Alice Hanson, Francis Henson & Max Shachtman



(January 1935)

From New International, Vol.2 No.1, January 1935, pp.32-33.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DEAR Comrade Shachtman:

I have read with considerable interest your article, Right Face in the Socialist Party in the December issue of The New International. I had a good hearty laugh at your reference to me as “the only living joint representative of Jesus Christ and Jay Lovestone”. The only unfortunate part of the reference, from the standpoint of accuracy, is that I am not a representative of Christ and I am not a representative of Lovestone. I am a loyal member of the socialist party. My chief concern is that the party accept and work on the basis of a revolutionary socialist position as outlined in the Appeal to the Members of the Socialist Party which the RPC issued.

You may be interested in scanning the attached carbon of a letter to Oneal which was sent to him in December. It helps clarify some of the opinions which I am supposed to hold on religion. If Oneal does not publish this letter in the New Leader, it will be published in the next – not the last – issue of the Revolutionary Socialist Review which should be out about February 1. We will be very glad to have The New International analyze this next and other issues of the RSR and the general activities of the RPC.


Fraternally yours,
Francis HENSON
January 7, 1935

[The copy of the letter to Oneal points out that our quotation of F.A. Henson’s views on religion, originates in an article first written in 1929 and reprinted in a pamphlet published in 1934, but without, declares the author, his permission. “From more recent experiences,” he continues, “I am convinced of the irreconcilability philosophically of Marxism and Christianity ...”

[In addition, the editors have received the following communication from Alice Hanson, of the socialist party in Philadelphia, in the name of a group of nine.]

Dear Comrades:

We note in the December issue of The New International the following statement, in the course of an article on the socialist party:

“The post-Boston Philadelphia city convention of the party urged the NEC not to engage in any united front activity with communists, and called upon the national and state committees to expel members or supporters of the RPC. The immediate result of this resolution was that nine local leaders of the RPC including Felix, Hanson, van Gelder, Lee and Rimensnyder, resigned from that body.”

The inference from this statement is that these comrades resigned through either fear of or acquiescence in the action of the bare majority of the city convention. That this is not the fact, the accompanying copy of our original letter of resignation from the RPC abundantly shows. You will note from the date on the letter that we took this action, not only before the city convention, but before the Boston meeting of the NEC, and that our reasons for doing so were far different from those which your statement infers.

We know that it was only because you were insufficiently informed on this point that you printed the above statement, and we are accordingly enclosing the copy of our original letter of resignation which we hope you will do us the courtesy of printing.

Thanking you for your anticipated courtesy, we remain,


With socialist greetings,
January 17, 1935

For: David Felix, Wesley Cook, Elwin Rimensnyder, Julius Huss, John Park Lee, Philip van Gelder, John Green, Newman Jeffrey.

[The enclosure is a copy of a letter sent to Francis A. Henson, secretary of the Revolutionary Policy Committee, on November 24, 1934. The signatories resign from the RPC on the grounds that it has been more and more diverted from its original purpose: an educational force in the SP for crystalizing Left wing sentiment. Further, that it fell under the control of a group which, in the first issue of the Revolutionary Socialist Review, reprinted the original RPC statement with unauthorized amendments which “are such as to change and distort the original statement”. Also, the Review “in no wise sets forth our principle differences with the communist party or with the various splinter parties”. These, and “innumerable minor differences” impel the resignation.]


Dear Comrade Henson:

While your letter, and the copy of the statement to the New Leader, make clear your present views on Marxism and religion, the same can hardly be said about your position towards the Lovestone group. When you say that you are not a representative of Christ and not a representative of Lovestone, it may be entirely possible to accept your assertion in the purely formal sense. It was not my intention, in describing your position, to convey the idea that you were authorized by either of the two to speak in his name. However, just as the philosophical position you put forward in your article reprinted in Christianity and Marxism made you an ideological even if equivocal representative of religion, so the position you put forward in the first issue of the magazine for which you assume political responsibility makes you a representative of the Lovestone group, that is, of its ideas. Whether or not the RPC or any part of it is, as is commonly assumed, connected organizationally in one way or another with the Lovestone group is of secondary importance to us, and in the present case, is of no moment. Whatever the factual grounds for the assumption may or may not be, there is no doubt that it is due less to malicious invention than to objective conclusions dictated by the position your group has taken.

We are accustomed to judge a political current not by the rumors or insinuations disseminated about it, but by its political documents and deeds. On the same basis we define its relations to other political currents. Therefore, when we compare the principal articles in the Revolutionary Socialist Review with the known position of the Workers Age, we are driven to the only possible conclusion: the stem is different, but the petals and the odor are startlingly alike.

For example, your basic editorial: RPC and the Communists. You differ with the Stalinist party only on those four points whereat the Lovestoneites diverge (social Fascism, united front from below, dual unionism, mechanical domination by the Russian party – which, you add in order to drive all lingering doubt from our minds, is all right for Russia). You differ from the Lovestoneites on no principle grounds at all; you only observe that they want to reform the CP, without success to date (p. 9), whereas you want to work in the SP. You differ with the Trotskyists on principle grounds; you damn their attitude toward the Soviet Union as “perhaps the most reprehensible in the whole international radical movement” – even forgetting, in your zeal to repeat the stock arguments of the Lovestoneites (read: Stalinists), the exclusive eminence in this field of leading figures of your own party. You differ with the American Workers Party on principle grounds; you damn its attitude on the trade union question in the language and spirit of Lovestone; you damn its forthcoming (now realized) merger with the CLA. And to make it all perfectly clear even to a dull person, you yourself write elsewhere that the Third International, “attempting to face up more realistically to objective historical conditions expressed in the threat of war and Fascism, is making a major turn in its policy in the direction of the ICO [Lovestone] position and in the light of the rapprochement between the two in Germany a complete reunion with the ICO is quite probable” (p.26) – a movement which you welcome, even if it contradicts what was written on page 9.

It goes without saying that a socialist has a right to his position; you must acknowledge our right not only to oppose it, but first of all to characterize it politically. If I gladly retract the first part of my characterization of your position in view of your letter to Oneal, I must reluctantly insist upon the second, at least until such time as one of the “not the last” issues of the RSR supplies cause for retraction in full.


Fraternally yours,

Dear Comrade Hanson:

We gladly take the opportunity to make the correction indicated in your letter. The New Leader having announced your resignation from the RPC after the Boston meeting of the NEC, we concluded that the two events were significantly connected. However, it should be pointed out that the correction relates more to chronology than to politics. Your resignation was listed as one of many “new signs of the times in the SP”, that is, of the drift to the Right. In essence, your letter to F.A. Henson confirms this view. Its main political divergence with the RPC lies in the so-called unauthorized amendments to the original Appeal of the RPC. The amended portion deals with the question of armed insurrection. The original statement was, in its general political essence, a condensed version of the communist position on fundamental problems, and the Marxian view of the struggle for power was therefore clearly implicit in it. The endorsement of the original involved, it would appear, an endorsement of the amendments, authorized or not. (I can say all this about the Appeal the more objectively, I think, because of the serious political differences that my party had and has with a good deal that is said and left unsaid in it.) Though it sorely tries the elasticity of the mental muscles, one may conceivably understand Norman Thomas being “shocked beyond words” at the “new” RPC statement. A capacity for resilience far beyond ours, however, is required in the case of nine of the original forty-five signatories to the document. I should of course be glad if coming events show that I am more mistaken in the political conclusions to be drawn from your present position than I was in the matter of chronology referred to above.


Fraternally yours,

Max Shachtman

Marxist Writers’

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