaten?” Why does Comrade [Victor] Berger accuse Comrade Hillquit of being derelict in his duty, instead of hailing him victor? How account for the deluded ones who intimated that our delegation should have bolted the Congress for adopting our resolution? And how does it all harmonize with the statement that “on the particular point in issue” we knocked up against the solid wall of practically all of the socialists of the rest of the world?

The truth of the matter is as follows: There was no such “extreme left” at Stuttgart that anybody but Comrade Hillquit could see. Certainly there were none among our party’s delegates at Stuttgart who were opposed to legislation excluding “imported” immigrants. And there was no compromise at Stuttgart on the immigration question, either, for there was nobody to compromise with except the supporters of our resolution, and they were “hopelessly beaten.” The demand for the exclusion of imported contract labor contained in the Stuttgart resolution was not inserted therein as a concession to those in favor of the restriction of immigration, for all those who opposed “restriction” in general were in favor of this particular restriction. There were really no two opinions on the question. This was not the “point in issue,” nor any part of it. That lay at another point. Let us see what it was.

Our resolution is drawn in such a way that it not only does violence to all logic, but is extremely treacherous. At first glance it looks innocent enough, and the worst that could be said about it is that it is meaningless. At least one member of our National Executive Committee is known to have been deceived by its innocent-looking meaninglessness into voting for it. How many more members of our National Executive Committee and National Committee were so deceived I have no means of telling. Our European Comrades, however, were not deceived, nor were all our delegates. They detected the “nigger in the woodpile,”[a] and that raised the issue between our delegation and the rest of the world, the debate over which lasted in committee for two whole days, and ended in our being “hopelessly beaten.” Yes, ignominiously beaten. It was the attempt of our resolution to establish the principle of dividing immigrants along racial lines into “organizable” and “unorganizable,” and to lay down as a rule of socialist policy, based on such principle of division, the demand for the exclusion of the so-called “unorganizable races.” On this issue our resolution met with the solid opposition of the socialists of the world with the exception of a few trade-unions. And there was no compromise: the resolution is as emphatic on this point as it could possibly be made. Not, however, because our European comrades have no careful regard for the fate of the American workingmen or of their indifference to the fortunes of the socialist movement in America. But from a conviction, fully justified, that the principles and demands formulated in our resolution are a snare and a delusion, and cannot possibly result in any permanent good to the workingclass of this country or of the world. These principles and demands are unsocialistic, that is to say, they are repugnant to the permanent and lasting interests of the workingclass.

That this is so, and that Comrade Hillquit saw it in that light at Stuttgart, is proven by the fact that Comrade Hillquit was finally moved to make a speech in favor of the resolution as adopted by the committee. To be frank about it: I was at first surprised to hear Comrade Hillquit speak in favor of the resolution reported by the committee, particularly in view of the fact that nobody opposed it. But as I stood there listening to his speech I saw the reason for it. Comrade Hillquit saw that the introduction of the resolution sadly damaged the reputation of our movement in the eyes of the socialist world, exposing us to the suspicion of utopianism on the one hand and sordidness of motive and egoism on the other, and he attempted to retrieve what was lost by arguing that we were really not as bad as we were painted, and that there really is not much difference between our resolution and the resolution adopted by the committee. The latter was, of course, no truer when stated at Stuttgart than when it is stated here. But there was an excuse for it at Stuttgart which is absent here, which makes the statement here absolutely indefensible. When Comrade Hillquit made the statement at Stuttgart he was engaged in the laudable effort of rehabilitating us in the opinion of our comrades, and the means adopted were at least harmless. Here, however, the situation is different: There is no reason for hiding the truth. With the better light that Comrade Hillquit has seen at Stuttgart, he ought to be showing the comrades who still abide in darkness the error of their ways, instead of telling them that our resolution was all right, but that we must submit, etc. Of course, Comrade Hillquit is right when he says that as good socialists we have to abide by the decision of the majority. But it is hardly worthwhile wasting much effort on this subject; there is no danger of our refusing to abide by the decision of the International Congress. But there is danger of some of us retaining our false notions on the subject-matter itself to the great detriment of our movement. I shall therefore next take up the question upon its merits, as Comrade Hillquit should have done long ago.

L. B. Boudin.

New York, November 22, 1907.

(Note by the Editor. We are informed that this article was offered for publication in The Worker of New York and was rejected. In view of the importance of the subject, the REVIEW will gladly print brief communications either for or against the Stuttgart resolutions.)