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Chapter 11: Don't Kill the Goose

An address to the Annual Convention of the American Federal of Labor, Cincinnati, Ohio, November 18, 1948

I feel a little embarrassed to appear as a respected guest of the American Federation of Labor. In my palmy days as a revolutionary Socialist, I used to lie awake nights thinking up ways to insult this organization, denouncing it as the main obstacle on the broad highway to the cooperative commonwealth. My first editorial article, when we started the old Masses in 1912, was an account of the A.F.L. convention in Rochester, New York. That was the first one, I think, where the advocates of industrial unionism—led by Joe Cannon of the Western Federation of Miners, Max Hays of the Printers Union, and a few others—tried to get up a revolt against Sam Gompers. I, of course, was all for the revolt, but I wasn’t too respectful either of the rebels or the Gompers machine. “Raisin’ Hell in School” was the title of my article, and just for old times’ sake I’ll read you a couple of sentences from it:

“When one of Gompers’ men intimated that Johnnie Walker, a leader of the revolt, was ‘advocating free love and Fletcherism,’ and Johnnie got up and started for him, Gompers screamed out: ‘Return to your seat at once!’ shaking his gavel at the culprit, for all the world like an irate school-ma’am with a ruler. He had a school-ma’am’s manner, too, when the delegates finished reciting their lessons, of telling them whether they were right or wrong. He had the same disposition to sacrifice the true aims of the institution”—by that I meant the proletarian revolution—“to the necessity of maintaining discipline. Gompers got to waving his arms around in his excitement, and finally planted his fist square in the middle of the water-pitcher, giving everyone on the platform a liberal shower-bath. That put an end, for the time being, to the movement for industrial unionism.”

Those were great days when the dream of universal freedom under a state-owned economy was still in the sky, when the down-to-earth experiment was still untried. I am not ashamed of my loyalty to that dream. Still less am I ashamed of the fact that when the experiment was tried, and instead of producing universal freedom, produced the most perfect tyranny in all history, I was still young enough, or honest enough—whatever it takes—to say so. Of that I am very proud.

And I haven’t any qualms about giving you exactly the opposite advice from what I tried unsuccessfully to give Sam Gompers late one evening in the lobby of a little old hotel in Rochester thirty-six years ago. My advice is: Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Capitalism is something of a goose from the standpoint of abstract reason and the ideal of perfection. It’s easy to make game of that goose, and it’s a lot of fun when you stay up in the sky. But she’s the only creature on this earth that ever laid golden eggs, and in my humble but mature opinion she’s the only one that ever will. My advice to organized labor is: Grab all the eggs you can get your hands on—of course—but watch out. Don’t kill the goose!

However, I didn’t come here to give advice to organized labor. For one thing, you’re not just organized labor any longer. You’re a great national power. I suppose you are, especially since the last election, the most powerful private organization in the United States. Together with that power I think you’ve got to assume a larger responsibility. You’ve got to think less about the special interests of labor, and more about the problems of our national life as a whole. And our national life is so bound up in the complex of world politics that that means the world as a whole . . .

In the second place, you didn’t invite me to this convention as an individual. It is only as a contributing editor of the New Leader that I came in for this honor at all. A contributing editor, as you know, is a man who never edits, and keeps the editors in a state of nervous prostration trying to get him to contribute. This puts me in a position to tell you, as the real editors could not, what a wonderful and really heroic institution the New Leader is. Without any profit, financial or political, without any recompense whatever but the sense of a great duty well done, the New Leader has waged a twenty-five year war against communist infiltration in the labor movement. I don’t know any other publication, and hardly another person, except maybe Bill Green and Matt Woll, Dubinsky, George Meany, and a few other of your peculiarly pig-headed officers, who has stood up as long and as resolutely against this insidious form of destruction. It has been a hard, and most of the time a lonely struggle.

It’s not so lonely any longer. The people who can’t see now that the Communists insert themselves into labor’s battle only to win the power to enslave labor, and all the rest of mankind, to a new exploiting class are getting fewer and fewer. Indeed I’m not sure that there is anybody left who can’t see this when he opens his eyes. I don’t like to think that even Henry Wallace is so dumb he doesn’t know where he’s heading. You remember that mule the farmer sold at a very low price, a good, healthy, upstanding, athletic mule, but when the buyer turned to drive away, the mule ran straight into a tree.

“Looka here,” he yelled, “this mule you sold me is blind!”

“Naw, he ain’t blind,” the farmer said, “he just don’t give a damn!”

That’s how I try to make intelligible to my mind the mental operations of a man like Henry Wallace.

Well, Wallace is out of our way now—at least for the time being. But that doesn’t solve our problem. The fellow travelers are not the immediate difficulty. They are a danger for the future, but they are not what has got us into this planetary mess, and they are not what is keeping us there.

Ignorance at Washington—and what is more, voluntary ignorance—is the cause of that. They didn’t know—they didn’t want to know—what lay behind Stalin’s sudden anxiety about democracy. They didn’t want to know the real meaning of the so-called “dissolution of the Comintern,” or the pro-capitalist twist in the American Communist party line. They didn’t want to know that Stalin made his pact with Hitler in full knowledge that a war was to follow—a fact recently revealed to the world by the State Department, but which we in the New Leader had been shouting from the housetops since long before the war began. They didn’t want to know that the Chinese Communists were hand-in-glove with Stalin in his plan to seize Manchuria, and then all China, and then all Asia, and then the world, for the totalitarian revolution. In spite of our documented revelations of the inside facts in this matter, they swallowed hook-line-and-sinker the transparent hoax that the Chinese Communists were some kind of middle-of-the-road agrarian liberals, who had no connection whatever with the Comintern.

The government’s whole Far Eastern foreign policy has been based on that Moscow-manufactured hoax. I’m not sure the truth has sunk into General Marshall’s mind yet, although last week Mao Tse-tung himself, the leader of the Chinese Communists, proclaimed in an international broadcast his absolute solidarity with Stalin in the “world revolutionary united front headed by the Soviet Union.” Now that Manchuria is safe in his hands, and the hoax no longer needed, this faithful emissary of the Gangster-God in the Kremlin spits on Secretary Marshall, spits on Edgar Snow of the Saturday Evening Post, spits on Vera Micheles Dean of the Foreign Policy Association, spits on Owen Lattimore and the Institute of Pacific Relations, by shouting to the whole world that the idea of any “middle road” or “third road” between communism and capitalism is “utter hypocrisy and total bankruptcy.”

All this was understood and explained in the New Leader with irrefutable documentation week by week throughout the war. My article, “The Fate of the World Is at Stake in China,” was also published in the Reader’s Digest, and that was over three years ago. But nobody at Washington paid any attention to us, except to denounce us as Red Baiters, Embittered Radicals, or people assumed to be spending their nights and days in the childish pursuit of hating Joe Stalin. Ignorance at Washington. They didn’t know and they didn’t want to know. They wanted to kid themselves. They wanted to be duped. And one of the master dupesters of all time was sitting in the Kremlin grinning at the way they fell for his tricks. He’s sitting there now, pulling a big fracas in Berlin in order to distract their minds while he consolidates his hold on Manchuria and builds his own impregnable Ruhr in the Far East. The plain truth is that, in setting out to wage a planetary war in defense of democratic civilization against the advancing epidemic of totalitarian police states, our statesmen lacked the mental force, or force of character, to face the known facts which would have made it possible to attain the objective for which the war was fought.

I am not talking about the Democratic administration here. I am not sighing over the disappointed hopes of Thomas E. Dewey, or any other Republican. I wish I were. I wish there were any one American leader, Republican or Democrat, who had possessed the penetration and moral courage to talk truth all through this period of self-deception as a world policy. No, the Republicans have been just as ignorant, and more reprehensible, for they were the opposition. It was their natural function to study up and expose the substitution of Sunday School sentimentalism for informed diplomacy which has brought us up to the edge of another war. Instead, they joined in the hymn singing. They chimed with the Democrats in what has been mistakenly called a bipartisan foreign policy. It was a non-partisan no-foreign policy. That is what this country and the world it tried to save has suffered from, and still is suffering from—a non-partisan no-foreign policy. In all that concerns the Soviet Union the sole plan was to express soft sentiments and hide our minds from hard facts. Now we have abandoned the soft sentiments, but we haven’t yet faced the hard facts . . .

I propose that we draw a big breath right now and face the essential facts on which an American foreign policy ought to be based. There are only three of them. It’s very simple once you get your courage up.

First: Stalin’s totalitarian police state is not an approximation to, or something like, or in some respects comparable with Hitler’s. It is the same thing, only more ruthless, more cold-blooded, more astute, more extreme in its economic policies, more explicitly committed to world conquest, and more dangerous to democracy and civilized morals.

There are no mitigations of this fact. The Communists pretend that labor occupies some peculiar and privileged position under the Soviet dictatorship. Hitler abolished the trade unions, they say, Stalin preserved them. Stalin did not have to abolish the unions because he had them sewed up in a bag, with all the strings in his hands. That is what I mean by saying that his tyranny is more astute than Hitler’s was. This process of boring from within, this attempt of the Communists to get control of the unions by placing disciplined party members in key positions, which you, thank God, are vigorously resisting today, isn’t merely a propaganda maneuver. It isn’t merely a capture of strategic positions for the insurrectionary seizure of power. It is the laying down of the foundations of the totalitarian state. Once the power is seized, and the party becomes the state, if this infiltration process has been completed, the trade union movement is paralyzed absolutely. Labor becomes an abject and impotent tool in the hands of the state, and of the new exploiting bureaucracy that runs the state.

The fate of the unions in Russia is far worse than destruction. They are flourishing, and their whole strength is dedicated to the opposite aim from that which they were created to serve—the total subjection and absolutely unresisted exploitation of labor. We know from statistics that wages are lower, and the worker’s life poorer in Russia than anywhere else in the modern world. But few realize that this political trick of party control by infiltration in the unions is the cause of it. In Russia all the unions are company unions, and the company is the state. It is not only impossible to strike, it is impossible to wiggle a finger of protest against the state-regulated hours, wages, and conditions of labor. The state is not only the employer—it is employer, strike-breaker, private detective and public police force all rolled up in one.

Another way they have of kidding you that there’s a millennium behind the Iron Curtain is to say there’s no unemployment under the state-owned economy. There’s no “army of the unemployed” to keep wages down. We don’t know how much unemployment there is in the Soviet Union, but we know that wages are kept down by an army of slaves that makes unemployment look like a Sunday School picnic. The worst fact in modern history, strangely enough, is the least talked of: the reintroduction into the civilized world of human slavery in its most cruel and brutal form. Hitler attempted this on the ancient Roman plan, enslaving aliens, or supposedly “inferior races.” He failed because the inferior races defeated him in war. But Stalin, who does not believe in racial inequality, has enslaved his own fellow citizens on a scale not seen before since the world began.

There are, according to the most conscientious estimates, fourteen million slaves in GULAG, the slave empire ruled by the Soviet State Police. That is more than the total population of New York State, including Manhattan. It is more than the total number of unenslaved industrial workers in the Soviet Union itself. Which means that the whole so-called socialist economy rests down on the institution of human slavery.

These slaves live in corrals surrounded by stockades topped with barbed wire, watched day and night by machine-gun men in turrets with powerful searchlights and packs of ferocious dogs to pursue the runaways. They do the heaviest, toughest, most grueling and freezing labor, men and women alike: lumbering, mining, forest clearing, road, railroad, canal, airdrome and factory construction. One of their major industries is building additional corrals and barracks for new slaves.

Their labor power is cheap, constant, controllable, “indifferent” (as they say) to climate. It can be transported in freight cars in immense unresisting droves like cattle. It can be used up without worry over capital invested. For these Soviet slaves cost nothing to their owner, the MVD, whose agents simply pick them up on the street, or drag them out of their beds at night.

This cheap labor has become so essential a factor in the economy of the Soviet state that, when the supply runs low, the MVD has been known to issue to each of its local branches a quota of people to be arrested as “socially dangerous elements.” For that is the rubric under which the job is done. Sozialno opassniye elemyenti—that’s all they have to call you.

Doesn’t this make a mockery of the pretense that state ownership has solved any real problem—least of all the problem of unemployment? There are more permanently enslaved workers in the Soviet Union than there were temporarily unemployed workers in the United States during the most desperate years of the depression. It is to hide these facts that the Iron Curtain was pulled down in 1935, and it will stay down as long as there are eyes of free men left in the world to see what monstrous thing has befallen mankind in the name of socialism.

That is the state of things in Russia. That is the first fact which every political leader, and every leader of opinion in the United States is, to my thinking, in honor bound to know, and to confront clearly and bravely, before he utters a peep about world politics, or about any great public question.

The second fact is that the heads of this slave-driving police state are fanatically determined to seize power throughout the world and make over all human society in the image of their state. More exactly, they believe that history is going to accomplish this change, and they are the agents chosen by the historic process to carry it through. There is not, and never has been the slightest doubt about this fact. And yet for three years after the war our statesmen continued to delude themselves that there was something mysterious and enigmatic about Stalin’s intentions. Senator Vandenburg described the Soviet foreign policy as “the supreme conundrum of our times.” And I was amazed to see in the New York Times magazine only two weeks ago the statement that Stalin differs from Hitler in that Hitler frankly wrote down and published his plans and Stalin did not.

Stalin’s plans were written down and published long before Hitler’s, and only a man who can’t read has any excuse for not knowing what they are. They are published in books signed by him, currently revised by him, and translated by his authorization into all civilized languages, selling in millions of copies and adhered to as a textbook and campaign book by his followers in every corner of the globe. . . .

Here, in one sentence from Stalin’s book, Problems of Leninism, is the immutable bedrock of Soviet foreign policy:

It is inconceivable that the Soviet Republic should continue to exist for a long period side by side with imperialist states—ultimately one or the other must conquer.

Imperialist states means us. And this, mind you, is not something Stalin said in the 1920’s, or before the war, or after the war, or last week, or yesterday. It is what he is saying right now in thirty languages to hundreds of millions of people. The book containing this notification of our doom is being shipped about our country in an excellent English translation that sells for twenty-five cents a copy. Has Secretary Marshall read it? Has President Truman or Governor Dewey read it? I see no sign in their speeches that they ever even heard of it.

“What is the Soviet Union,” Stalin continues, “what is our country as it builds socialism, but a base for the world revolution?”

And, does anybody ask whether such a revolution can be accomplished without violence and without dictatorship?

“Obviously not.” (I am still quoting.)

And, what is dictatorship? “The scientific concept, dictatorship, means nothing more or less than power which rests on violence which is not limited by any laws . . . Dictatorship means power resting on violence, not on law.”

That, in words quoted as gospel from Lenin, is Stalin’s blueprint for the future of our country. That, from his own lips, is his foreign policy.

And he doesn’t want any confusion about it among his American disciples. He doesn’t want them to take seriously the hocus-pocus about peace and democracy with which he pulls the wool over the eyes of our leaders. So he had his deputy, Andrei Vishinsky, as soon as the war ended, make a speech in which he recalled these explicit texts of Lenin and gave notice that they are still in force. And, at the risk of all America reading it—even, by some prodigious accident, our great diplomats—he had the speech translated into English and published in the bulletin of the Soviet Embassy in Washington.

Just let me read you a sentence from that bulletin, dated November 17, 1945:

Lenin exposed the sweet-sounding nonsense about a calm and smooth development of bourgeois society into socialism—nonsense to the effect that it is not in the fires of battle, not by means of revolutionary struggle, but in reconciling and smoothing out class contradictions that the socialist transformation of the state is to be effected.

Lenin developed the teachings of Marx in the important question of smashing the bourgeois state apparatus.

Now, anybody who ever looked into the writings of Lenin, and followed their application by Stalin, knows what that phrase means, “smash the bourgeois state apparatus.” It means in the United States seize the public buildings and purge them of every official and every clerk, and every clerk’s assistant who is loyal to the ideals, or imbued with the habits of free enterprise and representative government; go into the buildings and clean them out at the point of a bayonet, disinfect them of democracy by summary executions and prison camps, and establish a ruthless one-party dictatorship in this country which will take over and run our commerce, our industry, our labor unions, our every last little sewing circle and society for the conservation of bird life. That’s what it means.

Well, I rather insolently accused this government of ignorance, and I want to give you a concrete example. I have shown you in his own words what Stalin’s plan for the United States is. Now, I want to read you the attitude which Secretary Marshall takes to that blueprint of our future. He was appearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last spring to oppose a proposal to revise the charter of the United Nations in such a way as to make the Soviet Union either fish or cut bait, either come in on a movement to protect world peace or get out—a very sensible and practical proposal which was endorsed by a large number of senators as well as representatives. Secretary Marshall opposed. He said:

Since the adoption of the charter in 1945 it has become progressively clearer that serious misconceptions prevail in the minds of the leaders of the Soviet Union concerning Western civilization. It is a misconception to suppose that differing systems cannot live side by side in peace under the basic rules prescribed by the charter of the United Nations. These rules are obligatory upon all members. A fundamental task of our foreign policy is to dispel the misconceptions of the Soviet leaders.

It has become progressively clearer . . .

Was there anything unclear in those sentences I read to you from Stalin’s book, the Bible of the communist revolution? Did those things I read to you sound like misconceptions? They are not misconceptions, and they are not conceptions, either. They are fixed, fanatical, deeply grounded, hundred-year-old passionate purposes—purposes to destroy our world and build a different one in its place. And I think it is plainly obvious that Secretary Marshall never read the book, or any of the books, the whole library of books, in which this purpose has been discussed back and forth for a hundred years.

I have the highest esteem for General Marshall as a soldier, a man who played a major part in defeating one totalitarian state at war. As a Secretary of State, a foreign minister engaged in trying to defeat another at peace, he simply doesn’t pass the examination at all. He gets a low “D” for having neglected his homework, for trying to get by as Secretary of State of the United States without studying. That’s why I say that ignorance at Washington is the basic cause of our trouble.

Stalin regards this situation, which we call peace, or an attempt to make peace, as a truce between the Soviet Union and her enemies. He always calls them “our enemies”—the Western democracies. He will employ that truce to jockey for every position, both in our country and outside of it, which will enable him or his followers, or their successors, when the hour strikes, to seize the power in this country, overthrow our government, and establish a one-party dictatorship. And in this process he will be withheld by no principles of honor or morality whatever.

Stalin has often boasted himself an obedient pupil of his master, Lenin. Lenin advocated trickery and lies and smear campaigns, and absolute immorality as a method of politics, just as explicitly as Hitler ever did. “Communist morality,” he said, “is identical with the fight to strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat.” He made that statement to an all-union congress of communist youth. That was what he had to say about morality to the children of Russia. Think of it! And Stalin was brought up almost from boyhood in this doctrine.

From the days when he robbed banks and bombed bank agents in order to replenish the treasury of the Bolshevik party to this present time when he seizes capitalist nations under the pretense of anxiety for security or distrust of the warmongers, he has been guided absolutely by Lenin’s principle of the subordination of moral principle to the principle of expediency in the grab for power.

Stalin’s chief trickery and deceit at the present moment is to pretend that it is America and not the Soviet Union which is trying to conquer and dominate Europe and the world, to pretend that he distrusts our motives, including the Marshall Plan or the Truman policy. The only thing Stalin distrusts about America is the miracle of our gullibility. He doubts whether we will continue forever to misunderstand his purposes or imagine that there is something enigmatic about his foreign policy. He is afraid that some day we will turn the page from his public pronouncements about peace and democracy to his private instructions to his own followers as a totalitarian Marxist, to the people upon whom he depends to carry out his aims. He is afraid that in that process some day we will just turn the page and read in his own words, quoted from his master, Lenin, this basic statement:

It is inconceivable that the Soviet Republic should continue to exist for a long period side by side with imperialist states—ultimately one or the other must conquer.

Or, in words whose rhythm is more familiar to our ears: “Civilization cannot long survive half totalitarian and half free.”

That statement should be the basis of our foreign policy as it is of Stalin’s. We must repeat to ourselves with all force and solemnity, until there isn’t a flicker of self-deception left, until there isn’t any least intention to creep under or creep out of the truth of it—we must repeat this statement: “There will be no peace on earth as long as the Communist regime survives in Moscow.”

That’s the third fact which I call upon you to confront today. I think it flows with unanswerable logic from the other two. So long as the Russian people and the people of the satellite nations are held in the grip of this totalitarian one-party tyranny and drilled in the impassioned dogmas of the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist doctrine of world domination, we will never get out of the nightmare in which we live. Until an American statesman comes along who has the grit and the fighting pluck and the pride of power to see this fact and base his foreign policy on it, neither peace nor democracy will ever get a firm foothold on this earth.

This doesn’t mean that war is inevitable between the United States and the Soviet Union. War is inevitable if we continue the policy of self-deception, if in the foolish attempt to make one world out of two we let Stalin drive us back and back until we have to fight a war of national survival. We saw that happen in the case of Hitler and we paid the cost. Let’s not make that mistake again.

We must be well and fully armed. We must learn to think of international problems as the Marxists do—in the terms of material force, not Christian persuasion. We must indeed prepare for war. But that we are doing. What we are not doing is using the instruments of peace in order to stop the Soviet expansion and bring on the day when this tyrannical regime will be overthrown either by a patriotic putsch or a popular revolution.

That is what we must do. We must use all the methods to promote a democratic world revolution that Stalin uses to promote a totalitarian world revolution, except those which involve deceit and distrust, a manipulation instead of an enlightenment of the people. And we must never forget and never let the world forget that our allies in this undertaking are the oppressed people, or more particularly the opposition, the silent or exiled opposition parties and leaders of the people in the countries oppressed by the tyrant, not excepting Russia itself.

Either we will adopt this astute and informed diplomatic offensive or we will be backed into a belated and blundering defensive war. I can see no other alternative except to surrender our free, rational, kindly and democratic way of life, surrender civilization itself, and bow down to the gangster-god.

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