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Dog Days 

James P. Cannon vs. 
Max Shachtman 
in the Communist League 
of America, 1931-1933 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 

Dog Days: 

James P. Cannon vs. Max Shachtman 
in the Communist League of America 

Books from the Prometheus Research Library 

James P. Cannon and the Early Years of American Communism: 
Selected Writings and Speeches, 1920-1928 (1992) 

This volume of Cannon's writings covers the period when he was one 
of the principal leaders of the American section of the Communist 

The Communist International After Lenin 
First Russian language edition (1993) 

By Leon Trotsky. Published in Moscow, from the original Russian 
texts. Includes Trotsky's Critique of the 1928 draft program of the 
Communist International. 

Bulletins in the Prometheus Research Series 

No. 1 Guidelines on the Organizational Structure of Communist Parties, 
on the Methods and Content of Their Work (August 1988). Complete and 
accurate English translation of 1921 Comintern Resolution from final 
German text. 

No. 2 Documents on the "Proletarian Military Policy" (February 1989). 
Includes materials from the Trotskyist movement in the U.S. and 
Europe during World War II. 

No. 3 In Memoriam, Richard S. Fraser: An Appreciation and Selection of His 
Work (August 1990). A selection of the writings of comrade Richard S. 
Fraser (1913-1988), who pioneered the Trotskyist understanding of black 
oppression in the United States. 

No. 4 Yugoslavia, East Europe and the Fourth International: The Evolution 
of Pabloist Liquidationism by Jan Norden (March 1993). Covers the 
internal discussion within the Fourth International over its flawed 
response to the Yugoslav Revolution and the 1948 Tito-Stalin split. 

No. 5 Marxist Politics or Unprincipled Combinationism? Internal Problems of 
the Workers Party (September 2000). Includes Max Shachtman's document 
from the 1936 internal bulletin of the Workers Party of the U.S. 

Dog Days: 

James P. Cannon vs. 
Max Shachtman 
in the Communist League 
of America 1931-1933 

James P. Cannon, Max Shachtman, 
Leon Trotsky, and Others 

Compiled, Introduced, and Edited by the 
Prometheus Research Library 

Prometheus Research Library 


Cover photos: Leon Trotsky at his desk in Prinkipo, 1931. 
Photo by Jean Weinberg. 

Inset: Shachtman (left) and Cannon in Paris at time of founding 
of Fourth International, 1938. Photo courtesy Albert Glotzer. 

Prometheus graphic from a woodcut by Fritz Brosius 

Publisher's Cataloging-in-Publication 

Dog Days: James P. Cannon vs. Max Shachtman in the Communist 
League of America, 1931-1933 /James P. Cannon, Max Shachtman, 
Leon Trotsky, and others; compiled, introduced, and edited by the 
Prometheus Research Library. — 1st ed. 

p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

LCCN 2002105685 

ISBN 0-9633828-7-X(hard) 

ISBN 0-9633828-8-8( P b) 

1. Communism— United States— History— Sources. 2. Socialist 
Workers Party. 3. Communist League of America (Opposition). 
4. Communists— Correspondence. I. Cannon, James Patrick, 1890-1974. 
II. Shachtman, Max, 1903-1972. III. Trotsky, Leon, 1879-1940. 
IV. Prometheus Research Library. 

HX83.D64 2002 335.43'3'0973 


Prometheus Research Library books 
are published by: 

Spartacist Publishing Company 

Box 1377, G.P.O. 

New York, New York 10116 

Copyright© 2002 by Spartacist Publishing Company 
All rights reserved 

Printed in the United States of America 

This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 
(Permanence of Paper).© 

To our comrades 

Susan Adams (1948-2001) 

Mary Van De Water-Quirk (1954-2000) 

whose work contributed to this book 


Editorial Note xvi 

Introduction by the Prometheus Research Library 1 

I. Shachtman in the International 

The April Conference: A Disappointment in All Respects 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 16 April 1930 83 

Where Is the International Secretariat? 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 18 August 1930 86 

Shachtman to Be Part of International Bureau 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 17 November 1930 ... 89 

Crisis in the French Ligue 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 25 November 1930 ... 92 

We Must Endeavor to Collaborate With Naville and Rosmer 

Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky, 17 December 1930. ... 98 

Landau Has Proven to Be a Very Unreliable Fellow 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 6 January 1931 102 

The Fight Against Landau and Naville Is Too Sharp 

Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky, 4 March 1931 106 

What Is Your Position on the German Crisis? 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 4 April 1931 108 

On Landau, Prometeo, and Weisbord 

Max Shachtman to the International Secretariat, 

[Early May 1931] 109 

I Sought to Avoid a Premature Split in the German Section 

Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky, 2 May 1931 112 

You Bear Some Responsibility for Landau's Course 
Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 
23 May 1931 114 


Naville Plays With Ideas 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 

2 August 1931 117 

Get the Secretariat's Cart Out of the Mud 

Jan Frankel to Max Shachtman, 14 November 1931 .... 119 

Molinier Is Far From Correct 

Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky, 1 December 1931 ... . 121 

Who Then Should Lead the Ligue? 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 11 December 1931 . . 132 

You Were Never on Our Side 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 25 December 1931 . . 133 

Shachtman's Personal and Journalistic Sympathies 
Leon Trotsky to the CLA National Committee, 
25 December 1931 135 

Too Much the Journalist 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 

31 December 1931 136 

Why Did the Militant Print Felix's Article? 

Leon Trotsky to the CLA National Committee, 

5January 1932 139 

I Do Not Agree With Shachtman 

Albert Glotzer to Leon Trotsky, 21 January 1932 ...... 141 

Shachtman Acted on His Own Authority 

Arne Swabeck to Leon Trotsky, 22 January 1932 144 

We Should Have Informed Trotsky of American Problems 

Albert Glotzer to Maurice Spector, 3 February 1932 ... 147 

You Must Remain at Your Post 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 10 February 1932 . . . 149 

II. The Fight 

Uphold Our Revolutionary Classics! 

Arne Swabeck, published 5 March 1932 153 

Statement on "Uphold Our Revolutionary Classics!" 

Max Shachtman, 12 March 1932 155 


A Bad Situation in the American League 

Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky, 13 March 1932 170 

Statement on the Situation in the 
International Left Opposition 

James P. Cannon, 15 March 1932 174 

Draft Statement on International Questions 

Albert Glotzer, 15 March 1932 177 

Draft Statement on the ILO 

Martin Abern, 15 March 1932 179 

A Definite Conflict of Views 

Arne Swabeck to the International Secretariat 

and Leon Trotsky, 2 April 1932 180 

On the Motion for a Plenary Session of the NC 

Max Shachtman, 4 April 1932 184 

Statement on Holding Plenum 

James P. Cannon, 4 April 1932 186 

The Real Basis of Our Differences 

Albert Glotzer to Leon Trotsky, 5 April 1932 187 

Report on National Tour 

Albert Glotzer, 11 April 1932 197 

Cannon and Swabeck Have Rightist Tendencies 
John Edwards to Max Shachtman, 
16 April 1932 208 

The Organizational Status of the CLA 

Arne Swabeck, 18 April 1932 212 

The Coal Drivers in Minneapolis 

Carl Skoglund to the National Committee, 

18 April 1932 216 

Personal Combinations vs. Revolutionary Politics 

Leon Trotsky to Albert Glotzer, 1 May 1932 218 

You Must Take Us Into Your Confidence 

Maurice Spector to Max Shachtman, 10 May 1932 220 


On Weisbord and International Questions 

Leon Trotsky to the CLA National Committee, 

19 May 1932 222 

I Prefer Weisbord's Methods to Shachtman's 

Leon Trotsky to Albert Glotzer, 3 June 1932 224 

I Am Not an American Naville 

Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky, 4 June 1932 225 

The Situation in the American Opposition: 

Prospect and Retrospect 

Martin Abern, Albert Glotzer, and Max Shachtman, 

4June 1932 230 

Minutes of the Plenum 

CLA National Committee, 10-13 June 1932 282 

Some Considerations on the Results of the 
National Committee Plenum 

[Shachtman Group], 16 June 1932 298 

Draft Statement to the Membership on the 
National Committee Plenum 

James P. Cannon, 25 June 1932 306 

Statement of the National Committee (Minority): 
The Results of the Plenum of the National Committee 
Martin Abern, Albert Glotzer, and Max Shachtman, 
29 June 1932 315 

What Position Will You Take? 

Max Shachtman to John Edwards, 3 July 1932 323 

A Great Relief 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 4 July 1932 325 

Reply of the National Committee to the Minority Statement 

James P. Cannon, 14 July 1932 326 

Molinier's Personality Is Not the Issue 

Max Shachtman to Andres Nin, 19 July 1932 341 

A Reply on Field and Weisbord 

Leon Trotsky to the CLA National Committee, 

20 October 1932 345 


Cannon Is Prepared to Break With the ILO 

Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky, 31 October 1932 349 

Developments in Light of the Failed Co-optations 

Max Shachtman to a Comrade, 26 November 1932 .... 352 

Mobilize Against Swabeck's Trip to Europe 

Max Shachtman to a Comrade, 2 December 1932 361 

We Want More Direct Contact 

Arne Swabeck to the International Secretariat 

and Leon Trotsky, 16 December 1932 363 

Cannon Overreaches Himself 

Maurice Spector to Max Shachtman, 

29 December 1932 367 

Results of the Postplenum Discussion 

Martin Abern and Max Shachtman, 3 January 1933. . . . 371 

Cannon's Regime Is on a Par With Landau's 

Max Shachtman to Maurice Spector, 3 January 1933 . . . 384 

Cannon's Suave Calumny 

Max Shachtman to Albert Glotzer, 8 January 1933 391 

Against Cannon as National Secretary 

Martin Abern and Max Shachtman, 9 January 1933 .... 395 

For Cannon as National Secretary 

Arne Swabeck and Hugo Oehler, 10 January 1933 397 

On Assuming the Post of National Secretary 

James P. Cannon, lOJanuary 1933 402 

No Financial Sabotage 

Martin Abern and Max Shachtman, 23 January 1933 . . . 403 

Cannon a New Man in Chicago 

Albert Glotzer to Martin Abern and Max Shachtman, 

6 February 1933 412 

Resolution on the Proletarianization 
of the New York Branch 

National Committee [Cannon GroupJ, 

[Early February 1933] 416 


Reject the Proposal on the Proletarianization of the 

New York Branch 

NY Executive Committee [Shachtman Group], 

[Early February 1933] 418 

Motion on the Situation in Germany and the Role 
of the Red Army 

Max Shachtman, 20 February 1933 421 

The Red Army and the German Revolution 

James P. Cannon, 24 February 1933 424 

Motion on the Illinois Mining Campaign 

Max Shachtman, 24 February 1933 429 

Statement on the Dispute over the Red Army 
and the German Situation 

Max Shachtman, 12 March 1933 435 

Note on Shachtmans Statement 

James P. Cannon, published 18 March 1933 446 

Motion on April Gillespie Conference 

James P. Cannon, 29 March 1933 448 

Motion on CLA Delegate at Gillespie 

Max Shachtman, 29 March 1933 452 

III. The International Intervenes 

Resolution on the Situation in the American Section 
International Preconference of the ILO, 
4-8 February 1933 455 

The International Must Apply the Brakes 

Discussion Between Leon Trotsky and Arne Swabeck, 

27 February 1933 456 

On the Situation in the American League 

Leon Trotsky to the International Secretariat, 

7 March 1933 467 

The Majority Has No Right to Impatience 

Leon Trotsky to Arne Swabeck, 7 March 1933 472 


I Accept Your Criticisms 

Arne Swabeck to Leon Trotsky, 8 March 1933 474 

You Were Wrong to Campaign Against Swabeck's Trip 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 8 March 1933 477 

Trotsky Expects More of Us 

Arne Swabeck to James P. Cannon, 8 March 1933 478 

A Split Would Be a Catastrophe 

Leon Trotsky to Albeit Glotzer, 14 March 1933 488 

Germany and the USSR 

Leon Trotsky, 17 March 1933 489 

We Have Made Some Errors 

James P. Cannon to Comrades, 27 March 1933 492 

Resolution on the Situation in the American League 

International Secretariat, [April 1933] 493 

Concession on Organizational Questions 

James P. Cannon, 5 April 1933 495 

Response on Organizational Questions 

Max Shachtman, 7 April 1933 496 

Request for Advice on Allard 

James P. Cannon to Leon Trotsky, 14 April 1933 498 

We Don't Want a Split 

Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky, 15 April 1933 499 

Setting a Date for the Conference 

Arne Swabeck to James P. Cannon, 16 April 1933 504 

An Offensive for Unity 

Arne Swabeck to James P. Cannon, 16 April 1933 506 

I Am Not More Favorable to the Minority 

Leon Trotsky to the International Secretariat, 

17 April 1933 507 

Shachtman Flounders Between Scholasticism 
and Softness on Stalinism 

Arne Swabeck to James P. Cannon, 17 April 1933 509 


We Will Not Suspend Our Fight 

Max Shachtman to Albert Glotzer, 17 April 1933 512 

Allard Must Take a Stand Against Redbaiting 

James P. Cannon, 19 April 1933 513 

Allard Discredits Left Opposition 

Martin Abern and Max Shachtman, 19 April 1933 516 

A Cold Douche 

Maurice Spector to Max Shachtman, 24 April 1933 .... 518 

Our Group Must Not Dissolve 

Max Shachtman to Albert Glotzer, 1 May 1933 519 

The European Sections Will Not Support You 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 1 May 1933 529 

International Consultation Is Key 

Arne Swabeck to James P. Cannon, 12 May 1933 530 

Resolution on the American Question 

Plenum of the International Left Opposition, 

13-16 May 1933 534 

Foolish and Petty Actions Did Not Help Us 

Albert Glotzer to Max Shachtman, 23 May 1933 536 

Peace Treaty 

Communist League of America National Committee 
published 29 June 1933 542 

We Must Call a Retreat 

Max Shachtman to Comrades, 9 June 1933 543 

Report from Prinkipo 

Max Shachtman to Martin Abern, 6 July 1933 552 

The "Master's" Ways 

Martin Abern to Albeit Glotzer, 6 July 1933 557 

A Possible Leap Forward 

Arne Swabeck to the International Secretariat 

and Leon Trotsky, 10 July 1933 565 

A Radical Change Is Necessary 

Leon Trotsky to Albert Glotzer, 12 July 1933 568 


I Won't Make an Issue of Chicago Move 

Max Shachtman to Martin Abern, 13 July 1933 570 

Action Program of the Communist League 

National Committee, [August 1933] 581 

Implementing the Action Program 
Max Shachtman to Albert Glotzer, 
7 September 1933 583 

A Big Mistake 

Max Shachtman to Albert Glotzer, 

19 September 1933 586 

Trade-Union Problems in America 

Leon Trotsky, 23 September 1933 591 

Cannon Is Reneging 

Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky, 5 October 1933 594 

The News Is Disquieting 

Leon Trotsky to Arne Swabeck, 20 November 1933 598 

A Turn for the Worse 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 25 November 1933 . . 599 

Reasons to Postpone the Move 

Arne Swabeck to Leon Trotsky, 20 December 1933 .... 600 

As Opportunities Grow, Internal Struggle Will Diminish 

Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman, 30 January 1934 605 

Notes 607 

Glossary 652 

References 693 

Index 699 

Photo Credits 714 


Editorial Note 

In the political youth of James Robertson, co-editor of this com- 
pilation, the subject matter of this book had a somewhat mysti- 
cal and mythical quality, wherein might be found the origins of 
the profound 1940 scission in the Trotskyist (i.e., the authentic 
communist) movement. In 1939-40 Max Shachtman, bowing to 
the anti-Communist hysteria that accompanied the Hitler-Stalin 
pact, abandoned the program of unconditional military defense 
of the Soviet Union and split along with some 40 percent of the 
membership from the American Socialist Workers Party led by 
James P. Cannon. Shachtman and some of those who left with 
him went on to establish the rival Workers Party (WP). 

The fight in the SWP coincided with the outbreak of World 
War II in Europe; many Trotskyist organizations were function- 
ing in conditions of illegality. Thus the six-month discussion in 
the SWP "became in effect a discussion for the entire Fourth 
International and was followed with passionate interest by the 
members of all sections" (Fourth International, May 1940). Claim- 
ing that the Fourth International had been destroyed by the out- 
break of the war and the SWP split, Shachtman sought to extend 
his support internationally. But the WP's American Committee 
for the Fourth International was upheld by only a few weak and 
demoralized sections such as the Brazilian and Uruguayan. Even 
before the Workers Party changed its name to the Independent 
Socialist League (ISL) in 1949, it had ceased to claim any connec- 
tion with the Fourth International. 

As a member of Shachtman's organization from 1949 to 1958, 
and then of the SWP until 1963, Robertson heard talk about a 
factional struggle in the Communist League of America of the 
early 1930s, pitting Cannon and his supporters on one side against 
Shachtman and his supporters on the other. Robertson was natu- 
rally curious, since this political struggle predated by almost a 
decade the definitive split. But it was next to impossible to find 
documentation. Cannon's History of American Trotskyism, published 
in 1944, gave intriguing hints, but not much substance. Albeit 
Glotzer's scathing review, "James P. Cannon as Historian," pub- 


lished in New International in 1945, contained more. But most of 
the (very few) veteran WP/ISL cadres and (more numerous) SWP 
cadres whose history stretched back to the CLA claimed that the 
early fight had little significance. Copies of the CLA Internal Bul- 
letins were very rare. Robertson still remembers how his hands 
were pried off CLA bulletins left in the care of the New York WP 
literature maven. Having tantalized Robertson, the New Yorker 
finally refused to sell the bulletins because their previous owner 
might reclaim them. 

As part of the Revolutionary Tendency expelled from the 
Socialist Workers Party in 1963, Robertson became one of the 
founding leaders of the Spartacist League. In the early 1970s he 
and other SL members interested in archival research interviewed 
CLA veterans who had split from the Trotskyist movement with 
the ultraleftist Hugo Oehler in 1935. These former members of 
Oehler's Revolutionary Workers League (by then dissolved) also 
claimed the CLA fight had little bearing on later developments in 
the Trotskyist movement. Around the same time the SL finally 
acquired copies of the long-sought CLA Internal Bulletins. These 
supplemented Robertson's personal holdings, which became the 
nucleus for the collection of the Prometheus Research Library, 
archive and research facility of the SL Central Committee. 

Only part of the story of the CLA fight was told in the bulle- 
tins. The picture was rounded out a few years later when the PRL 
finally procured a copy of "The Situation in the American Oppo- 
sition: Prospect and Retrospect," Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer's 
4 June 1932 magnum opus. In 1979 most of Trotsky's letters on 
the CLA fight were published in Pathfinder's collection, Writings 
of Leon Trotsky, Supplement 1929-33. In 1985 Monad Press pub- 
lished James P. Cannon's Writings and Speeches: The Communist 
League of America 1932-34, which included many of Cannon's let- 
ters and documents from the CLA factional struggle. 

In the early 1990s, Emily Turnbull began to work with 
Robertson, looking for additional material to accompany "Pros- 
pect and Retrospect" in a Prometheus Research Series bulletin. 
They expected to find only a few additional documents, but they 
were wrong. Searching the personal papers of most of the key pro- 
tagonists, now deposited in various libraries around the country, 
Turnbull found a wealth of correspondence, minutes, and docu- 
ments that fleshed out the story of the 1931-33 dispute in the 


CLA. The PRL determined to make the key documentation 
accessible to future generations of revolutionaries in book form. 

We include in this collection only a very few of the documents 
available in Monad's selection of Cannon writings for the period, 
published as James P. Cannon's Writings and Speeches: The Commu- 
nist League of America 1932-34. Readers are referred there and to 
Monad's edition of James P. Cannon's Writings and Speeches: The 
Left Opposition in the U.S. 1928-31 for useful companion volumes 
to our collection. 

At the end of this book readers will find a References section 
listing the archival collections consulted. Footnotes to individual 
documents give their archival origins; abbreviations used in the 
footnotes are delineated in the References section. An extensive 
glossary of names, organizations, and terms possibly unfamiliar 
to the contemporary reader is provided at the end of the volume. 
Acronyms used throughout the volume are listed in the index. 

We thank the librarians at Archives of the Hoover Institution 
of War, Revolution and Peace, the Houghton Library at Harvard 
University, the Tamiment Library at New York University, and the 
Wayne State University Archives of Labor History and Urban Affairs 
for their help, and for permission to publish material from their 
collections. We are grateful to the librarians and staff at the State 
Historical Society of Wisconsin for their assistance to our research. 
Special thanks go to Peter Filardo of the Tamiment Library for 
giving us early access to the papers of George Breitman, and to Dale 
Reed of the Hoover Institution Archives, who helped us in innumer- 
able ways, including deciphering handwriting in some of the letters. 

Most of the Trotsky letters published here have been trans- 
lated from the German; if the original is in English, or if the 
translation is from a language other than German, this is speci- 
fied in the footnotes. Mary Ann Shiffman, Robert Michaels, Doris 
Altman, Frank Beaton-W r alter, and Christoph Stiidemann trans- 
lated from the German. Translation from the French was by 
Blandine Hauser, Francois Diacono, and Susan Adams. Transla- 
tion from the Russian was by Victor Granovsky. 

Many of the documents that appear in this book are letters, 
draft manuscripts, and minutes not originally meant for publica- 
tion. We have limited editing to standardizing spelling, punctua- 
tion, and style, and to correcting what appeared to us to be obvi- 
ous errors in the originals, such as dropped words. We have not 


checked the accuracy of quotations cited by the authors, but we 
have edited all quotations to conform to our style of punctuation 
and spelling. The official name of the American Trotskyist orga- 
nization was the Communist League of America (Opposition), 
reflecting its political orientation as an expelled faction of the 
Communist Party. Since the word "(Opposition)" was inconsistently 
used by most authors, we have used the simple Communist League 
of America throughout. We have always capitalized League when 
the authors use this term to refer to the CLA; when the French 
section of the ILO is referenced, Ligue is used. 

To help the reader, we have standardized some inconsisten- 
cies of the original authors, who sometimes referred to the CLA's 
leading body as the National Executive Committee instead of its 
constitutionally established name, National Committee. Similarly, 
we have standardized to "resident committee" all references to the 
smaller body composed of National Committee members resident 
in New York. In the original documents this body was variously 
referred to as resident National Committee, resident Executive 
Committee, and Resident Committee. But the reader should be 
aware that many authors use "National Committee" to refer both 
to the New York resident body and to the broader committee. All 
bracketed insertions are by the editors; unless ellipses and paren- 
theses are bracketed, they are the original author's. Brief intro- 
ductions give background information about some selections and 
state their published source, if any. The date given for most docu- 
ments is the date of writing; where we list the publication date, 
this is specified. Dates in brackets are estimates by the editors. 

The compilation and selection of the material, as well as the 
introduction, glossary, and editorial notes, were centrally the work 
of Emily Turnbull and James Robertson. Amy Richardson copy- 
edited the manuscript, checked facts, and prepared the References 
section. Helene Brosius was production manager. Cover and photo 
pages designed by Victor Granovsky and Bruce Mishkin. Robert 
Michaels prepared the index. Naoli Bray, Michael Doerner, 
Francois Diacono, Lisa Diamond, Rena Herson, Therese Jahn, 
Janet John, Sam Kaehler, Diana Kartsen, Carl Lichtenstein, Gayle 
Lovell, Tim Marinetti, Gary Mueller, Koula Quirk, Paul Ricks, 
Martha Robertson, Janet Root, Caron Salinger, Mary Ann 
Shiffman, and Mary Van De Water-Quirk aided in the archival and 
historical research and/or were part of the production crew. 


hat is the primary purpose of a discussion in a 
communist organization? It is not to discredit one 
another, not to exalt some and push others down, 
not to present matters as prosecution on the one side 
and defense on the other. No, the primary purpose 
is to clarify the principled questions, to educate the 
comrades on the meaning of the dispute of the 
moment, to teach them to penetrate the essence of 
a question and draw their inferences accordingly, so 
that the lessons are firmly gained and remembered 
for the future, when similar problems will arise in 
different forms. In other words, the primary aim of a 
discussion conducted by communist leaders is to teach 
the comrades to think and to fight politically, to grasp 
the main aspects of a question, to go by principle and 
not to be sidetracked by incidental matters. The 
acquisition of this method is the condition sine qua 
non for our comrades to fulfill their mission as the 
vanguard of the vanguard, not only in future disputes 
within the ranks of the Left Opposition, but also, and 
especially, in conflicts with the other party factions, 
and beyond that in the broad class struggle and in the 
general labor movement, where they will encounter 
all kinds of demagogues who are masters of all kinds 
of tricks. 

— James P. Cannon, "Draft on the Internal Struggle" 
July 1932, Writings and Speeches: The Communist 
League of America 1932-34 


When the Fourth International (FI) was founded in September 
1938 to carry on the struggle for international proletarian revolu- 
tion betrayed by the Stalinist Third (Communist) International, 
the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of the United States was its larg- 
est and apparently most stable section. The SWP leadership core 
around James P. Cannon and Max Shachtman had benefited from 
some years of close political collaboration with Leon Trotsky, 
especially after his arrival in Mexico in early 1937. The U.S. 
Trotskyists were the only national group of the FI to have aug- 
mented their forces through regroupment with a centrist forma- 
tion (A.J. Muste's American Workers Party in 1934) and through 
short-term entry into the leftward-moving Socialist Party (SP) in 
1936-37. These tactics, advocated by Trotsky, met with little suc- 
cess elsewhere. At its founding in early January 1938, the SWP 
had some 1,500 members, with organized support in the Team- 
sters, United Auto Workers (UAW), and maritime unions. 

Yet from 1931 to 1933, during a period of stagnation that 
Cannon later aptly labeled "the dog days of the movement," an 
intense internal struggle rent the American Trotskyists, then num- 
bering fewer than 200 members and known as the Communist 
League of America (CLA). 1 As the letters, articles, circulars, and 
minutes in this collection reveal, the two factions, around Cannon 
on the one hand and Shachtman on the other, came to the verge 
of an organizational break in early 1933, a split that Trotsky feared 
could lead to the stillbirth of American Trotskyism. 

The CLA was the American section of the International Left 
Opposition (ILO), which was founded a few months after Trotsky 
was forced into exile from the USSR. In a June 1929 declaration 
issued after a series of meetings at Trotsky's residence in Prinkipo, 
Turkey, the ILO claimed the heritage of the first four congresses 
of the Communist International (Comintern or CI). The ILO 
declared its principal aim to be the regroupment of dissident 
Communists on the basis of the program that the Russian Left 
Opposition had fought for in the internal party struggles of 1923- 
28. 2 Regarding itself as an expelled faction of the Comintern, the 

2 CLA 1931-33 

ILO fought to return the Soviet Union and Communist Interna- 
tional to Lenin's revolutionary internationalism. Thus when the 
Trotskyists refer to "the Party" in the documents in this book, they 
mean not the CLA or any other ILO section, but the Communist 
Party (CP) or Comintern. 

Many dissident Communists attracted to Trotsky's banner had 
only a hazy idea of the Russian Opposition's platform since most 
of its documents were banned in the Russian party and unavail- 
able abroad. Some ILO adherents had been supporters, not of the 
Trotskyist Left Opposition, but of the mercurial centrist Grigori 
Zinoviev, with whom the Trotskyists were allied in the United Oppo- 
sition of 1926-27. Some were followers of the Italian ultraleftist 
Amadeo Bordiga, organized in the Italian Prometeo Group. The 
first four years of Trotsky's exile therefore saw intense political 
struggle within the ILO, as he sought, largely unsuccessfully, to win 
the Bordigists and those trained in the maneuverist school of 
Zinoviev to genuine Bolshevism and to weed out accidental, dilet- 
tantish, and cliquist elements. Only with the authoritative Interna- 
tional Preconference, held in Paris in February 1933, did the ILO 
achieve a degree of political cohesion and organizational stability. 

Origin of the Conflict 

The factional polarization in the Communist League of 
America was precipitated in early 1932 when Cannon sought— over 
Shachtman's opposition— to put the CLA on record in support of 
Trotsky's positions in the internal struggles then roiling the ILO 
in Europe. Shachtman was the first CLA representative to meet 
with Trotsky in Prinkipo, and he attended the first European ILO 
gathering in April 1930, which Trotsky hoped would put the 
Opposition on a firmer organizational and political basis. In 
November 1930 Shachtman was co-opted onto the International 
Bureau as a representative of the CLA. In late 1931 he traveled to 
Fiance, Spain, and England. Yet, as the documents reveal, 
Shachtman attempted to blunt Trotsky's sharp attacks on the 
opportunism and cliquism of those with whom he had worked in 
Europe— Kurt Landau, Pierre Naville, Andres Nin, and M. Mill. 
Increasingly frustrated with Shachtman, in December 1931 Trotsky 
finally wrote to the CLA National Committee (NC) to inquire if 
Shachtman's actions in international matters reflected the views 
of the CLA leadership. In answer Cannon initiated a fight for the 

Introduction 3 

CLA to take a formal position against the trade-union opportun- 
ist and dilettantish elements represented by Naville in France. This 
collection documents how Shachtman and his allies, Albert 
Glotzer, Martin Abern, and Maurice Spector, obstructed Cannon's 
efforts, seeking to cover for Shachtman's irresponsibility in Europe 
and revealing in their cliquist approach to internal party struggle 
their affinity with Trotsky's opponents in Europe. 

Shachtman retreated from his course of confrontation with 
Trotsky in June 1932, to the great relief of Trotsky, who feared 
that Shachtman's alignment with Naville, Nin, and Mill might 
precipitate an international split and the creation of a centrist 
tendency opposed to the ILO. Yet the factional warfare within 
the CLA continued and even deepened over the next year, fueled 
by myriad organizational disputes and grievances going back to 
1929. In the absence of decisive programmatic differences, Trotsky 
and the ILO secretariat (I.S.) intervened sharply in spring 1933 
to put an end to the destructive polarization. A continuation of 
the fight could only have meant the disintegration of the CLA 
into two competing groups with no obvious differences, both claim- 
ing adherence to the ILO, as was the case in Austria and elsewhere. 
The I.S. intervention coincided with an upturn in domestic class 
struggle that provided the Trotskyists with the opportunity in 1934 
to lead the strikes that won union recognition for the Minneapo- 
lis Teamsters. This was one of the three great proletarian struggles 
in the United States that year, the others being the Auto-Lite strike 
in Toledo, Ohio and the three-day general strike precipitated in 
San Francisco by a hard-fought longshoremen's struggle. The open- 
ing for broader work and recruitment from the working class was 
the precondition for the subsequent six years of close political 
collaboration between Cannon and Shachtman and led to the 
formation of the Socialist Workers Party in 1938. 

Yet Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer's lengthy 4 June 1932 
document, "The Situation in the American Opposition: Prospect 
and Retrospect" (hereafter referred to as "Prospect and Retro- 
spect"), published here for the first time, harps on many of the 
organizational themes that obsessed them in 1940, when they 
broke definitively from revolutionary Marxism. Capitulating to the 
anti-Communism sweeping the petty bourgeoisie in the wake of 
the Hitler-Stalin pact, the Shachtmanites in 1940 followed the petty- 
bourgeois pedant James Burnham in insisting that the USSR's 

4 CLA 1931-33 

military alliance with Germany negated the international pro- 
letariat's duty to unconditionally defend the Soviet degenerated 
workers state against imperialist invasion and internal counterrevo- 
lution. Trotsky and Cannon, their collaboration cemented by years 
of joint work— beginning in 1933 with the resolution of the CLA's 
destructive fight— led the programmatic struggle against Shacht- 
man and Burnham in the SWP, a fight that remains decisive for 
Trotskyism to the present day. 3 

Shachtman's abandonment of the program of military defense 
of the USSR was the first step on the road to outright support for 
U.S. imperialism. By 1957 he lamented the 1919 Socialist Party 
split that led to the formation of the Communist Party, and in 
1958 he liquidated his organization into the pathetic remnants of 
the American social democracy. At that point Cannon wrote: 

Despite my long association with Shachtman from the days of his 
earliest youth, I have not been able to summon up a trace of sympa- 
thy for his evolution from a slim young rebel into a fat and fatheaded 
old social democrat. An old man repenting the "follies" of his youth, 
which were in reality his glories, merely nudges me to cold disgust. 4 

Shachtman moved ever more rapidly to the right after entering the 
SP; he ended his life a member of the Democratic Party and sup- 
porter of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and U.S. imperialism's 
bloody war against the social revolution in Vietnam. 

In 1931-33 no principled or programmatic element was in 
dispute after Shachtman gave way on the international questions. 
But the earlier struggle in the CLA clearly presaged the definitive 
1940 split. The factional lineup within the SWP National Com- 
mittee cadre whose membership dated to the early CLA was almost 
identical in both fights, with Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer pitted 
against Cannon, Arne Swabeck, Vincent Dunne, and Carl Skoglund 
(the one exception was Morris Lewit, a Shachtman supporter 
in the CLA but a Cannon stalwart in 1939-40). The earlier fight 
reverberated throughout the 1939-40 struggle. In a December 
1939 delegated conference of the New York City membership, 
Shachtman challenged Cannon to circulate "Prospect and Retro- 
spect," which had never been published in the CLA Internal 
Bulletin. 3 In sending Trotsky his central polemic against Shachtman 
and Abern, "The Struggle for a Proletarian Party," Cannon noted, 
"Its length must be excused on the ground that the dam of ten 
years patience has been broken dow T n." 6 

Introduction 5 

Unearthing the Historical Record 

Except for the period of the 1939-40 fight, the near split in 
the CLA was downplayed or hidden by the principal protagonists 
on both sides. In History of American Trotskyism, a series of lec- 
tures delivered in spring 1942 and subsequently published by the 
SWP, Cannon aptly characterized the internal struggle in the CLA 
as "the premature rehearsal of the great, definitive struggle of 
1939-40." But he described only a "sea of petty troubles, jealou- 
sies, clique formations and internal fights"— not a deep-going 
organizational polarization and near split. 7 In autobiographical 
interviews recorded in 1963 Shachtman gave an even more cur- 
sory treatment, mentioning only "more than one polemical and 
factional struggle inside the Trotskyist movement, some of them 
very sharp" between "Cannon and his friends on the one side and 
myself and my friends on the other side." 8 

When the Prometheus Research Library made a concerted 
attempt to find out more about the CLA faction fight, interview- 
ing participants such as Carl Cowl, Morris Lewit, Hugo Oehler, 
Tom Stamm, and Arne Swabeck, they all denied the gravity of 
the situation revealed in the documents we publish here. 9 Albert 
Glotzer was the sole participant in the earlier struggle who kept 
his memory— and anti-Cannon diatribes— alive. By the time of our 
interview in 1993, Glotzer was a leader of the rabidly anti- 
Communist Social Democrats USA and his sympathies lay with 
the imperialist secret services. (Richard Valcourt, editor of the 
International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, spoke at 
his 1999 memorial meeting.) Obscenely, Glotzer continued to insist 
that Cannon had never been a true Bolshevik-Leninist. 10 

Secondary histories have unfortunately followed the cursory 
reminiscences of most CLA leaders. Constance Ashton Myers 
describes only a "minor quarrel" in the CLA over Cannon's criti- 
cisms of the sterile intellectualism of the New York youth. 11 The 
CLA faction fight is ignored in Trotskyism in the United States, a 
collection of essays by George Breitman, Paul Le Blanc, and Alan 
Wald. 12 Peter Drucker's 1994 biography of Shachtman contains 
only a few cursory paragraphs that trivialize Shachtman's disagree- 
ments with Trotsky on the work in Europe. 1 ^ 

Our search of known archival sources (see the References sec- 
tion) unearthed some 600 documents on the 1931-33 fight and 

6 CLA 1931-33 

the preceding organizational disputes and correspondence with 
Trotsky on international questions, including letters, minutes of 
the New York resident committee of the CLA National Commit- 
tee, documents from CLA Internal Bulletins, and draft resolutions 
and circulars. 14 Of these, 118 appear in this book, divided into 
three chronological sections. The first, "Shachtman in the Inter- 
national," centers on Trotsky's correspondence with Shachtman 
on the ILO in 1930-31. The second, "The Fight," contains motions 
and documents on the central CLA disputes in 1932-33, from the 
international question to the feud over co-optations to the National 
Committee, disputes over the proletarianization of the New York 
local, CLA work among the miners in southern Illinois, and prop- 
aganda over the potential role of the Soviet Red Army in fighting 
Hitler's ascension to power in Germany. This section includes 
representative factional correspondence, as well as key documents 
and motions. 

The final section, "The International Intervenes," begins in 
early 1933 and includes Trotsky's letters to CLA leaders, a tran- 
script of his discussion with Arne Swabeck, motions from the 
International Secretariat, and responses to Trotsky from both sides. 
Despite the "Peace Treaty" adopted by the NC in June 1933, the 
factional flame continued to burn through the end of that year, 
as the two sides jockeyed for position over Cannon's proposal to 
move the national headquarters to Chicago. The projected move 
was shelved in late 1933, and the fight petered out by early 1934 
as a new political configuration evolved in the CLA. Shachtman 
recounted these developments in his seminal 1936 document, 
"Marxist Politics or Unprincipled Combinationism?", a savage 
indictment of his former and future bloc partners, Abern and 
Glotzer. 15 

Twenty-five of the documents included in this book are avail- 
able, in other translations, in the relevant volumes of Writings of 
Leon Trotsky, which provide the international context for the CLA's 
internal dispute. We publish here only four items also available in 
Cannon's Writings and Speeches: The Communist League of America 
1932-34. Both Cannon's CLA writings and Cannon's Writings and 
Speeches: The Left Opposition in the U.S. 1928-31 are essential com- 
panions to our collection, providing the broader national back- 
drop for the CLA struggle. The Communist League of America 
includes Cannon's two main documents from the internal struggle 

Introduction 7 

and letters to his factional supporters that we do not reproduce 
here. We include eight items by Cannon, not available in the Path- 
finder volume, that were circulated at the time with resident com- 
mittee minutes and in bulletins of the CLA. Published here for 
the first time are seven letters by Trotsky and the documents of 
the Shachtman faction, centrally "Prospect and Retrospect." 

The Shachtman documents are replete with accusations against 
Cannon as an unrepentant Zinovievist and a bureaucratic maneu- 
verer with little interest in Marxist theory or international ques- 
tions. Revived in 1940, these accusations crop up in histories of 
American Trotskyism to the present day. 16 The record of the dis- 
pute reveals how little basis these accusations have. Cannon was 
intimately familiar with the issues in dispute in the European ILO 
and deeply concerned with the education of the CLA member- 
ship in an internationalist spirit. As he wrote in hailing the first 
issue of the English-language International Bulletin, which the CLA 
in 1931 took responsibility for publishing: 

All sections must steer a deliberate course toward real participation 
in the affairs of the others and in the common international tasks. 
This duty is particularly insistent for us because we inherit from the 
past a certain insularity and we are hampered by barriers of dis- 
tance and language. All the more necessary, therefore, is a conscious 
struggle to surmount them. 17 
Cannon took this admonition to heart most of all for himself. As 
he wrote in his draft reply to "Prospect and Retrospect": 

I had to acquire internationalism. It took a long time. The process 
was a painful and difficult one, and very probably remains uncom- 
pleted. In this field I am still a seeker, a learner. It is very hard for 
an American to be a thoroughgoing internationalist in the genuine, 
not superficial, sense of the word. He is not born with this gift. The 
difficulties of distance, plus language handicaps, determined, and 
yet determine for me a slowness of orientation and a difficulty in 
quickly understanding international questions. (Example: The first 
stages of the struggle in the Russian party.) 18 

All leading CLAers— miseducated in the school of the degen- 
erating Comintern— had much to learn from Trotsky, as the docu- 
ments show. The process of basic Leninist education was a source 
for much of the early tension, as Cannon noted years later when 
he mused on the causes for the 1931-33 fight: 

As we began to get the writings of Trotsky, it opened up a whole 
new world for us. And they [Abern and Shachtman] discovered, this 
is my assumption, that while they had always taken what I said for 

8 CLA 1931-33 

gospel, they discovered there were a lot of things I didn't know. That 
I was just beginning to learn from Trotsky. What they didn't know 
was that I was learning as well as they were. Shachtman at least, I 
think, had the idea that he had outgrown me. 19 
In overcoming the CLA's unmerited factional polarization 
Cannon completed his education as a Leninist, learning to put 
program and principle qualitatively above organizational consid- 
erations. In later years Cannon recognized that it took Trotsky's 
guidance to break him from the bureaucratic factional practices 
of the degenerating Comintern: 

When I came out of the nine years of the CP I was a first-class fac- 
tional hoodlum. If not, how would I ever have survived? All I knew 
when somebody started a fight, let him have it. That existence was 
all I knew. I think Trotsky is right when he says that in the long 
drawn-out fight between Cannon and Abern that historical right is 
on the side of Cannon. But that doesn't mean I was right about 
everything. No, I was wrong about many things, including my meth- 
ods and my impatience and rudeness with comrades and repulsing 
them. My past record— but that is years ago. I don't do that anymore. 
I don't insult comrades. I don't persecute them or give them grounds 
for thinking I am doing it. I know more about how to lead a party 
than that. I have had responsibilities on my shoulders and I have 
had the Old Man's instructions and some day I am going to publish 
the Old Man's correspondence on this question and it will be very 
illuminating as one of the great sources of my information and 
change. I improved myself, cleaned myself up, and you have got to 
judge me as I am today. 20 

The resolution of the fight cemented Cannon's trust in Trotsky 
and his commitment to building a democratic-centralist interna- 
tional tendency. In contrast, Abern and Glotzer remained mired 
in the politics of cliquist gang warfare that had defined Zinoviev's 
Comintern. The "Abern Clique" was a fault line at the center of 
American Trotskyism, a remnant of the 1931-33 CLA fight, through- 
out the decade. In 1939-40 the fault ruptured and Shachtman 
rejoined his clique partners. 21 

The documents reveal the myriad tensions that can tear apart 
a small communist propaganda nucleus. How the CLA overcame 
the "dog days" to become one of the strongest sections of the Fourth 
International is an important lesson in the struggle to forge a revo- 
lutionary party and its cadre. The Prometheus Research Library, 
central reference archive of the Central Committee of the Spartacist 
League, U.S. section of the International Communist League, is 
unique in understanding the importance of the CLA fight and 

Introduction 9 

making its history accessible to our own and future generations. 
The ICL, like the ILO, is a fighting communist propaganda group 
with the goal of forging parties of the proletarian vanguard to lead 
to victory new October Revolutions internationally. 

The CLA's Origins in the CP's Cannon Faction 

As a delegate to the Comintern Sixth Congress in 1928, 
Cannon, a founding leader of the American Communist Party, 
was won to Trotsky's fight to return the Soviet Communist Party 
and Communist International to the revolutionary international- 
ist program of Lenin's day. Cannon, as a member of the Program 
Commission, was given a partial copy of Trotsky's "The Draft Pro- 
gram of the Communist International: A Criticism of Fundamen- 
tals" (hereafter referred to as the Critique). 22 Trotsky's powerful 
essay distilled the lessons of the international class struggle of the 
preceding years, in which the Communist International, initially 
under the leadership of Zinoviev and then of Bukharin-Stalin, zig- 
zagged between adventurism and the crassest opportunism. The 
abandonment of a revolutionary perspective bore its most terrible 
fruit in the Chinese Communist Party's subordination to the petty- 
bourgeois nationalist Guomindang, leading to the defeat of the 
Second Chinese Revolution of 1925-27. 

Trotsky exposed the source of the Comintern's betrayals in 
the bureaucratic caste that had seized power from the Soviet pro- 
letariat in early 1924, defeating the Left Opposition and later that 
year generalizing its accommodation to the bourgeois order with 
Stalin's dogma of "socialism in one country." The Left Opposi- 
tion fought a series of battles to maintain the Soviet Union as a 
bastion of world revolution, first in 1923-24 and then in alliance 
with Zinoviev and Kamenev in the 1926-27 United Opposition, 
but Trotsky's Critique was the first programmatically comprehen- 
sive treatment of the corrosive effects on the Comintern of the 
conservative bureaucracy's hold on the Soviet party and state. 23 

Already at an impasse in the factional warfare dominating the 
American Party in the 1920s, Cannon was electrified by Trotsky's 
document, which he described as "a searchlight in the fog of offi- 
cial propaganda, scholasticism and administrative decree which 
has been substituted for the ideological leadership of the Execu- 
tive Committee of the Communist International in earlier years." 21 
Cannon found an ally in Canadian party leader Maurice Spector, 

10 CLA 1931-33 

a member of the Program Commission who had long been sym- 
pathetic to the Trotskyist Opposition. 25 Resolving to fight for 
Trotsky's views, they smuggled out of Moscow the partial copy of 
Trotsky's Critique. In New York, Cannon immediately won over 
his companion, Rose Karsner, as well as two of his key lieuten- 
ants, Abern and Shachtman. 

Cannon, Shachtman, and Abern were expelled from the CP 
in October 1928; in History of American Trotskyism Cannon recounts 
that the self-serving hacks in the Lovestone Party leadership labeled 
them the "Three Generals Without an Army." This description 
downplays the support in the Party for the expelled Trotskyists. 
Cannon had been the coleader— along with William F. (Bill) 
Dunne— of the smallest of the CP's three established factions. The 
Cannon group split over Cannon's adherence to the Left Oppo- 
sition. Bill Dunne, at the time on foreign assignment for the 
Comintern, chose the security of his Party membership over 
revolutionary program and principle. So did prominent Cannon 
faction members such as Manuel Gomez, leader of the Anti- 
Imperialist League, and William Schneiderman, a leader of the 
Young Communist League and later district organizer of the Cali- 
fornia CP. However, some 150 Cannon faction members were 
expelled simply for questioning Cannon's expulsion. The major- 
ity declared for Trotsky after reading his Critique, joining the CLA 
at its founding in May 1929. 

Among the League's initial members was Arne Swabeck, like 
Cannon and Abern a full member of the CP Central Executive 
Committee (Shachtman was an alternate). A former editor of the 
SP's Scandinavian weekly paper and a member of the Industrial 
Workers of the World (IWW) from 1918 to 1920, Swabeck had 
been a leader of the 1919 Seattle general strike. A founding Ameri- 
can Communist, he served as a delegate to the Comintern Fourth 
Congress in 1922. An SP member from 1908, Rose Karsner 
was the secretary of Max Eastman's journal Masses during World 
War I. She was also a founding Communist and, like Abern and 
Shachtman, a central administrator of the International Labor 
Defense (ILD), the CP-initiated united-front defense organization, 
headed by Cannon, that led the great campaign against the 
execution of the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti in 1927. 

Most of the Minneapolis CP branch leaders— each one with 
more than two decades of experience as workers leaders— came 

Introduction 1 1 

over to the CLA. This included Bill Dunne's brothers, Miles and 
Vincent, as well as Carl Skoglund and Oscar Coover. Vince Dunne 
was a founding member of the I WW and an itinerant Wobbly 
organizer in the western U.S. from 1906-08. Active thereafter in 
the Minneapolis labor movement, he joined the Communist Party 
in 1920. Skoglund joined the Socialist youth in his native Sweden 
in 1905 and participated as a young draftee in its antimilitarist 
activity. Blacklisted after leading a 1909 mill strike, he emigrated 
to the U.S. in 1911, where he joined the SP in 1914 and the IWW 
in 1917. He was a leader of the SP's Scandinavian Federation, an 
early supporter of the Bolshevik Revolution, and a founding Ameri- 
can Communist. A railway mechanic, he was chairman of the local 
strike committee during the 1922 railway strike and was there- 
after blacklisted from the industry. Coover was a leader of the 1922 
railway strike along with Skoglund, and also a founding Ameri- 
can Communist. 

Attending the first CLA conference was Hugo Oehler, one of 
the CP's best trade-union field operatives and former organizer 
of District 10— headquartered in Kansas City and encompassing 
ten western states, including Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. 
Oehler was a secret Trotskyism He remained officially a member 
of the CP until June 1930 and was a leader, along with Bill Dunne, 
of the explosive textile strike in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1929. 
Louis Basky, leader of a group of Hungarians independently won 
to Trotsky's views, veteran of the 1919 Hungarian Revolution, and 
long-time leader of the American Party's Hungarian Federation, 
also joined the CLA. Dr. Antoinette Konikow, member of the Rus- 
sian Socialist movement in exile from 1888, founding member of 
the SP and the American Communist movement, and pioneer of 
birth control in the United States, adhered to the League with a 
small group she had recruited in Boston. 

The CLA's new National Committee included the majority of 
the founding leaders of the American Communist youth group— 
Abern, Shachtman, John Edwards, and Oliver Carlson. 2 ' 1 Joining 
them on the CLA NC was Albert Glotzer, who was in 1928 a full 
member of the National Executive Committee of the Young Com- 
munist League (YCL). Glotzer had risen rapidly to leadership in 
the YCL's Chicago organization after joining in 1923 at the age of 
15. Joseph Friedman (later known as Joseph Carter) was another 
Communist youth leader who joined the CLA. A leader of (lie 

12 CLA 1931-33 

Socialist Party's New York youth, he had recently come over to 
the Communists. 

Six of the seven members of the National Committee elected 
at the CLA's First National Conference in May 1929 were veter- 
ans of the "Cannon group"; the seventh was Maurice Spector, a 
member of the Canadian CP's Political Committee as well as of 
the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI), 
who was expelled from the Canadian party with some 30 others 
in late 1928. The Canadian comrades were initially organized as 
the Toronto branch of the CLA; later a Montreal branch was also 
organized. In late 1934 the Canadian Trotskyists formed a sepa- 
rate national organization. 

The creation of the CLA from an established group within 
the Communist Party, with a history of collective work, gave it an 
organizational stability lacking in most Trotskyist groups interna- 
tionally. The only other comparably organized group to come over 
as a whole to the ILO was Eduard Van Overstraeten's in Belgium. 
A leading opponent of World War I and a founding Belgian Com- 
munist, Van Overstraeten headed a faction in the Belgian party 
that also predated the development of the Left Opposition. Over 
one-third of the Belgian party went with him when he was expelled 
in early 1928 for supporting the Russian United Opposition; 
Cannon brought over a much smaller proportion of the Ameri- 
can Party. 27 But Van Overstraeten had been trained in Zinoviev's 
maneuverist school of politics. He disagreed with Trotsky on the 
fundamental issue of military defense of the USSR in the Chinese 
Eastern Railroad dispute and deserted the ILO in 1930 while his 
organization splintered. Part of it— the Charleroi Federation led 
by Leon Lesoil— became the Belgian section of the ILO. Deeply 
rooted among the miners, the Belgian section was the most pro- 
letarian of the early European Trotskyist organizations. 

Expelled en masse in late 1926, Zinoviev's supporters in the 
German party, led by Hugo Urbahns, Ruth Fischer, and Arkadi 
Maslow, founded the Leninbund, which adhered briefly to the ILO 
in 1929. 28 Writing off the Communist International and the Soviet 
Union itself as "state capitalist," the Leninbund lasted less than a 
year in the ILO. The small group led by Josef Frey, a founder of 
the Austrian Communist Party, remained mired in cliquist maneu- 
verism and was never recognized as an ILO section. Henricus 
Sneevliet, a founder of both the Socialist and Communist move- 

Introduction 1 3 

ments in the Dutch East Indies, as well as a founding Dutch Com- 
munist, was expelled from the Dutch party with a group of sup- 
porters in 1929. But his Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) stood 
apart from the International Left Opposition, adhering to the 
Trotskyist movement only later, from 1933-38. Even then the RSP 
maintained its membership in the centrist London Bureau, which 
it retained after the break with Trotsky in 1938. 

Andres Nin in Spain, Alfred Rosmer in France, and Chen 
Duxiu in China were won to the Left Opposition on a firmer 
programmatic basis. Nin and Rosmer, like Cannon, had long pre- 
Communist histories as revolutionary syndicalists. But Nin had 
lived for years in the USSR and lost his direct connection to the 
Spanish party. Rosmer was expelled from the French party in 
December 1924, before the issues in dispute in the Russian party 
were clear internationally. The founder and preeminent leader of 
the Chinese Communist Party, Chen followed Moscow's orders, 
despite misgivings, implementing the disastrous policy of class- 
collaboration that led to the crushing of the Second Chinese 
Revolution. After the disaster, he was made the scapegoat for 
Stalin's policy. He brought only a few close followers into the ILO, 
and many of the Chinese section's young recruits unjustly ques- 
tioned his leadership from the beginning. 29 

Cannon is distinguished from other early leaders of ILO 
sections not only by the number of supporters won to the ILO, 
but by the fact that he stayed the course, becoming a leader of the 
Fourth International when it was founded in 1938. The most 
capable Leninist the United States has yet produced, Cannon was 
the leader of the SWP through World War II and after, going to 
jail for the party's opposition to the imperialist war and leading 
the struggle, however belated and partial, against the Pabloite 
revisionism that destroyed the Fourth International in 1951-53. 
He remained the SWP's national chairman through the party's 
degeneration into reformism in the 1960s until his death in 1974.™ 

Rosmer, unable to function as a leader of a small propaganda 
group, deserted the ILO in 1930. Nin, whose group of Spanish 
Bolshevik-Leninists had an increasingly attenuated relationship 
to the ILO, split in 1935. 31 Chen was arrested in late 1932 and 
spent the next six years in Chiang Kai-shek's prisons, unable to 
play much of a role in the internal disputes of the ILO. He broke 
with the Fourth International in the prelude to World War II, 

14 CLA 1931-33 

advocating support for the "democratic" imperialists against Nazi 
Germany. 32 Outside of the Russian Opposition, Cannon was the 
only one of all the former Communist leaders who was able to 
achieve the revolutionary programmatic intransigence necessary 
for the Leninist proletarian vanguard. 

Left Opposition vs. Right Opposition 

Trotsky's Critique was effectively the founding document of 
the International Left Opposition. But in early 1929 the Critique 
was just beginning to be circulated internationally; it had been 
published only in French in Maurice Paz's journal, Contre le cou- 
rant, and in English (in partial form) in the Militant. Other docu- 
ments of the Russian Opposition were hardly available even in the 
Soviet Union. The Platform of the United Opposition, written for 
the 15th Party Congress in fall 1927, was banned as "anti-party" 
and circulated only clandestinely. Max Eastman had obtained a 
copy, which he published in his 1928 The Real Situation in Russia, 
along with Trotsky's October 1927 "Letter to the Bureau of Party 
History." 33 Thus some basic documents of the Russian struggle 
were available in English. Eastman donated the royalties from the 
book to help produce the Militant. 

The issue of Soviet domestic economic policy came to the fore 
in 1929. Opposing the economic autarky that underlay the dogma 
of "socialism in one country," the Left Opposition had insisted that 
the gains of the revolution could only be defended in the long term 
through its extension to the advanced industrial countries. But in 
the meantime they sought to build the Soviet state and economy 
as key resources in the fight for world revolution. The Left Oppo- 
sition fought for a planned rate of industrialization so that the 
social fabric necessary for a proletarian dictatorship could be 
rebuilt after the devastation of World War I and the Civil War. They 
sought to maintain the "smychka" (link between workers and peas- 
ants) through the production of manufactured goods for the 
peasantry. During the period of the United Opposition, they fought 
for higher workers' wages, financing industrialization through 
higher tax rates for the kulaks (well-off peasants who hired labor), 
and for incentives to foster voluntary collectivization among the 
poorer peasants. 

In contrast, the ruling Soviet faction under Stalin, then in a 
bloc with Nikolai Bukharin, followed the policy of increasing con- 
cessions to the kulaks and petty traders created by the 1921 New 

Introduction 15 

Economic Policy (NEP). Bukharin and his school of "red profes- 
sors" were the most vocal advocates of these concessions, with 
Bukharin calling on the kulaks to "enrich" themselves. Mikhail 
Tomsky— the head of the Soviet trade unions— stood with Bukharin. 
Trotsky saw the bloc between Stalin's centrist group, based on the 
party and state apparatus, and the rightists around Bukharin and 
Tomsky, as unstable. Social support for Bukharin's neo-Narodnik 
agrarianism was to be found among the kulaks and NEPmen. 
Trotsky predicted disaster as the grain surpluses at the disposal 
of the hostile kulak forces continued to grow. Indeed, the kulaks 
began to withhold grain from the Soviet cities in late 1927. By 
1928 the shortage in grain collections portended urban famine 
and threatened the very foundations of the workers state. 

By spring 1928 the Stalinist faction, fearing for the future of 
the Soviet state, had embarked on an anti-kulak turn. In early 1929 
this became a full-scale political about-face, accompanied by an 
open assault on the Bukharinite right. The Stalinists' hasty and 
brutal forced collectivization of the peasantry and initiation of a 
five-year plan for industrialization foreclosed the immediate threat 
of capitalist restoration in the USSR. In order to bring interna- 
tional policy in line with the domestic left turn (and to undercut 
the Left Opposition), the Communist International, now unam- 
biguously under the control of Stalin, promulgated a Third Period 
of post- 19 17 capitalism in which proletarian revolution was declared 
to be imminent more or less everywhere. 

By the end of 1929 the Right Opposition (RO) leaders had all 
capitulated. Bukharin remained a member of the Soviet party Cen- 
tral Committee, but his supporters in other sections of the Com- 
intern (including Jay Lovestone, M.N. Roy, Heinrich Brandler, and 
Joaquin Maurin) were expelled as the CI embarked on an ultra- 
leftist and sectarian course. The Stalinist parties abandoned the 
established trade unions to reformist leadership in order to build 
their own "revolutionary" unions. They opposed joint actions with 
parties of the Second International, which were labeled "social 
fascists." Third Period ultraleft rhetoric and bureaucratic adven- 
turism tended to assuage the doubts of Communist militants 
formerly sympathetic to Trotsky's criticisms of the CI's growing 
opportunism, undercutting the ILO's recruitment. The Third 
Period remained the policy of the centrist Comintern leadership 
throughout the period covered by this book. The subsequent turn 

16 CLA 1931-33 

to open class collaborationism with "democratic" imperialism 
culminated in 1935 with the CI's adoption of the policy of the 
"Popular Front" with which Stalinism is generally identified today. 

Heinrich Brandler, the vacillating head of the German party 
during the aborted revolution of 1923, became the leading inter- 
national spokesman of the Right Opposition. The Right too 
opposed the Stalinist Comintern leadership, but from an evolving 
reformist perspective that was to lead most of its supporters to the 
Social Democracy— if not to outright capitalist reaction— before the 
decade was out. Given Bukharin's capitulation, the RO supported 
Stalin's domestic Soviet leadership, including the persecution of 
the Left Opposition. The RO's American organization was the 
Communist Party (Opposition), headed by the unprincipled 
adventurer Jay Lovestone, who, as leader of the official CP, had 
expelled Cannon and the other founding Trotskyists. Lovestone 
ended the decade as a shameless backer of U.S. imperialism's entry 
into World War II. This was but the prelude to his postwar role as 
a braintruster for the anti-Communist machinations of the Ameri- 
can CIA in the international labor movement. 

Trotsky correctly viewed the Soviet Right Opposition as a 
bridge within the party to the openly counterrevolutionary 
elements— including kulaks, NEPmen, would-be exploiters, and 
residual tsarist elements in the state apparatus— who were the only 
social base of support for the RO's economic policies. Interna- 
tionally, it was clear that a political divide separated the Bolshevik- 
Leninists from the multiple capitulators of the RO, who also 
regarded themselves as unjustly expelled from the CI. Trotsky had 
been willing to include the Bukharinites in negotiations for the 
reestablishment of Soviet party democracy when it appeared that 
dissension with the Stalinist left turn opened up that possibility 
in 1928. He remained ready to include the RO if the possibility of 
such negotiations appeared in the future. But his aim was to lay 
the basis for the RO's conscious elimination from the proletarian 
vanguard: "The purge from the party of real opportunists, to say 
nothing of the Thermidorians, must be carried out freely and 
openly, by the will of the party masses." 34 He adamantly refused 
to merge political banners with the Brandlerites in a fight against 

We Bolshevik-Leninists never looked upon party democracy as free 
entry for Thermidorian views and tendencies; on the contrary, party 
democracy was trampled underfoot in the promotion of the latter. 

Introduction 1 7 

What we mean by the restoration of party democracy is that the 
real revolutionary proletarian core of the party win the right to curb 
the bureaucracy and to really purge the party: to purge the party of 
the Thermidorians in principle as well as their unprincipled and 
careerist cohorts. 35 

This was also Trotsky's position toward other rightist oppositional 
elements that emerged from the Soviet party in 1931-32: 

It is true that the slogan "Down with Stalin" is very popular right 
now not only inside the party but also far beyond its perimeters. In 
this one can see the advantage of the slogan, but at the same time, 
undoubtedly, also its danger. To assume a protective coloring and 
politically dissolve into the general dissatisfaction with the Stalinist 
regime is something we cannot, we will not, and we must not do. 36 

Political Differentiation in the Early ILO 

Many dissident Communist elements who sought to regroup 
under the ILO's banner did not fully grasp the significance of 
the struggle in the Russian party. All were attracted to the Left 
Opposition's struggle against bureaucratism in the Soviet party 
and state. But many saw this as a simple "democratic" issue, mis- 
understanding or disagreeing with the underlying programmatic 
basis— the fight to forge the politically homogenous revolutionary 
proletarian vanguard in opposition to all varieties of centrism and 
reformism. Political softness toward the Right Opposition was com- 
mon. Trotsky laid out the general problem: 

It is the task of the Left Opposition to reestablish the thread of his- 
toric continuity in Marxist theory and policies. However, the differ- 
ent groups of the Left Opposition in the various countries arose 
under the influence of the most diverse national, provincial, and 
purely personal factors, and have often, cloaked in the banner of 
Leninism, brought up their cadres in a completely different and 
sometimes even in a contrary spirit. 

We must not shut our eyes to the facts. We must openly say: many 
opposition groups and groupings represent a caricature of the offi- 
cial party. They possess all its vices, often in an exaggerated form, 
but not its virtues, which are conditioned by the numerical strength 
of the workers within them alone, if by nothing else. 37 

Trotsky's primary task was the systematic education of the ILO 
cadre and the weeding out of opportunist, sectarian, accidental, 
and dilettantish elements. This entailed almost constant internal 
political struggle. 

18 CLA 1931-33 

The first major fight Trotsky waged in exile was over the duty 
of the international proletariat to defend the gains of the Russian 
Revolution. In 1929, when Chiang Kai-shek tried to break China's 
treaty with the Soviet Union and seize the Chinese Eastern Rail- 
road, the Leninbund, along with Van Overstraeten and a small 
group of French syndicalists then adhering to the ILO, refused to 
take a clear stand in defense of the world's first workers state. 38 
Generalizing his refusal to defend the USSR, Urbahns, leader of 
the Leninbund, adopted the "theory" that the bureaucratized 
Soviet state represented not the dictatorship of the proletariat but 
a new form of "state capitalism." In late 1929, with Urbahns threat- 
ening to expel them, Trotsky's supporters left the Leninbund. The 
ILO's German section, the German United Left Opposition of the 
KPD (hereafter referred to as the German United Opposition), 
was formed in April 1930 through a merger of the former 
Leninbund minority with the so-called "Wedding Opposition," a 
dissident leftist current within the KPD whose leaders had been 
expelled in February 1928 for meeting with Left Opposition leader 
Christian Rakovsky. 

The fight with Van Overstraeten continued through fall 1930, 
with the issue of Soviet defensism intersecting the interlinked 
question of the ILO's orientation as an expelled faction of the 
Comintern. Van Overstraeten's Belgian majority not only termed 
the USSR "imperialist" for its retention of the Chinese Eastern 
Railroad, it also wrote off the entire Communist International, 
arguing it was dead as a revolutionary force and that the Left 
Opposition should fight for the creation of a new party and 

Trotsky had originally considered Belgium an exception to the 
Opposition's general orientation as an expelled Comintern fac- 
tion, believing the official party to be insignificant there. In 
October 1929 he wrote, "The Belgian Opposition can and must 
aim to become an independent party. Its task is to win over the 
proletarian nucleus, not of the Communist Party, but of the social 
democracy." 39 

Yet Trotsky fought hard against Van Overstraeten's attempt 
to write off the Communist International as a whole. With the 
Stalinists still claiming to stand on the program of the Russian 
Revolution, the CI organized the overwhelming majority of 
revolutionary-minded workers. The ILO's orientation as an expelled 

Introduction 1 9 

faction, critically supporting the party's electoral and other cam- 
paigns, was necessary to a serious proletarian perspective. Lesoil's 
Charleroi Federation united with a small group led by Georges 
Vereeken in Brussels to defend the ILO's orientation, and split 
with Van Overstraeten in October 1930 to become the official ILO 
section in Belgium. 40 

The fight over the Chinese Eastern Railroad is briefly touched 
on in the documents. Of greater centrality is Trotsky's ongoing 
battle with Andres Nin and the Spanish Opposition, beginning 
with Nin's release from the USSR in late 1930. Nin insisted, "In 
Spain the proletariat will organize its party outside the official 
party (which does not exist in fact), and in spite of it." 41 Nin's 
Opposicion Communiste de Espana (OCE) oriented instead to the 
former Catalan Federation of the Spanish Communist Party led 
by Joaquin Maui in. Expelled from the CI in June 1930, the Catalan 
Federation was a rightward-moving centrist organization defined 
by its capitulation to petty-bourgeois Catalan nationalism. Trotsky 
characterized its politics as a "mixture of petty-bourgeois preju- 
dices, ignorance, provincial 'science,' and political crookedness." 42 
In March 1931 Maurin's Catalan Federation founded a "mass" 
organization called the Workers and Peasants Bloc (BOC) which 
was, in Catalonia at least, far larger than the Communist Party. 

The BOC, affiliated with the Right Opposition, refused to 
condemn the Stalinist leadership of the Communist International. 
Trotskyists were officially banned from membership. Thus Nin's 
insistence on seeking unity with the BOC— while ignoring the 
official Spanish Communist Party— contradicted the very political 
foundations of the ILO. From the fall of the monarchy in early 
1931, Spain was in the midst of a prerevolutionary crisis in which 
even a small nucleus, armed with a revolutionary program and 
acting independently of Maurin's centrist swamp, could have grown 
exponentially. Trotsky wrote endless letters trying and failing to 
convince Nin of his criminally wrong course. 43 As the documents 
reveal, Nin briefly found support in early 1931 from other sectors 
of the ILO, including the international secretary, M. Mill. Further 
distancing itself from the ILO, the Spanish Opposition changed 
its name to Izquierda Communiste de Espana (ICE) in March 1932, 
in implicit solidarity with the Gauche Communiste trade-union 
opportunists who had split from the Trotskyist movement in 

20 OLA 1931-33 

The fight on the trade-union question in France features 
heavily in the correspondence between Trotsky and Shachtman 
that opens this collection. The Ligue Communiste de France (the 
Ligue) was founded in April 1930 through the fusion of a num- 
ber of disparate groups supporting Trotsky in France. Even before 
the Ligue was founded, Alfred Rosmer had met with the i ightward- 
moving centrist elements in the leadership of the teachers union, 
themselves recently expelled from the Communist Party, and 
decided upon the formation of a new opposition group within 
the Communist-led trade-union federation, the Confederation 
Generale du Travail Unitaire (CGTU). The Opposition Unitaire 
(OU, Unitary Opposition) was promoted with great fanfare in the 
pages of the French Trotskyist paper, La Verite, which published 
its program, an opportunist mishmash that catered to lingering 
syndicalist prejudices within the CGTU, without a word of criti- 
cism. Trotsky strongly objected to the Ligue's perspective of 
subordinating its activity among the proletariat to an ongoing bloc 
with nonrevolutionary elements. Pierre Gourget countered with 
the old syndicalist argument against party "control" of the trade 
unions. 44 

Within the Ligue, Raymond Molinier led the fight for Trotsky's 
position against Pierre Naville, Pierre Gourget, and Rosmer. 
Apparently piqued over Trotsky's support to Molinier, Rosmer with- 
drew from the Ligue in late 1930. Molinier's remaining opponents, 
led by Gourget and Naville, sought to obscure the programmatic 
difference between themselves and Molinier on the trade-union 
question with accusations against Molinier's allegedly shady busi- 
ness dealings as the head of a debt collection agency. When 
Molinier's faction won a majority in the Ligue in early 1931, 
Gourget and a group of supporters split from the Ligue and began 
publishing a journal, Bulletin de la Gauche communiste, on which 
Rosmer also collaborated. 45 Rosmer subsequently visited Spain, 
attempting to poison the Spanish Opposition against Molinier. 

Naville remained a member of the Ligue and continued the 
anti-Molinier machinations within it. He was aligned with Kurt 
Landau in Germany. The founder and ideological inspirer of the 
Austrian Mahnruf Group, Landau had moved to Berlin and pro- 
pelled himself into leadership of the German United Opposition 
when it was founded in early 1930. An unprincipled cliquist and 
adventurer, Landau's unserious approach to the struggle for 

Introduction 2 1 

programmatic clarity can be judged by Trotsky's condemnation 
of the Mahnruf Group: 

During the last two years, in the course of which I have had an 
opportunity to observe this group through its press and through 
correspondence with its representatives, the group has passed 
through the following evolution: (1) at first it swore movingly in the 
name of the Russian Opposition; (2) then it declared unexpectedly 
that it would not join any international faction; (3) then it made the 
attempt to unite all the groups, including the Rights; (4) following 
this it dissolved its bloc with the Brandlerites and swore, anew, loyalty 
to the International Left; (5) later on it adopted— to bring about uni- 
fication, so to speak, but in reality for self-preservation— a platform 
in the spirit of Comrade Landau; (6) next it rejected the platform 
of Comrade Landau and adopted the capitulationist platform of 
Comrade Graef; (7) finally it split off from Graef and declared itself 
once more to stand on the platform of the International Left. 46 

In a detailed exposure of Landau, Jan Frankel, Trotsky's secretary, 
wrote, "He appears completely beyond reproach as long as it is a 
matter of repeating general formulas that do not immediately 
affect the political activity of the individual and his group or obli- 
gate them. The difficulties and disagreements begin only at the 
moment that it becomes a matter of getting to the real core of 
these questions and implementing them." 47 Landau's organiza- 
tional methods consisted of unprincipled maneuvering and 
draconian expulsions, designed to cement his role as unchallenged 
"leader" of the German organization. Although a member of the 
ILO's International Bureau, Landau refused to take a position 
against the trade-union opportunists in France, seeking to protect 
his friend and ally, Naville. He organized a conference of the 
German group in October 1930 that was solely occupied with 
personal and organizational squabbles— this just after Reichstag 
elections where the Nazis' votes jumped to over 18 percent of 
the total. 

In early 1931, after months of fruitless attempts to educate 
Landau through personal letters, Trotsky brought the fight against 
him into the ILO with a devastating attack, "The Crisis in the 
German Left Opposition." At the time Landau was threatening 
to expel the Leipzig (Saxony) branch, led by Roman Well and 
A. Senin (later unmasked as Stalinist agents). Trotsky called for 
the reinstatement of the unjustly expelled German comrades, the 
organization of a democratic discussion within the section to be 
moderated by the International Secretariat, and the convening of 

22 CLA 1931-33 

a politically prepared German conference. Landau quit the 
Opposition rather than comply. 48 

Landau was typical of the dabblers, dilettantes, and adven- 
turers seeking affiliation with the ILO in its early days. Boris 
Souvarine and Maurice Paz in France were even more dilettantish 
and distant from the working class. Josef Frey's Austrian group, 
which competed with Mahnruf for designation as the official ILO 
section (the international recognized neither) was cut from the 
same cloth. Trotsky later described the phenomenon as: 

Individuals and little grouplets, predominantly of intellectual or 
semi-intellectual character, without clear political views and with- 
out roots in the working class. Accustomed neither to serious work 
nor to responsibility, closely tied up to nothing and nobody, politi- 
cal nomads without baggage, who carried some cheap formulas, 
smart critical phrases, and practice in intrigue from town to town 
and country to country. 49 

Followers of the ultraleft Amadeo Bordiga, organized as 
Prometeo, worked with the ILO sections in Brussels and Paris (and 
briefly in New York). The Bordigists opposed the struggle for 
democratic demands, essential to a revolutionary proletarian per- 
spective in the unfolding Spanish revolution. Opposing the united 
front in principle, they fought against Trotsky's urgent call for 
united actions of the Communist Party and Social Democrats to 
stop Hitler in Germany. Trotsky fought hard to win them to 
Leninism, but their ILO membership became increasingly unten- 
able. In early 1930 three members of the Italian CP's Political 
Bureau in exile in Paris, including Pietro Tresso (Blasco) and 
Alfonso Leonetti (Souzo), declared for Trotsky and formed the 
New Italian Opposition (NOI) to distinguish themselves from the 
Bordigists. Under the influence of the NOI, a pro-Trotskyist fac- 
tion crystallized within Prometeo. Trotsky's supporters, led by 
Nicola Di Bartolomeo, were expelled from Prometeo in 1931 after 
six months of discussion and joined forces with the NOI. 50 
Prometeo was not invited to the February 1933 International 
Preconference that stabilized the ILO. 

The numerous fights waged by Trotsky were detailed in docu- 
ments circulated in all ILO sections; the most important documents 
were published in the International Bulletin, which contributed 
greatly to the education of the early Trotskyist cadre. Cannon 
cogently summarized the history of four years of struggle in out- 
line notes for a speech to the CLA membership: 

Introduction 23 

Early groups "supporting" Russian Opposition consisted primarily 
of elements alien to Bolshevism— party democracy, etc. 

Right— 1. Souvarine; 2. Van Overstraeten; 3. Lore, etc.; 4. Rosmer- 

Ultraleft— 1. Prometeo; 2. Fischer-Ma slow-Urbahns. 

Suppression of Russian Opposition worked to prevent an under- 
standing of its platform. 

Together with that— the tactics of the Russian Opposition- 
necessitated by special conditions— prevented clear understanding. 

The real process of selection and differentiation began in 1929 
with exile of Trotsky. 51 

The Fight to Forge an International Secretariat 

The fights in the French, German, and Spanish sections inter- 
sected and overlapped with Trotsky's ongoing struggle to forge an 
authoritative and centralized leading body for the ILO, which also 
figures heavily in the first section of this book, "Shachtman in 
the International." The Provisional Committee of the Left 
Opposition established in Prinkipo in June 1929 mandated the 
publication of an international journal to "push forward the 
regroupment of communist workers by the study and discussion 
of the problems posed before the proletariat in every country." 52 

Prinkipo was far too out of the way for an international cen- 
ter and Trotsky's precarious position in exile made a direct 
administrative role in the ILO untenable. At first Trotsky relied 
on Rosmer, the most prominent of the European Trotskyists, to 
conduct the work of international consolidation and expansion. 
But Rosmer did nothing to make the international center a reality 
and Trotsky began pushing for a more authoritative gathering of 
Opposition groups. This meeting was held in Paris in April 1930, 
soon after the founding conferences of the German United 
Opposition and the French Ligue. 53 Disabled by political disagree- 
ment and vacillations among the leading participants, the confer- 
ence failed to issue a political manifesto, earning from Trotsky 
the bitter sobriquet "mute conference." But the gathering did vote 
to form an International Bureau of representatives of the three 
most established European sections: the French, Russian, and Ger- 
man (both factions of the divided Belgian party refused to serve 
on the bureau and the CLA could not afford to keep a permanent 
representative in Europe). Leon Sedov (Trotsky's son), Landau, 
and Rosmer (with Naville as his deputy) were appointed to serve 

24 CLA 1931-33 

on the bureau, which was charged with the publication of a regu- 
lar ILO discussion bulletin. The bureau was to be based in Paris, 
where the Ligue published a regular weekly, La Verite. 

Sedov, however, could not get a visa for France. Moreover, the 
conference made no arrangements for the bureau's technical work, 
leaving it dependent on the French Ligue, which was increasingly 
polarized between Rosmer-Naville and the group led by Molinier. 
The bureau barely functioned even in the period before Rosmer's 
defection in late 1930. The first issue of the International Bulletin 
(published in French) appeared only in late August 1930, and in 
the meantime Trotsky had to distribute his own international 
circulars to keep the Opposition sections informed of develop- 
ments. In the first of these circulars Trotsky wrote: 

The main reason for this loss of months, almost a year, in the forma- 
tion of the international organization is, in my opinion, the lack of 
understanding that can be observed among a number of comrades 
about the reciprocal relationship between national and international 
organizations of the proletariat. Among certain elements in the 
Opposition the struggle against bureaucratic centralism has revived 
a non-Marxist conception of the reciprocal relationship between the 
national sections and the international organization, according to 
which the national sections are the foundation and walls and the 
international organization is the roof to be added at the end. 54 

The Communist International had been established on the 
premise that, "In order to achieve permanent liaison and methodi- 
cal leadership for the movement, the congress will have to create 
a common fighting body, a center of the Communist International, 
subordinating the interests of the movement in each country to 
the common interests of the revolution internationally." 55 Accord- 
ingly, in its statutes adopted at the Second Congress, the delegated 
world congress was established as the highest body of the revolu- 
tionary proletarian organization, whose decisions and those of its 
elected executive were binding on all sections. The ILO had to be 
built on the same internationalist premise. Given Trotsky's over- 
whelming political authority, his enforced physical separation from 
the ILO center lent a certain artificiality to any International Sec- 
retariat. While the technical and financial difficulties were real, 
the reticence to make the calling of an international conference a 
priority reflected continuing political differences in the ILO. These 
differences were also behind the resistance to Trotsky's attempts 
to create some semblance of an interim leading body. 

Introduction 25 

In October 1930 Trotsky, Sedov, Frankel, Molinier, Naville, 
and Mill held a meeting in Prinkipo to deal with the disputes in 
the French Ligue. They also proposed a provisional arrangement 
for international functioning: the creation of a new Administra- 
tive Secretariat (A.S.), which was not to supersede the International 
Bureau elected at the April conference but to work under its 
direction. 56 The new secretariat was composed of Naville, M. Mill, 
and Souzo. Mill, a Ukrainian, a leader of the Paris Jewish Group, 
and fluent in Russian, was appointed by the Russian Opposition 
to work full-time as the international secretary. 

The new secretariat sent a circular to all sections projecting 
"the convening of an early international conference as one of its 
most important tasks" and the holding of continental conferences 
as a preparatory measure. The most important job of the interna- 
tional conference would be the adoption of a "binding platform 
for all sections." 57 It wasn't until the Molinier faction won the 
majority in the Ligue in early 1931, replacing Naville with Pierre 
Frank as the Ligue's representative on the A.S., that international 
functioning improved. The International Bulletin appeared regu- 
larly for the rest of the year, and minutes of secretariat meetings 
were circulated internationally. 58 But the projected international 
conferences did not occur. In mid-1931 Myrtos, a representative 
of the Greek Archio-Marxist organization that had recently adhered 
to the ILO, was added to the A.S. 

A source of confusion rather than clarity, Mill proved unsuited 
to the task of political leadership. Continuing intrigues in the 
French Ligue brought the situation to a head. Molinier's majority 
in the Ligue fell apart when he aligned with Albert Treint, a former 
CP leader and Zinovievist who joined the Trotskyists for a brief 
period in 1931. The Paris Jewish Group, under the direction of 
Mill and Felix, broke with Molinier and wrote sympathetically to 
Rosmer, whose trade-union policy they had recently opposed "in 
principle." Outraged, Trotsky demanded that Mill be replaced and 
the secretariat reorganized, with the most important European 
sections each appointing a representative who would be respon- 
sible to his national organization. 59 In a deliberate slap in the face 
to Trotsky, the Spanish OCE demanded that Mill be reappointed 
to the I.S. as its representative. 

The secretariat was reorganized and moved to Berlin, where 
Sedov had been living since early 1931. 60 The ILO international 

26 CLA 1931-33 

center remained in Berlin for most of 1932, but its functioning 
was erratic, and few sets of I.S. minutes and bulletins from this 
period are available. A meeting of ILO representatives, held in 
Copenhagen in association with Trotsky's visit in November 1932, 
decided to hold an International Preconference of the ILO in Paris 
early in 1933 in preparation for a larger, representative confer- 
ence later in the year. The preconference, held in Paris in Febru- 
ary 1933, established a plenum of representatives of the Russian, 
Greek, German, Belgian, and French sections to replace the 
International Bureau as the authoritative leading body of the 
international between conferences. 61 This plenum appointed a new 
International Secretariat as the administrative body in Paris. This 
I.S. intervened in spring 1933— at Trotsky's urging— to bring the 
CLA's factional struggle to an end. 

Trotsky's fight to establish an authoritative international lead- 
ing body continued throughout the decade, even after the found- 
ing of the Fourth International and the adoption of an interna- 
tional program in 1938. 62 The extreme poverty of the early 
Trotskyist movement was a major hindrance, as was continuing 
political resistance and unclarity among Trotsky's supporters. The 
disruptive activities of the Stalinist secret police, the GPU, also 
played a role, although not the all-encompassing one insisted on 
by self-serving centrists such as Georges Vereeken. 63 

The extent of the Stalinist penetration of the Trotskyist move- 
ment has never been fully revealed, but some facts are known. 
M. Mill returned to the Stalinist fold in late 1932; if he was not 
working with the GPU during his tenure as international secre- 
tary, he certainly worked with it afterward. 64 A few months later 
Well and Senin, Latvian-born brothers and leaders of the German 
section, also "defected," leading a fight that utterly disrupted the 
German Trotskyist organization on the eve of Hitler's appointment 
as chancellor. The brothers' real name was later revealed to be 
Sobolevicius. They were exposed as GPU operatives working under 
the name Soble or Soblen in the United States in the 1950s. 

In February 1938 the Stalinists assassinated Sedov with the 
help of one "Etienne," aka Mark Zborowski, a Stalinist agent. 
Zborowski had earlier helped arrange the murder of Ignace Reiss, 
a decorated Soviet intelligence agent who declared for the Fourth 
International in 1937. Later in 1938 Rudolph Klement was mur- 
dered on the eve of the founding conference of the Fourth Inter- 

Introduction 27 

national. Trotsky himself fell at the hands of a Stalinist assassin in 
1940, but his death did not stop the Stalinist campaign of spying, 
disruption, and assassination aimed at the Fourth International. 
With the onset of World War II the Sobolevicius brothers set up 
shop in New York, where the headquarters of the Fourth Interna- 
tional was transferred. Zborowski soon joined them. This GPU 
spy ring ran a series of agents in the SWP, including Cannon's 
secretary, Sylvia Cauldwell (Sylvia Franklin), as well as one Michael 
Cort (Floyd Cleveland Miller), who wormed his way into responsi- 
bility in the party's maritime fraction. 65 The GPU's persistent 
attempts to crush the movement that sought to continue the work 
of the revolutionary Communist International was not the least 
of Stalin's services to the imperialist world order. 

Despite the shallow understanding, dilettantism, and cliquism 
of many of Trotsky's early supporters in Europe, and persecu- 
tion by the Stalinist secret police, Trotsky was able to cohere a 
disciplined international organization of cothinkers, leading to 
the foundation of the Fourth International in 1938. This is testi- 
mony to the power of Trotsky's fight to preserve the internation- 
alist program of the Bolshevik Party which led the Russian 
Revolution, a legacy on which proletarian revolutionaries must 
proudly stand today. 

Shachtman's Role in the ILO 

Shachtman was the first CLA leader to meet with Trotsky and 
other European Oppositionists. Delegated by the CLA National 
Committee, he went to Prinkipo in March 1930 to inquire about a 
subsidy for the weekly Militant, for which the CLA did not have 
sufficient financial resources. After a few weeks in Prinkipo, 
Shachtman went to Berlin with Naville to assist the founding con- 
ference of the German United Opposition; afterward he went to 
Paris to help organize the ILO's April conference. 

While in Europe Shachtman worked closely with Naville, 
Rosmer, and Landau. In large part because of Shachtman and 
Naville's intervention, Landau was able to assume a leading role 
in the German United Opposition. 66 Shachtman brought to Paris 
a manifesto drafted by Trotsky for adoption by the ILO's April 
conference. Capitulating to Van Overstraeten's and Prometeo's 
political differences, Shachtman, Naville, and Rosmer decided not 
to present Trotsky's manifesto to the conference, to Trotsky's fury. 

28 CLA 1931-33 

Shachtman later sought to explain: 

I look back upon it now and can see more clearly that I should, 
nevertheless, have insisted upon the presentation of the manifesto, 
or declaration. But at the conference it seemed, not only to me, but 
to other comrades I spoke to (Rosmer, Naville), that to do this was 
extremely dubious. Nobody was in the least prepared for such an 
act. The ground had never been laid for it. The articles in La Verite 
for weeks had said everything and suggested everything, except an 
international conference that would issue a principled statement 
(emphasis in original). 67 

After Shachtman's return to the U.S., Landau and Naville were 
frequent contributors to the Militant on German and French issues. 

Despite his co-optation to the International Bureau and 
Trotsky's patient letters explicating the political issues, Shachtman 
never made a declaration against Naville-Rosmer-Gourget on the 
trade-union question, nor did he attempt to get the CLA to do 
so. When Trotsky opened the fight against Landau's unprincipled 
cliquism in February 1931, Shachtman stood mute. His silence only 
encouraged Landau, who, as Trotsky noted, was banking on the 
support of both the French and American organizations. 

After the A.S. wrote to the CLA to insist that Shachtman's 
intervention as a member of the International Bureau was urgent, 
the CLA resident committee took up the crisis in the German sec- 
tion. Their 27 April 1931 meeting was the scene of the first clash 
between Shachtman and Cannon on international questions. 
Shachtman's motion supported only Trotsky's operational propos- 
als, reserving judgment on the political issues until more infor- 
mation was received. Cannon put forward a motion to send the 
letters by Trotsky and the A.S. on the Landau question to the CLA 
branches for discussion— the motion failed when Shachtman 
refused to support it. 68 

Shachtman's demand for more information was merely a 
political cover for Landau. This became clear in late May 1931 
when Landau split from the ILO, declaring his intention to form 
a new international. The minutes of the June 12 resident commit- 
tee meeting reflect evident anger at Shachtman for withholding 
key Trotsky correspondence about Landau. The body passed two 
motions, one directing Swabeck as League secretary to write to 
Trotsky requesting that he address all official correspondence to 
the secretary, the other mandating the translation for NC members 

Introduction 29 

of all Trotsky's letters (at the time Trotsky lacked an English- 
speaking secretary and usually wrote to the CLA in German). 

The very next day Swabeck sent a letter to Trotsky and the 
A.S. promising a comprehensive CLA National Committee reso- 
lution to condemn not only Landau's "personal and national clique 
formations," but also "the wrong views and practices of the 
Gourget group in France, particularly in regard to the question of 
trade-union policies and tactics." The June 12 meeting was the 
venue for the second clash between Cannon and Shachtman on 
international questions; Cannon proposed the publication of the 
forthcoming resolution in the Militant in the name of the NC, while 
Shachtman wanted only an unsigned (hence less authoritative) 
Militant article. In the end, the committee adopted a compromise 
motion for a signed article embodying only the "conclusions" of 
the NC resolution. Shachtman delayed writing the mandated reso- 
lution until the eve of the CLA's Second National Conference in 
September. 69 

After Landau's departure Trotsky observed in a letter to 
Shachtman that Naville "is staying in the Ligue in order to sabo- 
tage it from within and to help Landau set up a new international" 
("You Bear Some Responsibility for Landau's Course," 23 May 
1931). In July, under the direction of Naville, the Ligue's journal, 
Lutte des classes, published an article by Landau, prompting Trotsky 
to break relations with the journal. 70 Yet at the CLA conference, 
Shachtman's international report omitted the fight against Naville 
and the programmatic disputes with Prometeo. In the discussion 
period came the third clash between Cannon and Shachtman on 
international questions, when Cannon attacked Naville and noted 
that the Prometeo documents must be sent to the branches. His 
remarks were widely seen as a thinly veiled polemic against 
Shachtman. The rift widened when Cannon vehemently opposed 
Shachtman's proposal to add Lewit and Basky to the National 
Committee. The motion to enlarge the committee lost. 71 

After the convention Shachtman demanded a two-month 
vacation in order to travel again to Europe. Pique was undoubt- 
edly a factor in Shachtman's plans to leave New York, but he wrote 
to Trotsky that he wanted to report for the Militant on the 
developing revolutionary situation in Spain, as well as aid in 
the formation of a Left Opposition group in England. 72 The 

30 CLA 1931-33 

documents show how Shachtman's actions in Europe in Novem- 
ber-December 1931 brought Trotsky's dissatisfaction to a head, 
prompting Trotsky to write to the CLA National Committee and 
precipitating the factional struggle in the CLA. These documents 
explode the image of Shachtman as Trotsky's happy international 
commissar, a myth spread by Shachtman and his supporters in 
later years and more recently purveyed by Peter Drucker in his 
biography of Shachtman. In fact. Trotsky's opponents in Europe 
invoked Shachtman's name in defense of their own actions. 73 

The Impasse of the CLA 

The fight against Shachtman's conciliation of Naville. Mill, 
and Landau ignited the factional fire that burned in the CLA for 
the next two years. The documents reveal that personal tensions 
within the CLA leadership going back to 1929 fueled the fire. 
These tensions were rooted in the impasse in which the CLA found 
itself soon after it was founded. 

In their first few months of existence the American Trotskvists 
recruited steadily from the Communist Party. For the most part 
the new members were former Cannon faction supporters who 
refused to endorse the initial expulsions, but there was also a 
trickle of former Foster faction supporters such as Joe Giganti. 
The Trotskvists expected to recruit more Foster faction support- 
ers disaffected with the ascendancy of the despised adventurer and 
blatant opportunist Jav Lovestone to Partv leadership. 74 

Lovestone, however, failed to see the signs of the rift between 
Bukharin and Stalin, and broke too late with Bukharin. his princi- 
pal friend and backer in Moscow. He was purged from the Ameri- 
can leadership in May 1929. just after the CLA founding confer- 
ence, and expelled from the Partv in June. At first Cannon 
anticipated that Lovestone would take the majority of his faction 
with him, cohering a new partv with the followers of Ludwig Lore 
and the right-wing CP Finnish Federation: 

The appearance of a right communist, or rather left socialist, party 
is clearly indicated. And this in turn will only be a bridge toward 
the Socialist Partv. toward incorporation within it as its left wing. 
The disruption of the Communist Party as we have known it, the 
decline of Communist influence, and the temporary revival of the 
Social Democracy as a factor in the labor movement, is now taking 
shape as an actual probability and not merely a speculation on future 

Introduction 3 1 

The banner of communism and the entire heritage of the Ameri- 
can movement as a revolutionary factor will pass into the Opposi- 
tion. The official party of Stalinist centrism, hammered mercilessly 
from the right and the left, will lose to both and depend for its 
existence more and more on subsidy and faith. 71 

The Stalinist regime in the Comintern succeeded, however, 
in isolating Lovestone. Stalin's reported threat to Benjamin Gitlow 
and other Lovestoneites in Moscow, "When you get back to 
America, nobody will stay with you except your wives," was not 
much of an exaggeration. 76 Many of Lovestone's key lieutenants 
and most of his factional base remained in the CP; he was able to 
rally barely 200 members to his Communist Party (Opposition). 
As a concession to the sensibilities of the former Lovestoneites 
who remained loyal to Moscow, Foster was passed over for Party 
leadership. Earl Browder, an unexceptional former Foster lieu- 
tenant, emerged as Stalin's new choice for American leader. Brow- 
der had spent two years on assignment in the Far East for the 
Comintern in 1927-28, supporting every twist and turn of the CI's 
opportunist policy in China. Such foreign tours of duty were, at 
the time, required as proof of unquestioning loyalty to Moscow. 

Thus the Communist Party retained its numerical strength and 
the allegiance of the majority of the class-conscious workers who 
identified with the Russian Revolution. After Lovestone's expul- 
sion, Third Period ultraleftism came into its own in the American 
Party. The left turn effectively blocked further substantial recruit- 
ment to the CLA, as Shachtman later recounted: 

Our first expectations for growth were centered around the pros- 
pects that we thought were in the offing among the rank-and-file 
Fosterites....How seriously many of them at that time took the heresy 
of Trotskyism can be judged by the fact that it was not at all unusual 
for a Fosterite rank-and-filer to reply to our agitation by saying, "Why 
did you have to go where you are now? Why couldn't you have stayed 
with us and continued the fight against the Lovestoneites?" And 
primarily our reply would be, "That's no road whatsoever. That's 
blocked off completely by the Comintern, by the Stalinists." 

Then early in 1929— that is to say, not many months after we our- 
selves were expelled by the Lovestoneites and the Fosterites— came 
the new crisis in the Party which was far deeper so far as numbers 
are concerned than the smaller crisis that had been precipitated by 
our own expulsion from the Party.... This created a most embarrass- 
ing situation for us, given the tactic that we were employing toward 
the members of the Party and given our perspective for the ulterior 
development of the Party. We could no longer speak of the Party 

32 CLA 1931-33 

going further and further to the right. We could no longer speak of 
the Lovestoneites ruining the Party. We could no longer speak of 
the Fosterites having illusions that they would get the leadership of 
the Party. If anything resulted from that, it was a counteroffensive 
by the Fosterites— in the ranks, to be sure, unofficially, to be sure— 
to get us to return to the Party. They didn't succeed in convincing a 
single one of our people, but not even the possibility of success 
existed any longer for us in recruiting dissident Fosterites. 77 

The Third Period was, in Cannon's words, a "devastating 
blow": "There were, I would say, perhaps hundreds of Communist 
Party members who had been leaning toward us, who... returned 
to Stalinism in the period of the ultraleft swing." 78 The Party's 
authority continued to grow due to the rapid growth of the Soviet 
industrial base under the first five-year plan, a sharp contrast to 
the capitalist world economy spiraling downward in the Great 
Depression. Moreover, the CP's Third Period street militancy and 
active fight against black oppression were attractive to young work- 
ers. The CP doubled its membership from 1930 to 1933, growing 
from 7,545 to 14,937. 79 

When Lovestone was still its leader the Party had greeted the 
first public activities of the Trotskyists with an outburst of bloody 
gangsterism. Two Militant saleswomen were attacked outside New 
York Party headquarters in December 1928; subsequently public 
Trotskyist meetings in New York and Minneapolis were broken up, 
while the New York Hungarian Opposition group was attacked in 
its meeting hall by at least 50 Stalinists armed with brass knuck- 
les, blackjacks, knives, clubs, and lead pipes. 80 After Lovestone's 
expulsion the attacks were more erratic. From the foundation of 
the CLA in May 1929 through late 1932 (when the CLA's propa- 
ganda for united-front action against the Nazis in Germany found 
some support in Party circles), the Trotskyists were frozen out 
politically. Effective propaganda produced a trickle of recruits from 
Communist-led organizations, especially the Young Communist 
League, but CLAers were rarely able to participate in Party-led 
struggles. 81 They were generally denied membership in the Party's 
"mass" organizations such as the International Labor Defense, 
Soviet American Friendship Societies, and Unemployed Councils. 82 

It is hard for Trotskyists today to fathom what it meant for the 
CLA members to be cut off from the movement of thousands of 
militant working people that had been their whole life. Cannon 
had been the Party's most popular public speaker, often address- 

Introduction 33 

ing meetings of many hundreds of workers across the nation. 
Swabeck and Oehler had won authority as workers leaders in south- 
ern Illinois and elsewhere. Even younger Cannon faction mem- 
bers such as Abern and Shachtman had participated in the "Save 
the Union" opposition to John L. Lewis in the United Mine Work- 
ers through the ILD. 8S Now the CLA was thrown in on itself. The 
political isolation from the proletarian vanguard elements in the 
CP intersected the onset of the Great Depression in late 1929. Until 
1933 class struggle in general was at a low ebb and the CLA was 
in the period of stagnation that Cannon dubbed "the dog days." 

The Great Depression 

The Militant went weekly in November 1929; the first weekly 
issue reported on the stock market crash. The ensuing global eco- 
nomic crisis led to a fall in industrial production of 48.7 percent 
in the United States between 1929 and 1933. 84 There were imme- 
diate mass layoffs in late 1929, but the crisis escalated over the 
next two years. The 5 million unemployed in September 1930 had 
increased to nearly 11 million by December 1931; by March 1933 
there were over 15 million. Those laid-off were overwhelmingly 
unskilled and semiskilled workers in the urban areas, including 
many CLA members. Coal mining, already in decline, was one of 
the hardest hit industries; by 1931 starvation was reported in 
Franklin County in the southern Illinois coalfields, the one region 
where the CLA initially had a working-class following. 

While wage rates for unionized workers who remained 
employed held steady for the first year of the Depression (due to 
pressure from the Hoover White House), wage slashing began in 
earnest in fall 1931. An across-the-board 15 percent decrease in 
hourly wages was standard, but since most people worked fewer 
hours, take-home pay fell still further. Total national income 
dropped by more than 50 percent from 1929 to 1932, from $81 
billion to $39 billion. CLA members who maintained their jobs 
were earning less and had little to spare for the organization. 

There was no money to pay the nominal wages due the 
national secretary and the Militant editor; the League was forced 
to resort to a revolving fund of comrades' rent money to pay bills. 
More than once in this period the CLA abandoned an office rather 
than pay the back rent; a telephone was an impossible luxury. The 
financial priority had to be the Militant, but this too was often 

34 CLA 1931-33 

beyond the CLA's means and issues were missed. Press frequency 
was cut back to biweekly in July 1930, and weekly publication was 
not resumed for another year. Swabeck described how he financed 
activities through "floating checks": "A check would be made out 
under pressure from a creditor without sufficient funds in the bank 
to cover the amount. The check would bounce and thus provide a 
little additional time to cover the amount of the check that had 
bounced previously." The deaf-mute linotype operator "would 
regale the young comrades by his highly developed mimicry show- 
ing what he thought of my checks." 85 Swabeck was constantly 
scrounging for money to finance national tours, regional organ- 
izers, or international travel. 

The devastated economy meant that there was little prospect 
of class struggle— those who retained jobs were too fearful of losing 
them. American Federation of Labor (AFL) membership, down 
from approximately 4 million in 1920 to just over 3.4 million in 
1929, fell further to a low of barely more than 2.1 million in 1933. 
Strikes were already at a low point, averaging 914 per year in the 
last half of the 1920s; there were only 637 in 1930, 810 in 1931, 
and 841 in 1932. The ossified craft-union AFL leadership under 
William Green marched so much in tune with the capitalist class 
headed by Republican president Herbert Hoover that it even 
opposed unemployment insurance until July 1932. 

In the 1932 national elections, overwhelming mass dissatis- 
faction with the Hoover administration was reflected in the land- 
slide vote for his opponent, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. The 
AFL did not support Roosevelt; the labor bureaucracy formed its 
alliance with the Democratic Party during FDR's first term in 
office. The election returns indicated an incremental stirring of 
class consciousness in response to the Depression: Socialist Party 
candidate Norman Thomas received 918,000 votes, the Commu- 
nist Party slate of William Z. Foster and James Ford— the first black 
vice-presidential candidate in United States history— received 
102,991. Not since Eugene V. Debs' run for president in 1912 had 
there been a combined total of over one million votes for working- 
class candidates. 86 

In early 1933 the class struggle began to pick up in the United 
States. There were 1,695 strikes reported in 1933; the upsurge 
began months before Roosevelt's National Recovery Act (NRA) 
recognized the right of workers to collectively organize. This 

Introduction 35 

coincided with new political openings for the CLA among CP 
members, many of whom reacted with fear and horror at the fail- 
ure of the German party to fight Hitler's ascension to power 
in January. Opportunities for the CLA to intervene in broader 
working-class milieus provided the backdrop for the end of the 
factional polarization that plagued the League during the dog days. 

Cannon's Personal Crisis and Political Slump 

The onset of the Depression and impasse of the CLA coin- 
cided with a personal crisis for Cannon that contributed to an 
evident period of political demoralization in 1929-30. In spring 
1929 Cannon's first wife, Lista Makimson, died, leaving Cannon 
and Karsner with the responsibility for two teenage children who 
had previously been raised by Makimson, in addition to Karsner's 
daughter, Walta. These personal responsibilities weighed heavily 
on Cannon as the League was thrust into a period of stagnation. 
The Cannon family moved out to Long Island in the summer of 
1929 and Karsner too underwent a period of personal withdrawal 
and ill health. 87 

Cannon's need for a steady income was urgent, but, with every 
available penny poured into the Militant, the League could not 
afford to pay him. Through the good offices of Rose's ex-husband, 
journalist David Karsner, in August 1929 Cannon began to work 
for the circulation department of the Herald Tribune. Cannon was 
lucky to get the job and even luckier to keep it as the Depression 
hit. Nonetheless the Cannon-Karsner family lived in poverty 
throughout the early 1930s, even after young CLA member Sam 
Gordon joined the household to help pay the bills. Personal cor- 
respondence indicates that the family lived from hand to mouth, 
often enduring eviction notices and periods without electricity due 
to unpaid bills. 88 Cannon's binge drinking no doubt also contrib- 
uted to family tensions during this period. Cannon told Sam 
Gordon that he drank "to get away from some insurmountable 
problem he didn't want to think about for a while." 89 

Cannon had been editor of the Militant from its inception in 
November 1928; he became national secretary of the CLA at its 
first conference in May 1929. But in the period following the 
conference he was rarely in the office, nor did he attend branch 
meetings. 90 He wrote little for the Militant, publishing only three 
articles between mid-June and the first of the year. Over the 

36 CLA 1931-33 

summer Cannon had a nasty blowout with Maurice Spector, and 
Spector left New York for Toronto vowing to remain in Canada 
permanently. 91 

Shachtman and Abern were left holding the fort, and this 
engendered much resentment, the subject of extensive personal 
correspondence beginning in fall 1929. 92 After Cannon began 
working for the Herald Tribune, there was evidently a rearrange- 
ment in the division of labor; in October 1929 the Militant ceased 
listing Cannon as editor, publishing simply the names of the edi- 
torial board members: Abern, Cannon, Shachtman, Spector, and 
Swabeck. National Committee members outside New York were 
informed of the situation, and in December Arne Swabeck wrote 
urgently to Cannon from Chicago to inquire about the reasons 
for his withdrawal: 

Your complete absence from all activities in our movement for a 
long time has become noticeable not only to such comrades as my- 
self, who are able to keep our finger fairly close to the pulse, but by 
the comrades in general. Personally I have received several inquir- 
ies from several comrades in regard to it. I am speaking of com- 
plete absence because this is what it practically amounts to when 
one compares the past with the present.... 

Of course, I recall very clearly the extremely great personal diffi- 
culties you had to face when your children were left entirely in your 
care and I know from observation what great sacrifice it all meant 
on your part. Hence I thought, shortly after the change of staff had 
taken place and you retired so far to the background, a short relief 
for adjustments is quite in order. I found it reasonable as a matter 
of temporary— that is very temporary— arrangement. I realized, of 
course, that you would have to devote some time to relieve your mind 
of these responsibilities of a personal character. Now, however, I 
feel quite alarmed, noting that this retirement or absence of yours 
has become so complete and of such a permanent character. 93 

The deterioration of personal relations between Abern/ 
Shachtman and Cannon during this period had political and per- 
sonal dimensions. The two younger men had little empathy for 
Cannon's problems. With working wives and without children they 
were in a better position to endure the hardship of working for 
the League without pay (both men also took occasional part-time 
jobs). Cannon later wrote, "If I had been dealing with grown-up 
people— in the personal as well as the revolutionary] sense— it could 
have been straightened out." 94 When Cannon requested that the 
League buy him a typewriter so he could write for the Militant at 
home, Abern indignantly refused. 95 Reflecting the rancor that lin- 

Introduction 37 

gered for years afterward, Cannon wrote of "Personal difficulties 
which piled upon me and for a time overwhelmed me. This was 
the moment they seized to turn on me like treacherous curs." 96 

With little opportunity for the CLA to implement aspects of 
its working-class program, Cannon's strengths as a proven working- 
class leader receded into the background. Moreover, the writings 
of Trotsky that all leaders of the CLA were now avidly reading clari- 
fied the political deficiencies of the old Cannon faction. Early 
issues of the Militant serialized "The Right Danger in the American 
Party," the document that had been presented jointly to the CI Sixth 
Congress by the Cannon and Foster factions. 97 Its quirky mixture 
of Stalinist doublespeak and legitimate criticism of the opportun- 
ism of the Party under Lovestone's leadership was painfully inad- 
equate compared to Trotsky's precise programmatic Critique. 

At the First National Conference Cannon took two positions 
with which a number of CLA members disagreed: He insisted that 
the program include the call for a labor party in the United States, 
and he supported the demand for self-determination for the 
majority-black counties in the American South (the so-called "black 
belt"). After discussion, Cannon changed his opinion on both 
issues, but his initial positions were later raised by the Shachtman 
side in an attempt to discredit Cannon's political leadership. How- 
ever, it was Cannon's opposition to the League's attempts to 
publish the Militant as a weekly in 1929-30 that solidified 
Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer's hostility to Cannon. 

The Labor Party Slogan 

The labor party slogan was a subject of dispute within the 
American Communist Party almost from its inception. 98 For most 
of the 1920s the Party called for a "farmer-labor" party, reflecting 
its orientation to the remnants of petty-bourgeois Progressivism 
embodied in the 1924 presidential campaign of the ex-Republi- 
can governor of Wisconsin, Robert M. La Follette. With its policy 
of the "third party alliance," the early American CP came very 
close to supporting La Follette's Farmer-Labor Party candidacy; it 
was Trotsky's intervention in the Comintern in Moscow that pulled 
the CP back from this opportunist course. Under the tutelage of 
Zinoviev's Comintern, however, the American Party continued to 
support the anti-Marxist call for a two-class "farmer-labor" party. 

Trotsky's exposition in the Critique of the opportunism 

38 CLA 1931-33 

underlying the "farmer-labor" position was one of the arguments 
that won Cannon to the Left Opposition, as is evident from 
Cannon's 1929 introduction to the CLA's pamphlet version: 

The formation of "farmer-labor" parties— that source of such exag- 
gerated hopes and unbounded mistakes in the American Party— is 
reviewed at length in this volume. The underlying falsity of the whole 
idea of a "two-class" party is analyzed from the theoretical stand- 
point of Marxism and the history of the Russian revolutionary move- 
ment, and is condemned in principle— for the West as well as for 
the East. Trotsky's comment on the "third party alliance" with 
La Follette, the fight against which was led by him, will be espe- 
cially interesting to American Communists. All of which is a timely 
reminder of the heavy debt our Party owes to Trotsky." 

The "Platform of the Communist Opposition," the first central 
programmatic statement by the American Trotskyists, addressed 
to the CP's Sixth Convention in February 1929 and subsequently 
adopted by the CLA's First National Conference, rejected the call 
for a "farmer-labor" party. But it continued to support the labor 
party slogan: "The perspective of a labor party, as a primary step 
in the political development of the American workers, adopted 
by the Party in 1922 after a sharp struggle... holds good today." 
Arne Swabeck explained, "All indications and historical experi- 
ence indicate that the labor political reformist stage is quite 
unavoidable also in the United States, with possibilities of some 
form of a labor party; and that such must be our perspective." 10 ° 
Shortly before the founding conference of the CLA, Glotzer 
raised objections to the idea that the American working class must 
necessarily go through a reformist stage. At the conference he was 
supported by John Edwards and others from Chicago. But the plat- 
form formulations on the labor party were adopted by the CLA 
with strong support from Cannon. 101 

Shachtman raised the labor party controversy during his first 
visit with Trotsky in Prinkipo in March 1930. Trotsky had reserva- 
tions about the slogan and wrote that he needed to study the 
question. 102 By the time of the Second National Conference in 
September 1931, the CLA had arrived at the evidently unanimous 
view, codified in the conference theses, that the labor party slogan 
should be dropped. Trotsky subsequently elaborated: 

One can say that under the American conditions a labor party in 
the British sense would be a "progressive step," and by recognizing 
this and stating so, we ourselves, even though indirectly, help to 
establish such a party. But that is precisely the reason I will never 

Introduction 39 

assume the responsibility to affirm abstractly and dogmatically that 
the creation of a labor party would be a "progressive step" even in 
the United States, because I do not know under what circumstances, 
under what guidance, and for what purposes that party would be 
created. It seems to me more probable that especially in America, 
which does not possess any important traditions of independent 
political action by the working class (like Chartism in England, for 
example) and where the trade-union bureaucracy is more reaction- 
ary and corrupted than it was at the height of the British empire, 
the creation of a labor party could be provoked only by mighty revo- 
lutionary pressure from the working masses and by the growing 
threat of communism. It is absolutely clear that under these condi- 
tions the labor party would signify not a progressive step but a hin- 
drance to the progressive evolution of the working class.... 

That the labor party can become an arena of successful struggle 
for us, and that the labor party, created as a barrier to communism, 
can under certain circumstances strengthen the Communist party, 
is true, but only under the condition that we consider the labor party 
not as "our" party but as an arena in which we are acting as an 
absolutely independent Communist party. 103 

Trotsky's largely conjunctural arguments were colored by the 
CLA view of the slogan as a call for a reformist party rather than 
as an algebraic and propagandists call for the working class to 
break with the capitalist parties. At the time, the Lovestoneite Right 
Opposition was agitating for a "labor party," which they repre- 
sented as a bloc between themselves and the social-democratic 
trade-union bureaucracy against the Communist Party. It was out 
of the question that the CLA, as an expelled faction of the Party, 
would participate in such a formation. 

As late as 1935, Shachtman was still mechanically extrapolat- 
ing from the CP's experience with La Follette's farmer-labor 

In the battle between the revolutionary party and the third capital- 
ist party for the support of the masses who are breaking away from 
the old bourgeois parties, the slogan of the "labor" party— or even 
the slogan of the "mass, class labor party" (whatever that is)— does 
not possess sufficient class vitality or distinction from the third party 
to make it possible to wean the masses away from the latter by means 
of it. 104 

Thus Shachtman insisted that it is historically impossible for 
the American class struggle to generate a genuinely independent 
workers organization, moving toward communism and counter- 
posed to the third bourgeois parties which typically arise in times 
of social unrest. At bottom, this is nothing but a statement of 

40 CLA 1931-33 

historical pessimism about the revolutionary capacity of the Ameri- 
can working class. 

Shachtman and Abern had so much invested in their opposi- 
tion to the labor party slogan— a key part of their challenge to 
Cannon's leadership in the early CLA— that they refused to aban- 
don it even when the conjuncture changed in the mid-1 930s. The 
working-class upsurge that produced the Congress of Industrial 
Organizations (CIO) posed the possibility that the American pro- 
letariat would break from the bourgeois parties. Precisely in order 
to head this off, the reformist trade-union leadership cemented 
an alliance with Roosevelt's Democratic Party. Cannon noted a 
change already in 1934. 105 Yet only in 1938— at the insistence of 
Trotsky— did the American Trotskyists finally readopt the call for 
a labor party. 106 Even then 40 percent of the organization voted 
against the slogan. 107 Thus the American Trotskyists in the trade 
unions from 1934-37 had no programmatic demand that counter- 
posed the need for the political independence of the working class 
to the procapitalist politics of the anti-Stalinist progressives with 
whom they were allied. This weakness is but one of the ways that 
the first Cannon-Shachtman fight reverberated in the Trotskyist 
movement for the entire decade. 

The CLA and the Fight Against Black Oppression 

The capitalist social structure of the United States is profoundly 
shaped by the legacy of black chattel slavery. It took a bloody Civil 
War, which was also a bourgeois social revolution, to eliminate 
the slave system. The American labor movement did not begin to 
organize until after the Civil War, and within it the fight for black 
rights has always sharply drawn the line between revolution and 
reform. The early Socialist Party included open racists among its 
leaders. Later, the antiracist Eugene V. Debs represented the best 
of the SP. Yet he still insisted, "We have nothing special to offer 
the Negro, and we cannot make separate appeals to all the races." 108 
Following World W T ar I and the Russian Revolution, the cadre of 
the American Communist Party emerged from the class-struggle, 
antiwar, left wing of the SP— which was pretty much antiracist— 
and from the revolutionary syndicalist Industrial Workers of the 
World (I WW). The I WW fought the Jim Crow craft unionism of 
the AFL, sometimes organizing across race lines. But neither the 
IWW nor the old SP left wing ever transcended the simplistic 

Introduction 4 1 

approach of "black and white, unite and fight." It was the Russian 
Bolsheviks, whose party had been forged in battle against Great 
Russian chauvinism in the tsarist empire, who taught the Ameri- 
can Communists that the party must develop special demands and 
special methods for work among the black population, and that 
the struggle for black emancipation was a powerful motive force 
for proletarian revolution. 109 

The fight for black rights took on even more urgency with 
the black migration to northern cities during World War I, creat- 
ing a key black component of the industrial working class. 
Throughout the 1920s the Comintern fought to get the American 
Party to make the struggle against racial oppression central to its 
work. In 1928 the Comintern's bureaucratic degeneration intruded 
into this struggle. Under Stalin's direct tutelage as part of the Third 
Period turn, the American Party was forced to adopt the view that 
black oppression in the United States was a national question, 
expressed in the demand for "self-determination" for the "black 
belt." Cannon was won to this position by the discussion at the 
Sixth Congress, where he participated in the commission on the 
"Negro question" (as it was then called). The "Platform of the Com- 
munist Opposition" endorsed the demand for self-determination. 
As in the case of the labor party slogan, it was Glotzer who raised 
objections shortly before the CLA's founding conference. The 
demand was correctly dropped from the platform. 110 

In Trotsky's first letter to his American supporters he inquired, 
"Is there some connection with the Negroes? Is somebody espe- 
cially appointed for the work among them?" 111 After the CLA's 
conference, Cannon replied: 

Unfortunately we have no connection yet among the Negroes. All 
our efforts to win at least one of the Negro comrades in the Party 
to our side failed. We recognize the great importance of this ques- 
tion for the future and shall not cease our efforts to make a begin- 
ning in this field. On this question we had a big discussion at our 
conference over the section of our platform in which we advocate 
the slogan of the right of self-determination for the Negroes. This 
position was adopted by the Party at the direction of the ECCI, but 
it met with strong opposition there from many of the Negro com- 
rades. There are big sections of the southern part of the United 
States where the Negro population is the majority and where they 
are now deprived of political and other rights more flagrantly than 
in the North. It was decided to conduct a discussion on this whole 
question in our ranks, and the National Committee decided to ask 

42 CLA 1931-33 

your opinion about the appropriateness of this slogan of the right 
of self-determination for the Negroes. 112 

We can find no record that Trotsky replied directly to Cannon's 
question, but he probably made his inclination to support the CI's 
self-determination line known when Shachtman visited Prinkipo 
in March 1930. In any case debate continued within the CLA. In 
1930 two discussion articles in the Militant opposed the "self- 
determination" slogan, upholding instead the call for full social, 
political, and economic equality. 113 The question was scheduled 
for discussion at the CLA's Second National Conference in 
September 1931, but it was dropped from the agenda when the 
conference went over schedule. Swabeck reported in the Militant: 

While a general consensus of opinion exists within our ranks of 
deep skepticism in regard to the correctness of this slogan [self- 
determination for the black belt], the conference accepted the 
National Committee on this question. It decided to instruct the 
National Committee to create a commission which is to make an 
exhaustive study of this problem in such a way that when a policy is 
finally arrived at it can be fully motivated and definitely based on 
Marxian conclusions. 114 

Hugo Oehler was a member of the CLA Negro Commission. 
As a CP field organizer he helped lead the 1929 textile strike in 
Gastonia, North Carolina, working as a team with Bill Dunne. The 
CP sought to link the strike to the fight against the Southern Jim 
Crow system, organizing black and white workers into the same 
union. The strike exploded into a major class battle, and it was 
smashed with the full force of racist lynch-law reaction. Drawing 
lessons from this experience, in 1932 Oehler published in the 
Militant "The Negro and the Class Struggle" and concluded: "The 
program of the Communists (Marxists) is the only one possible 
for the American Negro for social, political, and economic equal- 
ity and freedom. The road is the road of class struggle." 115 CLA 
propaganda on the Scottsboro case centered on demands for full 
social and political equality, dropping the call for self-deter- 
mination. Cannon was won to an integrationist line, as is evident 
from his notes for a speech on the Scottsboro case: 

The chief demand of the enlightened Negroes— the only one that 
really moves them— is the demand for equal rights: 

1. Political 

2. Economic 

3. Social 

Introduction 43 

All the so-called white bourgeois movements on behalf of Negroes 

smell of patronage and charity. 
Conditions can be really changed only by struggle against the class 

regime which breeds them. 
The Scottsboro case is the first large-scale dramatization of a 

struggle on this line.... 
The idea that can really stir the Negroes is the idea of solidarity of 

the white and Negro workers. 
One act by the white workers worth more than a thousand 

arguments. 116 

Trotsky, however, continued to support the demand for self- 
determination. Swabeck argued with him in Prinkipo in 1933. In 
March 1933 Shachtman wrote a lengthy treatise, "Communism and 
the Negro," which he sent to Trotsky, who replied, "My opinion 
on the Negro question is completely hypothetical in character. I 
know very little about it and am always ready to learn" ("The 
European Sections Will Not Support You," 1 May 1933). There is 
no evidence that Trotsky ever read Shachtman's thesis. 117 In his 
discussions with Swabeck, Trotsky assumed that the oppression 
of blacks in the United States paralleled that of national minori- 
ties in the tsarist empire and most of the rest of the world, where 
language and, less commonly, religion are defining characteris- 
tics. Thus he posited the existence of a separate black language in 
the United States. But American slavery had created a genuinely 
unique situation. The slave population had been drawn from West 
Africa, a patchwork of peoples and languages. Torn out of their 
native societies and forcibly carried across the Atlantic Ocean in 
the horrific Middle Passage, the ancestors of American blacks were 
stripped of their previous tribal identities and thoroughly amal- 
gamated as slaves via the English language and Christianity. 
Slaveholders consciously separated slaves who spoke the same 
native language (even in liberated Haiti the black population spoke 
a patois of the colonial language, French). 

Shachtman's theses correctly defined the American black 
population as a caste, and saw the migration of rural Southern 
blacks to urban areas as a crucial development for the American 
class struggle: 

The formation of an industrial Negro proletariat is the last contribu- 
tion to the advancement of the black race by the American capitalist 
order. But this contribution has attached to it such a monstrous system 
for the double exploitation, oppression, and persecution of all the 

44 CLA 1931-33 

Negroes, as has reduced them to the lowest rank in the social order, 
where they are forcibly retained as the pariah, the low caste, the 
untouchable of American capitalist democracy.... 

The Communists not only fight for the general interests of the 
Negroes as workers and poor farmers, but they raise the special 
demand for the abolition of all discriminatory legislation and prac- 
tices directed against the Negro, for the establishment of full social, 
economic, and political equality of the colored race. The militant 
fight (and not cringing subservience to the white master class) for 
these demands is a revolutionary democratic struggle directed 
against the whole ruling class and one of the principal props of its 
domination, as well as against the petty-bourgeois Negro stratum 
which is allied to this ruling class. 118 

By 1932 the Communist Party's authority among the black 
masses in the urban North, and in Birmingham and areas of rural 
Alabama, had grown enormously. For most of the 1920s the Party 
had insisted on "boring from within" the AFL craft unions, most 
of which excluded blacks. This made it almost impossible to organ- 
ize black workers. Third Period dual unionism removed that 
barrier and the Party took up the struggle against Jim Crow 
unionism to explosive effect in Gastonia. After the CP's 1930 
convention determined that the demand for self-determination 
applied only to the American South, the thrust of the Party's 
propaganda in the urban areas became the championship of full 
social and political equality. The Party aggressively organized 
racially integrated Unemployed Councils and anti-eviction squads 
and campaigned against lynch law, culminating in the Scottsboro 
defense effort. 

While the CLA continued to agitate for full social, economic, 
and political equality for blacks— the programmatic kernel of a revo- 
lutionary perspective— they lacked a fully elaborated program or 
theoretical understanding of how the fight for black liberation 
intersects the American class struggle. This question, integral to 
the American revolution, deserved much more attention in the 
CLA than it got. Neither side in the factional polarization sought 
to fight the issue through to a conclusion with Trotsky, leading to 
an irresolution that cost the American Trotskyists dearly during 
the next decade. 119 

Tensions Over the Weekly Militant 

Cannon grasped earlier and more thoroughly than Shachtman 
and Abern that Lovestone's purge would cut off further substan- 

Introduction 45 

tial growth from the Party. By August 1929 he was writing to 
Glotzer, "We realize more and more that we have to build anew, 
almost from the ground up." 120 That this was a source of the early 
tension was later recognized by Shachtman: 

Cannon began to advance the point of view that we were in it for a 
long, long haul; and while we were not at all inclined to reject that 
point of view, and while we had no particular illusions that we would 
become a huge organization overnight, or even in a very short time, 
we seemed to detect in his attitude on our perspectives a feeling 
that nothing much could be done in the coming period and that he 
himself was going to withdraw more or less from active participa- 
tion in the leadership. 121 

Before the CLA founding conference the American Trotskyists had 
embarked on an ambitious program to raise $2,000 to make the 
Militant weekly. 122 This goal was never met and the Militant skipped 
three biweekly issues in summer 1929. 123 By fall Cannon was 
evidently arguing against increasing the frequency of the paper. 
Nonetheless in November the Militant went weekly, shortly after 
Cannon had taken a full-time job outside the League and in the 
midst of his personal crisis. 

The League's slender resources could not sustain the weekly. 
When it was proposed that Shachtman visit Trotsky in Prinkipo 
to ask for a subsidy, Cannon vehemently opposed the trip. The 
issue was taken to the National Committee members outside of 
New York. In February 1930 a rump NC meeting of Skoglund, 
Glotzer, Swabeck, and Shachtman was held in Chicago, in con- 
junction with a visit by Shachtman for a family funeral. We have 
found no minutes of the meeting, but it clearly authorized 
Shachtman's journey to Prinkipo, which was financed by the per- 
sonal savings of Morris Lewit, a skilled plumber. 124 

Cannon's opposition to asking Trotsky for money was based 
on more than a belief that the weekly was unviable. He appears 
to have argued against accepting international subsidy in principle. 
This comes through in two letters Swabeck wrote in answer to 
Cannon's arguments: 

I am certain that the disastrous effects of a subsidized movement in 
this country, and for that matter elsewhere, have been sufficiently 
demonstrated to convince all of us. That is on the basis of subsidizing 
which has been established by the Stalin regime. But I am of the opinion 
that what was proposed and now carried out by the departure of 
Max could not in any way be considered a matter of establishing 
that practice and certainly not in the Stalinist sense. 125 

46 CLA 1931-33 

Swabeck admitted that he had his own misgivings about the weekly, 
but argued that returning to a biweekly would be a retreat, hence 
not a step to be taken lightly. 

Only a year earlier Cannon had written to Trotsky, "It seems 
to us that international collaboration and coordination of work is 
now one of the most pressing needs of the Oppositionists in all 
countries." 126 Beginning in late 1929, however, there are indica- 
tions of a certain wariness toward Trotsky on Cannon's part. In 
notes for an internal speech he wrote "no more master servant" 
in describing the League's attitude toward international collabo- 
ration. 127 After July 1929 he did not write to Trotsky for three and 
a half years. 

This wariness may have been fueled by Trotsky's urging the 
CLA to "exert heroic efforts to maintain the weekly," evidently 
taking a side against Cannon in the CLA's internal dispute. 128 More- 
over, in his greetings to the weekly, Trotsky posited that the Ameri- 
can Left Opposition should develop directly into a revolutionary 
party instead of acting as an expelled faction fighting to win the 
cadre of the Communist Party. Shachtman convinced Trotsky that 
the American CP still organized the vanguard elements of the pro- 
letariat, and Trotsky wrote to the CLA to admit his error. Cannon 
published a Militant article hailing Trotsky's correction— this in a 
period when he wrote very little. 129 

In May 1930 the CLA National Committee held a plenum to 
discuss the tensions in the New York resident committee. Trotsky 
had been unable to offer the League immediate financial help, 
although he did promise help in the future. 130 Nonetheless, the 
plenum decided to maintain the weekly and to appoint Shachtman 
managing editor. Abern was appointed national secretary. Spector 
was to move to New York to assist in the production of the Militant. 
It was also decided that Arne Swabeck, known as an objective 
comrade, should move to New York at the earliest opportunity to 
work in the League office. 131 

Cannon later wrote to his Minneapolis supporters that he 
believed Shachtman and co. had withdrawn at the last minute from 
their plans to replace the "degenerated" Cannon leadership at the 
May plenum. He noted: 

I got the impression that you comrades, and Swabeck also, held your 
judgment in abeyance on that occasion. You had every right to do 
that, because the merits of the dispute seemed to hang on the say- 

Introduction 47 

so of the disputants— there was not much tangible material to go 
by.... As long as the issues remained obscure, indefinite, or at least 
so indefinite that the organization as a whole would not be able to 
comprehend them, it was best to seek the path of conciliation in 
the committee and not stir up the members. 132 
After the May 1930 plenum, Glotzer, Abern, and Spector with- 
drew from active participation in the League's leadership. 
Shachtman, in contrast, began to collaborate with Cannon, as the 
latter noted in the same 1932 letter: 

Out of the group of four that was to supplant the outlived leader- 
ship, three went to sleep, and not like the bear, for the winter months 
only, but for the whole year round. The necessity of establishing 
some kind of working relations with what was left of "Cannon" then 
suggested itself to Shachtman, since there were no others. I met him 
more than halfway, and together we soon began to pull the League 
out of the hole. 133 

The decisions of the plenum did not succeed in saving the 
weekly Militant; its frequency returned to biweekly in July. An- 
nounced as a temporary expedient for the summer, biweekly pub- 
lication continued for an entire year. Spector's stay in New York 
to help with the Militant was apparently brief. Swabeck arrived 
in December 1930, taking over the job of national secretary. 
Karsner had already assumed the post of Militant business man- 
ager, and the League bought an old linotype machine and press, 
moving into a larger headquarters to accommodate them. 
Swabeck initiated another $2,000 fund drive for an Expansion 
Program to stabilize the League's publishing capabilities. Over 
the next year the CLA created the Pioneer Publishing Company 
and, in July, transformed the Militant from a tabloid to a full-size 
weekly paper. 134 

The full $2,000 was never raised, however, and the Militant 
remained on shaky financial ground. The CLA still poured virtu- 
ally all its monetary resources into publishing efforts. Trotsky 
donated $1,000 in December 1931, which brought stability for a 
few months. In a letter to Shachtman, Trotsky expressed the hope 
that part of this money would be used to launch a long-promised 
English-language theoretical journal. 13 "' While the League did pre- 
pare to launch a theoretical magazine, International Communist 
Review, the bulk of the donation appears to have gone to publish- 
ing projects to reach new layers of the immigrant working class: a 
youth paper, Young Spartacus; a Yiddish paper, Unser Kamf; and a 

48 CLA 1931-33 

Greek paper, Communistes. In March 1932 the CLA was forced to 
abandon plans for the theoretical journal. 136 

Certainly the publication of three new journals was an opti- 
mistic undertaking. Its wisdom has to be judged against the fact 
that by April the League had to undertake another urgent fund 
appeal to keep the weekly from going under. Communistes and Unser 
Kamf appeared irregularly; Young Spartacus had a more-or-less 
monthly frequency. While the youth paper had a base in the 
Spartacus Youth Clubs, it is less clear that the two foreign-language 
journals had a firm readership among the foreign-born workers 
they targeted. 137 None of the journals could sustain itself finan- 
cially over the long term, while their continued publication took 
desperately needed resources away from the Militant and the pro- 
jected theoretical journal. However, there is no record in the resi- 
dent committee minutes that Swabeck opposed the publication 
of the new journals, as Shachtman and his cohorts asserted in 
"Prospect and Retrospect." 138 

The CLA seems to have united around its ambitious publish- 
ing program, which also included pamphlets and books. Cannon 
proposed the publication of Problems of the Chinese Revolution, as 
well as Trotsky's Permanent Revolution}^ Edited by Shachtman, the 
books appeared in 1931, along with pamphlets on the Soviet 
economy and the unfolding revolution in Spain. In 1932 Trotsky's 
"Germany, the Key to the International Situation" was published. 
Morris Lewit did much of the early translating from the Russian; 
he would translate aloud to Shachtman, who would type the text. 140 
Trotsky praised the League's editions of his works; indeed, the 
American Opposition's record in this regard was unparalleled. 
Their heroic publishing program provided the basis for the Ameri- 
can cadre to programmatically assimilate the lessons of Stalinism's 
betrayals that Trotsky hammered into the historical record of the 
working class. 

Cannon Revives 

In December 1930 Cannon led a crucial internal fight, with 
Shachtman's collaboration, against the views of Albert Weisbord, 
who had won support among some CLAers in the New York 
branch. Expelled from the CP in 1929, Weisbord tried to straddle 
the line between the Left and Right Oppositions, advocating that 
the CLA unite with the Lovestoneites for "mass work" in the trade 

Introduction 49 

contributed greatly to Cannon's political revival. In early 1931 
Cannon began to write a regular Militant column, which contin- 
ued into 1933. 142 The close collaboration between Swabeck and 
Cannon in the League's Expansion Program laid the basis for their 
political alliance against Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer in 1932. 

Without Swabeck's efforts in stabilizing the CLA in 1931, there 
would certainly have been further organizational disintegration 
and perhaps a split. Swabeck undertook the move to New York at 
great personal sacrifice, giving up a high-paying job in Chicago. 
For the first few months, he and his family lived on personal sav- 
ings. In April the resident committee decided to pay him a salary 
of $25 a week so he could forego outside work. (Shachtman, with 
a working wife and no children to support, got $10.) The CLA 
rarely had the money to pay even these nominal wages. Swabeck's 
family took in boarders to help pay the rent; his wife worked clean- 
ing houses. 143 

Despite the apparent unity of the national office in 1931, 
bitterness over the early disputes lingered, fueled by the unrelent- 
ing financial crisis and Shachtman's view of his position on the 
ILO International Bureau as a personal fiefdom. Cannon's veiled 
polemic against Shachtman's international report at the CLA's 
Second National Conference in September and, even more, the 
fight over Shachtman's proposal to add Lewit and Basky to the 
National Committee, were signs that the tensions were about to 
boil over. In December, while Shachtman was on leave in Europe, 
Cannon wrote to Swabeck, "The situation is becoming impossible." 
Projecting a budget cut, he advised Swabeck, then in Chicago 
on a speaking tour, to look for work in case a temporary retreat 
became necessary: 

Take a little warning from my experience two years ago.... I had plenty 
of time to reflect over everything, while Rose and I were going about 
from place to place trying to bum a place to sleep for the night. 
That was when I began to make an interesting discovery that I was 
the son of a bitch who was the cause of all the trouble. Well, I won't 
forget that, and I will not wish that experience on another. That is 
why I am giving you due warning. 144 

Shachtman had a very different view of the years 1929-30, as 
is apparent in "A Bad Situation in the American League" (13 March 
1932), where he complained that Trotsky's criticisms of his inter- 
national functioning were being used against him: 

50 CLA 1931-33 

It is unfortunate that certain paragraphs from these letters have been 
made the foundation for such factional attacks which can only result 
in counteracting the few years of effective work which we conducted 
in this country and to which I sought to contribute as much as I 
could, while others who now accuse me so violently were in com- 
fortable retirement. 

Shachtman, Glotzer, and Abern made much of Cannon's 
1929-30 partial political withdrawal in their lengthy June 1932 
document, "Prospect and Retrospect." But they objected with far more 
vehemence to Cannon 's political revival. Shachtman chafed under 
Cannon's attempts to get the National Committee to take control 
of Shachtman's international functioning. Before the fight on this 
question broke out in early 1932, Shachtman and his allies skir- 
mished with Cannon over his so-called "theory of gestation." This 
remained an issue throughout the CLA's long factional polarization. 


The controversy over "gestation" appears to have arisen from 
the following passage in a May 1930 article by Cannon on the gen- 
esis of the CLA from the CP's Cannon faction: 

We were "prepared by the past" for our place under the banner of 
the International Left Opposition. Lovestone and Company served 
their apprenticeship and became journeymen opportunists, quali- 
fied for union with Brandler, in the American party struggles. 

The protracted period of our gestation as a faction on the line of 
the Bolshevik-Leninists has not been without compensating advan- 
tages. The rich experiences of the international struggle were real- 
ized for us, as it were, in advance, and we have been able to build 
on their foundations. This ensured for us a clearer perspective and 
tactical line. 145 

Shachtman and his friends denied emphatically that there was 
any political basis for the Left Opposition in the views defended 
by the CP's Cannon faction. Shachtman countered: 

The Cannon group maintained a sort of independent position, lean- 
ing now toward one faction, now toward the other. The struggle for 
what it considered the Marxist position, against opportunism, for 
party democracy, constantly confronted one enormous obstacle, 
which it failed to understand or perceive for years: the obstacle of 
the international implications of the struggle. It conducted its 
struggle on an essentially national ground, interesting itself little 
and knowing less about the burning fight between Marxism and 
national socialist opportunism that was taking place in the Russian 
party and the international. It went along with all the policies of 

Introduction 5 1 

the ruling regime in the international, even though its concurrence 
lacked the venomous enthusiasm of the Lovestone faction; even 
though, in private conversation, its adherents expressed doubt about 
the course of the Stalin-Zinoviev machine against the Russian 
Opposition. 146 

As late as 1954, Shachtman was still insisting that Cannon's adop- 
tion of Trotskyism at the Sixth Congress was a historical fluke: 
"That Cannon should have decided in 1928, out of the clear blue, 
to support the Russian Opposition, was an accident, and the 
motives that prompted him have been the subject of all sorts of 
speculation in the past (some interesting; others preposterous)." 
Glotzer maintained that Cannon was an unreformed Zinovievist— 
that he never fundamentally broke from the bureaucratism and 
unprincipled organizational maneuvering of the degenerating 
Comintern. 147 

But the simplest and most straightforward explanation for 
Cannon's coming over to Trotsky is that he wanted to make a prole- 
tarian revolution. Unlike Foster, Bedacht, Bittelman, and the rest 
of the future Stalinist hacks— to say nothing of the unspeakable 
Lovestone crew— Cannon did not resign himself to accepting a 
lesser goal. The Critique of the Comintern's Draft Program was 
Trotsky's first programmatically comprehensive treatment of the 
erosion of the revolutionary fiber of the Comintern. Its cogent 
political analysis won Cannon over immediately. Previous Oppo- 
sition documents available in English were only partial, and 
Cannon may not have even read them. 

As we have previously noted, the Cannon group members were 
not "Trotskyists in embryo," i.e., they had not broken with the 
program of socialism in one country and were motivated largely 
by nationally limited concerns. But there was much in their 
worldview that predisposed them to the Left Opposition's views: 

The fight of the Cannon-Foster faction against an orientation to La 
Follette's bourgeois third party movement after the 1924 elections; 
Cannon's insistence on the leading role of the working class in any 
farmer-labor party; the strong, if skewed, internationalism that made 
Cannon break with Foster and refuse to lead a rightist revolt against 
the Communist International in 1925; Cannon's attempt to reverse 
the dead-end factional wars which crippled and deformed the party 
after 1925; his willingness to break with the party's adaptation to 
the AFL unions in 1928: all this predisposed Cannon to make the 
leap to the Left Opposition when that option presented itself. 
Cannon, unlike the other Workers Party leaders, had not been made 

52 CLA 1931-33 

cynical by the corrupt maneuvering inside the degenerating 
Comintern. The fact that a number of Cannon's factional support- 
ers, including Abern and Shachtman, made the leap to Trotskyism 
with Cannon only reinforces this point. 148 

Cannon fought hard against the Shachtman group's denigra- 
tion of the record of the CP's Cannon faction, as the following 
1932 speech notes indicate: 

He [Shachtman] demands that we should have developed from the 

first as supporters of the Left Opposition. 
Where in the world did that happen? 
Further: Where in the whole world, outside of Russia, did a faction 

come to the Left Opposition and give it convincing proofs of its 

All of this refutes the idea that it came by chance, as a maneuver. 
Take the examples: Urbahns; Fischer-Maslow; Paz; Van Overstraeten, 

etc.; Lore. 
All these groups proved to be false representatives. 
How do you account for the fact that we proved to be true represen- 
If we were "prepared by the past" of the Russian Opposition alone— 

and not by our own past— why weren't these groups so prepared? 
To put this question is to answer it— Shachtman has to falsify Party 

history and our own history— to make this absurd contention. 149 

The Cannon faction in the CP was forged in hard opposition 
to the unprincipled maneuvei ism and organizational adventurism 
of the Ruthenberg-Pepper-Lovestone faction, which took on an 
increasingly opportunist political coloration after Ruthenberg's 
death in 1927. With Lovestone the leader of the Right Opposi- 
tion in the U.S., the majority of the CLA leadership was inocu- 
lated against softness on the RO, the issue that shipwrecked the 
Spanish section, led to the foundering of Polish Trotskyism, and 
ruined the building of a Danish Trotskyist organization. 150 
Shachtman et al.'s arrogant dismissal of the record of the Cannon 
faction is an indication of their trivialization of this defining 
programmatic issue. 

In May 1930 Shachtman wrote to Trotsky inquiring about the 
permissibility of blocs with Lovestone's supporters in the trade 
unions, noting that he was "not entirely clear in my mind as to 
how this situation can be handled." Trotsky replied, "Of course it 
is out of the question for us to enter into any kind of bloc with the 
right that the Party does not participate in." 151 Insisting the 

Introduction 53 

CP-led Third Period unions threatened "trade-union unity," 
Lovestone's group invariably supported the AFL trade unions and 
their reactionary leadership. Sharply distinguishing its policy from 
the AFL cretinism of the Lovestoneites, the CLA supported the 
CP-led new industrial unions in industries where these unions had 
some mass support and where the reactionary AFL unions had 
proved to be open agents of the bosses. This was the case in min- 
ing, the needle trades, and the textile industry. Calling for a 
massive campaign to organize the unorganized into the new 
unions, the CLA denounced the sectarian and adventurist policies 
of the Stalinist leadership that by 1930 had reduced to hollow shells 
even these relatively well-based Third Period unions. They called 
on the Party to form a united front with the "progressives" in the 
trade unions, either through organizing new unions or building 
oppositions within the AFL unions. 152 

There were wobbles on the question of unity with the Love- 
stoneites. In 1930 a new Farmer-Labor Party based in Plenty wood, 
Montana included Finnish cooperatives recently expelled from the 
Communist Party, as well as disaffected members of the Minne- 
sota Farmer-Labor Party and Lovestoneites. The Minneapolis 
branch of the CLA participated in a left-wing journal supporting 
this bloc, and Tom O'Flahei ty, a CP Cannon faction member and 
founding CLAer, was editor of the journal. The CLA National 
Committee publicly disavowed the effort in the Militant.™ While 
the Minneapolis branch majority came to agree with the NC, 
O'Flaherty, whose membership was already tenuous, broke with 
the CLA over the issue. 154 In the New York local, Weisbord found 
some support for "mass work" with the Lovestoneites in late 1930. 155 

In July 1931, however, both Swabeck and Shachtman wrote to 
the A.S. to oppose the Spanish section's plans to unify with 
Maurin's BOC. (Maurfn's centrist group had called a conference 
to unify all Communists, and the A.S. was debating the ILO's 
orientation.) Swabeck wrote: 

We find it entirely correct that the Left Opposition should be 
represented at the unity conference to utilize it as one more 
opportunity to state our views of unification and of the tasks of the 
Communist movement in Spain. But. we find it would be a fatal error 
for the Left Opposition to become a part of the "unified" group 
which is expected to ensue. We believe the Left Opposition should 
state in advance and at the conference that it will not furnish a left 
shield to the right-wing Maurin leadership. 156 

54 CLA 1931-33 

Shachtman criticized Nin's refusal to pay attention to the Com- 
munist Party: 

The official party has resources that it hasn't used yet The near 
future will prove it. The Maurinistas will increasingly discredit them- 
selves and the official party will be able to win over many of the 
working-class elements who now follow the Federation. We too will 
be able to win over these elements if we don't compromise ourselves, 
i.e.. if we don't fall into the game oi lies oi the Maurinista "Unity 
Congress." 1 

The CLA NC's quick action m taking a position against unity with 

Maunn in Spam contrasts sharply with its hesitation on the French 

trade-union question and Landau's cliquism. 

Non-Leninist Organizational Practices 

The documents in "The Fight" section of this volume trace 
the CLA fight as it unfolded in early 1932 through the June ple- 
num, when Shachtman capitulated on the international questions, 
to the subsequent hardening of organizational lines on a series of 
issues in early 1933. "Some Considerations on the Results of the 
National Committee Plenum" (16 June 1932) makes it clear that 
Shachtman. Abern. Clotzer. and Spector maintained an organized 
grouping going into the June plenum and afterward, despite the 
apparent resolution of the international dispute. This document 
is strongly reminiscent of the letters routinely circulated by the 
various permanent factions in the Communist Party in the 1920s. 

Even after the I.S. intervened and the two sides agreed to 
dissolve the factions, Shachtman's letters from Prinkipo were 
mimeographed and circulated among his supporters in the U.S., 
exactly as the factions within the Communist Party, including the 
Cannon group, had circulated letters received from their repre- 
sentatives in Moscow. The internal Shachtman factional correspon- 
dence in this volume contrasts sharply with Cannon's letters to 
his supporters in The Communist League of America. Where 
Shachtman, Clotzer. and Abern are politically vague and gossipy, 
Cannon is programmatic and forward-looking. 158 The same con- 
trast can be drawn between Shachtman and Glotzer's lengthy let- 
ters to Trotsky and Swabeck's terse, informative, correspondence: 
Examples of both appear in this volume. "Prospect and Retrospect" 
centers on gripes about Cannon's behavior during his personal 
crisis in 1929-30; its authors knew this would put him on the 

Introduction 55 

defensive. Cannon was never able to finish his draft reply, in which 
he wrote: 

In the thirteen years that I have been active in the Party— that is, 
since its foundation— and, I may add, in my activity in the revolu- 
tionary movement before the foundation of the Party, I never once 
took the time to reply to personal attacks.... I never construed the 
Party struggles as personal struggles. I never advanced any personal 
claims, and do not do so now. I can say quite honestly— and there is 
sufficient material marking the traces of all the disputes to confirm 
it— that I never took part in a faction struggle without political aims 
which transcended persons. 159 

The permanent factional lineups that plagued most parties 
of Zinoviev's Comintern were both the result of, and a contribut- 
ing factor to, the lack of authoritative national leaderships. 
Delineated largely by social composition and personal loyalty, such 
factions often obscured emerging political differentiation. Espe- 
cially after the break with Foster in 1925, the Cannon group sought 
to put program first, attempting to break down the system of 
personalist factionalism in the American party. This stand was no 
small part of the reason that a section of the group, with Cannon 
in the lead, made the leap to Trotskyism. Within the CLA, Cannon 
sought to forge a collective national leadership along Leninist lines. 
Abern and Glotzer, joined by Shachtman in 1931-33, continued 
the practice of clique warfare. 

Cannon saw the Shachtman faction as a manifestation inside 
the CLA of the Naville-Landau personalism that was so destruc- 
tive to the ILO in Europe. In an unfinished draft statement on 
the dispute commissioned by the International Secretariat in early 
1933, he wrote: 

The conflict in our National Committee first broke out into the open 
over the international question. This was no accident. On the con- 
trary it stamped the whole conflict, which has raged for over a year, 
with its real significance. The struggle against the NC began as a 
clique-intrigue, it is true, and at every turn and in the face of every 
question of real importance in the disputes, the minority has sought 
to bury the fundamental issues under a shower of personal accu- 
sations and slander, to explain everything by the faults and bad 
intentions of this or that person.... By their methods in the conflict— 
clique-combinations, personal campaigns, unprincipled blocs, for- 
mal acceptance of resolutions and a contrary practice, undermin- 
ing of discipline— by these methods they have shown that the first 
open clash with us on the international question gave the real mea- 
sure of their differences with us in a fundamental sense. 160 

56 CLA 1931-33 

Yet there was no qualitative programmatic differentiation 
between the two groups. The lack of substantive differences frus- 
trated Cannon immensely. Indicative of the senseless heat was 
Shachtman's attempt to expel alternate NC member Bernard 
Morgenstern for his religious wedding (on the night he was 
released from prison!) to which he consented in order to please 
his parents. Shachtman's vindictive attempt to railroad Morgen- 
stern out of the League for an act which was under the circum- 
stances understandable was opposed by Cannon, who was in turn 
accused of running a factional protection racket. 

It must be noted, however, that non-Leninist organizational 
practices in the CLA hardened the factional lines. This was par- 
ticularly the case with the dispute over the co-optations to the 
National Committee voted at the June plenum. Before the plenum, 
Abern, Shachtman, and Glotzer had been able to outvote Cannon 
and Swabeck on the resident committee, and so a poll of the entire 
National Committee was required before an authoritative state- 
ment on the international question could be issued. In a Bolshe- 
vik organization, it is untenable for the resident leading body not 
to reflect the National Committee majority. This situation was 
formally resolved at the plenum when Shachtman capitulated on 
the international question. Cannon, however, did not want to risk 
a repeat of the preplenum situation. He therefore proposed to 
co-opt Basky and Gordon (both Cannon supporters) to full mem- 
bership in the National Committee and to co-opt George Clarke 
as an alternate member. As New York residents, all three would 
sit on the resident committee. The plenum adopted this proposal 
over the objections of Shachtman and co. Because altering the 
composition of the National Committee in the absence of politi- 
cal differences or a delegated national conference was irregular, 
Cannon proposed to submit the co-optations to a referendum of 
the CLA membership. 

Holding a written poll of the entire membership runs counter 
to Leninist organizational practice: It substitutes for deliberation 
and decision at the highest level (a delegated conference) the vote 
of a membership atomized in the absence of collective national 
discussion. Without defined programmatic differences, Cannon 
could not effectively motivate his proposal to the CLA member- 
ship. Shachtman et al. were able to use innuendo and gossip to 
appeal to the least conscious elements in the CLA. Feeding their 

Introduction 57 

accusations of bureaucratism was the fact that one of the proposed 
new NCers, Gordon, had been a member for two years only, a 
violation of the CLA Constitution, which required four years of 
membership in the Communist movement for election to the lead- 
ing body. 161 There is no Leninist ground for requiring a certain 
"tenure" in the organization before taking a leading post, but the 
Shachtman faction was able to take advantage of Cannon's pro- 
posed violation of the CLA Constitution. 

Cannon lost the vote on the co-optations. But Glotzer— 
wittingly or not— resolved the situation by relocating to Chicago, 
insisting that was the only place he could find a job. Shortly after 
Glotzer left, Oehler, a Cannon supporter and full NC member, 
moved to New York from Chicago, giving Cannon a majority of 
three to two on the resident committee. 

Though it was not officially codified in the League Constitu- 
tion, the CLA appears to have unthinkingly carried over from the 
Stalinizing Comintern the policy of National Committee "disci- 
pline," i.e., that disputes within the NC should not be reported to 
the membership except in an official preconference discussion 
period before they are brought to the conference for decision. But 
the "unanimity" of the leading committee cannot be decreed. 
While it is preferable to debate disputed questions in the leading 
body first, such differences are often an indication that similar 
differences— or at least confusion— exist among the membership 
as well. Thorough discussion can politically sharpen the organi- 
zation as a whole, although this possible gain has to be weighed 
against the disruption such discussion can cause to ongoing work. 
A major dispute in the leading committee generally mandates the 
calling of a national conference so that the membership can discuss 
and decide the issue. In the case of disagreements over principled 
or programmatic issues, it is the right and duty of a Leninist to 
attempt to mobilize the whole party behind his/her position and, 
ultimately, to build a faction. 

"Committee discipline" was in any case honored only selectively. 
Disputes within the NC were reported, at least to some members, 
through factional communication, as the documents amply show. 
Operationally discipline was along factional lines. With "informal" 
lines of communication predominating, the membership was 
denied collective discussion and the clash of opinion in the 
branches, the only possibility of clarifying the political basis of 

58 CLA 1931-33 

the disputes. This fueled the Abern clique, which thrived on 
giving its members the "real scoop." Unfortunately "committee 
discipline" remained the policy of the American Trotskyist lead- 
ership at least through the degeneration of the Socialist Workers 
Party in the 1960s. 

Irregular financial practices also contributed to the fight. In 
November 1932 the League tried to regularize its financing by 
creating a graduated dues structure based on income. lb2 The flow 
of money into the party center, however, remained erratic. In lieu 
of wages, staff meal expenses were sometimes paid out of petty 
cash, leading to bitterness and accusations of favoritism that 
fueled Abern's gossip mill. 163 Itinerant organizers were frequently 
stranded in the field with no cash; when they were paid, this too 
led to insinuations of favoritism. 164 Funds raised for one purpose 
were often used for another. 165 

The financial irregularities of the American section were 
noted with some consternation in the international. The staff of 
the Russian-language Bulletin of the Opposition, financed by pay- 
ments from national sections for Bulletins received, was continu- 
ally furious with the CLA: "The Militant is the only one that does 
not pay us. There is no doubt that if the other groups had acted 
as the League, we would have had to cease publication of the 
Bulletin a long time ago.... Frankly, I must say that the Militant's 
attitude, known in the various sections in Europe, causes profound 
amazement." 166 Payments to the International Secretariat were also 
irregular. 167 

In November 1932 Trotsky was granted a visa to go to Copen- 
hagen to speak to a student conference— his first trip out of Turkey 
since his exile from the USSR. Cannon proposed that the League 
send Swabeck, a Dane by birth, to consult with Trotsky and attend 
the anticipated ILO conference, to be held in connection with 
Trotsky's trip. Shachtman and Abern refused to vote for Swabeck 
as an official CLA delegate, insisting that the proposed trip was 
"personal." Swabeck never made it to Copenhagen, although the 
Cannon faction did manage to raise the funds to send him to 
Europe. He attended the February 1933 International Precon- 
ference in Paris, and then went to Germany to consult with the 
ILO section just after Hitler's ascension to power. 168 He contin- 
ued to Prinkipo, where his discussions with Trotsky were invaluable 
in laying the basis for Trotsky's intervention into the CLA. He 

Introduction 59 

returned to Paris, again traveling through Germany, and attended 
a May ILO plenum. As indicated by his letters to Cannon, Swabeck 
was stranded for lack of funds in both Prinkipo and Paris. 

Shachtman and Abern vehemently opposed putting Cannon 
on the CLA payroll as national secretary during Swabeck's 
absence. The personal bitterness fueling Shachtman's opposition 
and his dismissiveness toward party organization were apparent 
when he wrote to Antoinette Konikow about the question: 

Although we are quite reliably informed that Cannon has been laid 
off from his job, he came in to the committee meeting with the story 
that he was ready to "quit" his job in order to sacrifice himself for 
the movement by taking up the post of secretary during Swabeck's 
absence, and very likely, even after his return from Europe. It was 
also proposed that he be guaranteed a minimum of $25 a week, 
with a similar "guarantee" for Shachtman of $15 a week. It now be- 
comes quite clear why, after a silence of the grave on this delicate 
subject for seven months, Cannon has for the past two weeks been 
talking with considerable indignation about the fact that the func- 
tionaries in the office are not being paid; that they are consequently 
demoralized and unable to take care of themselves or their work. 
To put it brutally, it was all part of a low advertising campaign in 
preparation for the proposal to put Cannon into the office of 
secretary. 169 

Given the controversy, Cannon assumed the post on a voluntary 
(i.e., unpaid) basis. The document by Oehler and Swabeck on 
Cannon's appointment, "For Cannon as National Secretary" 
(10 January 1933), is an excellent statement of the professional- 
ism necessary in the building of a Leninist vanguard. 

Even with Cannon assuming Swabeck's administrative duties, 
there was still a great danger of paralysis of the resident commit- 
tee: Tie votes of two to two would have been likely with only 
Cannon, Oehler, Shachtman, and Abern voting. Cannon attempted 
to solve the problem by using his majority on the National 
Committee to deprive Abern of his vote. Trotsky strongly objected 
to this undemocratic procedure, which he saw as part of a pattern 
of organizational impatience by the Cannon group. Abern was 
given back his vote. Relations, however, remained at a breaking 
point through spring 1933. Both Cannon and Shachtman fled 
New York— Cannon to the Midwest and Shachtman to Europe. For 
most of May 1933 there was no resident committee in New York. 
Abern had withdrawn in pique, and Rose Karsner administered 
the organization. 

60 CLA 1931-33 

The CLA began to publish an Internal Bulletin after the June 
plenum in order to circulate to the membership the major fac- 
tional statements on both sides. This was in itself a major innova- 
tion—in the earlier period, internal discussion material, usually 
reflecting only minor disputes, had been published in the Militant. 
However, Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer's "Prospect and Retro- 
spect," written for the June 1932 plenum (where it was withdrawn, 
only to be resubmitted a few weeks later) never appeared in the 
IB. Cannon insisted it could only be published with a written reply, 
which he was never able to complete. Throughout the period of 
intense factional polarization, Cannon's NC majority refused to 
open the IB to membership discussion and contributions. Under 
Leninist norms, internal discussion is supposed to be regulated 
by the leading body, with discussion arrangements (or lack thereof) 
justified in each particular case. The point is to strive for maxi- 
mum political clarity while maintaining the partv's capacitv for 
intervention into ongoing social struggle. The League member- 
ship was in fact intensely polarized by the fight. Spartacus Youth 
leader Nathan Gould caught an essential quality when he com- 
mented in a letter to Oehler: 

The inevitable result of a split would be the existence of two groups 
in America, both agreeing fundamentally upon all political prin- 
cipled matters with the international. Both arriving upon the same 
conclusions on all political questions, only one calling Cannon a 
lazy, moody Irishman and the other calling Shachtman a supercil- 
ious, literary Jew who is impressed more by the literary value of a 
document than the political contents. This must not be. 170 

In later years, beginning with the Workers Party/U.S., the Internal 
Bulletin was open to comment on disputed issues within the part v. 
Cannon was rightly concerned that the League could become 
a talk shop. Shachtman and Abern's coddling of the glib petty- 
bourgeois youth in the New York local (the "Carter group") was 
an issue leading up to the June 1932 plenum. As the documents 
which open "The Fight" section indicate, the dispute broke out 
over Carter's misrepresentation of Engels' 1895 introduction to 
Marx's The Class Struggles in France. The malicious falsification of 
Engels' introduction by the Social Democrats was a well-worn issue 
in the revolutionary communist movement, and Cannon and 
Swabeck effectively demolished Shachtman's defense of Carter in 
their document, "Internal Problems of the CLA." 171 The issue, 

Introduction 6 1 

however, was not so much Engels' introduction as the flippant and 
overly literary political approach of the Carter group, which 
Cannon and Swabeck described as "a grouping of youth elements 
of the scholastic student type, who have not yet assimilated the 
communist proletarian spirit, who combine a sterility of ideas and 
criticism with a detestable parvenu self-assurance." 172 

New York City was the center of Shachtman, Abern, and 
Glotzer's support. Cannon saw the material basis for their clique 
in the overwhelmingly petty-bourgeois composition of the branch. 
This problem continued to dominate Cannon's view of the fight 
in later years: 

Our difficulties were increased by the fact that many recruits were 
not first-class material. Many of the people who joined the New York 
branch weren't really there by justice. They weren't the type who, 
in the long run, could build a revolutionary movement— dilettantes, 
petty-bourgeois undisciplined elements. 173 

Notably, Shachtman later wrote about the CLA's national recruit- 
ment in the same vein: 

We tended in the early days to attract mainly the younger people, 
students, intellectuals good and bad, very few workers, even fewer 
active trade unionists, still fewer unionists active in the basic and 
most important unions, but more than a few dilettantes, well- 
meaning blunderers, biological chatterboxes, ultraradical oat-sowers, 
unattachable wanderers, and many other kinds of sociological 
curiosa. Most of them made bivouac with us for a while, but not for 
too long. 174 

Cannon sought to break his own young supporters from the 
petty-bourgeois mold, dispatching Tom Stamm and Sam Gordon 
as field organizers to build proletarian branches in Pennsylvania 
and Ohio. By fall 1932, the combination of increased field activ- 
ity and the CLA's effective propaganda was having a growing 
impact on Communist Party members concerned about the 
German party's failure to fight Hitler's growing power. In late 
September the Party district organizer in Davenport, Iowa was 
forced to debate George Papcun, a recent CLA recruit, on the 
subject of "socialism in one country"; three CP branch members 
subsequently wrote a letter demanding a serious discussion of the 
ILO program. CLA supporters were also having success in Des 
Moines, Iowa. In October the CLA recruited Sebastian Pappas, a 
prominent member of the Party's Food Workers Industrial Union 
in New York. 175 In November Cannon wrote to Gordon: 

62 CLA 1931-33 

We created a good central propaganda machine, but we must see 
to it that we direct the machine and that the machine does not direct 
us and keep us in a vicious circle. As the problem now presents itself, 
we cannot broaden our activities and develop the organizational side 
of our work as it must be developed now, without more resources. 
And we cannot create more resources without broadening the 
activities. It will be very bad for us if we do not recognize the sec- 
ond contradiction and devote ourselves to the solution of it.... 
A decisive new orientation in conformity with the needs and op- 
portunities of the moment will also soon introduce a qualitative 
change in the composition of the League. If you ask my opinion, I 
will tell you frankly that I think we have a hell of a lot of dead wood 
in the League, too many purely literary recruits. 176 

In early 1933 Cannon proposed that the New York local admit 
only bona fide workers into membership for the next six months, 
a proposal that was vehemently opposed by the branch leadership 
and ultimately defeated ("Resolution on the Proletarianization of 
the New York Branch" and "Reject the Proposal on the Proletari- 
anization of the New York Branch," [early February 1933]). As 
Trotsky later noted, this mechanical proposal for increasing the 
working-class membership of the branch was an administrative 
proposal for a political problem. 

The CLA and the Progressive Miners of America 

The majority of the Minneapolis branch, led by Vincent Dunne 
and Carl Skoglund, formed a solid base of support for the Cannon 
faction throughout the fight. Branch members were at the time 
working to organize the coal drivers into the Teamsters Union, 
efforts that came to fruition in the great Minneapolis Teamsters 
strikes of 1934. In 1929-30 the New York CLA also had some 
members who worked as a fraction within the Needle Trades Work- 
ers Industrial Union (NTWIU), the CP's Third Period union. CLA 
supporters argued for an aggressive organizing campaign to unite 
the old AFL unions, centered in the men's apparel industry and 
the furriers, with the NTWIU, centered among the dressmakers, 
into one industrial organization. 177 Unser Kamf prominently covered 
developments in the needle trades unions. 

For most of the CLA's history, however, it appeared that the 
Trotskyists' best chance to win a base in the working class lay in 
southern Illinois, where a militant coal miners movement chal- 
lenged John L. Lewis' United Mine Workers of America (UMW). 178 
The CLA's work in this area was often a subject of dispute in spring 

Introduction 63 

1933. In these fights the Shachtman group's cavalier attitude 
toward the League's links to the working class became manifest. 

The CLA had an early base of support in the Illinois coalfields 
due to Swabeck's work as organizer of the CP's District Eight (cen- 
tered in Chicago and including southern Illinois) during the "Save 
the Union" movement of 1927-28. The Party leadership had been 
so concerned about Swabeck's influence that William Z. Foster him- 
self was sent to tour southern Illinois shortly after the Trotskyists 
were expelled in late 1928. Foster managed to stampede back into 
the Party some of the miner cadre who had earlier supported the 
Trotskyists, including Gerry Allard. But the Militant continued to 
publish letters from Party miners in southern Illinois protesting 
the expulsions, including a 13 January 1929 letter that reported 
the suspension from the Party of Joe Angelo, who was to remain a 
CLA member through 1934. 179 The CLA had two locals in south- 
ern Illinois in 1929, and a defense guard of miners stood ready to 
repulse any Stalinist provocation at the CLA founding conference. 180 

The mine worker recruits were not programmatically grounded, 
however, and the League did not have the resources to support a 
regional organizer to politically educate them. The industry was in 
steep decline, with widespread closings and massive layoffs, and 
the devastation increased with the onset of the Depression. The 
number of Illinois miners fell from 103,566 in 1923 to 51,544 in 
1932; many were working only half-time or in worker-run coop- 
erative mines abandoned by their owners as unprofitable. The 
League's southern Illinois branches disintegrated, but it retained 
individual supporters and a reputation in the area. 

An ill-prepared and losing strike by the CP's Third Period 
National Miners Union (NMU) destroyed the Party's credibility 
in the coalfields by spring 1930. Allard quit the Party and gravi- 
tated back into the League's orbit in early 1931. Cannon wrote 
some hard criticism of Allard's earlier capitulation in the Militant, 
but Allard was allowed to rejoin the League in September. 181 

In the Illinois District of the UMW (District 12), by far the 
strongest, the tyrannical head of the union, John L. Lewis, was 
widely despised. In late 1929 Lewis tried to bring the district lead- 
ership under Harry Fishwick to heel. The district responded in 
early 1930 by declaring itself the "real" union, the "Reorganized 
UMW" (RUMW). The new union represented an uneasy alliance 
of class-collaborationist District 12 bureaucrats with well-known 

64 CLA 1931-33 

"progressive" unionists. Backed by A.J. Muste's Conference for Pro- 
gressive Labor Action (CPLA), the RUMW included John Brophy, 
former leader of the "Save the Union" movement, as well as Kan- 
sas miners leader Alex Howat. Brophy soon withdrew, but Howat, 
who had collaborated with the Communists in the past, was elected 
RUMW president. From March 1930 until March 1931 (when the 
capitalist courts declared Lewis' UMW to be the "real" union) vir- 
tual civil war ensued in the Illinois coalfields. 

The CLA supported the Reorganized UMW, while calling 
upon the Party's NMU to join forces with Howat and Brophy within 
the new union to "push it consistently to the left." The Militant 
was uncritical of the RUMW's "progressive" face. 182 Trotsky wrote 
his first criticism of his American supporters over their uncritical 
treatment of Brophy and Howat, whom he recognized as careerists 
who would in the end side with the reactionary AFL bureaucracy 
led by William Green: 

The adherence of Howat and Brophy to the corrupt bureaucracy 
of Fishwick and Company is one of the indications of the weaken- 
ing of the revolutionary positions in the trade unions. Howat and 
Brophy are not unconscious elements who honestly but confusedly 
swing from right to left, but they are experienced politicians who 
are now turning from left to right. They are careerists who no longer 
find it useful to cover themselves with sympathy for communism, 
because they consider it sufficiently weakened and compromised. 

In the present conditions, the principal danger in the trade unions 
is represented by elements of the type of Howat and Brophy. It is 
they that are, and above all will become, the whips in the service of 
the Green bureaucracy.... No illusions at all are permissible about 
these gentlemen who call themselves by the absolutely inconsistent 
name of progressives; in the best case it can signify an American- 
ized species of trade-unionist centrism. 183 

This letter was written in March 1930, while Shachtman was in 
Prinkipo. Shachtman had authored the Militant article, but Trotsky's 
criticism targeted the shared orientation of the entire NC, in whose 
name the article was published. 184 Trotsky's points on Howat and 
Brophy were incorporated into a subsequent Militant article, and 
the CLA sought to be more critical of the "progressives." 185 
According to notes for a speech on "Communists and Progressives" 
a year later, Cannon argued that "'progressives' are not a third 
tendency between precapitalist labor bureaucrats and communists, 
but are seeking to lead the labor radicalization into precapitalist 
channels." 186 

Introduction 65 

However, while the CLA supported the CP's revolutionary 
unions in areas where they had a social base, within the AFL 
unions they maintained a strategy of building a so-called left wing 
with "progressive" elements. The "Draft of the Thesis on the Trade 
Union Question" adopted by the Second National Conference in 
September 1931 laid out the League's orientation as both "build- 
ing of the new militant unions under revolutionary leadership" 
and "developing and strengthening of the left wing wherever the 
masses are grouped." 187 The League saw its policy of building the 
"left wing" in AFL unions as an application of the united front. 

As developed initially by the Communist International, the 
united front is a tactic to be used when there is a chance of agree- 
ment with reformist or centrist organizations on common action 
in defense of the working class; such agreement generally comes 
only episodically as a result of the pressure of their working-class 
base on the reformist leaders. The communists must retain their 
own programmatic identity, exposing the vacillations of the 
reformist leadership and attempting to win its working-class base 
away from illusions in the "neutrality" of the bourgeois state and 
reformability of capitalism. In the early American Communist 
Party, this tactic had been transformed into a strategy of forming 
blocs with the progressives and was advocated by both the Foster 
and Cannon factions in building the Party's trade-union arm, the 
Trade Union Educational League. That this strategy was carried 
over uncritically into the CLA shows that the League leadership 
had not fully assimilated a key point of communist politics that 
was central to Trotsky's polemics against the Opposition Unitaire 
in France: 

The conception of the party as the proletarian vanguard presup- 
poses its full and unconditional independence from all other 
organizations. The various agreements (blocs, coalitions, compro- 
mises) with other organizations, unavoidable in the course of the 
class struggle, are permissible only on the condition that the party 
always turns its own face toward the class, always marches under its 
own banner, acts in its own name, and clearly explains to the masses 
the aims and limits within which it concludes the given agreement. 188 

In the early 1930s, "progressive" elements in the AFL unions 
were generally organized by A.J. Muste's Conference for Progres- 
sive Labor Action, the Socialist Party, or the Lovestoneites. As an 
expelled faction of the Communist Party, the League was careful 
not to enter into blocs with these forces against the Party and its 

66 CLA 1931-33 

red unions. But the strategy of building a "left wing" with pro- 
gressives in the trade unions impacted the work of the American 
Trotskyists later in the decade. 189 

The "Reorganized UMW" reunited with the Lewis UMW in 
March 1931, but anti-Lewis sentiment remained strong in Illinois. 
Howat, backed by Muste's CPLA, sponsored a mine workers con- 
ference in St. Louis, projecting the formation of a new union. At 
the conference CLA supporters fought for a new union that would 
merge with the CP's National Union of Miners. But Howat and 
his backers decided that they did not yet have enough support to 
found a new union. 190 

A year later a wildcat strike swept the Illinois coalfields when 
Lewis attempted to enforce a new contract with a substantial wage 
cut (the $5-a-day scale). After a particularly bloody massacre per- 
petrated by company thugs at Mulkeytown, outrage against the 
coal operators and their UMW toadies boiled over, leading to the 
formation of the Progressive Miners of America (PMA) in Sep- 
tember 1932. Playing a big role at the PMA's founding conference, 
Gerry Allard was elected to the executive board and became editor 
of its journal. 191 

Discredited in the region, the Communist Party had lost 
almost all its supporters, who were precluded in any case from 
participating in the PMA by the CP's Third Period sectarianism. 
But the Socialist Party, which still had a base there, supported the 
PMA, as did Muste and the CLA. The predominant element in 
the PMA leadership, however, was the old UMW District 12 
bureaucracy. To gain a toehold in the industry, the PMA leader- 
ship soon signed contracts accepting the same $5-a-day wage scale 
that the miners had been striking against for over six months. The 
CLA opposed accepting the $5 scale, but continued to support 
the PMA. The Trotskyists seem to have underestimated the 
increasing hold of the procapitalist and anti-Communist elements 
in the leadership. 

Baiting the PMA as a Communist front, Lewis targeted Allard 
in particular. After accepting the same rotten wage cut, the PMA 
had little justification for its independent existence. The congeal- 
ing bureaucracy turned to virulent anti-Communism, laying the 
basis for the purge of leftist elements. Allard capitulated before 
the anti-Communist onslaught, and the CLA NC's repeated criti- 
cisms of him sometimes appeared in the Militant. 191 

Introduction 67 

Cannon, well-known in the area as a Communist leader, was 
invited to address a January 1933 conference called by the Trades 
and Labor Assembly in Gillespie, Illinois. The PMA was the 
dominant organization at the conference. Unable to speak as a 
representative of the CLA because political groups were banned, 
Cannon chose to speak instead as a representative of a group of 
"militant New York workers." The ban on political speakers was 
certainly motivated by the PMA leadership's burgeoning anti- 
Communism, yet it is notable that they felt compelled to let a 
known Communist address the delegates, who were to decide the 
question of initiating a new labor federation counterposed to the 
AFL. Cannon argued strongly against this course, which could only 
have further isolated the PMA in the labor movement. Allard told 
Cannon that his speech was a big factor in the conference deci- 
sion against a new federation. 193 

Shachtman subsequently attacked not the substance of 
Cannon's speech, but its auspices. As Cannon wrote, whether or 
not he spoke as a member of the CLA was an "incidental ques- 
tion." The real question was one of choosing: "1. To speak and 
influence the gathering; 2. Or to retire with honors and give the 
right wing best grounds." 194 Shachtman's motion at the February 24 
resident committee meeting implicitly attacks Cannon as an op- 
portunist. Shachtman was explicit in his private correspondence: 

In the last few years, I have not concealed from myself, at least, the 
conviction that Cannon has an essentially opportunist bent, espe- 
cially in trade-union questions. In Swabeck, as you know, it is more 
than a "bent." The Illinois situation and problem is showing it. 195 
Shachtman had earlier sent Angelo a copy of "Prospect and 
Retrospect." 196 His attempts to line up the CLA miners against 
Cannon certainly did not help the League's work. In a partial 
report probably written shortly after he returned from Gillespie, 
Cannon said: 

It appears to me that the Progressive Miners' movement in Illinois 
is today the most important link in the chain of the left-wing labor 
movement. Much will depend on what happens there in the next 
few months. The catastrophic collapse of the Party in this field, the 
revival of the socialist organization on the basis of the Party's defeat, 
and the entering wedge already gained by the Left Opposition puts 
us before an opportunity and a test. 1 ' 17 

Oehler was sent to the southern Illinois coalfields in March 
and remained through the end of May, leaving Cannon, 

68 CLA 1931-33 

Shachtman, and Abern on the resident committee. Shachtman 
tried to obstruct a proposed tour by Cannon to the coalfields and 
to a national conference in Chicago called by the ILD and oth- 
ers in defense of Tom Mooney. His proposal to go in Cannon's 
place was a petty factional maneuver; he completely lacked 
Cannon's personal authority among the miners. 

Trotsky subsequently condemned Shachtman's obstruction of 
Cannon's trip. He also supported Cannon's stance at the Gillespie 
conference: "The point is not to unfurl our 'flag' in the trade 
unions once or twice, and perhaps precisely for this reason, to 
disappear from them, but rather to gradually win points of sup- 
port through which we will gain the possibility of unfurling our 
flag fully" ("The European Sections Will Not Support You," 1 May 
1933). Expecting Trotsky's support, Shachtman and Abern were 
devastated. Cannon recalled, "Trotsky's letter ended the discus- 
sion, bango! Just like that!" 198 

However, Trotsky later wrote a more substantial document, 
"Trade-Union Problems in America" (23 September 1933), an 
implicit criticism of Cannon's approach in the PMA. Trotsky 
stressed the importance of party fractions in the unions, an ABC 
for revolutionary Marxists. Essential to consistent work in any 
milieu is the organization of party cadre in working bodies that 
regularly meet, discuss how to implement party perspectives, and 
continually evaluate ongoing work, as laid out in the resolution 
on organization adopted by the Third Congress of the Commu- 
nist International. 199 This is the only way the party can act as a 
"fist" in social struggle. In the absence of fractions responsible to 
geographically organized local committees, cadres, especially in 
the trade unions, are inordinately susceptible to political pressures 
that can pull them off course. Cannon recognized the need for 
party branches, but he placed the stress on building a broad "left 
wing" within the PMA: 

The organization of groups and branches of the League in various 
localities is a self-evident necessity for the establishment of a clear 
line of struggle in the union. But this struggle can be really effec- 
tive only if it draws in and organizes a much wider circle of mili- 
tants in a left-wing formation. It is false and abstract to counterpose 
the League groups to the broader left-wing formation and to insist 
that the one shall come "first." Such a schematic order does not at 
all coincide with the real conditions and cannot stand up in prac- 
tice. In some localities where groups of the LO can be formed they 

Introduction 69 

will naturally take first place and be the medium for the creation of 
broader organizations. In other localities— and from all indications 
they will be the majority— it will be necessary to begin with a broader 
group, in the absence of convinced oppositionists, and work for the 
crystallization of a League nucleus within it. 200 

The League organized ad hoc caucuses of CLA supporters at 
PMA conferences and regional gatherings, but by and large Allard 
and Angelo functioned as individuals, backed up by Clarke and 
Oehler, who periodically toured as regional CLA organizers. It is 
impossible to organize consistent Bolshevik work in the trade 
unions on this basis. Without a League presence, Allard could only 
be a blunted instrument, whatever his authority as an individual 
militant in the PMA. 

Oehler's reports back from the coalfields in spring 1933 
are instructive. Allard wasn't friendly, and the anti-Communist 
witchhunt was blossoming into full-blown terror. 201 One Militant 
subscriber wrote of being beaten on the street. 202 In such a situa- 
tion, Allard was bound to capitulate. While in Chicago for the 
Mooney conference in early May, Cannon came to some agree- 
ment with Allard, but the editor of Progressive Miner never lived 
up to the bargain. Karsner wrote tellingly to Cannon about the 
CP-dominated Mooney conference: 

It looks like Gerry took you in again. Fine promises, then goes back 
and writes a signed report in the Progressive Miner in which he 
mentions everyone at the conference except the LO. He seems to 
be catering to the Party this time. From right to left and back again 
but never straight out with us. 203 

Cannon's rosy view of the opportunities in the PMA was 
motivated in part by the CLA faction fight: He was desperate to 
find an entry point into a mass proletarian movement and thus 
recruit a way out of the factional impasse caused by the political 
weight of the League's literary recruits. It was the responsibility 
of the CLA leadership to search urgently for opportunities to win 
mass working-class support. Because the CLA leadership was orient- 
ing toward trade-union opportunities such as the PMA, the Trotsky ists 
were able to take advantage of the breakthrough in the Minneapolis Team- 
sters a year later. 

League relations with Allard came to a head in April 1933, 
with Shachtman et al. demanding an immediate break. Cannon 
knew that he was walking a fine line. It is significant that he wrote 
Trotsky for advice on the question: "Request for Advice on Allard" 

70 CLA 1931-33 

(14 April 1933) is the first letter Cannon had written to Trotsky in 
three and a half years. It is published here for the first time. We 
can find no record that Trotsky replied. In any case, the issue was 
soon moot because Allard quit the CLA and joined Muste's CPLA. 
The League's other prominent supporter, Joe Angelo, was expelled 
from the PMA in October. Later in the decade the PMA became 
a tool of the AFL against John L. Lewis and the CIO. 

Cannon Tests Trotsky 

Cannon ceased writing to Trotsky in summer 1929. That more 
was involved than his personal withdrawal from day-to-day admin- 
istration of the CLA is confirmed by his later reminiscences: "We 
wondered, especially I personally, how it was going to be in the 
new International with Trotsky. Was he going to push us around 
like manikins, or would he give us a little leeway and show us a 
little respect?" In fall 1932 Cannon tested Trotsky over the rela- 
tively trivial question of Trotsky's relations with expelled CLA 
member B.J. Field (later famous for flouting party discipline dur- 
ing the 1934 hotel workers strike). Not until Trotsky passed the 
test did Cannon seek his intervention in the CLA's internal dis- 
pute, sending Swabeck to Prinkipo and asking for advice about 
Allard. Cannon later described the period of tension with Trotsky 
around Field as "the greatest emotional crisis of my life." 204 

A statistician by training, Field was expelled from the New 
York CLA in late 1932 for refusing to allow the branch executive 
to supervise an economics study group he had organized. 205 Field 
went to Prinkipo in September, where Trotsky soon enlisted his 
help to prepare an economic thesis for the projected ILO confer- 
ence. Field's documents were published in the press of the French 
Ligue, with an introduction by Trotsky, just as the CLA was pre- 
paring to break off negotiations with the megalomaniacal centrist 
Albert Weisbord. Weisbord had also gone to Prinkipo to seek 
Trotsky's support for his quest to fuse his organization with the 
CLA. It was only because of Trotsky's urging that the CLA had 
begun negotiations with him. 

The publication of documents by an expelled CLA member 
in the press of another ILO section was formally a breach of demo- 
cratic centralism and strongly implied a political attack on the CLA 
leadership. The resident committee's decision to protest Trotsky's 
collaboration with Field behind the back of the CLA was not 

Introduction 71 

controversial. The protest letter was written by Cannon and signed 
by Swabeck as League secretary. 206 Whether or not Cannon was 
contemplating a break with the ILO over Field, as Shachtman later 
alleged, he invested the question with an importance out of 
proportion to its political substance: 

I must admit at that time I was somewhat impressed with the great 
wave of propaganda about Trotsky's domineering the movement and 
his ruthless pushing aside of people who didn't carry out his will. 
And the Old Man was a little imperious. He had a way of command- 
ing and in his impatience to get things done, making a shortcut 
through organization even more than I do.... And I remember— talk 
about my soul-searing periods— in that period I was brooding in my 
mind that I was not going to under any circumstances tolerate such 
a thing and if comrade Trotsky was going to insist upon such arbi- 
trary methods, he would have to find somebody else to carry them 
out. And I lived with the most terrible apprehension of what he 
would write back. 207 

Trotsky's conciliatory answer, "A Reply on Field and Weisbord" 
(20 October 1932), greatly relieved Cannon: "I tell you it was a 
happy day when we got that letter. That convinced me that we 
could get along with Trotsky, that we could live with him, that we 
could have a party of our own which would have its own leaders, 
and that even the great Trotsky would have respect for our 
rights." 208 Afterward, however, some distrust lingered on Cannon's 
part: During his fall 1934 meeting with Trotsky in France Cannon 
made a point of smoking in Trotsky's presence, an act he later 
regretted. 209 Shachtman's 1954 description of Cannon as a simple 
bureaucratic hack for Trotsky's political views was purely self- 
serving tendentiousness. 210 The collaborative relationship between 
Cannon and Trotsky was forged through internal fights in the ILO, not 
least against Shachtman. 

Events in Germany and the New Party Turn 

The February 1933 fight over Cannon's public remarks about 
a possible role for the Soviet Red Army in the battle against fascism 
in Germany raised programmatic issues prefiguring the decisive 
1940 battle over the Russian question. The fight occurred shortly 
after Hitler was appointed chancellor. Having insisted through- 
out 1930-32 on the urgent need for united-front actions of the 
KPD and SPD to stop Hitler, the ILO went all-out to campaign for 
working-class struggle to prevent the Nazi consolidation of power. 

72 CLA 1931-33 

The International Preconference mandated a special fund drive 
for the German Trotskyist organization. Publishing the Militant 
three times a week from February 11 to March 18, the CLA sold 
thousands at a penny each, primarily to CP supporters transfixed 
by the unfolding disaster in Germany. The criminal betrayal of 
the Stalinists and Social Democrats, who refused to fight against 
the smashing of all German workers organizations, demoralized 
many Party members but convinced others of the validity of 
Trotsky's struggle against the Stalinist perversion of Leninism. The 
CLA won a number of recruits from the Party, including Chicago 
lawyer Albert Goldman. 

Desperate to shut off the growing support for the CLA, the 
Stalinists began a hysterical counterattack against the Trotskyists, 
claiming that Cannon had called for war between Germany and 
the USSR in public forums in New York. Shachtman and Abern 
echoed the anti-Cannon chorus within the CLA. What Cannon 
actually said was in dispute, but in speech notes written a month 
later he simply followed Trotsky in asserting that Hitler's victory 
would inevitably lead to war between Germany and the USSR, 
insisting, "The Red Army must be made ready." 211 

As is apparent from "Motion on the Situation in Germany and 
the Role of the Red Army" (20 February 1933) and "Statement on 
the Dispute over the Red Army and the German Situation" 
(12 March 1933), Shachtman and his allies balked at the mere sug- 
gestion that the Red Army could be used as a revolutionary force 
outside Soviet borders. This presaged their abandonment of the 
military defense of the USSR in fall 1939 when the Red Army 
invaded Poland and Finland. But in 1933 Shachtman backed off 
after Trotsky intervened to support the thrust of Cannon's posi- 
tion in "Germany and the USSR" (17 March 1933). However, 
Trotsky noted that the Red Army was hardly in a state of military 
preparedness, given the economic privation and demoralization 
within the USSR. 

The episodic Red Army dispute was not central to the CLA's 
factional polarization. In any case the events in Germany soon 
led to a radical turn for the ILO. Already in March Trotsky had 
declared that the German party's prostration before Hitler's con- 
solidation of power meant that it was dead as a revolutionary force. 
At first Trotsky limited the call for a new party to Germany, but 
when no organized opposition emerged within the Comintern to 

Introduction 73 

the suicidal Third Period policies that had disarmed and demor- 
alized the German proletariat, Trotsky declared that the Commu- 
nist International, too, had become a corpse, making an analogy 
to Rosa Luxemburg's characterization of the Second International 
as "a stinking corpse" after its betrayal in the face of World War I. 
He argued for the ILO to fight to regroup subjectively revolution- 
ary elements who were now growing outside the Comintern. 212 

In August an I.S. plenum in Paris approved the new orienta- 
tion, although not without controversy. The majority of the 
German organization had opposed the call for a new party in 
Germany. Now the full-time I.S. secretary, Witte, a representative 
of the Greek Archio-Marxists, voted against the call for the Fourth 
International, as did Giacomi of the New Italian Opposition. Witte 
was soon removed from his post. In 1934 the Archio-Marxists 
split over affiliation to the Trotskyist movement and Witte took a 
minority into the centrist London Bureau. The French Jewish 
Group also opposed the turn and split from the Ligue. The NOI 
disintegrated and some of its leading elements joined the Jewish 
Group to form a new organization, Union Communis te. 213 

The rest of the ILO moved ahead energetically to implement 
the turn, initiating "The Declaration of Four," a call for the Fourth 
International jointly issued by the ILO and three centrist groups, 
the German Socialist Workers Party (SAP), the Independent 
Socialist Party of Holland (OSP), and the Revolutionary Socialist 
Party of Holland (RSP). 214 The declaration was addressed to a joint 
meeting of Socialist and Communist parties in Paris in August 
1933. In September, to reflect its new tasks, the ILO changed its 
name to the International Communist League. The CLA National 
Committee unanimously endorsed the new orientation, which was 
discussed in the individual branches and approved in early 
September. 215 Later that month, the Militant published the CLA's 
call for a new revolutionary working-class party in the United States. 

The turn toward building a new party, which occurred simul- 
taneously with an upturn in the American class struggle, opened 
new possibilities for growth and laid the basis for a resolution of 
the CLA's destructive factional polarization. The two League 
factions signed a "Peace Treaty" in July 1933, agreeing to dissolve 
themselves. But the documents we publish illustrate that internal 
tensions continued into fall 1933. Only due to Cannon's withdrawal 
of the plan to move the League headquarters to Chicago did 

74 CLA 1931-33 

the Trotskyists avoid the danger of a "cold split" advocated by 
Shachtman and Abern (who planned to stay in New York while 
the rest of the leadership moved to Chicago). Nonetheless, by early 
1934 BJ. Field was complaining of the "Cannon-Shachtman lead- 
ership"— the first linking of the two names inside the Trotskyist 
movement since 1929. 216 The PRL introduction to Shachtman's 
"Marxist Politics or Unprincipled Combinationism?" describes the 
realignments that occurred in the CLA in 1934, as Shachtman 
and a few of his supporters such as Lewit and Bleeker came over 
to political collaboration with the core of the Cannon faction. 

The united Trotskyists went on to lead the Minneapolis strikes 
and fuse with Muste's leftward-moving centrist organization to 
found the Workers Party of the United States (WPUS) in November- 
December 1934. The WPUS cadre entered the U.S. Socialist Party 
in 1936 and won substantial support, especially among the youth; 
when the Trotskyists were expelled in mid-1937, they had doubled 
their membership. The SWP, founded on New Year's Day 1938, in- 
cluded a core of experienced trade-unionists who looked to Cannon, 
and a real component of intellectuals such as James Burnham, who 
gravitated toward Shachtman. Burnham and Shachtman were 
co-editors of the SWP theoretical journal, New International. 

The SWP was tempered in the fight against Shachtman and 
Burnham's repudiation of the unconditional military defense of 
the USSR as World War II began. Due to its location in North 
America and the strength of its leadership, the SWP was the only 
Trotskyist organization internationally to emerge from the war 
relatively unscathed. Later, Cannon led the fight, partial and 
belated as it was, against the revisionist current of Michel Pablo 
that destroyed the Fourth International in 1951-53. 217 

Prescient and Equivocal 

In historical overview the CLA's factional polarization in 
1931-33 is both equivocal and prescient: equivocal, because a split 
in the absence of programmatic differentiation would likely have 
destroyed the basis for the development of the American 
Trotskyists, and prescient because in every aspect other than the 
decisive one— program— the lineup in 1931-33 presaged the key 
1939-40 struggle over the Russian question. In his draft reply to 
"Prospect and Retrospect" Cannon wrote of the petty-bourgeois 

Introduction 75 

methods of the Shachtman group in terms almost identical to those 

he would use in 1939-40: 

On our side one can trace the insistent effort to put in the 
foreground the most important and actual questions which require 
definite decisions at the moment, namely the international question 
and the question of the New York branch, which is organically con- 
nected with it. On the side of the Shachtman group there has been, 
as their controversial documents show, a constant attempt to shift 
the discussion away from these actual disputes to secondary, 
incidental, outlived, and personal questions which do not require a 
decision at the moment and concerning which they do not even 
demand a decision. ...The Bolshevik method— which puts all 
questions first of all politically— and the petty-bourgeois method— 
which construes every dispute primarily as a personal one— are 
mutually exclusive. They cannot live together. 218 

When the Shachtman-Burnham opposition broke from the 
Fourth International, they claimed the "real" issue was not the 
USSR, but Cannon's "bureaucratic conservatism," using terms very 
similar to those in "Prospect and Retrospect." 219 Like the early 
Shachtman faction, the 1939-40 petty-bourgeois opposition was 
an unprincipled personal combination. Though united in their 
desire to reject the Fourth International's program of uncondi- 
tional military defense of the USSR, Burnham, Shachtman, and 
Abern maintained different theoretical views on the class nature 
of the Soviet state. 

In both 1932 and 1939-40 Shachtman and his supporters were 
cavalier about the revolutionary party's relationship to the prole- 
tariat. Shachtman's opposition to Cannon's "opportunist" work 
around the Progressive Miners of America had a direct parallel 
in the "Auto Crisis," which preceded by a few months the 1939 
fight on the Russian question. While Cannon was in Europe in 
early 1939 Shachtman and Burnham tried to force the SWP's 
fraction in the United Auto Workers, the party's only major 
implantation in the CIO, to support the bureaucratic clique led 
by Homer Martin against a Stalinist-supported faction in the union 
leadership. Yet Martin wanted to take the UAW back to the craft- 
dominated AFL, while the Stalinists were solidly in the industrial 
union camp. The pro-Martin line pushed by Burnham and 
Shachtman would have discredited the Trotskyists in the UAW, and 
it was rightly resisted by the fraction. 220 Shachtman's actions in 
the Auto Crisis severely damaged his authority in the party. 

76 CLA 1931-33 

Flippancy toward the proletariat was coupled with fundamen- 
tal dilettantism in matters of organization. After Spector's major 
blowout with Cannon in late 1929. he returned to Toronto and 
began studying law. willfully withdrawing from the national lead- 
ership. He remained active in the Toronto branch, but he repeat- 
edly failed to send promised articles to the Militant and refused 
appeals by Shachtman and Trotsky that he return to New York to 
take up a more central role.- 2 ' Glotzer and Abern also withdrew 
after the May 1930 plenum. In a fit of pique Shachtman quit as 
Militant editor in early 1932 and refused, despite repeated entreat- 
ies, to take up the post again until after the June plenum. Such 
egoistic, personalis behavior is intolerable in a Bolshevik leader. 

Similarly, Glotzer decided to move back to Chicago just as he, 
Shachtman. and Abern were about to become a majority on the 
New York resident committee due to the failure of Cannon's 
co-optation proposal. Glotzer's departure was accepted without 
protest by his faction, showing the unseriousness of their claim 
that Cannon and Swabeck were a "conservative" danger to the 
League. Shachtman et al. did not want to take full organizational and 
political responsibility for the work of the League. Abern withdrew from 
organizational responsibility in the CLA in late 1933 through 1934 
as Shachtman began to work closelv with Cannon. 

The pettv-bourgeois opposition in 1939-40 was similarly dilet- 
tantish on organizational questions. A few months before the fight 
broke out. Shachtman tried to refuse the post of editor of the 
party's journal, saying that he needed for financial reasons to get 
a job outside the party. 222 Cannon fought repeatedly with Burnham 
to quit his job as a philosophy professor at New York University 
and become a full-time party worker: his refusal was the statement 
of a pettv bourgeois unwilling to come over all the wav to the pro- 
letariat. Burnham broke with his erstwhile factional allies and quit 
the Marxist movement just a few weeks after the Workers Party 
was founded in May 1940. He was not alone. Fully one-half of the 
approximately 800 Shachtman supporters did not join the Work- 
ers Partv and exited Marxist politics altogether, a telling comment 
on the pettv-bourgeois and demoralized basis of the opposition. 

In 194<) the pettv-bourgeois opposition won the overwhelm- 
ing majority of the SWP's vouth organization: in 1931-33 
Shachtman et al. had a strong base of support in the CLA youth. 
Abern was the head of the National Youth Committee set up by 

Introduction 77 

the CLA at its Second National Conference to oversee the youth 
clubs formed around the launching of Young Spartacus. In Minne- 
apolis the only Shachtman supporters were youth around Carl 
Cowl. The "Carter group," centered in the New York youth lead- 
ership, was nominally independent of both major factions but in 
practice blocked with Shachtman/Abern on every important issue. 
This was true despite Carter's initial opposition to establishing 
the youth clubs along Leninist lines— organizationally independent 
of the League, but politically subordinate. Carter wanted the clubs 
to include Lovestoneites and Socialists and not to expressly affili- 
ate with the CLA. 223 Shachtman and Abern, former leaders of the 
Communist Party's youth organization and familiar with Leninist 
youth-party relations, at least fought Carter on this issue. 

According to "Prospect and Retrospect," Cannon initially 
opposed establishing independent youth clubs. There is no record 
of this in the resident committee minutes. However, Cannon 
certainly came to disapprove of the youth clubs as organized. The 
young cadre who were closest to him— Gordon and Clarke— were 
sent into the field to act as itinerant party organizers on the model 
of the old Wobblies instead of organizing support for their faction 
in the youth clubs. Rightly condemning petty-bourgeois dabbling 
and hyper-intellectualism in the youth, the Cannon faction did not 
pay enough attention to training and winning youth cadre. Oehler 
took the more proletarian-oriented youth out of the Trotskyist 
movement on an ultraleft trajectory in 1935. Thus there was little 
counterposition to Shachtman-Abern-Burnham in the SWP's youth 
organization, the Young People's Socialist League-Fourth Inter- 
nationalist (YPSL-4th). The unemployed youth who formed the 
core of that organization were a protean mass without an inwardly 
defined class identity, keenly susceptible to petty-bourgeois social 

In both 1931-33 and 1940 the core of Shachtman's support 
was to be found in the New York local organization. But the 
political milieus from which the CLA recruited in this most cos- 
mopolitan of American cities were very different in the early part 
of the decade from those of the latter half. The core of the CLA's 
New York membership had been politically shaped by the over- 
lapping political milieus of the city's vibrant immigrant working 
class. The restrictive immigration quotas adopted by the U.S. 

78 CLA 1931-33 

Congress in 1924 strangled those milieus at their source. The 
Depression later cut into the city's light industrial base, the source 
of many union jobs. By 1939-40 the young recruits to YPSL-4th, 
many the sons and daughters of immigrant workers, had petty- 
bourgeois aspirations, if not origins. 

In later years Glotzer insisted that the CLA's Shachtman faction 
was defined not by its New York social base, but by the Jewish 
origins of many of its members. Thus he was quick to explain 
Cowl's support to the Shachtman side with the remark, "He was 
Jewish." 224 Glotzer's assertion of some kind of shared Jewish soli- 
darity on the part of the CLA's Shachtman faction is belied by its 
vicious campaign to railroad Cannon supporter Bernard 
Morgenstern out of the League simply because he agreed to be 
married by a rabbi! There were Jewish members on both sides of 
the CLAs factional divide. In fact Cowl appears to have been a 
consistent ultraleftist— his 1932 polemic against the "opportunism" 
of Cannon's Minneapolis supporters reveals the same political 
impulses that induced him to follow Oehler out of the Trotskyist 
movement a few years later. 225 

The main dividing line in 1939-40 was not ethnicity, but class. 
Thus Bleeker and Lewit were key factional operatives for 
Shachtman during the 1931-33 fight; when they toured the U.S. 
to set up Unser Kamf clubs in late 1932, their trip was also an 
organizing effort for their faction. 226 But the Jewish garment 
worker milieu in which Unser Kamf sought roots was a far cry from 
the petty-bourgeois circles that formed the Trotskyist youth later 
in the decade, as Trotsky himself noted in 1937: 

You have, for example, an important number of Jewish nonworker 
elements in your ranks. They can be a very valuable yeast if the party 
succeeds by and by in extracting them from a closed milieu and 
tving them to the factory workers by daily activity. I believe such an 
orientation would also assure a more healthy atmosphere inside the 
party. 227 

In 1939-40 Bleeker and Lewit were stalwarts of the SWP major- 
itv; Lewit became one of Cannon's central political collaborators 
for the next two decades. 

In a discussion with Swabeck ("The International Must Apply 
the Brakes," 27 February 1933), Trotsky noted that the different 
social composition of the Cannon and Shachtman groups was not 
a barrier to the building of a revolutionary party: 

Introduction 79 

The mere fact that both factions have a different social composi- 
tion and different traditions is not enough to necessitate a split, since 
every party arises from various groups, elements, etc., is not socially 
homogeneous, and is a melting pot. But there must be active work. 
In the League the current situation coincides with the beginning of 
more energetic external work. Whether the League will become a 
melting pot through this work— that is the question that counts. 

But the American Trotskyist organization never really became 
a melting pot. The CLA's factional polarization left a fault line, 
centered on the Abern clique, which ruptured again in 1939-40. 
At that time Shachtman gave programmatic expression to the politi- 
cal impulses that had earlier led him to sympathize with petty- 
bourgeois adventurers such as Landau and Naville, and with those 
who sought unity with the Right Opposition, such as Nin. Under 
the pressure of the anti-Communist hysteria provoked by the Hitler- 
Stalin pact, Shachtman chose to follow the impressionistic pedant 
James Burnham— the co-editor of New International and his closest 
collaborator in the preceding period— instead of the proletarian 
revolutionary James Cannon. This was not the inevitable denoue- 
ment of the 1931-33 fight, but the result of subsequent political 
developments within the American Trotskyist organization and in 
the world at large. 

In 1939 Shachtman took the majority of the petty-bourgeois 
elements of the party, his historic base, but Cannon took the pro- 
letarian majority. Not only were the programmatic issues clear, 
but the Socialist Workers Party was more deeply rooted in the 
working class than the CLA had been. As Cannon noted: 

It was the "turn to mass work," started in 1933, which in the end 
sealed the doom of the petty-bourgeois opposition in 1940. The new 
people recruited and the cadres selected in the process of develop- 
ing the mass work of the party shifted the weight steadily against 
the "internal" specialists of whom Abern was the archetype. By 1939- 
40 we had a different and better composition of the party member- 
ship to appeal to. This was decisive. 228 

Cannon brilliantly exposed the personalist, petty-bourgeois 
character of Shachtman-Abern-Glotzer's political approach in 
Struggle for a Proletarian Party. He subsequently wrote: 

Note Trotsky's analysis of Shachtman's tendency, not by a single 
incident but by a long series over a long period of years. Lineups 
are a certain indication. Shachtman lined up with Naville, Landau, 
Nin, etc., in the most critical situations in the formative period of 

80 CLA 1931-33 

the Left Opposition. He was never convinced but yielded to the joint 
pressure of LD [Trotsky] and our own party majority. 

His first manifestation of political independence took the form 
of opposition to us, and every independent step thereafter. His posi- 
tion was a simulacrum of Bolshevism when he worked under the 
influence of others. His own instinctive tendencv is always oppor- 
tunist. For example, he never could fully understand why we would 
hear nothing of unity, or even a united front, with the Lovestoneites. 
His unification with us (1933) after four vears of falsely motivated 
factional struggle was made unwillingly, under compulsion: the 
disintegration of his faction and the pressure of LD. 229 

The history of international working-class struggle in the 20th 
century proves that, as Lenin insisted, revolutionary socialist con- 
sciousness must be brought to the working class from the outside 
by a steeled vanguard. Internal programmatic struggle within the 
vanguard party is key to overcoming the inevitable pressures of 
the more privileged layers of the working class and the petty bour- 
geoisie on the vanguard and its revolutionary program. Through 
the fight in the CLA in 1931-33 Cannon completed his assimila- 
tion of these basic tenets of Bolshevism. He became a master at 
applying them to the American terrain, and proved to be the best 
Leninist the United States has yet produced. 

The lessons for new generations of revolutionaries are pro- 
found. While the revolutionary character of a proletarian organi- 
zation is defined by its program, which represents nothing other 
than the historic interests of the international working class, there 
is an interplay between a party's program and its social composi- 
tion. Marx insisted that "being determines consciousness," and this 
applies as much to aspiring revolutionaries as to other sectors of 
society. A Marxist vanguard without deep roots in the working 
class not only lacks the means to implement its program, but is 
necessarily more susceptible to the social pressures of alien classes. 

— Prometheus Research Library 
March 2002 


Shachtman in the International 


The April Conference: 
A Disappointment in All Respects 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 230 
16 April 1930 

This criticism of the April 1930 Paris conference of the International 
Left Opposition is a response to an April 3 letter by Shachtman report- 
ing on the founding conference of the German Left Opposition, which 
Shachtman attended before going to Paris. 231 The Italian group referred 
to is Prometeo, supporters of the ultraleftist Amadeo Bordiga. The Belgian 
representatives at the April conference were split between supporters 
of the Charleroi federation and the Brussels organization around 
Eduard Van Overstraeten. 

My belated thanks for your detailed report on the Berlin 
events. At any rate the picture you paint was not very rosy. Now 
I am told, with reference to Seipold, that the situation has taken 
a turn for the better. I have expressed to our friends in Berlin 
quite frankly my suspicion that there may be some agents of 
the official Party bureaucracy in their midst, who are pursuing 
their unholy work as splitters. Moreover, I believe that this mode 
of operation would be wholly in the spirit of Stalinist bureau- 
cratic practices and that one must be on the alert for it every- 
where, including in America. 

Now on the international conference: It is a big disappoint- 
ment for me in all respects. To convene a mute international 
conference was really not advisable. If our opponents are even 
halfway clever— and in this direction they are quite inventive— 
they will immediately and openly conclude: The assembled 
representatives of the Opposition were so disunited, or so 
unclear, or both together, that they did not even dare express 
any political thought at all. Because nobody, no politically think- 
ing person, will be able to believe that people come to Paris 
from New York, Berlin, Prague, Spain, etc., in order to say noth- 
ing. Travel expenses for silence are really superfluous expenses 
in politics. It would take only four to five postcards, nothing 

84 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

more, to create a secretariat. Of course, one can say that the 
majority of delegates were in Paris anyway. But the reader of 
the official communiques does not know this, and it changes 
absolutely nothing in substance. 

So why was no short declaration of principles (manifesto) 
published? Why? Such a document would be of the utmost 
political significance. You could show it to every thinking worker 
in every country and on that basis do propaganda work for the 
international Opposition. It must always be kept in mind that 
most of the national groups are rather weak, without tradition, 
without authority among the workers, which initially presents 
great obstacles and difficulties. Reference is made to the Russian 
Opposition, which to the worker appears rather abstract. This 
reference is often given a personal edge, which is politically in 
every respect uncomfortable and impermissible in principle. A 
worker who generally sympathizes with the Opposition, but who 
does not yet place sufficient trust in the national group, would 
breathe a sigh of relief if one were to lay before him a concise, 
clear, principled document. And we have robbed ourselves of 
this weapon for an unforeseeable period of time. What are the 
reasons? Comrade Naville, in a hastily written letter, names but 
one: the failure of the Italians and the half-failure of the 
Belgians. But I can by no means accept this argument. We con- 
vened a conference in order to give expression to the ideas of 
those groups that are clear about the issues, not those who 
persist in their confusion. In any event, the Italians were not 
officially represented, and the Belgians were split. Thus the 
manifesto could have been adopted unanimously or against 
the vote of one Belgian. One could object that we did not 
want to repel the representatives from Brussels. That I would 
understand even less, for they are in a struggle against the 
comrades from Charleroi, to whom we are committed to give 
our complete support. I also consider the wait-and-see "for- 
bearance" toward the Italians to be completely false. If we 
had posed the alternatives to the Italians through articles and 
open questioning, we would presently be much further along 
with them than we unfortunately are. 

It must be admitted that we already lost too much time be- 
fore the conference. The secretariat should have been consti- 
tuted at least half a year ago. Urbahns would never have been 

The April Conference 85 

able to come off as relatively well as he did in his organization 
if, in the last half year, he had been under a certain amount of 
control by the international Opposition, and if the members 
of the Leninbund had understood that it really is a matter of a 
break with the entire international Opposition. Because of this 
utterly inexplicable delay we helped Urbahns against us, just as 
we are now helping the muddleheads among the Belgians, Ital- 
ians, and elsewhere through our mute conference (thus will it 
go down in history). 

I insist on this because I sense tendencies in this important 
question that are not in agreement with the active, revolution- 
ary internationalism of the Opposition, and if they are not 
clarified and eliminated in a timely fashion, they can become 

In a formal sense as well, the affair is not quite in order, if 
I am not mistaken, and here, my dear Shachtman, I indict you 
directly. Through your friendly mediation I addressed propos- 
als to the conference. But the conference never learned of them. 
Who then decided behind the back of the conference that an 
important proposal, addressed to the conference, should not 
even be brought before it? It seems to me that this is not quite 
"democratic" toward the conference itself. What is really 
undemocratic— without quotation marks— is that 99 percent, if 
not more, of the membership of the international Opposition, 
if asked, would doubtlessly be for the adoption of a mani- 
festo of this sort. Moreover, a referendum on this question 
would not be so difficult at all, for we are unfortunately not 
yet very numerous. Thus it seems to me that the entire 
procedure is politically utterly wrong and organizationally a 
bit arbitrary. 

What you tell me, on comrade Pfemfert's authority, about 
the alleged suggestions regarding the publication of the biog- 
raphy in Yiddish is a misunderstanding. We are dealing with a 
sum that is ten times more modest than what you cite in your 
letters. I am very sorry that the Militant's profit will be much 
smaller than you imagined because of this misunderstanding. 232 

I gratefully acknowledge receiving comrade Martin Abern's 
letter with his important communications. 2 " 

I received a very kind letter from Harry Winitsky and am 
sending him the enclosed reply, with your help. 231 Unfortunately 

86 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

I must also write this in German. If your consul thinks the reply 
is unadvisable, do not deliver it, but communicate the practi- 
cal contents verbally. 

4> + 4> 

Where Is the International Secretariat? 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 235 
18 August 1930 

Trotsky's complaint about the functioning of the I.S. is a response to a 
June 30 letter by Shachtman that chided Trotsky for issuing his own 
circular letter to the ILO sections.™ Trotsky addresses the crisis in the 
French section, which within a few months was to lead to Alfred Rosmer's 
withdrawal from the Opposition. The new Italian group he refers to is 
the New Italian Opposition, which broke from the Italian Communist 
Party in solidarity with the ILO in early 1930. 

1. It is of course very regrettable that the Militant has had to 
revert to a biweekly. In any case this is not catastrophic. I am a 
bit worried, however, about a purely technical symptom that 
sometimes also has political significance. The proofreading of 
the most recent issue is miserable. This may be completely 
accidental, of course, but sometimes this is a sign of demoral- 
ization in the editorial board, and sometimes a crisis in the 
organization begins with neglect of detail work. I am sure that 
this is not the case in the "League." 

2. I regret that nothing came of all our financial plans. The 
Yiddish edition of my autobiography was completely botched 
by Rieder. As I see, you have also not been able to place chap- 
ters of the new book in the non-English press. Scribner's writes 
me that the crisis has sharply impaired sales of the autobiogra- 
phy to date. To date he has sold only 4,000 copies. 

3. On the French Opposition: The communications on the cri- 
sis that have reached you seem to be very exaggerated. Rosmer 
has not resigned. He is now on vacation and will return to his 
post again in a couple of weeks. At any rate, the dispute, as 

Where Is the International Secretariat? 87 

always, has left a bitter aftertaste, but I believe that in time its 
positive consequences will outweigh the negative ones. Some 
questions have been clarified by the crisis; some positions have 
been made more precise. The work of the "Ligue" has not been 
obstructed; it continues, and with success. We expect comrade 
Molinier here shortly; Naville is coming later. I will then be 
able to give you more concrete information about personal 
matters. However, I believe that the crisis has basically been 
overcome, politically as well as personally. 

4. The international work is in much worse shape. All of my 
efforts to find out what was actually decided at the April confer- 
ence have yielded no satisfactory results, because, as I understand 
it, no formal decisions were made at this conference and no min- 
utes were taken. (Comrade Frankel corrects me in this respect 
by noting that detailed minutes and written resolutions must 
exist.) At any rate I have not received them to date. The April 
conference was more or less a misunderstanding. The work was 
summarily pushed off onto the French Ligue without detailing 
a division of labor, for, the political manifesto aside, at least 
organizational-technical matters should be thoroughly carried 
out. I insist on this because I very much fear that on the national 
level there is a great deal of similar sloppiness that damages the 
cause enormously. Bureaucratism also has its good side: preci- 
sion, punctuality, precise resolutions, etc. The Opposition should 
begin to acquire this side of "bureaucratism." 

5. You write that actually the International Secretariat should 
decide the question of my circular letter. You maintain, not 
incorrectly, that the secretariat was in fact created for such a 
purpose. Yes, it should be that way. But, as I have said, despite 
at least a dozen letters I have not even been able to learn what 
the actual decisions were. There were certain shadings of opin- 
ion with regard to a number of international questions. These 
shadings are absolutely unavoidable, and to a certain extent they 
constitute a driving force. However, there must be an organi- 
zation that passes over from discussion of shadings to decision 
and to action. I had hoped to find the road to this in Paris— 
with your collaboration, dear Shachtman. But because this was 
not the case, there was no other way than to turn to the Oppo- 
sition directly and, through its public opinion, create a clear 

88 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

situation. At any rate, by means of the circular letter I achieved 
what I had been unable to achieve by means of innumerable 
personal letters. An independent editorial board of the Inter- 
national Bulletin has now been created, and I am expecting the 
first issue any day. 

6. You write that my circular will be communicated to the mem- 
bers of the leadership. Of course you know better how to 
proceed in America. But in principle I believe that we should 
proceed as democratically as possible. What we have in the 
ranks of the Opposition are cadres; they must be trained, fully 
capable of acting on their own. This will not happen by their 
believing in a powerful International Secretariat but by their 
participation in all questions and actions, which will gradually 
lead to the creation of a capable center. 

7. On the Bordigists: In the last issue of Lutte des classes you 
will find the most important documents that illuminate the situ- 
ation of the two groups of the Italian Opposition. Relations 
with the Paris Bordigists are somewhat tense. The situation 
would be better if in this question as well one had not acted 
somewhat undemocratically— that is, if the negotiations at the 
top had long ago been supplemented by educating all the 
French and Italian Oppositionists. Nothing forces leaders to 
precisely define their ideas and actions so much as being under 
observation and thus controlled by the public opinion of those 
being led. This rule is not only applicable to the Stalinists but 
to us as well. This should never be forgotten. 

The new Italian group is very active and possesses, it seems, 
capable and trained forces. We plan to have both groups repre- 
sented in the International Secretariat by one comrade; in the 
worst case, by two. If the Parisian Bordigists were less sectarian, 
they would have to hail the new Opposition as their political 
success. Unfortunately, they attribute much significance to main- 
taining their position as an oppositional aristocracy at any price. 

At any rate, I do not believe that you have to change your 
attitude toward the New York Bordigists in any way. In my opin- 
ion, however, you must open wide the discussion of the disputed 
issues in the organization, including in front of the Bordigists, 
on the basis of the material in the last issue of Lutte des classes. 

8. On the united front of the three Communist organizations. 237 

Shachtman Part of International Bureau 89 

Of course, it is out of the question for us to make any kind of 
bloc with the Right in which the Party does not participate. The 
most important thing in Gitlow's letter is the recognition that 
his organization differs from the Party tactically, but from us 
programmatically. In other words, despite all the claims of the 
Stalinists, the Right recognizes that they are much closer to the 
centrists than to us. This must be utilized politically. Winitsky 
sent me the major resolution on "Trotskyism" from the national 
conference of the Right. It is nine pages long; I have only 
skimmed it. I will comment on this in an article in the near 
future. The fact that you have forced these people to make their 
standpoint precise is in itself a great gain for us. 

9. I am turning the matters of the Russian Bulletin over to Lyova 
since that is his department. He will be writing you about it. 

10. Received the line intact. Maestro Charalambos tried it out and 
found it to be excellent. I hope that American technology will live 
up to its reputation in the coming season. 238 

^ + O 

Shachtman to Be Part of 
International Bureau 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 239 
17 November 1930 

In addition to reporting on the decision to co-opt Shachtman to the In- 
ternational Bureau, Trotsky here congratulates the CLA on the produc- 
tion of a pamphlet containing his article "The Turn in the Communist 
International and the Situation in Germany. " He refers to the situation 
in Austria, where both the Arbeiterstimme group, led by Joseph Frey, 
and the Mahnruf Group, founded by German Opposition leader Kurt 
Landau, claimed membership in the ILO while refusing to unite. 

The little pamphlet caused a big sensation here. A nice press 
run and, even more important, a very good translation as far 
as I can judge. The French translation in La Verite is full of 
mistakes, the German inadequate, the American very good. You 

90 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

now have a translator in the person of comrade Morris Lewit. 
I congratulate you on this acquisition. I found only a single 
misunderstanding on the last page, where in the sentence: "It 
especially overlooked the economic crisis" it should read "pros- 
perity" Please send the pamphlet to Ivor Montagu, 80 Wardour 
St., London Wl. 

A few words about the situation in Austria. I do not know 
whether you receive the two competing journals. Their polem- 
ics are apt to make the international Opposition ridiculous and 
contemptible in the eyes of the workers. Meanwhile, a year and 
a half of protracted effort to bring the comrades to their senses 
has passed, without success. I had the impression the entire time 
that Mahnruf leads an artificial existence but hoped to bring 
about a unification with comrade Landau's help. Comrade 
Frankel is writing you at the same time about the facts based 
on a comprehensive inquiry by two comrades who had traveled 
to Austria from here. 240 Comrade Landau took an absolutely 
wrong position on this issue. Enclosed you will find his letter, 
my reply, and my proposal to the International Bureau. All this 
material will be sent to you as a member of the International 
Bureau. Because of a technical oversight, the matter has not been 
settled, but de facto it is settled. While Naville was here we 
(M. Mill, Molinier, Markin, Frankel, and I) proposed to make 
you part of the International Bureau as representative of the 
American League, on the assumption that the League appointed 
you to handle international relations. Your participation— at least 
until you have three to four Lindberghs [transatlantic flyers]— 
was conceived as follows: a. You will receive all material intended 
for the members of the International Bureau; b. You of course 
will participate in all votes; c. In issues more or less urgent for 
Europe they will not wait for your vote. In American matters, 
of course, everything will be determined only with your partici- 
pation. Comrade Frankel is now proceeding to arrange this 
matter formally. 

I receive everything from the Mexican comrades in New York 
and am very pleased with their energy and abilities. 241 A small 
and even an old mimeograph can accomplish wonderful things 
if you are on the right track and pursue matters energetically, 
which seems to be the case here in particular. I would write to 

Shachtman Part of International Bureau 91 

the comrades immediately but am not sure whether they are 
fluent in foreign languages besides English and Spanish. 

I received a letter from comrade Malkin, sent to the address 
of the Russian Bulletin from the Great Meadows Prison. Do 
you know this comrade? If so, please convey to him my warm- 
est greetings. 242 

I am sending you a letter from Australia that I have had a 
long time. I have not been able to decide whether to answer 
the correspondent, because I am not sure whether it isn't a trap. 
Perhaps you or Eastman can find a way to feel out the man. 
Of course it would be good to have someone in Australia. Per- 
haps you could use him for the Militant or other things. If the 
man is okay, send the letter back to me and I will answer it. I 
would also be willing to send him a copy of my autobiography 
in English. 

My letter to Lore written when you were here was returned 
"addressee unknown." Subsequently I sent the letter for you 
to forward but never heard anything more. What is the state of 
it? Did you deliver the letter? I also do not know whether com- 
rade Spector in Canada received the letter that I wrote jointly 
with you. 

The people from the Weekly People wrote me a rather friendly 
letter a few months ago and have been sending me their paper 
since then. 243 In any case I have not replied, which of course is 
not very polite. But I do not want to take any formal step that 
could cause the slightest harm to the Militant. What should I write 
them? I await your advice. 

+ 4- 4- 


Crisis in the French Ligue 

Letter bv Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 244 
25 November 1930 

The latent crisis in the French Ligue has again suddenly become 
acute, and now the point is for everyone to take a position. You 
know that Naville and Mill spent quite a while with us, that we 
discussed all the disputed issues in more than enough detail, 
and then thoroughly determined the necessary measures. 
N. was quite sure that he would have difficulties with some 
comrades, particularly comrade Rosmer. but he was completely 
prepared to overcome the difficulties together with the others. 
In his parting words, quite spontaneously he said he would 
conduct an open, undiplomatic correspondence. Since his 
departure he has not written me one line. The second issue of 
the International Bulletin, which we jointly put together here and 
which should have appeared in Paris only a few days later, has 
not been published to this day. The provisional Administrative 
Secretariat that we established together does not function 
because it is boycotted bv Naville. Despite all of comrade 
Molinier's attempts to ensure collaborative work, nothing hap- 
pens, thanks to Naville's continual resistance. 

Now, this situation is not merely, or— if you will— not in the 
final analysis, caused by Naville's bad faith, but by new compli- 
cations that outweigh all else. You know from your own experi- 
ence how organizational matters are handled in Paris. You, my 
dear friend, also contributed something to this sloppy function- 
ing and then rebuked me later, after the April conference, for 
not haying published my circular through the International Bul- 
letin and the secretariat, at a time when, despite all efforts, it 
was impossible in Paris to initiate any international work. But 
that only parenthetically. In French affairs the work was just as 
confused and perhaps even more sloppily organized, particu- 
larly in the most important arena: trade-union work. The entire 
responsibility for propagating Communist ideas inside the trade 

Crisis in the French Ligue 93 

unions has fallen to comrade Gourget personally: no directives, 
no control, no regular reporting. In letters to Rosmer, Naville, 
and Gourget himself I repeatedly expressed my astonishment 
at this method of work and urgently advocated collective work 
in this important area, but to no avail. The reason for my con- 
cern was also the way comrade Gourget approaches things and 
people. He prefers a diplomatic-personal method over prin- 
cipled, propagandistic, and, if required, polemical education. I 
am not at all against the art of individual diplomacy, but it can- 
not replace programmatic work. For this reason, I considered 
comrade Gourget to be invaluable as a member of a trade-union 
commission, which, of course, should be completely subordi- 
nated to the leadership of the Ligue. But since Naville, Rosmer, 
and the others soft-pedaled considerably for the sake of the sub- 
stanceless internal struggle, they found no opportunity to place 
matters on a normal track. When Naville was here I under- 
scored this sticky point most energetically and predicted that 
Gourget's personal character, coupled with his complete inde- 
pendence from the Ligue in this most important arena, could 
have very nasty consequences. Unfortunately, this has proved 
to be the case much sooner than I imagined. 

The conference of the "Opposition Unitaire" was to have 
been held in Paris on November 20. Gourget undertook to work 
out theses together with a semi-Communist who stands out- 
side the Ligue. What he produced is a political/ trade-union 
platform cobbled together from syndicalist, Communist, and 
reformist fragments. One sees clearly where the good Gourget, 
out of consideration for his partner and diplomatic politeness, 
has thrown overboard one Communist principle after the other, 
while, for the same reasons, incorporating into the document 
one prejudice after another. I will ask comrade Frankel to write 
out at least the most important parts (the document is enor- 
mous) and enclose them with this letter. I have written a short 
critique, unfortunately in Russian. But I am enclosing it; perhaps 
you now have someone who can translate it into English for 
you. If the document had been produced by non-Communist 
trade unionists halfway friendly to the Ligue, a friendly, prin- 
cipled criticism of the mess would be in order. I would gladly 
do this for La Verite, with a tone of complete friendliness toward 
the confused authors. But it is absolutely out of the question 

94 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

that a Communist, a member of the Ligue, should sign his name 
to it, that Communists organized in the trade unions should 
vote for it, let alone that we, as the International Opposition, 
should take responsibility for it. 

These theses, as I have said, were produced completely 
behind the back of the leadership. Comrade Gourget made his 
document available only upon comrade Molinier's plea and then 
reluctantly. Both Naville and Gerard, not to mention Molinier, 
Frank, and others, had to recognize immediately that the plat- 
form is unacceptable. That immediately induced comrade 
Gourget to submit his resignation, with the written explanation 
that the Ligue wanted to subordinate the trade-union opposi- 
tion to itself— that is, the same accusation that the syndicalists 
are wont to raise against the Communists, albeit with the dif- 
ference that here it is not at all a question of the "subordina- 
tion" of the trade-union opposition, at least temporarily, but 
rather of the Ligue's control over a member who has been 
entrusted with its trade-union work. 

Since then Naville's attitude has been so wavering and 
ambiguous that he, as I mentioned, does not dare write me a 
few lines, although I, always expecting his letter, was engaged 
in friendly correspondence with his wife during this time. Instead 
of condemning comrade Gourget's absolutely impermissible 
method of functioning, he initiated a guerrilla war against 
Molinier and Mill and is sabotaging the work of the Interna- 
tional Secretariat. No one knows what conclusions Naville will 
draw from the situation, because unfortunately he is not accus- 
tomed to being guided by principled and organizational motives, 
instead of personal and sentimental ones. 

It goes without saying that comrade Rosmer's attitude plays 
the greatest role here. It is difficult for me to touch on this 
delicate point, but the issue stands above the individual, even 
if one is dealing with an old friend. With one brief exception, 
comrade Rosmer never belonged to a large political organiza- 
tion. Like Monatte, he was active in the framework of an inti- 
mate anarcho-syndicalist group that never took on strict forms 
of organization and always remained a loose federation of 
individual characters. I often admired the meetings of this or- 
ganization, Quaijemmapes 96 (the old headquarters oi La Vie 
Ouvriere): no agenda, no minutes, an informal exchange of 

Crisis in the French Ligue 95 

opinion, no resolutions; they dispersed, and they all did as they 
pleased, or they did nothing. And so it went from week to week, 
for years. The way the April conference was organized (to be 
sure, with your collaboration, my dear friend), represents the 
transmittal of the same habits and methods into the Left 
Opposition. That also explains why Rosmer found it quite nor- 
mal that Gourget, on his own responsibility, without an account- 
ing to anyone, ran nothing more and nothing less than all the 
trade-union work. You also know that after his expulsion from 
the Party, Rosmer stood completely outside the movement for 
years. Now, one must take into consideration that he is a sick 
man who can maintain his physical equilibrium only by lead- 
ing a very quiet life. He is happy working in a group of good 
friends but cannot bear internal conflicts at all, reacting in such 
cases by leaving the field to the combatants. 

After the April conference the International Secretariat 
under Rosmer's leadership could not begin its work, because 
Overstraeten had objections, because Naville had some doubts, 
and because Rosmer had absolutely no desire to struggle against 
the false objections and the no less false doubts. The same story 
was later repeated with the Bordigists, to whom I addressed an 
open letter that Rosmer refused to publish in La Verite, know- 
ing that this would cause no friction with me but would avoid 
new complications with the Bordigists. 245 I hope you will under- 
stand that I am not complaining to you about Rosmer. I merely 
want to acquaint you with those character traits of his that 
explain his attitude in the current crisis. 

If I had freedom of movement I would go to Paris immedi- 
ately to have a talk with my old friend. Unfortunately this is 
denied me. Thus I have urgently asked comrade Rosmer to come 
to Prinkipo again in order to seek a clarification of the situa- 
tion together. No matter how this personal aspect will develop, 
the general situation in the Ligue— that is, the character of the 
crisis— is completely clear. The Ligue is on the road to trans- 
forming itself from a small propagandistic group with a famil- 
ial character into a public organization in which habits are less 
intimate, relations and obligations have a more formal charac- 
ter, and conflicts are sometimes brutal. Politically, this means 
great progress, which is also very clearly expressed by the 
development of La Verite. Now comrade Rosmer seems to find 

96 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

the unavoidable negative aspects of this progress unbearable, 
and this explains the personal case of Rosmer. 

As far as Naville is concerned, one should not forget that, 
with all his good and promising traits, he belonged to Revolution 
surrealiste as late as 1927, later worked on Clarte, and still stood 
between the right and left wing until the autumn of 1929 in 
close connection with Souvarine. These are not rebukes. Naville 
is quite young, comes from a bourgeois milieu, and makes his 
way not without inhibitions and disruptions. Marxist theoreti- 
cal education does not substitute for revolutionary training in 
the proletarian milieu, and that is precisely what Naville and 
the Lutte des classes group both lack. He accepts the correct 
standpoint in principle; but then in dealing with a practical 
question, quite different factors— individualistic, even national 
ones— come to the fore and make the choice difficult for him, 
sometimes even forcing him onto the wrong track. These non- 
proletarian traits that he has not overcome are so strongly 
pronounced that one can almost always predict what kind of 
error he will make in this or that question. I repeat again that 
his errors become all the more unavoidable the less they are 
theoretical— that is, purely theoretical— and the more they 
embrace practical and personal questions. So is it now, as he 
has begun to waver because of Gourget's impermissible attitude 
and tries to exert pressure not on Gourget but on those who 
are entirely correct. In doing so he naturally enlarges the scope 
of the crisis, because one can overcome the wavering of others 
only if one does not waver oneself. 

Today I wrote Naville a letter, a copy of which is enclosed. 246 
At the same time I wrote comrade Mill, who is the liaison 
to the Russian Opposition in Paris, that the secretariat's work, 
in my opinion, must not be interrupted for a single day; he 
should go to comrade Souzo and together they should ener- 
getically demand of comrade Naville that he not neglect his 
obligations to the international Opposition despite the crisis 
in the French Ligue. 

These are all unpleasant side effects. It would be better if 
they did not exist. But to fall into despair over them or even 
into a pessimistic mood would be utter folly. For despite every- 
thing we have come a long way in the course of this year, and 
these crises no longer grow out of the old, unfortunate stagna- 

Crisis in the French Ligue 97 

tion of the foreign Opposition groups but rather out of their 
development, transformation, and growth. 

This letter is meant for you personally, not because I have 
something to hide here but because comrades who are not 
acquainted with the personal aspects might not interpret this 
letter in the spirit in which it has been written. 

If you want to know my opinion about your attitude, I will 
give you the following advice: Do not support comrade Naville's 
wavering or even go easy on him, but prove to him most 
emphatically that beginning with the key trade-union question 
he must orient himself according to principle and not accord- 
ing to personal motives. If this side is secured, together we 
will do everything to avoid losing even our dear Gourget, 
because he is a very good comrade, very smart, and some of 
his traits that prove to be weaknesses in an inadequate organi- 
zation could serve the international Opposition excellently if 
put to proper use. 

PS: In my letter to Naville you will find an allusion to comrade 
Landau's preparations for the German conference. I do not know 
whether you are informed about this. The conference was sup- 
posed to take place five days after the elections— that is, at a point 
when nothing had yet been clarified. The date was announced 
suddenly, so that I personally had to make do with a short letter, 
which was published in Kommunist. At the last minute the confer- 
ence was postponed for a few weeks, ostensibly to give the delegates 
the possibility of taking a position on the elections. That gave me 
time to write the little pamphlet you published so excellently. I 
also wrote letters to Landau and Well, asking them to send the 
international comrades, including me, the draft resolutions. I 
insisted that my pamphlet be sent to the local organizations in 
manuscript form as a basis for discussion, which should be an 
obvious thing to do. None of this was done. No resolutions were 
prepared for the conference. My pamphlet was published almost 
at the same time as the American edition. The conference con- 
cerned itself exclusively with personal garbage— that is, it was an 
expanded repeat of the conference you yourself attended. The se- 
lection of delegates and the entire way the conference was handled 
had only one goal: to determine and affirm that not Neumann and 
Grylewicz, but Landau, was right, without, to be sure, indicating 
to which great and important questions this right and wrong 

98 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

refers. 247 Before the conference I asked comrade Landau about 
the preparations and received from him the best assurances that 
he was proceeding together with Roman Well and would seek to 
shape the conference into a real, political-revolutionary represen- 
tative assembly. The delegates, robbed of every political idea, could 
do nothing other than concede that the leadership was right and, 
as comrade Seipold admits, go home in an utterly depressed mood 
without having adopted the slightest political resolution. Comrade 
Landau regards this as his victory, and I fear that he tempted 
Naville into trying to achieve such a victory in France. Landau's 
weaknesses— inarguably he also has his strong sides— are analogous 
to comrade Naville's, and their alliance therefore rests on a not 
quite healthy basis. So now you have been informed by me; for 
now I have nothing more to add. 

^ ^ ^ 

We Must Endeavor to Collaborate 
With Naville and Rosmer 

Letter by Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky 248 
17 December 1930 

This is excerpted from a letter about developments in the CLA. 

1. It appears to me, from an examination of the situation in 
various countries, that the Opposition is passing through a criti- 
cal stage in its development. This is to a certain extent the 
aftermath of the previous situation in which— so far as the 
non-Russian Opposition was concerned— it was represented by 
such groups as Paz and Urbahns, which did us more harm than 
good. Their mode of work— the one dilettante and the other 
opportunist-sectarian— has left its mark on the Opposition to this 
day. The efforts of the past year to issue out of the stagnation 
caused by this state of affairs naturally had to assume abrupt 
and sometimes harsh forms, as in the break with Urbahns, Paz, 
and now with Overstraeten. This was unavoidable and in part 
advantageous to our cause. It made it impossible for the Stalinist 

We Must Collaborate With Naville and Rosmer 99 

liars to use the expressed standpoint of the German Opposition 
against that of the Russian, or that of the French against that of 
the American, etc. In a word, it laid the basis for establishing a 
uniform international platform and centralized organizations of 
the Opposition. This work is evidently still proceeding in such 
countries as Austria, China, and elsewhere. 

Because of the whole past of the Opposition, its origin, the 
traditions (good and bad) of its proponents outside of Russia, the 
difficulties are still with us to a large extent. To these factors, I 
believe, should be added the fact that in reacting to the exagger- 
ated internationalism and mechanical centralization of Stalin- 
Zinoviev, a tendency, largely unconscious, has grown up in the 
Opposition to ignore the burning needs of centralization, disci- 
pline, and the Communist functioning of comrades. 

This, together with the reasons you mention, explains the state 
of affairs among the French comrades. It is obviously an abso- 
lutely impossible situation when one of our leading comrades 
draws up a political declaration not only in collaboration with a 
non-Communist but without the knowledge or sanction of the 
executive committee. And particularly when the declaration— at 
least those parts I have read— is so faulty, untenable, and impos- 
sible for us to take responsibility for. In the Party— in its best days- 
such an action would have met with immediate repudiation and, 
if serious enough, with strenuous disciplinary measures. I cannot 
understand how Naville or any of the other leading comrades can 
defend such a step, even if the defense consists of centering 
the attack upon those comrades who first proposed measures 
against Gourget. 

What must be taken into consideration in this regard are 
certain personal relationships in the leading group of the 
French Ligue that I remarked during my stay in Paris. For some 
mysterious reason, there is evidently a very poor regard for each 
other held mutually by comrades Naville and Molinier. Of the 
two, of course, I believe Naville to be by far the more capable, 
despite those shortcomings which you mention. It is all the more 
distressing, therefore, to have to think of a situation in which 
Naville and, even more, Rosmer should be in a sort of semi- 
retirement. Without attaching an exaggerated significance to 
leaders, it must nevertheless be acknowledged that they 
play a highly important role. Rosmer and Naville, despite the 

100 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

peculiar and bad traditions of their respective milieus, are 
extremely valuable for the movement. Leaders are not made or 
born or developed overnight, except in the Stalinist factories. 
A lack of capable leaders is a sure sign of the weakness of a 
movement. (Our German group is a case in point: Landau and 
very little more!) And for this reason, while I cannot for a 
moment condone the attitude the comrades have taken toward 
the principled question of the Communist standpoint in the 
trade-union question and the elementary requirements of 
organizational discipline, I believe the greatest efforts should 
be made to facilitate a collaboration in which the abilities of 
both Rosmer and Naville can be utilized to the utmost. These 
are, in a sense, abstract considerations which may not fit accu- 
rately into the realities of the situation in France, nor are they 
to be understood as negating the analysis you give of the weak- 
nesses of "French organization" or of Naville and Rosmer. But 
such weaknesses cannot be overcome in 24 hours. Meanwhile I 
shall write to Naville on my own responsibility. 

2. I am glad to learn that the Austrian situation is in the pro- 
cess of liquidation. Here, as in China for instance, I have favored 
drastic measures in which a unification is either compelled or 
else one group chosen as a basis for the establishment of an 
Austrian section of the Opposition. Our cause has been suffi- 
ciently compromised by the eternal, baseless polemics there to 
make such an action imperative. I have for a long time had the 
impression about the two groups there which is verified in the 
report of comrades Molinier and Mill. 249 The Mahnruf Group 
appears to live largely by attacks upon the Arbeiterstimme and 
Frey, and has been, in the past, falsely supported by Landau in 
Der Kommunist and other non-Austrian Opposition papers. By 
this I do not mean that Frey has always acted correctly. All the 
polemics in that country were characteristic of "osterreichisierte 
Politik" [Austrianized politics]. Frey has frequently adopted so 
violent a position that it became arrogant and, worse than that, 
attempted to make his whole past record in the Party, for ten 
years, the basis of a unification of the Opposition. That the 
unity document elaborated by him does not contain this "pre- 
requisite" is a good sign, and in consideration of his indubi- 
table qualifications, there does not appear to be any reason why 
the Mahnrufer should not unite with Frey's group. Of course, 

We Must Collaborate With Naville and Rosmer 101 

comrade Landau's position in this case is based far more upon 
the desire to maintain the sectional prestige and honor of his 
former group than upon a wish for unity. The action of the 
Molinier-Mill committee is to be endorsed, I believe. Yet I would 
urge that the International Bureau should endeavor to create a 
situation in which the Austrian Opposition is no longer domi- 
nated so exclusively by comrade Frey, that the leadership be 
extended, since I am not convinced that he is always capable 
of taking an objective position particularly in internal organi- 
zational affairs. 

3. In connection with Landau, the German question arises 
again apparently. From its press alone, it seems that the group 
is at a standstill and what you write only confirms that impres- 
sion. When we were at the Berlin conference, comrades Naville 
and myself endeavored to establish such a leading committee 
in which none of the two uniting groups would have absolute 
domination. This not because we had too great a confidence 
in such people as Joko, but because the German group was 
obviously lacking in material for leadership, in experienced 
functionaries, in capable directing forces. Neumann, for 
instance, despite certain shortcomings, would have been a valu- 
able addition to the leading committee. I cite his name only as 
an example. Without these two or three former Leninbundler, 
the committee would have been composed of one leading intel- 
lectual force (Landau) and an Austrian to boot, with the bal- 
ance composed of what amounted to active rank-and-file com- 
rades. I have never found such a combination to work out 
successfully. Joko, I am sure, had to be removed from the com- 
mittee, for he is entirely out of place in the Opposition. But 
the art of leadership, so to speak, should have consisted in draw- 
ing closer such elements as Grylewicz and Neumann, so as to 
broaden and extend the leadership. Their alienation had inevi- 
tably to result in the present situation where, according to your 
letter, the principal task of the recent conference was to bury 
for the tenth time the political corpses of the former Lenin- 
bundler. Not a very heroic task. We call it "flogging a dead dog." 
Landau had a very vindictive attitude toward Joko-Grylewicz- 
Neumann and their friends and seemed to think that the group 
would be far better off if it did not unite with the Leninbund 
minority. I have a world of respect for comrade Landau's 

102 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

abilities, but I am afraid that he is another instance of insuffi- 
cient ability to orientate himself correctly in internal affairs 
where his own organization is involved. 

4. I am happy to accept the proposal for membership on the 
International Bureau. At its last meeting, our National Commit- 
tee endorsed my nomination and I presume that I can now begin 
to serve formally— by mail. Up to now I have received no commu- 
nications from the bureau or secretariat, excepting what was so 
kindly furnished to me by comrade Jan Frankel and you. As soon 
as I can establish connections with comrade Mill I shall endeavor 
to function on the bureau as actively as the separation of the 
Atlantic Ocean will permit. 

^ ^ ^ 

Landau Has Proven to Be a 
Very Unreliable Fellow 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 250 
6 January 1931 

Trotsky refers here to Jan FrankeVs document "Comrade Landau's Role 
in the Austrian and German Questions: A Brief Account on the Basis 
of Documents" of the same date. 251 Written to provide the leading bodies 
of the Opposition with a factual account of the rather strange and dan- 
gerous politics that comrade Landau has manifested in the Austrian and 
German questions, " FrankeVs treatise sought to illustrate how Landau 
"uses the international Opposition merely as a decorative shell for his 
own cliquist politics. " Sending the document to Shachtman, Frankel wrote, 
"We see here that there are comrades who know how to use Marxist phrase- 
ology very skillfully, but whose communism is only superficial." 252 

According to Frankel, Landau admitted (in response to international 
criticism) that the program of his former compatriots in the Mahnruf 
Group was "a miserable and opportunist piece of hack work." Nonethe- 
less, he continued to insist that this was "not decisive for an evaluation 
of this group. " Backing Mahnruf 's claims to represent the ILO over those 
of the rival Frey group, Landau supported Mahnruf s unsubstantiated 
charge that Frey harbored a police spy. Frankel wrote: 

Landau a Very Unreliable Fellow 103 

For every observant person, it is clear that the Oppositional groups in 
Austria have abused, disparaged, ridiculed the ideas of the Interna- 
tional Lefts in the most shameful manner. Cleansing the ground in 
Austria and creating a new, authentically revolutionary group will be 
most difficult. It must be said openly that Germany runs the danger of 
developing in the same direction if the international Opposition looks 
on passively. 

The German section's journal Der Kommunist dealt hardly at all 
with international questions. Landau had shown such a frivolous atti- 
tude toward program that he had not released any of the resolutions writ- 
ten for the October 1930 German conference, held shortly after Reichstag 
elections in which the Nazi vote had sharply increased. Frankel wrote 
that the conference almost exclusively "dealt with organizational-personal 
squabbles. What is the political content of these squabbles? What ideas 
are involved? What permitted the Landau group, which based itself on 
the authority of the international Opposition and thus played the deci- 
sive role in preparing the conference, to point the conference in such a 
direction at a moment of greatest revolutionary significance?" Landau 
had trampled on the proletarian principle of proportional representa- 
tion, turning the conference into "a body for counting up mandates in 
the manner of the English trade unions. " Citing Landau 's war against 
the Leipzig leadership and the expulsions of Neumann, Joko, Grylewicz, 
and others, as "the crassest excrescences of a bureaucratic regime, "Frankel 
advocated that the international Opposition oversee a democratic inter- 
nal discussion in the section, including the expelled comrades, culminat- 
ing in the convocation of a politically prepared German conference. 
Trotsky proposed similar measures in "The Crisis in the German 
Left Opposition. " Landau broke with the ILO rather than carry out this 

I acknowledge receipt of your new publication, "The Strat- 
egy of the World Revolution," which proves that you aspire to 
become the biggest deluxe publisher in the United States. 253 
None of the sections can measure up to you in the splendor of 
the publications. I have not yet checked the translation enough 
to be able to state my opinion. In any case the first impression 
is good. 

Comrade Frankel is sending you a copy of his confidential 
letter on comrade Landau's politics. What you say, dear friend, 
about the leaders, their education, etc. is generally correct. 
I too am not hostile to these ideas. That I am inclined to 

104 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

attentively and amiably judge the young comrades capable of 
development has been demonstrated, it seems to me, by my use 
of a great deal of paper and ink in corresponding with these 
comrades. Really, one might be able to use this time to say some- 
thing important to the workers at this juncture, but precisely 
because I consider it of the utmost importance to train indi- 
vidual comrades for responsible work in the workers movement, 
I am always ready in personal letters to solve, dispose of, or 
contribute to the solution of complicated and contested ques- 
tions. However, I cannot place this consideration above the in- 
terests of the cause as a whole. Landau has proven to be a very 
unreliable fellow, and I hope that comrade Frankel's letter, 
based on documents and facts, will adequately prove that to 
you. It is no accident that Landau and Naville have formed an 
alliance and that this alliance is in reality directed against the 
ideas and methods of the Left Opposition. The similarity be- 
tween Landau and Naville consists in the fact that they can go 
just as easily one way as another. Their own role is always more 
important to them than the cause itself. Political ambition is 
entirely justified, but on the one small condition that ambition 
is subordinated to the great idea. That is the case neither with 
Landau nor Naville. It is not precluded that this quality of theirs 
has driven them to the Opposition, and by no means do I want 
to claim that these two comrades are incapable of becoming 
what they are not now: revolutionaries. But first they must feel 
in their own bones, I mean their mental bones, that there are 
ideas with which one does not trifle. 

I enclose my theses concerning the mistakes of the Naville- 
Gourget right wing on the trade-union question. 254 Of course 
Naville will claim, and is already doing so, that he does not agree 
at all with the politics of the Opposition Unitaire. But that is 
the most reprehensible thing about him— he only embraces revo- 
lutionary criticism in order to continue to pursue an opportu- 
nistic policy. That is how Bukharin plagiarized our critique of 
Purcell's policy; he adorned his resolutions with this critique 
and with these adorned resolutions he supported Tomsky's 
policy. 235 In a word, this time I am making no compromises, 
and if the Naville-Landau brotherhood persists in its course, it 
means a complete break with them. This too will be a salutary 
educational experience for them, because if they are worth any- 

Landau a Very Unreliable Fellow 105 

thing, the experience of muddling along alone for a few years 
will cause them to find their way back to genuine revolution- 
ary politics. It is also precisely from the standpoint of the future 
of these comrades that one must proceed unsparingly. 

You no doubt know that Nin has been arrested. Yesterday I 
received a very encouraging letter from his wife. He is in prison 
with eight other Communists who do not belong to the Oppo- 
sition. However, together with Nin they have agreed to a plan 
to immediately raise the slogan of forming Spanish workers 
councils. Nin is hopeful that this means the founding of the 
real communist party. The revolutionary atmosphere is the 
atmosphere of a political hothouse. A small group today can 
become a major political factor in just a few months. That is 
what we experienced in Russia. I was very worried that the Span- 
ish comrades would be too cautious with regard to the slogan 
of Soviets. In general the Left Opposition is often more radi- 
cal in its criticism than in action. Fortunately my worries have 
not been borne out this time, and Nin has been able to weld 
together very good workers on a program of revolutionary 
action. One can look with hope to the future. 

On the Eastman question: As early as 1928 I explained my 
"repudiation" of Eastman in a circular that was widely distrib- 
uted in the Russian Opposition and sent abroad. 256 I was cer- 
tain that the document was long known to the American com- 
rades and had been published somewhere. Only now from your 
letter do I learn that this is not the case. Fortunately I have a 
copy. I am sending one to comrade Eastman and am enclosing 
another with this letter. 

In a footnote to my French theses I have briefly stated my 
position on the wild idea of a bloc with Lovestone. 257 

Enough for now, for I have much to do. 

^ ^ > 


The Fight Against Landau and Naville 
Is Too Sharp 

Letter by Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky 258 
4 March 1931 

These are excerpts from a letter in which Shachtman detailed the CLA's 
Expansion Program and publishing plans. 

1. I am a little worried about the events in Germany. It seems 
to me that the situation is being sharpened too much. I am, to 
be sure, not in agreement with the policy that Landau is pur- 
suing—in the organizational sense, at least. The results of the 
national conference made an especially bad impression— rather 
the lack of results. As to the political differences, I naturally 
do not know to what extent they are developed, nor have there 
yet been presented any political documents of the contending 
sides, and not having any theses, no judgment can be expressed. 
I am quite certain that political differences exist, since I have 
never yet seen an "organizational struggle" inside the movement 
which did not have at bottom some political dispute— unless it 
is a question of bandits who are fighting. But what does arouse 
some disquietude is the organizational acuteness that the 
struggle has already assumed in consideration of the fact that 
no clear political differences on fundamental, principled ques- 
tions have yet been demonstrated, at least not to my knowledge. 
The proposal by Well to expel Landau from the Opposition I 
consider an unnecessary accentuation of the dispute. Naturally 
this does not for one moment justify the steps that Landau has 
taken and the fact that he has, in a sense, provoked the Leipzig 
comrades. I intend to write in the same sense to the Interna- 
tional Secretariat and propose that the two contending forces 
in Germany present their respective political theses for the dis- 
cussion of the international Opposition so that we may be in a 
position to judge objectively. 

2. The situation in France seems to have reached a state of calm. 

Too Sharp Against Landau and Naville 107 

Naville has written me a few words on the situation which went 
into no details on matters, but informed me that he was no 
longer a member of the executive committee. More than that, 
he writes me, the new executive of the Ligue contains only rep- 
resentatives of "one tendency." I do not know whether this is a 
result of the decision of the executive (the present majority) or 
the withdrawal, the abstentionism, of Naville's group. Either 
way, I believe, there is no reason for such a situation, nor should 
it be concurred in. The removal of every single representative 
of the Naville group from the executive would be a mistake; 
the withdrawal from the executive by the Naville group would 
be equally wrong. Naturally, here too, I am expressing a per- 
sonal opinion, since our own executive committee has not yet 
taken a formal position on the matter. However, until additional 
or more detailed information on the reasons for the condition 
of the French executive are at hand, information which would 
explain its constitution on so unilateral a basis, I believe that if 
a basis of political collaboration exists, the necessary steps 
should be taken. [...] 

6. A personal question. So as to avoid any misunderstandings, 
do you consider that the letters you send to me are to be com- 
municated to the National Committee formally and officially? 
I gained the impression from some of the letters from you (for 
example, the one in which you refer to your personal views on 
the question of Rosmer and other French comrades) that they 
were meant to be confidential and personal. Perhaps I am wrong 
in this impression. Will you be good enough to make it clear? 

4- 4> + 


What Is Your Position on the 
German Crisis? 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 259 
4 April 1931 

In early 1931 the fight between Landau in Berlin and a group of com- 
rades around R. Well in the Saxon city of Leipzig reached a crisis point, 
with each group threatening to expel the other. Trotsky here requests the 
CLA's position on organizational measures proposed in his "The Crisis 
in the German Left Opposition. " 260 

I have left your letter of March 4 unanswered for so long 
not because I have no time— I always find time to answer let- 
ters—but because my friend Frankel has had absolutely no time 
in the last weeks, because the entire work of moving rested on 
his shoulders, which here in Turkey is no mean feat. 261 In any 
case the leadership of the French Ligue sent comrade Henri 
Molinier to help, who really performed a great service by spend- 
ing two weeks here. 

Unfortunately I cannot tell from your letter whether you 
and your leadership have taken an unambiguous position on 
the purely practical, organizational side of the German crisis. 
The proposals pertaining to this are included at the end of my 
circular letter and were approved by the International Secre- 
tariat, and the members of the bureau have been invited to 
express their opinion about them. My proposals in particular 
aim at avoiding a split. The comrades in Saxony have withdrawn 
their demand that Landau be expelled and have accepted the 
proposal for an honestly prepared and honestly convened con- 
ference with the participation of international comrades. Now 
Landau does not accept this because he, as other comrades 
seem sure, would remain in the minority, and that he cannot 
do. So, what now? That is the question. And here it is impor- 
tant to take a position and not be evasive. If Landau had felt 
pressure from different directions a few months ago that the 

On Landau, Prometeo, and Weisbord 1 09 

international Opposition would not tolerate his subversion, he 
might have come over and we might have saved him for work 
in the future. Unfortunately the other sections have taken quite 
a wait-and-see, conciliatory-passive stance. Not only did Naville 
support Landau, he also nourished his false hopes and illusions. 
Thus Landau ended up in a blind alley, and I doubt very much 
that there is a way out for him. 

I will send you the necessary Chinese materials as soon as 
we have gotten a bit settled in the new flat. 262 

I will have to devote the next five months entirely to the 
second volume (October Revolution) and thus will have little 
time in the short term for the international Opposition. 263 

You write about Scribner. This gentleman, as you call him, 
really buried my autobiography: a delay of half a year, a prohibi- 
tive price, and, as I discern from his catalogs and magazines, he is 
embarrassed to provide the necessary American publicity for the 
book. I have bad luck with American publishers. No comparison 
to the German publisher Fischer. 

4> * + 

On Landau, Prometeo, and Weisbord 

Letter by Max Shachtman to the 
International Secretariat 264 

[Early May 1931] 

On April 10 the International Secretariat wrote to the CLA requesting 
Shachtman 's urgent intervention, as a member of the International 
Bureau, on the dispute with Landau. In this undated answer Shachtman 
reports on the decisions of the CLA resident committee at its April 27 

On the German Situation 

At the last meeting of our National Committee, we consid- 
ered the situation in the German Opposition, on the basis of 
all the documents we had on hand (letter-circular of L.D. Trotsky, 
letters from Landau, statements of Reichsleitung [national 

110 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

executive], etc.). After a lengthy discussion, the committee unani- 
mously adopted the following proposal submitted by me: 

We endorse the practical proposals of comrade Trotsky contained 
in his letter entitled "The Crisis in the German Left Opposition" 
as a basis to approach a solution of this crisis. Further, that we 
reserve a formulation of our opinion on the political and prin- 
cipled issues involved in the controversy until such time as we 
have had further opportunity for study. That we further protest 
against the organizational measures taken by the Berlin execu- 
tive committee (Reichsleitung) which are calculated not to bring 
closer the solution on the basis of political discussion, but artifi- 
cially to anticipate the decision through what is at best prema- 
ture organizational measures. 

Since comrade Landau has written to me in my capacity as 
a member of the International Bureau, I am recording my entire 
agreement with the above declaration, which is identical in 
essence with the statement of comrade Nin. It must be added 
that it is as yet difficult to estimate the political character of 
the dispute between the Reichsleitung and the Saxon comrades 
since we have not at hand any theses from both sides. But the 
organizational measures and the attitude thus far taken by com- 
rade Landau are unmistakably prejudicial to the interests of the 
German and International Left. It is clear that not only in the 
Austrian affair but also in Germany, comrade Landau has failed 
to measure up to his position as a member of the International 
Bureau. In the Austrian question at least, he acted more as a 
member or former member of one specific group than as a 
responsible member of the bureau. This is all the more regret- 
table in consideration of comrade Landau's unquestioned ability 
to serve the movement. Moreover, the disloyalty and distorted 
use comrade Landau makes of Lenin's Testament in his effort 
to discredit comrade Trotsky's intervention in the German dis- 
pute in itself deserves a severe repudiation by the German 
Opposition. It is on a level with Frey's "interpretation" of Stalin's 
"cleverness in factional work" as the cause for the victory of the 
reaction in the Soviet Communist Party. 

On the Proposal of the Italian Left 

Here also our NC discussed the resolution of the Prometeo 
Group, and adopted the following proposal made by me 
which will be communicated to you by our secretary, comrade 

On Landau, Prometeo, and Weisbord 111 

We reject the proposal of the Italian Left (Prometeo) Group and 
its conception that the International Secretariat should be a mere 
"liaison" center between the national sections, and we propose 
in its place that up until the time when the coming European 
conference will elect an even more authoritative executive body, 
we fully recognize the authority of the International Secretariat 
politically and organizationally. 

Considering the disruption of the bureau in the past 
months (withdrawal of Rosmer, imprisonment of Nin, distance 
from America, "imprisonment" of the Russian member), the 
secretariat not only had to assume political functions up to a 
certain point, but it was in the interests of the Opposition that 
this be done. Without an authoritative international body, there 
would have been no adequate means of intervening to solve the 
crises that broke out in various countries and threatened to dis- 
credit or weaken the Left Opposition (Austria, Belgium, France, 
and now Germany). It is not without symptomatic significance 
that the attack upon the secretariat comes from those comrades 
and groups who have adopted in the past or today a false posi- 
tion, and against whom the secretariat generally adopted a 
correct position. 

Weisbord Group 

The group of Weisbord has finally been constituted as an 
"organization" and one issue of its paper issued. It is necessary 
that the clearest line of demarcation be drawn between the 
Opposition and this group of opportunist confusionism. The 
fact that Weisbord has arbitrarily arrogated to himself the title 
"adhering to the International Left Opposition" has already had 
a confusing effect in certain circles. This confusion must be 
eliminated by a sharp declaration of position by the secretariat. 
From his theses, which you have already received, and from 
other parts of his paper, it will be observed that it is not only 
filled with outrageous slanders and falsifications addressed to 
the Communist League of America, but that he has not, despite 
our criticism, changed his political course. The proposal for a 
bloc with Lovestone "for mass work and against (?!) Menshe- 
vism," forms the central tactical slogan for his movement. To 
prevent him from any longer compromising the name of our 
movement— and his idiocies are exploited against us by the 
Stalinist apparatus— the International Secretariat must establish 

112 CLA 1931—33:Shachtman in the International 

its position immediately and unambiguously. From your last let- 
ter, it appears that such a statement will be made public. 

I shall try to write in more detail on other questions in the 
next few days. 

^ <► ^ 

I Sought to Avoid a Premature Split 
in the German Section 

Letter bv Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky 
2 May 1931 

This is an excerpt from a letter in which Shachtman also discusses the 
CLA s projected book, Problems of the Chinese Revolution, and other 
publishing matters. 

1. I am enclosing a letter I have just sent to the International 
Secretariat which will adequately present not only the position 
of our National Committee on the crisis in the German Oppo- 
sition, but also my own. I observe from your letter, as well as 
from a note which I have just received from comrade Frankel. 
that you were in doubt as to my attitude on this question, but I 
do not believe that there was any foundation for uncertainty. 
The only phase of the question that concerned me was to pre- 
vent a premature split in the German Opposition before the 
political position of both sides had been established, so that if a 
split was unavoidable it would at least take place on a principled 
basis and not merely on artificially hastened organizational mea- 
sures. It appeared to me that both Landau and Well were push- 
ing the organizational questions to the fore and not the politi- 
cal questions (naturally, this applies far more to Landau than 
to Well). The fact that Well withdrew the demand of the Saxon 
comrades for Landau's immediate expulsion was unmistakablv 
a step in the right direction. Landau's obstinacv. however, does 
not speak well for him. With the practical proposals made bv 
vou pour regler la lutte [to moderate the struggle]. I am and 
have been in thorough agreement. I repeat, the only question 

/ Sought to Avoid Split 113 

on which doubt existed and for that matter still exists, is in the 
political dispute (we have only Landau's opinion on the tempo 
of the development of fascism, just as we have only Well's opin- 
ion on the trade-union problem— neither of the two groups have 
adopted detailed theses on both of these questions, or on other 
tactical and strategical problems). That Landau is driving clearly 
toward a split is quite evident, and every measure should be 
taken, in my opinion, to prevent such a split— at least until a clear 
political line of demarcation shall have been established. In such 
a case, the ranks of the German Opposition (and outside of 
Germany too) will have the possibility of aligning themselves 
on fundamental lines of policy and not upon "conjunctural" and 
"nebensachliche" [subsidiary] organizational disputes. The latter, 
it is true, always reflect political undercurrents. The whole prob- 
lem is in bringing these undercurrents to the surface. It has been 
one of the worst features of the internal struggles of the 
Comintern in the past that the organizational measures have 
been pushed to the foreground unexpectedly in order to con- 
ceal the political differences and make it impossible for the 
Communist workers to judge the political merits of the disput- 
ing groups until they were confronted with an organizational 
fait accompli. You have frequently referred to this system in ref- 
erence to the appearance of the Leningrad Opposition in 1925. 
It seems to me that Landau has been trying to repeat this system 
in the German Opposition: First crush the Well group organi- 
zationally and then "justify" it politically. It was only to avoid a 
repetition of such a state of affairs that I wrote you previously 
in the sense of establishing the principled nature of the dis- 
pute and not submerging it in organizational conflicts which 
are either secondary or else should come after an ideological 
clarification. Having this view I could naturally do nothing but 
express my complete accord with the measures you proposed 
at the end of your analysis. 

^ A ^ 


You Bear Some Responsibility 
for Landau's Course 

Letter bv Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 266 
23 May 1931 

Trotsky wrote this letter shortly after Landau refused to comply with the 
organizational proposals of the International Secretariat, signaling his 
intention to split from the ILO. 

1. As you suppose, I am really swamped with work and can hardly 
imagine how I could write the foreword to the China book that 
you request. It would have to be worked out very carefully. I do 
not haYe a clear idea which manuscripts on China I should send 
you. The larger work, "The Chinese Question After the Sixth 
Congress," was sent to you in January. Did you intentionally dis- 
regard the longer article from the Russian bulletin no. 15/16, 
"Stalin and the Chinese Revolution"? The article is perhaps some- 
what dry consisting primarily of quotations, but it represents a 
rather comprehensive work and can serve to a certain extent as 
the foreword you want, since it places the different stages in 
context and, in addition, brings to light new. important docu- 
ments. I would recommend that you include this article as the 
first or the last. That, at any rate, would make the task of the 
foreword much easier for me. Also. I do not see on your list my 
most recent article, "The Strangled Revolution," on Malraux's 
novel, printed in La Verite. In my opinion this article would fit 
rather well into the framework of the book. 

2. Along with comrade Frankel. we are very pleased that you 
have partially come out of Your shell regarding Landau. Your 
explanations— allow me to say— do not seem very convincing. You 
write that you wanted to avoid a premature split. Do you think 
then that I wanted to bring about or accelerate this split? And 
if not, what practical steps have you proposed to achieve this 
aim? For my part. I have done everything that seemed to me 
possible and expedient. Moreover, it seemed to me that if the 

You Bear Some Responsibility 115 

leading comrades of the national sections had energetically put 
pressure on Landau in time, it would perhaps— I say perhaps— 
have been possible to save him. Unfortunately that is no longer 
the case, and you bear a small part of the responsibility for that. 
After Landau, to be sure, the lion's share is borne by Naville, 
who filled Landau with false hopes, sent him equivocal infor- 
mation, etc. And now Landau wants nothing more to do with 
the International Secretariat and is assiduously in the process 
of forming his own international with the Prometeo people, 
with Gourget, with Overstraeten and, as I have been told, 
with... Weisbord for America. What is more, while doing every- 
thing to put off unification in Austria and to break it in Ger- 
many, he accuses me of having split all the national sections, 
particularly in America. So, my dear Shachtman, I bear the re- 
sponsibility for your not being on good terms with Weisbord. 
Naville, I fear, will be forced to embark on the same path. He 
has been deserted by his closest friends, and not by accident. 
Those whom he influences are hostile to us and they really mean 
it. Naville, however, plays with ideas and is never serious 
or honest. He is staying in the Ligue in order to sabotage it 
from within and to help Landau set up the new international. I 
have laid out the principles involved here in a letter my son will 
send you. 

It goes without saying that decisions must be reached on 
the basis of the principled lines of the various tendencies, and 
I understand very well your organization's caution in this area. 
But this criterion may not be understood so formalistically and 
pedantically. The Bordigists are one tendency and they must 
be judged according to their basic principles. Gourget is a ten- 
dency; Overstraeten is also a tendency— an unfortunate one, of 
course. But what can one say about Mahnruf, which changes 
its "tendency" seven times in the interest of cliquist self- 
preservation and in so doing does not shrink from the foulest 
means? Judgment must be based on the fact that it is entirely 
an unprincipled clique, demoralized by the methods, splits, and 
intrigues of the Comintern, never taking ideas seriously at all, 
to be judged not by its theses but by what it does. It is not 
Landau's theses of tomorrow that are decisive but the fact that 
he approves of everything for China, also for America and all 
the other countries, as long as it does not touch his position of 

116 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

power. It is not these possible theses on the trade-union 
question that are typical of Landau, but the fact that he main- 
tained utter silence about the discussion of the trade-union 
question in France because Naville is his friend. The programs, 
the theses, the principles are of the utmost importance if they 
represent a reality. But when they represent only window- 
dressing and camouflage for clique warfare, one kicks them 
aside in order to unmask the gentlemen in question and reveal 
them in natura. 

3. Of course I am pleased that you have gotten a little money 
from the prepublication rights. As to the rights for the Ger- 
man Volkszeitung, I had to send Fischer an airmail letter, and 
not a telegram, to explain the matter to him more clearly. 267 I 
asked that he wire his decision to America. Unfortunately I am 
not sure that he will comply, and in the case of a negative 
response I would gladly reimburse the Militant. 

But at present we are dealing with the prospect of stepping 
in with a larger sum of money. I fear that Boni will also try to 
deduct 5 percent from the Saturday Evening Post royalties. 268 And 
since first of all, the publishers have robbed and deceived me 
enough, and secondly, because I urgently need the money, par- 
ticularly to create a German theoretical journal, I am determined 
not to pay the 5 percent under any circumstances, even at the 
risk of completely breaking the contract. I have written Eastman 
about this in more detail. I would like the 5 percent to go to the 
Militant, from the book as well as from the prepublication 
reprints. It would represent a significant amount. Now you must 
influence our dear Eastman to deal more aggressively with Boni 
and not to surrender our common interests as he has surren- 
dered his own. 

4. I have no idea what comments the bourgeois press has been 
making and would like to see anything of interest that has 

5. I do not have to tell you how pleased I am at the prospect of 
transforming the Militant into a weekly paper. The next step 
will have to be a monthly theoretical journal. I am very inclined 
to earmark my contribution to the Militant for this specific 


Naville Plays With Ideas 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 269 
2 August 1931 

Trotsky here takes issue with Shachtman's concern at the lack of response 
to Naville's criticisms of the French Ligue's actions during a miners strike 
in spring 1931. Under Molinier's leadership, La Verite published an 
article that declared the strike unwinnable and advocated that miners 
return to work. Many Ligue members protested; a small group around 
Pierre Naville's brother, Claude, split and began publishing the Bulle- 
tin de la Gauche communiste with Rosmer's collaboration. 

The last two pamphlets gratefully received. I have no 
objections to changing the title of the Spanish pamphlet. 270 On 
the contrary, it is much better than the original one. I am very 
pleased that the pamphlets are selling so well. 

Just briefly on Naville. You mention that his critical article 
on the strike has not been answered. I must confess that I have 
not read it. For a long time Naville ducked to avoid taking a 
position on the most important questions, since he was always 
and everywhere connected with the group that was on the 
wrong track. He would always lie in wait and come out with a 
critical article in order to exaggerate the real tactical mistakes 
of the other side and thus camouflage himself. One ought not 
exaggerate the quest for the principled line in every single case. 
There are elements and grouplets who do not have one and 
have no need for one. But they would like to ramble around 
the revolution, fence with ideas, and play a role. That also has 
a social basis: Capitalist society produces quite a lot of nuances 
in the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia with purely formal charac- 
teristics, lacking deeper social roots and a developed sense of 
responsibility. Unfortunately we are forced to observe over and 
over again that some have been impelled toward us not because 
we are a Marxist opposition but because we are an opposition 
per se and because they are incapable or not inclined to subor- 
dinate their hollow abilities to the discipline of a serious cause. 

118 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

For example, it is impossible to judge the Landau clique, the 
Mahnruf, by its platform, because this clique shimmers with 
platforms of the most variegated hues; it is not possible to com- 
bat it on the basis of particular ideas but only on the basis of 
its dearth of ideas. This also seems to be the case with Naville. 
Together with his inner circle he treks nomadically from Com- 
munism to Revolution surrealiste, from Revolution surrealiste to 
the Opposition, he oscillates between the right and the left, 
joins us without joining us fundamentally, remains in the Ligue 
but with ties to Landau and Gourget, etc. He wins no one over; 
on the contrary, he loses even his closer friends along the way. 
Now Gourget is rebelling against him and wants to come back. 271 

You ask me about Rosmer's political position. He hardly 
takes one. But he is tied to Naville and Landau and has be- 
come enmeshed in a very nasty situation. He wrote an extremely 
unpleasant letter to the Belgian Opposition in which he com- 
plained of Zinovievist methods, etc. When the Belgian comrades 
inquired, I had to answer directly, thus breaking my silence. 
That of course exacerbates the situation, but, really, I cannot 
do anything about it. 

I am now giving the Militant only a very cursory reading, 
for I am completely absorbed by my book. But in the last three 
weeks I have been pleased to get my hands on a new issue each 
week. The weekly Militant cuts a pretty good figure. 

As soon as the second volume of the History is finished I 
will tackle the problems of the international situation, and 
I hope to be able to send you a piece on the United States. 


Get the Secretariat's Cart Out of the Mud 

Letter by Jan Frankel to Max Shachtman 272 
14 November 1931 

Trotsky 's secretary wrote to Shachtman on the eve of his departure for 
Europe. In Kadikoy at the time, Albert Glotzer was to meet Shachtman 
in England to help evaluate supporters of the Left Opposition. 

Thank you for your letter. Of course we await your reports 
with much anticipation, both on your impressions of Paris and 
on the results of your stay in London. Of course I will be glad 
to compile and send the materials you want, but I cannot do 
this without the help of our Russian stenographer and she is 
sick at present. In any case I will do it as best as I can. 

We believe it is absolutely necessary that during your stay 
in Paris you get the secretariat's cart out of the mud, where it is 
stuck fast. The situation of the secretariat in Paris is compro- 
mised to the utmost degree. Instead of being an executive or- 
gan of the national sections, it has become the victim of respec- 
tive comrades' inclinations and impressions, degraded into a tool 
of personal and circle fights, and thus has become counterposed 
to the most important sections. Now it is rotating around its 
own axis and not budging an inch. The practical work is done 
very badly, and what does happen, as one comrade quite rightly 
writes, has to be done almost exclusively malgre et contre le 
secretariat [despite and against the secretariat]. 

Up to now the expansion of the secretariat has shown no 
great practical results. The past weighs like lead on it, and the 
main sickness is that the Parisian secretariat and above all com- 
rade Mill— who is a very honest comrade sincerely dedicated to 
the cause, that is beyond doubt at least for all comrades who 
criticize him— do not grasp their role. The secretariat is above all 
a working organ. Nevertheless, up to now it has not been able to 
create its own, even very modest, working apparatus. Everything 
depends on the Ligue (see minutes). C'est la ligne de la moindre 
resistance et le resultat en est, que l'Opposition internationale 

120 CLA 1931-33: Shachtrnan in the International 

reste une somme de sections et de groupes isoles, au lieu d'avoir ete 
entre dans la voie d'une organisation serree, plus ou moins 
homogene et consolidee. [This is the path of least resistance, 
with the result that the international Opposition remains a sum 
of sections and isolated groups instead of having embarked upon 
the path of a tight organization more or less homogeneous and 
consolidated.] The political pretensions of the secretariat in no 
way correspond to the results of its practical work and the au- 
thority it has thereby acquired (i.e., lack of authority): They 
correspond just as little to the composition of its personnel (the 
political youth of most of its members) and, most importantly, 
to the nature of its tasks. After having gotten itself into a very 
bad situation, it proclaimed a "crisis of confidence" and, in keep- 
ing with parliamentary custom, demanded precisely from those 
sections against which it had fought for months an overnight 
"vote of confidence," despite protests and the obvious abuse by 
Mill and Souzo. While it accuses the national sections of a lack 
of practical support and LD of a lack of political support, on 
important questions facing the Opposition it proceeds completely 
unilaterally, without obtaining the opinion of the sections. 

In a word: If there is any hope at all of breathing some- 
thing like life into the Parisian secretariat, it is only under the 
condition that it replace the anticipated authority of individual 
members with work (business tempo! not the old European 
trot!), and that it not look to its own moods but rather to the 
political opinion of the majority of the sections. Otherwise, it 
is completely ridiculous, for example, to complain about LD's 
"boycott" when, on the one hand, it systematically sabotages 
and brushes aside his advice and protests, and, on the other, 
simply places before him faits accomplis (and for the most part 
they are fautes accomplies). That was the case in the correspon- 
dence between LD and Mill, which was anything but sparse. 
Thus it is quite understandable that LD must use other routes 
in order to let the national sections know what he has to say. 

Friend Glotzer made the best impression here both person- 
ally as well as politically and won the undivided sympathy of 
all members of the colony. The best evidence of this is that we 
are holding him prisoner here, even if that is partially forced 
by outside circumstances. 


Molinier Is Far From Correct 

Letter by Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky 273 
1 December 1931 

Written from Paris, this letter of complaint about Raymond Molinier 
and the lack of authority of the I.S. was published in CLA Internal 
Bulletin no. 2 (July 1932) after it became a subject of dispute in 
the CLA. 

Molinier was the French section leader who supported Trotsky on 
the trade-union question. Rather than fight Molinier on this question, 
his opponents continually raised rumors of his shady business dealings. 
Shachtman was well aware of this fact: In August Frankel wrote him 
about Rosmer s "slanderous baiting" of Molinier, reporting that Rosmer 
had traveled to Spain in an attempt to poison the Spanish Opposition. 21 * 
Trotsky advocated the establishment of a control commission to investi- 
gate the rumors, but the Ligue' s October 1931 national conference failed 
to act because no one would file charges. Albert Treint, a Zinoviev sup- 
porter, joined the Ligue at the conference and was elected to its execu- 
tive. Molinier immediately formed an alliance with him, and as a result, 
Molinier' s former supporters in the Paris Jewish Group broke with him. 
Led by Felix and Mill, the I.S. secretary, they wrote to Rosmer suggesting 
collaboration. In a December 22 circular letter to the national sections, 
Trotsky noted: 

The Jewish Group ought to become the Ligue's voice for propaganda 
among the Jewish workers. But this one of its functions is scarcely filled 
by the group, in which there undoubtedly are workers devoted to the 
cause. On the contrary, it became a support for tioo or three comrades 
who seek to give some kind of direction to the Ligue and the whole 
international Opposition. Up to now, nobody knows anything about 
this "direction, " for, apart from confusion, the authors of this "direc- 
tion " have till now brought nothing into the life of the Opposition. They 
were with Paz against us, they made their orientation in the Ligue 
dependent on conditions of a subjective character, they supported 
Molinier-Frank against Rosmer-Naville, they made a bloc with Naville 
and afterward with Rosmer, they created confusion and confused 
themselves, they derailed the Jewish Group, and brought nothing 
but decomposition. 215 

122 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

In early January the Jewish Group withdrew its two representatives from 
the Ligue's executive committee, cm act that Trotsky strongh condemned 
as an attempt to "transform the Ligue into a federation of national 
groups." 27 * 

Shachtman's letter refers to the ostensible differences between the 
Jewish Group and others in the Ligue on relations between the PCF-led 
trade-union federation, the CGTU, and the main reformist trade-union 
federation, the CGT. In his January 15 letter to the Jewish Group Trotsky 
wrote: "Comrade Felix has misled the Jewish Group by greath exaggerat- 
ing the differences, by seeking artificial pretexts for the differences, by 
making a caricature of the differences. Because of their sterile and scho- 
lastic character, these discussions have not been able to contribute any- 
thing to the Ligue in an ideological sense." 

I have just returned from a two weeks' sojourn in Spain, 
equally divided between Madrid and Barcelona. From the point 
of view of the Opposition, I find that its organizational strength 
and influence are not only good, but actually increasing, despite 
the fact that since the recent lost strikes led bv the anarchists 
and the syndicalists, there has set in a certain depression in 
the ranks of the workers. Together with comrade Lacroix, I took 
a sort of a "census" of the state of the organization, which I 
later verified by reading through all the correspondence which 
the EC had received for the last three months or so. From the 
report which I shall immediately draw up for the International 
Secretariat, you will be able to get a more complete picture of 
our Spanish section and the possibilities for growth which it 
has before it. 

The most unfortunate aspect of the situation there at the 
present moment is the loss of the weekly periodical, El Soviet. I 
made every attempt to convince the comrades of the urgency 
of recommencing its publication, but I must confess that while 
their willingness is as great as that of anybody else, they were 
nevertheless able to draw up a financial statement of income 
and expenditures which demonstrated that in order to issue the 
weekly paper once more and to have a full-time paid secretary— 
which is at least as important— it is necessary that they have 
financial aid from abroad to the extent of some 1,300 pesetas 
per month for the coming four, five, six months. It is true that 
the secretariat, upon the basis of pledges made by comrade 
Molinier. has assured them that this sum will be forthcoming 

Mo tinier Is Far From Correct 123 

for the weekly and for the secretary. But the comrades— both 
in Madrid and in Barcelona— have gathered such a bad impres- 
sion of the promises of comrade Molinier (even if half of them 
were based upon promises made by you) and they have devel- 
oped such a sharp antagonism against him, that they insisted 
that they would not begin to issue the paper again if the pledges 
for financial aid were based upon promises made by Molinier. 
In such a case, it is of course very difficult to verify the impres- 
sions made upon comrades. The atmosphere in the French 
Ligue is so tainted today— and the French situation is now hav- 
ing its repercussions in Spain— that it is almost impossible to 
take the word of a comrade. No two comrades have the same 
report to deliver about any single event or any single action. 
The Spanish comrades recounted to me a whole series of ac- 
tions taken by Molinier. The latter, in turn, presents the affair 
in a totally different light. Since there are practically no "docu- 
ments" on the matter, it is all reduced to a question of the word, 
or the impression, of one comrade as against those of another. 
On such a basis, it is impossible to form a judgment. In any 
case, I am convinced that with all due credit and respect for 
the good intentions that animated comrade Molinier while he 
was at work in Spain, he conducted himself in such a manner 
as succeeded in antagonizing all the comrades there. In this 
sense, many of the arguments which you present in your recent 
letter to comrade Nin (a copy of which was sent me) are not 
entirely true. 277 I have no doubt that, confronted with the bit- 
terness of a retreat, the comrades may have the tendency to 
seek somebody upon whom to fix the blame— and they find 
Molinier. But their hostility toward him does not appear to me 
to be founded upon that alone. I need hardly add that I do not 
share the exaggerated emphasis that the Spanish comrades place 
upon the "work of Molinier," and I am quite convinced that 
whatever comrade Molinier did while in Spain was done with 
the intention of giving whatever aid possible to the advance- 
ment of our movement there. 

Now, however, whatever damage has been done, is done. 
The greatest need for the Spanish Opposition remains the 
weekly paper and a secretary who can give all his time to the 
mountain of work that is to be accomplished there. In this 
direction, all the comrades must exert their efforts. I am sure 

124 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

that if the Spanish comrades can be made to feel that the deficit 
a weekly would involve will be covered— so that another retreat 
in the immediate future is avoided— they will proceed with the 
work speedily and successfully. The organization in Spain, with 
all its weaknesses, is in relatively excellent condition. At the 
head of it stands a group of really capable revolutionists. On 
all the important political questions there is a gratifying soli- 
darity among them; the differences on various questions which 
existed between the executive committee and comrade Nin are 
now eliminated to all intents and purposes. If this solidity of 
the leading cadre can be preserved, the prospects for progress 
are almost limitless. But I do not want to continue here upon a 
subject which I will deal with more extensively in my report. 

Now, a few words, the results of previous information which 
I gained from afar— reading the documents in New York— and 
the preliminary observations of the situation which I have made 
on the spot, concerning questions other than the Spanish. 

The International Secretariat: Comrade Frankel has written to me: 
"Wir glauben, es ist unbedingt notig, daB Du bei Deinem Pariser 
Aufenthalt den festgefahrenen Karren des Sekretariats wieder 
flott machst" [We believe it is absolutely necessary that during 
your stay in Paris you get the secretariat's cart out of the mud, 
where it is stuck fast]. Unfortunately, this is now no longer 
possible. Rather, it would be better— I say this after serious 
reflection— to sink this "festgefahrenen Karren" [cart stuck in 
the mud] formally, because it now has and can have little else 
but a fictitious existence. Why should the present secretariat 
be liquidated? 

1. Because it no longer has any authority in the ranks of the 
International Left Opposition. Regardless of any irony about 
the parliamentarism of its "Vertrauensvotum" [vote of confi- 
dence] request, the fact remains that for a series of reasons, 
the principal European sections have withdrawn their 
"Vertrauen" from the present secretariat, and its views and 
deeds have no authority with them. I do not now argue about 
the why, I merely present the fact. The Russian section has prac- 
tically broken off its connections with the I.S. The German 
section's Reichsleitung [national executive] has done practically 
the same. The French EC conducts a campaign against the 

Molinier Is Far From Correct 125 

secretariat and dominates it in general. Through knowledge of 
this situation, the Spanish section is now in a conflict with the 
secretariat and evidently does not take much stock in its deci- 
sions, feeling that it has little if any authority in these matters. 
Under such conditions— regardless (for the moment) of what 
brought them about— the secretariat is largely a fictitious 

2. For its material existence, the secretariat depends almost 
entirely upon the French Ligue, or, to put it less vaguely, upon 
comrade Molinier. Between the latter and the secretary of the 
I.S. (Mill), there is a violent and open struggle. It is all the sec- 
tions which should furnish the material support which makes a 
minimum of existence possible for an I.S.; unfortunately, the 
sections do not fulfill this obligation. What comrade Frankel 
correctly describes as the dependence of the I.S. on the Ligue 
inevitably drags it and its personnel into the inner struggles of 
the Ligue, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the I.S. to 
intervene in the French situation in the name of the interna- 
tional Opposition. The responsible leadership of the Ligue 
speaks of the secretary of the I.S. as a Menshevik, a bureau- 
crat, etc. (in general, terms of this sort are lightly hurled about 
on all sides in the Ligue), which does not make matters any 

3. The proposal to confine the work of the I.S. to that of an 
Arbeitsorgan [working body] is entirely correct if it is conceived 
in the sense that the I.S. should conduct its current and gen- 
eral work much better than up to now. I realize its weaknesses 
very keenly, as a secretariat collectively and as individual mem- 
bers of the secretariat. But if the proposal is conceived in the 
sense of reducing the I.S. to a purely technical body, I am 
opposed to it. Better to eliminate it entirely than to rob it of its 
centralizing political character which the Bordigists have pro- 
posed. Every leadership in the labor movement starts with a 
certain amount of "authority" invested arbitrarily, so to speak, 
in it in advance. If it fails to measure up to the authority invested 
in it, it should be removed. 

4. The proposal for a subsecretariat in Berlin, which will have 
charge of the USSR, Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Czechoslo- 
vakia, Hungary, Greece, etc., is not a practical one, to my mind. 

126 CLA 1931—33: Shachtman in the International 

The CI never 'r.?.d good experiences with its § iats" 

outside of Moscow, and :he CI possessed Ear greater resources 
: . :entralizing its work than we. bi ad liti n I must :-: i 
frankly that the Berlin comrades have not demonstrated in | i 

in our German se q such a sup ganizing abil- 

ity over the ability a:;:; ii is indeed feeble, as everybody must 

noil manifested by the Paris comrades. We are aotyets gi 
an organization that we :xo; a aivis: :: o: the secretariat into 
• arts : r the : untries of Europe. 

These are s : me : the reasons which animate me to beli 
that the resentsc retariat should be dissolved [ha 
this opinion with a :ei tain amount of regret, because I believe 
that the secretariat, as if is, could be «ei ist Eul for the 
ment. and that it has in the p asl Fs iich use. Despite the 

riticisms the just ones and the unjust ; om- 

le Mill, I beheve that he has ities which the interna- 

tional Oppositi : d could well afford to utilize in his po- 

siti q as secretary. Even with my casual knowledge :: the 

ments in the situation. I have no doubt that he has :om- 
mitte i mistakes. But the', are not worse than some mistakes :om- 
mir Ibys mt : the les h are m sf sharply oj 

to him, have not had much better results with the rgan- 

isms ' bicb the-." guide than he has had with the _ :s:u he 
ects I find him a h nest, and I yal comrade, and 

the Op] sition -\ be making a mistake if il him out 

of th- work he has een loing, iespite its sh rtc >mings and 
efc ts Onl rtunately, many steps d taken 

which it will be ven iifficult tc retrace. I admit readih that I 
do not as yet have any proposal to make : : r the sut stitution of 
>eui secretariat That requires further reflection and I 
have not yet made up my niind on the matter. But this much 
I Ic think: As at present constitute:- and in the present ir- 
rumambieD e in the Opp sition, the present I.S is largeb afic- 
titious instirution. We sh n I sup] urish :: ns 

The Situation in the French Ligue: With a numbei bjecthre 

ircumstances strongly in favoi :t :ur ment here, the 

Ligue :ontinues I lecline. I cannot t sti ngb express mv 
lissatisf; ti n with the situation in the Li sue The ir.terr. 
struggle the juarrels, the whole arm sphere fthe internal life 
siri r. in France are so poisoned that holeprob- 

Molinier Is Far From Correct 127 

lem of finding a way out becomes almost hopelessly obscured. 
Unless there is a radical change in the situation, I believe that 
one can have nothing but a pessimistic outlook for the imme- 
diate future. 

The personal relations between the various comrades do 
not improve by a single iota; on the contrary, they become worse 
every day. It is impossible to conduct any objective discussion. 
No sooner does a discussion commence than it immediately de- 
generates into a disgraceful personal quarrel during which the 
most violent epithets, the most irresponsible and light-minded 
accusations are hurled about the room. In the United States, 
we have had a vast experience in factional struggles, good and 
bad, principled and unprincipled, groups and cliques. But never, 
for the more than ten years that I can remember, has there been 
such an atmosphere in the American Party as there is today in 
the French Ligue. I do not even know of a "French" precedent 
for such an atmosphere. The closest analogy I can find for it 
are the violent factional quarrels and fights in the postrevolu- 
tionary Hungarian emigration, in the battles between Kun, 
Landler, Pepper, Rudas, etc., etc. If I may borrow a term from 
Smeral, the Ligue is being "osterreichisiert" [Austrianized]. 278 1 
do not, moreover, see clearly a sufficiently principled or political 
foundation for the internal struggles and for the alignment of 
forces, and certainly not for the violence with which the dis- 
putes are conducted. 

Still further complicating the situation is the fact that the 
present leadership of the Ligue (comrades Molinier and Frank) 
have lost the bulk of their support in the ranks of the organiza- 
tion. In the already greatly reduced ranks of the Paris region, 
for example— and Paris is practically the only functioning unit 
of the Ligue in all of France— we have the impossible situation 
where a great majority of the membership is actively opposed 
to the leadership. Even the most correct leadership cannot exist, 
at least in the Left Opposition movement, when it has arrayed 
against it the clear majority of the membership. And it is plain 
to me that the present leadership is far from the most correct. 
What must inevitably happen under such circumstances? Either 
the leadership gains or regains for itself a majority (so that it 
can function smoothly), or else the membership gains or regains 
for itself a leadership. I can think of no other alternative. 

128 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

I have deliberately refrained from intervening personally 
in the Ligue, from speaking at a single one of the meetings, or 
even from communicating my point of view wholly to anv of 
the comrades. It is impossible to do this under the circum- 
stances. I know that anything I say publicly in the Ligue at the 
present moment would be the subject for immediate distortion 
by one side or the other. It has reached a point here where the 
essence of a question is rarely discussed; the thing that serves 
as the axis for every dispute appears to be a word here or a 
word there, a sentence here or a sentence there, more frequently 
than not torn out of its context. Besides, I tell you frankly that 
there is no possibility of settling the question— that is the point 
it has already reached— without your direct intervention. 

What "solution" do the comrades here present? At the last 
meeting of the EC, a resolution was presented by comrades 
Molinier, Treint, and Marc (supported with reservations by 
Frank) that declared that following a discussion which is to be 
opened immediately in the Ligue, a split should take place. As 
the authors of the resolution explain, it is their intention to 
split the Ligue into two parts: themselves and their adherents, 
and the "liquidators," i.e., the supporters of the so-called Jewish 
Group, which forms the majority of the Paris region. What does 
this step signify? In practice, it means the expulsion from the 
Ligue of a majority of its active effectives. Even such a radical 
step might be taken under discussion if there were a serious 
enough political basis for it, i.e., if the Jewish Group were really 
composed of well-defined liquidators. But this has yet to be 
proved: it has not been proved to my satisfaction, at least. Is it 
true that among some of the Jewish comrades there is a ten- 
dency to emphasize or even to exaggerate the revolutionary pos- 
sibilities of centrism? I think it is true. I think also that the 
Jewish comrades have committed more than one blunder (for 
instance, their letter to Rosmer). But it is also true that even if 
their position on this or that question is wrong, they are the 
type of comrades whom a wise leadership should be able to con- 
vince. At bottom, they are a splendid type of comrade, revolu- 
tionists, devoted for a long time to the cause of the Opposi- 
tion, and people who are capable of taking a position and 
fighting for it intelligently. It is possible that under artificial 
pressure, under incitement, under provocations, they may slowly 

Molinier Is Far From Correct 1 29 

and even unconsciously be driven to a liquidationist position. 
The history of the post-Lenin period in the CI is replete with 
such cases, where excellent revolutionists were driven out of 
the movement and even into the camp of the enemy by con- 
stant provocations. But we in the Marxian wing should be care- 
ful that we do nothing that would start such a system in our 
own ranks. That is not our system. It is the system of Zinoviev, 
of Stalin. In France, it was the system of the Treint-Girault re- 
gime. 279 Consciously or not (that is not the important question 
at the moment), Treint is transferring this system into the Ligue 
in the fight against the Jewish Group. It is not by chance that 
he is the inspirer of the "splitting declaration," that he and his 
old-time supporter, Marc, are the majority of the signatories to 
it. That is not astonishing. But why should a comrade like 
Molinier become a party to such a step? 

If it proves to be necessary, I am not at all against a split. 
But, I repeat, it must be conducted upon clearly defined politi- 
cal divergences, so that everybody understands the reason and 
necessity for the split. Otherwise the present confusion will be 
worse confounded. And if we proceed from this point of view, 
I do not believe that it can be said that the divergences are 
clearly enough defined or deep-going enough to warrant a split 
in the sense envisaged by the "declaration" of Molinier-Treint- 
Marc. What does it mean? The kernel of the leadership (com- 
rade Molinier) is prepared to split with the Jewish Group and 
to maintain a unity with comrade Treint? I do not understand 
the political logic, the justification for such a step. Are the dif- 
ferences with the Jewish Group deeper than the differences 
which the whole international Opposition has with Treint? I 
certainly do not think so. Are the complaints against the inac- 
tivity of some of the Jewish comrades sufficient ground for 
labeling them "liquidators" so lightly, a label applied originally 
and principally by comrade Treint, whose political Anschauung 
[point of view] would really liquidate the Opposition? (Apro- 
pos, how does it happen that comrade Treint is elected to the 
executive committee the same day that he gives his adhesion to 
the Ligue?) Is the present leadership of the Ligue so correct in 
its political estimations that it can afford to discard a whole 
group of comrades? I am not at all sure that this is so. On some 
points, it is even the contrary. For example: On the trade-union 

130 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

question now, the comrades of the Jewish Group (resolution of 
Felix) are, I find, much more correct with regard to the situa- 
tion created by Jouhaux's resolution at Japy than the position 
of Treint-Molinier, which envisages a speedy liquidation of the 
CGTU and a "rentree en bloc" into the CGT, a position very 
much analogous and— in France— less justified than the position 
of the Lovestone group in the United States. 280 

My principal point in all these remarks is this: None of the 
groups in the Ligue has such a preponderately superior politi- 
cal position on the disputed questions, none of them is so free 
from blunders, as to justify a scission or to justify an absolute 
monopoly of the leadership by any single group. I appreciate 
the capacities and value of comrade Molinier at their real worth, 
without exaggerations. But I do not believe he has given a suf- 
ficient display of knowing the art of leadership. Only a short 
time ago, he had with him the clear majority of the Ligue mem- 
bership. Now he has lost it, and lost it among those comrades 
who made it possible to institute a new leadership in the Ligue. 
That is no credit, I must say, to comrade Molinier's direction 
[leadership]. The same may be said about the national confer- 
ence of the Ligue, which was very, very bad. The conference 
was a victory for the Bordigists, not for the Opposition. The 
Bordigists monopolized the whole political part of the confer- 
ence. The conference ended with an organizational victory for 
the group of comrade Molinier, but the victory was gained at 
the same time that the conference failed to adopt a single impor- 
tant text: Neither the political theses nor the trade-union theses 
were even discussed. In this respect, is there a real difference 
between the French national conference and the national con- 
ference organized in 1930 by Landau? You once wrote to me 
that one must not always look at the progress and the platforms, 
but one should "auf die Finger schauen" [look at what people 
do]. You wrote this concerning Landau and co., and it proved 
to be correct. Does a conference organized in France which 
gives the same results as Landau's conference deserve greater 

I have spoken about most of these questions personally with 
comrades Molinier and Frank. I did not find agreement with 
them on the matter. On the question of Treint, it is true, com- 
rade Frank declared himself to be rather of my opinion. As I 

Molinier Is Far From Correct 131 

said above, I have not intervened in the French situation because 
of the terrible atmosphere which makes an objective discussion 
impossible at the moment. But I do have certain opinions, not 
on all the questions, but on some of the most important ones. 
The main problem, as I see it, is to constitute a leadership in 
France which not only has a generally correct line, but which 
has the confidence of the comrades, that is, which is in a posi- 
tion to have its decisions carried out in the work and life of the 
Ligue. At present, this is not so. I do not propose to turn the 
leadership of the Ligue over into the hands of a "direction 
Naville" [Naville leadership], or a "direction groupe juif" [Jew- 
ish Group leadership], or a "direction Molinier" [Molinier lead- 
ership]. I believe that the only practical solution under the 
circumstances is a sort of "concentration." Not an artificial "par- 
liamentary coalition," but a working committee in which no 
group dominates the EC. From what I can gather of the sen- 
timents of the membership (at least in the Paris region), this 
represents what they feel is best for the Ligue. Allow me, fur- 
ther, to say that this step would have been taken some time ago 
by the regular channels of democratic procedure if it were not 
for the fact that most of the comrades feel that you, comrade 
Trotsky, are intransigently partisan of a "direction Molinier" and 
the comrades do not want to engage in an open conflict with 
you. These are the facts, and I feel that no leadership in the 
Opposition can maintain itself successfully on such a basis. 

This letter is already overlong. It is sketchy, an outline, and 
could undoubtedly be reformulated or strengthened in many 
respects. But the essential points are there. Comrade Molinier 
is leaving for Kadikoy, and you will of course discuss the ques- 
tion. I am anxious to learn the results; also your views on my 
remarks above. I will deal with other matters (England— thanks 
for the material you sent) in a letter to follow. 

^ ^ 4> 


Who Then Should Lead the Ligue? 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 281 
11 December 1931 

This letter was marked "purely personal." 

At present it is not possible for me to answer your letter at 
length. In any case I must say that once again you do not want 
to express yourself clearly, because, as I fear, your political logic 
cannot approve of the direction in which you are tending on 
the basis of your personal sympathies. If I understand you cor- 
rectly, you want me to declare a struggle against the present 
French leadership. Who then should lead the Ligue? Please say 
so openly. Perhaps Mill with Felix or our friend Naville with 
Rosmer? I hope that you will answer this precise question with 
an equally precise answer. Rosmer does not exist, and Naville 
hardly so. Mill and Felix are negative quantities. They have com- 
pletely disoriented the Jewish Group. Do you believe, by the 
way, that a well-oriented Jewish Group could lead the French 
Ligue? Felix belongs completely to the Landau category. He 
needs an organization only to stir up trouble. He will yet go 
through dozens of organizations with the same exalted mission. 

I have no illusions about Molinier's negative sides and never 
made my thoughts a secret, but one must be really blind to help 
the negative elements overthrow the present French leadership. 
That would be completely tantamount to participating in the 
Hitler referendum. 

Furthermore, I do not want to hide the fact that I am far from 
delighted by your mission in Spain, because despite the one or 
the other stupiditv which Molinier committed or could have com- 
mitted, it was your duty to bring the dear Spanish comrades to 
their senses a little and not be satisfied with polite excuses. 


You Were Never on Our Side 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 282 
25 December 1931 

The following letter was evidently a response to a report on Shachtman's 
work in England that we have not been able to locate. The first four 
paragraphs were published in CLA Internal Bulletin no. 2 (July 1932). 
In his December 22 circular letter to the ILO sections Trotsky stated: 
The American League took less part in the life of the ILO than was 
desirable. The explanation for this is surely the distance. At any rate, it 
is desirable that the central committee of the League as a whole atten- 
tively follow the internal questions of the ILO, since the excessive con- 
centration of these questions in the hands of one comrade have up to 
now not yielded the desired results. 

This circular also contained Trotsky's proposal to restructure the IS. as 
a delegated body with representatives from the most important sections. 

It is good that at least a small beginning has been made in 
England. Let us hope that you will have more luck than Naville, 
who circled round and round the English question for more 
than a year without accomplishing anything in the least, as is 
also the case, by the way, in all fields. 

Unfortunately, you have answered none of my objections 
to your conduct in Europe. In the meantime, I had to openly 
take a position against you in a circular to the sections, with- 
out, in any case, naming you. I must regretfully note that you 
have drawn absolutely no conclusions from the bad experience 
beginning with the international conference of April 1930. 
The difficult situation in the French Ligue is to a certain extent 
also thanks to you because, directly or indirectly, you always 
supported those elements who acted as a brake or as a disinte- 
grating force, such as the Naville group. You now transfer your 
support to Mill-Felix, who in no sense have proven themselves. 
At one time you published in the Militant (as did La Veritel) 
two scandalous reports by Mill from Spain that misled the entire 
international Opposition. 283 These reports demonstrated that 
Mill is incapable of finding his way correctly in the most 

134 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

fundamental political questions. After a year of struggle against 
Rosmer and Naville he has suddenly begun to cling to them. 
In your letter you semiaffectionately call this stupid. For a 15- 
year-old boy that would still be acceptable. But for the perma- 
nent secretary of the International Secretariat one must seek 
sharper and more political characterizations. 

Your conduct in Spain was also wrong, as is evident from 
your own letter. The Spanish comrades, especially Nin, have 
committed every mistake imaginable, wasted much time, and 
would now like to find a scapegoat for their own weaknesses 
and mistakes. Lacroix, who, as it is maintained, has very good 
qualities, is absolutely undisciplined in his thoughts and actions, 
and to support him in his outbursts is a crime. 

What you say about the German Opposition sounds like an 
echo of your old sympathies for Landau, which the German 
comrades do not want to forget and rightly so. In the struggle 
that we waged here against the accidental, used-up, or down- 
right demoralized elements, you, dear Shachtman, were never 
on our side, and those concerned (Rosmer, Naville, Landau, 
and now Mill) always felt that they were backed in large mea- 
sure by the American League. I by no means believe that the 
League bears responsibility for this, but I do find it necessary 
to send a copy of this letter to the American leadership, so that 
at least in the future our European struggle will be less influ- 
enced by your personal connections, sympathies, etc. 

I somewhat regret the story about the interview for the 
Manchester Guardian. The topic is hardly suitable for that paper, 
and financially the matter is hardly worth the trouble. Let us 
hope that the Liberals do not accept it after all. At any rate, 
thank you for your good intentions. 

I also cannot approve of the idea of the Stalin book. 284 Such 
a hodgepodge of different articles actually intended only for a 
quite schooled Marxist audience would not be appropriate for 
a broader audience, would mislead the publisher as well as the 
readers, and would impair the success of the book on the his- 
tory of the Revolution. Thus I ask that you completely aban- 
don these plans. (That of course does not apply to a possible 
Militant edition of a pamphlet on Stalin.) 

On the use of the second volume of the History in the 
Yiddish press in America: Since I hope that the American 

Shachtman's Sympathies 135 

League has already received the $1,000, I believe we could turn 
over half the royalties to the German and Spanish oppositions. 
As a "commission" the American League could keep 10 per- 
cent in order to take the thing in hand wholly in the "Ameri- 
can" style. If I am not mistaken, the Yiddish press paid $200 
for the first volume. I want to draw your attention to the fact 
that the second volume is one and a half times longer than the 
first, and, in my estimation, is much more accessible and inter- 
esting to a broad audience. Correspondingly, the payment 
should be significantly higher, at any rate not less than $300, 
so that the League would get $30, the Germans and Spanish 
$135 each. These amounts could be sent directly to Madrid and 
Berlin by bank transfers. 285 

> 4> 4> 

Shachtman's Personal and 
Journalistic Sympathies 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to the 
CLA National Committee 286 

25 December 1931 

In a few days you will receive a circular from me to the national 
sections that speaks of our successes and failures. This letter 
also deals with an American comrade who gave a scandalous 
presentation on Russia in the Paris section. This American is 
Miller. It was reported to me as though he had a recommenda- 
tion from an American Opposition comrade. I consider this to 
be out of the question and would be very pleased if you would 
dispel that misunderstanding. 287 

In my letter I also had to take a position against our friend 
Shachtman. The reasons for this will be clear to you from 
the enclosed copy of my letter to comrade Shachtman. My 
efforts to find a common language with him in the most 
disputed European questions were never crowned with success. 
It always appeared to me that comrade Shachtman was and is 
guided more by personal and journalistic sympathies than by 

136 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

fundamental political considerations in these questions, which 
are somewhat more remote from America. 

I understand very well that from America it is not easv for 
you to understand immediately the internal European struggles 
in the Opposition and to take a precise position on them. Nor 
can anyone demand this of you. HoweYer. you must understand 
that it is very unpleasant here when comrade Shachtman at the 
acutest moments takes a position that completely counteracts the 
struggle which the progressive elements of the Opposition have 
been conducting for a long time and upon the basis of which a 
certain selection has taken place, and, in doing so, he appears to 
have the backing of the American section. Naturally I would not 
think of depriving comrade Shachtman of the right to intervene 
in European affairs as he likes, according to his standpoint or his 
moods. But it must be clear that we are dealing with only one of 
the leading American comrades, not. however, with the Ameri- 
can League as an organization. 

^ 4> 4> 

Too Much the Journalist 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 288 
31 December 1931 

This was a response to a report Shachtman icr<>te from London, where, 
at Trotsky's suggestion, he had sought the assistance of Ivor Goldsmid 
Montagu, seion of a family prominent in British hanking and Liberal 
Party circles. A dabbler in the film business with ties to the Soviet film 
establishment. Montagu had accompanied Sergei Eisenstein on trips to 
Europe and Hollywood in 1929-30. He had written sympathetically to 
Trotsky and performed some small commissions for him. Trotsky warned 
Shachtman "to observe a certain discretion " with Montagu. 286 

Shachtman reported that Montagu laid joined the Communist Party 
and was "less and less of an Oppositionist (he never was one, to be sure!). " 
Shachtman also wrote that he had on /lis own initiative submitted 
Trotsky's article, ''Germany, the Key to the International Situation. " to 
the bourgeois liberal Manchester Guardian and that if it was rejected. 

Too Much the Journalist 137 

he planned to submit it to the Independent Labour Party's New 
Leader. 290 A powerful indictment of the Kremlin leadership 's paralysis 
in the face of Hitler's rising power in Germany, Trotsky's article was 
written for the Left Opposition, not the bourgeois press. 291 In a letter 
to Montagu written the same day as this letter, Trotsky described 
Shachtman 's approach to the Manchester Guardian as a "political faux 
pas. One does not submit theses to a liberal newspaper that propagate 
the socialist revolution." He was even more scathing about Shachtman 's 
approach to the New Leader: 

If this or that article of mine appears in the reactionary, imperialist, 
capitalist press because the publisher has a special interest in it vis-a- 
vis his readership, this poses absolutely no political danger at all, 
because no one can or will want to confuse me with these gentlemen. 
On the contrary, in such a situation I have an opportunity to exploit 
this "special" interest to say what I consider desirable in the given 
instance. But the matter takes on another character if an article deal- 
ing directly with the question of proletarian revolution appears in the 
left social-democratic press. Unfortunately, not many are able to weigh 
the standpoints independently. But the fact that the article is published 
in the left Menshevik press appears to be a certain fraternization, and 
that contradicts the general interests of communism as well as the inter- 
ests of the tendency I represent. 292 

Trotsky requested that Montagu inform the Manchester Guardian edi- 
tors that he "had absolutely nothing to do with the undertaking, was 
informed of it ex post facto, and immediately protested. " Asking that a 
similar message be communicated to the ILP, Trotsky wrote that he would 
understand if Montagu's Communist Party membership prevented him 
from doing so. 

Your last letter was a very big and unpleasant surprise for 
me. You will understand the reasons from the enclosed copy of 
my letter to Ivor Montagu. I absolutely cannot understand how 
the idea could have gotten into your head to hand over my article 
to the English Mensheviks. In addition this seems to me to be 
a really fatal example for the new English Opposition. I am 
afraid that there must somehow be deep differences between 
our views on important political questions, differences that are 
manifesting themselves not in general theoretical or political 
form, but rather in the most important acute political questions. 
I will tell you my opinion quite openly: Since you, comrade 
Shachtman, are a talented journalist— which can become of the 
utmost significance for our cause— you have the tendency to see 

138 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

things much too much from the journalistic or writer's stand- 
point at the expense of the political and revolutionary. That 
explains why we collide with you in all questions, and also why 
you— with the best feelings toward me and with the best friendly 
intentions— could have committed such mistakes as in England, 
which are incomprehensible to me. I ask that you forward the 
copy of my letter to Montagu to the central committee of the 
League, since the question has unfortunately become public and 
above all the American League must be informed. 

Please do not misunderstand me. I am far from thinking 
that this has damaged our political friendship. I hope we will 
in fact reach an understanding. But since my attempts to achieve 
this through an exchange of personal letters have come to 
naught, I must now attempt to clarify all international ques- 
tions through direct correspondence with the leadership of the 

I cannot avoid mentioning again that in your last letter you 
did not devote a single word to my very precise questions with 
regard to France. I therefore fear that instead of telling me clearly 
and openly why you consider my opinions and methods in the 
French, German, Spanish— and therefore also in the Russian— ques- 
tions to be incorrect and what practical proposals you counterpose, 
you will remain silent and in the event of a new intervention you 
will again find yourself on the other side of the internal "barri- 
cades." That is why I want to bring the copy of my letter to Montagu 
to the attention of the leadership. 


Why Did the Militant Print Felix's Article? 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to the 
CLA National Committee 293 

5 January 1932 

This letter is a response to "The French CGTU Congress: Issue of Trade 
Union Unity Confounded by Stalinists" by Paris Jewish Group leader 
Felix, which appeared in the Militant (19 December 1931). Felix described 
the recent congress of the Communist-led Confederation Generate du Tra- 
vail Unitaire, where the Ligue-influenced Teachers Federation submitted 
a resolution for unity with the Confederation Generate du Travail (CGT). 
The article included an oblique criticism of the Molinier-Treint leader- 
ship of the French Ligue: 

From the point of view of numbers and strength, the activity of the Left 
Opposition at the congress was very weak. The mistakes committed in 
the past, the errors of the Opposition Unitaire, the absence of theses on 
the trade-union question that should have been elaborated by our national 
conference, all this contributed to the fact that the position of the Opposi- 
tion was not defended with the necessary vigor at the congress. 

At the congress itself certain mistakes were committed in the vote 
on the political report. This mistake was later corrected by the Execu- 
tive Commission. On the other hand, we did not seek any contact with 
the federation and unions that defended the same point of view as our- 
selves, which constituted a second grave mistake, so that our own 
resolution received only one vote. 

Trotsky's fears that Shachtman was responsible for the Militant '5 publi- 
cation of Felix's articles turned out not to be the case. As Arne Swabeck 
reported, "Comrade Shachtman had nothing whatever to do with the 
publishing of the article. The article came through the mail and was 
printed in routine form without the consciousness of the editorial board 
of its indirect polemical character." 294 

In no. 36 of the Militant, which has just arrived, I find an 
article from France on the CGTU congress signed by Felix. It 
is quite possible that the article found its way into the paper 
purely accidentally, without the editorial board having had an 
opportunity to distinguish the fine points and allusions from a 
great distance. I fear, however— I must say this quite openly— 

140 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

that the article was published through the agencv of comrade 
Shachtman. If I am wrong, all the better. If not. this compli- 
cates the matter to the utmost. The article is directed against 
the leading group of the French Ligue, not openly and clearly, 
but bv insinuations and pinpricks. That is wholly in keeping 
with the author's spirit. Insofar as I haye been able to observe 
comrade Felix— first with Paz where he plaved a hothead against 
us, then in the Ligue. where he changed positions but not his 
method of fighting, which is unfortunately not the best— he ap- 
pears to me to represent a variant of Weisbord, above all in the 
complete barrenness of his criticism, its insincerity, its constant 
personal edge. etc. 

Comrade Felix has his own views on the trade-union ques- 
tion in France, which contradict the official policy of the Ligue. 
It goes without saving that the Militant, like every newspaper, 
has the right to air the views of the minority as well. This must 
be done completely openly and clearly, however. Accordingly, 
Felix should have named completely openly, in the name of a 
definite minority, the tendency in the Ligue he was polemicizing 
against. I doubt this would have been appropriate. It would per- 
haps have been better to pursue this polemic in the Interna- 
tional Bullet Di. but then, as I have said, in completely clear, open, 
unambiguous form. In that case the polemic could perhaps con- 
tribute something to the education of our cadres. In this in- 
sincere—I would almost say malicious— form, the polemic only 
serves the purposes of international intrigue. 

I will be verv happy if the entire matter is purely accidental 
and has no connection with comrade Shachtman. for in the con- 
trary case it would onlv exacerbate the great dissatisfaction that 
comrade Shachtman has aroused against himself among those 
elements of the Opposition in France, Germany, also here in 
Kadikoy. whom I consider the best. My concern has been deep- 
ened bv the fact that comrade Shachtman has not replied to 
the letters and warnings from me and my closer friends, and 
that comrade Glotzer, who promised me that he would call com- 
rade Shachtman to order a bit, has not devoted a single word 
to the matter. I had the impression that both Shachtman and 
Glotzer are under the influence of the small Jewish Group in 
Paris and that they completely overlook the perspectives of the 
Opposition movement in Europe. 

I Do Not Agree 141 

In a word, clarification of the situation on your part is 
absolutely necessary. 

4> 4> ^ 

I Do Not Agree With Shachtman 

Letter by Albert Glotzer to Leon Trotsky 295 
21 January 1932 

Glotzer reports on a statement he submitted to the resident committee 
at its January 13 meeting. 

I am enclosing my letter with those of comrade Abern 
regarding the Malamuth matter. 296 They are self-explanatory and 
there is no need of any additions from me. If it is possible for 
you to do anything on that it possibly deserves it. Or perhaps 
Lyova may be able to help. 

I had intended to write you when your first letter came on 
the question of Shachtman. But as an afterthought I decided 
to wait until your lengthy statement to the national sections 
arrived because that would complete or supplement what you 
stated in your first letter. The letter came a few days ago but I 
have been extremely busy working— typing the manuscript of 
your book— and in addition your letter arrived which made com- 
ment about myself and the question of the Jewish Group of the 
French Ligue. I think that those comments deserve an expla- 
nation from me. 

I should say at the outset that the references you made to 
me are not entirely justified and only create an unpleasant 
situation for me because in a roundabout way it appears as if 
I am in some measure identified with the views of comrade 
Shachtman. This is absolutely not so and the minutes of 
our National Committee will show that. I have entered the 
following statement into those minutes which you ought to 
receive soon: 

In view of the letter of comrade Trotsky and in line with my report 
to the National Committee I wish to declare that my views coin- 
cide with those of the latter. I look upon the situation in the 

142 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

French Ligue as the result of the former leadership of Rosmer- 
Naville. The present difficulties arise directly from the former 
situation and I regard as necessary a complete liquidation of the 
former conditions as indispensable toward creating a healthy con- 
dition in the French organization. In order to clarify my posi- 
tion, particularly because I have returned almost at the same time 
with comrade Shachtman, I want to state that my views on the 
international are not in accord with his. 

This statement of course is not a complete one but is entered 
only with regard to the letters you sent. But even so, I am sure 
that it clarifies my position entirely. I have not been and am not 
at present in agreement with the views of comrade Shachtman, 
neither on the French questions nor on international questions. 
This should be clear to everyone. 

I am ready to admit that when I arrived in Kadikoy I did 
not fully understand the situation. This however can be 
explained by the fact that I never had the opportunity as oth- 
ers did to know what the situation was. In spite of that my po- 
sition taken in the past was correct. Let me recall to you for a 
moment what I felt when I arrived in Turkey. I reported then 
that in the French Ligue a discussion was taking place on the 
trade-union question. I also said, as far as I could tell I did not 
agree with the position on this question— that is the position of 
comrades Molinier and Frank. And I should add that even now 
I am still of the opinion that the comrades are wrong on this 
very important question. Certainly it does not agree with the 
position of the American League with regard to the same. But 
then I never considered this the axis around which the French 
situation revolved. I don't think so today. It in no way influ- 
ences the real question of the relations between the various 
groups. You should recall what I told you of my attitude toward 
Naville and his group. That I consider more important. I am 
no more influenced by the Jewish Group than by the views of 
comrade Shachtman. On the contrary— but I did say that I 
thought they were more correct on the trade-union question 
than the other comrades. 

But supposing that I thought that the Jewish Group was 
more correct on this question? It in no way decides the funda- 
mental question of the leadership of the French Ligue. In my 
report to the National Committee I told the comrades that in 
my opinion a reestablishment of the former leadership or even 

I Do Not Agree 143 

an inclusion of those elements would be harmful to the further 
development of the movement there. 

I feel on the whole that my positions on the international 
questions coincide with yours and are essentially correct. You 
will find upon inquiry from the comrades in Germany that this 
is so. But then I am sure that you know this to be the case. 

Regarding Felix's article: This was published before I re- 
turned from Europe. It was put into the paper in the same man- 
ner that the articles of Ridley were put in. 297 Just as foreign cor- 
respondence, though it is clear that it is an error because it 
involves in essence more than just the trade-union question— 
the more important question of leadership is involved. 

Now then one other point with regard to Shachtman: You 
state that you have had no word from me with regard to my 
discussions with Shachtman. That is true. I have not written to 
you with regard to that for the following reasons: While I was 
in Kadikoy I wrote a letter for you to him asking him what his 
opinions are regarding the French Ligue. I left before he re- 
plied but I nevertheless kept in mind the idea of discussing the 
question with him. When I arrived in England I did discuss 
these problems with Shachtman. It should be clear to you now 
that we did not agree either on France, Germany, or Spain. That 
was the only discussion that we held. I should also say that / 
could not convince him in any way— and it seems harder now 
that even you yourself were unable to convince him that he was 
wrong. But he told me that he had written to you and given 
you all his thoughts on the situation as he saw it. But we were 
very busy in England and I did not get a chance to write you of 
these discussions because of that and secondly because he had 
already written you telling you of his views. Naturally when I 
returned and found myself in a mire of work I did not write 
any more of that and thought nothing more of his views until 
your letter arrived which informed us of his work. That of course 
changed things considerably. 

I feel no need of diplomatizing. My views are clear. I only re- 
acted to your letter which came today in which you referred to 
me. And certainly I refuse to be put in the same category with 
comrade Shachtman and his views. As I said above it makes my 
position uncomfortable with the other comrades of the NC, 
although from my report my position should have been clear to 

144 CLA 1931-33: Shachtrnan in the International 

them. I have a great deal more to say but will wait for the moment 
hoping that you will reply to this letter and express yourself on 
the points I made. To make myself clear: I am opposed to anyone 
or anybody who wishes to foist the former leadership of the inter- 
national onto the movement again or who in any way expresses 
opinions in favor of them. I consider that as harmful to the move- 
ment—further, that if the movement is to grow it will have to cut 
itself from the last remnants of Rosmer-Naville-Landau (and you 
can add Mill) type of leadership. I am as clear on this as I am 
of anything. 

^ + ^ 

Shachtrnan Acted on His Own Authority 

Letter by Arne Swabeck to Leon Trotsky 298 
22 January 1932 

This letter was sent to Trotsky with the minutes of the resident committee 
meeting of January 13, where Shachtman's functioning in Europe was 
discussed. The committee passed a motion authored by Cannon, which 
read in part, "The said views of comrade Shachtrnan have been put for- 
ward by himself as an individual without consulting the National Com- 
mittee and on his own personal responsibility. They do not represent the 
views of the National Committee and it takes no responsibility for them." 
Abern counterposed his own more equivocal motion. At this meeting 
Shachtrnan announced that he would not continue as editor of the Mili- 
tant despite the committee's vote that he should resume this post. On a 
temporary basis Cannon was drafted to oversee the Militant, with Sam 
Gordon working as his assistant. The committee voted to investigate the 
possibility of Maurice Spector moving to New York to be editor. 

We have received your letter of December 25 and also the 
copy of your letter to comrade Shachtrnan of the same date. 
Both have been discussed by our National Committee— or more 
correctly the New York resident section— in its recent meeting. 
The minutes, which are attached herewith, are being submit- 
ted also to the nonresident members, together with a copy of 
your letters to the League and to Shachtrnan as well as a copy of 

Shachtman Acted on His Own Authority 145 

Shachtman's letter addressed to you from Paris in which he 
expresses certain views on the situation in Spain, within the 
French Ligue, and within the International Secretariat. The non- 
resident members are also being asked to record their votes on 
motions proposed. 

In regard to these views expressed, comrade Shachtman pre- 
ferred to report to our National Committee only insofar as already 
contained in his letter addressed to you. We wish to state, how- 
ever, that comrade Shachtman carried no authority from our 
National Committee except that of a leave of absence for a visit 
to Europe, to be at the service of the International Secretariat to 
assist in the organization of a Left Opposition group in England, 
to act as a correspondent to the Militant, and to interview the 
Italian Left fraction (Bordigists) as to their exact position. 

Any views expressed by, or authorized by, our National Com- 
mittee in regard to problems of the International Left Opposi- 
tion, or for that matter in regard to the League, have been only 
those submitted to you and to the International Secretariat by 
the League secretary or those in harmony therewith. We fully 
recognize the right of any comrade to express and to submit 
his personal views on all such questions, but they should be 
regarded entirely as such. 

Our resident committee feels deeply concerned about the 
issues raised in your letters. We recognize them as issues of a 
fundamental political character demanding an expression of 
opinion of the whole committee and as soon as we have that 
from all members it will be communicated to you. You will no- 
tice in the attached minutes two motions made in reply to your 
direct question, one submitted by comrade Abern and one sub- 
mitted by comrade Cannon. The latter motion is supported by 
myself. Comrade Glotzer supported both motions with comrade 
Shachtman abstaining from voting. Personally I wish to add the 
assurance that the National Committee as a whole will support 
the motion of comrade Cannon which speaks unequivocally. 

We expect to be able to return to a more complete discus- 
sion and to a more complete expression of opinion on these 
problems of the international movement in view of the latest 
material received from you. In this respect I wish to also assure 
you of our deep concern for the struggle carried on by the pro- 
gressive elements of the Left Opposition. 

146 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

In regard to your direct question as to the American Miller, 
who delivered a scandalous report on Russia, we can answer only 
on the assumption that this Miller is John Baker. You will recall 
that several months ago we communicated an introduction to 
you for this same Baker who was then in Russia and had 
addressed a request to us for such an introduction as he wished 
to visit you for the purpose of giving information of develop- 
ments in the Soviet Union. Prior to his leaving America he was 
a member of our League. We naturally took his request in good 
faith. Upon his return to the United States we learned that he 
had not made any attempt to make this visit and had no such 
intentions. Moreover, as we then subsequently reported to you, 
his views were completely out of harmony with those of the Left 
Opposition. We severed relations with him. He is not a member 
of the American League. W T hen leaving again recently for Europe 
he informed us of his knowing of comrade Markin being in Ber- 
lin and that he intended to visit him to ask whether it would be 
safe for him to make a visit to you without being spotted by Stalin 
agents. 299 We informed him that it was, of course, his privilege 
to make such requests upon comrade Markin but that as far as 
we were concerned he could get no introductions, recommenda- 
tions, or contacts, that we had already informed you of his views 
being entirely at variance with those of the Left Opposition. Thus 
any claims made bv him to have the recommendation of any 
American comrade could not be well founded. 

We have in the past sent the records of our National Com- 
mittee minutes to the International Secretariat only; however, 
with copies of all special decisions and expressions of opinions 
also forwarded to you. We shall as soon as technical arrange- 
ments can possibly be made have transcripts of all the minutes 
of past date, including those of our Second National Confer- 
ence, also forwarded to you and in the future submit regularly 
copies of all such minutes. 

Please excuse this belated answer to the important questions 
which you have raised; that part is due onlv to our technical 


We Should Have Informed Trotsky 
of American Problems 

Letter by Albert Glotzer to Maurice Spector 300 
3 February 1932 

This letter was written on the eve of Glotzer 's departure for a tour of 
the U.S. and Canada on the topic "What Is Europe Heading For?" 

You shouldn't have given up hope so easily. My intentions— 
and they were good ones— were to write in detail concerning the 
situation in the international Opposition and particularly with 
regard to the more recent developments which hindered me from 
writing momentarily, simply because I wanted some days to 
reflect on them. Now, as the minutes of the National Commit- 
tee will inform you, the NC decided on my tour. This will bring 
me around to Toronto in about three weeks, I believe the date is 
about the 25th. 

I saw your letter regarding the secretariat and I agree with 
your remarks. 301 You will understand why when we discuss this 
question. Max, of course, you know, is not in agreement on 
international questions. He has always had some reservations 
even during the early struggles against Landau-Naville. Now again 
he finds himself at variance with the views of LD and most of 
the leading comrades of the national sections on the same or 
similar questions— that is, questions revolving around the leader- 
ship of the international and the French organization. The prob- 
lems are, to say the least, extremely delicate and at times obscure 
ones. But behind a great deal of smoke screen one can easily see 
that fundamentally it is still a problem of the development of 
the genuine Opposition cadres and of our revolutionary ideol- 
ogy. Personally, I am of the opinion that Max's views are shad- 
owed by his pleasant relations with Naville and now Mill. But 
you will read from Max's letter to LD, and you will find that he 
has reasons— some good and some bad— for his position. 302 You 
understand, of course, that these remarks are personal ones and 

148 CLA 1931-33: Shachtman in the International 

do not at all attempt to deal completely with questions— some- 
thing I will do when I see you. 

However, Marty and myself, at least, are opposed in every 
way to use this present uncomfortable situation in order to cover 
up or even make pretensions regarding the American problems. 
Although it must be clear that these developments do not lend 
strength to us, because demagogues find the atmosphere 
warmed by LD's letters. I have a great deal to say regarding the 
above remarks. But we on the other hand find difficulties now, 
and as for myself, I feel that on a whole we have been dealt a 
blow— not a permanent one, to be sure— but nevertheless a 
serious one. I feel in this respect that we have made a horrible 
error in keeping from LD the situation in the North American 
movement. All the more so since both Max and myself have 
been to see him. I have a feeling that this will, sooner or later, 
create a scandal— and that comrade LD will certainly spare no 
words with us on this account. But this is what we get for pan- 
handling political situations and I will never agree to such a 
thing again. We postponed for fear of destroying the organiza- 
tion only to find ourselves outwitted, unintentionally, so that it 
in no way helps our movement. It would have been far better to 
have settled the questions than allow it to eat on us like a cancer. 

I dislike to assume the attitude of "I told you so." But I feel 
a little bit embittered about it, precisely because there is noth- 
ing that we can do about it now— except to allow things to 
develop and act accordingly. I would suggest, therefore, that 
you await my coming so that we can discuss at length. In the 
meantime you will be asked to take a position on the minutes 
of the National Committee. Whatever vou do on that will be of 
no harm or consequence. I feel now that I may have been a bit 
too categorical, but this was no time for horseplay on my part 
because I was in an entirely different position from the other 
comrades, having just returned with a knowledge of the inter- 
national questions. But the others are falling over themselves 
trying to place themselves first in line— "to agree without really 
knowing or to await knowing." 

Let me know what you desire in the way of literature— I refer 
to the International Bulletin in German, Permanente Revolution, 
and I shall try to procure these things for you. I think that it is 

You Must Remain at Your Post 149 

quite possible that I may be able to bring it all with me or mail 
them to you personally. Specify just what numbers, etc. 
In the meantime await my coming. 

4* 4> O 

You Must Remain at Your Post 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 303 
10 February 1932 

Although you have not answered my last letters, I feel obligated 
to write you again. As I see from the documents that have been 
sent me, you want to give up your post as editor of the Militant. 
I hope the issue will already have been resolved before these 
lines reach you. How could it be otherwise? Your resignation 
would mean a blow not only to the American League but to 
the international Opposition as well. The central committee re- 
cently reconfirmed its confidence in you by its vote. As for me, 
I certainly hope that our collaboration in struggle and our 
friendship will remain unshakable despite our important dif- 
ferences of opinion. In every respect it is absolutely necessary 
that you remain at your post. 


The Fight 


Uphold Our Revolutionary Classics! 

by Arne Swabeck 
Published 5 March 1932 

This article, originally published in the Militant, is a response to Joseph 
Carter's "Honor Bolshevik Leaders" (Young Spartacus, January 1932). 

When young comrades, who are too much impressed with 
their own importance, express it in supercilious scorn for the revo- 
lutionary classics, it is time to issue a serious warning. There is 
only one short step from such an attitude into either the camp of 
the useless petty-bourgeois intelligentsia or else into the foul pol- 
lution of the most abominable revisionism. This latter is precisely 
what happened to one of our young comrades in an article entitled 
"Honor Bolshevik Leaders" and appearing over his signature in 
Young Spartacus no. 2. He stepped with both feet into that foul 

It is said in that article: "Rosa, in her inaugural address, again 
investigated the new problems brought forth by the conditions of 
the war and postwar period. She reexamined the teachings of Marx 
and Engels on the questions of armed insurrection, guerrilla war- 
fare, force and violence, and concluded that history had once again 
placed on the agenda the tactic advocated by Marx and Engels in 
the Communist Manifesto in 1847-48, but later proclaimed by Engels 
as outlived." (Emphasis ours— A.S.) 

In criticizing Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin once quoted two simple 
lines from a Russian proverb: "It sometimes happens to eagles that 
they descend lower than chickens, but chickens never succeed in 
mounting as high as eagles," and he added, "she was and remains 
an eagle." In its reversed form this would apply to our young com- 
rade. The outrageous statement emphasized above looks too much 
like the attempt of a chicken to mount even higher than the eagle. 

In ascribing these views to Engels our young comrade cites in 
parenthesis, evidently as his proof, the introduction to The Class 
Struggles in France 1848 to 1850 by Marx. Perhaps he was unaware 
of the fact that long ago evidence has been unearthed of how this 

154 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

introduction, when appearing in print by the Berlin Vorwdrts, was 
miserably garbled by the German social democrats of the 
revisionist school, notably by Bernstein. The extent of this gar- 
bling became clear when Ryazanov discovered the original Engels 
manuscript, of which he has since produced photostats, showing 
the important deletions which had been made. Some of the results 
of his findings Ryazanov published in Unter dem Banner des 
Marxismus (vol. 1, no. 1, German edition). In English these findings 
were reproduced by Trachtenberg in the Workers Monthly for 
November 1925. 304 

What Engels himself thought of the printing of the introduc- 
tion and of the garbled version becomes quite clear in his letters 
to Kautsky (then still fighting revisionism). First in his letter of 25 
March 1895, he says: "My text has suffered somewhat because of 
the scruples of our Berlin friends, due to timidity over the Anti- 
Socialist Law which, under the circumstances, I had to consider." 

Again in his letter to Kautsky dated 1 April 1895, Engels said: 
"To my astonishment I saw today printed in the Vorwdrts, without 
previous knowledge, an extract from my introduction so dressed 
up that I appear as a peaceful worshiper of legality quand merae 
(in spite of all). The more pleased I am that now the whole appears 
in the Neue Zeit, so that this shameful impression is obliterated. 
I shall tell Liebknecht very definitely what I think of this, and also 
those, whoever they may be, that gave him the opportunity to 
distort my meaning." 305 

Engels spoke in a similar vein, of the "mean joke" played on 
him, in his letter to Paul Lafargue, dated 5 April 1895. 

It is perfectly true that Engels, in this introduction, draws a 
sharp distinction between the conditions of 1848 and those of 
1895. This is as it should be. And it is particularly in this respect 
that the deleted parts assume their enormous significance. We shall 
quote only one. 

In drawing the sharp distinctions of difference in the two 
periods Engels says: 

Does this mean that the street battles will play no part in the future? 
Not at all. It simply means that conditions have become far more 
unfavorable for the civilian fighters since 1848, and far more favor- 
able for the military forces. Street battles in the future may be 
successful only if this unfavorable situation can be neutralized by 
other factors. Such fights will therefore be far less usual in the earlier 
stages of a great revolution, than in its further course, and will have 

Statement on Uphold Classics 155 

to be fought with greater resources of strength. Such battles will 
rather resort— as in the great French revolution, and as on 4 Sep- 
tember and 31 October 1870, in Paris— to open attack than to the 
defensive tactics of the barricades. 

Is there in this powerful testimony any evidence of Engels 
having proclaimed the tactics of the Communist Manifesto as 
outlived? None whatever. On the contrary, the letters quoted 
contain the wrath of the revolutionary teacher against the mon- 
strous falsifiers. 

Such accusations made against Engels become a blot upon the 
Communist movement which we must eradicate. With our modest 
means we must hold aloft the banner of Marxism and particularly 
so in the Left Opposition. We can well afford to be humble students 
endeavoring to learn from our great teachers. We must guard 
against this supercilious, know-it-all attitude which steps with both 
feet into the foul pollution of social reformism. Comrades guilty 
of such an attitude must be called to order sharply. 

<- + 4- 

Statement on "Uphold Our 
Revolutionary Classics!" 

by Max Shachtman 
12 March 1932 

This statement was submitted to the resident committee on March 15, 
circulated to the National Committee, and published in CLA Internal 
Bulletin no. 3 (July 1932). Shachtman demanded that the resident 
committee ''repudiate the article of comrade Swabeck and the procedure 
used in publishing it. " With Glotzer in attendance this motion passed, 
but it was subject to review by the nonresident members of the National 

On March 7 the National Youth Committee had submitted a state- 
ment to the resident committee protesting Swabeck 's "abusive, slander- 
ous, and uncomradely language. " At that meeting the resident commit- 
tee deadlocked on a motion to uphold Swabeck, with Cannon and Swabeck 
voting for and Abern and Shachtman against (Glotzer, the fifth committee 

156 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

member, was on tour). Carter submitted yet another statement, appended 
to the minutes, labeling Swabeck's article "a shining example of an 
illogical, stupid, and puerile and dishonest piece of writing." Defending 
his original theses on Engels' 1895 introduction to The Class Struggles 
in France 1848-1850, Carter referred favorably to the Socialist Labor 
Party's "Who Are the Falsifiers?", which challenged the importance of 
Ryazanov's revelations about the cuts in Engels' 1895 manuscript. 
Shachtman expands on Carter's arguments here. 

In their reply to Shachtman 's document, Cannon and Swabeck wrote: 

Did the revisionists blue-pencil the original document, striking out these 
and other vital, direct statements, or did Engels strike them out him- 
self? Shachtman makes a great point of this, and so does Carter. The 
SLP "proves" that Engels made the excisions: "from which," says the 
SLP, "it is evident that if anything appears in a discovered manuscript 
that did not appear in the Neue Zeit, it was at one time or another 
expunged by Engels himself." Comrades Shachtman and Carter press 
this deduction very insistently, as though they are scoring a point thereby 
against comrade Swabeck, and without stopping for a moment to con- 
sider who has an interest in this contention. 

We do not have sufficient facts at hand to give a positive answer, 
and we do not consider it decisive for a revolutionist. The SLP's "proof" 
is full of loopholes and is convincing only to those who want to be 
convinced. In either case the original manuscript gives the same indis- 
putable proof of Engels' real thought and intent, and confounds the 
legalists who misused his authority. If Engels agreed to the deletions 
under the pressure of the exceptional conditions of the moment-the situ- 
ation created by the drafting of the new Anti-Socialist Law-and the 
insistence of the party leaders-it only means to a revolutionist that 
Engels was betrayed and that his death soon after prevented his pun- 
ishment of the betrayers. 30G 

I want to register a formal protest against the article "Uphold 
Our Revolutionary Classics!" which appeared in the Militant of 
5 March 1932 over the signature of comrade Arne Swabeck, 
printed without authorization or even the promised preliminary 
consideration of the National or editorial committee. I will not 
and cannot take the slightest responsibility for a document whose 
contents, purpose, and all the proceedings surrounding its 
appearance, are without precedent in our movement, outrageous, 
and false through and through. It is annoying to have to waste 
valuable time that could be profitably employed in more important 
matters, on an elucidation of questions that should be elemen- 
tary, particularly for leading comrades, but the attempt to put the 

Statement on Uphold Classics 157 

whole National Committee on record in favor of Swabeck's article 
renders this statement only all the more unavoidable. 

1. How did this unusual article come to be written, with its 
"supercilious scorn," its "useless petty-bourgeois intelligentsia," and 
its "foul pollution of the most abominable revisionism"? What was 
the occasion for the adoption of such language against a young 
comrade, a brutal and rude language, it should be said plainly, 
that cannot be found in the dictionary of comradely discussion 
or disputes in our ranks, but is borrowed from Stalin's vocabu- 
lary in inner-party disputes? More than two months ago, an anni- 
versary article appeared in the January Young Spartacus devoted 
to Lenin, Liebknecht, and Luxemburg, written by Carter. In the 
course of a discussion I initiated in the National Committee on 
an article written in the Militant on Lassalle by a nonmember of 
the League, where I protested against the boudoir method of writ- 
ing about the great socialist leaders (a protest in which all con- 
curred), Swabeck raised the question of Carter's article. 307 Nobody 
spoke on it. No decision was adopted on it. Swabeck announced 
that he would reply to it. That was all. In no sense was Swabeck 
"commissioned" to reply to Carter, nor was there any understand- 
ing or decision that a reply was required. 

Six weeks later, with the whole incident practically forgotten, 
Swabeck drafted his article against Carter and handed it to the 
linotype operator for the Militant. As Carter later explained, he 
saw it and requested that the article be taken up by the National 
Committee first, with himself present to defend his standpoint. A 
most correct procedure and most elementary. Swabeck agreed. 
He showed me the article on Tuesday, March 1 , and informed me 
that in view of Carter's request it would be taken up at the regu- 
lar NC meeting the next night (Wednesday). I said nothing about 
the contents of the article, reserving my opinion for the meeting. 
Abern later revealed that when the article was likewise shown to 
him, he expressed disagreement with it, at least in part, and was 
also prepared to discuss it at the meeting of the committee. The 
meeting was never held because of the illness of comrade Can- 
non, which would, it appears, cause the matter to be held up until 
the next committee meeting. 

The fact that Swabeck agreed to take the article up at an NC 
meeting and had informed at least half of its members to that 
effect would indicate that nobody else was in a position to sanction 

158 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

the article. Nevertheless, when the Militant came off the press on 
Thursday, the 5th, the article was there. By what right? Swabeck 
now explains that Cannon had agreed, while in the office Thurs- 
day, to the article, and that it therefore was published without the 
"formality" of the committee meeting. Why all this haste with an 
article already delayed six weeks or more? And since when does 
Cannon's consent obviate the need of getting the consent of the 
other members of the National Committee? 

The whole procedure stands in a worse light when one con- 
siders that this violent and abusive article is directed against a 
responsible member of the National Youth Committee and a 
member of the editorial board of Young Spartaciis. He and the 
committee he belongs to, therefore, have, so to speak, some rights 
in the matter. What should have been the procedure, that is, the 
procedure that has always been followed in the movement in its 
best days? Swabeck, assuming that Carter's article deserved the 
strictures to which he submitted it, should first have taken the 
matter up with the National Committee so that the committee's 
views collectively, and not Swabeck's personal views, might be 
expressed. Especially is this necessary because on our NC is our 
representative to the National Youth Committee, Abern, who is 
also therefore concerned in the matter. Through Abern then, or 
through Swabeck if Abern was not qualified, the matter should 
have been taken up with the body directly responsible for what 
appears in Young Spartacus, the National Youth Committee and 
its editorial board. There effort should have been made to argue 
the matter out with the young comrades, and if possible to have 
them put out a correction in the forthcoming number of the youth 
paper or a repudiation of Carter, if necessary. Is this not elemen- 
tary, indispensable procedure in a case like this, a procedure always 
followed in a democratic party when an analogous case is involved, 
let us say, a polcom and a subsidiary language paper's "deviation"? 

Swabeck, however, completely ignored the representative to 
the youth committee, Abern; completely ignored the writer of the 
article in question, Carter; completely ignored the editorial board 
and the National Youth Committee; and on top of that, completely 
ignored the National Committee of the League itself. What we 
have here, in a word, is a bureaucratic procedure from beginning 
to end, not a loyal, comradely, democratic procedure, but one char- 
acteristic of bureaucratism. 

Statement on Uphold Classics 159 

Why? There is only one explanation. Carter has in the past 
been highly critical of the National Committee and of some of its 
members: Cannon, Swabeck, and myself, for instance, most par- 
ticularly against the first two. His criticism, frequently exagger- 
ated and petty (he is a young comrade, without a decade of expe- 
rience in the movement), has been rejected by all of us from time 
to time, particularly when it was obviously unfounded. Comrades 
Cannon and Swabeck, however, have felt themselves assailed spe- 
cifically and personally by Carter and have conducted a particu- 
larly sharp, and not always correct or justified, campaign against 
him and against other young comrades. It should be added that 
they have not always done it with the best results, i.e., of training 
and bringing up the youth to the revolutionary, important posi- 
tion they must occupy in our movement. More often than not they 
have antagonized the youth. Instead of helping to remove some 
of the irritating and bad aspects of the youth's work and conduct, 
they have only made matters worse. In recent months especially, 
they have sought to "put them in their place" by hammer blows 
instead of by patient enlightenment of those elements who are (and 
especially who can become) our most valuable asset in the future— 
in other words, by a responsible attitude which takes into consid- 
eration the immaturity, weakness, and possibilities of the youth 
in our movement. We do not want to flatter (and thereby destroy) 
the youth; neither should we flatten them out with bludgeons. 

It is with this attitude that Swabeck, with Cannon's agreement, 
wrote and published his article. In the NC Swabeck sought to 
excuse the article on the ground that Carter represented a "dan- 
gerous tendency" and was a "polished intriguer" generally. The 
motivation is remarkable. Is it to mean that since Carter is a scoun- 
drel anyway, in general, so to speak, any method to crush him is 
permissible? I don't believe in such methods. Is it not significant 
that only a couple of weeks or so after the NC added to the 
National Youth Committee two more comrades supporting its 
views as against the views of other National Youth Committee 
members, the whole National Youth Committee, the two new youth 
appointees included, voted unanimously against the tone of 
Swabeck's article and the procedure he followed in printing it? 
It is clear (and should have been all the time) that such only suc- 
ceeded in unnecessarily creating hostilities between the young 
comrades and the National Committee or sections of it. 

160 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

But, it has been speciously argued, it is against Carter's "revi- 
sionism" that you should direct your criticism and not against the 
"secondary" and unimportant technical question (?) of procedure. 
And further, it is against Carter's violent statement to the National 
Youth Committee that vou should protest and not against 
Swabeck's. Neither argument holds water. About Carter's alleged 
revisionism we will speak further on. As to the question of proce- 
dure, it is not a mere "digression" from "regular routine" required 
by an "acute situation." No, it is a fundamentally bureaucratic 
procedure, just as important as the theoretical dispute itself. On 
the second point there is no analog} 7 . Carter made a statement for 
the minutes inside the organization, on his own responsibility, with- 
out attributing it to others, and onlv under the acute provocations 
of Swabeck's article. The latter, on the contrary, had no provoca- 
tion, or, if you will, such a provocation as should have been settled 
in the manner indicated above by me; furthermore, Swabeck 
jumped with "both feet" into the public press to attack a respon- 
sible director of one of our brother papers. I do not, of course, 
feel at all called upon, nor do I accept responsibility for Carter's 
statement. But the issue cannot be befogged by an attempted 
comparison of the two documents. 

2. Now as to the contents of the two articles themselves, Carter's 
and Swabeck's. 

Here too I do not feel called upon to take responsibility for 
the manner in which Carter formulated the point he makes. As a 
more experienced journalist I would not have formulated the para- 
graph so awkwardly. That is one thing. The essence of the matter 
is another. And it is on the question of the essence of the matter 
that comrade Swabeck shows in his article that he has not under- 
stood the first thing about this historical dispute, the question 
around which Marxists and revisionists have argued now for more 
than three decades. He has not, as he acknowledged at the NC 
meeting, even read Rosa's brilliant speech at the foundation 
congress of the Spartakusbund in 1918, which did not apparently 
prevent him from undertaking a furious polemic on the subject 
of this speech. Further, I want to repeat here what I said at the 
meeting, that Cannon, who authorized the publication of the 
article, was in no position to give a categorically conclusive judg- 
ment on the article, because, at least at the moment he sanctioned 
Swabeck's article, I am certain that he had read neither Rosa's 

Statement on Uphold Classics 161 

speech, nor Engels' introduction, nor the polemics on the subject 
in the prewar and postwar socialist movement. If I had the time 
and space here, I could demonstrate that Swabeck actually poses 
the question from opportunist (that is, Bernstein's) premises, 
regardless of the ridiculously "rrrevolutionary" conclusions he 
draws. However, a few points will suffice to indicate that he has 
not grasped the essence of the question. What did Carter say, awk- 
wardly, if you will, but in essence? He said that Engels, in his fore- 
word to The Class Struggles in France by Marx, had proclaimed the 
tactics advocated by both these scientific socialists in the middle 
of the last century as "outlived." Swabeck calls anybody who makes 
such a statement an individual who steps "with both feet" into "the 
foul pollution of the most abominable revisionism." But if Swabeck 
is right, then not only should Carter be characterized so elegantly, 
but Rosa Luxemburg as well! For what Carter did was merely para- 
phrase in a very condensed form what Rosa herself had said, but 
which Swabeck did not find it necessary to read before writing. 
Rosa said: 

And here Engels appends a detailed criticism of the illusion that 
under modern capitalist conditions the proletariat can possibly 
achieve anything on the streets through revolution. I believe, how- 
ever, seeing that we are today in the midst of the revolution, of a 
street revolution with all that this entails, that it is time to break 
away from the conception that has officially guided the German 
Social Democracy down to our own day, of the conception which 
shares responsibility for what happened on August 4, 1914. 
—"Report of the Foundation Congress of the KPD, Spartakusbund" 308 

Here, party comrades, Engels demonstrates, with the expertness 
which he had in the domain of military science too, that it is a pure 
illusion to believe that the working people, with the existing devel- 
opment of militarism, industry, and large towns, could make street 
revolutions and triumph in them, 

Thus, Rosa also declared that Engels had proclaimed the old 
tactics "outlived" and thereby was "only short step" from "either 
the camp of the useless petty-bourgeois intelligentsia or else into 
the foul pollution of the most abominable revisionism." And not 
only Rosa! All the really authentic, authoritative Marxists, before 
the war, including Zinoviev, Lenin, Kautsky, and Trotsky, had the 
same opinion, made the same declarations, and were not only 

162 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

entirely correct, but did not, for that, cease to be Marxists! This 
for the simple reason that they approached this particular prob- 
lem of Marxism as Marxists, that is, as dialecticians. 

But, Swabeck will argue, what about Ryazanov's revelations? 
Rosa, Lenin, Trotsky, and the others were not aware of the "full 
text" of Engels' foreword found seven or eight years ago by 
Ryazanov. He even writes: 

Perhaps he (that is, Carter) was unaware of the fact that long ago 
evidence has been unearthed of how this introduction, when 
appearing in print by the Berlin Vorwarts, was miserably garbled by 
the German social democrats of the revisionist school, notably bv 
Bernstein. The extent of this garbling became clear when Ryazanov 
discovered the original Engels manuscript. 
-Militant, 5 March 1932 

In the first place, if Carter was "unaware" of all this, then a 
responsible leading comrade who should be a teacher of the young 
comrades ought to have made him "aware" before cracking upon 
his skull in public and amid a shower of abuse. In the second place, 
Ryazanov's revelations have nothing to do with the essence of the 
matter. All of Swabeck's incoherent, disconnected quotations and 
undifferentiated references to "garbling" only serve to confuse the 
matter completely. 

What is the actual status of Engels' foreword? At the moment 
the Berlin party fathers were quaking with fear at the Junkers' 
attempt to adopt more stringent provisions against the socialist 
propaganda (1894-95), Engels wrote a foreword to a series of old 
articles by Marx which were printed under the title The Class 
Struggles in France 1848-1850. So as not to infuriate the Junkers 
and drive them into sharp measures, the party fathers in Berlin, 
including Liebknecht the elder and Bernstein, first printed Engels' 
foreword in the party paper, Vorwarts, but in such a distorted, 
chopped-up, bowdlerized form that the Marxian-revolutionary 
essence of the document was violated and, to use Engels' com- 
ment upon it later, "So dressed up that I appear as a peaceful wor- 
shiper of legality at all costs." I have never seen the Vorwarts extract 
from Engels' introduction, any more than Carter or Swabeck has 
seen it. We can all get an idea of its distortion, however, by Engels' 
indignant observations and from the subsequent revisionist use 
which Bernstein sought to make of it. But it is not this printing of 
it upon which Rosa (whom, it should be remembered, Carter 

Statement on Uphold Classics 163 

simply paraphrases), or Lenin, or Trotsky based their views. Not 
at all! Because the whole introduction, ungarbled, uncut, un- 
distorted, was printed by Kautsky. He had requested it of Engels 
and Engels replied: 

Your telegram answered at once: "With pleasure." Under separate 
cover follow the proofs of the text with the title: Introduction to 
the Reissue of Marx's The Class Struggles in France 1848-1850 by 
RE. ...My text has suffered somewhat because of the scruples of our 
Berlin friends, due to timidity over the Anti-Socialist Law which, 
under the circumstances, I had to consider. 
-25 March 1895 
A week later he wrote Kautsky (1 April 1895): 

To my astonishment I saw today printed in the Vorwdrts, without 
previous knowledge, an extract from my introduction so dressed 
up that I appear as a peaceful worshiper quand meme (at all costs). 
The more pleased am I that now the whole appears in the Neue Zeit, 
so that this shameful impression is obliterated. I shall tell Liebknecht 
what I think of this, and also those, whoever they may be, that gave 
him the opportunity to distort my meaning. 

All Marxian commentaries on this document, therefore, have 
been based, not upon the Vorwdrts distortion, but upon the 
"whole" which Kautsky printed with Engels' authorization and 
proof corrections. And Ryazanov's document? The deleted sec- 
tions are obviously those which Engels himself had blue-penciled. 
Neither Ryazanov nor Trachtenberg dares to say the contrary 
openly, because Engels' letter to Kautsky is quite well-known. What 
then are the deletions, one of which Swabeck quotes: They are 
purely and simply a corroboration and confirmation of the other 
sections, obviously deleted for one of two reasons by Engels him- 
self: 1. In consideration of the timidity of "our Berlin friends"; 
2. Because the same things essentially are said, either directly, less 
ambiguously, or inferentially, in those parts of the foreword not 
deleted but printed by Kautsky. 

In a word, Engels in his foreword (the one Kautsky printed, 
which the SLP faithfully translated into English and very faithfully 
misinterprets in a revisionist sense) did advocate a change of tactics 
and nevertheless did remain a revolutionist. The foreword was not 
a "deathbed repentance for youthful revolutionary sins"— but this 
fact was known to Marxists before Ryazanov's discovery and known to 
them on the basis of a dialectical understanding and interpretation of 
the Neue Zeit publication. 

164 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Swabeck valiantly contends: "Is there in this powerful testi- 
mony any evidence of Engels having proclaimed the tactics of the 

Communist Manifesto as outlived? None whatever." Is it possible that 
comrade Swabeck has not even read the foreword, where the 
change is advocated in just so many words, so clearly as not to be 
upset bv one hair bv the deleted paragraphs? Onlv two davs after 
his last letter to Kautskv. Engels wrote to Lafargue a letter to which 
Swabeck refers but does not quote, evidentlv because it would upset 
all his contentions: 

(Engels refers to Bernstein) has just plaved me a fine trick. He took 
from my introduction to Marx's articles on France 1848-50 all that 
could be of use to him to support the tactic of peacefulness and 
antiviolence at all costs which he likes to preach for some time now 
especially at this moment when the coercive laws are being prepared 
in Berlin. But 1 preach this tactic only for the Germany of today and even 
then with substantial reservations. For France. Belgium. Italy, Aus- 
tria, this tactic as a whole could not be followed, and for Germany. 
it might become inapplicable tomorrow. 

Further, in that part of the introduction (first 18 pages) which 
Rvazanov declares were not in any way changed. Engels writes 
categorically and simply enough for all to understand: 

But history also proved us in the wrong and revealed our opinion 
of that dav (that is. after 1850) as an illusion. History went even 
further: not only did it destroy our former error, but also it trans- 
formed completely the conditions under which the proletariat will 
have to battle. The fighting methods of 1848 are today obsolete in 
every respect, and that is a point which right here deserves closer 
—English edition 
And: "The rebellion of the old stvle. the street fight behind barri- 
cades, which up to 1848 gave the final decision, has become 
antiquated" (ibid.). Did this mean that Engels became a revision- 
ist a la Bernstein? Not at all. Like the master of dialectics he was 
and unlike the pettv-bourgeois revolutionists of the anarchist 
school, he knew that the social democrats (i.e.. communists) 
do not advocate armed uprisings, barricade fighting, guerrilla 
warfare, etc.. etc.. every dav in the week, every week in the vear, 
and everv vear in the century— regardless of time, place, condi- 
tions, relationship of forces, and other concrete factors. Did he 
renounce revolution? That is what Bernstein tried to read into his 
foreword, true enough, but he nevertheless stated that the social 
democrats "have not abandoned the fight for revolution. The right 

Statement on Uphold Classics 1 65 

to revolution is, in the last analysis, the only real 'historic right' 
upon which all modern states rest without exception" and "Do 
not forget that the German Reich... is the product of a covenant; 
first of a covenant among the rulers themselves, and second, of a 
covenant of the ruler with the people. If one party breaks the agree- 
ment, the whole of it falls, the other party being no longer bound 
by it." 

But the indisputable fact remains that he did advocate a radi- 
cal change in the tactics of the working-class party because the situ- 
ation has changed. In what respect and why? Lenin and the other 
Marxists understood the change and the need for it, acknowledged 
it (unlike Swabeck), explained it (unlike Swabeck, who seeks to 
browbeat instead of enlighten), and showed why, with a new revi- 
sion—yes, a revision— of Engels. 

The situation is no longer the same as in the time of 1871 to 1914, 
when Marx and Engels quite consciously compromised with the 
incorrect, opportunist expression of "social democracy." For at that 
time, after the defeat of the Paris Commune, history put upon the 
order of the day the slow organization and enlightenment work. 
There was no other work. The anarchists were (and remain) not only 
theoretically but also economically and politically entirely incorrect. 
The anarchists falsely judged the situation, they did not understand 
the world situation: the worker corrupted by imperialist profits in 
England, the crushed Paris Commune, the simultaneously (1871) 
victorious bourgeois-national movement in Germany, the Russia of 
semiserfdom sleeping its sleep of centuries. Marx and Engels cor- 
rectly judged the situation; they recognized the tasks of the slow 
maturing of the social revolution. 

— Lenin, "The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution," 10 April 

And about two weeks later: 

As for the renaming of the party: the word "social democrat" is not 
correct, is scientifically false. Marx and Engels explained that 
repeatedly. If they "tolerated" this word then only because after 1871 
there was a special situation: a slow preparation of the masses of 
the people was required, a revolution did not stand on the order of 
the day. 

— Lenin, "The Political Situation and the Attitude to the Provisional 
Government," 27 April 1917 

This is the dialectical method by which Marxists approach the 
question of tactics, and not by superstition. One would gather from 
Swabeck's argumentation that without the deleted passages 
revealed by Ryazanov, Engels would appear to be a revisionist and 

166 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

justify Bernstein on the one hand and the SLP blockheads on the 
other. That is what I mean by saying that Swabeck approaches the 
question with revisionist premises! But even without the benefit 
of Ryazanov's discovery, Engels was just as much the proletarian 
revolutionist on the eve of his death as he was in 1848. As I said, 
not only did he revise the tactics of the communists, and call the 
old ones "antiquated, outlived, obsolete," but he was correct in 
doing it, as Lenin showed. And more than that, Lenin and Trotsky 
were just as correct in saying later that the Engels of 1895 had 
"now" (after 1905, let us say) also become "outlived" and had to 
be submitted to "revision." But for that they did not become revi- 
sionists or Bernsteinians. Let us hear again from Lenin: 

Kautsky behaves differently. Little as is the factional material he has 
on hand on the uprising (of 1905), he nevertheless endeavors to 
grasp the military side of the question... "Both of them," says Kautsky 
on the difference between the Paris June battle and the Moscow 
December battle, "were barricade fights, but one was a catastrophe, 
the termination of the old barricade tactic, the other the inaugura- 
tion of a new barricade tactic. And to that extent we have to revise 
the conception which Friedrich Engels set down in his foreword to 
Marx's The Class Struggles in France, the conception that the time of 
barricade struggles is finally passed. Only the time of the old barri- 
cade tactic is passed. This was demonstrated by the battle of Mos- 
cow..." Thus Kautsky. He reads no mass for the dead to the upris- 
ing on the basis of the failure of the first attempt. 

— Lenin, "The Russian Revolution and the Task of the Proletariat," 
20 March 1906 

And again: 

The third lesson that Moscow has given us relates to the tactic and 
the organization of the forces for the uprising. War tactics depend 
upon the level of war technique— this wisdom was predigested by 
Engels and put into the mouth of the Marxists. War technique is 
today different from what it was in the middle of the 19th century. 
It would be stupid to lead a mass into the field against the artillery 
and to defend the barricades with revolvers. Kautsky was right when 
he wrote that after Moscow the time has come to revise Engels' 
theses, that Moscow has shown a "new barricade tactic." This tactic 
was the tactic of partisan war. 

— Lenin, "The Lessons of the Moscow Uprising," 29 August 1906 
All these writings published, it should be borne in mind, on 

the basis not of Vorwarts distortions of Engels' foreword, but of 
Kautsky's exposure of these distortions, i.e., on the basis of the 
"whole" document. Ten years before Ryazanov, Lenin wrote: 

Statement on Uphold Classics 167 

When Engels' famous foreword to The Class Struggles in France 
appeared, the attempt was made (among other places in the Vorwarts) 
to interpret it in the sense of opportunism. But Engels was indignant 
about it and protested against having it seem that he is a "pacifist 
worshiper of legality at all costs." 

— Lenin, "The Dead Chauvinism and the Living Socialism," 12 
December 1914 

Let us pass from Lenin to Zinoviev, writing directly under 
Lenin's guidance: 

In the lengthy "peaceful" epoch of western European socialism which 
had its end on the eve of the present war, the factor of revolution- 
ary force (Gewalt: force or violence, MS) stepped completely into 
the background behind the purely parliamentary legal methods of 
struggle. The opportunists rejected violence as a factor in the eman- 
cipation of the oppressed class. "Force always played a reactionary 
part in history"— this is the erroneous thesis of the opportunists and 
social pacifists. The well-known foreword by Engels to The Class 
Struggles in France was interpreted in the sense that Marx, a cof ighter, 
had become, toward the end of his life, also a supporter in prin- 
ciple of the legal struggle. Engels himself protested repeatedly against 
such a construction. In the foreword itself Engels wrote: "The right 
of revolution is the only genuinely historical right." But after Engels' 
death the opportunists, spurred by Bernstein, began with particu- 
lar zeal to develop this "interpretation." The lessons of the revolu- 
tion remain a book with seven seals for the opportunists. When 
Kautsky, after the Moscow armed uprising (he was still a Marxist 
then), declared that Engels' conceptions on the question of the 
possibility of a barricade fight in the streets must now be revised, 
nobody in the German social democracy paid any attention to this 

— Zinoviev, "Adler's Shot and the Crisis in Socialism," October 1916 
More than ten years after it was written, Trotsky even polemi- 

cized against sections of Engels' foreword and showed (in essential 
harmony with what Lenin stated above) how Engels' standpoint 
was no longer applicable: 

In his well-known introduction to Marx's The Class Struggles in France, 
Engels created room for great misunderstandings, by counterposing 
the military-technical difficulties of the uprising (speedy shifting of 
the troops with the aid of railroads, destructive effect of modern arms 
and ammunition, wide, long, and straight streets in the modern cit- 
ies), to the new chances of victory resulting from the evolution of 
the class composition of the army. On the one side, Engels shows 
himself to be pretty one-sided in the appraisal of the role which is 
due to modern techniques in revolutionary uprisings; on the other 
side, he did not consider it necessary to present the facts that the 

168 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

evolution in the class composition of the army can be brought out 
only when people and army are "confronted".... The Russian revolu- 
tion has brought more proof of the fact that it is not arms, cannon, 
and armored ships which prevail over people, but, in the final analy- 
sis, people who prevail over arms, cannon, and armored ships. 

— Trotsky, "The Balance of the Revolution," 1905 

And finally, to get back to Rosa, let us quote from her polemic, 
written also long before she had the benefit of Ryazanov's purely 
corroboratory passages, against Bernstein's revisionist book 
of 1898: 

When Engels revised the tactic of the modern labor movement in 
his foreword to The Class Struggles in France and counter posed the 
legal struggle to the barricades, he was dealing, as is clear from every 
line of the foreword, not with the question of the final conquest of 
political power, but with the question of the present daily struggles, 
not the attitude of the proletariat toward the capitalist state at the 
moment of the seizure of state power, but its attitude within the 
framework of the capitalist state. In a word, Engels presents the line 
of conduct to the dominated but not to the triumphant proletariat. 

— Rosa Luxemburg, "Reform or Revolution" 

These quotations could be multiplied almost indefinitely, but 
I think enough have been cited to show that from every stand- 
point—of theory, of organization, of comradeliness, of responsi- 
bility in general and the specific responsibility that rests upon the 
shoulders of a League secretary— the whole conduct and stand- 
point of comrade Swabeck are not to be endorsed for an instant. 
Not a single argument can be presented to uphold them and none 
has been presented. The procedure is unprecedented and unwar- 
ranted, the tone of the article is disgraceful, rude, and uncomi adely, 
the contents of the article are ridiculous both from the historical 
and theoretical points of view. 

But now a word must be added in conclusion: Since it is mani- 
festly impossible to defend either the procedure or the content, 
and no serious attempt was made to do so after I had spoken at 
the National Committee, another tack is being taken which leads 
very conveniently away from the mess into which Sw^abeck sped 
"with both feet," that is, from the article at issue. The sole answer 
made to my exposition of the disputed points was: 

1. From Swabeck, that Trotsky was correct in saying that I judge 
from a "journalistic standpoint." 

Statement on Uphold Classics 169 

2. From Cannon, the charge that I have organized a faction against 
the National Committee on the "worst possible basis," the youth. 

3. From Cannon, a continuation of the underhanded insinuations 
of "another Naville" or "another Landau." 

The first answer is a ridiculous attempt, part of a petty 
campaign, by the way, to cover up an embarrassed position by 
dragging over it a quotation from one of comrade Trotsky's let- 
ters to me, and has about as much to do with the actual question 
under consideration as, let us say, Swabeck's article has to do with 
real Marxism. The second "answer" is a patent falsehood which 
nobody can prove for the simple reason that no proofs exist. It 
too is invented to cover up a bad mess and as an "ideological prepa- 
ration" for a factional campaign which Cannon announced at the 
same meeting for the "purging" of the organization regardless of 
the wreckage he strews about along the road of this campaign. 
The third statement I called a frame-up and I repeat it here. Can- 
non has disloyally taken advantage of views I have expressed in 
letters to comrade Trotsky on certain international questions and 
which aroused a difference of opinion between us on some points, 
to continue a campaign against me started long ago, to which he, 
so to speak, tacked on the "international questions," which reached 
its height at the last conference with the insinuation-filled speech 
to the effect that I was, after all, only a petty-bourgeois intellec- 
tual, a writer, an American Naville, an American Landau. 309 Now 
the song becomes a little louder and even less attractive. It is very 
clear what Cannon is aiming at: I know it but too well. To talk 
constantly about "collaboration" and to do everything to render 
it as difficult as possible, if not impossible; to solve every ques- 
tion that is raised with the broad hint that Shachtman is only an- 
other Naville or Landau (both in one)— these methods won't work, 
except to the unmistakable disservice and enfeeblement of the or- 
ganization. It is a course which is a warning against itself. 

<► 4> 4> 


A Bad Situation in the American League 

Letter by Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky 310 
13 March 1932 

On 23 January 1932 Shachtman finally responded to Trotsky: "I feel 
absolutely speechless at the sharp tone of your last letters. " While defending 
the views in his December 1 letter, he asserted, "I never questioned your 
opinions or manner of action in the Russian question, or the Spanish 
question, or the German question, or the French question!" He repeats 
this denial here and reports on the situation in the American League. 

1. I have your letter of February 10, in which you write that I have 
not yet replied to your previous letter. By this time you should 
have received this reply; it is evident that our letters crossed each 
other in transit. I am very deeply cognizant and appreciative of 
the confidence in me which your letter implies. Unfortunately, it 
has become impossible for me to take up once more my position 
as editor of the Militant, in spite of the fact that there is no work 
at the present time which I am more anxious to do. So that there 
should be no misunderstanding, I want to emphasize that I did 
not in any sense refuse to take up my position again because of 
any differences of opinion I may have with you, nor because of 
the letters of criticism of my position which you wrote to me and 
the League. These differences will, I feel sure, prove to be of a far 
less fundamental character than they may have seemed to you— 
my previous letter will indicate this. My resignation was deter- 
mined, however, by the attitude shown and the position taken by 
the other comrades here, particularly the two who occupy the most 
responsible positions, comrades Swabeck, the secretary, and 
Cannon, the editor, an attitude which makes my collaboration, 
particularly in so vital a position as permanent editor, increasingly 

It is a very difficult and even painful subject to write about, 
particularly because I feel mainly responsible for not having 
informed you about the internal situation in the American League 
before this time— especially when frictions first arose just prior to 

Bad Situation in League 171 

the time when I left for a visit to you in 1930. The only justifica- 
tion I may have for my reticence all this time is that, first, I did 
not want to alarm you unduly with reports about a bad situation 
in the American League which I hoped would be straightened out 
with our own forces, and secondly, I hesitated to present to you 
my views of the situation without the other comrades having the 
opportunity to be present and give their views. Besides, since 1930, 
although we have had some bad periods, we have also had long 
stretches when a very satisfactory collaboration among all the 
leading comrades was established and the hope created that, by 
yielding and compromising on both sides and dropping the smaller 
mutual criticisms for the more important common work, the 
difficulties would steadily diminish. Here too I emphasize for the 
purpose of clarity that these differences, from their very origin, 
had absolutely nothing to do with the differences on international 
questions which, let us say, exist between us at the present moment. 

Unfortunately, at the conference last fall, our internal conflicts 
broke out once more. A bad situation was created, particularly 
when Cannon insinuated in a speech that I was "another Naville" 
or "another Landau." This outrageous accusation was not, of 
course, based upon any political line I have pursued in the League 
nor upon my conduct, but upon a sentence contained in one of 
your last year's letters to me in which you speak of my so-called 
"hesitations" concerning Naville or Landau, I do not recall off- 
hand. Now, after my return from Europe, the situation has only 
become worse. To the disputes we had had before in our leading 
committee has now been "grafted on," so to speak, the "interna- 
tional questions," in such a manner as to cover up entirely the 
original source of our friction here. I must tell you frankly that it 
is not so difficult for some comrades here to vote 100 percent sup- 
port to the views of the Russian Opposition in any country in the 
world without reflection— and in some cases while expressing 
contrary views in private conversations— so long as it does not 
obligate them to any particular steps at home. You have frequently 
commented upon this phenomenon in your writings, this "radi- 
calism for export purposes," this sort of "revolutionary dumping." 
We have some of it here. 

The outcome of this situation has been that at our last meet- 
ing particularly (concerning an incident about which I have drawn 
up a statement for the minutes, which will be sent to you), I was 

172 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

suddenly denounced by Cannon for "organizing a faction of the 
youth against the National Committee"— an absolutely false and 
groundless statement— and once more called in "polite language" 
an American Naville, or Landau, or both. Now, you are aware, 
comrade Trotsky, that I have always tried to express my opinion 
on both these questions frankly. Where I was hesitant in making 
up my mind, I stated it. At no time— and certainly not now— have I 
supported, politically or organizationally, either the Landau or 
the Naville faction. I was, in fact, the comrade who delivered the 
report against them at our national conference. If I were support- 
ing them, I would say so and present my point of view openly. But 
that has never been the case. At present, however, comrade Can- 
non has further proclaimed the necessity of conducting an open 
"campaign" against the so-called "alien elements" in the League, 
in spite of his acknowledgment that the League will in the mean- 
time be set back and weakened. 

Naturally, when I am under so disgraceful an attack and 
accusation as that I am another Naville or Landau, made by two 
leading comrades, the basis for a fruitful collaboration is sharply 
reduced. And the whole business is based upon what I consider a 
disloyal tearing from their context of certain sentences contained 
in your recent letters to America. It is unfortunate that certain 
paragraphs from these letters have been made the foundation for 
such factional attacks which can only result in counteracting the 
few years of effective work which we conducted in this country 
and to which I sought to contribute as much as I could, while oth- 
ers who now accuse me so violently were in comfortable retire- 
ment. I am a revolutionist (not since yesterday) whose main 
capacities lie in speaking and writing, and I have never made 
pretensions to any other title. But I am not a "journalistic revolu- 
tionary" a la Naville and Landau, and those who start such a 
campaign will not be believed by the comrades here with whom I 
have worked for years since the Opposition was founded and for 
years before that in the Party. 

I repeat that it is not a pleasant subject to write about now, 
but "the flask is uncorked, the wine must be drunk." I hope that 
you will understand the position into which I have been forced 
here against my will. I want also to repeat, so far as our relations 
are concerned, that my greatest desire, to use your own words, is 
"trotz der wichtigen Meinungsverschiedenheiten, daB unsere 

Bad Situation in League 1 73 

Kampfgemeinschaft und Freundschaft auch weiterhin unerschut- 
terlich bleiben wird" ["that our collaboration in struggle and our 
friendship will remain unshakable despite our important differ- 
ences of opinion"]. I cannot possibly overestimate their value to 
me and I want to do all I can to maintain them. 

2. Enclosed is another letter to you about Radek and one for com- 
rade Frankel. 311 The "China book" is finally on the press and will 
appear soon. It is a masterful collection and I am tremendously 
proud of it. Allow me also to express my unlimited pleasure at 
reading the first volume of The History of the Russian Revolution. 
Like all the comrades who have been lucky enough to get and read 
the book (it is expensive, and we are in a crisis!), we look forward 
expectantly to the second volume. Eastman tells me that it is even 
superior to the first. The publishers have put on a tremendous 
advertising campaign for the book. I am sure it will easily outstrip 
the autobiography in a very short time. 

3. I have written an article for a bourgeois paper under a false 
name, concerning you and your exile in Turkey. It is based upon 
my own recollections of an unforgettable visit and the material 
which you gave to comrade Glotzer. You will remember having 
spoken to him about the article. It is written in a "demi-bon bour- 
geois" manner so as to be acceptable to the capitalist journals. 
Comrade Eastman, perhaps through your publishers, will try to 
sell it. Perhaps the League will yet get a fair piece of money out of 
the affair. 

4. About the new book on Germany, I have written to comrade 
Frankel. More details as soon as our committee acts on the ques- 
tion. 312 

PS: Our Jewish and our youth comrades are still waiting expect- 
antly for a few words of greeting from you to their respective 
papers— which are both meeting with moderate success, especially 
Unser Kamf. 

4> 4> ^ 


Statement on the Situation in the 
International Left Opposition 

by James P. Cannon 
15 March 1932 

This statement was submitted to the resident committee on March 15. 31S 
Glotzer and Abern voted against it and submitted their own statements; 
Shachtman abstained. All three draft statements were submitted to the 
nonresident members of the National Committee for a vote. After 
Cannon's draft was approved by the NC majority, the April 18 meeting 
of the resident committee voted to publish it. Shachtman voted against. 
The statement was published in the Militant on 23 April 1932. 

By the time the resident committee discussed the issue, the proposals 
contained in Trotsky's December 1932 circular had been implemented. 
Mill had been removed as I.S. secretary, and the reorganized I.S. had 
moved to Berlin. 314 

The National Committee, having considered and discussed the 
most important parts of the material bearing on the present situ- 
ation in the International Left Opposition and the French section 
in particular, has come to the following conclusions: 

1. The most important feature in the internal life of the interna- 
tional Opposition in the past two years has been the struggle to 
free the movement from the influence of alien elements who para- 
lyzed its activities by sterile intrigues, distorted its principles in 
practical application, and hampered its development as the guid- 
ing force of the proletarian vanguard. We are and have been fully 
convinced of the progressive and revolutionary quality of the 
struggle for these ends which has been led by comrade Trotsky. It 
has been an unavoidable and necessary stage in the preparation 
of the International Left Opposition to fulfill its great historic 
tasks. The National Committee is in full solidarity with the esti- 
mate of this struggle and the perspectives of the International Left 
Opposition outlined in the circular letter of comrade Trotsky under 
the date of 22 December 1931. 

Cannon Statement on ILO 1 75 

2. The correctness and necessity of this struggle to purge the move- 
ment of alien elements is demonstrated, among other things, by 
the positive results in the German section after the liquidation of 
the worthless intrigues of Landau and the freeing of the section 
for its actual revolutionary tasks. The leadership of the German 
section, which has taken shape in the struggle against Landau and 
his sterile factional regime, must be given all possible international 
assistance and support in its tremendous responsibilities and 
opportunities. The necessity of the struggle for internal renova- 
tion is shown with no less force— although in a negative manner— 
by the present state of affairs in France. The demoralization there 
ensues directly from the fact that the two-year struggle has not 
been brought to a conclusion. 

3. In our opinion the present situation in the French Ligue— which 
ought to be a matter of grave concern to the entire international 
Opposition— is not a new one. We regard it rather as the rear end 
of the struggle to clear the section of the influence of unassimilable 
and careerist elements, which has been unduly prolonged. The 
task there, as we see it, is not to seek a solution of the crisis from 
the standpoint of the episodic questions and differences. This only 
blurs the real issue. What is necessary is a decisive course toward 
the liquidation of the crisis by a firm stand against the represen- 
tatives of the disintegrating tendencies. Among these we count 
the leaders of the Jewish Group, and we particularly condemn their 
attempt to set up a nationality group as a faction within the Ligue 
and their resignation from the National Committee in the name 
of such a group. Such methods and practices are incompatible 
with Communist organization. No less harmful in the drawn-out 
internal crisis of the Ligue have been the ambiguous and diplo- 
matic maneuvers of Naville, against which we have recorded our- 
selves in our previous resolution. 315 In our opinion it is most nec- 
essary for the French Ligue to bring the internal controversy to a 
conclusion, to draw clear and precise lines, and make a selection 
on that basis. 

4. The proposal of comrade Trotsky for the reorganization of the 
International Secretariat by constituting it out of representatives 
of the most important sections who will be responsible to their 
sections is the most feasible plan under the circumstances. As 
the experience of the past few years has shown, the international 

176 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Opposition has not vet developed to the point where a secretariat 
based on the selection of persons— free from accountabilitv to the 
respective sections— could fulfill the office. The secretariat must 
become a responsible body standing above the intrigues and help- 
ing to liquidate them. We are of the opinion that comrade Mill 
misused the office of international secretary and erred fatallv bv 
identifying himself with the factional struggle in the French Ligue 
against the leadership. Thereby he helped to negate the whole pro- 
gressive struggle against Landau-Xaville-Rosmer and, at the same 
time, undermined the authority and discredited the International 
Secretariat. The reorganization of the secretariat as a responsible 
bodv will help to shield it against such a fate bv rendering it less 
susceptible to personal moods and vacillations. 

5. The difficulties of distance, etc., make a timely and effective 
participation of the American League in the internal questions 
of the European sections extremely difficult and preclude alto- 
gether any pretensions on our part to plav a leading role in their 
solution. We must not undertake that. Nevertheless we consider it 
desirable to participate more directly in the work of the Interna- 
tional Secretariat through an elected representative and the 
National Committee will propose to select such a representative 
of the American League as soon as possible. It is necessary to 
acknowledge a slackness in our international activities and duties, 
the nature of which and its basic causes have been accurately 
described in comrade Trotsky's circular letter. In order for our 
League to be useful in the solution of the internal problems of 
the European sections, and to educate itself in internationalism 
in the process, it must firmly organize a collective participation. 
The National Committee as a whole must familiarize itself with 
the international questions and bring a collective judgment to bear 
upon them. The most important material must be translated and 
supplied to the League membership for information and discus- 
sion. The progressive elements in all sections, which are struggling 
for the liquidation of circle psychology, sterile intellectualism, and 
worthless factional intrigues, and for the consolidation of genu- 
inely revolutionary cadres, must be assured at every step that they 
have a conscious and resolute ally in the American League. 


Draft Statement on International Questions 

by Albert Glotzer 316 
15 March 1932 

When it was first submitted to the resident committee on February 3, 
Cannon moved to accept this draft as the basis for a National Committee 
statement, with some additional points that he would incorporate. The 
motion passed, with Shachtman voting against and Abern abstaining. 
But when the resident committee considered the question again on March 
15, Glotzer refused to accept Cannon's edited statement and resubmitted 
his original. 

Glotzer condemns the action of the Spanish section, which, despite 
Mill's removal as I.S. secretary, had nominated him to be their represen- 
tative on the new I.S. At the resident committee meeting on February 3, 
Shachtman voted against a motion to condemn the Spanish section for 
this act. 

1. The National Committee of the Communist League of America 
endorses and accepts the general contents and perspectives for 
the International Left Opposition contained in the letter of com- 
rade Trotsky (dated 22 December 1931) addressed to all national 
sections affiliated to the ILO. 

2. The international situation, at the center of which stands Ger- 
many, offers good prospects for growth of the Left Opposition. 
Thus far the growth of the national sections has been a slow one. 
The reasons for this are in part due to the objective conditions. 
They were also due to the composition of the national sections 
which have in great measure acted as forces standing in the way 
of healthy development of the Left Opposition (Urbahns, Landau, 
Naville, etc.). 

3. This process of clarifying and purifying the ranks of the Inter- 
national Left Opposition is by no means completed. There 
continue to remain remnants of such elements in the LO, 
particularly in France. We regard as absolutely essential a liquida- 
tion of all remnants of the past and those arising now that stand 

178 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

in the way of a healthy development. We consider the struggle of 
the Jewish Group of the French Ligue against its leadership as a 
false one that plays into the hands of the Landau-Naville-Rosmer 
group. In this sense we reject the role played by the secretary of 
the International Secretariat as one acting contrary to the inter- 
ests of the ILO. Any attempt to consider small and nonprincipled 
questions as the basis for the dispute in the French Ligue would 
be totally incorrect. Such a conception overlooks one of the main 
fundamental questions confronting the whole International Left 
Opposition: the purging of its ranks of all alien elements and the 
development of genuine Opposition cadres. 

4. In this situation the International Secretariat could have played 
an enormous role. It failed to do so. Instead it injected itself as a 
factional instrument in the struggle against the leadership of the 
French Ligue, thus negating the struggle that that leadership car- 
ried on for two years against Landau-Naville-Rosmer and giving 
the latter direct aid in their struggle against the line of the Inter- 
national Left Opposition. We are in entire agreement with the pro- 
posal of comrade Trotsky on the reorganization of the secretariat. 
We consider that this is the best way possible to effect a stronger 
center of the International Left Opposition. But to merely accept 
this proposal is insufficient. Such a proposal must be carried out. 
In this sense we consider the action of the Spanish section in 
selecting a non-Spanish representative for their organization, after 
formally accepting the proposal of comrade Trotsky, to be carry- 
ing out their acceptance incorrectly and approaching the questions 
confronting the Left Opposition from a factional viewpoint. 
The reorganization of the secretariat and its strengthening there- 
from will help toward a general strengthening of the entire Left 

5. The National Committee considers it desirable to participate 
in the work of the International Secretariat through an active rep- 
resentative. We are in favor of the election of a representative of 
the American League to the I.S. and the NC shall proceed to 
realize this requirement at the earliest possible moment. 

6. The National Committee considers the acceptance and carry- 
ing out of the proposals of comrade Trotsky as a step in the right 
direction toward building the International Left Opposition on a 
more solid foundation. 


Draft Statement on the ILO 

by Martin Abern 317 
15 March 1932 

This statement was submitted by Abern to the resident committee. In 
subsequent voting by the National Committee it was endorsed by Maurice 

The International Left Opposition, because of objective and 
subjective circumstances, has not had a rapid growth and devel- 
opment. The factors objectively are maturing more quickly, par- 
ticularly in Germany, for a strengthening of the International Left 
Opposition. Internally, the process of clarification and unification 
is far from completed. In various countries there existed for years 
Opposition groups which never had anything in common with 
Bolshevism and only compromised the Left Opposition by sym- 
pathy for it. The Paz group in France is outstanding in this respect. 
Urbahns in Germany is another. Methods introduced by Landau 
into the International Left Opposition were obstacles to its devel- 
opment. It is necessary to dispose finally and in a principled 
manner of the issues, basic or secondary, involved in the disputes 
with Naville and others. For the most part, Naville's position is 
unknown to the American comrades; of such as we are aware 
ambiguity is noticeable. 

Outstanding is the need of the formation of an International 
Secretariat capable of disseminating information to the sections 
of the International Left Opposition and to develop as a guide to 
it. The existing International Secretariat has not served the desired 
purpose. It would be most desirable to have an International Sec- 
retariat which has been elected through the medium of another 
international conference of the Left Opposition. Pending this and 
the required preliminary measures, developments, discussions, and 
clarification which are needed before the convening of such a 
conference, an International Secretariat in which the leading 
sections are represented by delegates elected by the specific national 
sections should be constituted. The American League should take 

180 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

steps to be represented at the earliest moment by such a represen- 
tative. Any other form of contact for purposes of information or 
participation in the life of the International Left Opposition is 
obviously unsatisfactory and deprives the American League of a 
need and duty. 

^ 4> 4- 

A Definite Conflict of Views 

Letter by Arne Swabeck to the 
International Secretariat and Leon Trotsky 318 

2 April 1932 

With this letter Swabeck enclosed Shachtman 's statement on Swabeck 's 
article "Uphold Our Revolutionary Classics!" as well as the reply he 
and Cannon had drafted, dated 22 March 1932. The reply, "Internal 
Problems of the CLA, " was submitted to the resident committee on April 
4 and subsequently published in CLA Internal Bulletin no. 3 (July 
1932). M9 In it, Cannon and Swabeck explained: 

The strength of the American section of the Opposition, and its advan- 
tages over a number of the European sections-as we have maintained 
against many critics (Weisbord, Carter, and others) who saw the thing 
upside down-consisted in the homogeneous group, trained and prepared 
by years of struggle, as a single faction, in the Party. The leading group, 
which had been assembled over a period of years in the Party struggles, 
was united by a community of opinions on the concrete questions of 
domestic policy as well as by an accord with the fundamental prin- 
cipled line of the International Left Opposition. It was this experience 
and this general homogeneity which gave the leadership an exceptional 
authority and enabled it to guide the organization firmly; to reduce 
capitulationism to insignificance and to liquidate oppositional attempts 
without crises and without even serious internal disturbances (Fox, 
Weisbord, Malkin). 

But during this whole period, in which a general external unanim- 
ity was displayed, the organization became aware, from time to time, of 
alarming frictions luithin the National Committee which gave the 
impression of personal quarrels. This state of off airs was signalized by 
the disruption of the work of the committee for several months after the 
first conference in 1929, by protracted abstentions on the part of 

Conflict of Views 181 

individual members, and especially by an open conflict at the second 
conference over the selection of the new NC. 320 

The facts which were known gave rise to uneasiness and dissatisfac- 
tion among the members, and to demands for an explanation of the 
political reasons for the friction. To all such demands the members of 
the committee answered that there were no serious differences on ques- 
tions of the League policy. And this answer was not a deception of the 
organization, as some comrades charged. Episodic disputes, of course, 
occurred quite frequently, and at times there were heated discussions, 
but when it came to the actual formulation of the committee's position 
on the important questions, we found a common language. This was 
the case at the First National Conference in 1929; at the plenum in the 
spring of 1930; and in the resolutions presented to the Second National 
Conference in August 1931. 

In spite of that, the delegates to the second conference witnessed a 
struggle over the new NC, initiated by comrade Shachtman 's attempt 
to change its composition, which they were obliged to decide. From the 
acrimony of this dispute it became obvious there to the conference del- 
egates, and especially to us, that the unity of the committee was by no 
means as firm as the unanimous political resolutions seemed to indi- 
cate. Nevertheless we assured the delegates of our confidence that the 
conflicts would be overcome in the course of common work and com- 
radely discussion without plunging into a crisis. 

These hopes were not realized. We have not been able to construe the 
conduct of comrade Shachtman since the conference otherwise than as 
a series of blows to the organization. And finally, at the meeting of the 
NC held on 15 March 1932, comrade Shachtman presented a docu- 
ment couched in such terms and filled with such accusations against 
us as to preclude the possibility of harmonious collaboration. Rejecting 
our proposals for a prior discussion of the questions within the commit- 
tee, comrade Shachtman had already gone outside the committee with 
this attack. It has become the material for a factional campaign in the 
New York branch on the part of comrades who have been at odds with 
the NC right along. Comrades Abern and Glotzer have associated them- 
selves with this document of comrade Shachtman. As a result of all this 
it is obvious that the organization is placed, before a situation which 
cannot be solved by the committee itself. Nothing remains but to submit 
the disputes to the organization as a whole and, simultaneously, to trans- 
mit the material to the other sections.* 21 

The document went on to insist, "No grown-up communist will 
believe for a moment that a National Committee of more or less experi- 
enced people can be disrupted overnight for the sake of a remote historical 
dispute or an insult to a comrade. The situation can become comprehen- 
sible only if the real causes are laid bare. " While thoroughly refuting 

182 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Shachtman's obfuscations regarding the Engels introduction, Cannon 
and Swabeck explained that the dispute centered on the following issues: 

1. The position of our League on the struggle within the International 
Left Opposition for the consolidation of revolutionary cadres and the 
break with alien elements and tendencies which stood in the way of this 

2. The conclusions and lessons to be drawn from this international 
struggle of the past three years. And, organically connected with the 
first two- 

3. The attitude of the leadership of the League toward various 
nonrevolutionary and intellectualistic tendencies in the New York 
branch. 322 

I am enclosing herewith several documents which as they stand 
are self-explanatory, and I will therefore in this letter add only a 
few comments as to the reason for their appearance. 

There are two main documents, one signed by comrade 
Shachtman and one signed by comrade Cannon and myself. We 
beg you to excuse the fact that the latter, the document signed by 
us, is so lengthy; but that was unavoidable, as we found it neces- 
sary to discuss an accumulation of issues. One of these issues is 
our difference of views with comrade Shachtman on the situation 
within various sections of the International Left Opposition. From 
our document you will notice that these differences are not merely 
of today, but began over a year ago. However, these issues and 
differences in the past were not so clear, hence we had hopes, kept 
alive by many personal as well as formal discussions and conces- 
sions made on our part, that the differences could be ironed out 
in the normal course of development. These hopes had not entirely 
vanished, even after comrade Shachtman's recently more outspo- 
ken views on disputes within the European sections. But with the 
presentation of comrade Shachtman's statement, to which ours is 
an answer, the differences have assumed the form of a definite 
conflict of views, which cannot be solved without a complete 
political discussion and decision by our League membership. 

I am also enclosing three drafts for resolution by our National 
Committee on the international question. This is merely for the 
purpose of further information, as the one marked "Draft by 
Cannon" is the adopted resolution, the committee members not 
residing in New York having since recorded their vote. It may seem 
strange that responsible committee members can arrive at a point 

Conflict of Views 183 

where as many as three drafts need be submitted and voted upon 
for a final resolution— all three, at least formally, endorsing the 
views of comrade Trotsky's circular letter of 22 December 1931. 
Comrade Cannon and myself were of the opinion that mere 
endorsement of the views of the circular letter was not sufficient, 
but that we should also endeavor to formulate a precise attitude to 
the questions raised and to the principled issues of conflict within 
the European sections. In that it appeared that we had the agree- 
ment also of comrade Glotzer. He voted with us for a combination 
of the two original drafts submitted by himself and by comrade 
Cannon. Hence the resolution marked "Draft by Cannon," and now 
adopted, was really this combination. But since the presentation 
of the statement by comrade Shachtman, we noticed that comrade 
Glotzer changed his views and reverted to his original draft. Com- 
rade Shachtman voted against all three draft resolutions and, 
strangely, although both comrades Glotzer and Abern at least for- 
mally endorse the views of comrade Trotsky's circular letter, they 
found it possible to associate themselves with comrade Shachtman's 

Comrade Cannon and myself, in agreement with other com- 
rades, have taken the initiative in proposing that these documents 
be submitted to the membership for their discussion and decision 
upon all of the issues raised. We also wish to assure you that we 
will sincerely endeavor, while this discussion takes place, to keep 
the League functioning normally in its external work, even though 
it means for a number of comrades the assuming of double duties 
and double burdens. 

We shall keep you informed about all further developments 
around the conflicting issues within our League, with the object 
of presenting every step contemplated to our international move- 
ment for its judgment. 

^ ^ ^ 


On the Motion for a Plenary 
Session of the NC 

by Max Shachtman 323 
4 April 1932 

Shachtman appended this statement to the minutes of the resident 
committee meeting of April 4, where Cannon and Swabeck proposed that 
Shachtman 's statement on Swabeck 's article, along with their reply, be 
submitted to the membership for discussion with the perspective of holding 
an early national conference. Shachtman insisted instead that a National 
Committee plenum be held as soon as possible. With Glotzer and Abern *s 
support, Shachtman 's motion carried. The committee agreed to distribute 
the material immediately to the nonresident NC members and poll them 
about holding a plenum. 

The aim of the Cannon-Swabeck statement, tacitly avowed at 
the resident committee meeting, is to split the League, as rapidly 
as physically possible, and at that on a basis devoid of genuine 
principles or true facts. This will be more than adequately proved 
in the coming discussion. 

A split in the League may be unavoidable— particularly in view 
of the reckless determination of its initiators, but that remains for 
others besides Cannon and Swabeck to decide. After three years 
of deliberate concealment of the disputes in the National Com- 
mittee and even the persistent denial of their existence, nothing 
but the most conscientious preparation and guidance of the now- 
more-than-ever necessary open discussion in the membership can 
obviate the setback which Cannon and Swabeck are seeking to 
impose upon the League. 

A split is the most radical and sharpest method of resolving 
the disputes. At the very least, therefore, it is the full National 
Committee that should first discuss the problem exhaustively and 
take the full responsibility for what is to happen. To attempt this 
by correspondence and not by a full meeting of the whole com- 
mittee is totally inadequate. It reduces the nonresident members 
to the rank of ordinary League members, with no decisive direct- 

Shachtman on Plenum 185 

ing voice and vote. Three years ago, in 1929, when the committee's 
internal disputes were of a much milder and embryonic nature, a 
plenary committee meeting was called in New York. 324 By the same 
token, such a meeting is even more necessary today. More, at the 
last conference Cannon pointed to comrades Dunne, Skoglund, 
and Oehler as those who were not directly involved in the disputes 
and whose objectivity would be invaluable for the committee and 
the League in the event of internal friction. That being so, their 
presence and decisive (not letter-writing) participation in this vital 
and fundamental question is required now more than ever. Else 
they must become more or less passive onlookers to the speedy 
splitting of the League by C-S. 

It is objected that the "differences are so irreconcilable" that 
a plenum cannot solve them. In that sense, neither will the planned 
conference "solve them," for Cannon and Swabeck construe this 
conference as the consecration of the split, as the place where 
the organization will virtually be confronted with a fait accompli. 
The full NC is the responsible leader of the organization— not the 
bare 50 percent of it which the resident committee constitutes. It 
must take full responsibility, therefore, for so serious a step as a 
split, if that is how it decides. It must issue or try to issue the basic 
document upon which the discussion should be organized. It must 
organize and regulate the discussion. Otherwise, it should acknowl- 
edge its fictitious and decorative character or its purely consultative 
function and no more. 

A plenum will "cost money" and the expense will be "dupli- 
cated" by the subsequent conference. The argument is worthless. 
Such considerations might have weight if some "routine matter" 
were involved. What is involved, it should be emphasized, is the 
splitting of the League. 

Let others talk loftily about "formalities." But the best inter- 
ests of the Opposition will be subserved by this procedure: The 
plenum must meet immediately. It must seek to draw up the basic 
documents. It must arrange for the discussion in a responsible 
manner. It must allow adequate time not only for the League to 
discuss, but for the intervention of all the national sections and 
particularly comrade Trotsky. To act otherwise shows either light- 
mindedness or significant, impatient haste— the attempt to make 
good, at a convenient "conjuncture," for the neglect and conceal- 
ment of the past. 


Statement on Holding Plenum 

by James P. Cannon 325 
4 April 1932 

Cannon appended the following statement to the April 4 resident 
committee minutes. In a letter to Dunne penned a few days later. Cannon 
argued that Dunne and Skoglund should agree to a plenum, despite the 
financial hardship involved: 

Since the committee meeting we have talked with a few of the most 
responsible members of the branch here and they seem to favor the idea 
of a plenum before the conference on the ground that it may give the 
others a final opportunity to retreat a bit before it is too late. We have 
no reason to be opposed to this, as long as it does not convey the idea of 
leaving things where they are now. 526 

Dunne. Skoghuid, and Oehler voted for a plenum. In a subsequent 
letter to Dunne. Cannon wrote: 

We want the plenum to express itself definitely and firmly on every 
question that has been raised in the documents already presented, and 
others which will no doubt supplement them. We cannot promise that 
the plenum will solve the crisis, but it will take the first and most neces- 
sary step toward that solution by letting the organization know who's 
who and what's what. STi 

The holding of a plenum prior to the opening of the discus- 
sion would, of course, be the normal procedure and would present 
certain advantages. The question remains whether the out-of-town 
members can overcome the phvsical and material difficulties in- 
volved in view of the fact that another journev will be necessitated 
soon afterward for the conference. The nonresident members 
themselves must sav the deciding word on the question. 

It is quite obvious that the disputes are of such a nature that 
they must be handed over to the organization for decision. For 
this a conference, preceded by a thorough discussion in the 
branches, is necessary. To delay the discussion and the conference 
very long would condemn the League to demoralization. These 
disputes cannot be left undecided. The protracted crisis in the 
French Ligue is a warning example in this respect. 

Real Basis of Differences 187 

If the nonresident members of the committee can see their 
way clear to attend both a plenum and a conference, then they 
should decide to hold the plenum at an early date. 

<► 4> ^ 

The Real Basis of Our Differences 

Letter by Albert Glotzer to Leon Trotsky 328 
5 April 1932 

This is excerpted from a letter that also dealt with Glotzer 's recent national 
tour and the financial problems of Unser Kamf, the CLA's Yiddish paper 
launched in January. 

I come now to the more important question of our internal 
situation. It is without hesitation that I write because what trans- 
pired at last night's meeting of the National Committee demands 
that I write this to you. Comrades Cannon and Swabeck introduced 
a lengthy statement on the situation in the League that without 
equivocation proposes a split in the organization. Comrade 
Shachtman charged them with deliberately fostering such an 
action— to which neither comrade Cannon nor Swabeck made any 

What are the circumstances that brought this about? And since 
when has the American League an internal situation? I am pre- 
pared now to write at length on this question. Before I do this, 
however, I want to make an apology for my part. I refer to my 
deliberate failure to report such a situation during my stay in 
Kadikoy. I recognize that no greater error or crime was commit- 
ted on my part either to the organization or yourself. I am pre- 
pared to suffer any consequences because of this— reflecting upon 
it I am ready to admit that this was a gross error. Even more so, 
since you twice directed questions to me revolving around this 
question and both times I denied that we had any internal situa- 
tion in the American League. The reasons for my actions in 
Kadikoy find their basis in America. You recall that I left for 
Europe immediately after the conference. Before my departure the 
entire National Committee discussed the matter. An agreement 

I - - CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

was reached that I was not to bring these problems before vou for 
two reasons: one. not to cause vou any undue alarm: secondly I and 
this is the reason for the first >, because we felt that it was possible 
to render a solution to the questions here in the States without 
carrying it out further. It was with this understanding; that I left 
and it appeal's that I abided bv this decision onlv too well. There 
is no question in my mind, however, that this was an error— not 
onlv because the situation is what it is now. I assure vou that I felt 
extremely uncomfortable since the conference because of this, and 
now that it is quite clear that we are unable to find a solution to 
our internal problem among ourselves, it is necessarv that the 
whole matter be opened up and a solution found in that manner. 
Our efforts to cover up the situation onlv acted as a cancer upon 
our movement. 

The situation opened anew with the now famous "Carter 
issue." The minutes of the National Committee and comrade 
Shachtman's statement undoubtedly acquainted you with this. In 
answer to comrade Shachtman's statement Cannon and Swab 
iiuroduced last night a statement that pretends to discuss the whole 
situation: its history, past, and present. The document, over 5 
pages typewritten double-spaced, revolves around two points: 
C arter and the international questions. Around these two points 
die two comrades propose to discuss the : U situation. Both of 
them arc false. And why? Because the differences date back 

not to the fust international conference, not to the Landau and 
Naville struggles, but even before comrade Shachtman made his 
first trip to Europe: vc>. even prior to our first conference which 
launched the International Left Opposition hi the States. 

We do not regard the Carter incident in the light that Cannon 
and Swabeck do. We proposed to settle that problem in itself. The 
two comrades refused— and have made it a central issue charging 
that comrades Shachtman. Abern. and myself have organized or 
support a faction against the NC on the "worst possible basis, the 
vouth." I regard this as a false and dishonest argument. On the 
question of the international "differences." how do these comra 
account for the following: Neither comrades Spector. Abern. nor 
myself are in agreement with Shachtman on the French question 
we do not regard that Shachtman has fundamental differences 
on international questions I, yet we find ourselves in agreement 
on everything else confronting the American League. What 

Real Basis of Differences 189 

comrade Cannon and, along with him, comrade Swabeck contend 
is the following: that our differences began on international ques- 
tions, and that these are the decisive questions and govern the 
whole situation. We reject this position as a dishonest attempt at 
an examination of our differences and a purely factional misuse 
of the letter that you sent comrade Shachtman in criticism of his 
views on the French situation. It was on the basis of this letter 
that comrade Swabeck told me following my return that it would 
have been best to inform you about the situation here! Why so? 
Because they thought that because of this letter they would be able 
to make false use of it against us. What their intentions really are 
is the following: to divert attention from the real questions to those 
of secondary, third- and fourth-rate importance or bearing on the 
American questions. Even if it were true that international ques- 
tions were the decisive ones in preventing a collaboration, would 
that then be the basis for a split, as their statement indicates? I 
don't believe so. But in order to sketch briefly the real basis of 
our differences, I will in the following pages give you a brief resume 
of the history of our internal situation from the period of our 
existence as an organization of the Left Opposition. 

Our expulsion and first conference gave a mighty impulse to 
the American Opposition. The conference established the left on 
an organized plane, laid the plans for the building of a print shop 
and the issuance of a weekly Militant, and generally began to broaden 
our activities in an organized manner. Comrade Cannon was elected 
national secretary of the Left Opposition in America. Following 
the conference there was a lapse in the administrative work of the 
League. Communications remained unanswered; connections were 
lost because of a failure in the central directive organ. There was a 
general retrogression in our ranks. I was then living in Chicago and 
a member of the National Committee. After a period of months we 
learned that comrade Shachtman was the new editor of the Mili- 
tant and comrade Abern secretary of the League. I should add that 
comrade Cannon was not only secretary but elected editor as well. 
With this change I protested to the New York committee, because 
these changes were made without consultation with the full com- 
mittee, and confronted them with a demand for an explanation not 
only of these changes but also with regard to the poor functioning 
of the center— the lack of directives, communications, and a weak- 
ening of the drive for the weekly Militant. 

190 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

It was on the basis of my protests that I was able to learn that 
the situation in the center was a precarious one. I should add that 
during this period Cannon was experiencing personal difficulties 
which did have an effect on him. But this in no way excuses his 
position at the time. He was advancing prior to the conference 
reasons why the conference should not be held. He was literally 
forced by the other comrades to come to Chicago for the confer- 
ence which was to initiate the Left Opposition as an organization 
in the States. He came to the conference unprepared for the great 
tasks that confronted it. Following the conference he failed to carry 
through the work assigned him— which resulted in a definite decline 
of the organization after its splendid start at the first conference. 
Upon the protests of comrades Spector, Abern, and Shachtman 
for his failure to commit his duties in a proper fashion, Cannon 
reacted personally to their comradely protests and requests, charg- 
ing them at the same time with factional aims! He broke with com- 
rade Spector, whom we consider our leading theoretician, calling 
him a "Pepper." This situation was overcome and the work pro- 
ceeded without much aid from comrade Cannon, who, it must be 
remembered, was considered the leader of the movement. And it 
should be borne in mind that during this period the drive for the 
printing plant and the weekly Militant was in progress. 

The situation remained unchanged. Comrades Abern and 
Shachtman continued to carry through the drive for the weekly. 
Spector in the meantime returned to Canada primarily because of 
the internal difficulties and the economic pressure confronting him 
in Xew York. The weeklv was finallv launched. Comrade Cannon 
was conspicuous bv absence. He was not to be seen when the first 
issue of the weeklv appeared. We considered this the greatest 
achievement of the American Opposition. For a period of two months, 
during the most trying days of the weekly, comrade Cannon was absent. 
We tried during all this time to obtain an explanation from Cannon, 
since on political questions there was apparent unanimitv. Com- 
rade Swabeck, who was acquainted with the situation, tried to 
explain it away by declaring that this was just one of comrade 
Cannon's moods. But even comrade Swabeck, who remained 
Cannon's staunchest supporter since the inception of the Opposi- 
tion in this country, declared in the presence of comrade Shachtman 
and two Chicago comrades that it might be necessary to expel 
Cannon unless he turned about-face. It is not necessary for me to 

Real Basis of Differences 191 

add that this was not our position. Toward the end of the year 1929 
comrade Shachtman and comrade Abern made the following pro- 
posal to the full committee: that comrade Shachtman shall go to 
see comrade Trotsky with the aim of establishing direct contact 
with him, establishing also contact with the European Oppositions, 
and obtain aid from the former for the weekly which was then 
experiencing its first difficulties. Comrade Cannon opposed this 
question entirely. He explained his position as follows: We could 
not carry on with the weekly and it was necessary to retreat. And 
that he, Cannon, was opposed to any financial aid because that 
was a form of subsidy and subsidies were the basis for the bureau- 
cratic degeneration in the Comintern— we must not become a party 
to such methods. If we cannot carry the weekly without help from 
comrade Trotsky, then we should retrench and go back to a semi- 
monthly or a monthly. Not one member of the committee con- 
curred in the position of Cannon. Swabeck alone had reservations 
and wavered, but even he voted for Shachtman to go across. Every 
other member of the committee voted likewise. Why? Because it 
was apparent that the weekly Militant was our big arm in the 
struggle and must be maintained, if possible; that we should not 
give it up so quickly if there are possibilities of saving it. 

When the full committee decided that comrade Shachtman 
should go across, I was called to New York to replace Shachtman 
in the national office. Upon my arrival in New York, I had occa- 
sion to speak to comrade Cannon even prior to speaking to the 
other comrades. He asked me why I supported the position that 
comrade Shachtman shall go to Europe. I told him then that the 
main question for us was the maintenance of the weekly Militant 
and secondly that in this manner we would be able to establish 
for the first time connections with both comrade Trotsky and the 
international sections of the Opposition. Comrade Cannon then 
raised once more the question of subsidy— and declared that he 
could not subscribe to such an act. He was opposed to subsidy— 
that it was necessary that we retreat and give up the weekly. Upon 
my reply to his question as to who would be left in charge of the 
national office during Shachtman's absence, that Abern would 
handle it, Cannon replied that this was impossible since comrade 
Abern, not having a political stable opinion from one day to the 
next, could not do this. I should add that during this whole period 
Cannon still stood aloof from the organization and did not give it 

192 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

the benefit of his aid. I should also add that in the period that 
Abern was in charge of the national office, it enjoyed one of its 
best periods. Comrade Abern is an old revolutionist of high stand- 
ing in the movement for his extreme devotion and abilities. That 
was the first intimation directly that I had with regard to what 
comrade Cannon thought during this time. At the next meeting 
of the National Committee at which we made the final decision 
for Max to leave, Cannon made a statement of the following char- 
acter: By the decision for Shachtman to go across you make 
it impossible for me to collaborate! And during Shachtman's 
absence, Cannon made good this declaration. He refused to 
collaborate in this period when we were in need of help and facing 
great difficulties. 

The period following comrade Shachtman's return from 
Europe was one in which all our efforts were spent in trying to 
maintain the weekly Militant— efforts made without support from 
comrade Cannon. We failed to do this with the result that we 
returned for a time to the semimonthly, although not one of us 
gave up the thought of returning at the first opportunity to the 
weekly. Matters internally did not improve. Spector, who came to 
New York to function as editor while Shachtman went on tour, 
was forced once more because of economic difficulties to return 
to Canada. We found it impossible to bring about meetings of the 
National Committee. In search of a temporary aid to this situa- 
tion, comrade Shachtman proposed to co-opt three comrades of 
the New York branch to serve as members of the committee and 
in that way perhaps build a functioning center. This carried 
through with the vote of every member of the National Commit- 
tee with the exception of comrade Cannon. But it should be added 
that this act helped to prevent a complete collapse of the organi- 
zation. Upon our insistence a full plenary meeting of the National 
Committee was called (May 1930) to discuss one question: the 
problem of the relationships between comrade Cannon on the 
one hand and Shachtman, Abern, Spector, and myself on the 
other. 329 W T e were of the opinion that perhaps a full meeting would 
help to solve the problem. It failed to do so! Comrade Cannon 
acknowledged that he was in some respects wrong, but that he was 
misunderstood', the comrades did not take into consideration his 
personal conditions; that we were too violent; summing up in all 
his remarks the need of a retreat. All our efforts at this plenum 

Real Basis of Differences 193 

were directed at trying to create a situation in which collabora- 
tion was possible. We succeeded for a few weeks after the plenum 
in reaching such a condition. But it did not last. Cannon reverted 
once more to his old antics. The whole period following the ple- 
num was the lowest reached by the organization. I am ready to 
say that if it were not for the lone, individual efforts of comrade 
Shachtman, who in that period acted as secretary, editor, office 
manager, and whatnot, the center would never have existed. Our 
financial conditions were such that we could not keep more than 
one comrade in the office. But the lack of collaboration was even 
more responsible. Cannon felt that he was treated rudely, his toes 
were stepped on, that the comrades did not appreciate his long 
service to the movement, etc., etc. With the co-optation of the 
three members of the New York branch (among them comrade 
Lewit), we managed to pull through this period. 

Toward the close of the year 1930, comrade Swabeck notified 
us of his intentions to come to New York. We greeted this action 
because all of us felt that comrade Swabeck, because of his expe- 
rience in the movement and because what we thought at the time 
was a certain impartiality, would really be the factor to bring about 
a healthy collaboration of the center. But we were sadly disap- 
pointed. The first two months of his stay in New York Swabeck 
spent trying to convince us all that Cannon was the logical leader 
of the American proletariat and we should make allowances, step 
back, forget the past, and accept him as the "chief" of the Ameri- 
can Opposition. There is no need to add that we had nothing in 
common with such a point of view. We did not consider this to be 
the problem of the American Opposition. We were more con- 
cerned with establishing a functioning center, preparing once more 
the ground for the weekly Militant, and expanding our activities. 
We did manage to build again a functioning center. Upon our 
motion the drive was again made for the weekly Militant. We suc- 
ceeded in reestablishing it. Up until the conference there was 
apparent collaboration. I should also add that in that year the New 
York comrades, up until the eve of the second conference, func- 
tioned on the National Committee. Of these comrades, Lewit in 
particular distinguished himself by his work on the committee. 
He is an old comrade, even though young in years, extremely 
capable, and whom we regarded at all times as one of the leading 
comrades in our organization. 

194 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

The preparations for the conference were made without diffi- 
culties. On political questions there was unity. Comrade Shachtman 
prepared the political thesis, made the main report of the confer- 
ence. The conference went along without much participation from 
comrade Cannon. However, under the international report, he 
spoke at length. And what was the essence of his remarks: We were 
Navilles, Landaus, etc. A purely factional speech, which, we later 
learned from Swabeck, was purposely planned. This came very sud- 
denly and certainly unexpectedly. But we said nothing about it. 
However, in the elections for the incoming National Committee 
deep differences arose. In the meeting of the National Committee 
where we discussed the membership of the new committee a split 
vote occurred. Over what question? Comrade Shachtman nomi- 
nated Lewit to be added as a new member to the committee. 
Comrades Swabeck and Cannon refused to agree and the confer- 
ence stood still while we were trying to arrive at a solution to this 
question. What were the arguments against the nomination of 
Lewit? From Cannon and Swabeck: In the event of differences on the 
committee, Lewit would not vote for Cannon. They stated that they 
were unaware of such a proposal from comrade Shachtman, 
although in discussing the question of a new committee, I person- 
ally mentioned to Swabeck some two months before the confer- 
ence of my intentions to propose Lewit, and Shachtman did likewise 
to comrade Cannon. The opposition to Lewit was governed purely 
by factional considerations by Cannon and Swabeck. We brought 
the question into the conference and were defeated. 

Since the conference, the situation has not changed. The com- 
mittee finds itself at odds. The two comrades are trying to avert a 
discussion on the real differences and to falsely turn them onto 
the international questions, about which comrade Cannon knows 
little. What comrade Cannon originally developed was the theory 
of continuity of leadership , which in essence means the exclusion of 
new blood on the National Committee. This theory is the 
outgrowth of another one: that the Opposition in this country is the 
outgrowth, and the logical and necessary outgrowth at that, of the old 
Cannon group in the Party. We reject this theory and even fought 
over it. We are not the "logical," "historical," nor "necessary" out- 
growth of the old Party group. On the contrary— we broke decisively 
with the past. We are a Left Opposition today! The birth of the 
Cannon group in the Party came about in a split with Foster over 

Real Basis of Differences 195 

what question? Over the question of the support of the Comintern 
decision to institute the right-wing Lovestone group into the lead- 
ership of the Party! Yes, and the Cannon group broke on the basis: 
that we must support the CI decision. The Cannon group made 
unity with Lovestone— !— against the Foster group in the Party, in 
order to win the Party to the support of the Comintern decision 
which instituted the right wing into leadership! That is our gen- 
esis in the Party. We refuse to perpetuate our past. We broke with 
it completely— we started anew as a Left Opposition. Then Cannon 
developed the question as follows: In the American Opposition 
there is a difference between the old, experienced, and tried 
comrades and the young, inexperienced comrades who are try- 
ing to run away with themselves! This is really an argument that 
is supposed to support conservatism. Further, he developed the 
argument that in reality our differences are between the proletarian 
elements, Cannon and Swabeck, as against the intellectuals, 
Spector, Abern, and Shachtman. All of these are disloyal, dishon- 
est, and false arguments. But these are the basis for both Cannon 
and Swabeck' s conservatism with regard to the weekly Militant, 
their hesitancy on the issuance of the Jewish paper which they 
regard as a drain upon the organization and not as one of its 
strongest features, and their opposition to the issuance of the youth 

These are the questions that always confronted the organiza- 
tion: whether or not we should go forward or "retrench," as com- 
rade Cannon puts it. And last night they introduced their state- 
ment, forgetting the whole past, its difference, and attempting to 
discuss the situation in the American Opposition around what: 
the Carter article and international questions! 

It is with all the foregoing in mind that I have decided to write 
you at length. A solution to our problems must take place, but 
they will not take place on the basis of the statement of Cannon 
and Swabeck, who attempt to forget the history of the American 
Opposition, to divert it upon extraneous questions, and who 
in essence propose a split. We will fight with all our determina- 
tion against such a step and to prevent it. I hope that we shall 
be successful. 

I have not written with the aim of alarming you. I try to write 
soberly about these matters, bearing in mind all the time the 
responsibilities to our movement. That I failed to inform you is 

196 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

certainly inexcusable and I stand ready to bear responsibility for 
it. But I wish now to acquaint you brief lv with the above resume. 
There is a great deal more to be said and material likewise that 
you should have. 

What were the proposals of Cannon and Swabeck at last night's 
meeting of the committee? They proposed that we immediately 
begin the discussion of the internal situation in the ranks of the 
League. This discussion should begin with the publication of an 
internal bulletin; the first number to contain their statement, com- 
rade Shachtman's statement, the statements of Carter! That then 
shall be the basis for a discussion of the internal situation in the 
League. We proposed a different method. First that we shall hold 
a full plenum meeting in a short few weeks, that the plenum of 
the National Committee shall decide how the discussion shall 
begin, that the full plenary session shall have a statement on the 
situation— so that a proper basis can be given to the discussion. 
They would not agree to this proper procedure. It remains now 
for the other members of the committee to decide how this dis- 
cussion shall proceed: either bv first holding a plenum of the full 
committee or to begin the discussion immediately without such a 
plenary session. 

I do not here take up a number of problems. This letter is 
already overlong. I have written this in order to acquaint vou in a 
brief manner with some of the more pertinent problems that con- 
fronted the organization. There is a great deal more to be said 
and I hope that it will not be long before vou can have all the 
material before vou— which is extremely necessary in order to 
understand how matters stand here. 

There is only one other question I wish to take up with vou. 
In one of vour interviews vou state in your conclusions on America 
that ;i a labor partv is inevitable." 3 " This came as a complete 
surprise to us since at our last conference we were of the opinion 
that this was not so. Our position was based on the first discus- 
sions that comrade Shachtman held with vou in Prinkipo and in 
line with the position of some of the comrades in the American 
League. I should like more information with regard to this ques- 
tion, because already the Lovestoneites and Weisbordites are greet- 

Report on National Tour 197 

ing this change on the part of Trotsky and saying that the Ameri- 
can League was caught with its pants down. I would appreciate it 
very much if you were to clear this very important question up. 
I shall write again in a few days. 


Report on National Tour 

by Albert Glotzer 331 
11 April 1932 

This report on Glotzer's national tour, February 19 through March 13, 
was circulated within the CLA and the international. 

The tour allowed for a firsthand observation of the situation 
in the American Left Opposition, its external political influence, 
and its organizational position. What is outstanding is the growth 
of the political influence of the Left Opposition everywhere. My 
meetings, even those held under adverse conditions, were above 
expectation. There is a general growth of sympathy for our move- 
ment and it is possible to say that we are slowly breaking through 
the crust of isolation from the Communist and revolutionary work- 
ers. In a short while, we should be able to count upon a definite 
corps of sympathizers and new members for our organization. 

Simultaneously with this growth in the political influence of 
the Left Opposition, there are weaknesses organizationally that 
hinder somewhat the utilization of the improved conditions for 
work and transforming them into positive gains. The economic 
crisis has played no little role in causing some demoralization in 
certain sections of the League. The younger comrades in other 
branches are carrying the brunt of the work on their shoulders, 
while some of the older comrades play a minor role and others 
dropped out of activity entirely. 

One of the chief weaknesses of the organization is the absence 
of an inner-Party fraction. Nowhere do we have such a function- 
ing organ. In addition our connections with the Party are extremely 
meager and in many cities we have no connection with it. Our 

198 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

contacts are few, with the result that the Left Opposition reflects 
little of the Party life and also knows little of what is taking place 
in its ranks. It will become all the more necessary in the coming 
months to direct a great deal of effort in the creation of such frac- 
tions and drawing closer to the Party and its life. 

Our press remains the most important activity in the present 
stage of our existence. While some improvements are noticeable 
generally, the organization has a long way to go toward an 
improvement in the circulation of the Militant, Unser Kamf, 
Communistes, and Young Spartacus. In consideration of its impor- 
tance, the Militant does not enjoy the circulation that it should 
and the branches generally do not make sufficient efforts toward 
an increase of its subscriptions or bundle sales. While on tour I 
found that not one branch was engaged in a planned and concen- 
trated drive for the Militant. The bright spot in our publication is 
held by Unser Kamf, which demonstrated that it has a definite place 
among our publications. Its circulation is increasing constantly and 
its growing circle of readers helped to build up our meetings. The 
Jewish paper is highly thought of and we will be able to count upon 
positive returns in a short time as a result of its publication. 
Communistes has a limited field and the majority of the branches 
have been unable to participate in its distribution. However, it is 
possible that they can help in its circulation in Greek localities. 
Young Spartacus likewise does not enjoy the circulation it could 
have. A great deal of this is due to the failure of the branches to 
give it the necessary attention. But there are good possibilities for 
a further extension of its circulation in connection with the devel- 
opment of our youth work. On the whole it is necessary to begin 
a concerted and uniform drive nationally for our press; perhaps 
initiate a drive for the period of one month to build up all of 
our publications. 

One thing noticeable during the tour was the absence of any 
special internal or external campaigns. I held meetings with the 
branch executive committees in Boston, Toronto, Chicago, St. 
Louis, Minneapolis, and Youngstown. I reported on the tasks of 
the branches, taking up with them concrete activities, especially 
stressing the need of developing our press activities. We must strive 
to narrow the gap between our growing influence and our organi- 
zational strength. There is still too great a disparity between them. 
It is clear that from the center it will be necessary to strengthen 

Report on National Tour 199 

the administrative and directive functions. The leadership from 
the national office must be multiplied many times through con- 
stant communications, direction, and aid to the comrades in 
Canada and the United States. 

Bostoni The branch is composed of five comrades. Two of the 
comrades are extremely active in the Needle Trades Workers 
Industrial Union. Almost all of their activity is confined there. 
They play a leading role in spite of the efforts of the Party bureau- 
crats to isolate and sidetrack them. The two comrades enjoy a good 
following among the workers because of the soundness of their 
position in their union activity. Our press is sold in the union and 
the comrades are able to make our position known to these work- 
ers. One other comrade is a shoe worker and also active in her 
union. Because of this, the actual branch work and the daily activity 
of building the League suffers. It would be well if a comrade could 
be sent to Boston who would spend his time in carrying out the 
daily tasks of the Opposition in building up a stronger unit and 
organizing the general activities of the left. I have in mind comrade 
Clarke, who would be able to aid the Boston comrades and 
accomplish there, where the base is present, that which he is unable 
to do in Kansas City. 

My meeting in Boston was a good one. Forty-five were present 
in spite of the efforts of the Party to prevent a successful meeting 
by calling a "mass banquet" across the street from our meeting. 
This naturally acted as a barrier to many sympathizers who might 
possibly attend our meeting. The sales of our press are fair. Unser 
Kamf, because of the contacts of the comrades, sells better than 
the Militant. The sending of a comrade to Boston who is willing 
to go there and carry out the daily tasks would make possible an 
expansion of our activity in all directions and provide a better 
balance in the work. 

Montreal: Here we have one comrade who carries the brunt of the 
work in representing the Left Opposition. Comrade Geretsky acts 
as the literature agent for all our publications and is virtually the 
only active comrade for the Opposition in Montreal. He arranged 
for the meeting at which over 30 were present, half of them mem- 
bers of the Party and Young Communist League. The Party and 
the league members participated in the discussion, which helped 
to bring about a better clarification of our views. It should be added 


OLA 1931-33: The Figi I 

that the campaign oi the Canadian government to illegalize the 

revolutionary movement, while thus far being concentrated in the 
Ontario province, is spreading to the other provinces. - This pre- 
vented the possibility oi a public meeting and forced the comrade 
to organize it semilegallv. Our literature, especially Unser Kamf. 
sells well. I do not hold the possibility of the organization of a 
branch of the Left Opposition to be an immediate one. Our com- 
rade will need help, for example, of the Toronto branch. Alone, in 
my opinion, he lacks the necessary experience to do this. But we 
can be assured of a representative of the Left Opposition func- 
tioning actively in Montreal, a comrade who thus far continues to 
enjoy access to Party circles and who is an active member of the 
Needle Trades Workers Industrial Union. 

Toronto-. My arrival coincided with the sentencing of the leader- 
ship of the Party to jail terms and the illegalization of the 
movement There is an extreme terror against the working class 
and its organizations; the chances for legal activity are few. Our 
meeting, organized illegally, nevertheless managed to get an 
attendance oi over 50. In my opinion this was an excellent show- 
in-, considering the circumstances under which it was held. 
However, the drive against the Party and the revolutionary move- 
ment in general is a big blow to the working class. It did serve to 
draw our movement closer to the Party. The illegalization of the 
Party made possible the active participation of the Toronto branch 
in its defense and in the defense oi the Party leaders. The willing- 
ness of the comrades to aid the Party brought good results. It went 
a long wa\ in dispelling false notions of Party members and sym- 
pathizers regarding the Left Opposition and helped to an extent 
to break down the antagonisms between Party members and sym- 
pathizers regarding the Lett Opposition and our comrades. The 
presence of comrade Spector at the trial oi the Party leaders, an 
act which signified his sohdarity with them and also endangered 
himself, plus the participation of the branch in the defense work, 
made possible a better relationship. For the first time since our 
expulsion, it was possible for our comrades to speak to Party 
members and to an extent fraternize with them. It will be neces- 
sary now for the branch to organize its activities with the view 
of breaking through and functioning under the new underground 
conditi >ns. 

Report on National Tour 201 

The branch, however, showed a number of weaknesses. There 
are at present between 12 and 15 members in the branch. The 
branch as a whole is not active. They were virtually driven into 
participation in the defense of the Party as a unit by comrade 
Spector. The failure of a unified activity dates back to the 
postconference period. The branch rejected the political theses 
of the conference as well as its decisions. This created a condi- 
tion where the possibilities of common work between them and 
comrade Spector was impossible. They are overcoming this diffi- 
culty slowly. Our literature sales, in consideration of the possibili- 
ties, are weak. The Militant could be pushed much harder. Unser 
Kamf, however, is making good progress. But the youth paper is 
given little attention. Generally a real expansion of work is pos- 
sible here. Their activity in the defense has brought good results. 
They should proceed now with the organization of a youth club 
and a Jewish club. They must increase their activities many times. 
For Toronto especially, closer direction from the center is needed. 

Buffalo: The Proletarian Party Opposition organized our meeting. 
Over 50 were present. 333 The meeting was excellent. But, since we 
have no Opposition branch in this city and no bonafide sympa- 
thizer or member, further oppositional activity is questionable. 
The Proletarian Opposition members are still a dubious group. 
It is my opinion that we can expect little from this quarter. 

Chicago: The best meeting of the tour (including New York) was 
held here. There were over 150 present at the meeting, which was 
marked by its enthusiasm. A banquet was also held at which 35 
were present. At a meeting of the executive and the leading com- 
rades of the branch, the discussion following my report disclosed 
good possibilities for the further extension of work. Chicago is 
the only city where we have contacts in the Party. The expulsion 
of the three Young Communist League members, who are now 
members of the Left Opposition, found the Party carrying out a 
strong campaign against us. Instructions were sent to all Party units 
to the effect that any Party member found at my meeting would 
face expulsion. These and other means were employed to prevent 
a successful meeting. The branch is now working on the organi- 
zation of its Party fractional activities and the organization 
generally enjoys good prospects for development. The internal 
situation is not good. A number of old comrades have either 

202 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

absented themselves from the branch for some time or else do 
not participate in its activities. In addition the terrific effect of 
the crisis has deep reflections in our movement. A number of our 
comrades are going through a deep poverty that naturally reflects 
upon their activity. Literature sales are fair with Unser Kamf, far 
below its possibilities. The same can be said for Young Spartacus. 
The possibilities are present for building a youth club and a Jewish 
club and steps are being taken for it already. One of the best aspects 
of the Chicago branch is the fact that it has its own headquarters. 
This enables it to create a center for our movement in Chicago. 
There is room for further expansion, but basically the organiza- 
tion is a solid one with perhaps the best prospects of any unit of 
the League. 

While in Chicago, efforts were made to obtain admission to 
sit in the conference of the Proletarian Party Opposition as 
fraternal delegates, if this were possible, or as observers. As a last 
resort, we applied for admission to address this body and com- 
rade Oehler and myself presented our credentials and personally 
made the request. All of them w r ere rejected. In discussing this 
question, I have the following opinions: It may be possible for us 
to win individual supporters to us in the course of our fight. But 
we can in no way maintain optimism for this group, in consider- 
ation of their past ten years of sectarian policy and their present 
national outlook. It appears that years of life in the political atmo- 
sphere are not so easily cast aside and these elements represent, 
in the panorama of the revolutionary movement in this country, 
not an altogether progressive element. We should seek to win what- 
ever workers are in this movement— but we cannot expect to either 
w in or change the political physiognomy of this group. This was 
particularly observed in their refusal to allow us to be present in 
the conference under any conditions or any circumstances. 

Springfield: I managed to spend a few hours with comrade Angelo 
and discussed the situation and the possibilities of the organiza- 
tion of a branch. This appears remote for the present. The min- 
ers who came to our support are for the most part inactive either 
in the Party or the miners' movement. Comrade Angelo was active 
for a period of months in the Unemployed Council, which he 
helped the Party to organize. He was chairman of the council and 
also a member of its executive committee. During the time he was 

Report on National Tour 203 

active in this movement he played the leading role in activating 
the movement. The decline of the unemployed movement dates 
to the time of the expulsion of Angelo from this movement by 
the Party. He distributes all the copies of the Militant sent, as well 
as other literature, and continues his agitation for our movement. 
At the present moment he is working and agitating among a few 
young workers with the aim of drawing them closer to our move- 
ment. For the present Springfield must be considered a question 

West Frankfort: The scheduled meeting was not held for the 
reason that comrade Allard was away at a scale commission meet- 
ing and could not carry through the preparations for it. Added to 
this is the extreme terrorism that prevailed in this territory against 
the Party and the miners. Our meeting came on top of the arrest 
and trial of the Party organizers and the organizers of the National 
Miners Union, plus a drive taking place against the foreign-born 
miners with the aim of deportations. 334 We discussed the ques- 
tions of the Opposition with a few individual miners. Comrade 
Allard thinks it is possible for him to arrange a study circle of 
perhaps five young miners and through this bring about an organ- 
ization of the Left Opposition. I advised him that this procedure 
was a good one and that he should proceed with it. It will be 
necessary to send comrade Allard both instruction and advice from 
the center. 

The situation in this coal area is extremely complicated. There 
is a wide movement of insurgency against the Lewis machine and 
also the Walker state machine. The movement is hampered by the 
total lack of leadership in the mine struggles and the lack of per- 
spective. At the time I was there, there was talk of strike upon the 
expiration of the agreement. The rank and file want to struggle. 
But it is clear that a struggle confined to the "little Egypt" terri- 
tory in Illinois will be doomed to disaster. My advice to comrade 
Allard was to propagate for a united-front fight. Whether this is 
possible is extremely dubious. The Party is bent on carrying on a 
lone fight with the result that it isolates itself and commands no 
following. The whole situation is full of explosives. 

St. Louis: I arrived on the evening of the meeting. By far the best 
public meeting that St. Louis has ever had. Over 100 were present. 
A few Party members and some sympathizers were also there. 

204 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Following the meeting we held a session with the branch mem- 
bers. I reported on the various phases of work, stressing, of course, 
the need of bolstering up our press work. There are especially good 
prospects for our Jewish work and Unser Kamf. The effects of the 
crisis in St. Louis had had disastrous effects upon our comrades. 
All of them are unemployed and suffering severe poverty and mis- 
ery. But in spite of their personal conditions they are making good 
efforts to push the work. At present they are the only Communist 
force that carries out public activity and which fights for Commu- 
nism in St. Louis. Their forum is attracting a good attendance, 
they make a good distribution of our press, and are now working 
on the creation of a youth club and a Jewish club. Comrade 
Goldberg is at present a member of a Workmen's Circle branch 
in which he is carrying on good work for our movement. 335 He 
hopes that we may be able to reap good results soon. There are 
good prospects in this city for the revolutionary movement and 
our comrades are doing all they can under the most adverse con- 
ditions imaginable. The membership of this branch is six. 

Kansas City: There is no branch in Kansas City. In addition to 
comrades Buehler and Kassan, comrade Clarke is working there 
as a colonizer. The two Kansas City comrades do very little for 
the Opposition and that is the main reason why we have no move- 
ment there. Thus far, while comrade Clarke has been able to do 
some good work externally, we were not able to make any organi- 
zational gains. His forum meetings were well attended and his 
activity in the Unemployed Councils resulted in political gains for 
the Opposition. My meeting was organized under bad conditions. 
The comrades were unable to obtain a public hall and had to make 
use of a private house of a Negro comrade. In addition, the leaf- 
let advertising the meeting contained the wrong address. We man- 
aged nevertheless to have an attendance of 45, which under other 
circumstances would have easily been doubled. Our literature is 
pushed slowly for the reason that its sales are not organized— what 
is sold is mainly disposed of through comrade Buehler's bookstore. 
We must bear in mind that comrade Clarke will not be able to 
remain in Kansas City indefinitely. He lives and works under 
abnormal conditions and will be forced to leave Kansas City soon. 
Comrade Clarke is able to organize a study class of several work- 
ers, but has failed to do this because he fears that the moment 

Report on National Tour 205 

this is organized he will be forced to leave. My advice to him was 
to organize the class under any circumstances and then turn it 
over to the comrades who are there, should he have to leave. It is 
my opinion that the National Committee should inform Clarke 
that in the event he must leave Kansas City, he return to New York, 
stopping over in Cleveland for a few days or perhaps a few weeks, 
if this can be arranged, and that then preparations and arrange- 
ments be made to send him to Boston where he would be able to 
do a great deal more than in Kansas City, in spite of his efforts. 

Minneapolis: I was able to spend three days in Minneapolis, dur- 
ing which six meetings were arranged, including a banquet. On 
the first day, the banquet was held, with an attendance of 45. On 
the second day, I spoke on Germany at the regular afternoon 
forum, and in the evening in the discussion on the crisis with A.C. 
Townley. 336 The forum had an attendance of 75 and the evening 
meeting of 150. The forum brought out a heated discussion 
between ourselves and Walter Frank, left-wing leader in the 
Minneapolis trade-union movement. Contrary to what was 
reported, Frank not only failed to show his sympathy for the Left 
Opposition, but made a vile and dastardly speech against it gen- 
erally and against comrade Trotsky personally. We were able to 
dispose of him easily, but it proved that he has maintained close 
relations with the Party during all this time. This is borne out by 
the fact that he is to head the Minneapolis delegation to the Soviet 
Union. The evening discussion resulted in good gains for the 
Opposition. We were able to present a correct Communist posi- 
tion against the reformist position of Townley. This was under- 
stood by all. On the last day, a public meeting was held in Burton 
Hall of the University of Minnesota, attended by over 100 students, 
where the viewpoint of the Left Opposition was presented. All of 
these meetings were handicapped by the severe storms raging and 
the subzero weather that prevailed during the whole period of 
my stay. In addition to these meetings, a gathering of youth was 
held on the afternoon of the first day, where the question of the 
organization of a youth club was taken up and plans made accord- 
ingly. In the evening of the last day, a branch meeting was held 
where I reported on the international situation and also on the 
tasks of the branch in the immediate future. 

It appears that for some time prior to my arrival in Minne- 
apolis, the older comrades had not been playing the role that falls 

206 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

upon their shoulders; instead, the burden of the work fell to the 
younger comrades and to an extent upon new comrades. Both 
comrades Dunne and Skoglund are working at present on a job 
that allows little time for activity. In addition, neither of the two 
comrades are well physically. These are circumstances that must 
be taken into account. But in spite of that, better efforts could 
have been made by them to help in the direction of the work, if 
not in its actual execution. I had occasion to speak to comrade 
Dunne once, the only time that I saw him, and likewise with com- 
rade Skoglund, and impressed upon them the need for giving more 
direction to the work. I believe that we should have little diffi- 
culty on that score. The branch as a whole is working along as 
usual, with steady persistent activity under the direction of com- 
rade Cowl and the executive committee. They push the press very 
well, and make good use of the opportunities present. At the time 
I was present, comrades Dunne and Skoglund were organizing a 
movement of the coal drivers. I call attention to this fact in the 
report because the National Committee has not vet received a 
report on the matter, and the Minneapolis branch discussed it for 
the first time when I was present. What is the situation? Comrades 
Skoglund and Dunne went ahead with the organization of a griev- 
ance committee in the coal yards made up of the truck drivers. 
Thev managed to form a committee and held meetings of these 
drivers, as well as making application to the union for admission. 
In the course of this work a number of acts were committed that 
do not speak well for our movement, nor the comrades initiating 
the work. First of all it must be borne in mind that the drivers 
own the trucks delivering the coal and hire themselves out to the 
coal dealers. The helpers are in realitv the more exploited of the 
yard workers. Yet apparentlv they are not part of the movement, 
nor were real efforts made to draw them into it. The group of 
drivers organized a stag partv to celebrate their organization, an 
affair that was attended by the bosses. One of them spoke at the 
affair. Comrade Brinda, who was present and tried to sell tickets 
for the Townley debate, was refused the floor by the chairman. 
Helpers were present at this gathering mainly because the bosses 
gave them tickets to come, having bought these tickets in blocks 
of ten from the comrades and those selling them. The argument 
made for the sale of tickets to the bosses was on the grounds that 
money was needed. Their presence and speaking at the affair was 

Report on National Tour 207 

explained away as unavoidable. Comrade Skoglund, in answer to 
my question as to perspective, replied that he thought the move- 
ment would disappear with the close of the coal season. Never- 
theless, the character of the organization, its exclusion of the help- 
ers, and what cannot be otherwise termed as a fraternization with 
the bosses, stamps this movement and its activity as a gross error 
against which the National Committee must make answer. 

Generally we can count on the Minneapolis branch as one of 
our mainstays. It is easily one of our best branches and is also one 
of our most active units. 

Cleveland-. I arrived here shortly after the branch was organized. 
The branch has a membership of seven. The comrades arranged 
a meeting hurriedly without public advertising. We managed in 
spite of that to have an attendance of 65, including Party mem- 
bers and sympathizers, as well as a number of members of the 
Unemployed Councils. A good discussion was held. The prospects 
in Cleveland are good, though it is yet too early to say definitely 
just what the branch is able to do. The comrades also arranged a 
banquet for the second night. I stayed for this upon the informa- 
tion that no meeting was arranged for Youngstown. There were 
20 present at the banquet. Unser Kamf is selling well there and 
before leaving the comrades agreed to proceed with the organi- 
zation of a Jewish club. We should be able to count on good devel- 
opments from Cleveland. 

Youngstown: Because of the banquet in Cleveland and the infor- 
mation that no meeting had been arranged, I arrived here on the 
day following my schedule. I learned then that it was possible for 
us to have a meeting. I met with the comrades (there are three of 
them) and discussed the possibilities for work and expansion of 
the organization. Following this discussion I proposed that the 
comrades immediately initiate a class in fundamentals, around 
which they would be able to draw in others and begin to spread 
and expand their literature sales. They plan holding open-air meet- 
ings in the summer— in the event that such arrangements could 
be made. It is hardly likely that this group will grow fast or win 
many new supporters. Its tasks consist of beginning from the 
bottom and building up the Left Opposition in this highly indus- 
trial city. 

Pittsburgh: A meeting of six was held here. The meeting took place 

208 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

in comrade Sifakis" home. We can count only upon comrade 
Sifakis. who is an extremely active comrade and works hard for 
our movement. Comrade Basin will help in the work. He is a close 
sympathizer and expressed willingness to do something for our 
movement— particularly in the Jewish field. There too we can expect 
only small achievement and slow developments. But we do have a 
comrade here whom we can count upon as a real fighter and 
worker for our cause and who in a decisive moment will prove 
his worth. 


Cannon and Swabeck Have 
Rightist Tendencies 

Letter bv John Edwards to Max Shachtman 337 

16 April 1932 

I have received your letter and resolution. I had already read a 
copy of your resolution together with the long document of 
Cannon and Swabeck, and after reading them, I must say I had a 
feeling of disgust. 

At the Fifth Congress of the CI. which I was fortunate enough 
to attend. I heard a report made by the old Bolshevik professor 
who had just returned from a studv of the archives of the Second 
International. I saw photostatic copies of Engels' original docu- 
ment and also his letters to Bernstein and I thought this had ended 
this discussion once and for all. But I see it is being put forth 
again not as a question of claritv but for some other purpose. 

I also read Carter's article and the replv bv Swabeck. I agreed 
theoreticallv with the replv of Swabeck and still do. However. I do 
not agree with the method of presentation. On the other hand. I 
had the privilege of meeting Carter and will state right here and 
now that I was not favorably impressed with him. although he has 
a fair scholastic knowledge of Marx. I might state to you that all 
his time here he spent with the opposition forces to the League, 
one political and moral degenerate bv the name of Tom 

Rightist Tendencies 209 

O'Flaherty. I also want to inform you that he is in communication 
with Tom, telling him what is going on in the League, and Tom is 
peddling this to the Stalinites for revenge against the central com- 
mittee of the League. I want to say further that Carter kept away 
from both Oehler and myself all the time he was here. He does 
not seem to be at home among proletarian revolutionists. He is 
suffering under what we would say in good American slang, a swell 
head. I have no sympathy for him nor his ego. 

Now I would like to direct some questions to you. First of all, 
how is it that a young revolutionist like you can see fit to take a 
stand on the French Ligue opposite to comrade Trotsky? I have 
just seen the late bulletin, the first real information I have had on 
the question. The attitude of Felix and Mill is absolutely reaction- 
ary and it will not take long in the future to prove it to be so. I do 
not know whether you have any sympathy for these two individu- 
als or not, but if you do, I must say at the outset that I cannot 
sympathize with you. I read the resolutions presented by Swabeck, 
Glotzer, and Abern. I cannot imagine what is behind Abern's and 
Glotzer's resolutions. 

Another question, Max— how the hell is it that you went to 
Europe when you knew it would be used against you? Just what 
was your purpose? Was it to get support from the secretariat for 
yourself? People do not spend hundreds of dollars on vacations 
without there being some political purpose. Apparently you did 
not go there to strengthen the hand of Trotsky. 

Now perhaps after reading this, you will think that I am totally 
out of sympathy with you. Such is not the case, however, I think it 
is absolutely necessary for you to be in the leadership of the League. 
I think that you, Abern, and Glotzer have greater potentialities as 
future leaders than either Swabeck or Cannon. I know that both 
of them have rightist tendencies. 

The labor party and the Negro question, as discussed at our 
First National Conference, were not mere incidents. 338 It is hard 
for the old to change their opinions, but there is a chance for the 
young. You backed them up on these two questions 100 percent 
at the time, but I figured you had a chance to change your opinion. 
Max, I have formed my opinion years ago of Cannon, also of 
Swabeck. Cannon comes forward mainly in factional strife. Per- 
sonally he is revengeful and subjective. I knew (his years ago, but 
you did not. You and Marty followed him like a couple of blind 

210 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

men. And when you found out his character, it has reacted upon 
you in a subjective way. 

The problem of the future leadership of our League cannot 
be determined at the present time. I have always maintained that 
our main duty at the present is to propagate our position; to get 
Trotsky's writings before as wide a mass in the U.S. as possible. 
Our group is only in its propaganda stage; numerically it is a little 
sect. A split in this organization at this time would play directly 
into the hands of the Stalinites and it could not occur at a worse 
time, due to the coming events in Germany. Anyone can see the 
Stalin apparatus in Russia is cracking. Just the one fact of their 
having to raise party salaries 300 percent to hold the bureaucracy 
intact is an indication of that. There is developing a wide gap 
between them and the mass of workers in Russia, and any split or 
factional struggle in our ranks at this time can only consolidate 
them and prolong their existence on top. 

Now, my advice to you is the following: In order to defend 
yourself, you are making a series of political errors. And Cannon, 
the clever politician, is seizing these errors to use against you. Your 
alliance with Carter could only hurt you. The time is not oppor- 
tune now for you to make a struggle. The tactic would be much 
better for you to postpone any immediate struggle in the group, if 
it is possible, even though it goes against the grain. The class 
struggle in the near future in America is going to be very sharp 
and it is my opinion that rightist errors will develop in the League. 
Then there would be a chance to really carry on a constructive 
political struggle, even if it did result in a small split; but now the 
opposite is the case. So be big enough as a revolutionist and 
political enough to bide your time. 

In discussions with Al, I could see that the struggle so far in 
the committee has been almost purely subjective. I expected when 
Arne went to NY he would play a conciliatory role between you 
two, but Arne is naive in politics. I consider him a good revolu- 
tionist who is willing to sacrifice for the movement, but Arne's 
very nature keeps him from ever being a working-class politician. 

However, I would like to have you inform me of events that 
take place and your views more thoroughly. I will keep such things 
purely confidential, but I wish to say now that I feel that the worker 
membership of our League should not definitely take sides at the 

Rightist Tendencies 211 

present, but should strive for unity of the committee, and if the 
central committee, through a factional struggle, jeopardizes the 
League, the membership should appeal to comrade Trotsky to 
assist them in putting the leadership in their places or removing 
them as leaders. 

One thing the struggle so far has proven, looking at it objec- 
tively, is that it is a carryover from our lives and activities in the 
Party. In other words, we have not freed ourselves from the 
methods of the Stalin bureaucracy. Now another criticism I have 
to make of you. Why the hell did you pull out from the editorship 
of the Militant— allowing this also to be used against you, which 
on the surface looks as if you yourself are taking a purely subjec- 
tive stand. Max, you are still a novice in political maneuvering. 
This is to your credit. This applies also to Al. He is still in his 
swaddling clothes. All one has to do is to read his resolutions. 

Now, I think the tactic of the present is for you fellows to make 
a howl for unity. You will head Jim off. This is just what he will 
do. I think, on the other hand, this discussion must come forth, 
but it must be a preconvention discussion. We must, in other words, 
have a convention— the membership must be able to decide. Let 
us say it takes place this fall with a 60-day discussion period in 
which the two groups can tear the hides clear off one another. In 
this manner the membership would understand something of the 
men that it has chosen for its leaders and would be able to select 
for the immediate future a national committee. 

Well, I will bring this long letter to a close, Max, and hope 
that you will see this thing in the correct light. Then give me a 
good answer right away, and make it just as damn critical as you 
wish. I have a tough skin. 

You may show this letter to Al and Marty. Otherwise it should 
be kept strictly confidential. 

PS: Since writing this, have read the last minutes of the NC. I see 
that you speak of split. You had better forget this. You don't want 
to become another Weisbord, do you? Under no consideration 
should a split take place. After the convention the membership 
should decide. I think that outside of the few intellectuals in New 
York, the membership will take a strong stand against any form of 
split. Don't forget they are assimilating the ideas of the Old Man 
and that they would accept his decisions 100 percent. 


The Organizational Status of the CLA 

by Arne Swabeck 339 
18 April 1932 

Submitted to the resident committee on April 11, Glotzer's tour report 
engendered strong objections from Swabeck and Cannon. This reply was 
appended to the resident committee minutes of April 18. 

The report of comrade Glotzer on his national tour, submit- 
ted 11 April 1932, is obviously not so much a report as an attempt 
to show that the Left Opposition in America is stagnating and 
actually at its lowest point of organizational decline. In fact it did 
say in so many words: "The League is smaller today than at any 
other time in its history." (That sentence was eliminated only after 
being seriously challenged at the National Committee meeting on 
the basis of actual membership figures.) Has such a presentation 
anything to do with objective reality? None whatever. 

What is the purpose behind this attempt? That can become 
clear only when viewed in connection with the accusations against 
comrades Cannon and Swabeck, contained in the document 
submitted by comrade Shachtman at the National Committee 
meeting of 15 March 1932, which was supported also by comrades 
Glotzer and Abern. This report by comrade Glotzer, fully sup- 
ported by comrade Shachtman in statements made by him at the 
April 1 1 meeting, by giving a false picture of the developments 
of the League, aims to furnish a basis in organization questions 
for the accusations contained in the Shachtman document. 

At the outset this gives one the impression that the attitude 
which characterizes these comrades is not one of responsible col- 
laborators in the leadership of the League. It is rather one which 
could be assumed by abstentionists who, from a leisure position, 
criticize comrades who carry the main burden of responsible func- 
tions. In looking back we find we do not miss the point very much 
as far as the maker of the report is concerned. During the period 
of over a year prior to his departure for Europe, the function of 
comrade Glotzer as a collaborator in the leadership as well as a 

Status of CLA 213 

member of the League was largely limited to perfunctory atten- 
dance at committee meetings. Perhaps this gives him special quali- 
fications to judge the developments in the organization during 
that extended time. 

While the report attempts to convey the impression of stag- 
nation and of a low ebb in the League, at the same time it takes 
cognizance of the fact that the meetings held on the tour were 
above expectations. It says: "There is a general growth of sympa- 
thy for our movement and it is possible to say that we are slowly 
breaking through the crust of isolation from the Communist and 
revolutionary workers." This is true. The report mentions our new 
and additional publications, Unser Kamf, Young Spartacus, and 
Communistes. It mentions formation of youth clubs and Jewish work- 
ers clubs, or steps taken in that direction. What are these? Are 
they manifestations of stagnation and decline, or have they acci- 
dentally fallen from heaven? On the contrary, these factors are 
manifestations of slow but persistent growth and of a fairly healthy 
organizational and political life of the League. 

In order to throw light on the organizational and political life 
in the League I present the following actual and concrete facts. 
The end of 1930 represented the end of the lowest ebb of our 
organization. Retrenchment had cut down everything to the very 
bone. Abstentionism from active function had become a habit 
among leading comrades. The whole of the functioning center 
was practically reduced to two comrades, Cannon and Shachtman, 
functioning with the comrades who had been co-opted from the 
New York branch. Comrade Swabeck was then only preparing to 
come to New York. This could hardly be considered a center able 
to keep in intimate touch with the units and give them the neces- 
sary direction. Hence the branches existing were merely going 
along primarily on their own momentum. The entire membership 
numbered only very slightly above 100 (only approximate figures 
are available). Where formerly some semblance of a branch existed, 
for example, in Boston, Philadelphia, and St. Louis, they were out 
of existence. The Militant, from a weekly, had become a semi- 
monthly and more often a mere monthly publication. That marked 
the end of the greatest slump for our League. This depression in 
the organization escaped the attention of comrade Glotzer and 
makes his present observation ridiculous. 

The beginning of the year 1931 marks the beginning of our 

214 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

serious efforts to pull the League out of its depressed conditions. 
The very first step became the strengthening of the center, the 
establishment of a functioning, though yet limited National 
Committee, limited by abstentiomsm then still prevailing. Other 
organizational steps followed in consecutive succession. The 
defunct branches in Boston. Philadelphia, and St. Louis were 
reorganized. At our Second National Conference we could record 
a membership of 155. Since then the new branches of Cleveland. 
Ybungstown, and Newark have been added and most of the other 
branches have been strengthened, so that we today have an actual 
membership of 173. While several of our branches still remain 
numerically small and some of our members still function as lone 
Left Oppositionists in one city, we can. however, with the general 
growth of organization also record a corresponding growth of sym- 
pathizing workers keeping in close organic contact with us. 

This is only the purely organizational side of the question. 
Politically we were able also in a growing measure to formulate 
our views upon strategic and tactical questions and in that sense 
to intervene more actively in issues of the class struggle, in the 
unemployment situation, in the workers movement and its 
problems, by propaganda, through publicity and meetings. It 
coincided with a corresponding elevation of the political life of 
our branches. We began our Expansion Program: we established 
the Pioneer Publishers and added to the two pamphlets formerly 
published a whole series of new pamphlets and books from the 
Left Opposition arsenal. The Militant again became a weekly 
publication in July and has since maintained itself, although with 
great difficulties. 

A comparison of the Militant circulation of the first three 
months of 1931. the verv beginning of our upward curve, and the 
first three months of 1932 will further substantiate all that has 
been said above. The comparison shows the following figures. 

Remittances to the national office: 

1931 (semimonthly) Subscriptions 

Bundle Orders 


January - 5.50 



February 16.40 



March 48.75 



1932 (weekly publication) 

January 67.75 



February 30.50 



March 59.22 



Status of CL A 215 

After the weekly Militant came the appearance of Young 
Spartacus, of Communistes, and now the latest addition to our press, 
that of Unser Kamf. We were able, even under the adverse con- 
ditions of the economic crisis, to hold our Second National 
Conference. We have succeeded in completing two national tours 
conducted by comrade Swabeck and comrade Glotzer, each bring- 
ing gratifying results. While, all in all, these are only modest 
achievements slowly accomplished, they nevertheless record a 
period not of stagnation and decline, but a period of growth. 

It should be remembered that this expansion was carried on 
under the extremely difficult conditions of a growing and deep- 
ening economic crisis, which in many respects served to impose 
financial restrictions upon our activities. And this crisis has not 
yet to any measurable extent produced the otherwise compensat- 
ing feature of a growing class movement of the American work- 
ers. The Communist Party is yet at a very low ebb, and it must be 
admitted that these conditions react with double force upon the 
Left Opposition. They particularly account for the fact that our 
direct and intimate contacts with the Party and with the Party mem- 
bership still are meager and have been so ever since our inception, 
excluding the very early period prior to the "left" turn of the Party 
when the question was new. 

Comrade Glotzer's reports speak of organizational weaknesses 
still obtaining in the League. Only fools would fail to acknowl- 
edge that there are such. He speaks of a gap between our grow- 
ing influence and our organizational strength. This is true. But 
that such is the case is largely due to the fact that the general 
situation still imposes upon us the limitations of a revolutionary 
opposition functioning mainly as a propaganda organization, with 
all the barriers erected by the Party bureaucracy. Our general 
course is in the direction of narrowing that gap. The report says: 
"The leadership from the national office must be multiplied many 
times through constant communications, direction, and aid to the 
comrades in Canada and in the United States." This is also true. 
But it is true only when accompanied by a recognition that the 
whole trend of development has been definitely in that direction. 
Furthermore, it should first of all presuppose that all leading 
comrades who make criticism from the sidelines fully assume the 
responsibilities and duties of revolutionists, of Left Oppositionists. 

216 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

One additional remark regarding the strictures on the inac- 
tivity of the Minneapolis comrades. Our general observation, since 
the inception of the Left Opposition in America, has been that 
these comrades have been in the forefront of the activities and 
sacrifices and have by no means shirked their responsibilities. This 
fact, which is well-known and clearly established, leads one to ques- 
tion the objectivity of this phase of comrade Glotzer's report also 
and to ask what purpose motivates it. No doubt the Minneapolis 
comrades will speak for themselves on this matter. 

4> 4> 4> 

The Coal Drivers in Minneapolis 

Letter by Carl Skoglund to the National Committee 340 

18 April 1932 

This reply to Glotzer's tour report was appended to the resident committee 
minutes of 25 April 1932. 

As per your request I herewith submit the following report in 
regard to the coal drivers' situation in Minneapolis. 

I regret very much that this question has been brought up in 
this manner and elevated into a national issue in the League. I 
hope that the following report will be considered without being 
connected with other controversies in the committee. I do not say 
this in the sense of evading mistakes if such were committed. First 
and foremost, in judging a question of this character we must not 
have preconceived notions and act according to them when deal- 
ing with American workers. 

The coal drivers had many grievances among them, such as 
decent quarters to eat and help loading the trucks. We utilized 
these questions for calling meetings of drivers with the idea of 
laying the basis for organizing these workers into unions. Know- 
ing as we do the leadership of the local trade-union movement, 
our plan was to organize these workers under our leadership and 
to apply in a body for membership. As was explained in a League 
meeting in comrade Glotzer's presence, the delivering of coal is a 
seasonal work and any attempt at the end of the season to organ- 

Coal Drivers in Minneapolis 217 

ize will be hard at the best of circumstances. To say that we did 
not want to bring in the helpers who are the most exploited: What 
is meant by this statement— the workers that work by the hour or 
men that work with the drivers on the trucks? The last named get 
25 percent of the gross earnings of the trucks, while the drivers 
get 75 percent and have to furnish the truck oil and gasoline. At 
every one of our meetings these workers were present and partici- 
pated in the deliberations and deciding of all questions. We wanted 
more men to be employed steady in the yard. This was as much 
the interest of the hourly men as of the drivers. About 20 or 25 
workers come around every morning looking for an opportunity 
to work. The boss put one worker to work for possibly an hour 
and then he was laid off to again wait in line for another hour's 
work. We, the drivers who occupy the most powerful position, 
decided to change this condition and demand that these workers 
be employed more steadily and also that the drivers refuse to load 
their trucks without more help. In the meeting that was held 
between workers and the bosses, these questions were brought up 
and an agreement was reached. More men are to be employed. At 
no time were the bosses invited to our meeting, except that we 
sold them tickets to a stag party arranged by the drivers. This affair 
was arranged to bring not only drivers from one company, but 
from practically all of them, for contact for future work. The 
program at the stag consisted of amusement exclusively. Comrade 
Miles Dunne, in a satirical reading that he made up for that occa- 
sion, pictured the conditions of the workers. The bosses that were 
present demanded the floor to speak to counteract what had been 
said. The chairman of this gathering was a typical American worker 
who had been put in this position to draw him closer to our move- 
ment. He did not know whether it was wrong or right for bosses 
to be allowed the floor to speak. 

If John Brinda under the conditions existing had been 
mechanically forced on the platform to advertise our Glotzer meet- 
ing, most of the workers would have been unable to understand, 
and it also would have meant discharge of some of our comrades. 
To prove that we are not, in our relations with these workers, hiding 
the fact that we are Communists, I want to point to the fact that 
about ten of these workers have subscribed to the Militant and 
others might in the near future. 

Right now there are hardly any drivers left. They have gone 

218 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

to other work. Xo more talk about organizing these workers until 
next fall. What work was done this year will then be borne in mind 
by these workers, thereby making it easier to talk organization 
next year. 

We members of the National Committee here have discussed 
the holding of a plenum in May. It will be a very big burden on 
our movement here because of economic conditions. We propose 
that the Chicago branch be responsible for $25 and that we fur- 
nish the transportation for comrade Oehler for this amount. With 
this arrangement we will do our best to attend a plenum in the 
middle or later part of May. 

^ <► ^ 

Personal Combinations vs. 
Revolutionary Politics 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Albert Glotzer 341 
1 May 1932 

Unfortunately, it has still not been possible for me to study in detail 
the documents I was sent on the American dispute. In any case I 
will catch up on this in the next few weeks. However, I would 
like to first make one observation: The programmatic, tactical 
documents are of course of great importance, but in my eyes 
actions, tested by the facts, are much more important. Comrade 
Shachtman's behavior is extremely disturbing to me, and I cannot 
easily separate the American struggle from the international 

While everywhere supporting those tendencies I consider 
wrong and harmful, comrade Shachtman thinks he can pacify me 
with cliches. For two years he supports Naville and Landau quite 
decidedly and stubbornly, although not openlv as befits a revolu- 
tionary in political questions. In his last letter he contests that he 
supported Naville and Landau, which makes the most embarrassing 

Personal Combinations 219 

impression. Simultaneously, he remains completely silent about his 
attitude toward the German Opposition and the French Ligue, 
just as he remains silent about his alliance with Mill, Felix, and 
Lacroix. As far as I know, the unbelievable letters of comrade 
Lacroix, who, not for the first time, invokes comrade Shachtman, 
are known to comrade Shachtman. But he is silent about them. 
What is more, people wrote me (this is in any case the only fact I 
have secondhand; the rest I know from personal experience) that 
comrade Nin declared that I contrived a campaign against 
Shachtman. But I wrote about Shachtman's behavior only to 
Shachtman himself, and then to the National Committee of the 
American League. Who could have reported this completely false 
information to Nin? If comrade Shachtman applies the same 
methods in American affairs, some of his theses may be good, 
but his politics are bad. The Brandlerites maintain that Stalin errs 
only on international questions but that he is right on the Russian 
ones. I refuse to apply this double bookkeeping to Shachtman. For 
over two years I contented myself with persuasion and personal 
letters. Then I turned to the leadership of the American League 
to force Shachtman to show his colors. He always prefers to hide 
and to substitute questionable personal combinations for revolu- 
tionary politics. Thus I must tell myself that, against my best 
intentions, an open fight with Shachtman and his international 
allies is becoming unavoidable. 

Comrade Shachtman writes me that a phrase in my interview 
about the inevitability of a labor party in America has created 
confusion. I have already noticed that in the Lovestone paper. This 
is a striking misunderstanding. I spoke about the inevitable 
Europeanization of American politics, i.e., primarily about the 
crystallization of a party of the working class. It goes without say- 
ing that in doing so I did not concretize the conception of this 
party at all: whether it would be a labor party, a social-democratic 
party, or a Communist party. Of course there was no reason for 
me to go into this in an interview with a capitalist newspaper. The 
Russian text of my statement reads "workers party" and not "labor 
party." Every attentive reader should be able to understand this. 
That the American Brandlerites want to capitalize on this only 
proves that they, like their German mentors, are on their last legs. 

+ ^ ^ 


You Must Take Us Into Your Confidence 

Letter by Maurice Spector to Max Shachtman 342 
10 May 1932 

Spector makes clear here that his support for Shachtman in the internal 
dispute was wholly independent of Shachtman 's position on international 
political questions. Cannon was at the time ignorant of Spector s position, 
as he reported in a 30 April 1932 letter to Oehler. Spector 's letter confirms 
Cannon 's judgment of the Shachtman forces: 

We, and those comrades who support us, are a unit on all the impor- 
tant questions, both with regard to internal and external policy. The 
others are united completely on only one point, and that has nothing to 
do with communist politics: a common antagonism to us. M3 

Cannon was grappling at the time with putting the CLA's factional 
divide in the context of other disputes within the ILO, as is evident in 
an unfinished letter to Bernard Morgenstern: 

As we see the situation, the American League is now beginning to mani- 
fest some of those internal contradictions which have disrupted the in- 
ternal life of the European sections for the past few years. You know it 
has become a legend with us that the issues and struggles in the Euro- 
pean communist movement have always repeated themselves on Ameri- 
can soil-two or three years later. This, in a way, is the measure of our 
backwardness. I once wrote on this theme in the Militant and expressed 
the idea that, profiting by the experience of the European sections of the 
Opposition, we would skip over the crises that beset them. This expecta- 
tion also proved too optimistic. At bottom the present conflict in our 
League signifies the American reproduction-it is to be hoped in a mod- 
erated form-of the internal crisis of the International Left. 344 

You will forgive this Ubei schuss [plethora] of correspondence. 
I want to supplement my last postscriptum. In a word or two, I 
repeat my perhaps now monotonous refrain that you should think 
through all the implications of the coming struggle at the plenum 
clearly. Divided, we may go "boop-adoop-adoop." You must take 
us— Abern, Glotzer, and myself— into your complete confidence. If 
you fear betrayal— by no means an impossibility, the etiquette of 
the Comintern being what it is today, and its influence extending 

Take Us Into Your Confidence 221 

to the cadres of the Opposition itself— safeguard yourself by for- 
mulations that can stand the cold light of publicity— but mutual 
confidence is indispensable. You have indicated that it is very dif- 
ficult to explain by mail all your views on the European question. 
But I expect a requisite minimum of this political intelligence, if I 
am to be prepared and to formulate my own thoughts. On you 
devolves the greatest responsibility, resulting from your work at 
the center, your European observations, and exchanges with LD. 
In saying this I do not seek to flatter you— I have no interest in 
that. But in view of the present relation of forces and the geo- 
graphical distribution of the National Committee, having regard 
also to the point (with which Marty would fully agree) that of the 
members of the former Cannon grouping, you have indubitably 
evidenced the greatest political development in the past three 
years. A triumph for Cannon, masquerading in the borrowed 
plumes of LD's criticism of the Naville-Mill, groupe-juif [Jewish 
Group] tendency, would be a lamentable retrogression of a move- 
ment that would have faded out completely if he had got his way. 
In my view, you should discuss every step of the next stage with 
colleagues you must assume the risk of trusting, and if there is a 
failure to reach a common agreement, who will be entitled to be 
deemed as having arrived at their final conclusions objectively. I 
take the liberty of writing in this strain because I feel you will not 
misunderstand my motives. They are exactly what they purport to 
be on the surface. Also dabei ein wenig Kritik iiben [thus to exer- 
cise a bit of criticism in this] for the sake of the future. I do not 
accept facts from C's resolutions. But I know that not only C for 
his own peculiar reasons, but Abern and Glotzer and— my own 
self— would have appreciated greater information of what was go- 
ing on in your mind, and what was going on between yourself and 
LD and the European leaders. In the end, it is made to appear by 
C-Sw that you have acted like an individualist and secretively "con- 
cealed information." I am aware that your retort is "personal 
correspondence"— but surely there must have been more than the 
personal. Abern, whom I esteem as a most loyal colleague, should 
have been kept in touch step by step, instead of being caught off 
his guard, more or less having to write resolutions on accomplished 
facts. Now, if you are one of those who like the pleasure of the tu 
quoque [you too] argument (which I doubt) you can find more 
than enough to criticize in the Toronto member of the NC. But 

222 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

that is neither here nor there. There is no occasion to think for a 
moment of what I have suggested in the Et tu Brute! spirit. Nor 
will you. 

I cannot understand the failure of Swabeck to receive Mac's 
statement. 345 It was return-addressed too— unless somebody is 
intercepting mail at the office. 

<- 4> ^ 

On Weisbord and International Questions 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to the 
CLA National Committee 346 

19 May 1932 

A different translation of this letter was appended to the resident 
committee minutes of 25 June 1932. The last paragraph was published 
in CLA Internal Bulletin no. 2 (July 1932). 

In a letter to comrade Glotzer I have already briefly clarified 
the amusing misunderstanding regarding the labor party in my 
New York Times interview. Comrade Glotzer has hopefully com- 
municated the necessary points to you. I am enclosing a more 
detailed treatment of this question. 347 The document came into 
being as follows: Comrade Weisbord, who came here on behalf of 
his group and, of course, at their initiative, and who has now been 
with us a number of days, laid out to us (besides Weisbord, three 
other foreign comrades are here) the views of his group on the 
labor party question. This naturally led to a discussion, and at the 
conclusion of this part of the discussion I dictated the enclosed 
lines to comrade Weisbord. In a literary sense they are highly 
unfinished, because Weisbord wrote down my ostensible English 
version almost word for word. If you want to print it you must 
provide the polish yourselves. 

Further discussions with Weisbord are pending. I must admit 
that Weisbord makes a much more favorable impression on me in 
person than he does through his articles and letters. Naturally I 
refrain from taking any organizational position, i.e., I am point- 
ing out to him that the American League is our only organization 

Weisbord and International Questions 223 

in America and that the questions in dispute must be decided in 
America. As you will see from the enclosed document, I defend 
the leadership of the League against Weisbord's criticism quite 
energetically (of course, not for the sake of diplomacy, but out of 
conviction). It seems to me, however, that Weisbord's group would 
now be prepared to join the League if the conditions are not too 
"degrading." Don't you think that after my sharp rejection of the 
theoretical and tactical errors of this group, you could open a 
bridge to the League for Weisbord and his followers? That is only 
a suggestion. I am in no way intervening in your name, which would 
be impossible in any case, nor even in my own. I must say, however, 
that comrade Glotzer's report about the complete stagnation of 
the League's local groups has disturbed me. Perhaps something 
in Weisbord's criticism regarding "mass actions" is not as incor- 
rect as the other parts of his criticism. 

I am very glad that you have taken a firm position on the 
international questions. I am enclosing a letter from Gourov on 
the question of the international conference. 348 You will under- 
stand why the author of this letter signs it as he does. This letter 
too is a rejection of the Weisbord group's fantastic idea of a 
conference at which not only the national sections but also all the 
splinter groups and refractory elements should be represented. 
You surely know that some Spanish comrades are flirting with this 
idea? In the Czechoslovakian group as well, which is rather new 
to our ranks, no clarity reigns yet in international questions. It is 
therefore all the more important to take a firm position in advance 
on the composition of the conference and to put a stop to any 
confusion and to all combinationist intrigues. 

On the internal dispute in the American League I am not 
taking a position for the moment because I have not yet been able 
to study the issues with sufficient attention. In taking a position I 
will attempt not to be influenced in advance by the incorrect and 
harmful attitude of comrade Shachtman in all international 
questions almost without exception. On the other hand, it is not 
easy to assume that one is right on the most important national 
questions if one is always wrong on the most important interna- 
tional ones. 

4- 4> 4 


I Prefer Weisbord's Methods to Shachtman's 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Albert Glotzer 349 
3 June 1932 

Glotzer wrote to Trotsky on May 1 7, insisting that while Shachtman did 
not support Landau, Naville, Mill, or Felix, "He does not have any con- 
fidence in the leadership ofMolinier and Treint. " Separating Shachtman 's 
views on international questions from what he described as the ongoing 
struggle of himself, Spector, Abern, and Shachtman against Cannon and 
Swabeck in the American League, Glotzer wrote, "A word on Cannon y s 
'internationalism. ' I wouldn 't give a fig leaf for it. He is no more con- 
cerned about it than the man in the moon and what is more, knows even 
less about it." 350 

Many thanks for the materials you sent. As to your last letter, 
I can only very much regret that you, on bad counsel, want to re- 
duce the issues separating Shachtman from the most important 
European Oppositional organizations to the question of whether 
Molinier or Treint is to be regarded as a good leader. That is how 
the question is posed by Rosmer, Naville, and other philistines, 
for whom Marxism and the revolutionary organization are intol- 
erable things, but who do not have the courage to defend their 
anarchist-like politics openly. To reduce two years of internal 
struggle to whether Molinier is fit to be a leader or not is really 
wretched and inexorably compromises those who hold such a view. 

Weisbord spent several weeks at our house. We discussed a 
great deal. With complete candor and sharpness I told him my 
opinion of his group's views and actions. But the fight was about 
principled questions, and I must tell you in all candor in this per- 
sonal letter that I prefer Weisbord's method to Shachtman's a hun- 
dred times over, because Shachtman toys with ideas and makes 
combinations, whereas Weisbord is very serious about things. 
Shachtman has never explained openly and seriously what he 
thinks, what he is fighting for and with whom. He gave the Jewish 
Group in Paris the right to invoke his authority, as he did with 
Lacroix and Nin. In so doing he helped them stray even further 
downhill, for they all thought the American League was behind 

Not an American Naville 225 

Shachtman. After two years of Shachtman's maneuvering, after 
dozens of admonishing letters from me and ever evasive, petty, 
diplomatizing letters that bordered on intrigues from him, I asked 
your leadership whether they supported Shachtman's international 
policy. In so doing I knew nothing of your internal differences. 
My question was meant exactly as it was written. Shachtman 
assured me of his solidarity in a cloying letter, and simultaneously 
he reported to Barcelona that I had begun an international cam- 
paign against him. In the meantime, without knowing anything 
about this, I wrote to Shachtman and the leadership of the Ameri- 
can League that Shachtman should withdraw his resignation; his 
work at one of the leading posts was necessary, etc. I said to myself 
that perhaps my letter had given Shachtman the impetus to resign 
and immediately set out to counteract it. Where, then, is a 
campaign and, in particular, an international campaign against 
Shachtman? What does all of this have to do with the question of 
Molinier's qualities? It is a matter of Shachtman's "qualities," and 
after all that has transpired I unfortunately cannot trust them. I 
feel obligated to tell you this without prettifying it in the least, so 
that there shall be no illusions between us. 

O O 

I Am Not an American Naville 

Letter by Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky 351 
4 June 1932 

The enclosed document, signed by three of the members of our 
National Committee, is a reply to the statement of comrades 
Cannon and Swabeck, both of which are to be considered by the 
plenum of the committee next week. You have already received 
their document, and ours will be of additional aid to you in ori- 
enting yourself on our internal disputes. From the document, as 
well as from a personal statement which I am preparing for our 
plenum, you will gather a clearer idea of how matters have stood 
with us in the past, in "domestic" disputes as well as on the inter- 
nal struggles in the European Opposition. 

226 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Now on a matter which concerns not the group of comrades 
with whom I am associated, but myself. 

I have not yet received a reply from you to the recent letters I 
sent. At the same time, it is clear from the letters you have sent 
comrade Glotzer and the recent letter (on the labor party) to the 
National Committee that your opinion about my position has not 
changed. In spite of this, I feel compelled once more to raise the 
question before you in an effort to reestablish the Kampfge- 
meinschaft und Freundschaft [collaboration in struggle and friend- 
ship] about which you wrote in an earlier letter. 

In your recent letters you continue to speak about my con- 
duct in Europe and my past or present support of Landau, Naville, 
Mill, or Lacroix. It would be much easier for me to deal with this 
question if I knew precisely to what acts or words during the past 
or right now you refer. I do not know of any, for the simple rea- 
son that / do not support any of the individuals or groups you men- 
tion. I know only of acts to the contrary. 

1. In the United States: There is not a single document in exist- 
ence, a single resolution, a single proposal, that can be pointed 
to, which would indicate that I gave the support to which you refer. 
On the contrary, I made the first motion in our committee to 
endorse the removal of Naville from the International Secretariat 
and his replacement by Frank. I made the first motion (both of 
them were adopted) to condemn Landau. I reported several times 
(to the National Committee, to the New York branch, to the Sec- 
ond National Conference) on the international situation of the 
Opposition, in which my opposition to the standpoint of Naville 
and Landau was quite clearly stated beyond the possibility of mis- 
take. I reported to the committee and made the motion to repudi- 
ate the proposal of the Bordigists on the political liquidation of 
the secretariat. I reported to the committee and made the motion 
of disagreement with the standpoint of some Spanish comrades 
to join in a "unity convention" with Maurin, thus rejecting the 
analysis made of the Maurin group by Mill or Nin. Thus the "offi- 
cial" position. "Unofficially," it stands as follows: When I returned 
from my first trip to Europe, I wrote perhaps one or two letters of 
a general nature to Landau; but when the struggle broke out in 
the German Opposition, I broke off all correspondence with 
Landau demonstratively. Landau cannot show a single word from 
my pen to indicate that I had the slightest sympathy with his point 

Not an American Naville 227 

of view or conduct, not one. How can the German comrades, 
therefore, have the idea that I showed sympathies for Landau? If I 
wrote to Naville at that time— as my letter will prove— it was to tell 
him that under no circumstances would I support his stand, and 
in particular was I unalterably opposed to his alliance with Landau. 
As for Naville himself, the same thing applies as to Landau: Let 
anybody show a single word I ever wrote him or anyone else giv- 
ing the faintest indication of any support to him or his faction. 

As you know, I did hesitate for some time before taking a final 
position on the European disputes. But this hesitation— the com- 
mittee as a whole hesitated on the matter— was in no way a support 
to Landau or Naville, but an anxiety to have the situation before 
us as completely as possible before taking a definite stand. I tried 
to explain these hesitations (I am not "defending them in prin- 
ciple") in my letters to you of about a year ago or more. If by your 
accusation of my support to these elements you refer to my hesi- 
tations, I must acknowledge that you are right; if you mean actual 
support, I cannot accept your conclusions. At the very height of 
the disputes in France and Germany, there was not one single com- 
rade here who understood my conduct or opinion as any kind of 
support to Landau or Naville; nor was it possible for Landau and 
Naville to understand it in this light, for they received not the slight- 
est encouragement from my side. 

2. In Europe: Your references to my conduct during the recent 
trip to Europe still remain entirely obscure to me. As to France, 
there is not one single comrade who can say that I expressed any 
opinion on the internal situation in the Ligue at a single one of 
the meetings I attended. Comrades Frank and Molinier can tell 
you that I expressed to them plainly my opinion that I do not sup- 
port either Naville or the Jewish Group or Mill. What I did tell 
them was that they were making a mistake in basing themselves 
so heavily upon Treint and his group, thereby alienating the work- 
ers in the Jewish Group instead of winning them over to mutual 
work and confidence. Comrade Frank would further be able to 
inform you that he told me, in reply to my statements to him, that 
he disagreed with Raymond's collaboration with Treint and an- 
tagonizing of the Jewish comrades, and instead of that agreed with 
me. I did not speak publicly at any meeting because I feared that 
whatever I said would be distorted factionally by one or another 

228 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

and interpreted as the stand of the American League. I made it 
clear to all the comrades that I had asked for no mandate, and 
had no mandate, to speak in the name of our League. No com- 
rade can point to a single "act" or "word" while I was in France to 
justify what you say about my conduct. As for Spain: I was sent 
there by the secretariat on the proposal of comrade Molinier. I 
tried in vain to convince the comrades to start publishing El So- 
viet again. I argued with them against their tendency to blame 
Molinier for everything that ever happened in Spain. I argued a 
number of times with Lacroix and Andrade against their tendency 
to live an "isolated national" existence by not informing the mem- 
bership of the situation in the international so that the OCE 
[Opposicion Communiste de Espaha] as a whole would take a 
position. With some of the criticisms made of Molinier by Lacroix, 
I was compelled, it is true, to agree; but my agreement did not go 
very much further than the criticism you make of comrade 
Molinier in one of your letters to Nin. As for Lacroix's outbursts 
against the Ligue, I do not agree with them. Since I returned to 
the United States, I have written two letters to Spain: one techni- 
cal request in the name of the League, asking for correspondence 
to our theoretical organ; another letter to Lacroix telling him that 
I could not permit him to use my name in any way for his struggle 
against the leadership of the French Ligue. You imply, I think, in 
one of your letters to Glotzer that I have written to Nin about 
"Trotsky starting a campaign against Shachtman"; I have never 
written to Nin in my life; I have never written such a letter as you 
suggest to any comrade in any part of the world. This suspicion 
is absolutely unjustified, just as unjustified as your fear that I 
had something to do with the Felix article which appeared in 
the Militant. 

The only "conduct" to which I can possibly think you refer is 
my letter to you from Paris. It was a personal letter, which I did 
not for a moment pretend to be the viewpoint of anybody but my- 
self. Many things I say there may have been wrong. But when I 
reread it I cannot find any real grounds for your view that I sup- 
port Naville or the Jewish Group. You may be sure that if I did, 
I should say so in those words. It is true that I expressed myself 
about Mill in such a way as might lead you to think that I support 
his tendency; this was not my intention. I can only repeat here 
what I have tried to emphasize in my recent letters to you: I do 

Not an American Naville 229 

not support Mill's tendency; I do not support the Jewish Group, 
and especially not its action in withdrawing representatives from 
the executive committee. I do believe that it was more correct on 
the trade-union question than the other comrades, and I said so 
to Molinier and Frank, just as I told them that they were not act- 
ing in a manner calculated to win over the Jewish comrades. I 
expressed my disagreement with the attitude of Treint, my con- 
viction that the "experiment of collaboration" with Treint would 
not prove successful. The latest events, I think, show that Treint 
(as comrade Frank now writes to me) did not live up in any way to 
the hopes placed in him. 

One last word on Germany. I spoke somewhat critically about 
the German comrades in my Paris letter to you. My views were 
based on reports I received from Andrade and from Frank and 
Molinier; also, on the sharp letters you wrote to the Leipzig organ- 
ization on "workers control" and the "Gourov letter." 352 You 
interpret my remarks as "an echo of my sympathies for Landau." 
I cannot add anything to what I have tried to say in a number of 
recent letters about this, except that the activities developed 
recently by our German comrades have shown that the impression 
I gained in Paris was unfounded; I am glad to revise an opinion 
I held for the moment. 

I express again the hope that the foregoing may help to clarify 
matters between us. I want to add another word about the results 
of your recent letters and their effects on our internal American 
dispute. You write that you are unwilling to consider Shachtman's 
American position separate from his international position. In the 
first place, I do not believe that I have such a sharply different 
position on international questions as you write. In the second 
place, it is far from a question of "Shachtman's position." Com- 
rades Glotzer, Abern, and Spector have been together with me 
for a long time in our internal disputes here. We have taken a 
position for a long time in the League on a number of important 
points, which we are convinced affect the present and future of 
the League to a tremendous extent. Our opponents in the League, 
comrades Cannon and Swabeck, avoid an answer to all the 
important problems we pose by declaring that I am a Landau, a 
Naville, and whatnot. Be sure that we do not have to be told (like 
Naville) to roll up our sleeves and work for the organization. We 
have been doing that from the first day, when others went into 

230 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

retirement. But how effective can our collaboration be when the 
accusation is hurled that Shachtman is an American Naville? 
Naville was removed from the editorial board of Lutte for his petty- 
bourgeois, anti-organizational conduct, and rightly so. Why should 
not the American Naville suffer the same fate? To cry for collabo- 
ration and to make it impossible in reality is not the way to achieve 
it. and that is what we want comrade Cannon to understand. When 
you continue to refer to my conduct in Europe without specifving 
what you refer to concretely, it is difficult for me to express my 
viewpoint and defend it. When you charge me with supporting 
tendencies which I do not support and refuse to support, you are 
making it difficult for my part at least to establish a position clearly 
in the League. 

I hope you will soon have the opportunity to reply to this letter. 

PS: Your article on the "labor party" established the necessary 

^ <► <► 

The Situation in the American Opposition: 
Prospect and Retrospect 

by Martin Abern. Albert Glotzer. 
and Max Shachtman- 33 

4 June 1932 

Submitted on the eve of the National Committee plenum, this document 
was written as a reply to Cannon and Swabeck's "Internal Problems oj 

the CLA." : It was withdrawn during the plenum proceedings, but when 
the fight flared up again following the plenum, the Shachtman group 
resubmitted it for publication in the CLA Internal Bulletin. On July 14 
the resident committee adopted Cannon's motion to publish "Prospect 
and Retrospect" in the projected IB series, along with a comprehensive 
response that he would write. Cannon's draft reply dealt centrally with 
international questions, although he characterized "Prospect and 
Retrospect" as "from first to last" "a personal attack against Cannon" 
and promised to deal with the purely personal accusations in an appen- 

Prospect and Retrospect 231 

dix. 355 Cannon never completed the draft or the appendix. Thus "Prospect 
and Retrospect " was never published in the IB, although it circulated 
extensively through private channels in the CLA. 

The three and a half years of propaganda activity which we 
have carried through in this country makes it necessary for us to 
draw up a balance of where we stand today so that we shall better 
be able to outline our tasks for the coming period and proceed to 
meet them. For a whole series of reasons, the casting of this bal- 
ance has been avoided and neglected by us. Now it cannot be post- 
poned any longer because the situation which has developed in 
our National Committee and the organization as a whole makes 
it impossible to gloss over the past and to live the future from 
hand to mouth. That the existing differences in our ranks have 
forced their way through and even appeared in a sharp form is 
not an accident but the inevitable result of two facts: 1. In the 
past these differences, in one form or another, have been pushed 
down into the subsoil of the organization, which did not elimi- 
nate them but only made their appearance seem abrupt; 2. The 
League is approaching a certain turning point in its progress which 
inevitably brings with it a reconsideration of what has gone before. 
This makes an open and frank discussion of our internal prob- 
lems necessary at the present juncture, and we need not be 
deterred from it by the fact that our enemies will attempt to capi- 
talize on our difficulties or that our organization will be to an 
extent temporarily diverted from its day-to-day activities. We will 
be able to reduce these disadvantages to an absolute minimum 
and make the maximum gains in the coming days provided that 
we present our position as it actually is, discuss our real differ- 
ences without distortions, avoid an atmosphere of panic and threat, 
and seek at all times to draw positive lessons for the future. 

The Possibilities Before the League 

All considerations of the objective situation lead to the conclu- 
sion that the League now has good possibilities for progress. The 
bankruptcy of Stalinism on the international arena is beginning 
to penetrate the consciousness of the Communist workers. Our 
course is being verified with almost mathematical precision and 
most strikingly in the Soviet Union, in Germany, and in Spain. 
The international events are working for us night and day. In 
conformity with our predictions, the right-wing "international" is 

232 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

undergoing a process of disintegration which will inevitably bring 
more of its ranks to our side. The breakup of the Brandler group; 
the highly significant letter of Neurath of Czechoslovakia to 
Brandler; the passage of MacDonald of Canada into our camp; 
the inexorable breakdown of the barriers of antagonism toward 
us on the part of the Lovestone ranks in this country; and, what is 
most gratifying, the growth of sympathy for our views, in full or 
in part, within the official Party— all these speak eloquently of the 
tendency in our direction which can be considerably accelerated 
if we are alert and strike systematically. In the United States, despite 
the fact that the official Party still embraces the bulk of the Com- 
munist workers, it continues to lose ground organizationally, 
especially in comparison with the magnificent objective possibili- 
ties afforded it. The terrific (100 percent) turnover in its mem- 
bership shows that the Party has been unable to consolidate 
organizationally the huge growth of Communist sympathy among 
the workers in the past three years. Had we now at our disposal 
the internal Party faction about which we write so frequently, there 
is no doubt that we could move far more swiftly toward establish- 
ing a deeper unity with the official Party ranks. 

If the League now measures up to the increased possibilities 
put before it, it will be able to realize excellent prospects. Our 
backwardness, conditioned by a whole series of past events, will 
give way to a faster pace. "The slowness of the growth of the 
League," writes comrade Trotsky, "is to be accounted for primar- 
ily by the lack of great shifts in the American working class in 
recent years. As I have already mentioned elsewhere, it may be 
presumed that the crisis in America creates for the first time prem- 
ises for revolutionary work on a broader scale. It is to be hoped 
that, thanks to the preceding systematic education of cadres, the 
American League will enter into the new period more or less pre- 
pared. Although," he adds, "it should not be concealed that the 
real testing of the cadres is still ahead." 

How should the League arm itself for the coming period? It 
must undertake a general tightening of its ranks. It must not only 
engage in greater activities in general, but above all the League 
must turn its eyes and efforts toward an increased direct partici- 
pation in the class struggle. Our small numbers put definite limits 
to this work, but we have conducted a sufficient propaganda train- 
ing in our ranks to enable us to make a serious beginning in 

Prospect and Retrospect 233 

initiating movements on our own responsibility. (We have in mind 
particularly the movement in Minneapolis, in the Illinois coalfields, 
and in New York.) Our perspective has no similarity with the 
fantastic notions of Weisbord, nor is it calculated upon turning 
our backs to the Party. Quite the contrary. We have talked inter- 
minably about creating a faction in the Party, but we have taken 
no steps toward it in actuality; we have not even worked out a plan 
to realize this goal, so that our agitation for it— to say nothing of 
our action, which barely exists— has borne an entirely haphazard 

Before all, the National Committee must be transformed into 
a genuine working body, alive and energetic, which takes up the 
problems of the movement and really leads it, instead of, as has 
too often been the case, being dragged along by the events them- 
selves. Allowing for all the natural and at present unavoidable limi- 
tations, one vital question after another has had to lie for months 
on our agenda because the time of our committee has been occu- 
pied by comparative trivialities and secondary questions. Even the 
systematization of our work has had an occasional character. A 
radical improvement must therefore be made in this connection. 
Not only should the National Committee change its manner of 
work, but, like the League as a whole, it must be broadened. Its 
narrow, exclusive base must be extended considerably to embrace 
the collaboration of new elements, drawing in new forces particu- 
larly from those outside the ranks of the old Cannon group in 
the Party. It has always been indisputable for us that one of the 
great advantages that the American National Committee had over 
the leaderships of some of the other sections of the Opposition 
was its common Party origin, its long habit of collaboration, its 
united entry into the ranks of the Left Opposition. But this also 
has its weak sides and has become a source of ingrowing conserva- 
tism which can only be overcome by refreshing the ranks of the 
leadership with new forces. To overlook this need, to minimize it, 
or to resist it (as was done at our last national conference, which 
endorsed this resistance without realizing what was involved) can 
only have harmful effects for our movement. In general, our com- 
mittee must make itself aware of its own great shortcomings and 
defects, and not merely of its positive sides and achievements, for 
this is the first prerequisite to overcoming defects, not only in its 
ranks but throughout the organization. 

234 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

We have already made progress in many fields. The Militant 
has been reestablished as a weekly. We have issued the first few 
numbers of a monthly Greek paper, Communistes. We have made 
a big stride forward in gaining the ear of a couple of thousand 
Jewish workers with the aid of Unser Kamf, laying the basis for or- 
ganizational growth in this field, and not least of our advances 
has been our ability to maintain Young Spartacus, which reaches 
hundreds of young workers throughout the country. Our litera- 
ture, more varied than that of any other section, has met with a 
wide response. There can be no doubt that we have greatly in- 
creased the circle of our sympathizers in the last three years. 
Equally indubitable is the fact that our organizational growth has 
in no way corresponded to this increase of prestige and sympathy, 
as well as the general possibilities. The six-months organizational 
report made almost a year ago (Swabeck, 17 July 1931) showed a 
total of 156 members. With all the literary and political progress 
we have made since, our membership today is barely greater. The 
fact that the League's membership for virtually the whole past 
period has continued to hover around 150 to 170 members is not 
a good sign of organizational progress and does not reflect our 
growth in other spheres. We must bridge the wide gap that exists, 
first by recognizing the fact and not sinking into a priggish self- 
complacency, and secondly by setting our perspectives and organ- 
izing our activities in harmony with the possibilities. 

This means, in the first place, an orientation of our work in 
the direction we have indicated above; secondly, a sharp improve- 
ment in the functioning of the leading committee. It cannot be 
done by setting up remote perspectives with which we are to wait 
for the "inevitable smashup of centrism." Neither can our tasks 
be met by the preparations being made for a drastic "retrench- 
ment" in the League's work. Against our judgment the committee 
has already decided to give up the theoretical review. In view of 
the "French period" which we must allegedly go through now, com- 
rade Cannon has already announced that he is prepared to give 
up the Greek and youth papers entirely, reduce Unser Kamf to a 
monthly, and if necessary retreat to a semimonthly Militant. We 
are totally opposed to these measures and find no real need of taking 
them. It has been proven that we have the possibilities for main- 
taining all these activities, and even for going forward (especially 

Prospect and Retrospect 235 

among the youth and the Jewish workers). Such steps in no way 
correspond with the real situation and our prospects, and they 
must be rejected forthwith. 

But we shall be compelled to take even these steps and the 
prospects we have will vanish quicker than they arose, if we do 
not eliminate the threat of a split which hangs over the head of 
the organization. We do not ground our opposition to a split on 
sentiment. A split is inevitable and sometimes even desirable if 
there exist irreconcilable differences on fundamental questions 
of principle or if, in general, one of the conflicting tendencies 
represents an alien current in the movement. We do not believe 
this to be the case in the present disputes. 

At the same time, an organization of our kind, separated from 
the main current of the class struggle by the powerful Stalinist 
apparatus and other factors, constantly threatened with isolation, 
ingrowth, and circle spirit, tends to have its inevitable frictions de- 
velop on various questions and to become increasingly acute. There 
is no particular cause for pessimism in this, for such developments 
have always attended the early years of every small, isolated revo- 
lutionary group. But while this may be one of the explanations of 
them, it is not a justification for their continuance. The League 
will experience only their corroding effects if the disputes are not 
brought into the open and discussed so that a solution may be ar- 
rived at. But the only way to achieve a real solution in the discus- 
sion is to put the disputed points as they are in truth, against their 
proper background and traced to their actual origins. Further, it 
is the real difference that should be emphasized, none should be 
invented or exaggerated, nothing should be covered up, remote 
and individual issues should not be magnified all out of their real 
proportions. For years the Russian Opposition had to conduct a 
bitter fight to have its views presented as they were in actuality, to 
resist having other views ascribed to them, and to refuse to defend 
views which they did not entertain. In their platform our Russian 
comrades posed the question of "Real and Alleged Differences." 
That is the way we want to put the questions: as they really were 
and are. The document of comrades Cannon and Swabeck serves 
precisely the contrary purpose, and not out of accident or igno- 
rance, for both comrades are just as well aware as we are of the 
real origin and nature of the disputes in the committee. 

236 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Differences— Real and Otherwise 

Their principal contention, around which their whole docu- 
ment revolves, is put as follows: "Our disputes with him (Shachtman) 
began with the international questions, especially on the way of 
approaching and dealing with them" (emphasis in the original). 

For the past year or so, within the resident National Committee, 
and particularly between comrade Shachtman on the one side and 
the present writers on the other... there have been slowly but steadily 
developing divergences over questions which we consider decisive 
for the future of our movement. 

This simply does not explain the nature of our disputes. It seeks 
however to rewrite our brief internal history arbitrarily by conven- 
iently wiping out two and a half years of it. If their assertion that the 
disputes began on the international questions only a year ago is 
true, then how is one to explain the fact that sharp differences 
existed in the committee three years ago and lasted to the present 
time, that the differences go back prior to our First National Con- 
ference, became increasingly acute, to the point where the work 
of the League was paralyzed and the organization brought to a 
virtual standstill, that we were compelled to call a special plenum 
of the National Committee two years ago (May 1930) for the sole 
purpose of discussing our internal disputes, etc., etc. The way in 
which this is "explained" is that it is not even mentioned in their 
document! This is no doubt a convenient and "simplified" method 
of conducting the dispute, only it has the disadvantage of not being 
an honest presentation of the facts. 

Further: If their assertion is true (that is, the disputes began 
with Shachtman on international questions), how is one to explain 
the fact that the other signatories to the present document, who 
have been in solidarity with comrade Shachtman for three years, 
but against whom nobody claims to have any "disputes on the in- 
ternational questions"— that these comrades have been in conflict 
with comrades Cannon and Swabeck, particularly the former, dur- 
ing the whole past period? If the international disputes are to 
explain the differences with comrade Shachtman, then what is to 
explain the differences with comrades Abern, Glotzer, and Spector 
(to mention only members of our committee)? Once more, the 
"explanation" is made by completely ignoring the question. 

The mere posing of the above two questions already indicates 
how false, from beginning to end, is the presentation of Cannon 

Prospect and Retrospect 237 

and Swabeck, how little calculated it is to make possible a genuine 
and fruitful discussion, to attain a clarification and solution of 
the difficult situation in which the League, especially its National 
Committee, now finds itself. In order, therefore, to put the ques- 
tions aright and to make it possible to view the situation from its 
proper perspective, it is necessary to start at the beginning. This 
will involve a brief sketch of our development in the past three or 
more years. It will show what were the real disputes, exactly how 
serious or important they were, to what extent they are involved 
today. It will show further that their assertions of the origin of 
the disputes are false, that the differences on international ques- 
tions which do not indeed exist, but which have been deliberately 
magnified and distorted, were tacked on artificially to the other 
issues and were converted into a factional football, which only ren- 
ders it increasingly difficult for the League to have an objective 
discussion of the problems of our international and to draw the 
positive lessons from the internal struggle of European sections. 
It will show finally that a disloyal use has been made of the sharp 
criticism which comrade Trotsky has made of comrade Shachtman 
in order to obliterate everything that has happened before in the 
League, thus offering comrade Cannon an oversimple way out of 
his own recent past. 

This will be done by documents which cannot be contested. 
An absolute minimum of other references, not documentary but 
equally indisputable, will be made in order to complete the pic- 
ture of the past. We have not the slightest intention of avoiding an 
answer to any of the points raised in the C-S document, and all of 
them, including the question of the disputes in our international, 
will be dealt with adequately. 

The manner of expulsion from the Party in October 1928 put 
the immediate direction of the Opposition's work in the hands of 
comrades Abern, Cannon, and Shachtman. Excellent relations 
existed at the outset inside the Action Committee and between the 
committee and the ranks. Friction and the disputes existing before 
the Sixth Congress of the Comintern were eliminated or forgotten 
in the enthusiasm and activity which marked our first few months. 
In many respects model internal conditions were established for 
the advancement of our movement. All the comrades collaborated 
intimately, amicably, and, above all, energetically. Unfortunately, 
this condition lasted only for the first few months. After this first 

238 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

wave of expulsions, the committee began to droop due to the 
steady reduction of activity of the outstanding leader of the 
Opposition, Cannon. Not for the first time, not for the last, com- 
rade Cannon began to lean back in his chair and leave others to 
do all the work which had been entrusted to him. We began at 
that time to hear incessantly about our work being a "protracted 
uphill struggle," an entirely sound warning for calling off over- 
zealous hotheads and for preventing overexpectant optimists, 
who looked for quick results and victories, from being crushed 
under inevitable disappointments and temporary setbacks— but 
behind which we soon detected a justification for conservatism, 
inactivity, a tendency to let things drift, which became worse in the 
succeeding period. 

On the very eve of the First National Conference (May 1929) 
comrade Cannon, who at that time had certain personal difficul- 
ties, proposed to put off the conference entirely and tell the del- 
egates to cancel their preparations to attend. This proposal came 
together with another which stupefied us completely: Cannon pro- 
posed to quit the center entirely, retire to the West (Missouri) for 
the next period, send an occasional letter of advice from afar, and 
"leave the leadership in the hands of the younger comrades." In 
view of the place he occupied in the leadership of our young move- 
ment at that time, such a departure (argued because of the "pro- 
tracted nature") would have demoralized the movement com- 
pletely, particularly at that time when we were under the heaviest 
attacks of the Stalinist press. Under our strongest pressure and 
pledges to facilitate matters here as much as possible, Cannon was 
finally dissuaded from his idea (which was not, by the way, the 
first time it was advanced by him, and further, not by him alone) 
and prevailed upon at the last minute to attend the conference. 

At the conference in Chicago a considerable enthusiasm was 
aroused by our main proposal to launch the Opposition as an 
organization (Communist League of America) and to transform 
the Militant into a weekly. In addition, despite the discouraging 
experience we had already had in the center, we reserved our opin- 
ions completely, and together with the other leading delegates 
urged upon Cannon the need of his remaining actively in the 
center. Decisions were made to provide special support for the 
maintenance of comrade Cannon in the office, and he was selected 
as both secretary of the League and editor of the Militant. Every 

Prospect and Retrospect 239 

possible measure was taken to facilitate his task, including the 
establishment of a small staff of coworkers in New York: Abern, 
Shachtman, and Spector, who was brought down from Canada 
to strengthen the center. Once more we expected the desirable 

But it did not take many weeks for our expectations to be 
exploded. Right after the conference, we were given a more strik- 
ing illustration of how comrade Cannon interpreted in practice 
the otherwise general phrase about the "protracted" character of 
our fight. Without the slightest reason, the administrative work 
of the League was grossly neglected. The Militant came out 
through the efforts of comrade Shachtman and without anything 
but the most formal assistance of comrade Cannon. Letters from 
all over the country continued to accumulate on the secretarial 
desk— unanswered. Only those letters were answered which comrade 
Abern was able to take care of. Letters of inquiry and complaint 
about the collapse and nonfunctioning of the center— and com- 
rade Swabeck, then in Chicago, wrote not a few of them— met with 
the same fate: the unanswered file. Cannon's attendance at the 
office began to assume minimum, haphazard proportions. 

Finally, when matters had reached a point where we were threat- 
ened with a complete rupture of the bonds holding the organiza- 
tion together, tying the branches to the center— where not only had 
the campaign for the weekly Militant been allowed to die, together 
with the enthusiasm for it generated at the national conference, 
but even the semimonthly began to look more like a monthly— com- 
rades Abern, Shachtman, and Spector threw all other consider- 
ations to the winds and suggested in the most comradely manner 
that Cannon devote himself to his administrative duties. Comrade 
Cannon received this suggestion in the most hostile manner imag- 
inable. He considered it an affront and listened sulkily to all our 
suggestions. His only reply was that there was no money coming 
in to maintain him and the paper and that there wasn't much use 
in writing for money which could not be obtained. 

As was proven after Cannon left the office, when we entered 
into a vigorous drive for the weekly, financial support was avail- 
able in the League, providing only the center functioned in a 
responsible manner and not by perfunctory and sporadic dabbling 
in the administrative work or even by complete neglect of it. 

Our proposal that he give a minimum attention to his work, 

240 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

too obviously justified, could not be entirely rejected. But the "im- 
provement" lasted little more than a week. Comrade Cannon once 
more fell back into his previous torpor. The grudgingly given prom- 
ises simply did not materialize and the League continued to spi- 
ral downward, passing by every opportunity (and there were many) 
with a speed directly the reverse of Cannon's. When we were again 
compelled to point out to Cannon what should have been obvi- 
ous to him, Cannon replied to this "presumptuousness" by launch- 
ing a slanderous assault upon Spector, denouncing him as another 
intellectual, another Pepper, another Weinstone. In this field he 
revealed a fierce energy that would have been far better applied 
to the work assigned to him by the conference. (It might be added 
here that Cannon is "turning the tables" on his opponents today 
in a very similar manner, only more than one comrade now 
appears where Spector before was alone.) 

With collaboration reduced to a minimum in this period, we 
nevertheless continued with our attempt to maintain Cannon in 
the office, even though as secretary he did no secretarial work 
and as editor no editorial work. We were actuated by our anxiety 
to avoid an open crisis in the organization as long as possible and 
hoped that, sharp as the conflicts were, they might nevertheless 
be smoothed over in time. Because of the financial impossibility 
of remaining in New York and the creation by Cannon of this 
venomous atmosphere, Spector was compelled to return to 
Canada. Abern and Shachtman (as well as Spector before he left 
New York) had withdrawn from the payroll and contributed their 
work in free time, so as to make Cannon's continuance in the of- 
fice easier. The difficulties were "settled" in the end by comrade 
Cannon getting a job outside and proposing Abern and Shachtman 
to take over the immediate direction of the work "in his place." 
This was done. 

It would not be entirely correct to say that Cannon made no 
contribution at all during this period. But those he made were 
aimed exclusively at further "retrenchments" in accordance with 
the, by that time, well-known "protracted" struggle. The National 
Committee in those days, crumbling before our very eyes, occu- 
pied itself week after week with one long, unceasing argument 
against Cannon's stubborn proposals to reduce the Militant to a 
monthly, when we had decided on a campaign to make it a weekly! 

Prospect and Retrospect 241 

The minutes of that period reveal that we would take up nothing 
but this question for whole sessions: 

Motion by Cannon to revert to monthly during summer 
months and use funds on hand to rent and equip an 
office-Lost 3-1 

— Minutes, 13 June 1929, the only point on agenda 
Financial report and proposals of JPC. 

Motion JPC— to revert to monthly for summer months. 
For: JPC. Against: MA, MS, Spector. 

- Minutes, 25 June 1929 

Had we not resisted this "long-term perspective" of comrade 
Cannon, with its accompaniment of folding our hands and wait- 
ing for better days, we might today be stewing obscurely in the 
juices of a semimonthly publication. As will be seen later, every 
time a similar situation arose, the same battle had to be fought to 
a greater or lesser degree. 

It was only with Cannon's departure from the office that we 
began to slowly and laboriously pick up the threads again and 
reassemble the branches into an organization. The enthusiasm for 
the weekly Militant, which had been frittered away for months, 
was aroused by us once more. Cannon, who had been strongly 
opposed to the weekly while he was in the office, became even 
more actively opposed afterward. He resisted it on the grounds 
that to start the weekly Militant would be adventurism (!), that it 
would be to build upon a speculative basis (!). His main contri- 
bution to the campaign can be summed up in his repeated pro- 
posals to "stabilize the Militant as a semimonthly" or else to re- 
vert to a monthly. The campaign was conducted without much 
assistance from Cannon, to put it moderately. 

When in spite of this, the excellent response throughout the 
country convinced us of the possibility of starting the weekly, we 
finally decided to launch it and did toward the end of 1929. Com- 
rade Cannon, evidently under the impression that the absence of 
one comrade would not affect our work in a period of "protracted 
uphill struggle," thereupon simply and literally deserted the 
League entirely. For more than two months from the time we 
actually got the first issue of the weekly, Cannon was not to be 
seen near the League. With no experience in running a printing 
plant, with a staff cut down to two National Committee members, 

242 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Abern and Shachtman, and the multiplicity of difficulties atten- 
dant upon such a situation, we had to cope in addition with the 
passive sabotage of Cannon. He did not attend a single commit- 
tee meeting during this whole period; he did not attend a single 
branch meeting (not even the affair to celebrate the advent of the 
weekly) during that period; he did not write a single line for us 
during this period. A glance through the Militant for this time 
shows that between the first issue of the weekly (30 November 
1929) and 25 January 1930, there is not a word contributed by 
comrade Cannon; thereafter, there was an article once every three 
or four numbers, with another absence between 22 February 1930 
and 19 April 1930, on which date he devoted himself to a review 
of Liebknecht's memoirs of Marx! 

Comrade Swabeck has just set the new fashion of denounc- 
ing us as "abstentionists" who "criticize from the sidelines"; 
together with comrade Cannon, they write of Shachtman's con- 
duct as a "series of blows to the organization." But nowhere in 
any of their documents will there be found the faintest reference 
to the real (and not manufactured) abstentionist, or to the series 
of real and not fancied blows which Cannon himself delivered and 
from the effects of which we have not yet completely recovered. 
But the fact cannot be eradicated that these actions, which are 
now lightly dismissed as "insignificant personal incidents," were 
blows struck in the dark at the League, without explanation or 
justification, and moreover not a single active comrade at that time 
construed comrade Cannon's conduct in anything but the most 
serious manner, as will be shown. 

Abstentionism and Conservatism During the "Weekly Period" 

Cannon's unexplained and demonstrative absence made the 
New York branch members uneasy. The passage of weeks without 
even a glimpse of him sent a rumble of disturbance and inquiry 
through the comrades. One after another asked privately concern- 
ing "what was up." Out of an exaggerated and ridiculous sense of 
loyalty to Cannon we deliberately put off the questioners. Many 
comrades can testify to how we sought to cover up Cannon, told 
them that "he was just here before you came in"— all with the hope 
of finding a solution eventually without throwing the organiza- 
tion into a crisis that was maturing before our very eyes. Our 
"explanations" did not, however, give much satisfaction to the 

Prospect and Retrospect 243 

comrades. As for Cannon, he never gave an explanation of his 
conduct. He did, however, succeed in sowing demoralization 
throughout the League, particularly in New York, and in virtually 
destroying the committee at that time, which became reduced to 
Abern and Shachtman, who could not manifestly function as a 
committee in the real sense of the word. 

Not only in New York was this uneasiness felt by the comrades, 
but elsewhere too. Many finally gave expression to it. At the present 
moment, when the theory is advanced that the disputes began on 
international questions, it is interesting to quote a letter to Abern 
from Glotzer, who was then in Chicago with Swabeck, not yet fully 
aware of all that was happening in the center. "Arne is not satis- 
fied with the relations. ...He thinks that there is a difference in 
perspective and what we could expect in the way of development 
for the League in the coming period. To be somewhat more spe- 
cific, he thinks that either you or Max has illusions as to our 
growth, or if not illusions, at least a wrong perspective" (23 Sep- 
tember 1929). Our "illusions" and "wrong perspective," accord- 
ing to comrade Cannon, consisted in our insistence on starting 
the weekly and our belief in its vitality. 

But this did not prevent Cannon's warmest defender today, 
Swabeck, who now writes about us with such gusto as "absten- 
tionists" criticizing from the sidelines, from feeling the general 
alarm about Cannon's deliberate withdrawal from the League. 
He felt compelled finally to write to Cannon from Chicago on 
5 December 1929, that is, even weeks before Cannon finally decided 
to bring his retirement to a close (our emphasis throughout): 

Your complete absence from all activities in our movement for a long time 
has become noticeable not only to such comrades as myself, who 
are able to keep our finger fairly close to the pulse, but by com- 
rades in general. Personally I have received several inquiries from 
several comrades in regard to it. I am speaking of complete absence 
because this is what it practically amounts to when one compares 
the past with the present.... The reason for this complete absence of 
yours has not been explained to me or to any other comrade that 
I know of. Nor do I believe a satisfactory explanation could be given.... \ 
thought shortly after the change of staff had taken place and you 
retired so far to the background, a short relief for adjustments of 
personal difficulties is quite in order. I found it reasonable as a mat- 
ter of temporary— that is, very temporary— arrangement. I realized, 
of course, that you would have to devote some time to relieve your 
mind of responsibilities of a personal character. Now, however, I 

244 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

feel quite alarmed noting that this retirement or absence of yours 
has become so complete and of such a permanent character. I am 
not asking you to make any answer to me as a personal matter, but 
rather to the movement (our emphasis). 

This letter was written, we repeat, even before Cannon made 
his retirement so complete that he was not to be seen in the office 
at all. 

This calculated absence was not without its effect. Enthusiasm 
began to fall off because the comrades were perturbed and uneasy 
and uncertain about what tomorrow might bring— some shock, 
some unlooked-for blow. Only as a last resort— when Cannon had 
even failed to reply to polite notes sent to him to attend commit- 
tee meetings— did we feel compelled to write to two or three lead- 
ing comrades, committee members, so that they would know what 
the situation was and not be taken unawares by anything that might 
happen subsequently. The effect of this state of affairs was soon 
translated into a fall in the financial income, and, deprived of 
direct assistance as we were, it became increasingly difficult to 
handle the growing tasks. We were determined to leave no stone 
unturned to maintain the weekly which had quickly cut a place for 
itself in the movement and had been warmly received by our com- 
rades and sympathizers. 

We therefore decided, especially because, in addition, the 
discussions in favor of establishing an international center of the 
Opposition had been favorably received in Europe following the 
debacle of Urbahns and Paz, to send comrade Shachtman to 
Europe for the threefold purpose: of establishing direct contact 
with the European sections of the Opposition and with comrade 
Trotsky; of initiating an international conference and establishing 
an authoritative Opposition center; of requesting financial assis- 
tance from the Russian Opposition. We got a first indication of 
Cannon's concern over internationalism by his reaction to this. 

If Cannon had opposed the launching of the weekly, he was 
even more violently opposed to this proposal. Toward the latter 
part of the existence of the weekly, he had returned to the office 
as abruptly as he had left it, without a word of explanation, and 
only, as we learned, after a peremptory letter from Swabeck. 
Cannon countered our proposal with one to sink the weekly with- 
out a trace, to return to a semimonthly, print pamphlets instead, 
and pay off our old debts! It is interesting to note that more than 

Prospect and Retrospect 245 

a year later, when we decided for the second time to launch the 
weekly, Cannon was compelled to use all our arguments against 
him in 1930 in order to reply to the opponents of the weekly in 
1931, who opposed it with the same arguments that he himself 
used a year before! His arguments on the floor would have 
sounded more convincing to us (who had no need of being con- 
vinced) did we not realize that Cannon was merely echoing our 
arguments in reply to some comrades in the New York branch 
who were merely echoing his arguments. 

Carried away by his zeal in opposing the weekly Militant, 
Cannon went so far as to advance the most absurd and even reac- 
tionary and philistine arguments against the trip to Europe, which 
was intended primarily to get aid for its preservation. He asserted 
that the establishment of the weekly was not a real but a fictitious 
advance; that we were maintaining it on a speculative basis; that 
to continue it was adventurism; and not only that, but he argued 
that in the past in this and other countries the movement had been cor- 
rupted by subsidies, that we must avoid the same thing now, etc., etc. If 
this had any meaning at all it signified that Cannon interpreted 
the assistance which the Russian Opposition was at that time ren- 
dering to the national sections in various countries (and had been 
rendering for years back) as a source of corruption for the move- 
ment similar to that which had taken place under the Stalinist 
regime. It is not we alone who construed comrade Cannon's ob- 
jections in this reactionary, insulting sense, but the other commit- 
tee members as well, Swabeck included, as will be seen further 
on. (It might be added that later, under "different" conditions, 
Cannon forgot all his objections to "corrupting subsidy.") 

Cannon was absolutely alone in his obstinate opposition. All 
the nonresident committee members voted for our proposal to 
send Shachtman to Europe as our representative in spite of 
Cannon's "warnings." On 11 February 1930, at a meeting in Chi- 
cago which was made possible by the attendance of comrade 
Skoglund of Minneapolis, Glotzer and Swabeck of Chicago, and 
Shachtman, who had come there in connection with personal 
matters arising out of a death in his family, the whole situation 
was discussed thoroughly. All the comrades present (including 
some leading Chicago members) expressed their deep concern 
over Cannon's past conduct. When the state of affairs in the resi- 
dent committee had been discussed, it was Swabeck who finally 

246 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

declared that he believed it might be necessary for us to expel 
Cannon publicly from the League so that— to use his words- 
Cannon would be unable to sneak out of the movement quietly! 
The other comrades present, notably comrade Skoglund, expressed 
themselves in a similar sense. Here again, we can see by this single 
fact how perfectly absurd, but very convenient (for its authors) is 
the contention in the C-S document that our disputes "began on 
international questions." 

While Shachtman was in Chicago, Cannon sent a lengthy let- 
ter to Swabeck, presenting his standpoint on the question of the 
trip to comrade Trotsky and repeating the same reactionary argu- 
ments he had given in New York. But this had no effect upon the 
decision of the other comrades. The vote was unanimous for our 
proposal to maintain the Militant and establish relations with the 
European Opposition. Cannon's letter did not succeed in the 
slightest in allaying the perturbations in anyone's mind, least of 
all in the mind of Swabeck, who, as we see, had lost confidence in 
Cannon and even contemplated the necessity of his public expul- 
sion. After Glotzer had come to the center to aid in the work while 
Shachtman was absent; after Glotzer had been able to observe on 
the spot that all the criticisms of Cannon and his conduct were 
justified a thousand times over (from Chicago, both Glotzer and 
Swabeck had thought that Shachtman and Abern might be exag- 
gerating somewhat)— Swabeck wrote him: 

I shall not attempt even now to enter into any discussion on the 
questions you have raised in your letters.... I am inclined to believe, 
however, that your estimation of the present relationship among com- 
rades in the center is quite correct— sad to say.... Sometime and hope- 
fully soon, I feel we shall be able to establish an actual functioning 
center, not merely two comrades carrying the burden, but all of us 
working together. Then, I feel quite confident, we will be able to 
iron things out and start on a new basis. If worse should come to 
worse, and nothing else but a little operation will do, then that has to 
be performed. I am enclosing a copy of the letter I sent Jim in an- 
swer to his received at the time when Max was here. Be judicious. / 
am sending it to you only because 1 fear that Jim will not fully discuss 
these points with you more than just perhaps in a formal manner. 
— 30 March 1930; our emphasis 

To Cannon himself Swabeck, who was already speaking about 
him in connection with "little operations," wrote in a very restrained 
manner, but quite definitely so that Cannon's position at that time 
may be plainly seen: 

Prospect and Retrospect 247 

I am certain that the disastrous effects of a subsidized movement in 
this country and for that matter elsewhere have been sufficiently 
demonstrated to convince all of us. That is, on the basis of subsi- 
dizing which has been established by the Stalin regime. But I am of 
the opinion that what was proposed and now carried out by the 
departure of Max could not in any way be considered a matter of estab- 
lishing that practice and certainly not in the Stalinist sense. If that should 
be so then we were even wrong in accepting the small sum which 
was so generously made available toward helping initiate the Mili- 
tant. Also, any financial speculative basis is an insecure one for any 
revolutionary movement at best and should be avoided. But in that 
respect, our very start with a publication was to a degree a specula- 
tive one, the arrival of the weekly naturally increasing our obliga- 
tions and therewith our financial difficulties, if, then, however, this 
special measure can help us over the immediate difficulty, and give 
us a breathing space to endeavor to build a more secure basis, it 
should by all means be tried.... Now as to our advance made to the 
weekly, you say it was not well grounded and therefore not a real advance. 
This I am surprised to hear from you at this time. 
— March 1930; our emphasis 

Unsuccessful in having the National Committee join him to 
sink the weekly so as to "confirm" ex post facto this repeated con- 
tention that the advance to the weekly was not real, well grounded, 
but speculative, Cannon transferred his activity to another field 
during the absence of Shachtman. He engaged in agitating mem- 
bers of the New York branch against the National Committee and 
particularly against Abern and Shachtman. The same comrade who 
is now so insistent upon the membership acknowledging and 
increasing the authority of the National Committee sat by quietly 
while Abern and Shachtman were denounced from the floor as 
"bureaucrats." He had already declared at the committee meet- 
ing following Shachtman's return from Chicago, after the decision 
on the European trip had been unanimously endorsed with the 
exception of his vote: "By this decision you comrades make fur- 
ther collaboration impossible." He was as good as his word. Upon 
Shachtman's return from Europe, the two or three New York 
branch members who had been fed by Cannon's opposition 
launched an attack upon the report made by Shachtman on his 
visit with comrade Trotsky and the international conference. When 
they demanded that a referendum of the organization should have 
been taken before sending a delegate to an international gather- 
ing, Cannon again demonstrated his "solidarity" with the com- 
mittee by maintaining a demonstrative silence and abstaining on 

248 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

the vote in the branch. Furthest from his mind at that time was 
an interest in "international questions," in the international con- 
ference, in the situation in the European sections, or in "main- 
taining the authority of the leadership." He was dominated by the 
single thought of continuing a factional war against Abern and 
Shachtman and any stick he could pick up was good enough for 
him to throw. When the subsequent plenum succeeded in estab- 
lishing a measure of peace in the committee, and Cannon was 
compelled to take a different attitude in the New York branch, 
one of the comrades he had incensed against us in the preceding 
period quite justly remarked that Cannon had left him "holding 
the bag"! 

In short, our disputes with comrade Cannon over this whole 
period regarding his activities and the perspectives of the Oppo- 
sition can be summed up in a letter written to comrade Swabeck 
by Abern, a letter which shows that our real differences were not 
invented in order to cover up something else, but existed long 
before they are alleged by Cannon and Swabeck to have "begun." 

For a period of a year since the conference (and indeed one could 
say even before) there has been a definite difference of perspective 
before our movement and it has reflected itself in the activities and 
attitude of the comrades. Whether this difference of perspective 
on the tasks of the Opposition in this period that has been and the 
immediate period to come has ramifications and meaning of an even 
more important character, I will not at this time undertake to 
discuss. ...Of the period before the conference, the period immedi- 
ately following the conference, and preceding the establishment of 
the weekly Militant, and since the establishment of the weekly, up 
to literally now, we can say, without in any way removing such 
responsibility and share of errors that may be felt also to the rest of 
us, Cannon has played a role that, speaking for myself, has indelibly 
impressed itself in my mind, and not on the positive side for him. 
To use blunt words for rough facts, the way I see it, JPC deserted 
the work here, for the period after the conference and virtually the 
entire period since. ..the Opposition is not merely that which was 
before in the Communist Party. It is not merely an added growth, 
as some, it appears, would think. It is a development of, and also a 
break with, some things and conceptions of the past. We have elimi- 
nated but we have also taken much that is new, and that much is 
clear to all. Our Opposition receives its strength primarily not by a 
national group evolution, but by its entry into the period and field 
of international thought and organization; our adhesion to the 
international Opposition led by Trotsky. 
- Abern, 4 April 1932 

Prospect and Retrospect 249 

The New York comrades were not alone in their views on 
Cannon's status at that time; these views were shared generally to 
a greater or lesser extent. What comrade Swabeck thought of the 
situation has already been indicated from his letters. In that same 
period comrade Dunne of Minneapolis wrote us, after referring 
to his "considering Jim out of the picture for a time at least," as 

I am at a loss when it comes to speak about Jim. What indeed can 
be said? Unless there is something that I do not know, we have only 
to grieve over the loss of a powerful figure from the movement, 
and as you suggest, hope for a turn or a change that will send him 
back into the fight. As to the conduct of the affairs of the League 
and the Militant, I for one am not at all apprehensive. Marty and 
Max can and will carry on until more forces come to us and they 
will act as they have in the past, as the true revolutionaries, sharing 
the responsibilities with others so far as that is possible. 
-4 January 1930 

Other comrades expressed even deeper feelings about the situ- 
ation. From Canada, comrade Spector wrote to Abern: 

In these circumstances, one must ponder the political basis for C's 
attitude of hostility and passivity. What game is he playing? At this 
distance, it seems to me that we shall have to confront the question 
whether the American Opposition is a Trotsky group or a Cannon 
group.... But C will be making the biggest mistake of his political 
career if he entertains the visions of reconstituting himself as leader 
of a group of his own on the basis of the old Lovestone-Foster- 
Cannon triangle. 
-26 March 1930 

It is clear that such a situation could not be permitted to 
endure. Finding it impossible to arrive at a solution in the resi- 
dent committee, we decided to call a plenum of the National Com- 
mittee. We assiduously sought to avert an open struggle in the 
organization as long as possible, hoping that the attainment of 
some solution would enable us to avoid throwing the League into 
an acute and painful crisis. We believe this to be one of the primary 
obligations of a Communist leadership: not to throw every single 
disputed point into the organization as a whole for premature and 
distorted discussion, except as a last resort; to seek first to arrive 
at an agreement in the leading bodies of the organization so that 
the solidity and mobility of the leadership may be preserved and 
not disrupted on every occasion when a difference of opinion pre- 
vails; and only when it appears insoluble there, to transmit the 

250 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

disputes to the organization as a whole, which is the only body 
left to solve a dispute. A contrary procedure would tend to throw 
the organization into a frenzy of internal discussion and dispute 
each time its leading committee is confronted with a difference 
of opinion. At the same time, however, it is also clear to us that a 
grave error was made in that period by not plainly informing the 
membership of the League of the facts of the disputes and the 
nature of them. Had they been informed, it is more than possible 
that the plenum which was called in the summer of 1930 would 
have yielded more positive results. Even worse than that was our 
failure at any time to inform comrade Trotsky and the Interna- 
tional Secretariat. 

The plenum made no really fundamental decisions on the dis- 
putes. No document was adopted, no clear line was set out to guide 
us in the future. The days were spent in an exhaustive discussion 
of the state of affairs in the committee, but what came out of them 
was less a clear-cut solution than it was a tacit understanding of 
the need of continuing the collaboration of the leading comrades 
on an improved basis. Once again, despite our discouraging 
experiences, we agreed to make the effort in the interests of 
advancing the organization. It is true that not one single comrade 
attending the plenum supported comrade Cannon or condoned 
his past conduct. Nevertheless, it was the consensus of opinion 
that another start had to be made, particularly in order to pre- 
serve the weekly, that a large measure of collaboration had to be 
assured, etc., etc. 

At this point let it be emphasized that during this whole period 
there was no question of the Naville tendency, no question of 
Landau, and no other question of international dispute before us; 
there was no question about what is today alleged to be our false 
attitude toward the New York branch (the only such question was 
that in which Cannon was concerned through his incitement of 
branch members against the National Committee); there was no 
question of "Carterism" or of our "false attitude" toward the youth. 
In a word, the questions literally did not exist which Cannon, for 
interested reasons, now pushes to the fore to the obliteration of 
everything that has happened in the past, which he inflates from 
tiny balloons into his zeppelins of factional war against the 
undersigned. As has been said, the convenience of this method 
for those who make use of it cannot be questioned; but its harmony 

Prospect and Retrospect 251 

with loyal procedure in the proletarian movement is more than 

The Theory of the "Gestation" of the Cannon Group 

Following the plenum, the work of the committee and conse- 
quently of the organization as a whole was considerably improved. 
Comrade Spector was once more brought from Canada, making 
a resident committee of five members which immediately proved 
its advantages over the previous committee of two and three mem- 
bers. But our past disputes had barely been laid aside when com- 
rade Cannon began to put forward with considerable insistence 
his theory of the "gestation" of our Left Opposition inside the 
womb of the old Cannon Party group. Notwithstanding the fact 
that all the undersigned were also members of the former Can- 
non group, we together with comrade Spector categorically re- 
jected the ridiculous theory advanced by Cannon which is another 
one of the axes around which his present position revolved and 
which sticks out of every sentence in the document presented 
jointly with comrade Swabeck. This theory has been advanced in- 
numerable times by comrade Cannon in speeches, was stated by 
him twice in writing, and finally had to be formally rejected by 
the Second National Conference, only to reappear in the docu- 
ment to which the undersigned are replying. It is stated by Can- 
non as follows: 

We were one of the latest detachments of the International Com- 
munist Opposition to take definite shape in the open just as the 
Lovestone group is somewhat belated reinforcement in the rear of 
the international right wing. Neither of these American factions, how- 
ever, found its international connection by accident. We were "pre- 
pared by the past" for our place under the banner of the Interna- 
tional Left Opposition. Lovestone and co. served their apprenticeship 
and became journeymen opportunists, qualified for union with 
Brandler in the American Party struggles. The protracted period of 
our gestation as a faction on the line of the Bolshevik-Leninists has 
not been without compensating advantages. The rich experiences of 
the international struggle were realized for us, as it were, in advance, 
and we have been able to build on their foundation. 
-Militant, 10 May 1930 356 
And again, in the document against Weisbord: 

Formally speaking, the American section of the International Left 
Opposition was formed a little more than two years ago. It began 
its public formal existence with the declaration read to the Political 

252 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Committee by Abern, Shachtman, and Cannon in October 1928. 
But neither the ideas of the Opposition nor we who represent them 
fell from the sky on that date. The whole situation is an outgrowth 
of the evolution and development of the Party and the Comintern. 
The founders of the American section of the Opposition were "pre- 
pared by the past" for their present stand. This is equally true of 
the Lovestone and Foster factions, that is, of the right wing and the 
centrists of our Party. Anyone who denies this has to ground his 
position on the theory that political groupings and political devel- 
opments are accidental and arbitrary. Such methods of analysis never 
had any standing among Marxists. 
-23 December 1930 357 

The dispute over this standpoint, which makes a caricature of 
the origin of the American Opposition and sets up an absolutely 
untenable "theory of leadership" in this country, would have a 
purely historical and abstract interest, were it not for the fact that 
comrade Cannon, joined now by comrade Swabeck, has persis- 
tently put forward this idea for over two years, indicating that there 
is something more "actual" concealed behind this "historical ques- 
tion," something very practical, which, as will be seen further on, 
affects the present life of the Opposition. 

Theoretically, the contention does not rest upon a shred of 
real evidence. The old Cannon group in the Party was not "devel- 
oping logically," was not "gestating" toward the Left Opposition. 
It never had a firm programmatic foundation during its separate 
existence. It was never considered by anyone, least of all by itself, 
as situated at the left wing of the Party. It came into existence in- 
dependently (following its break with the Foster faction, out of 
which it came in 1925), at the time when the Zinoviev-Stalin- 
Bukharin group was consummating its organizational-political 
victory in the United States by arbitrarily overthrowing the Foster 
regime and establishing the Lovestone-Pepper regime. The Cannon 
group united with the right wing (Lovestone, etc.) against the 
Foster group. When it finally broke its alliance with the right wing, 
it again maintained an independent existence for a wiiile, essen- 
tially as a buffer between Foster and Lovestone. Prior to the Sixth 
Congress it formed an opposition bloc with Foster-Bittelman which 
it maintained virtually till the eve of our expulsion. 

An objective estimation of the contending groups at that time 
would undoubtedly establish the fact that the Cannon group had 
many positive qualities, outstanding among them being its gener- 

Prospect and Retrospect 253 

ally correct views on trade-union politics and its criticisms of the 
prevailing policies. But this by itself does not identify a group with 
the Left Opposition. We have pointed out on numerous occasions 
that even right-wing groups frequently make very just criticisms 
of the official line on such questions as trade-union policy. But it 
would further be established that on every fundamental question 
of principle, the Cannon group stood upon the platform of inter- 
national Stalinism, sometimes a little to the right of it, sometimes 
a little to the left of it. While very few of its leaders— to their credit- 
ever engaged actively in the campaign against "Trotskyism," the 
group nevertheless had no political affinity with the Left Opposi- 
tion. If anything, it was the least "international" of all the Party 
groups and concerned itself less than any others with such ques- 
tions as the British general strike and the Anglo-Russian Com- 
mittee, the Chinese revolution, or the struggles within the Rus- 
sian party, although the interest of the other groups was purely 
factional. It spent more time upon secondary tactical questions in 
this country than upon a discussion of the theory of socialism in 
one country, upon which it did indeed spend no time at all. It is 
true that the bureaucratic suppression of the Opposition's stand- 
point had its effect upon the Cannon group, but the principal 
material was available in the U.S. and in Moscow for those of the 
group representatives who visited it periodically and were inter- 
ested in these fundamental disputes. Not only on the basic ques- 
tions of international principled connotation did the Cannon 
group have not the slightest relationship with the views of the Left 
Opposition, but even on the basic analysis of the position of Ameri- 
can imperialism in the world economy and politics, its stand was 
the direct opposite. The Cannon group stood on the platform of 
Bittelman (the "apex theory"), against which the Russian Opposi- 
tion had been contending since 1925. 358 

Still more: To the extent that we have developed toward the 
full and basic views of the Left Opposition, we have had to break 
both politically and organizationally with the old Cannon group. 
In order to come to the Opposition, we had to break organiza- 
tionally with the overwhelming majority of the members and lead- 
ers of the Cannon group, so that there are today in the Opposi- 
tion a bare 24 or so members who formerly were supporters of 
the faction in the Party, i.e., an insignificant section of it. In order 
to develop our present position on so important a question as the 

254 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

labor party, for example, we have had to relinquish entirely the 
standpoint of the Cannon group on this point, which constituted 
the core of its platform even after the formation of the Left 
Opposition, its basic premise and perspectives from which its 
tactical conclusions were derived. The theory of the "gestation" 
serves to make the past of the Cannon group, with which we have 
had to break in order to go forward, serve as a brake on our further 

The Cannon group (or more accurately, a section of it) came 
to the Left Opposition by quite a different path than by a logical 
and consistent development of its own struggle in the American 
Party. If it was "prepared by the past," then it is not in the sense 
that comrade Cannon makes use of this phrase from Trotsky— 
which is quoted as meaning that the Cannon group was prepared 
by its own past— but by the past of the Russian Opposition, in which 
our old Party group had absolutely no part, except insofar as we 
stood essentially on the platform of the right-center bloc. As com- 
rade Trotsky himself wrote: "After five years of the struggle against 
the Russian Opposition, it required a journey of members of the 
Central Committee of the American Party, and even of its Politi- 
cal Bureau, to a congress in Moscow in order for the first time to 
find out what so-called 'Trotskyism' is." What actually happened 
was that the impasse into which the Cannon group had been driven 
by the unprincipled faction struggle in the American Party, in 
which the Lovestone group attached itself to Bukharin and the 
Foster group to Stalin, began to make it clear to many of the com- 
rades that the "American fight" was of second- and tenth-rate im- 
portance compared with the fundamental struggle going on in the 
international. We realized this very belatedly, only after the Sixth 
Congress, our realization being accelerated by the decomposition 
of the ruling right-center bloc, and it is incontestably to the credit 
of a section of the Cannon group that it took its stand unequivo- 
cally for the Russian Opposition, however tardily. 

But this has nothing in common with comrade Cannon's 
theory of the "gestation" or the implications contained in his 
assertion that the American Opposition was constituted "formally 
speaking" in October 1928, i.e., that it had really been moving in 
just that direction long before 1928. The reference to "accidents" 
and "arbitrariness" in the formation of political groups, and what 
"standing among Marxists" such methods of analysis may have, 

Prospect and Retrospect 255 

simply does not fit into the picture at all and has nothing to do 
with the case. Paz always contended that his group had developed 
"logically" into the Left Opposition. Frey demands to this day that 
we recognize the "legitimacy" of his "gestation" from the early 
years of the corrupt Austrian faction fights to his present-day "ad- 
herence" to the Left Opposition. The Maslowists and Urbahns to 
a degree assiduously cultivate the legend of the "historic left." Or 
to take a group which is far closer to us than any of those men- 
tioned: What would we say if the comrades of the New Italian 
Opposition were to make the following claim (which of course they 
do not make): 

Formally speaking, we joined the Left Opposition in 1930. But nei- 
ther the ideas of the Opposition nor we who represent them fell 
from the sky on that date. We founders of the NOI were "prepared 
by the past." Our whole struggle in the Party— our fight against the 
Bordigists included— led us logically and formally into the ranks of 
the International Left Opposition. There are no accidents in poli- 
tics, as all Marxists know. 

We would say in reply to this absurd play of words what the 
undersigned comrades have said to comrade Cannon for the past 
two years— without the slightest results. Through the pen of com- 
rade Spector, we wrote more than two years ago: 

None of the former Party groupings are any longer what they once 
were. Never was the Lovestone group such an undisguised and out- 
spoken right wing. Never was there the clear and outspoken con- 
scious left wing that the American Opposition constitutes today. The 
limits of the old unprincipled factionalism and intrigue had their 
rise in the Zinoviev-Bukharin and Stalin regimes. The American 
Opposition has in the short time of its existence achieved a great 
educational work for the movement that will sooner or later bear 
its fruit. For this the American Opposition recognizes its historic 
debt to the Russian Opposition. 
-Militant, 26 April 1930 

Finally, even at the Second National Conference, we were 
obliged to reject the Cannon theory by inserting a clause in our 
thesis which referred to the fact that "The Left Opposition, at its 
formative stage, leaned in the direction of this reformist perspec- 
tive (i.e., the inevitability of a labor party), which constituted to a 
certain extent an uncritical carryover of the preceding struggle in 
the Party, prior to the time when the left wing took shape and 
was established as a political grouping distinct from all the others in 
the movement" (conference thesis, our emphasis). 359 This moderate 

256 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

formulation was finally adopted after the strong objections raised 
by comrade Cannon to the original formulation, which was even 
sharper and plainer. 

We have not been unaware of the advantage accruing to the 
development of the American Left Opposition from the fact that 
it was founded by a compact group of leading comrades who had 
shared common views in the past, whose experience in the revo- 
lutionary movement and in the internal struggles proved to be of 
great value, and whose "habit of collaboration" for anywhere from 
five to eight years in the Party made for a certain stability in the 
organization. Indeed, we have pointed out these positive features 
on many occasions to various hypercritical critics who played no 
role at all in the Party, or else an abominable one. 

Nor do we entertain the notion that the League is at present 
obliged to engage in a review of the history of the Party and an 
estimation of the contending factions in it in order to condemn 
or in general to make any particular appraisal of the Cannon 
group. That may safely be left to the coming historians of the move- 
ment and to a time when the past may be examined with greater 

At the same time, however, we have not been unmindful of 
the negative and dangerous aspects of the "gestation" theory and 
especially of its practical consequences. It had served to establish 
an atmosphere of "hereditary succession," so to speak, in the or- 
ganization, to attach in the minds of the comrades a special privi- 
leged significance to those who once formed a part of the Cannon 
group in the Party. It was on the basis of the same theory that 
comrade Swabeck, when he came to the center early in 1931 as an 
"objective comrade who would help establish harmony in the com- 
mittee," informed Glotzer that the basis for the establishment of 
unity in the committee was an acknowledgment of "Cannon as 
the leader of the League." However little we were concerned with 
Swabeck's ridiculous preoccupation as to who (if anybody!) should 
be "the" leader (and by "acknowledgment" at that!), we neverthe- 
less respectfully declined comrade Swabeck's ingenious proposal. 

The refusal of many of the New York branch members to swal- 
low this theory and the critical attitude they have adopted toward 
comrade Cannon's unceasing references to the qualifications of 
the Cannon group is not the last reason for the antagonism which he 
holds toward so many of the New York comrades. 

Prospect and Retrospect 257 

This theory, furthermore, has served as a distinct obstacle to 
the broadening of the National Committee. The idea of introduc- 
ing new blood into the committee, of drawing in fresh elements 
and active workers particularly at the center, has never been 
approved by comrades Cannon and Swabeck— especially the 
former. When the committee (in 1930) was functioning only in 
the most desultory manner, not holding meetings for weeks, we 
proposed the co-optation (with voice but no vote) of three of the 
most active New York members: Basky, Hansen, and Lewit. Cannon 
opposed it bitterly. It was only done when the full National Com- 
mittee voted unanimously for our proposal, all of them, that is, 
except Cannon. He continued to look with contempt upon these 
three active workers whom we sought to draw into the national 

At the Second National Conference we witnessed another 
instance of the astounding situation— almost unprecedented in the his- 
tory of the revolutionary movement!— -where, after three whole years 
of our existence we finally took the "revolutionary step" of add- 
ing one solitary new member, Oehler, to the National Committee 
and advancing one alternate, Dunne, to the same rank. The com- 
mittee remains composed to this day (with the exception, of course, 
of its members from Canada, where the Cannon group had no 
ramifications) only of former Cannon group members. Our pro- 
posal to enlarge the committee of seven (of whom only the resi- 
dent handful ever really functioned as committee members) to the 
number of nine was only accepted grudgingly. Our further pro- 
posal to add one or two active militants to the committee resulted 
in that "open conflict at the Second National Conference over 
the election of the new NC" about which the C-S document 
becomes so indignant. This "incident" requires some elucidation 
since its real meaning has been distorted beyond recognition. 

The Dispute at the Conference 

Even prior to the conference we had already noted the ten- 
dencies to narrow still further the basis of the leadership. On the 
very eve of the conference, Cannon made an open threat about 
his intention to oppose Glotzer's reelection to the committee. Dur- 
ing the conference itself, Basky and then Swabeck presented us 
with a list of seven nominations which provided for the removal 
of another "recalcitrant" who does not have the "proper opinion" 

258 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

of comrade Cannon; we refer to comrade Abern. We not only 
insisted upon including these two former members in the new com- 
mittee and adding comrade Oehler (which was finally done), but 
also on adding another comrade, who, during his period of co- 
optation on the committee and as organizer of the New York 
branch, had given adequate proof of his fitness, which nobody 
challenged. That we had not the slightest intention of "strength- 
ening our faction" on the committee as against "theirs" by this 
proposal is conclusively demonstrated by our added proposal that 
we were quite willing to increase the committee's size to eleven or 
13 and fill out the positions with any available nominees proposed 
by comrade Cannon. That Lewit's fitness was never questioned is 
shown also by the fact that shortly after the conference he was 
put in charge of work among the Jewish workers and made editor 
of Unser Kamf. But at the conference, his nomination met with 
the most furious resistance, although it had been generally agreed 
months before then that he was a suitable candidate for the new 
committee! Why? Because, as we learn from their document, he 
was "one of those comrades who had not been able to distinguish 
between the tendency of the XC and the tendency of Carter and 
who, at the critical moment, concentrated his attacks on us." 
Is this true? In no way whatsoever! 

Comrade Cannon here refers to the incident which took place 
in the New York branch on the eve of the conference. The branch 
had already signified its attitude toward Carter by voting against 
him as a delegate to the national conference. Not satisfied with 
this, comrade Cannon thereupon introduced a motion of his own. 
without previously consulting a single member of the XC, con- 
demning Carter. "Comrade Shachtman sat silent during this 
discussion and did not vote on either of the resolutions." Cannon's 
indignation would sound less shallow if we did not recall how silent 
he sat when, in 1930, the National Committee was being violentlv 
attacked by the comrades he had incited. 

However that may be, Cannon carefullv refrains from quot- 
ing his motion which is hardlv consistent with his present conten- 
tions. In it he proposed that the branch "likewise condemn the 
campaign against the National Committee conducted by comrade 
Friedman (Carter), his attempts to discredit it and undermine its 
authority and to create rivalries among its members who have 
defended a common political line." In his document of 22 March 

Prospect and Retrospect 259 

1932, Cannon writes that "for the past year or so. ..between com- 
rade Shachtman on the one side and the present writer on the 
other— there has been a slowly but steadily developing divergence 
over questions which we consider decisive for the future of the 
movement." In other words, there has been in the National Com- 
mittee a divergence over questions decisive for our future for more 
than a year. But six months ago, comrade Cannon proposed that 
we join him to condemn Carter for having announced that there 
were differences in the National Committee! We sat silent not out 
of support to Carter but because we did not want to precipitate a 
struggle by attacking Cannon's motion as it deserved. The branch, 
together with us, separated itself politically with sufficient clear- 
ness by voting against Carter as a delegate; the same branch voted 
overwhelmingly against Cannon's motion because the comrades 
felt that it was not only unjustified persecution of Carter but that 
it was hypocritical and untrue. Nobody was unaware of differences 
in the committee (although nobody had the faintest idea that it 
was over "international questions" until Cannon discovered it!) and 
nobody was therefore willing to condemn Carter for saying that 
there were differences. 

For failing to support this arbitrary, untenable motion (which 
even comrade Swabeck swallowed very hard when he rose to speak 
of it), comrade Lewit was opposed as a member of the new com- 
mittee. Perhaps an even greater "mistake" on his part was his fail- 
ure not only to have been a member of the old Cannon group but 
in not recompensing for that by agreeing with the Swabeck for- 
mula for establishing the basis for unity in the NC. 

The charge repeated now that Lewit was an opponent of the 
committee appears even more ridiculous in view of the elections 
to the branch executive committee (New York) following the con- 
ference, when Cannon made a speech in favor of Lewit being put 
onto the local committee so as to strengthen the hand and influ- 
ence of the National Committee! 

We would go still further and say that even had all the charges 
made by Cannon against Lewit, or any other comrade who was 
generally qualified for membership on the committee, held true, 
even if such a comrade held differing views on certain questions 
and was critical of any member of the committee or of the com- 
mittee as a whole— even if this were so, we find in it no reason for 
opposing him as a member. The Opposition has no need of such a 

260 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

spurious and strangulating "monolithism"; it will concur in it only to 
its own detriment. While it is true that the conference did not real- 
ize all that was involved, it nevertheless made a serious error in 
giving a majority vote against our proposal. 

The National Committee, individually and as a whole, 
undoubtedly has a great deal to its credit for which it has no rea- 
son to apologize; but it has great and serious shortcomings which 
cannot be overcome merely by insisting that the membership "rec- 
ognize and increase its authority"— this cannot and should not be 
done by resolutions and, in the first place, it cannot be done by 
the membership; that task devolves primarily upon the leadership 
itself, which cannot ask the membership to take anything for 
granted for tomorrow. The committee, the League as a whole, 
must make every effort to broaden the base of its leading com- 
mittee, seek out and draw into its ranks additional forces. Such 
an extension of the ranks of the committee, the infiltration of 
new blood, will be an added assurance against any unnecessary 
exaggerations and magnifying of small disputes and an easier 
solution of large ones. 

To sum up on this point: the "gestation" theory has no basis 
in objective facts. Its adoption by the League and continuous 
propagation can only result in the worst ideological confusion and 
mixing up of the history and ideas of the Left Opposition with 
those of a Party faction which stood on a different platform. It 
can only produce a distortion of our whole outlook. It can only 
become an increasingly large obstacle to the growth and expan- 
sion of the League and its leadership. 

Hesitation to Advance— Proposals for Retreat 

The characteristics of comrade Cannon's policy during the 
past period were not confined to him alone. Immediately upon 
his arrival in New York, comrade Swabeck associated himself with 
comrade Cannon on virtually every single question and action. 
For this unity in action there is no accidental political foundation. 
Our differences over the prospects and perspectives of the League 
with Cannon, prior to the arrival of Swabeck, were accentuated 
by the similarly conservative views advanced by the latter. Most of 
the forward steps that the League took in the past year at first 
encountered the reluctance, hesitation, or downright opposition 
of comrade Swabeck. We were compelled to resist this tendency 

Prospect and Retrospect 261 

with the same vigor that marked our resistance to the tendency of 
Cannon previously. The launching of the Jewish semimonthly 
organ of the League was opposed by Swabeck, who kept urging 
that its appearance be postponed, that this was not yet the time 
for it, that the organization could not carry such "heavy burdens," 
etc., etc. The Greek paper of the League met with the same oppo- 
sition on his part and to a certain extent on Cannon's part, the 
motivation for the objections being the same ones that had been 
dinned into our ears in the past period, in connection with every 
advance that came before the committee for discussion. When the 
proposal was placed before the committee to vote for the launch- 
ing of Young Spartacus at an earlier date than that foreseen by the 
Second National Conference, comrade Swabeck opposed it so vio- 
lently that in the heat of the dispute on the question in the com- 
mittee, he even threatened to resign his post as secretary and "have 
someone else carry out the work" if the motion was carried. And 
finally, as is fairly well-known, while Glotzer and Shachtman were 
in Europe, a certain letdown in the organization produced such a 
pessimistic and hopeless feeling in comrade Swabeck that Cannon 
proposed to him and to other comrades in the office that he return 
to Chicago, find work there, and have the direction of the work at 
the center be undertaken by other leading comrades. 

In a word, the committee functioned in a relatively normal 
manner, relatively free from friction and disagreements whenever 
there was no difficulty encountered in pushing the League forward. We 
had no quarrel with comrades Swabeck and Cannon when they 
concurred in any move that would extend the activity, influence, 
and ramifications of the Opposition in this country. But whenever 
they hung back, wherever they hesitated or resisted a forward step, wher- 
ever they manifested their conservatism, sluggishness, and their inter- 
pretation of our "protracted perspective," we clashed in the lead- 
ing committee. This unmistakable, fundamental fact stands out 
clearly from all the records of the whole past period. It cannot be 
dismissed with a wave of the hand or by "explanatory" speeches. 

The League is threatened at the present time with a renewal 
of the clashes that have marked the past period, only they are now 
more acute and menacing. With the claim that it is now inevitable 
(or is it also desirable?) that the League pass through a so-called 
"French period," comrade Cannon has announced in the commit- 
tee his readiness to "retrench" all along the line so that we may be 

262 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

stripped for action in an internal factional struggle. Some of these 
"retrenchments" have already been made and others are forecast 
for the immediate period. The theoretical journal which we 
planned, against which nobody raised any objections at the outset 
and the financial feasibility of which was not seriously called into 
question, had already been dropped indefinitely. On the grounds 
that the organization will be crippled during this "French period" 
(in which the "hard oppositionists" are to form under the banner 
of comrade Cannon), these comrades have announced their readiness 
to push back Unser Kamf to monthly frequency or to suspension, to give 
up "if necessary" altogether the youth and the Greek-language paper, and 
reduce the Militant to a semimonthly. We have no doubt that "argu- 
ments" will be advanced for these proposals, even more strongly 
than the arguments— of the same type and with the same "valid- 
ity"— which were first advanced against launching the Militant and 
every other publication we now possess. But we do not believe these 
measures to be at all necessary or commanded by the situation. 
We have found in the past that our resources had not yet been 
tapped, at a time when we thought w r e had taken the "maximum." 
W 7 e still have resources today which can be tapped to make unnec- 
essary these "retrenchments," particularly if the organization is not 
thrown into a demoralizing frenzy of distorted factional war. 

The break in the continuity of the weekly publication of the 
Militant, that is, its suspension for a long period of time, was never 
really necessitated by reality. The organization has proved capable 
of maintaining even more than a weekly English paper, provided 
that the proper situation prevails in the leading body of the League. 
We challenged the need to suspend the weekly before and we deny 
any need to do it today, except a factional need, i.e., one that arose 
out of a factional struggle imposed upon the organization. 

We do not share the perspective of comrades Cannon and 
Swabeck as manifested in the past and repeated in their present 
document and we cannot withdraw our criticism of it. Neverthe- 
less, we believe that the possibilities for the unification of the 
League and its advancement still exist and we must not allow them 
to be destroyed for factional reasons. We cannot hope to change 
the personal relations of comrades involved by the adoption of a 
decree. But there still exists sufficient community of basic politi- 
cal views to make possible the collaboration required to continue 
the work of the Opposition. The task to be accomplished imme- 

Prospect and Retrospect 263 

diately is to reestablish the unity of the committee and the League 
as a whole on this "minimum basis." The joint work in the future, 
the consideration of broad political problems that we must take 
up in increasing measure, the events themselves will reveal in time 
what is not yet fully ascertainable at the present moment: Either 
the present conflict is the result of personal antagonisms, petty 
frictions magnified by the circle atmosphere under which we still 
live in part, or inevitable secondary differences on questions of 
policy which have no fundamental importance or significance and 
can be straightened out in the course of the work. Or the present 
conflict bears concealed within itself half-formed, still unclear, but 
nevertheless fundamental differences which only await further develop- 
ments, a collision with an important political problem or problems, 
to appear in their full light and magnitude. It cannot yet be said 
definitely and conclusively which of these alternatives is correct. 
Time will offer the test and the test can best be made under the condi- 
tions of unity. 

Let us now take up the other points raised in the C-S docu- 
ment one by one and put them as they should be put, not on the 
basis of assertions which cannot be proved because no proof exists, 
but on the basis of facts and documents, that is, as they were and 
are in reality. 

The International Questions 

We have spoken of the attempt, impossible of success, to 
explain the conflict that has existed for years in our leading com- 
mittee by a reference to "international questions" exclusively. In 
the first place, they do not even begin to explain the differences 
which have existed between Cannon and Swabeck on the one side, 
and at least two of the present signatories (Abern and Glotzer), 
for the document of C-S refers to the difference on international 
questions only with Shachtman. As for Shachtman's position on 
the present dispute in the French Ligue, he will make that fully 
clear in a separate statement devoted to that question. Suffice it 
to say here that Cannon has distorted this aspect of the dispute 
in the committee beyond recognition and exaggerated the differ- 
ences all out of proportion to their real magnitude. That there 
have been differences in the committee is undeniable; we aim to 
put them as they really were, from the first day to the present. 

It is no secret that comrade Cannon's interest in international 

264 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

questions in general and in internal disputes of the Opposition 
abroad in particular has never been a deep or ardent one, except 
for the last few months when such an "interest" was required in 
the pursuit of factional aims. In reality, however, it was at no time 
more than very casual, formal, and superficial. One has but to 
read the complete files of the Militant to convince himself of the 
insignificant percentage of the sum total of all his literary contri- 
butions to our press that is devoted to or concerned with interna- 
tional problems in general. This too has its roots in the more dis- 
tant past. 

One has but to remember the spread-eagle speech made by 
him at the Second National Conference, when, in order to leave 
the impression that Shachtman was "concealing" some material 
on the Italian situation from the membership, he urged the com- 
rades "to burn a fire" under the National Committee, if it fails to 
produce immediately after the conference all the documents of 
the Bordigist group, and its correspondence back and forth with 
comrade Trotsky, so that the comrades might know "what it is all 
about." This speech, the documents, the correspondence, as well 
as the motion made on the basis of the speech, were promptly 
forgotten by Cannon right after the conference and have not been 
heard of since. 

When the first dispute arose in the French Ligue, Cannon 
showed his usual interest in the matter, that is, practically none at 
all. He was afforded the opportunity to express himself on the 
disputed issues when he wrote the foreword to "Communism and 
Syndicalism," in which we included comrade Trotsky's article 
against the right-wing leadership of the Ligue, an introduction to 
which comrade Trotsky looked forward. Comrade Shachtman, 
who, we learn, "did not even find it necessary to make the infor- 
mation about the development of struggles in the European sec- 
tions available to the committee," nevertheless furnished comrade 
Cannon with detailed information about the then situation in the 
French trade unions, the various tendencies and groups, and par- 
ticularly the internal situation in the Ligue, which had evoked the 
criticism of comrade Trotsky. He made this information available 
to comrade Cannon for the specific purpose of having it included 
in the introduction so that the readers of the pamphlet would 
understand what was involved and where we stood. The introduc- 
tion, however, does not contain anything but the most formal 

Prospect and Retrospect 265 

reference to the Trotsky article. 360 We have no doubt that precisely 
in this matter did Cannon allow political considerations to be out- 
weighed by "personal considerations" in the case of Rosmer— 
whose fate in the French Ligue Cannon continued to bemoan to 
Shachtman for months afterward as one of those "old revolution- 
ists" whose place was being taken, shall we use one of comrade 
Cannon's phrases?. young upstarts. 

During the whole course of the French (Naville) and German 
(Landau) disputes, there was not a shadow of difference of opinion in 
the National Committee, in any action we took or failed to take. In the 
whole arraignment of Shachtman, Cannon and Swabeck do not 
produce a single document, do not refer to a single record to sub- 
stantiate their charges! And that simply because none exist! Private 
conversations were undoubtedly held during a certain period— only 
if their subject matter and tenor were accurately reported, they 
would not resemble the insinuations made by Cannon but some- 
thing quite different! 

We say: Let a single document, a single motion, a single resolution, 
a single private letter-either to Naville, Landau, or to comrade Trotsky, 
or to anyone else-be produced to show when, where, and how Shachtman 
or any other committee member supported those elements (specifically 
Rosmer, Naville, Landau) against whom the international Opposition 
was conducting a struggle. 

No such thing can be produced; but other documents can be 
produced to show the contrary. 

On 16 March 1931, our minutes read: "Motion by Shachtman 
that we endorse the co-optation of Frank in Naville's place in the 

On 27 April 1931, our minutes read: 

Motion by Shachtman that we reject the proposal of the Italian left 
Prometeo group and its conception that the International Secretariat 
should be a mere "liaison" center between the national sections, and 
propose in its place that up until the time when the coming Euro- 
pean conference will elect an even more authoritative executive body 
that we fully recognize the authority of the International Secretariat 
politically and organizationally. 

The minutes continue: 

In regard to the controversy in the German section and the letters 
on hand from comrade Trotsky as well as from Kurt Landau: Motion 
by Shachtman that we endorse the practical proposals of comrade 

266 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Trotsky contained in his letter entitled "The Crisis in the German 
Left Opposition" as a basis to approach a solution of this crisis. Fur- 
ther that we reserve a formulation of our opinion on the political 
and principled issues involved in the controversy until such time as 
we have had further opportunity for study. That we further protest 
against the organizational measures taken by the Berlin executive 
committee which are calculated not to bring closer the solution on 
the basis of a political discussion but artificially to anticipate the 
decision through what is at best premature organizational measures. 

Both of these motions were carried unanimously without the 
slightest disagreement. This was the first motion ever presented 
in the committee to condemn the Landau group. Comrade 
Shachtman needed no enlightenment from comrades Cannon and 
Swabeck in order to present it. We were probably late in our actions 
on this point, as we undoubtedly were on virtually all the other 
international questions, and comrade Trotsky's criticism was quite 
valid on this score, even though distance did not make for prompt- 
ness. But it was not Shachtman who was late; it was the committee 
as a whole, and the attempt now being made to crawl out of re- 
sponsibility and leave it resting on the shoulders of one comrade 
is cheap and ridiculous. No other comrade made the proposals 
before Shachtman did, either on Naville or Landau or any other 
question. Not because of lack of material which was allegedly 
"monopolized" and not communicated by Shachtman, for especially 
on the Landau affair did the whole committee have at its direct 
disposal a tremendous number of documents in German (which 
Swabeck reads fluently), which were sent us directly from Turkey 
and Germany. 

In their document, they write: "Even without comrade 
Trotsky's illuminating open letters it was sufficient for us to read 
a couple of the translated polemics of Landau and to take note of 
the ambiguous and shifty tactics of Naville in his struggle against 
the leadership of the French Ligue to get a definite impression of 
these people." Granted they were deeply solicitous and "did not 
wish to injure his (Shachtman's) standing with comrade Trotsky 
by the implication of a lack of confidence in him," and that for 
this touching reason they would not adopt motions against 
Shachtman on the international questions. Yet even this concern 
should not have prevented them, since they already had a "defi- 
nite impression of these people," from at least once introducing a 
motion on the international disputes before Shachtman did, so that 

Prospect and Retrospect 267 

the procrastination and sabotage now imputed to him might thus 
have been overcome. 

Was there not sufficient material available for this to the whole 
committee? All the mail, the reports of the secretariat, the docu- 
ments, were turned over to the League secretary. From the addi- 
tional material available to Shachtman (press, letters, etc.), reports 
were adequately made to the committee and not a single comrade 
took exception to the views expressed in these reports. Not a single 
comrade even intimated that different views prevailed among us 
on the international disputes. On the contrary, without a single 
word of special instruction at any time, every single document we 
ever wrote was assigned to Shachtman to draw up and not one 
was ever revised. Nobody intimated (except long after the fact) 
that Shachtman was giving half-support or any other support to 
Naville or Landau. Thus the committee minutes of 12 June 1931 
read as follows: 

Complete report made by Shachtman of the developments of the 
International Left Opposition, including the present discussion and 
disputes within the sections of Germany and France. 

Motion by Shachtman: 1. That an elaborate and extensive in- 
formation and political bulletin on the situation in the Interna- 
tional Left Opposition, embodying our conclusions, be prepared 
and sent to the membership as well as to the International Sec- 
retariat; 2. That an unsigned article on this question be pub- 
lished in the Militant. Both motions lost. 

Motion by Glotzer: That a statement on the international situa- 
tion embodying our conclusions be published in the Militant 
to be signed by the NC. Motion carried. 

Motion by Swabeck: 1. That a letter be sent immediately to the 
International Secretariat on the situation in the international 
Opposition which is to give the line that our resolution will 
take; 2. That comrade Shachtman be commissioned to draft 
the resolution and that a subcommittee of three, including 
Shachtman, go over the draft prior to its being submitted to the 
NC. Both motions carried. Committee: Shachtman, Swabeck, and 
Cannon. 361 

But the letters to Shachtman from comrade Trotsky which the 
former "regarded as a purely personal correspondence"? It is pre- 
cisely at the committee meeting just mentioned that this matter 
was first raised. Shachtman had read to Swabeck and other com- 
mittee members a letter from Trotsky in which he criticized 
Shachtman for his delay in taking a full position on the European 
disputes. Shachtman gave Swabeck the letter (as he had given most 

268 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

of the other letters from Trotsky), but Swabeck proceeded to claim 
that it was an official communication to the League. To avoid such 
petty quarrels in the future, Shachtman moved: "That all letters 
to and from comrade Trotsky be handled by the secretary." The 
motion lost. It was only then that comrade Abern made the motion 
which Cannon and Swabeck now distort completely: 

Motion by Abern: 1. That all letters from Trotsky or the Interna- 
tional Secretariat addressed officially to the League be translated 
for all NC members; 2. That the secretary inform comrade Trotsky 
that he acts officially for the NC and ask him to address official 
communications to the League in care of the secretary; 3. That all 
members have the right to correspond personally with comrade 
Trotsky or any other comrade. All carried. 

In moving that Trotsky be informed that official letters be ad- 
dressed to the secretary and that all members have the right to 
correspond personally with comrade Trotsky or any other com- 
rade, Abern was directing his proposal not against Shachtman but 
against Swabeck! 

It is true that comrade Shachtman considered the letters ad- 
dressed to him from Trotsky as personal letters (comrade Trotsky 
addressed his official letters specifically to the National Commit- 
tee and they were immediately turned over as such). In one of his 
earliest letters on the dispute in the French Ligue, comrade Trotsky 
wrote to Shachtman: "This letter is intended for you personally, 
not because I have anything to conceal here but because the com- 
rades who are not acquainted with the personal actors may not 
interpret the letter in the spirit in which it is written." In spite of 
this— and other references in other letters written later to the 
obviously personal character of these letters— comrade Shachtman 
without in any way feeling that "any confidences were being 
violated," communicated the essence and most frequently the text of 
virtually every letter he received from comrade Trotsky to the members of 
the committee, including those letters in which comrade Trotsky criticized 
him explicitly, as is shown by the meeting of 12 June 1931. Any other 
presentation of what happened on this point is detective-story 
writing, calculated to create an air of mystery and dark dealings 
on Shachtman's part and to provoke demagogic recriminations 
against him. 

We reiterate that "Shachtman delayed in taking a position on 
the disputes in the European Opposition" is just as true as is the 
statement that the committee as a whole delayed. Until the conference, 

Prospect and Retrospect 269 

nobody had the slightest word to say— either in the committee or 
in private conversations— concerning any "support" Shachtman was 
giving to Naville, Landau, or similar elements. Nobody proposed 
a single measure or a single motion before Shachtman did. In the 
June 1931 internal information bulletin of the German Opposi- 
tion will be found Shachtman's statement condemning Landau, 
written even before the official NC resolution to the same effect 
(adopted on Shachtman's motion), which appears in the same num- 
ber of the bulletin. Comrade Shachtman was unanimously charged 
with drawing up the resolution on the international question for 
the Second National Conference. When it was finished, not a single 
revision was made in it by anybody. Cannon did, it is true, pro- 
pose the insertion of Naville's name next to the part which con- 
demns his tendency. He did not, as he so romantically describes 
it, write Naville's name into the resolution on the linotype box, 
but while looking over the resolutions, he proposed to comrade 
Shachtman that Naville's name be specifically mentioned. 
Shachtman replied that even though no national section had yet 
made a public condemnation of Naville— although all had of course 
taken a stand against him and his tendency— and even though he 
did not think that the American section should be the first one 
to take such a step, he had no particular objection to inserting 
Naville's name, especially since it is quite obvious from the text of the 
resolution that it was Naville who was being condemned. This was all 
that took place around this incident which is now recounted with 
broad hints about its tremendous significance. 

Comrade Shachtman, with whom differences "began" on 
international questions more than a year ago (!), was given the 
conference report on precisely that subject, as well as the instruc- 
tion to make the preconference discussion report on this subject 
before the New York branch. Comrade Cannon now denounces 
the report somewhat more openly than he did in his muddy in- 
sinuations during the conference itself. In the first place, Cannon 
never heard the conference report of Shachtman. He was absent 
from the conference while it was delivered, just as he abstained 
from participation in any other phase of the conference. In the 
second place, if the conference report required the peculiar attack 
delivered against it by comrade Cannon, why had not a similar 
attack been made on the preconference report given before the 
New York branch by Shachtman, in the presence of all the 

270 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

committee members, including Cannon and Swabeck? The report 
to the branch was made from exactly the same outline, exactly the same 
notes, as the report to the conference, and delivered virtually in an iden- 
tical time allotment and language, that is, they were almost word 
for word alike! Nobody even hinted to Shachtman that his branch 
report had something wrong with it! How was it possible to pass 
over in tacit agreement a report delivered to the branch and to 
launch into a furious assault upon the identical report delivered 
to the conference, to attack it, not so much to dispose of Naville 
and Landau, but in order to make a violent attack upon Shachtman 
in the form of hints, insinuations, obscure references, and the like? 
The answer does not lie in any "differences" that Cannon 
actually had with Shachtman over international questions; these 
were discovered after the fact. And what fact? The fact that 
Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer remained silent at the last 
preconference New York branch meeting when comrade Cannon 
introduced his amendment to condemn Carter. If any mistake was 
made on this occasion, it lay in not speaking to repudiate the 
amendment expressly. In any case, it is clear to us that the "inter- 
national differences," which created such a depressing feeling 
among the conference delegates after Cannon's speech, were dis- 
covered only after we had refused to be a party to an amendment 
on Carter which was hypocritical and vindictive and which aimed 
to condemn a comrade for declaring that there were differences 
when there actually were differences. The present document of 
comrade Cannon is a crushing repudiation of his own amendment 
at that branch meeting. 

The Question of the Youth in the League 

We need not here take any "defense of Carterism," which is 
ascribed to us in the C-S document. In branch meeting after 
branch meeting in New York we have made clear our views of com- 
rade Carter and anybody who may share his outlook. We required 
no instruction from comrades Cannon and Swabeck to make clear 
our position on this point, and we certainly did not require the 
approach and manner of dealing with this question which these 
two comrades introduced. What we have criticized in the attitude 
of Carter is his academic approach to questions, his hypercritical 
attitude toward the work of the League and the National Com- 
mittee, his intellectualistic tendencies, as well as the tendency to 

Prospect and Retrospect < 2, h I\ 

set up the younger and very inexperienced comrades as a sort of 
"control commission" over the National Committee. 

We have not, however, at any time demanded of him or any 
other member that worshipful and uncritical attitude toward the 
National Committee which can only distort the relations between 
the leadership and the membership. We have exercised and will 
try to continue to exercise the greatest patience— not so much 
toward Carter but the youth in the Opposition as a whole, not 
seeking to command them (for we are only too well aware of our 
own deficiencies) but to enlighten them and assimilate them into 
the movement as a whole. We prefer a thousand times to lean back- 
ward when it is a question of the young members of the League, 
because, few as they are, they are our most precious capital. Not 
to yield to the youth— or any other opponent for that matter— on 
questions of principle, not to flatter the youth, but at the same 
time not to club the youth, particularly those who are carrying 
out their organizational work in the day-to-day activities. It is by 
such an attitude that we shall prevent the creation of artificial 
divisions between young and old. 

The attitude of comrades Cannon and Swabeck has not served 
the purpose at all. They have no real understanding of the youth 
problem in the Communist movement. In the first place they have 
entertained the greatest doubts on the need of any special organi- 
zational forms for the youth, referring, as comrade Cannon did, 
to the absence of any special youth groups, branches, or sections 
in such movements as the I WW. They look down upon the youth 
with contempt and show no comradely attitude. They dismiss all 
the younger comrades who do not fall in line with their views with 
the designation of "young upstarts." Instead of working patiently 
together with the youth comrades, of enlightening them on their 
shortcomings and errors, their guildmaster's attitude only serves 
to provoke the youth into a worse position. Our refusal to endorse 
this ruinous policy toward the youth— not Carter alone, but the 
youth as a whole!— is immediately distorted into the ridiculous 
assertion that we are "forming a bloc" with the youth against the 
National Committee (we leave aside the gratuitous assumption that 
the NC is the same thing as Cannon and Swabeck). Our attitude 
toward the young comrades subjects us to the charge by Cannon 
and Swabeck that we are setting up the young against the old, 
that we want to replace the "older comrades" with the "younger 


CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

comrades"— a charge which does not improve with age and for 

which due credit should be given at least to its original propound- 
ed in the socialist movement. 

The attitude of a Communist leadership toward the vouth is 
one of the best criteria by which to judge it. The attitude of com- 
rades Cannon and Swabeck is wrong and must be rejected. It is 
not based upon the realities of the situation, just as little as are 
the charges made against us. We have no "alliance" with the Carter 
"faction." At the same time, we are not at all impressed by com- 
rade Cannon's fulminations against Carter in New York, particu- 
larlv when we recall that Cannon and Swabeck worked together 
with precisely the same and far worse elements in the Toronto 
branch, drawing up "protocols" with them right after the second 
conference on their own initiative, directed against comrade 
Spector, and reported to the committee after the fact and without 
consultation with Spector or any other National Committee mem- 
ber. Cannon's negotiations with irresponsible Krehms. who rep- 
resent nobodv and never did. which has its reverse side in the 
support of Cannon bv the Krehms, who would richly and reallv 
deserve all the strictures Cannon directs against Carter, does not 
harmonize very well with a consistent, sincere aim to rid the 
League of so-called "Carterism." 362 

The Question of the New York Branch 

The question is directly connected with the problem of the 
New York branch. The uninterrupted series of attacks that Cannon 
and Swabeck have leveled upon the New York branch, the fantas- 
tic charges that it cannot do anything and does not do anything, 
have at their foundation mainly the fact that a great number 
of the most active New York militants do not show the "proper 
respect" for Cannon and Swabeck. The continuation of these base- 
less attacks can result only in demoralization and the widening of 
the gap between the branch and the committee, a particularly dan- 
gerous eventuality in view of the key significance of the Xew York 

The defects of the branch are undoubtedly numerous, and we 
have pointed them out no later and no less vigorously than anyone 
else. But at the same time it is evident that these defects have 
been wildly exaggerated and made to cover up the numerous 
positive sides of the branch. It will be impossible to remedy the 

Prospect and Retrospect 273 

shortcomings unless the other aspects of the branch are under- 
stood and acknowledged and unless the rude attacks made upon 
it are brought to a halt, so that the shortcomings may be discussed 
objectively among the comrades and not in an atmosphere of 
provocation and recriminations. 

The New York branch is our largest branch— larger than any 
other four branches in the country. Its social composition is over- 
whelmingly proletarian, although its contact with the trade unions 
and the mass organizations is considerably limited, as is the case 
almost everywhere in the League. It has the additional advantage 
of having a goodly percentage of young comrades in it and also a 
good percentage of female comrades. On the whole the branch is 
a sound organism which can yet be made far more productive than 
it is at the present moment, particularly when some windbags and 
do-nothings are prevented from hampering its work. 

The political level of the branch is at least as high as that of 
any other branch of the League. Nowhere else has a branch been 
confronted with so many acute political problems and come out 
of the discussion so invariably correct in its overwhelming major- 
ity, an achievement in which the committee gave signal aid, to be 
sure. In the fights around Weisbord, Malkin, Rose, Field, in the 
preconference discussions, the branch had internal problems to 
solve which no other branch has yet had to meet. The branch is 
the financial mainstay of the organization. Out of its ranks came 
the editorial boards of all four of our journals, and particularly of 
Unser Kamf, Young Spartacus, and Communistes. It has the task of 
preparing these papers, of mailing them, and of doing— in gen- 
eral—practically all the technical work which devolves upon the 
branch at the center. The forums, mass meetings, street meetings, 
debates, etc., which are conducted by the branch exceed those of 
any other organ of the League. The branch, it is true, has the 
great advantage of the presence of most of the leading comrades 
in New York, and this has indubitably contributed to the progress 
that has been made. It is also true that considerably more and 
better activities could be organized by the branch. But one of the 
most effective methods that should and must be used to develop 
this activity of the branch, to make it more effective and efficient, 
is to cease carping, unjustified criticism of it which we condemn 
in those local comrades who direct it at the National Committee. 
Another method is to look first to the doorstep of the National 

274 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Committee itself before we proceed to launch into wild accusa- 
tions and denunciations of the shortcomings of the branch. The 
local comrades will always, quite naturally, demand of the lead- 
ing comrades who criticize them that they should first examine, 
frankly describe and acknowledge, and then set about remedying 
the defects of the National Committee itself. This is now one of 
the most important tasks of the League. 

The National Committee must really review itself, study its 
shortcomings, set about seriously to eliminate them, and develop 
some of that necessary self-objectivity which has been so lacking, 
particularly in recent times. It will not adopt the ridiculous 
Molotovist philosophy implied in the Cannon-Swabeck document 
that because our relations with certain branches in the past have 
been correct, therefore our relations now and in the future are 
correct; because our actions on various individuals (e.g., Malkin, 
Carlson, etc.) have been correct in the past, therefore our actions 
now on other individuals and our actions in the future are guar- 
anteed to be correct; because we are fighting bureaucratism in 
the Party, therefore there cannot develop any bureaucratism in 
our own ranks. By breaking down furthermore its own narrow- 
ness and limitedness, by broadening its own basis, by a more 
patient attitude toward its critics in the League, particularly those 
who have no principled differences with the Opposition, by tak- 
ing care not to exaggerate differences or to inflate small disputes 
into large "principled" disputes, the NC will be in a far better 
position to overcome its own false tendencies and shortcomings 
and to proceed against such as exist in the League as a whole. 

The National Committee cannot, must not, set up an abstract 
and false conception of the relations of the leadership to the mem- 
bership, for this can only serve to the detriment of the really 
Bolshevik idea of the signal importance of the role and function 
of leadership in the movement. Leadership is not established by 
appointment or decree, by "acknowledgment," but in the course 
of the struggle which alone makes possible the definitive selec- 
tion of the cadres. "Anti-leadership" tendencies frequently arise 
when the attempt is made to set up an erroneous conception of 
leadership, and this is what should be guarded against. We have 
in our midst a tendency which seeks to have the "authority and 
prestige" of the NC "recognized" by resolutions and motions. Com- 
rades Cannon and Swabeck never weary of repeating the need 

Prospect and Retrospect 275 

for such actions. On every occasion, resolutions "acknowledging" 
the authority and prestige are put forward, as if without these 
motions the committee's authority and prestige would in some 
way be injured or else would not be sufficiently impressed upon 
the minds of the membership. What is even more detrimental to 
the League is the fact that these motions are rarely, if ever (we 
strive to recall an instance), accompanied by a critical examina- 
tion of the work and activities of the committee itself. While it is 
true that some of the criticism has been baseless or exaggerated, 
nevertheless criticism of the committee in general has encoun- 
tered a hostile rebuff or else been met with the type of motions 
we speak of above. If an error has been made, it has not been on 
the side of accepting criticism or making it ourselves; the error 
has been almost entirely on the side of resisting criticism and fail- 
ing to make it ourselves, although nobody can fail to see the short- 
comings and defects in our work. 

The strength of the Opposition must lie in an independent 
and critical attitude of its membership, which selects, checks, and 
controls its leadership, which educates its leaders and by the 
confidence it gains from their activities and the successful results 
of their policies and conduct— not by the confidence it acknowl- 
edges in resolutions presented to it— slowly raises these leaders to 
the position they occupy. Only the absurdly self-contented can 
assert that this has been the case in our League. We have no 
grounds for entertaining any illusions concerning the present 
relations between the committee and the ranks. These relations 
leave much room for improvement. So does the condition of the 
committee itself, as a whole and individually. Above all, it must 
still be borne in mind that "the real testing of the cadres is still 
ahead." The League will meet this real test and pass it if its 
National Committee understands that the responsibility for the 
problems sketched above devolves primarily and predominantly 
upon the leading cadre. 

The Controversy Over Engels' Introduction 

We shall not venture here to argue questions of Marxism and 
dialectics with comrade Cannon, whose mastery in these fields is 
fairly well-known. What is essential in the dispute has already been 
set out by comrade Shachtman in his statement to the committee. 
The reply of Cannon and Swabeck carefully walks around the 

276 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

whole question and falsifies the dispute. Quotations are smeared 
around profusely. Carter, Shachtman, Bernstein, Kautsky, the 
Socialist Labor Party, and the social democracy in general are buf- 
feted about and finally thrown into one pot. The kernel of the 
dispute remains untouched at bottom. Let us recapitulate a few of 
the essential points of the dispute: 

1. Engels says explicitly, so that those who read may understand, 
that certain tactics advocated by Marx and himself in the Commu- 
nist Manifesto are antiquated, obsolete, outlived. He refers to bar- 
ricade fighting, the changed relations between legal and illegal 
action, etc., etc. He specifically advocates a change in the tactics 
of the social democracy. Swabeck specifically denied that he 
advocated this change. 

2. The revisionists falsified Engels' views to make it appear that 
he was "a peaceful worshiper of legality at all costs." This falsifica- 
tion was known to the Marxists long before Ryazanov's revelations. The 
SLP "interprets" Engels' introduction in their own specifically re- 
visionist manner. The Marxists also "interpreted" Engels in the 
sense Engels meant to be understood, that is, in a revolutionary 
sense. Cannon's belabored sarcasm about "interpretation" simply 
misses the point entirely. Marx once wrote that hatred of the Rus- 
sians was and is the first revolutionary passion of the Germans, 
that the revolution could be guaranteed only by the most deter- 
mined terrorism against the Slavic peoples. The German social 
patriots "interpreted" this to justify the vote for the Kaiser's war 
credits just as they "interpreted" scores of other sentences from 
Marx's works. The genuine Marxists never found this a great 
obstacle in their ranks. As has been shown by several quotations 
from Lenin, Zinoviev, Kautsky before the war, Luxemburg, and 
Trotsky, they did not require the Ryazanov article in order to com- 
bat Bernsteinism and SLPism. 

3. How does Swabeck proceed from revisionist premises? His view 
in essence is that it is the Ryazanov revelations which first show 
that the Bei nsteinian SLPist conceptions of Engels' introduction 
is false. If his arguments mean anything, they mean that without 
the deleted passages in the introduction the revisionists would be justi- 
fied in making their interpretation. We contend that the Ryazanov 
discovery is only corroboratory and does not change the essence of 
what Engels writes. Whose view harmonizes with that of Ryazanov— 

Prospect and Retrospect 277 

Cannon's and Swabeck's or the one we present? Let the editorial 
board of Unter dem Banner des Marxismus speak, as they do in the 
footnotes to the article by comrade Ryazanov in which he prints 
his discoveries: 

Even without a knowledge of the deleted passages adduced here for the first 
time by comrade Ryazanov, it was still sufficiently well-known that 
the Engels introduction was made public by Bernstein in a chopped- 
up, falsified form. Even without the "philological" discovery of the 
falsification it was clear that the Engels introduction aimed at no 
"elimination of the Marxian tactic," for it dealt— as Rosa Luxemburg 
wrote— "not with the question of the final conquest of the political 
power but of the present daily struggle, not of the attitude of the 
proletariat toward the capitalist state at the moment of the seizure 
of the state power, but of its attitude within the framework of the 
capitalist state," which is clear from every line of the foreword. (Com- 
pare Rosa Luxemburg, "Sozialreform oder Revolution?", Leipzig, 
Vulkan-Verlag, 1919)-The Editorial Board 

It was clear from every line of the foreword, even without 
knowing the deleted passages, even without the philological dis- 
covery. In making this observation, the editorial board could never 
have had Swabeck or Cannon in mind, who deal with precisely 
this point by means of sophistries; of scoring points in the court- 
room style, by comparing the shades of opinions that existed 
among the Marxists on this question; of doing anything but tak- 
ing up the core of the dispute. 

Marx declared at one time that the proletariat might take 
power in England, Holland, and America by peaceful and legal 
means, even though there would be a slaveholders' counterrevolu- 
tion. Were there grounds for this belief at that time? Yes. The SLP 
and revisionists generally say it still holds good today. We Marx- 
ists "interpret" this belief differently today. Today there are no 
grounds whatsoever for this belief. Engels declared that the barri- 
cade and other tactics of the revolution of 1848 no longer applied 
to Germany in 1895. Was he right then? We believe he was. He 
advocated a change in the tactics of the proletarian party, only 
for Germany, with reservations, but nevertheless a change. To deny 
this as Swabeck tries to do is only to play into the hands of the 
revisionists. "There are only too many," wrote Engels to Victor 
Adler on 30 August 1895, "who for the sake of convenience and 
to avoid worrying their brains, would like to adopt for all eternity 
the tactics that are suitable for the moment. We do not make our 
tactics out of nothing, but out of the changing circumstances; in 

278 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

our present situation we must only too frequently let our oppo- 
nents dictate our tactics." The revisionists want to apply the Marx- 
ian tactic of 1895 to 1932, and that in a falsified, emasculated, 
anti-Marxian sense. Swabeck argued that the tactics of 1848 and 
1895 were conceived by Engels as the same thing, that there was 
no change in them. That is the point. 

Are barricade tactics and other tactics advocated in the Mani- 
festo applicable today? They are, not in the same form as in 1848, 
but in a different form, the possibility for the development of which 
Engels did not exclude. Is it necessary to change the view held by 
Engels in 1895? Quite necessary. Both Kautsky and Lenin under- 
took to make this change more than 20 years ago. This is the only 
way to approach the philosophy of Marxism, just as Marx 
approached other political and economic problems: dialectically. 
We are ready to take lessons in the dialectic from Cannon, but 
not many. 

4. The method pursued by Swabeck in attacking Carter, the tone 
of his article, remain unpardonable. It is on a par with his whole 
approach to the youth. Let us assume for the moment that all the 
defects which Carter is accused of having actually exist. This could 
not be a reason, to our mind, to proceed against him in the man- 
ner used by Swabeck. The latter's procedure followed the general 
theory that since Carter is what he is, then it doesn't matter how 
he is answered: rudely, with a club, by violation of agreements 
made on the matter, etc., etc. We cannot share the slightest 
responsibility for such a procedure. 

How should the discussion on this question have proceeded? 
In the manner we have repeatedly advocated. Presented with a 
historico-theoretical dispute, the main concern of all the comrades 
should have been to put the issue in such a manner as to extract 
the maximum educational value from a discussion of it. Swabeck 
and Cannon, however, were far too concerned with smashing an 
opponent in the League to adopt this course. Instead of a discus- 
sion which should concern itself with the question of what Engels' 
views in 1895 actually were, they wanted and still want this his- 
torical question to be discussed in direct connection with 
"Carterism" and with the disputes in the National Committee on 
all the questions that have been raised. In this manner, no educa- 
tional value can be extracted from the discussion. The form of 
the dispute should have been divorced from the content. They pro- 

Prospect and Retrospect 279 

pose not only to combine the two but to add to them every other 
conceivable dispute in the organization. 

In conclusion, some observations on how the present discus- 
sion was precipitated. It is quite correct that so sharp a dispute in 
the National Committee could not have been produced by a dif- 
ference of opinion on the Engels introduction. Nor was it pro- 
duced thereby. The facts are as follows: 

The publication of the two articles which involved the edito- 
rial board of Young Spartacus made necessary a discussion at the 
NC with the representatives of the youth present (Carter and Ray). 
Cannon made the unprecedented proposal (unique in the move- 
ment to our knowledge) that these comrades be excluded from 
the committee meeting which was to discuss a question in which 
they and their views were directly involved. We insisted on their 
being present, particularly since they were members of a subcom- 
mittee of the National Committee. Had we excluded them during 
the discussion of their "case" we should have acted like bureau- 
crats. The committee members expressed their varying opinions. 
In the course of the discussion, comrade Cannon repeated in a 
more definite form the insinuations and accusations which had 
been gossiped about in hallways and cafes by him and his friends 
for the past few months: Shachtman is another Landau, another 
Naville, etc., etc. The writing down of his view on the Engels dis- 
pute, necessitated by the discussion in the committee, was there- 
fore concluded by comrade Shachtman with his remarks on these 
repeated insinuations, remarks provoked by Cannon and Swabeck, 
and appended to the statement of comrade Shachtman with the 
expectation that this would finally compel both Cannon and 
Swabeck to put down their innuendoes, hints, and covert accusa- 
tions in black and white, where some responsibility might be taken 
for them formally instead of continuing with a whispering cam- 
paign. The statement of comrade Shachtman was intended as his 
point of view for the National Committee and not for the pur- 
pose of opening up a discussion in the League on the basis of it. 

The "reply" of comrades Swabeck and Cannon, on the con- 
trary, using the Shachtman statement as an awaited pretext, was 
intended as a platform on which the League was to be thrown 
immediately into a factional war. So impatient were these two com- 
rades to launch their offensive with a split as their objective, that 
they even set themselves against first calling a plenary session of 

280 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

the full National Committee to discuss the situation before a gen- 
eral discussion. They voted against Shachtman's motion for a ple- 
num and the present document is being submitted for the consid- 
eration of the full National Committee gathered at this plenum 
because Cannon's and Swabeck's views on the need of holding 
such a meeting were rejected by all the out-of-town members of 
the committee. 

To all the members of the committee we wish to express our 
conviction openly, bluntly, without diplomatizing or mincing words. 
We are not at all unaware of Cannon's intentions in the present 
internal struggle. His actions in the New York branch and in the 
National Committee during the few weeks prior to the holding of 
the plenum have revealed them plainly, if they ever were obscure. 
Cannon aims at ridding himself of embarrassing criticism and crit- 
ics, primarily of the undersigned and those who may in any way 
share their views in the organization as a whole. Cannon is not 
now deeply concerned with the "international questions," any more 
than he was in the past, except to the extent that they may serve a 
factional end. His "plan of campaign," too, is quite obvious. As it 
unfolds, it will look very much like the following scheme: 

Shachtman is a Naville or a Navillist. Abern, Glotzer, and 
Spector pretend to be against Naville, Landau, Felix, etc., but the 
fact that they are associated with Shachtman shows how unprin- 
cipled they are: In reality, they are in a bloc with this Navillist 
against the revolutionary elements in the League (i.e., against Can- 
non, Swabeck, Stamm, and Gordon). To strengthen this structure, 
these four will be accused of being "abstentionists criticizing from 
the sidelines," for has not comrade Trotsky criticized Naville in 
the same manner and demanded that he roll up his sleeves and 
get to work instead of playing petty politics? Then, to complete 
the picture and make the analogy with France even more perfect, 
he will add to this unprincipled alliance a "Jewish Group" (Can- 
non has already hinted more than once about his "differences" 
with the comrades who are working on Unser Kamf, about "fed- 
eration tendencies" and the "Jewish Group," etc.). Then we shall 
have all the ingredients prepared for serving up to the American 
League and the international Opposition a "French period" in the 
United States, garnished with all sorts of "retrenchments," faction- 
alism, confusion, and the like. 

This, in outline, is the plan of Cannon and Swabeck. We have 

Prospect and Retrospect 281 

encountered such construction before, but not in the Left Oppo- 
sition. In the course of the Russian Party struggle, such affairs 
were known as "amalgams" and we shall, it goes without saying, 
resist them in the League with all our strength. 

We put the issue sharply but accurately, because there is no 
other way of arriving at a good solution. Soft words, rounded cor- 
ners, diplomatic language, mental reservations, all these will only 
make matters worse in reality, particularly in the long run. We 
want our position to be stated as we really believe it to be, as we 
express it among ourselves, with as little circumlocution and eva- 
sion as possible. 

At the present time we want to underline our belief that meas- 
ures can still be taken to prevent a destructive factional struggle. 
What we have said above concerning the possibilities of a "mini- 
mum collaboration and unity," and our desire to allow the passage 
of time and events to test out clearly and to the end any deeper political 
and principled differences that may exist in embryonic form today should 
be borne in mind. 

An effective functioning of the League, as recent experiences 
show us, cannot be accomplished by concealing differences, by 
hushing them up, by prohibiting discussion. The League and its 
leadership will in reality function best and on the soundest foun- 
dation, if disputes and differences are discussed with the utmost 
frankness, with the least amount of worry as to the temporary 
advantages that our enemies may seek to gain from them, and 
above all, by discussing the differences loyally, i.e., by presenting 
only differences that actually exist and not manufactured differ- 
ences, and furthermore by presenting the differences as they 
actually exist and not in a distorted form. 

It is manifest that our organization cannot escape from those 
crises which inevitably confront the Communist movement, par- 
ticularly when it is tiny and isolated from the masses. The crisis 
can be minimized if we act in a responsible, sober manner, so that 
when the discussion has come to a conclusion, the League shall 
be in a position to advance with greater clarity concerning its prob- 
lems, with greater knowledge of how to solve them, and with a 
firmer determination to reach the solution. 

^ > ^ 


Minutes of the Plenum 

CLA National Committee 

10-13 June 1932 

These minutes were published in CLA Internal Bulletin no. 1 (undated). 
Resolutions on the Toronto and New York branches, written by the 
resident committee after the plenum on the basis of the plenum discussion, 
are omitted here. 

Secretary called plenum to order, proposing the following 

1 . Organization of the plenum 

2. Consideration of the controversy within the 
resident committee 

3. Consideration of resolutions and organization question 

4. The situation in the Toronto branch 

Agenda accepted as proposed and comrade Skoglund elected 
chairman. Swabeck reported proposal by resident committee to 
invite one representative of the Jewish fraction committee, one of 
the Greek fraction committee, and one of the youth, together with 
comrade Gordon, managing editor of the Militant, to participate 
in the plenum. Swabeck moved that in addition the following 
comrades be invited: Tom Stamm, business manager of the 
Militant; George Clarke, field organizer; Louis Baskv, formerly 
co-opted member of the National Committee; Herbert Capelis, 
secretary of the New York branch; and Carl Cowl, secretary of 
the Minneapolis branch. —Motion carried unanimously 

Motion by Swabeck: That the comrades who are invited participate 
in the plenum with the right to speak only when called upon by 
the committee. 

Amendment by Shachtman: That the invited comrades shall have 
the right to speak on such questions as concern their particular 

Substitute motion by Cannon: That onlv members and alternates of 
the National Committee participate in the discussion of the main 

Minutes of June Plenum 283 

questions, that after that is disposed of, if any of the invited com- 
rades desire the floor, the matter be taken up for decision. 

—Substitute motion carried 5 to 4, disposing 
of the motion and amendment 
Swabeck reported request by the New York branch executive 
committee that it be permitted to be present at the plenum if the 
New York branch is a special point on the agenda. (In view of the 
fact that the New York branch was not a special point on the 
agenda, that was accepted as disposing of the request.) 

Motion by Swabeck: That the second point on the agenda be opened 
by a report by the secretary on the organization, the origin, and 
status of the controversy. —Motion carried unanimously 

Motion by Cannon: That following the report of the secretary there 
be a report by the comrades who have been abroad, comrades 
Shachtman and Glotzer. —Motion carried unanimously 

Report made by the secretary on the main question on the 
agenda, the organization status and a review of the controversy 
within the resident committee, after which adjournment was taken 
until the next morning. 

Upon convening on Saturday morning, reports were made by 
comrades Glotzer and Shachtman on their visit to the European 
sections and comrade Glotzer's visit to comrade Trotsky. 

After these three reports, discussion opened, embracing the 
general issues of controversy within the resident committee, the 
situation within the International Left Opposition, and the atti- 
tude toward the Carter group tendency. 

During the close of the discussion, comrade Spector explained 
the reasons for not having voted on the drafts presented for reso- 
lution on the international question of the National Committee 
because of not having considered either draft fully adequate. He 
thereupon introduced the following resolution: 

Resolution on the International Question 

1. The second plenary session of the National Committee of 
the Communist League of America completely endorses the 

284 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

analysis, the proposals, and perspectives for the International Left 
Opposition contained in the letter of comrade Trotsky (dated 
22 December 1931) addressed to all national sections. 

2. The world crisis, which has been developing in intensity for 
the past three years, has created most favorable objective condi- 
tions for the conquest of the decisive masses for Communism. Nev- 
ertheless it has become increasingly manifest that the Comintern 
under the Stalin regime is incapable of utilizing the crisis for the 
realization of the historical tasks of the proletariat. Stalinism con- 
tinues to be an organizer only of defeats. In Spain the devastating 
effects of the centrist policy were manifested by the absence of a 
real Communist party in the revolutionary crisis, in the failure to 
give a Marxist appraisal of the class relations, and the consequent 
stabilization for a certain time of a Kerenskiad. In Germany, the 
key to the international situation, the great social and political 
contradictions create the basis for a successful struggle for power 
by the Communist Party, but the centrist regime, by a false theory 
of social fascism, its suppression of Bolshevik party democracy, 
the negation of the united-front policy, succeeds only in frustrat- 
ing itself. In France, despite the economic crisis which has set 
in, the Communist Party failed to register any substantial gains 
in the last election and the membership of the CGTU continues 
to decline. 

3. The mistakes, setbacks, and defeats of the Communist move- 
ment in general react unfavorably for the growth of the Left 
Opposition itself. The defeat of the Opposition in the first place 
was due to the defeats of the revolutionary proletariat and the 
stabilization of capitalism. The strengthening of the Opposition 
and the victory of its international platform is bound up with the 
development of a new wave of revolutionary struggle. But in order 
to take advantage of such a situation it is necessary for the Oppo- 
sition itself to measure up to its gigantic historical mission. It must 
be completely recognized that in addition to the general and 
objective reasons for the slow growth of the Opposition, there 
remain the extremely important subjective and specific reasons. 
These are to be sought in the fact that there have existed in the 
Left Opposition alien tendencies which covered themselves with 
its banner, only to compromise and discredit it and to delay the 
formation of the genuine revolutionary cadres of the Opposition 

Minutes of June Plenum 285 

which the crisis in the Communist International has brought 
forward as the vanguard of the revolutionary proletariat. The work 
of purging the Left Opposition of these alien tendencies (Landau, 
Naville, Rosmer, and similar elements) was correct and fruitful; 
the completion of this task in the shortest possible time is an im- 
perative need of the moment and can be accomplished not merely 
by the efforts of each national section by itself but by the joint 
efforts and contributions of the whole international Left. This 
imposes upon the American Opposition the need for greater 
attention than ever to the problems of the international Opposi- 
tion for a more alert and active participation in their solution. 

4. The recent progress, growth of influence, and strength of the 
German Opposition was made possible not merely by the accen- 
tuation of the revolutionary crisis, but specifically by the libera- 
tion of the movement from the paralyzing effects of the regime 
of Landau, which substituted for the revolutionary principles of 
the Left Opposition a course of intrigue, clique politics, combina- 
tionism, and sterility. 

In France, however, the process of clarification which was suc- 
cessfully completed in Germany assumes an unnecessarily pro- 
tracted character. The circle spirit and syndicalistic course pursued 
under the Rosmer leadership were not liquidated with due rapid- 
ity and intransigence, owing to the confusion produced by the 
vacillations of the Jewish Group and comrade Mill, arising from 
their proposal for a bloc with Rosmer in struggle against the lead- 
ership of the French Ligue. This fed the petty-bourgeois tendency 
of the Naville group with fuel for continuation of the ambiguous 
and diplomatic maneuvers with which Naville covers up his com- 
munity of interest with those who are openly fighting the Interna- 
tional Left Opposition (Rosmer, Landau). We do not mean to 
identify the traditions and position of the Jewish Group with that 
of Naville, with which they have nothing in common. The attempt 
to do this, made by comrade Treint, stands in the way of a solu- 
tion of the relations between the revolutionary proletarians in the 
Jewish Group and the leading kernel of the Ligue. Stripped of 
extraneous and secondary considerations, the essence of the 
struggle that has been going on inside both the French and Ger- 
man Opposition has been one of the revolutionary selection of 
the genuine Opposition cadre. 

286 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

5. An obstacle in this struggle was the utilization of the Interna- 
tional Secretariat by its former secretary, comrade Mill, in the in- 
terests of a faction fight against the leadership, not only of the 
French Ligue, but also of the other decisive national sections which 
supported it. The International Secretariat in Paris failed to give 
the necessary political or administrative guidance to our move- 
ment. The chief reason for the failure of the Paris secretariat lay 
in the fact that it was not responsible to sections of the Opposi- 
tion. We fully endorse the proposals made by comrade Trotsky in 
his letter to the national sections for the reconstruction of the 
International Secretariat based upon the direct participation of 
representatives from the most important sections and responsible 
to them. The interests of such a secretariat would not be subserved 
by the proposal of the Spanish section to delegate to it comrade 
Mill, whose previous course unfits him for such representation 
and is moreover a blow at those national sections who have repu- 
diated him. 

6. We reject the proposal made to hold an international confer- 
ence of the Left Opposition to which shall be admitted all and 
sundry grouplets merely upon the basis of their claims of adher- 
ence to the views of the Communist left. We are in full accord 
with the three proposals made on this question by comrade Gourov 
in his letter of 22 May 1932. 363 

7. This plenum of the National Committee of the Communist 
League considers it necessary to recognize the defects and short- 
comings of the character of its previous collaboration with and 
participation in the collective life of the international Opposition. 
For this lag in its prompt reaction to the questions in dispute in 
the European sections, the difficulties of distance are responsible 
in no small measure. Nevertheless we must strive to overcome this 
handicap by the closest and most prompt collaboration and by 
making available as quickly as possible a thorough selection of 
material, primarily by the systematic and undelayed publication 
of the International Bulletin in English. 

— Spector 

At the conclusion of Saturday's discussion, Swabeck introduced 
the following motions: 

Minutes of June Plenum 287 

1. The plenum reaffirms the National Committee resolution on 
the situation in the International Left Opposition. 

2. The plenum requests comrades Abern and Glotzer to withdraw 
their resolution drafts from further discussion or consideration 
by the membership. 

3. The plenum accepts the resolution on the international ques- 
tion presented by comrade Spector as a supplementary and fur- 
ther elaboration of the National Committee resolution already 

4. The plenum requests comrade Shachtman to affirm that the 
misunderstandings which arose in regard to our attitude to the 
international questions were created by him and due to his posi- 
tion held at the time, a position which he has now changed. 

Voting on motions: 

No. 1: The National Committee resolution reaffirmed unani- 

No. 2: Comrade Abern stated that, "Since in my opinion the origi- 
nal resolution drafts were basically alike, and since I am in full 
accord with comrade Spector's resolution and also accept the 
National Committee resolution, I am willing to withdraw my own 
draft." Comrade Glotzer stated that, "My view agrees with those 
of comrade Abern and I am also ready to withdraw my own draft." 

No. 3: To accept comrade Spector's resolution as supplementary- 
carried unanimously. 

No. 4: Comrade Shachtman stated in reply: "I am not ready to 
make such a statement, since I do not believe the misunderstand- 
ings were due to my position. I do agree, however, that my failure, 
since my return, to make myself clear, did give rise to misunder- 

Comrade Shachtman submitted the following statement of his 

Statement on the International Question to the NC Plenum 

Since my views on the disputes within the international 
Opposition, particularly in Europe, have been called into question 
and been the subject of misunderstanding and misrepresental ion, 
it is necessary that in addition to what I have already recorded 
in motions in the National Committee, resolutions, and oral 

288 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

presentation, I add the following supplementary summary of my 

1. The Left Opposition gained its greatest impetus in the past 
period by dissociating itself drastically from Urbahns, Paz, 
Souvarine, Van Overstraeten, Pollak, and their similars, who had 
nothing in common with the Left Opposition and served but to 
its discredit, but the process of a revolutionary selection did not 
end thereby; it has not yet come to an end. 

2. The struggle which the revolutionary elements conducted 
against the sterile clique of Landau in Germany and Austria made 
possible the liberation of the German Opposition in its orienta- 
tion toward the effective establishment of a genuine section of the 
international Left. It was only after ridding the German Opposi- 
tion of the paralyzing influence of Landau's intrigues, unprin- 
cipled organizational machinations, and combinations that it was 
able to make the forward steps our brother section has now taken 
in Germany. 

3. This purging of the Opposition had something of its counter- 
part in France, where it has been less effective because the process 
has been unduly protracted and impeded by the introduction of 
questions of second order. Here the initial demarcation from the 
semisyndicalists (Rosmer), intellectualist (old Lutte des classes group) 
elements, failed to deal conclusively with the remnants of the old 
petty-bourgeois circle spirit represented by Naville, the dabblers 
in revolutionary politics who sabotaged the insistent struggle con- 
ducted by the progressive kernel of the Opposition in France and 
Germany against the worn-out, conservative, paralyzing elements. 
The effective liquidation of this problem in France was impeded 
by the complications created by the oscillations and separatist 
tendencies of the Jewish Group, and by the transformation of the 
International Secretariat by its leading officer, Mill, from a guid- 
ing organ subordinate to the national sections and serving as an 
instrument to strengthen the revolutionary tendency into an 
obstacle to the accomplishment of these objects. Within this newly 
complicated situation, the Naville group was able to float on the 
surface for a longer period. The solution was further protracted 
by the "experiment in collaboration" of the leading kernel of the 
Ligue with the Treint group, which proved to be fruitless and 
increased the difficulties in achieving the desirable aim of drawing 

Minutes of June Plenum 289 

into the work the best revolutionary proletarian forces among the 
Jewish and French comrades. 

The proposals made by me in my Paris letter to comrade 
Trotsky looking toward a solution of the sharp situation in the 
Ligue were not based on fundamental considerations. I regard 
them as a casual, episodic opinion, which I now view as incorrect 
and superseded by what is said in the present statement. 

4. The internal difficulties in our Spanish section are due in large 
measure to its delay in clearly defining itself from the right wing 
and a failure to participate as attentively as it should in the life of 
the European Opposition. The personal opinions entertained on 
this or that comrade cannot replace a political estimate of the se- 
lective process through which most of the European sections have 
passed in the recent period and which has resulted in a consider- 
able clearing of the ground, particularly in France and Germany. 
The persistent support for Mill even after he had been repudiated 
by virtually all the other sections and the provocative nomination 
of Mill to the secretariat has compromised the Spanish section. 
The substitution of a personal campaign against Molinier instead 
of a political estimation of the Ligue's situation has had the same 
effect. I repudiate of course any association of my name with such 
a campaign. 

5. The proposal of comrade Trotsky on the reconstitution of the 
secretariat must be endorsed. I need scarcely add that I have never 
and do not now support the absurd and sterile idea of the convo- 
cation of the international conference on a "broad basis" which 
would include "all groups" "claiming" to support the international 
Opposition and compel the Opposition to start all over again what 
it has already partially finished. 

6. The laxity and delay shown in the past by the American Oppo- 
sition in international questions can and should be overcome as 
much as possible, despite the difficulties of distance and language. 
These shortcomings, however, will not be effectively eliminated if 
the problems of the international, particularly the European 
Opposition, become a factional football in the League, utilized 
in such a manner as to prevent the genuine enlightenment of the 

— Shachtman 

290 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

During the continuation of the discussion comrade Shachtman 
submitted the following resolution on the Carter group tendency: 

Resolution on the Carter Group 

1. Our attitude on comrade Carter and his "group" has been set 
forth briefly in our statement on the situation in the American 
Opposition. We reiterate it because of the extensive discussion 
which has taken place in the plenum on this point: The negative 
and harmful characteristics of these three or four comrades in 
question are their pedantic and academic approach to the prob- 
lems of the League, a supercritical attitude toward the work of 
the organization and its leadership, intellectualist tendencies, and 
the tendency to set up the younger and less experienced comrades 
as a sort of control commission over the National Committee. They 
have a perniciously superior attitude toward the other youth com- 
rades in the League and on the National Youth Committee and a 
decided underestimation of the leading cadres of the organiza- 
tion. Their persistent carping on numerous shortcomings and petty 
errors made in the League work and in its leading committee fre- 
quently causes them to overlook entirely the progress the organi- 
zation has made in the past period. Against this bad influence 
exerted by these comrades, particularly upon the younger elements 
in the New York branch, we have always conducted sharp but com- 
radely polemics so as to win over to maximum collaboration all 
those at first under their sway, without attempting to persecute 
them for their views or leave that impression. We believe that in 
so far as these comrades maintain their attitude, it is necessary to 
continue this enlightenment of the New York branch members in 
the future until such a tendency is eliminated. 

2. At the same time, it is indisputable that these comrades have 
been loyal to the organization and in the very forefront of its 
activity. We do not attempt to challenge the fact that they have 
engaged in the Jimmy Higgins work of the branch, refusing no 
responsibilities, defending the organization, its line, and leader- 
ship before the workers. This makes it both possible and desirable 
that we continue to afford them all the opportunities for continu- 
ing this activity. Our attitude toward these comrades is defined in 
large measure— although we are far from drawing a strict analogy— 
by what comrades Trotsky writes in his recent remarks on the 
French Ligue: 

Minutes of June Plenum 291 

With regard to certain "doubtful" groups or groups of an alien origin, 
no sufficiently consistent policy has been adopted which would begin 
by attempts of loyal collaboration to put the doubtful elements to 
the test and under the control of everybody's eyes, give them the pos- 
sibility of correcting themselves or of discrediting themselves, and 
in the latter case conclude by eliminating them from the organization. 

The Carter "group" is not of course to be identified with the 
Naville group, and we do not consider that, in spite of their atti- 
tude up to now, these comrades need in any way be submitted to 
such a campaign as artificially inflates their importance and sig- 
nificance—in any direction in the branch, in which they consti- 
tute an insignificant handful of the comrades. 

We do not believe that such comrades should be pushed com- 
pletely to the background and isolated from the work and activity 
they have been conducting up to now, by an arbitrary faction com- 
bination which eliminates them from committees on a faction 
basis. Members of the branch executive should be selected, in our 
opinion, on the basis of their qualifications and activities, since 
our political differences are not of so clearly defined and deep a 
nature as to require the choosing of lower committees along faction 
lines, particularly where the National Committee, being in New 
York, has the opportunity of intervening directly for the political 
line of the League. The New York committee should be selected 
on the basis of drawing into it new elements, more representa- 
tive, so that the disproportionate influence exerted in it by the 
Carter "group" may be reduced to a minimum. 

The National Committee does not wish to create the impres- 
sion among the New York members that it is exaggerating this 
"group" of three or four people, inflating its importance, or 
persecuting it. At the same time it will jointly carry on a firm cam- 
paign against its harmful and sterile tendencies in order all the 
more easily to succeed in eliminating the influences exerted by 
these comrades upon the New York branch and in tightening its 
ranks for the line of the League. 

— Shachtman, Abern, Glotzer 

Declaration made by Cannon in agreement with Swabeck: 
"While we do not consider this resolution as meeting in every par- 
ticular respect with our proposals in regard to the Carter group 
tendency, it nevertheless provides a basis for unanimity." 

292 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Comrade Swabeck reported that on behalf of comrade Can- 
non and himself, he had personally asked comrade Shachtman if 
he wished to withdraw the latest document introduced to the 
National Committee by himself, Abern, and Glotzer, entitled, "The 
Situation in the American Opposition: Prospect and Retrospect." 
This question was put in view of the fact that the contents of this 
document, the charges made, and the issue raised, had not at all 
been discussed or dealt with at the plenum. Comrade Swabeck 
requested an answer from comrade Shachtman in regard to this, 
to which the reply was given that the comrades signing the docu- 
ment are not willing to withdraw it. 

Comrade Cannon declared to the plenum: 

I have not yet at all answered a single personal accusation made in 
this document. I refer particularly to the charges against myself and 
the issues raised in connection therewith. I am ready to make such 
an answer to every paragraph and every line and will expect the 
plenum to take a position on the document and that it also go to 
the membership for discussion. I propose that we now take a recess 
for the comrades to discuss the advisability of withdrawing the docu- 
ment and give a final answer. 

After recess, comrade Shachtman announced the withdrawal 
of the document in the following statement: 

Our original understanding of the proposal was that the first two 
documents were to be sent out to the membership without the pre- 
sentation of our joint reply, signed by Abern, Glotzer, and myself. 
From the clarification made by comrades Cannon and Swabeck, we 
see that this impression was entirely unfounded. 

Since comrades Cannon and Swabeck assert that if our document 
remains in the records, it will require a polemical reply and involve 
a struggle in the League, we have decided to withdraw our docu- 
ment from the records, without changing the opinions we expressed 
in it, but in the interests of unity and collaboration. 

—Shachtman, Abern, Glotzer 

Motion by Cannon: That the comrades who have varying opinions 
on the question of Engels' introduction shall, for the coming dis- 
cussion, draw up in an objective manner statements of their views 
on the political aspects of this question. 

—Motion carried unanimously 

Considering arrangements for a coming conference, the 

following views were expressed: Comrade Shachtman favored the 

Minutes of June Plenum 293 

idea of not having a conference in the immediate future, believ- 
ing that the plenum had already partly served to obviate this 
necessity. Cannon expressed agreement, provided steps could be 
taken now to reconstitute the resident committee in such a way 
that its majority reflects the views of the full committee, the op- 
posite of which is now the case. He declared that it is self-evident 
that organizational provisions must be made to guarantee the ex- 
ecution of the views, sentiments, and shadings represented by the 
majority in the daily work. This could be accomplished by the 
method of co-optation to broaden the committee, such co-optation 
to be affirmed by the membership through a referendum. The 
only alternative, if this is not agreed to, would be the establish- 
ment of a smaller political committee out of the present resident 
committee membership. Cannon suggested the following: The 
majority propose to the minority of the plenum that, by agree- 
ment, a co-optation to the resident committee take place, for the 
reasons of broadening the committee, drawing in new elements 
and youth elements, as well as to bring the resident committee 
majority in harmony with the majority view of the plenum. 
Shachtman on behalf of the minority expressed disagreement with 
this proposal in the following statement: 

Statement on the Proposal for Co-optation to the NC 

We are against the proposal to add comrades Gordon and 
Basky to the National Committee with full voice and vote, and 
comrade Clarke as candidate, for the following reasons: 

1. The plenum revealed that no fundamental political differences 
exist in the National Committee. On those questions which became 
a subject of dispute in the committee (international question and 
the "Carter group"), we were able to adopt a unanimous resolu- 
tion and arrive at a virtually united standpoint. Such a situation 
does not warrant the artificial introduction of three comrades into 
the committee for the purpose of giving one side a factional 
organizational predominance over the other. 

2. The selections are not made for the purpose of broadening 
the committee in general and drawing new elements into its work— 
a step which we have advocated and which the next national 
conference must certainly accomplish— but in order to guarantee 
an automatic and arbitrary factional majority in spite of the 

294 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

nonexistence of any clear political differences in the committee 
and regardless of what questions may arise. 

3. The introduction of the proposed comrades for the express pur- 
pose of guaranteeing a sure voting majority for one side under all 
circumstances will not serve to eliminate the friction in the Na- 
tional Committee, but only to perpetuate artificially a rigid line 
of faction division inside the leading committee. 

4. The selections are not made upon the basis of merit, thus help- 
ing to enhance the authority and effectiveness of the committee, 
but along the lines of factional support, in one case requiring the 
suspension of the constitutional provision so seriously and cor- 
rectly adopted by the last national conference. 

5. Without making this proposal a subject for sharp factional dis- 
pute in the League, which is equally unwarranted by the substan- 
tial unity on questions on which the plenum adopted resolutions, 
we nevertheless wish to register our categorical opposition to it. 

— Shachtman, Abern, Glotzer 

Motion by Cannon: 

1. That for the reasons already given and after an exchange of 
opinion of the comrades, the plenum decides to co-opt onto the 
National Committee comrades Basky and Gordon as voting mem- 
bers and comrade Clarke as a candidate. This to be submitted to 
the membership for ratification; meanwhile, however, the com- 
rades to function in this capacity immediately. 

2. That we inform the membership of comrade Gordon's limita- 
tions on the constitutional requirement and ask for their ratifica- 
tion with full knowledge of this fact. (The constitutional require- 
ment is "Article 9. Section 3— Members of the National Committee 
must have been active members of the Communist political move- 
ment for at least four years, at least two years of which have been 
in the Communist League at the time of election." Comrade 
Gordon's limitations in regard to the Constitution refer to the first 
part of this requirement. He has been only two years a member 
of the Communist League.) 

Comrade Spector recorded himself as opposed to disregarding 
the constitutional provisions which we adopted after such serious 

Minutes of June Plenum 295 

Voting on the motion for co-optation: In favor: Skoglund, Cannon, 
Swabeck, Dunne, Oehler. Voting against: Shachtman, Abern, 
Glotzer. Abstaining: Spector. 

Voting on Gordon: In favor: Skoglund, Cannon, Swabeck, Dunne, 
Oehler. Against: Shachtman, Abern, Glotzer. Abstaining: Spector 
(referring to statement above). 

Voting on members proposed for the committee: In favor of Basky: 
Cannon, Swabeck, Dunne, Skoglund, Oehler. Against: Shachtman, 
Abern, Glotzer. Abstaining: Spector. 

Voting on Clarke: In favor: Skoglund, Cannon, Swabeck, Dunne, 
Oehler. Against: Shachtman, Abern, Glotzer. Abstaining: Spector. 

Motion by Abern: That comrade Shachtman take up the post for- 
merly occupied by him as editor of the Militant. 

Motion by Swabeck: That the present arrangement stand. That 
comrade Cannon remain the politically responsible editor, that com- 
rade Shachtman as a member of the editorial board collaborate 
fully in the editorial work of the Militant and the editorial board 
take charge more directly and assume more complete responsibility 
for the editorial work and the makeup of the Militant. 

Voting on the motion: In favor of Abern's motion: Abern, Glotzer, 
Shachtman, Spector. In favor of Swabeck's motion: Cannon, 
Swabeck, Dunne, Skoglund, Oehler. 

Statement by comrade Spector: 

Does comrade Cannon still hold as valid his statement (at the com- 
mittee meeting, January 13) when proposing comrade Shachtman 
that nobody has advanced any personal or political objections to 
Shachtman as editor of the Militant and comrade Trotsky's proposal 
that comrade Shachtman resume his post? 

Reply by Cannon: 

Yes, in general, I think it is still valid. After the agreement we have 
arrived at here, I would not raise any political or personal objec- 
tions to comrade Shachtman. However, I am under the impression 
that all the circumstances are not exactly the same as they were five 
months ago. Since then we have organized the staff on a more 
collective basis, we have entrusted the responsibility of actually get- 
ting out the paper to comrade Gordon, and in my opinion he has 
carried out his responsibility very satisfactorily. I do not think we 
should return to the old method but rather should go forward toward 
a further development of the collective principle. I also think it 

296 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

unwise to establish the idea that we call in comrades in responsible 
functions when we need them in an emergency and then dismiss 
them when the emergency is over. 

Motion by Swabeck: 1. That the resident committee be authorized 
to finally elaborate the resolutions for which we have here drafts 
accepted as a basis, together with a resolution summarizing the 
work of the plenum as well as to prepare the material for the com- 
ing membership discussion. 2. That the secretary prepare a report 
of the plenum with the approval of the resident committee for 
the International Secretariat and comrade Trotsky. 

—Motions carried unanimously 
At the conclusion of this discussion the following statement 
was submitted to the plenum by comrade Carter: 

We the undersigned, recognizing that one of the most important 
disputed questions in the National Committee and the plenum is 
the problem of the New York branch and the purported domina- 
tion of its executive committee by the so-called Carter group, while 
decisively rejecting any charge of the existence of a political ten- 
dency called "Carterism," understand that the dissension on the 
question interferes with harmonious collaboration in the National 
Committee. We firmly believe that the utmost collaboration and 
collective leadership is a dire need in the National Committee and 
the League. 

We believe that rather than permit the question of our reelec- 
tions to the NY branch executive committee hinder the necessary 
collaboration in our National Committee and harmonious and com- 
radely relations in the New York branch, we will, and at the present 
time wish to state so, not accept nominations for the coming elec- 
tions to the New York executive committee. 

We take this step for one reason— a sincere attempt to secure as 
much as possible united functioning of the entire organization and 
particularly its leading body, the National Committee. This does not 
mean that we will decrease our activity in the New York branch. On 
the contrary, we intend to continue our active functioning in the 
branch and the League as a whole. 

—Stone, Ray, Carter 

The Situation in the Toronto Branch 

Comrade Spector reported on MacDonald's adherence to the 
Left Opposition and on the controversy within the branch and 

Minutes of June Plenum 297 

on proposals for the future. Comrade Krehm, who had been 
invited to the plenum for this particular discussion, presented the 
views of the other side of the controversy. Krehm proposed the 
following conditions to heal the breach with Spector and comrades 
who agreed with him: 1. A clear explanation from Spector on his 
position on the delegation to Premier Henry. 364 2. Repudiation 
by Spector on his position of his act in splitting the Toronto 
group. 365 3. Spector to enter a mass organization. 4. Spector to 
substantiate his accusations against other comrades by actual facts 
or else withdraw them. 

Comrade Spector made the following proposals: 1. That the 
Canadian organization be established as an autonomous section 
of the Left Opposition, with a provisional center to be created. 
2. That it establish direct relations with the International Secre- 
tariat and function under the name of Marxian-Leninist League 
of Canada (Opposition). 3. That it publish a monthly organ. 
4. That it prepare a national platform. 5. That it share responsi- 
bility for the American League theoretical organ. 6. That for the 
time being the Toronto membership function in two branches on 
the basis of the present division. 

After a discussion on the controversy and the various propos- 
als Swabeck made the following motions: 

1. That we make another effort for comradely collaboration with- 
out recrimination of the Toronto membership within one branch, 
including all of those who are now members. 

2. That the National Committee supports fully the political 
tendency represented by comrade Spector and considers it as the 
basis for united collaboration. 

3. The National Committee demands from the Toronto member- 
ship that this be adhered to on penalty of measures to be taken 
against those who fail. 

4. That we accept as a perspective the proposals made by com- 
rade Spector for an autonomous Canadian section of the Left 
Opposition in the sense that the first practical steps in that direc- 
tion, such as the launching of a paper, establishment of an edito- 
rial board, etc., be taken as soon as the branch has reached a 
sufficient degree of collaboration and stability. 

298 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Motion by Cannon: That the resident committee be instructed to 
draw up a resolution which will elaborate on this basis. 366 

—Motions by Swabeck and Cannon carried unanimously, 

Spector adding that an elaborated resolution 

should include a characterization of the group. 

Motion by Cannon: In view of further consideration by the com- 
rades, the plenum decides that comrade Shachtman return to his 
post as editor of the Militant, with comrade Gordon remaining in 
his present position on the editorial staff. 

—Motion carried unanimously 

Motion by Glotzer: That consideration of the unemployment reso- 
lutions, together with organizational questions, and the question 
of Weisbord (since added to the agenda) be referred to the resi- 
dent committee and plenum now adjourns. 

—Motion unanimously carried 

<- 4> + 

Some Considerations on the Results of the 
National Committee Plenum 

[by the Shachtman Group] 367 
16 June 1932 

This document was drafted as a factional statement for supporters of 
Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer. It may have remained uncirculated. 368 

Our aim: to bring into the open and then put a stop to the 
whispered campaign to discredit us, started at the last national 
conference, on the international disputes. At the same time, to 
record for the first time the manner in which the real disputes 
have been developing in the National Committee for the past three 
years and to state our position on them formally. The embryonic 
state of the differences would make an open struggle in the 
organization harmful. Only the future, the test of events and big 
questions, can reveal the import and depth of these differences 
and reveal where each comrade actually stands. Not sufficient has 

Considerations on Plenum 299 

yet happened for us to be able to establish the tendencies with 
conclusiveness, but only to indicate and warn against them. 

The calling of the plenum: We insisted on the plenum so that 
the National Committee as a whole might act before a struggle is 
artificially precipitated in the organization as a whole on a false 
or an as yet unclear foundation. The responsible way is to attempt 
a solution in the leading organism before it is thrown into the 
ranks. That is what leaders are for. Cannon and Swabeck wanted 
to throw the discussion into the ranks forthwith, without a ple- 
num, and with an immediate convention in which they wanted to 
gain a victory on the basis of their analysis of the questions at 
issue, i.e., international questions and "Carterism." Our fight for 
the plenum was completely successful and justified, and proved 
good for the organization. 

We do not come out of the plenum weakened; the morale of 
our friends in the League is excellent. Their uncertainties are re- 
moved, they know what we are fighting for. Our opponents do 
not feel strengthened, but apologetic, at least on the reconstitu- 
tion of the committee. Their campaign concerning the wide gap 
that separated them from us (particularly from Shachtman) on 
the international questions was revealed to be wildly exaggerated. 
The acceptance of the international resolution proposed by 
Spector and the resolution on Carter proposed by Shachtman (at 
least as an acceptable draft) proves our contention concerning their 
magnifying of differences on this score and their utilization of 
them to minimize or cover up other issues. 

We withdrew our document from the records: 1. under the 
threat of a violent struggle in the League if we did not withdraw, 
which would not conform with our aim of averting a fight in the 
League under the circumstances; 2. because none of the docu- 
ments are to be sent out to the membership anyway; 3. because it 
was a purely formal act: The /acta on which our document is based 
cannot be "withdrawn" from the records. Our document replied 
to all their charges; they have not replied to our criticisms. They 
did not reply by one word in the discussions; they did not avail 
themselves of the opportunity to reply in any sort of written state- 
ment. Our withdrawal did, it is true, relieve C-S of the need of 
making a reply, which was impossible for them, at least a satisfac- 
tory reply. 

300 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

For the first time, we put down in writing the history of the 
internal development of the American Opposition, as it actually 
happened, without exaggeration. Even in withdrawing it from the 
formal archives, we reasserted our agreement with every word in 
it. There are numerous precedents for similar actions, and we 
yielded nothing in principle when we acted as we did. 

For the first time in a long period we acted and worked col- 
lectively, consulting not only with ourselves (the committee mem- 
bers), but also the active leading comrades from New York and 
out of town who were present. If the committee as a whole did 
this more frequently, it would not only function better but would 
have infinitely better relations with the ranks. 

The greatest weakness of our position was our failure to act 
collectively for the whole period prior to the plenum. While all 
our leading comrades had a fundamentally similar position on 
the international questions, this was not reflected in their con- 
duct. Shachtman's failure to establish his position clearly to the 
committee on this point when it first rose there, and later the 
separate resolutions of Abern and Glotzer, did great harm to our 
stand. It is particularly because C and S were working to mis- 
represent Shachtman's actual position that it was imperatively in- 
cumbent upon the latter to record himself immediately for what 
he advocated and to communicate his position internationally. The 
failure to do this created great confusion not only in our own ranks 
but in the organization, and enabled Cannon and Swabeck to 
utilize it to more than the maximum in distorting the dispute. 
Without overcoming this difficulty we shall not advance very far 
in the future. 

This is one of the reasons for the superior preparation of our 
opponents and the fact that we improvised to such a large extent 
during the plenum. On the other hand, we did not have full com- 
mand of our resources and were far from bringing them into fully 
effective play. 

In spite of this, we all spoke and presented a fairly consistent 
common line, based on joint participation. Their faction was com- 
posed essentially of Cannon. Despite the presence of so many rank- 
and-file comrades, neither Dunne nor Skoglund spoke on a single 
question during the whole plenum called to settle the severest crisis 
in the League. Whatever they did in private consultations, they 
made not the slightest contribution to the problem in the plenum 

Considerations on Plenum 301 

itself. Oehler did not do much better. His remarks never touched 
the problems at any deeper point than their circumference. Their 
uncritical support inevitably produced their superficiality and ste- 
rility on the questions raised. Further, far from being objective and 
impartial, as they are said to be, they acted as agents for one fac- 
tion. If there was any doubt on this score, it was set aside by their 
action on the editorship of the Militant, when they changed their 
position 180 degrees at the simple command of Cannon, after 
having argued "objectively" against it and without motivating their 
change by a word of explanation. These obvious facts cannot be 
washed away by the flattery and encomiums poured over them by 
Cannon, who does not present them as his faction comrades, but 
as the revolutionary cadre which came objectively to judge the situ- 
ation and did judge it in his favor. With the exception of Oehler, it 
is clear that their views were entirely predetermined. 

The presence of the Minneapolis comrades, with whom we 
consulted openly, was of great value to us. They were present, were 
able to see for themselves, and made it possible for an objective 
and not one-sided report to be presented in Chicago and Minne- 
apolis. They showed that our resources are not confined to a few 
"malcontents" in New York. Their support for our views was "not 
accidental," for they have confronted on a local scale some of the 
identical problems which have necessitated that we take a posi- 
tion on a national scale. In a small way they showed that we have 
political grounds for our fight, that it is not some petty, base 
struggle of cliques for personal power, as some philistines and 
interested faction agents whisper it about. 

On the international question: The greatest damage to the 
organization on this score was caused by C-S. Had they merely 
been interested in "correcting Shachtman," that would have been 
comparatively easy. They were interested in it for the factional capi- 
tal it contained for use against us, and they worked it to the bot- 
tom. Damage of another sort was created by Shachtman's silence, 
but in no way warranted the falsified, factional struggle they had 
opened up long before that. We were thus compelled, in a sense, 
to fight on grounds laid by them, and not on the grounds laid by 
the whole situation in the past. In spite of this, the discussions 
proved how they had distorted, magnified, and falsified the dis- 
pute. They were compelled to deny the existence of a "Naville or 
Landau faction" or of an "American Naville-Landau." With the 

302 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

presentation of Shachtman's statement of position and the adop- 
tion of Spector's resolution, the ground is laid for the complete 
elimination of this vital question from the realm of factional 
warfare, so that nobody can play with it any longer. We withdrew 
all the other international drafts and voted for Spector's resolu- 
tion. We also voted for their resolution so as to eliminate to the 
maximum any grounds for the continuation of this false fight and 
relieve them of artificially manufactured weapons. 

On Carter: Here, too, we burst a big bubble blown by them. 
It is we who had all along conducted the fight against Carter's 
unhealthy aspects, both in the branch and in the National Youth 
Committee. We conducted it properly, without exaggerations or 
persecutions. Cannon and Swabeck were guilty of both and in 
actuality only emphasized the bad sides of the Carter group, pro- 
voking them into wrong positions, actions, and supercritical atti- 
tudes. The facts were too overwhelming in this case (as well as in 
the case of the New York branch as a whole) to enable Cannon to 
justify his wild assertions about an "opposition bloc." We justly 
refused the purely factional and arbitrary proposal of Cannon to 
unite to crush Carter organizationally, instead of allowing Carter 
the opportunity to find the right road in the process of the 
organization's work and policies. Carter took a step forward with 
his statement. We should help him along on this road and not allow 
Cannon's provocations and extreme exaggerations— based upon 
his subjective reaction to many of Carter's criticisms— to impede 
the work of clarifying the situation in the New York branch. Our 
resolution to the plenum lays the right basis for this work. Its 
acceptance was forced upon Cannon-Swabeck by the unanswer- 
able array of facts and our arguments and by our refusal to be 
bulldozed into magnifying "Carterism" into some terrific bogey 
to the League. One of the most positive phases of our fight on 
this question, and more than that on the question of the youth as 
a whole, was the quite obvious fact that such articles as Swabeck's 
against Carter will henceforth be pondered over a hundred times 
before they see the light of day. Swabeck and Cannon received a 
lesson on how to deal with the younger comrades. We are sure 
that our stubborn fight against their utterly false, journeyman's 
attitude toward the youth will check them in their haughty antago- 
nism to the younger comrades, their open contempt toward them, 
their factional attitude of warm endorsement for those young com- 

Considerations on Plenum 303 

rades who (like Clarke) swallow their criticisms without great 
conviction and become their faction supporters. 

On the co-optations: This was one of the biggest blunders 
made by Cannon during the plenum. We were justified a thou- 
sand times in refusing the unheard-of proposal that we join them 
in taking this step, that we voluntarily collaborate in "minoritizing" 
ourselves. 1. The co-optations show the level of their strength in 
the New York branch. 2. The co-optations serve to dilute the level 
of the committee as a whole, and dilute it unnecessarily. 3. The 
co-optations are an entirely factional step, motivated that way, and 
baseless on political grounds. If there are no deep political differ- 
ences, there is no ground for giving one tendency an organiza- 
tional faction predominance over the other. 4. It is not only a 
breach of the unified views on fundamental questions reached by 
the plenum, but will serve to perpetuate the faction lines now 
drawn in the committee, being public notice served that their fac- 
tion must have a caucus majority regardless of the question at 
issue. If this step is taken under such circumstances, what organiza- 
tional measures would they take if the differences were really deep 
and acute? 5. The co-optations were a factional payoff. 6. They were 
a caricature of the thoroughly correct idea advanced in our "rub- 
bishy" document that the committee must be broadened and new 
blood drawn into it. We meant it to help solve the sharp internal 
situation, not to perpetuate it. We did not mean it for Gordons. 
7. The individuals qualify for such a position only by a wide stretch 
of the imagination. In putting on Gordon, Cannon even violates 
the Constitution. We do not raise mere formal objections, which 
would not be valid were the situation to call for violating the form. 
But form has a tremendous importance and exists to be observed. 
The "four years in the Communist movement" provision was 
inserted quite solemnly. If it is to have "exceptions" whenever fac- 
tional exigencies require them, then the provision is a sham and 
should be repealed. The National Committee is the leader in the 
organization. We were accused of wanting to tamper lightly with 
the leadership. Cannon proved by his own actions who is tamper- 
ing, and doing it light-mindedly and factionally. 8. They fought 
violently against Lewit being put on the committee, but they put 
on Basky, Clarke, and Gordon. It is hard to imagine a more 
factional farce. Cannon has not yet understood the fight we made 
for Lewit at the conference; he still regards it as a personal incident. 

304 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

For us it always had a purely political significance, which is revealed 
by the co-optations approved by the plenum. We refused to vote 
for these co-optations at the plenum. We do not propose to make 
a fight in the League against them, for it is not upon such ques- 
tions that the already sufficiently tense situation can be precipi- 
tated into a factional war. At the same time, we cannot vote for 
the co-optations in the branches, any more than we did at the ple- 
num. In a quiet, not sharp, not violent, not factional, but clear 
way, we shall record ourselves in the branches on this point. 

The Engels controversy: The ridiculous suggestion that the 
committee register itself on the theoretico-historical dispute was 
not carried, following our protest. We will present our views on 
this controversy in an objective manner in debate with Swabeck, a 
debate freed of the other issues injected into the dispute by 
Swabeck and Cannon. 

The Toronto branch: The outstanding result of this discussion 
was the motion proposed by Swabeck that the plenum inform the 
Toronto comrades that the National Committee endorses the 
political tendency of Spector, and that this is the basis for the 
reunification of the Toronto branch. But Spector shares the views 
of the rest of our comrades on every single important point. We 
are part and parcel of the "political tendency of Spector"; it is our 
political tendency. Spector spoke for us, in the name of our group, 
at the plenum, associating himself with us in the most unmistak- 
able manner. How can they endorse "Spector's political tendency" 
and denounce ours, which is identical with it? 

The gestation theory: For the first time this question was taken 
up openly and discussed objectively, at least on our side. Cannon 
and Swabeck continued their stubborn defense of it, indicating once 
more that behind their insistence is something deeper than a mere 
difference of view on a past historical question. Morgenstern 
showed some of the absurder aspects of this theory ("Wasn't the 
Cannon group right on the La Follette question and on the labor 
party?") 369 and in his person revealed some of the patent dangers 
(confusion, total misunderstanding of the changes that have taken 
place in the position of the Left Opposition, faction-fetishism) con- 
tained in this false theory. The plenum has done everything but 
give us greater reason for changing our quite correct stand on 
this question. What we say about it in our document was never 

Considerations on Plenum 305 

even discussed by our opponents, and every word in our state- 
ment on this point retains its full validity. 

Our task now: We have yielded nothing on our views; we have 
reaffirmed them. Much that happened even formally at the ple- 
num confirmed our stand. We do not want a faction fight now. 
We prevented it by our whole recent conduct. The differences we 
have with Cannon-Swabeck are, it must be emphasized, quite clear 
in their purport and nature, but still embryonic in form. We are 
willing and desirous of letting the passage of time and the test of 
events tell how deep are the roots of the differences. In the com- 
ing days, we will do nothing to exaggerate these differences, to 
magnify them, to perpetuate them. If they persist in their course, 
they will only make a clarification inevitable, accompanied by the 
necessary struggle to have the League take a position one way or 
the other. At all times, however, we must not slacken our activities 
in the least, nor can our friends do anything of the sort. On the 
contrary, we must show (and not merely for the record) that we 
are the most energetic, consistent, and willing militants in the 
League, doing the maximum amount of work for the organiza- 
tion. Maximum collaboration to advance the League, minimum 
artificial friction, no yielding of our point of view. The stand we 
have taken and defended in the past makes us confident of 
the future. 

The question of the editor of the Militant: The skirmish over 
this question was a revelation. In itself it presented a condensed 
picture of the whole fight and its meaning, in virtually all its 
aspects. After having made Shachtman's collaboration in such a 
vital post as difficult as they could, if not impossible, they con- 
ducted a violent campaign against him for refusing to resume the 
editorship. They protested their anxiety to have him take the post. 
They argued that they had neither personal nor political objec- 
tions to him. But what happened at the plenum showed that their 
whole concern with this issue was factional and nothing else. They 
were quite prepared (after all they had campaigned about previ- 
ously) to let the plenum go by without even raising the question! 
We finally raised it in a quiet but emphatic manner. They voted it 
down and presented the most demagogic arguments against it, 
but presented them very solemnly and "objectively"— not only 
Cannon and Swabeck, but Skoglund, Dunne, and Oehler. Only 

306 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

after a short while, when the full realization of their indefensible 
and self-revelatory position dawned upon him, did Cannon take 
the position to reconsider. He did not motivate his reconsidera- 
tion by a single word; he did not even attempt to give a reason for 
his change of front. A few minutes after having given very solemn 
arguments against Shachtman as editor, they turned about and 
voted just as solidly for Shachtman, also without giving the least 
reason for the change and only because Cannon gave the signal. 
On this whole point was shown the quite factional standpoint and 
conduct of all five comrades concerned. 

^ ^ ^ 

Draft Statement to the Membership on the 
National Committee Plenum 

by James P. Cannon 370 
25 June 1932 

On June 25 the resident committee adopted this draft over the opposition 
of Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer, who submitted their own statement 
on the plenum at a subsequent meeting on July 7. Cannon wrote a new 
statement to the membership in response to the Shachtman group, 
presenting the plenum events in much starker factional terms. TiX This 
draft was attached to the resident committee minutes of June 25, but it 
was never published in a CLA bulletin. 

In a previous circular from the national office the branches 
were informed that disputes had arisen within the resident com- 
mittee which would be considered by a full plenum of the National 
Committee and then referred to the membership. The plenum 
was held on June 10-13. The two important concrete questions 
of dispute, which required definite decisions in the form of reso- 
lutions, were the following: 

1. The situation in the International Left Opposition 

2. The situation in the New York branch 

The resolutions on those questions were finally adopted by 
unanimous vote. There have been no disputes in the committee 

Draft Statement on NC Plenum 307 

over general questions of the League policy; the entire NC stands 
as before on the basis of the Second National Conference thesis 
and resolutions. 

In view of this fundamental political solidarity and the agree- 
ment now arrived at on the disputed questions referred to above, 
it is clear that a factional struggle in the League can in no way be 
justified or tolerated. The plenum adjourned with this precise un- 
derstanding, with organizational measures to reinforce it, and with 
an agreement on both sides to reestablish a collaboration of all 
forces for united work on the basis of the plenum decisions. It 
was then decided, in lieu of a conference, to arrange an objective 
discussion of the plenum results in the branches, to submit the 
decisions to a referendum vote of the membership, and to con- 
centrate the activity of the entire organization on a new program 
of expanded activities. 

The i ^establishment of the unity of the National Committee, 
with organizational guarantees for its firm maintenance in the near 
future, was accomplished only after a protracted struggle in the 
NC which had been extended into the membership in the New 
York branch and which developed sharp factional manifestations 
and tendencies toward group formation. This struggle came to a 
climax at the plenum. The disputed questions were discussed there 
for four days with complete frankness, without concealing any dif- 
ferences and without attempting to reconcile differences in a false 
unity. It is thanks to the approach to the problem that the danger 
of a destructive factional struggle in the League could be arrested, 
the disputes liquidated on a principled basis, and the misunder- 
standings eliminated. On the basis of the plenum results, the 
League membership can and must now demand a real collabora- 
tion in the National Committee and the immediate cessation of 
factional struggle because there is no foundation for any other course. 

In addition to the really important and concrete questions of 
dispute that necessitated the adoption of definite resolutions, the 
plenum heard arguments on a number of secondary matters, some 
of which related to the past, others to future possibilities which 
need not, and indeed cannot, be concretely decided now— and 
accusations of a personal nature. Comrades Shachtman, Abern, 
and Glotzer presented a long document which dealt primarily with 
matters of this kind. On the concluding day of the plenum, after 
the resolutions on the international question and the question of 

308 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

the New York branch had been agreed upon, and the political 
foundation for the unity of the committee thus clearly laid, the 
question was squarely put to comrades Shachtman, Abern, and 
Glotzer: Do you now wish the plenum to reply to your document 
in the form of a resolution, or do you wish to withdraw it? There- 
upon the three comrades, after a recess to give the matter and its 
consequences due consideration, announced their decision to with- 
draw the document from the records of the organization, and 
stated they were doing so in the interest of unity and collaboration, 
while retaining the opinions expressed in the document. 

The International Question 

In order to make clear the full significance of the plenum 
decisions on this point, it is necessary to explain briefly the chron- 
ological development of the dispute. Tangible and really concrete 
differences on these questions only manifested themselves in recent 
months after the return of comrade Shachtman from Europe. 
Prior to that there were only intimations of possible differences, 
shadings of emphasis, and some dissatisfaction with comrade 
Shachtman's method of conducting the office of international rep- 
resentative. At the second conference the National Committee 
members defended a common resolution on the international 
question which represents the same basic position on the interna- 
tional questions as that of the plenum. On the other hand, com- 
rade Cannon's speech at the conference differed in emphasis from 
the report of comrade Shachtman. 

No political objection was raised against comrade Shachtman's 
visit to Europe after the conference and no suspicions of factional 
designs on his part were entertained by other members of the 
committee. A few days after his return, however, the committee 
received a protest from comrade Trotsky against the attitude taken 
by comrade Shachtman while in Europe toward the internal dis- 
putes of the other national sections, an attitude which comrade 
Trotsky maintained had been harmful to the struggle of the 
progressive elements to cleanse the International Left Opposition 
of the influence of alien, demoralized, and careerist elements. 
Comrade Trotsky demanded— and rightly so— that the NC clarify 
its stand before the international Opposition and say plainly 
whether it took responsibility for comrade Shachtman's views 
or not. 

Draft Statement on NC Plenum 309 

At the National Committee meeting where the matter was first 
considered (13 January 1932), the committee heard the report of 
comrade Glotzer, who had only recently returned from Europe. 
He informed the committee of comrade Trotsky's conversation 
with him about the disputes in the French Ligue and his own 
observations in France and stated that he agreed with the position 
of comrade Trotsky and was not in accord with the views of com- 
rade Shachtman. Comrade Shachtman refrained from speaking 
at the meeting. 

Without in any way challenging comrade Shachtman's right 
to an independent opinion on the questions and without passing 
a hasty judgment on the specific criticism brought against him by 
comrade Trotsky, the committee merely put on record the follow- 
ing motion: 

The NC takes note of the letter of comrade Trotsky and the copy of 
his letter to comrade Shachtman regarding the opinions of the lat- 
ter on the situation in the international Opposition. 
1. The reply thereto the NC declares: The said views of comrade 
Shachtman have been put forward by himself as an individual with- 
out consulting the NC and on his own personal responsibility. They 
do not represent the views of the NC and it takes no responsibility 
for them. 

It was at this meeting, following the adoption of the above 
motion, that comrade Shachtman resigned his post as editor of 
the Militant, notwithstanding the unanimous vote of all the other 
members in favor of his continuance. 

Following this, translations were made of all the important 
material bearing on the disputes in the French Ligue and studied 
by the committee members. 

At the meeting of February 17, two projects for resolution- 
one by comrade Glotzer and one by comrade Cannon— were con- 
sidered. A motion was carried that a combination of the two 
projects, which did not differ in essence, be made into a single 
resolution as the viewpoint of the committee. The motion was car- 
ried with the votes of Glotzer, Cannon, and Swabeck. Comrade 
Shachtman voted against the motion without explaining his own 
position. Comrade Abern, who had not yet had the opportunity 
to study the translated material, refrained from voting on that 
account and later submitted a draft of his own. 

On March 15, after the return of comrade Glotzer from his 
tour, the resolution on the international questions was again 

310 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

considered. At this meeting, comrade Glotzer expressed his 
dissatisfaction with the combination which had been made of 
the two projects and voted for his own original draft. Comrades 
Cannon and Swabeck voted for the combined resolution. Com- 
rade Abern submitted and voted for a draft of his own. Com- 
rade Shachtman abstained from voting on all of them and 
presented no resolution of his own. Thus, with all drafts failing of 
a majority in the resident committee, the three resolutions were 
submitted by referendum to the nonresident members of the 

It was not until the middle of April, when the votes of the 
nonresident members were received, that the committee could 
record a majority for the resolution on the international questions 
and inform the organization and the International Secretariat of 
its position. Even then, comrade Shachtman withheld his support 
from the resolution. Comrades Abern and Glotzer did likewise. 
Their own resolutions at their request were sent out to the 
branches together with the official resolution. This contributed 
to the confusion and weakened the force of the attempt of the 
majority of the committee to rally the membership for a clear and 
definite stand on the question. 

The adoption of the international resolution by a majority of 
the committee and its publication in the Militant of April 23 was 
undoubtedly a service to the international Opposition insofar as 
it again definitely recorded the official support of the American 
League on the side of the progressive and revolutionary tendency 
in the internal struggles of the European sections. The unanimous 
vote for this resolution, which has now finally been recorded at 
the plenum, is another step forward along the same line, and cuts 
away the ground for speculation by the elements of disintegra- 
tion in the European sections on any possible support from our 
League or any part of its leadership. It now remains to mobilize 
the entire membership of the League in support of this resolu- 
tion and put an end to all uncertainty or ambiguity as to the atti- 
tude of our organization toward the vital conflicts within the 
European sections. 

The NC can only welcome the fact that comrades Abern and 
Glotzer withdrew their resolutions in favor of the official resolu- 
tion which had been adopted previously and published in the Mili- 
tant. The vote of comrade Shachtman for the resolution and his 

Draft Statement on NC Plenum 311 

statement dissociating himself entirely from all those persons and 
groups in the European sections who have counted to a certain 
extent on his direct or indirect support can likewise be welcomed. 
But the implications in comrade Shachtman's statement that his 
position has been "misrepresented" and that "a factional football" 
has been made of the issue are categorically condemned and 
rejected. Comrade Shachtman's recognition that the "misunder- 
standings" were partly caused by his failure to make his position 
clear is by no means a completely correct statement of the matter. 
The conflict arose over an erroneous position taken by him and 
the misunderstandings were due entirely to him. The conflict can 
be liquidated now because the question has been completely 
clarified at the plenum and agreement has been reached on a 
political basis. 

The Question of the New York Branch 

The factional situation which developed on the resident com- 
mittee was complicated and sharpened by differences in approach 
to the problems of the New York branch, the largest branch in 
the organization and the one coming under most direct and im- 
mediate influence of the NC. Within the NY branch there has 
crystallized over a period of time an intellectualistic tendency com- 
posed primarily of student/ youth elements who began to take on 
a group formation under the leadership of comrade Carter. This 
grouping became an obstruction to the political education and 
development of the branch as a whole, all the more so since it 
acquired a predominating position in the leading organ of the 
branch and used this position as a base of opposition to the NC. 

The majority of the plenum put forward as a condition for 
agreement a common struggle for the political isolation of this 
harmful grouping and its elimination from the present leadership 
of the branch. In the course of the discussion it became evident 
that the differences within the committee in the estimation of this 
grouping were not of a fundamental character. On that ground it 
became possible to work out a unanimous resolution which will 
guide the committee as a whole in its future course in the NY 

Comrades Carter, Ray, and Stone on their part regarded the 
discussion and the decision of the plenum in regard to them 
with sufficient seriousness to take a step forward to facilitate the 

312 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

carrying out of the line of the NC. On their own initiative they 
introduced a statement in which they declared their readiness to 
support the unification of the NC. To that end they offered to 
withdraw as candidates for election to the new branch executive 
committee in order to eliminate any controversy on this point. 
While such an undertaking need not be insisted upon with com- 
plete literalness, the reasons given by these comrades to motivate 
their action must be noted in their favor. The fact that they now 
acknowledged the value of unity in the NC and show a willing- 
ness, if necessary, to sacrifice some of their own position in order 
to help in maintaining it is a step forward from their previous 
attitude toward the NC and toward the responsibilities to the 
organization devolving upon them. It should be added that these 
comrades stated their intention to continue and even to increase 
their activities as members of the branch. 

Organization Decisions 

Following the adoption of the unanimous resolutions and the 
agreement to enter upon a new period of united work and col- 
laboration, the plenum majority raised the question of the neces- 
sary organizational measures to guarantee the firm execution of 
the decisions and agreements in the daily work of the resident 

The situation in the resident committee prior to the plenum 
presented an anomaly. On the one hand the majority in the resi- 
dent committee represented a minority in the committee as a whole 
and vice versa. On the other hand the main responsibilities of the 
daily administration of the League devolved upon the minority 
of the resident committee, which could not conduct its responsi- 
bilities, even in small practical questions, without agreement of 
the majority or an appeal by referendum to the full committee. 
Such a state of affairs must be ended one way or another. More- 
over it must be recognized that the resident committee of five had 
come to a stalemate and that personal relations within it had served 
to accentuate the general difficulties. 

As the best way to solve the contradiction and at the same 
time to refute the accusation of a conservative organizational 
policy on the part of the old Party group which up till now has 
monopolized the leadership, the plenum decided to co-opt two 
new members to the committee with full rights and one candi- 

Draft Statement on NC Plenum 313 

date with voice but no vote, none of whom were identified with 
the old Party group which has led the League since its inception. 
This decision is submitted by referendum to the entire mem- 
bership for its approval along with the other important decisions 
of the plenum. 

The Dispute in the Toronto Branch 

In addition to the other questions noted above, the plenum 
considered a serious dispute which had arisen in the Toronto 
branch, resulting in its disruption a short time before the plenum 
convened. A number of documents were submitted. In addition, 
the conflicting groups were represented at the plenum by com- 
rade Spector on the one side and Krehm on the other. Comrade 
Roth, who was not able to remain for the discussion on this point, 
submitted a written statement. The decision of the plenum on the 
question is embodied in a self-explanatory resolution which goes 
out to all the branches together with this statement and the other 
plenum material. Here it is only necessary to add that both com- 
rades, Spector and Krehm, pledged themselves to support the 
decision and to work for the reconsolidation of the Toronto branch 
on that basis. 

The Dispute over Engels' Introduction 

The ostensible but not the real cause of the sharp factional 
situation which developed in the resident committee was the 
dispute which arose in regard to comrade Swabeck's article in the 
Militant of March 5 attacking a previous article by comrade Carter 
in Young Spartacus of January. Comrade Shachtman took issue with 
comrade Swabeck's conclusions and defended the position of com- 
rade Carter. 

The superficiality of this issue was demonstrated by the fact 
that the plenum did not find it necessary to adopt a resolution on 
the point one way or another. After the important disputes had 
been settled, as noted above, it was unanimously agreed that the 
matter of the Engels introduction be referred for an objective dis- 
cussion in the membership, the comrades having different view- 
points being free to present them. The question is to be discussed 
on its political and theoretical merits without connection with the 
other disputes. 

314 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

The Discussion in the Membership 

The plenum was unanimously of the opinion that the adop- 
tion of the unanimous resolutions on the most important ques- 
tions removes all ground for a factional struggle in the organiza- 
tion, which would have to be concluded within one month, and 
represents a preparation of the organization for a new expansion 
of its activities on the basis of a firm internal unity. The resident 
committee has been charged with the task of working out a new 
program of work in this light, which is to include practical pro- 
posals for a serious and planned class-struggle activity, in addi- 
tion to our propagandistic and critical activity directed to the Party 
but not in contradiction to it. 

Comrades! The fundamental political unity of the leadership 
of the League as a whole and its capacity to overcome a threat- 
ened crisis on a principled basis has once again been demonstrated 
by the results of our second plenum. It is for the rank-and-file mem- 
bership now to weigh and discuss all the material and to pronounce 
their decision. If the membership now will rally firmly around the 
decisions of the plenum, speak out clearly for unity and against 
every manifestation of a frivolous faction spirit, our League can 
go forward to a new series of second accomplishments for which 
the solid work of the past three and a half years had prepared us. 

All the conditions of the class struggle are preparing the way 
for the great future of Communism. All the events prove over and 
over again the Left Opposition alone is the genuine representa- 
tive of the Communist doctrines of Marx and Lenin. We are firmly 
convinced that the development of the class struggle on an inter- 
national scale and in America are rapidly creating the conditions 
for a great expansion of the influence and strength of the Left 
Opposition. This will surely be the case if we prove equal to our 
responsibilities and our tasks. 

We should regard our second plenum as a memorable event 
in the consolidation and preparation of the League for its future, 
as the starting point for a great new period of united struggle and 


Statement of the National Committee (Minority): 

The Results of the Plenum 
of the National Committee 

by Martin Abern, Albert Glotzer, and Max Shachtman 

29 June 1932 

Submitted to the resident committee at a June 30 meeting, this statement 
engendered a lengthy discussion and a motion by Cannon characterizing 
it as "a factional document that falsifies the decisions of the plenum, 
attempts to incite the membership to overturn them, directly contradicts 
the action of the said comrades in withdrawing their document from the 
records of the plenum, and attempts to smuggle it back in politer form. " 
The statement was published in CLA Internal Bulletin no. 2 (July 

In a statement to the membership on the plenum, written after the 
Shachtman group submitted this document, and subsequently published 
in CLA Internal Bulletin no. 1, Cannon wrote: 

We deem it now necessary to hand over to the membership all the essen- 
tial documents which have accumulated in the records of the committee 
in the course of the conflict. With this material before them the mem- 
bers of the League will be able to gain a clear understanding of the 
disputes which disrupted the resident committee and to form a decisive 

This is the only course open now. The National Committee has 
endeavored up to the last moment of the plenum to maintain peace in 
the organization as long as it could be done without compromising any 
essential policy. It held the door open to the minority, passed no resolu- 
tions against them, and approached them in good faith on the basis of 
unity and collaboration the moment they complied with the minimum 
political demands. The minority members are trying to frustrate these 
designs with a double-dealing maneuver. They retreated from their 
positions and spoke for peace at the plenum, and a week later they wrote 
a factional appeal against the plenum. They are trying to play hide- 
and-seek with the National Committee. They are trifling with the unity 
and stability of the National Committee, which is especially necessary 

316 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

now and which they have no principled ground to attack. The member- 
ship of the League must call a halt to this unprincipled faction game* 12 

1. The plenum of the National Committee of the League held on 
10-13 June 1932 was called together to discuss the disputes which 
had arisen in the resident committee in New York. It established 
the following facts: 

a. On the essential questions of principle and policy of the 
League, there exist at present no fundamental differences 
of opinion among the members of the National Committee. 

b. On the situation in and development of the International 
Left Opposition, particularly in Europe, it was shown that 
in spite of contrary assertions, a unanimous line exists in the 
committee, enabling the plenum to present for discussion 
a single viewpoint. 

c. On the situation in the New York branch, the discussions 
at the plenum revealed that the charge of an "opposition 
bloc" between the undersigned and the Carter "group" 
was unfounded. 

The last two points were the ones raised in the resident com- 
mittee during the preplenum discussion as questions requiring 
decision. The fact that the plenum was able to adopt unanimous 
resolutions on both questions, on the one hand, makes possible a 
calm and objective discussion of the situation in the League, with- 
out exaggerations or factional polemics, and on the other hand, 
eliminates the danger which threatened us of a sharp factional 
struggle in the absence of any clearly defined or fundamental dif- 
ferences of opinion. 

2. The friction and lack of collective and efficient collabora- 
tion in the resident committee did not originate with the disputes 
over the international questions or the New York branch situation. 
They have their origin in differences and antagonisms existing 
in the committee for a long period of time over questions relating 
to the tempo of the Opposition's development in the United States, 
the manner of administration at the center, the relations between 
the committee and the membership, and the interpretation 
over the character of the American Opposition. At times in the 
past, these differences assumed an extremely acute form; some- 
times they appeared only as shadings of opinions or emphasis. The 
first plenum of the National Committee in 1930, without adopt- 

Minority Statement on Plenum 317 

ing any resolutions on the disputes, nevertheless laid the basis for 
eliminating them as a hindrance to the work of the leading 
committee. They were further eliminated from an active place on 
the order of the day by the harmonious collaboration established 
in the committee from that time until the convocation of the 
Second National Conference last fall. The appearance of the whole 
National Committee with unanimous resolutions was an indication 
of the progress made toward overcoming the difficulties of the past 
and promised an even closer coordination of efforts and sounder 
political unity in the future. 

3. The previously unannounced intervention of comrade Cannon 
against the report on the international situation in the Left 
Opposition, unanimously assigned to comrade Shachtman and 
against which no criticism had been leveled when it was delivered 
at the New York branch, as well as the strenuous opposition offered 
to the proposal that comrade Lewit be added to the incoming 
National Committee, created a breach in the collaboration which 
had existed up to then. In face of this situation, all the members 
of the National Committee agreed to grant comrade Shachtman's 
request for a leave of absence. In addition to other reasons that 
had no relation to the situation in the committee, he asked to be 
given the leave in order that the difficult conditions engendered 
toward the end of the conference might meanwhile be eliminated 
or moderated and a more effective collaboration be resumed in 
the committee. 

4. Toward the end of his stay in Europe, comrade Shachtman 
replied to a request from comrade Trotsky for his personal views 
on the situation in the French Ligue with a letter from Paris on 
1 December 1931. The views expressed in this letter caused com- 
rade Trotsky to request, upon Shachtman's return to New York, 
that the National Committee declare whether or not it shared these 
opinions. The committee of course replied that these views repre- 
sented comrade Shachtman's personal opinions. Comrade 
Shachtman at that time considered that the situation which was 
being created in the committee made it impossible for him to con- 
tinue in the responsible post of editor which he had occupied up 
to then. 

5. In spite of the assertions and rumors concerning the existence 
in the League of a Navillist or semi-Navillist or Landauist tendency, 

318 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

which were current at that time in New York, comrade Shachtman 
refused to make a statement of his position in the committee in 
order that it might not become the object of misconstruction or 
dispute in the League. This erroneous silence, however, did not 
clear up the situation and made it possible for a false interpreta- 
tion to be put upon his position. His mistake, his actual position 
with regard to the international Opposition, as well as the ques- 
tion of the letter of December 1, were completely clarified in the 
statement made by comrade Shachtman to the plenum on 12 June 
1932. Comrades Abern and Glotzer had already made their posi- 
tions clear some time before then, when the National Committee 
was engaged in drafting a resolution on the international ques- 
tion. They submitted their drafts of a resolution because they 
found themselves unable to agree with the motivation contained 
in the draft of comrade Cannon. 

6. The immediate cause for the precipitation of the dispute in the 
committee was the discussion which arose within it over the article 
written in the Militant by comrade Swabeck in reply to that of 
comrade Carter in Young Spartacus. At the end of a statement on 
the historical controversy over the Engels foreword of 1895, com- 
rade Shachtman also replied briefly to accusations that had been 
made against him by comrades Cannon and Swabeck in a previ- 
ous committee meeting where the Engels dispute was discussed, 
regarding his alleged attitude toward Naville and Landau. This in 
turn brought forth a lengthy document by comrades Cannon and 
Swabeck, which dealt not only with the Engels controversy, but 
primarily with other points: the international question and the 
New York branch. The dispute over Engels was thereby enlarged 
to embrace other, more serious and pertinent questions and 
charges. In their statement, the comrades declared that their dis- 
putes with comrade Shachtman began a year or more ago on 
international questions and that there has been a "steadily devel- 
oping divergence over questions which we consider decisive for 
the future of our movement." The statement was also made that 
the undersigned had been supporting or encouraging the Carter 
group in the New York branch. At the same time, comrade Cannon 
advanced the idea that a sharp factional struggle would now break 
out in the League, requiring a definitive solution and endangering 
the existence of the various undertakings (Militant, Unser Kamf, 
etc.) to which the League had progressed. 

Minority Statement on Plenum 319 

7. The undersigned were therefore compelled to reply to the 
assertions contained in the document of comrades Cannon and 
Swabeck which we did not and do not consider correct in any 
respect. In a reply to it, therefore, we outlined that internal devel- 
opment and disputes in the League for the past period in order 
to show that the contentions of comrades Cannon and Swabeck 
did not correspond to the real situation. While pointing out where 
the differences had originated and bringing forward a number of 
criticisms of the work and conduct of the National Committee, 
we pointed out that whatever divergences exist on a number of 
questions today are of an embryonic and not clearly defined 
nature, which must not be exaggerated or forced; consequently, 
we concluded, a factional struggle in the League must be avoided 
so that the organization shall not be torn by an internal dispute 
in the absence of any political or principled differences of major 

8. On the ground that the differences were so irreconcilable that 
a plenum of the National Committee could not solve them, com- 
rades Cannon and Swabeck proposed an immediate discussion in 
the League and conference to follow directly after it. We proposed 
an immediate plenum so that the full membership of the National 
Committee should first have the opportunity to discuss and decide 
the disputed questions. The affirmative vote of all the out-of-town 
members finally made possible the holding of such a plenum. 

9. At the plenum, the committee engaged in a thorough and open 
discussion of the internal situation, which could not avoid an 
extreme sharpness at times. At the end of these discussions, it was 
clear that every possible measure had to be taken to avoid a fac- 
tional struggle in the organization, which would unwai rantedly 
render it ineffective for the coming period. In view of the dis- 
putes, however, it was also decided that the membership shall have 
adequate opportunity to discuss the situation for a fixed period, 
at the end of which the resolutions presented by the plenum should 
be voted upon and the organization as a whole mobilized for the 
urgent tasks that confront it. That this is desirable and possible is 
shown by the fact that the elimination of the sharpest points of 
contention and the acknowledged absence of deep political dif- 
ferences have laid the basis for a reestablishment of a functioning 
collaboration in the leading committee, with the positive results 
for the League as a whole which this implies. 

320 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

10. The international question at the plenum. After a lengthy dis- 
cussion on the subject, comrade Spector introduced a complete 
resolution on the international question which represented our 
point of view. Comrade Shachtman, in order to clarify his posi- 
tion on the question and bring all misunderstandings to an end, 
introduced a statement of his views. Comrade Glotzer regarded 
the resolution of comrade Spector as more adequate and there- 
fore withdrew his original draft in support of the former. Com- 
rade Abern's draft, which comrade Spector had originally consid- 
ered more objective but insufficiently motivated and rounded, was 
also withdrawn. Both of these withdrawals were made with the aim 
especially in mind to take the international questions out of the 
realm of any possible factional conflict and to present the mem- 
bership and the international Opposition with a single document 
which would actually reflect the fact that a unanimous view really 
exists on the fundamental questions of the Left Opposition in the 
National Committee. For the same reason, all the comrades con- 
sented to vote for comrade Spector's resolution, which was then 
unanimously adopted at the plenum. This makes it more than ever 
possible to discuss the international questions and to draw the valu- 
able lessons from the internal developments in the European 
Opposition in an entirely objective manner, free from factional con- 
siderations and distortions. In this respect, therefore, the plenum 
had a most positive value for the coming period of the League. 

11. The Carter question. On this question too there was a lengthy 
discussion, participated in not only by committee members, but 
also by comrade Carter, who made a statement of his position. 
The discussion revealed that the assertions originally made con- 
cerning the views on this point held by the undersigned did not 
correspond with their actual standpoint. At the end of the discus- 
sion, comrade Shachtman introduced a resolution on the Carter 
"group," which, while it did not agree entirely with every aspect 
of the views held on the matter by comrades Cannon and Swabeck, 
was nevertheless accepted by the latter as a draft basis for a unani- 
mous resolution. The statement made by comrades Carter, Stone, 
and Ray also served to help clarify this disputed question and made 
possible its speedy solution in the coming period. 

12. Toward the end of the sessions, comrades Cannon and 
Swabeck demanded of the undersigned the formal withdrawal of 

Minority Statement on Plenum 321 

the document we had drawn up in reply to their statement of 
22 March 1932. During the plenum, the statements made in our 
document were not taken up or replied to by the other comrades. 
In view of the situation, the comrades declared that unless the 
document were withdrawn it would involve such a reply on their 
part and consequent discussion in the League as could throw the 
organization into a factional struggle. The points raised in our 
document were presented to the plenum chiefly as a reply to the 
erroneous assertions made in the first document of comrades 
Cannon and Swabeck. In view of the practical agreement that had 
been reached on such issues as the international question and the 
New York branch, making possible the elimination of unfounded 
charges previously made; because of the indications that such a 
discussion as would follow on the document and the proposed 
reply would involve a factional battle in the League; and in view 
of the understanding that the original document of comrades 
Cannon and Swabeck would not be presented to the membership 
as a basis for discussion— the undersigned announced their deci- 
sion to withdraw the document formally from the committee's 
records, without however renouncing any of the views expressed 
in it. This action also, we believe, will have the effect of averting 
an acute struggle in the League and making the coming discus- 
sion an objective one. 

13. The co-optations. We have already expressed our viewpoint 
on this action of the plenum in a statement presented to the com- 
mittee. The addition of two new members and one candidate to 
the committee at the present time is an action which we cannot 
support. The additions are not made upon the basis of merit pri- 
marily, for there are half a dozen other comrades in the New York 
branch who take precedence in this respect. It is not in accordance 
with the resolutions adopted by the plenum, which showed a 
political harmony and do not warrant a tendentious changing of 
the composition of the committee for the purpose of gaining an 
automatic majority for one side in the committee against another. 
It can tend only to perpetuate a division in the committee instead 
of breaking it down. While opposing these additions, we at the 
same time announced our decision not to make this question, 
regardless of the vote cast on it, an issue for sharp factional dis- 
pute in the League. However, we cannot support it any more than 
we could support it in the session of the plenum. 

322 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

14. The editorship of the Militant. In view of the liquidation of 
disputed issues at the plenum, comrade Abern thereupon pro- 
posed toward the end of the sessions that comrade Shachtman 
resume the post of editor of the Militant, which he formerly held. 
All the comrades of the committee, as well as comrade Trotsky in 
his letters here, had previously declared that there were no politi- 
cal objections to comrade Shachtman's continuation in the edito- 
rial post. Although comrade Abern's motion failed to carry at the 
plenum on its first presentation, comrade Cannon announced at 
the same session that, having reconsidered the question, he would 
also propose that comrade Shachtman resume his former posi- 
tion. The plenum as a whole thereupon voted favorably upon the 
proposal. This action, like the resolutions on the international 
question and the New York branch, helps to remove another source 
of difference in the committee and makes possible the consolida- 
tion and functioning of the committee on a collective basis. 

15. The Toronto branch dispute. In the discussion which followed 
the reports of comrades Krehm and Spector on the situation in 
the Toronto branch, the plenum decided to support the political 
tendency represented by comrade Spector and to reject the stand- 
point of the other section of the Toronto branch. The resolution 
on this question will make it possible to cement and strengthen 
the Opposition in Toronto and throughout Canada, laying the basis 
for a reunification of the branch and the development toward an 
increasingly autonomous and eventually independent Opposition 
section, such as was originally visualized in the Constitution of 
the League. 

16. The Engels controversy. The plenum took no position on the 
controversy over Engels' foreword of 1895. It did, however, make 
provisions for an objective discussion of the historical and theo- 
retical aspects of the dispute, unmarred by polemical, internal 
sharpness such as has prevented the League from deriving the 
maximum of educational value from the controversy. 

The unavoidable preoccupation of the plenum with internal 
disputes did not make it possible to take up a number of impor- 
tant questions of our work in general. This defect can be over- 
come most speedily and effectively if the discussion which is to 

What Position Will You Take? 323 

follow in the branches is organized in an objective manner, calmly, 
and without acrimoniousness or sharpening of the situation, and 
if it is dominated by the desire, expressed by all comrades, to pre- 
vent the crisis with which we were threatened and which the ple- 
num took the first important steps to liquidate. Such a discussion 
will be of benefit to the League, particularly if it comes out of it 
with serried ranks and a conviction that the basis exists and must 
be broadened for a rapid progress of our movement in this coun- 
try. All developments point to increased possibilities for the growth 
of the Opposition, for more energetic intervention in the class 
struggle for which the past propagandistic work has prepared us. 
If we act in accordance with the responsibilities that confront us, 
we will be able to utilize these possibilities to their maximum for 
the furtherance of our cause. 

4- > ^ 

What Position Will You Take? 

Letter by Max Shachtman to John Edwards 373 
3 July 1932 

On the same day Shachtman wrote similar letters to Carl Cowl in 
Minneapolis and Maurice Spector in Toronto. On July 4 Glotzer wrote 
a report to Trotsky, enclosing the plenum statements of both groups. 374 

Despite the promising results of the plenum, matters have 
now taken a distinct turn to the worse. At the plenum we man- 
aged to liquidate— to all intents and purposes— a number of the 
most pressing questions, and in order to avoid the onus of a fac- 
tional struggle which Cannon threatened, we withdrew our prin- 
cipal document from the records and retreated on some other 
questions. Cowl must have informed you of the details on this 
phase of the discussions. However, on June 25, Cannon proposed 
a statement on the plenum's results to be sent out to the mem- 
bership, with which we could not, of course, agree. It was the same 
old stuff in politer form. They granted us the right to send out a 
statement of our own and on June 30, when we handed in the 
enclosed document (which I send you confidentially), we were 

324 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

subjected to one of the most violent attacks conceivable. You can 
read it and see how moderately its language is couched. Never- 
theless, justified as we still believe we are in its contents as well, 
they demanded that we withdraw it from the records, under threat 
of a factional fight. We refused; we have withdrawn and retreated 
sufficiently in the interests of League unity, but we have now 
reached a point where it has become impossible for us to retreat 
any further merely on Cannon's threats without wiping ourselves 
off the face of the organization. What Cannon is concerned with 
is the crushing of any opponent whose head comes above water, 
and that is why his motion (which I also enclose) was presented, 
which will in all likelihood be carried by the rest of the commit- 
tee. We voted against it, of course, since we oppose a convention 
now or a factional struggle, given the absence of clearly defined 
political divergences. But if Cannon forces us into it and tries, as 
he is trying, to make the international question the issue (when it 
was thoroughly liquidated at the plenum, by their own admis- 
sion)— then we have no other course but to fight the thing out. 

You have your own ideas about Cannon's "maneuvering supe- 
riority" in an internal fight and I don't intend to argue the point 
here. But it is hardly involved here. It sometimes takes only one to 
launch a fight, and considering Cannon's determination to "liqui- 
date us," the fight appears to be unavoidable now that it has been 
opened up. That is why I must once more bring up the question 
of the position you will take. I am not engaging in empty flattery 
when I say that your influence, particularly in the Chicago 
branch, is of the highest importance in the dispute and I am 
anxious that it shall be exercised properly, and by properly I mean 
that it would be hurtful to the interests of the League if you were 
to adopt a passive or semipassive attitude now. I have no doubt 
that Oehler, who has adopted a most distinctly factional attitude 
here in favor of Cannon, has been writing his views to the Chicago 
comrades, and will continue to do so even if they have decided to 
have him stay in New York as paid local organizer. That is why it 
becomes imperative now that you explain some of the basic ques- 
tions involved to the leading Chicago comrades at least. You know 
quite well the important questions that lie behind many of the 
superficial issues of the moment; you know what Cannon repre- 
sents and why Swabeck, Dunne, and Skoglund support him. And 
now that Cannon has forced an open factional struggle, it is nee- 

A Great Relief 325 

essary to enlighten the active comrades, particularly Giganti and 
the leading youth comrades, of what is what. We are counting upon 
you to act in the spirit you expressed in your recent letters. And 
we want you to write us forthwith about your views and sugges- 
tions. Best regards from Marty and Al. 

4 ^ ^ 

A Great Relief 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to Max Shachtman 375 
4 July 1932 

Here Trotsky replies to a June 18 letter by Shachtman that enclosed a 
copy of his plenum statement on international questions.™ Shachtman 
assured Trotsky that he had not written to anyone in the Spanish section 
about the disputes. 

Your letter of June 18 was a great relief to me in all respects. 
First, I hope that our friendly relationship will now develop fur- 
ther, undisturbed and with enhanced mutual openness. Second, 
the fact that the disputed issues were decided unanimously at the 
plenum and that you personally were reelected unanimously as 
editor of the Militant is a guarantee that in the future the League 
will be united and march with closed ranks. Third, your statement 
on the international issues in conjunction with the plenum's 
decision is of the utmost importance for the resolution of the Span- 
ish question, which at present worries me most of all. The more 
resolute the international public opinion of our organization 
toward the obvious political mistakes of the Spanish section, the 
more hope there will be that the Spanish comrades will be aided 
in returning to the correct path without personal convulsions. 
Unfortunately, the most difficult thing in collaborating with the 
leading comrades in Madrid and Barcelona is that they always 
regard a programmatic rebuttal or a political criticism only from 
a purely personal standpoint, thus making debate difficult in the 
extreme. If I ask them: For what political reasons did they do this 
or that? They answer me: We have the right to our own opinion— 
as if someone were disputing this right and as if it were not a 

326 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

question of what concrete use one makes of this right in a con- 
crete case. 

Really healthy party democracy presupposes a certain public 
opinion that has crystallized through common experience. With- 
out this foundation one would have to start at the beginning every 
time, and that is the case with the Spanish comrades: Instead of 
learning from our previous experience, they want to force us to 
begin again with the first letter of the alphabet. 

^ ^ ^ 

Reply of the National Committee 
to the Minority Statement 

by James P. Cannon 
14 July 1932 

Submitted to the resident committee and adopted on July 14 against the 
vote ofShachtman, Abern, and Glotzer, this document was published in 
CLA Internal Bulletin no. 2 (July 1932). 

The statement of comrades Abern, Glotzer, and Shachtman 
which purports to give an account of the proceedings and results 
of the plenum in reality distorts and falsifies them. It attempts to 
represent the plenum— which rejected their standpoint on all the 
essential questions— as a vindication of their rejected position. By 
this fact they demonstrate that the changes of position which they 
made at the plenum deserve to be considered merely as diplo- 
matic maneuvers and cannot be accepted in good faith. The real 
aim of the statement is to circumvent the plenum, to restore the 
state of affairs in the committee to that which obtained before 
the plenum, and to hold together a factional grouping in the 
League as a support for such an attitude. 

The International Questions 

On this point— the most important issue in dispute— the state- 
ment says: "It was shown that, in spite of contrary assertions, a unani- 
mous line exists in the committee" (our emphasis). 

NC Reply to Minority 327 

In this presentation of the question they seek to pass off the 
most serious disputes in the committee as nothing at all, as mere 
"contrary assertions" against comrades who were in full agreement 
with the standpoint of the plenum all along. This is a complete 
falsification of the whole matter. It is an attempt to deceive the 
membership in order to cover up comrade Shachtman, who 
brought his factional war against the National Committee into the 
open in protest against the position taken on the international 

Here again, as in the five-months' conflict which preceded 
the plenum, comrades Abern and Glotzer are playing the perni- 
cious role of "friends" and "protectors" of comrade Shachtman, 
instead of responsible communist leaders seeking to clarify policy 
in order to protect the interests of the movement. In this they only 
follow the example of comrade Shachtman, who got himself in- 
volved in such fatal blunders and brought so much harm to the 
European sections of the Left Opposition out of personal consid- 
erations and sympathies for individuals who obstructed the 
development of the Opposition by their careerist aims and worth- 
less intrigues. The fatal logic of personal clique formations is 
illustrated in every line of the deceitful statement of Shachtman, 
Abern, and Glotzer. 

Yes, from a formal standpoint "a unanimous line exists in the 
committee" on the international questions. This "was shown" at 
the plenum by the unanimous adoption of the resolution. But only 
after Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer had retreated from their previous 
standpoint and voted for the original resolution of the National Com- 
mittee. That is why there is a "unanimous line." 

But instead of saying so, openly and honestly, in the manner 
of communists who are sincerely attempting to rectify an error 
and safeguard against its repetition, comrade Shachtman seeks a 
way out of the difficulty by the simple expedient of denying that 
there ever were any differences. In this unworthy stratagem he 
has the assistance and support of comrades Abern and Glotzer, 
whose "protection" of comrade Shachtman had already led them 
to cooperate with him in the obstruction of the committee's 
intervention on the international questions for five months before 
the plenum. By their explanation of the plenum decisions, their 
whole conduct there— including their vote for the NC resolution 
on the international question— stamps itself as a maneuver to gain 

328 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

time and shield themselves from a direct condemnation by 
the plenum. 

The differences over the international questions, which were 
quite fundamental ones, have been so completely and so convinc- 
ingly established in the documents and records of the committee 
that no ground is left for doubt as to how matters really stood 
before the plenum. In the document of March 22, entitled "Inter- 
nal Problems of the Communist League of America," signed by 
comrades Swabeck and Cannon, the origin and essence of this 
dispute, which comrade Shachtman has tried to sidetrack with his 
venomous polemic in defense of Carter, was clearly outlined. 377 
Comrades who wish to trace the dispute to its roots are referred 
to this document, which retains its validity in all respects. In order 
to avoid repetition we shall limit ourselves here to the citation of 
records and documentary proofs which show how false are the 
present contentions of comrade Shachtman about mere misunder- 
standings and "contrary assertions"— to say nothing of outright 
"frame-ups"— of which he was the victim. 

The first "contrary assertion" in regard to the position of com- 
rade Shachtman on the situation in the European sections was 
made by comrade Trotsky. And his indictment did not concern 
itself at all with merely episodic questions, but with the whole course 
of comrade Shachtman in the International Left Opposition, with 
his failure to recognize the conflict of tendencies, with his unwill- 
ingness to draw any conclusions from the long struggles against 
the elements of disintegration, of shoddy careerism and intrigue, 
and his consequent direct and indirect support of these elements. 
Moreover, the protests of comrade Trotsky were not made once 
but several times; they were never in the least heeded by comrade 
Shachtman; and on the very day the plenum opened, a letter from 
comrade Trotsky returned again, in more emphatic terms than 
before, to his criticism of the international position of comrade 

The conduct of comrade Shachtman since his return from 
Europe— his contrary votes and his stubborn attempts to sabotage 
the passing and the publication of the NC resolution on the 
question, his virulent factional attacks and his attempts to shift 
the dispute to other, far less important questions— only tended to 
confirm the accusations of comrade Trotsky and not to refute them. 
These letters of comrade Trotsky are submitted as documentary 

NC Reply to Minority 329 

material with this bulletin. Included also is the lengthy letter of 
comrade Shachtman to comrade Trotsky from Paris on the date 
of 1 December 1931. Here we quote a few extracts from this 
material. 378 

Under date of 25 December 1931 comrade Trotsky wrote to 
the committee: 

My efforts to find a common language with him (Shachtman) in 
the most disputed European questions were never crowned with suc- 
cess. It always appeared to me that comrade Shachtman was, and 
still is, guided in these questions, which were somewhat more re- 
mote from America, more by personal and journalistic sympathies 
than by fundamental political considerations. 

You will, however, have to understand that it is not taken very pleas- 
antly here when comrade Shachtman, at the acutest moment, adopts 
a position which completely counteracts the struggle which the pro- 
gressive elements of the Opposition have been conducting for a long 
time and upon the basis of which a certain selection took place, 
and which appears to be covered by the authority of the American section 
(our emphasis). 

On 25 December 1931 comrade Trotsky wrote to comrade 

Unfortunately, you have answered nothing to my objections to your 
conduct in Europe. In the meantime, I had to take a position against 
you also openly, without, at all events, calling you by name, in a cir- 
cular to the sections. I must establish regretfully that you have drawn 
absolutely no conclusions from the bad experience, beginning with 
the international conference of April 1930. The difficult situation 
in the French Ligue is, to a certain degree, due thanks also to you, 
for directly or indirectly you always supported those elements which 
acted like a brake or destructively, like the Naville group. You now 
transfer your support to Mill-Felix, who have absolutely not stood 
the test in any regard. 

What you say about the German Opposition sounds like an echo 
of your old sympathies for Landau, which the German comrades 
do not want to forget and rightly so. In the struggle which we led 
here against the accidental burned-out or downright demoralized 
elements, you, dear Shachtman, were never on our side, and those 
concerned (Rosmer, Naville, Landau, and now Mill) always felt them- 
selves covered in a high measure by the American League. I by no 
means believe that the American League bears the responsibility 
for it, but I do find it necessary to send a copy of this letter to the 
American National Committee so that at least in the future our 
European struggle may be less influenced by your personal connec- 
tions, sympathies, etc. 

330 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Again on 5 January 1932 comrade Trotsky wrote to the 

My concern becomes still more heightened by the fact that com- 
rade Shachtman has not replied to the letters and warnings on my 
part and on the part of close friends, and that comrade Glotzer, 
too, who promised me to call comrade Shachtman to order a little, 
did not take up this matter by a single word. I had the impression 
that both of them, Shachtman and Glotzer, stood under the impres- 
sion of the small Jewish Group in Paris and completely overlooked 
the Opposition movement in Europe. 

In a word, clarification of the situation on your part is absolutely 

On 19 May 1932 to the National Committee: 

I am very glad you have taken a firm position on the international 

On the internal dispute in the American League I do not as yet 
take a position because I have not had an opportunity to study the 
question with sufficient attentiveness. When I take a position I will 
try not to allow myself to be influenced in advance by the false and 
damaging position of comrade Shachtman in all the international 
questions, almost without exception. On the other hand, however, 
it is not easy to assume that one can be correct in the most impor- 
tant national questions, when one is always wrong in the most impor- 
tant international questions. 

So much for the vile insinuation that the dispute over the in- 
ternational questions arose as a result of assertions falsely made 
against comrade Shachtman by other members of the committee. From 
the above quotations it is perfectly clear that the opposition to 
comrade Shachtman's position came most decisively from com- 
rade Trotsky, who was in a far better position to keep track of the 
international activities and connections of comrade Shachtman 
than was the National Committee, which he did not find it neces- 
sary to consult. But the conflict over the international questions 
in the National Committee, which comrade Shachtman carried 
into the membership on other pretexts, did not by any means rest 
solely on the letters of comrade Trotsky. There is a clearly estab- 
lished record of actions, votes, and abstentions from voting which 
all go to supplement and confirm the apprehension expressed by 
comrade Trotsky. Consider this record in contrast to the subter- 
fuge about mere "contrary assertions." 

1. On 13 January 1932 the National Committee declared that 
comrade Shachtman's views on the disputes in the European sec- 

NC Reply to Minority 331 

tions had been put forward by himself as an individual without 
consulting the National Committee and that it took no responsi- 
bility for them. Comrade Shachtman abstained from voting and resigned 
his position as editor of the Militant. Comrade Glotzer wrote into 
the record of the meeting: "In order to clarify my position, particu- 
larly because I have returned almost at the same time with comrade 
Shachtman, I want to state that my views on the international situation 
are not in accord with his" (minutes of the NC, 13 January 1932). 

2. On February 3 the committee adopted a motion expressing dis- 
agreement with the nomination of Mill as a member of the Inter- 
national Secretariat by the Spanish section. Comrade Shachtman 
voted against (minutes of the NC, 3 February 1932). 

3. On February 1 7 the committee passed a motion to adopt a reso- 
lution on the situation in the International Left Opposition, "The 
resolution draft by comrade Glotzer to be taken as a basis and the 
outlined points submitted by comrade Cannon to be incorporated 
for the final resolution." Comrade Shachtman voted against (min- 
utes of the NC, 17 February 1932). 

4. At the meeting of March 7 comrade Shachtman began his open 
factional attack against Swabeck and Cannon, on the Carter-Engels 
dispute, in the presence of New York branch members, rejecting 
motions to consider the matter first in a closed session! There he 
first advanced the idea that the international disputes were a 
"frame-up" against him. There also he rejected for the second time 
the proposal that he return to his post as editor of the Militant 
(minutes of the NC, 7 March 1932). 

5. At the meeting of March 15 comrade Glotzer refused to accept 
the combination of his draft resolution and the outlined points 
of comrade Cannon, which he had previously agreed to. Comrade 
Abern also submitted a separate draft. Comrade Shachtman abstained 
on all drafts. 

Thus all resolutions failed of a majority in the resident com- 
mittee and a delaying referendum of the full committee became 
necessary before the position of the NC could be established 
(minutes of the NC, 15 March 1932). 

6. On April 18 it was reported at the committee meeting that the 
international resolution had received a majority of the votes in 
the full committee. A motion carried to send it to the branches 

332 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

and ask them to proceed with the discussion and record their 
opinions. Comrade Shachtman abstained. Comrade Glotzer and 
Abern insisted on sending out their own draft resolutions to the 
branches along with the official resolution, an action which was 
bound to create, and it did create, confusion in the branches and 
militated against a mobilization of the membership in support of 
the official resolution. Motion carried to print the official resolu- 
tion in the Militant. Comrade Shachtman voted against (minutes of 
the NC, 18 April 1932). 

In the face of this record, how can anyone seriously maintain 
that there was no previous objection to the international resolu- 
tion on the part of comrade Shachtman? And how, likewise, can 
it be denied that comrades Abern and Glotzer, who were "not in 
accord" with his position, nevertheless assisted him at every step 
in his opposition and obstruction? In addition, there were many 
occasions, not recorded in the minutes, when comrade Shachtman 
frankly stated his disagreement with the resolution, his objection 
to publishing it in the Militant, his opinion that we were "too hasty" 
and that we would regret it, etc. As a matter of fact it was not until 
the last day of the plenum that comrade Shachtman— after days of 
debate— informed us of his agreement with the resolution and his 
readiness to vote for it. 

This correction of position can be welcomed and was wel- 
comed by the plenum. It motivated the plenum in refraining from 
passing a resolution of condemnation and in its attitude of con- 
ciliation with the comrades of the minority. But when it is now 
maintained that the most important factor in the disruption of 
the resident committee— the dispute over the international ques- 
tions—was not a real dispute but a manufactured one, and that 
the plenum only straightened out a misunderstanding, it can only 
raise the most serious doubts as to the reality of the agreement 
arrived at. It deprives the organization of any assurance against 
the repetition of the errors at the next turn in developments. This 
is precisely the worst feature of the practice of changing a posi- 
tion without frankly saying so and saying why: It leaves the door 
open for a return to the abandoned policy at any time. We can 
hardly condemn the Stalinists for this practice with any consis- 
tency if we tolerate it in our own ranks. 

The attempt of the statement of the minority comrades to 
explain the change of position by reference to the resolution 

NC Reply to Minority 333 

introduced by comrade Spector, which, they say, "represented our 
point of view," is no explanation at all. Comrade Spector's resolu- 
tion follows completely the line of the original NC resolution and 
does not contradict it at any point. It deals also with some new 
matters which have arisen since the adoption of the original reso- 
lution and takes the position on them in accordance with its fun- 
damental line. For these reasons it was accepted by the plenum, 
not as a substitute but as "supplementary and further elaboration of 
the NC resolution already adopted" (minutes of the plenum). 

The fault of comrade Shachtman's position on the interna- 
tional questions of the Left Opposition was not incidental or epi- 
sodic; they concerned his approach to the whole problem and his 
inability to draw the necessary conclusions from the long process 
of internal struggle in the European sections. One only needs to 
read what he has written on the subject to convince himself of 
this. If it is assumed for the moment that comrade Trotsky may 
have been mistaken in his judgment as to the position of comrade 
Shachtman and that the attitude recorded in the minutes of the 
committee does not indicate what it seems to indicate, then turn 
to the lengthy letter of comrade Shachtman to comrade Trotsky 
under date of 1 December 1932, which is included as material in 
this bulletin. What he said there, as well as what he left unsaid, 
proves conclusively that his letter has nothing in common with 
the resolution of the NC. 

The NC resolution regards the struggle in the French Ligue 
as a conflict of tendencies and takes a firm position in favoring 
one and against the others. Comrade Shachtman's letter estimates 
the matter from the standpoint of episodic disputes of the day, 
overlooking the conflict of tendencies and giving no support to 
the more revolutionary current at the moment when international 
support was the most decisive necessity. 

He devotes most of his criticism to the leadership of the French 
Ligue, shields the Mill-Felix group and minimizes its mistakes, and 
refrains from criticism of the Naville group altogether. And from 
this he concludes that the present leadership of the French Ligue 
should be replaced by a "concentration" leadership, in which the 
Mill-Felix group and the Naville group will participate and pre- 
vent the "domination" of the present leading group. If you see 
the situation in the French Ligue as a conflict of tendencies, as 
the NC resolution estimates it, the proposal of comrade Shachtman 

334 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

has to be regarded as a fundamental error, which would make 
confusion worse confounded and, in effect, support the faction struggle 
of the Mill-Felix and Naville group. 

The NC resolution says, "The leadership of the German sec- 
tion, which has taken shape in the struggle against Landau and 
his sterile factional regime, must be given all possible international 
assistance and support in its tremendous responsibilities and 
opportunities." Shachtman's letter deprecates the abilities of the 
German leadership in such a way that it called for the reply of 
Trotsky: "What you say about the German Opposition sounds like 
an echo of your old sympathies for Landau, which the German 
comrades do not want to forget and rightly so." 

The NC resolution demands a collective participation in the 
affairs of the European sections. It says: 

In order for the League to be useful in the solution of the interna- 
tional problems of the European sections and to educate itself in 
internationalism in the process, it must firmly organize a collective 
participation. The NC as a whole must familiarize itself with 
the international questions and bring a collective judgment to bear 
upon them. 

The letter of comrade Shachtman and his general course of action 
in Europe, regarding which he neither informed nor consulted 
the committee, are a shining example of the purely personal and 
individualistic method of dealing with the affairs of the interna- 
tional Opposition which brought such harmful results. 

The vote of comrade Shachtman for the NC resolution can 
have a real significance only insofar as it represents a complete 
reversal of the position taken in his letter. As long as he does not 
see that, as long as he does not frankly acknowledge it, he gives 
no assurance against the return to the direct or indirect support 
of the disintegrating elements at the first superficial change in 
the situation. 

The New York Branch Situation 

The attitude of the plenum toward the situation in the New 
York branch— the second major question of dispute in the resident 
committee— was also decidedly different from the representation 
made in the statement of the minority comrades, Abern, 
Shachtman, and Glotzer. In this case, as in the case of the inter- 
national questions, the claim is made that the position of com- 

NC Reply to Minority 335 

rade Shachtman and the others had been misrepresented and that 
the plenum discussion clarified matters and made possible a 
common effort for a "speedy solution" of the problem. This can 
hold good only to the extent that the minority comrades make a 
radical change in their preplenum attitude and adapt themselves 
to the resolution on this point worked out by the resident com- 
mittee on the instructions of the plenum. This resolution conforms 
to the analysis of the problem contained in the statement of com- 
rades Swabeck and Cannon, introduced into the NC on March 22 
("Internal Problems of the Communist League of America"). 

The Carter group, as defined in the resolution, is a crystalli- 
zation in the New York branch which obstructs its development 
and menaces its future. The dispute over this question was nei- 
ther the result of misunderstanding nor of misrepresentation, but 
rather, as in the international dispute, of a difference in approach, 
analysis, and conclusions. For a long time comrade Shachtman 
minimized the harmfulness of this group and in practice gave it 
direct and indirect support. His first open attack was made in 
defense of Carter (see the "Statement by Shachtman" dated March 
12). This was the signal for the opening of the faction struggle in 
the New York branch, during which comrades Shachtman, Abern, 
and Glotzer and those closest to them combined forces with the 
Carter group against us on every issue of dispute in meeting after 
meeting, both in the branch and in the branch executive commit- 
tee. At the opening of the plenum, comrade Swabeck demanded 
as a condition for agreement a common struggle against the Carter 
group, as well as a common support of the NC resolution on the 
international questions. This condition was fully supported by the 
plenum and remains unaltered. 

On the concluding day of the plenum comrade Shachtman 
submitted a statement on the Carter group— an annihilating 
political characterization, which was acceptable to us and was 
included in the final resolution on the question of the New York 
branch. But when it came to the point of drawing the logical con- 
clusion from such a characterization— to provide in a resolution 
for a militant political struggle, under the leadership of the NC, 
to free the branch from this paralyzing influence— comrades 
Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer drew back and sought to dissolve 
the whole question in meaningless words that would leave 

336 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

everything where it stood before and cancel the results of the 
plenum discussion. They refused to accept the resolution of the 
NC on the New York branch. 379 

In this action there is to be seen a striking parallel— and not 
by accident either— with the drawn-out course of ambiguity and 
evasion we encountered in our efforts to bring the whole commit- 
tee to a concrete and unmistakable standpoint on the international 
questions. And it raises very seriously again the question as to 
how their final vote for the international resolution of the NC is 
understood by them and what it will signify in practice. The fight 
against the elements of disintegration on an international scale 
and the corresponding support of the revolutionary groupings in 
the various sections is undoubtedly the foremost duty. Comrade 
Shachtman, according to his vote at the plenum, understands that 
now. But the European sections are far away. A resolution in re- 
gard to them costs nothing and may mean nothing. 

The test of one's understanding of the international policy 
and consistency in support of it arises concretely in connection 
with the analogous problems at home. The long internal struggle 
within the European sections has not been a struggle of persons. 
It has been a fight, on the one hand, to make a selection of the 
genuinely progressive and revolutionary elements in the Interna- 
tional Left Opposition and, on the other hand, to rid the move- 
ment of alien tendencies and influences. The refusal to see the 
problem in this light was at the root of the consistently false judg- 
ments of comrade Shachtman in the international field. A real 
correction of this basic error ought to manifest itself in a ready 
comprehension of the issues involved in the New York branch. 

The problem there is to consolidate a firm political nucleus 
and progressively to transform a heterogeneous body into a com- 
munist organization. The Carter group is the polar grouping which 
attracts around itself the politically weak and demoralized elements 
and disorientates the youth. A resolute fight against it follows in- 
escapably from the premise laid down in the international resolu- 
tion. The NC resolution on the situation in the New York branch 
is the complement to and the American translation of the inter- 
national resolution. Comrade Shachtman's present support of the 
first will have a weightier significance and will deserve to be taken 
more seriously when he discontinues his opposition to the second. 

By this it is nowise intended to represent the Carter grouping 

NC Reply to Minority 337 

as an exact duplication of this or that European group, nor in 
general to transplant the concrete struggles of any of the European 
sections to the American League in a mechanical and artificial 
way. We have in mind the essence of the problem which is more 
or less common to all sections of the international Opposition: 
The consolidation of the organization around a selection of the 
progressive and revolutionary elements in the course of a system- 
atic struggle against the "negative and harmful" tendencies of vari- 
ous kinds, each of which have their own peculiar and national 
characteristics. The thing is to see and understand the specific 
problem and danger in one's own organization and to deal with 
it concretely. Otherwise a hundred general resolutions on the 
faraway sections are meaningless. 

The Carter grouping is not as great a problem nor as great a 
danger as the groups of Landau-Naville and others proved to be 
in Europe, nor has it matured all the negative qualities of these 
groups. And it is not likely to do so. Or, at any rate, it is not likely 
to do as much harm to the League, although the potentialities 
are there. But this is to be attributed chiefly to the circumstance 
that for the past period a systematic struggle has been carried on 
against this group by a part of the NC, despite the interference 
and protection accorded to the group by comrade Shachtman, and 
in the course of this struggle a certain selection has already taken 
place. The group now stands formally condemned by the plenum, 
after a lengthy discussion in which its representative was heard. 
On that basis the struggle can and must be raised to a higher stage 
and brought to a successful conclusion. This is the way we under- 
stand the question. And that is the way we shall proceed, with or 
without the cooperation of the minority. 

The "negative and harmful characteristics" of the Carter group 
and the "bad influence" exerted by it "particularly on the younger 
comrades," which comrade Shachtman explained with sufficient 
lucidity in his statement to the plenum on the question, are not 
exaggerated by the NC and thereby elevated above their real pro- 
portions. No, it is the coddling and shielding of this group, the 
direct and indirect support given to it under guise of protest against 
the "clubbing of the youth," that nurtures and strengthens this 
group and draws out the process of liquidating its influence. Il is 
this attitude, maintained over a period of time by Shachtman, 
Abern, and Glotzer, that has magnified the issue and necessitated 

338 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

a direct intervention by the plenum of the NC. A united struggle 
of the entire NC along the lines of the adopted resolution would 
dispose of this obstruction in a comparatively short time and 
without convulsions in the branch. The shilly-shally policy of the 
minority comrades would prolong the difficulty, enlarge its scope, 
spread demoralization in the organization, and result in an inevi- 
table convulsion. 

For the Unity and Consolidation of the League 

The aim of every serious-minded and conscientious Opposi- 
tionist must be the consolidation of our organization and the pres- 
ervation of its unity for the great tasks that lie before us. This is 
the policy and the aim of the National Committee, which has been 
demonstrated in practice throughout the nearly four years of the 
existence of the American Opposition. The leadership has been 
successful up till now in maintaining the unity of the organiza- 
tion because it has understood that the foundation for unity can 
only be a common policy on the most important questions and a 
resolute struggle against divergences from it. The various attempts 
at disruption which we have seen (Fox, Weisbord, Malkin, etc.) 
were not frustrated by pacifism and personal diplomacy and pious 
appeal for peace at any price, but by uncompromising struggle 
against the elements of disintegration and the false conceptions 
they advanced. Our unity was won and confirmed in struggle, and 
so it will always be. 

They are wrong who see in the present situation, which threat- 
ens a faction struggle in the League, a problem of persons and 
personal relations which may be solved by diplomacy and by con- 
cessions here and there: We understand that personal relations are 
an important but nevertheless a secondary question. That is why 
the plenum, which was summoned together to deal with the con- 
flict in the resident committee, yielded absolutely nothing from 
the policy which it considered correct and necessary and then went 
to every reasonable length toward conciliation to the extent that 
its political demands were met. Every sign of a reawakening of the 
conflict in the membership discussion is due entirely and exclusively 
to the attempt of the minority to negate the conclusions of the 
plenum and to return to the positions they abandoned there. A 
conciliation on such a basis would be an artificial one and would 
only prepare the ground for deeper convulsions later on. 

NC Reply to Minority 339 

The statement of Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer speaks a 
great deal about unity and the avoidance of faction struggle, but 
the contentions in the document and their actions since the 
plenum speak a different language. And it is the actions which 
are most important and decisive, for they have a logic beyond the 
control of protestations and even of intentions. It is true that the 
tone of the new statement is more polite than the one heard in 
the polemics before and at the plenum. The foul accusations of 
"frame-up" with which comrade Shachtman poisoned the atmo- 
sphere of the committee a short while ago, the attempt to side- 
track the important issues in favor of personal, outlived, and sec- 
ondary questions, are moderated for the membership discussion 
into sly hints to the same effect. But the basic position which he 
maintained before, which brought about the conflict, is restated 
in the document. The content is there and it is not made more 
acceptable by the moderated form in which it is presented. 

In reality the statement does not speak for a liquidation of 
the faction struggle but for the postponement of it. The statement 
is the program for a truce, during which the worthless "issues" 
which they withdrew from the plenum will be kept alive in a con- 
cealed form and a faction grouping held together on that basis 
which would be a standing menace to the unity of the League. If 
the membership of the League allows itself to be deceived by such 
a stratagem, if it seeks to purchase a momentary peace on such a 
basis, it will only condemn the League to a long period of demor- 
alization which will lead the way to a real convulsion. The unity 
of the League must be asserted in the firm rejection of this attempt 
to circumvent the actions of the plenum. 

The unity of a communist organization is not realized by 
universal agreement, but by an organizational process, by discus- 
sion and decision and eventually by the subordination of the 
minority to the majority. Democratic centralism signifies not only 
discussion but also decision. The idea that decisions of the 
organization can be ignored, that endless discussion can proceed 
as though nothing had happened, has nothing in common with 
the communist principle of organization. A plenum of the National 
Committee is a highly important and significant affair. The League 
can allow it to be ignored only at the peril of its own disintegra- 
tion. Yet that is precisely what the statement of Abern, Glotzer, 
and Shachtman sets out to do. The attitude of the plenum did not 

340 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

suit them— therefore they appeal against it. The statement even 
goes so far as to polemicize against the decision of the national 
conference on the composition of the NC. They hint at all kinds 
of "differences" which they did not ask the plenum to decide. And 
all the time they protest that they do not want a factional struggle 
in the League and do not consider a conference necessary. How 
can a communist organization tolerate such an attitude? 

If a conference is not needed and not demanded, then it is 
self-evident that the unity of the organization has to rest on the 
decision of the plenum. One cannot face both ways on this ques- 
tion. The appeal of the minority against the plenum— the decisions 
of which are concretized and guaranteed by the co-optations— is 
an appeal to repudiate the National Committee, to deprive it of 
the necessary, to make it dependent in its decisions on the agree- 
ment of the minority, and thereby to paralyze its work. To com- 
bine such an understanding with pious expressions about the desire 
for unity in the organization and a "functioning collaboration in 
the leading committee" is a cynical mockery. It is factionalism in 
the worst possible form. The League must speak categorically 
against it. 

For or against the decisions of the plenum— that is the way 
the minority puts the question in its statement. The National Com- 
mittee has no choice but to accept it and to call upon the mem- 
bership to reinforce the plenum decisions with their approval. All 
the material is submitted for the discussion. The questions must 
be gone into deeply. They must be firmly and deliberately decided. 
The greatest menace to the organization will come from any sort 
of ambiguity, from any tendency to leave the questions undecided. 
From that demoralization would inevitably follow. Against that we 
appeal to the comrades for the firm consolidation of the unity of 
the League, for the establishment of discipline and the concen- 
tration of the membership on the new program of activity on the 
basis of the plenum decisions and under the leadership of the National 


Molinier's Personality Is Not the Issue 

Letter by Max Shachtman to Andres Nin 380 
19 July 1932 

First of all I must apologize for never having written to you since 
I left Barcelona; our mutual occupation with work since then has 
undoubtedly prevented us from opening up the correspondence 
about which we spoke when we met. And I must tell you candidly 
that I am impelled to write to you now (however briefly) because 
of the uneasiness I feel over the developments recently manifested 
in the Spanish Opposition. While I have not at hand all the infor- 
mation I would desire, I nevertheless have read enough of the 
correspondence that has passed between the Spanish center of 
the Opposition and comrade Trotsky, plus other documents, to 
strengthen the impressions I had at the time I visited Spain and 
France last year. Since my name has been mentioned and used in 
this connection, I feel it necessary to write to you about my opin- 
ion so that the utmost clarity may exist on this score. If I make 
some criticisms of the course that the Spanish comrades have 
pursued in this connection, be assured that they are motivated by 
a concern for the cause in which we are commonly interested. 

On the surface, it appears that the dispute in which you are 
involved with the other sections of the International Left Opposi- 
tion centers around the situation within the French Ligue. On this 
question, I believe that the leading Spanish comrades have adopted 
a false or, at best, an ambiguous position. When I was in Madrid, 
I urged comrades Lacroix and Andrade that they (that is, the whole 
organization) must participate more actively in the internal life of 
the Opposition, particularly of the European Opposition; that to 
this end, the whole Spanish organization must be kept informed 
about events in our inner life through the medium of an internal 
bulletin. The objections of these comrades were that the "Span- 
ish Opposition must not be dragged into such disputes," etc. I got 
the impression from them (and, I must add, also from you) that 
they regarded the struggle inside the French Ligue in particular 

342 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

as an unprincipled personal quarrel, centering around the per- 
sonality of comrade Molinier. You will recall that I agreed with 
some of the criticisms made by all the comrades of the personal 
characteristics of comrade Molinier. At the same time, I warned 
the comrades, especially in Madrid, that they showed the tendency 
to make comrade Molinier responsible for all the difficulties and 
errors made by the Spanish Opposition. I believe that the Span- 
ish comrades have substituted a personal consideration for a politi- 
cal judgment of the important struggle inside the French Ligue. 
This line of conduct has brought them to a false position. 

What is important in the internal developments in our little 
international is not whether this comrade or that one has good 
or bad personal characteristics, or makes this or that mistake. The 
important thing is the political tendency he represents and the 
political attitude we adopt toward him, and toward the individu- 
als or groups opposing him, and the political motivations on which 
we base ourselves. At the time I was in Paris, I thought for a short 
time that the "way out" of the internal situation was a "concentra- 
tion leadership" of all the groups. I was mistaken in this idea and 
after some time I informed the comrades that I no longer shared 
it. For its execution would put the French Ligue back to a stage 
which it has already passed. The present leadership in the Ligue 
may not be the "best" directing group in the abstract, but it repre- 
sents the result of an internal process of revolutionary develop- 
ment, grouped together in the course of the struggle against other 
more or less clearly defined tendencies. And it is in this charac- 
terization of the Ligue's development that I fail to find the Span- 
ish comrades having taken a clear position— and a clear position 
is now more necessary than ever. 

If one leaves out of consideration secondary, episodic, and sub- 
ordinate phases of the struggle, it must be recognized that the fight 
against the group of intellectuals (Collinet, etc.) and Rosmer was a 
progressive struggle against intellectualistic and semisyndicalistic 
elements. The struggle against Naville and his friends bore the same 
stamp, for Naville revealed himself most clearly on two decisive 
points: in the struggle against Landau's miserable intrigues, where 
he took an arch-"diplomatic" position, and in relation with the 
"Gauche Communiste" where he took a no less typically Navillist 
attitude. I do not know now just what Naville's position is at the 
present time, and it is not of very great consequence, because I 

Molinier's Personality Not the Issue 343 

believe he plays with important political questions. Or, take the 
leadership of the "groupejuif" [Jewish Group] and comrade Mill. 
You know that I have a regard for some of comrade Mill's quali- 
ties, but the fact remains that he has not measured up to his task 
in the most important respects. Regardless of personal consider- 
ations, which take a subordinate place in this respect, he has ori- 
entated himself— or rather disorientated himself— in a completely 
false position in the Ligue. Toward the very end of the fight against 
Rosmer he completely compromised and discredited himself and 
the Jewish Group by the letter they sent Rosmer— semisyndicalist 
and supporter of the Opposition's enemy, Landau— inviting him 
to lead the fight against Molinier! All of this you know better than 
I. The question which the Spanish comrades must answer is not 
whether they are for or against this or that phase of Molinier's 
personality, but if they are for or against Rosmer, Naville, Mili- 
ar^ on what political grounds. 

At one time you voted to make comrade Mill your representa- 
tive in the International Secretariat. Our National Committee here 
voted against this nomination. I voted against the other comrades 
here, not because I agreed with your nomination but because I 
did not want to appear to deny the Spanish comrades the right to 
make their own selection. But that right is not the important thing, 
nor does anyone question it or deny it. What is important is the 
political reasons which motivate such a nomination. This the Span- 
ish comrades did not and do not give. Yet it is necessary. Rosmer, 
Naville, Landau, Mill— these represent certain tendencies inside 
and outside the International Left Opposition. The majority of 
the national sections, which have taken a stand against these groups 
and individuals, represent a different political tendency. On which 
side do the Spanish comrades stand? 

You know, I suppose, that the paper of the "Gauche Com- 
muniste" in Paris has publicly speculated on the differences of the 
Spanish comrades with the International Secretariat and the other 
sections. Rosmer and his friends are openly hinting (is that not 
clear?) that the Madrid conference showed "friendliness" to them. 
Have the Spanish comrades repudiated these claims and hints 
publicly? I hope so, for otherwise they would compromise the Span- 
ish Opposition. Ambiguity in such questions as I raise is some- 
times the first door to a deep internal crisis, which I hope the 
Spanish section will be able to avoid in time. 

344 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

There is one other phase of the internal disputes particularly 
in the recent life of the European Opposition, which is not of 
insignificance. Underneath the surface of the clique fighting and 
machinations of Paz, Urbahns, Frey, Landau, Rosmer, Naville (to 
a clearer extent also the Prometeo Group), etc., has been the 
attempt to establish in the International Left Opposition a "new 
leadership" in place of that which we recognize in the cadres of 
the Russian Opposition. To this attempt, all these elements have 
a "right." Only it must be done openly and in the name of a dis- 
tinct and avowed platform. And what platform could these mot- 
ley elements offer? What platform have they offered? Not one of 
them has stood the test in any important question. To support 
them in any way, even indirectly and involuntarily, means to oppose 
the line that the Russian and international Oppositions have 
followed up to now. The Prometeoists do this openly, it must be 
admitted, on the question of "democratic demands," the united 
front, etc., and they are fundamentally wrong. The others also do 
it, not so openly, but with equally fundamental wrongness. The 
present position of the Spanish leading comrades puts them at 
best in an ambiguous position. 

Finally, you know that certain elements naming themselves 
"Left Oppositionists" in Europe advocate a "universal" congress 
of the Opposition, which would include those elements and groups 
with which we have already broken in the past. I cannot imagine a 
more ludicrous idea. This proposal means that we shall start all 
over again and go once more through the process of purging which 
rid us of Urbahns, Van Overstraeten, Rosmer, et tutti quanti [and 
all the others]. If it does not mean this, it has no meaning at all. 
The American League is unanimously opposed to such a sterile 
proposition. I hope that the Spanish comrades will take an equally 
firm stand against it. 

In all of these observations, I repeat, I am actuated by the 
desire to clarify the situation and advance the cause of the inter- 
national Opposition. The Spanish Opposition should intervene 
more actively— and from a correct standpoint— in the life of the 
other sections; the other sections must intervene in the life of the 
Spanish Opposition. It is in this way that the essence of true inter- 
nationalism will be served. Perhaps this personal letter from a 
friendly critic will contribute toward that end. 

Trotsky on Field and Weisbord 345 

With best wishes to all the Barcelona comrades whose acquain- 
tance I was fortunate to make, I send you warmest Opposition 

PS: Will you be kind enough to communicate my views also to 
comrade Lacroix? I am afraid he has created a wrong impression 
in the minds of some comrades (particularly comrade Gonzales 
in New York) by implying that I am in agreement with him on the 
French Ligue, and I have written him a few lines about my disas- 
sociation from such a standpoint. At the same time I am taking 
the liberty of sending a copy of this letter to comrade L. Trotsky 
for his information. 

^ ^ ^ 

A Reply on Field and Weisbord 

Letter by Leon Trotsky to the 
CLA National Committee 381 

20 October 1932 

On October 6 the resident committee unanimously approved a letter 
to Trotsky, protesting his public collaboration with B.J. Field, who had 
been expelled from the CLA's New York branch earlier that year for 
indiscipline.™ 2 This is Trotsky's reply. 

A statistician by training, after his expulsion Field traveled to 
Prinkipo and aided Trotsky, who was then gathering data for a pro- 
jected book on American capitalism. While in Prinkipo, Field wrote sev- 
eral articles about the prospects for an upturn in the international 
economy. Trotsky wrote an introduction and circulated the articles for 
discussion in the ILO. Field's letters were published by some European 
ILO sections. 

Cannon was particularly concerned about the Field case because it 
came shortly after Trotsky 's intervention in the case of Weisbord, who 
earlier in the year also visited Prinkipo. After searching discussions with 
Trotsky, Weisbord abandoned his call for a bloc with the Right Opposi- 
tion, and Trotsky then requested that the CLA seek a rapprochement 
with Weisbord 's Communist League of Struggle. The CLS wrote a letter 
addressing Trotsky's programmatic concerns and the CLA National 

346 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Committee published a lengthy response, recognizing that the CLS had 
made "a partial turn in the direction of the Left Opposition, " but insist- 
ing, "The Weisbord group has made a retreat from its old position, but 
it has done so in the worst possible way-without criticizing its former 
position or acknowledging its falsity." The NC sought another CLS state- 
ment to "more seriously and more satisfactorily constitute a revision of 
its ideological baggage, especially on the questions of centrism and the 
bloc with the right wing. " 383 

The NC's demand for clarification was not controversial in the resi- 
dent committee. 384 Cannon, however, feared that Trotsky might demand 
more from the CLA. He wrote Dunne, "The action of comrade Trotsky 
in dealing independently with Weisbord-and I must say in misjudging 
and inflating the importance of this mountebank-created a new prob- 
lem, or rather revived one that had been well disposed of" He drew from 
the Weisbord and Field affairs "some very serious misgivings, not only 
in regard to our relations with the International Secretariat and with 
comrade Trotsky, but also in regard to the whole functioning of the Left 
Opposition as a real organization." 385 Cannon was very relieved to receive 
this letter. 

This is in reply to your letter of 7 October 1932 on the Field 

1. You seem to make a certain connection between the Field ques- 
tion and the Weisbord question. Therefore I must begin with the 

The Weisbord group formally appealed to the International 
Secretariat to intervene. Weisbord came to me on his own initiative. 
The International Secretariat wanted to know my opinion on this 
question, and I had no formal basis to avoid expressing my opin- 
ion, nor did I see a political reason to do so. It goes without saying 
that I considered it my duty in this particular, delicate case to do 
everything to strengthen the position and authority of the League 
vis-a-vis the Weisbord group. Meanwhile, I see no reason to regret 
all that was done in Prinkipo in this matter. As against the League, 
the Weisbord group had to recognize the incorrectness of its own 
position on the most important questions. That is a significant 
political gain. Your reply to Weisbord's letter can only continue to 
strengthen your position and authority. I already observed this in 
the case of comrade Field: He recognized that your reply is tactful 
and correct. What complaint can you have in this case? 

Trotsky on Field and Weisbord 347 

2. The Field case is completely different— simpler and more com- 
plicated. Simpler because we are dealing here with an individual 
comrade; more complicated because it seems that in this instance 
our practical goals seem not quite to correspond. 

After discussions with comrade Glotzer, after articles on the 
subject in the Militant, and after conciliatory discussions with com- 
rade Field, I had the firm impression that Field's collaboration in 
the League became more difficult and impossible not because you 
might see him as a politically or morally unworthy individual or a 
fundamentally alien type, but because his past has not prepared 
him for a leading role in a revolutionary organization, although 
he is impelled in this direction by virtue of his intellectual quali- 
ties. This contradiction, which occurs not infrequently, could be 
overcome in a large organization. But since the League remains a 
small pioneer organization, it feels compelled to resort to more 
drastic measures for self-preservation. That is approximately how 
I see the matter. 

On the other hand, it seems to me that comrade Field, with 
his knowledge of economics and statistics, could perform a very 
significant service for the Left Opposition as a whole. We need 
someone who follows attentively the world economy day in, day 
out and who is capable of giving an accounting of it to himself 
and others. For quite a while I have looked for such an economic 
specialist in the Left Opposition, to no avail. I hardly think that 
we will soon find another with Field's qualifications. 

Of course I have taken into account the importance of the fact 
that comrade Field was expelled by the New York local organiza- 
tion. But such a formal act as an expulsion must be evaluated not 
only formally but also politically. Someone can be expelled because 
he is a spy, another because he is inwardly corrupt, a third because 
he represents a tendency which is hostile in principle. But some- 
one can also be expelled because, although honest and fully valu- 
able in principle, he disrupts the unity of the organization under 
the given circumstances and threatens its capacity to act. In (his 
last case (and that is the case with Field), it might be good to call 
upon the assistance of the international organization from the 
beginning in order to neutralize such a comrade for the national 
organization while not losing him. This is not a rebuke bul more 
a suggestion for the future. 

These are the general considerations from which I proceeded. 

348 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

The cases of Landau, Gorkin, etc., which you cite and exploit with 
great polemical skill (which I personally enjoyed), are not decisive 
here. Landau was never expelled; he tried to expel the majority 
of his own organization. When objections were raised, he consti- 
tuted his own faction. Two competing "Left Oppositions" were 
fighting over the supporters. In this instance, to abet Landau would 
really mean betraying our German organization. 

Gorkin left the Left Opposition in order to make a pact with 
the most suspect political organizations, including the Right Oppo- 
sition. According to the indictment of the Spanish comrades, 
Gorkin engaged in dirty personal dealings (involving money, etc.). 

The Weisbord group can in a certain sense be classified as a 
competing organization. But in no case comrade Field. Also, Field 
did not make contact with Muste or the Lovestoneites against the 
League. This is a really big difference. The fact that he went around 
the leadership of the League is not correct from an organizational 
standpoint. The fact that he went to Europe to find his way to the 
Left Opposition does not speak against Field, but for him. This 
proves that he is serious about the issue. 

All this led me, after very serious consideration, to send Field's 
work on America to the sections as discussion material. The work 
contains important ideas, is stimulating, and deserves to be read 
and discussed thoroughly. Even if it should come to an interna- 
tional decision in the case of Field, this work could serve as 
important informational material for the sections. 

The fact that articles by comrade Field were published in the 
Opposition press without prior consultation with you is really not 
correct. For this I take the appropriate responsibility and, if you 
think it is useful, I am prepared to send all sections an appropri- 
ate apology. 

But I insist that the Field question must be decided individu- 
ally, not only from the standpoint of the organizational conflict 
in New York but also from the standpoint of the international 

I would appreciate it very much if you would translate this letter 
into English so that it is accessible to all members of the leadership. 


Cannon Is Prepared to Break With the ILO 

Letter by Max Shachtman to Leon Trotsky 386 
31 October 1932 

Replying to the NC's request for further clarification, Weisbord wrote a 
lengthy document accusing the CLA leadership of "endless letter-writing 
as a maneuver" and disparaging the National Committee with ample 
use of material on the CLA's internal dispute from CLA Internal 
Bulletins nos. 1-3. 387 On the day Shachtman wrote the letter below, the 
CLA National Committee wrote to the Communist League of Struggle 
to break off unity negotiations. The NC asserted, "Instead of a clear 
statement of its point of view in the sense we indicated, the reply of the 
Weisbord group takes a step backward in this respect and attempts to 
defend the errors which have separated it from us."* 88 The resident 
committee unanimously approved the break with Weisbord; a sub- 
committee of Cannon, Shachtman, and Swabeck finalized the letter to 
the CLS* 89 Trotsky subsequently agreed with the NC's negative assessment 
and wrote to Weisbord, "I cannot find your steps very happily chosen for 
the purpose, if the purpose remains fusion."* 90 

I have for some time been unable to attend to an accumu- 
lated correspondence because of the work here and I hope you 
will excuse the long delay in replying to your letter. 

With regard to your article for Liberty, I have seen Mr. Bye 
twice and spoken with him concerning it over the telephone sev- 
eral times. 391 He continued to assure me that there was not the 
slightest danger of Liberty deleting any section of the reply to its 
questionnaire. I have just heard from Bye that the second part of 
your reply has been received, and I have arranged with him that 
as soon as the editors of Liberty inform him of their decision, I 
shall in turn be informed so that any proposals they make about 
omitting sections of your article may be considered by me. If the 
editors accept it without any proposals concerning its contents, 
then my task is done without very much difficulty. 

Foster's book on a "Soviet America" has already been for- 
warded to you by his publishers, the head of which has begged 

350 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

me to inform her of any comment you may make on the book. 
Will you let me know if you have received the book from New 

I am glad to learn that you are taking advantage of comrade 
Field's visit to Prinkipo to establish a collaboration with him which 
may produce a book on the United States. While the fundamen- 
tal considerations advanced by you in Europe and America still retain 
their validity in the main, a good deal has nevertheless happened 
since it was written which makes the book sound out-of-date. 392 It 
is too bad that in this connection there should have developed a 
"Field incident," about which the National Committee of the 
League has already written to you. I would like to add my own 
voice here to observe that it is not with me a question of narrow 
pride and circle prestige which is involved, for, as comrade Field 
will recall, even at the time of his expulsion from the New York 
branch I proposed to him in my final remarks that although he 
would not be a member of the organization, he should find it pos- 
sible to continue his literary collaboration with the Militant. But 
from that to the position of initiating our internal pre-international- 
conference discussion, without the regular procedure of taking 
an appeal against the decision of the American League, is some- 
thing that could only— and has— create confusion among the com- 
rades here. I hope this question will be clarified without it being 
magnified beyond all proportions. 

By this time, I assume, you will have received the second state- 
ment of the Weisbord group, together with our final declaration, 
in which the further negotiations with his group are temporarily 
suspended by our National Committee until Weisbord takes the 
steps which we indicated to his group in our first reply. While I 
do not share Weisbord's exaggerated views as to what the League 
could accomplish as soon as he entered it (although the League 
could even now do far more than it is doing), or what he intends 
to contribute on his own accord, it would nevertheless have been 
preferable to have the earliest possible unification of the two 
organizations. On the basis of his two statements— and particu- 
larly of the second statement— of the Weisbord group however, such 
a possibility is for the moment excluded. I do not believe Weisbord 
has shown an attitude which would have helped the fusion of the 
groups. He continues to insist, for example, that his disagreement 
with the Opposition on the question of centrism was a "misun- 

Cannon Prepared to Break with ILO 351 

derstanding" or a matter of "formulation"— although not only his 
main thesis, but also his lengthy polemic against your thesis on 
the Russian question in which he challenged the existence of 
centrism in the Communist movement, plainly showed that the 
divergence between him and us was of a deep and irreconcilable 
nature. In his second statement also, he continues to dwell upon 
those same invented or exaggerated "differences" of a second- and 
tenth-rate character with that same violent bitterness of tone and 
accent which previously made it impossible for us to discuss 
objectively with him. I would suggest that you write Weisbord a 
personal letter along the line of the first one you sent to him. Some 
pointed remarks from you would undoubtedly help to make it clear 
to him that an approach to the League cannot be made success- 
fully if he comes toward it by means of violent polemical attacks 
on insignificant questions without an honest statement of views 
on the principled differences which previously divided us. 

At the same time, you should be aware that there is an opin- 
ion in the National Committee— which I do not share— that if the 
International Left Opposition insists upon the entry of Weisbord 
into the League, it will be necessary to break with the ILO on this 
point. While, to put it frankly, I cannot be very enthusiastic about 
the prospect of Weisbord entering the League with his present 
outlook and attitude, which would only create confusion and dis- 
ruption in the organization, I am, however, certain that no greater 
harm could be done the Opposition in this country than to split 
from the ILO on such a question, and I intend, consequently, to 
resist any such tendencies (as expressed, among others, by comrade 
Cannon and his friends) to the maximum of my ability. That is 
not what the League "needs" at the present time. On the contrary, 
as is indicated by the constant financial crisis in the organization, 
the League must absolutely and immediately broaden its field of 
activities, participate more energetically in the general class 
struggle, and widen the base of its membership and sympathiz- 
ers. The lack of such a broad basis is, at bottom, the cause for our 
financial and other difficulties. Up to now there has been a pas- 
sive resistance to such a turn in our work, to which I pointed (you 
may recall) in the statement to the National Committee on the 
"Prospect and Retrospect" of the League, about five months ago. 
Any attempt made here to ignore this need will only increase the 
discontentment of the membership— at least a large section of 

352 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

it— with the purely propagandistic activities of the League and the 
failure of some of the leading comrades to participate in the 
"schwarze Arbeit." Weisbord could help to orient the League in 
this necessary direction, but only upon the condition of a change 
in his present venomous and disruptive attitude. As for myself, I 
am still willing to collaborate with him and his friends, as well as 
with all other comrades. Up to now Weisbord has made it impos- 
sible; I hope you will agree with me that a letter from you might 
help to improve the situation. 

I am now engaged on a very ambitious undertaking, the writ- 
ing of a history of the Comintern, for which I have been collecting 
material for some time. In English, there is no such work; in Ger- 
man, there are only a couple of worthless brochures. I need hardly 
say that I would be deeply grateful to you for any suggestions and 
aid you may find it possible to give me in this connection, and I 
am counting on it. Please give the enclosed self-explanatory note 
to comrade P. Frank. 

^ > 4* 

Developments in Light of the 
Failed Co-optations 

Letter by Max Shachtman to a Comrade 393 
26 November 1932 

This letter is from the papers of Albert Glotzer, who left New York in 
October 1932 to seek a job in his native Chicago. Addressed "Dear 
comrade, " it was probably circulated to Shachtman faction supporters 
around the country. 

Over the summer Shachtman, Abern, and Glotzer had mounted a 
campaign against the plenum co-optations, circulating "Prospect and 
Retrospect " and corresponding with CLA members in Youngstown, Bos- 
ton, and Chicago. Accusing Cannon and Swabeck of bureaucratic sup- 
pression of discussion and "old-Party maneuver, " Carl Cowl, Shachtman s 
agent in Minneapolis, also took aim at the branch leadership: "Cannon 's 
support in Minneapolis is not merely conservative but on a number of 

Failed Co-optations 353 

decisive questions can only be described as opportunist. " 394 Cannon wrote 
to Dunne, "I have never seen a dirtier, more dishonest, more demagogic, 
and noncommunistic campaign than the one which has been waged by 
Shachtman-Abern-Glotzer, etc., since the plenum, " and explained: 

You may have thought it negligence on our part that toe... have not even 
kept up any communication since the plenum. But that was more- 
or-less deliberate policy on our part. We thought it best to let the docu- 
mentary matter sent out in the internal bulletins speak for itself.* 95 
Cannon and Swabeck retained a solid majority in Minneapolis, but the 
CLA membership nationally voted down the co-optations by a small 

Shachtman here reports on the resident committee meeting of 
November 25, where the results of the referendum were discussed. Given 
the failure of the co-optations, the committee voted (against the objec- 
tions of Shachtman and Abern) to establish a Political Committee of 
Shachtman, Abern, Cannon, Oehler, and Swabeck.™ Cannon was com- 
missioned to write a statement to the membership on the referendum re- 
sults. Noting that the postplenum discussion was officially closed, the 
committee rejected a motion by Shachtman to circulate his own state- 
ment to the membership as well. 

Trotsky had received a visa to travel to Copenhagen to give a lec- 
ture to a social-democratic student group on the Russian Revolution, 
his first opportunity to visit Europe since his exile from the USSR.* 97 At 
the November 25 meeting Shachtman and Abern voted against Cannon's 
proposal to send Swabeck to Europe as an official CLA delegate empow- 
ered to "make proposals for a preliminary conference at this time when 
Trotsky can participate"; Shachtman protested that such a conference 
was impossible. All the same an informal meeting of Left Opposition 
supporters convened in Copenhagen in connection with Trotsky's visit 
and resolved to hold an ILO preconference in Europe in December to 
prepare for the long-planned international conference. 398 The precon- 
ference finally took place in February in Paris. Swabeck attended, but 
the Shachtman faction refused to help finance his trip.' 1 ' 99 

It is sometime since I have written on the situation as it stands 
today. It might therefore be well to touch on some of the ques- 
tions which have arisen or developed since the National Commit- 
tee plenum a half a year ago. 

1. At last Wednesday night's National Committee meeting— 
the first in three weeks!— the result of the plenum discussion in 

354 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

the branches was finally reported. We had been demanding for 
months past that the scandalous situation in which a plenum of 
the NC took over five months to be reported on, discussed in the 
branches, and its results finally made known should be brought to 
an end. At each meeting the mechanical majority of the Cannon 
faction simply brushed aside our arguments. Despite every effort 
that was made, it was clear from the beginning that the League, 
while practically unanimous on the international question, wouldn't 
as a consequence support a factional reorganization of the NC as 
proposed in the so-called co-optations. For this reason, although 
the vote of the branches was fairly well-known months ago, the 
results were deliberately withheld so that the three "co-optees" 
might continue to sit and vote in the committee by purely factional 
and not League mandates. The discussion report rendered by 
Swabeck was really ludicrous; it attempted to draw no conclusions 
and showed that its real interest wasn't concerned with those ques- 
tions over which the fight in the committee allegedly commenced, 
but that it was really aimed at an organizational victory which didn't 

Even so, Swabeck tried to paint up the results. The Newark 
branch, which exists largely in the sky and is heard from only on 
holiday occasions, had originally cast four votes for co-optations 
under Basky's tutelage; Swabeck reported five Newark votes. Phila- 
delphia, where Cannon's faction leader, Morgenstern, manages 
without difficulty to reconcile his membership on the National 
Committee of the Bolshevik-Leninists with marriage by a Jewish 
rabbi and all the accompanying religious rites, originally cast seven 
votes for co-optations; Swabeck reported nine. 400 Kansas City, where 
there is only one member, comrade Buehler, and has been only 
one for the last three years— as both Swabeck and Glotzer reported 
after their tours, confirmed by the report of Clarke when he was 
located in KC— the branch suddenly acquired two new members, 
making a total of three for co-optations. St. Louis, where the four 
comrades originally voted against the co-optations, a little "moral 
suasion" was exercised until the branch a couple of weeks ago 
changed its vote into the opposite. This will give you some idea as 
to why the report to the NC was delayed for such an unprecedented 
period of time. And, in spite of all this juggling, the co-optations 
were nevertheless rejected by the membership as a whole. 

By this vote it would appear the membership had expressed 

Failed Co-optations 355 

its opposition to Cannon's attempt at reorganizing the commit- 
tee on a factional basis. Nevertheless, after reporting the results, 
the committee majority jammed through a motion, establishing a 
"political committee" of Cannon, Oehler, Swabeck, Abern, and 
Shachtman, in place of the old resident committee, which means 
that absent members will now be replaced by faction substitutes. 
To such a victory they are entirely welcome. It is not a victory 
against an opposing faction but a victory against the League and 
what it stands for. 

2. At the same committee meeting, without any previous discus- 
sion or announcement, Swabeck proposed in an offhand manner 
that since comrade Trotsky was on his way to Copenhagen and 
there might be an international conference held there, a delegate 
should immediately be sent to represent the American League; 
the delegate of course is to be Swabeck. If you want an example 
of the truly light-minded manner in which important international 
questions are really approached by the Cannon-Swabeck faction, 
this little episode— which is not so little— gives it to you in one 
installment. Just think of the situation: That same evening Swabeck 
brought to the attention of the committee the draft outline sent 
by the International Secretariat on the various points which the 
theses for our international conference are to contain. It is a care- 
fully elaborated document and each national section has been 
allotted a portion of it to work out through the medium of a sub- 
committee. When the full draft is ready the whole Opposition is 
to discuss it so that when the conference actually convenes it will 
be thoroughly prepared to adopt the definitive platform of the 
international Left. This is the only way to proceed. Swabeck's pro- 
posal to leave for Denmark immediately ignores and blows up this 
whole procedure. It is based upon a piece of wildcat speculation 
which makes a caricature of genuine international relations. 

In the first place, a preliminary conference in Copenhagen has 
no point to it whatever. What purpose would it fulfill? What would 
be its agenda? What time is allotted to make its convention pos- 
sible—not on paper but in Copenhagen? Swabeck is supposed to 
leave immediately. Our letter to the secretariat proposing the pre- 
liminary conference is only now being sent. The secretariat must 
communicate with the various national sections for their approval. 
If this fantastic proposal is approved, the delegates to the so-called 
preliminary conference would probably arrive in Copenhagen in 

356 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

time for the international skiing match, but not for a conference 
with the already departed comrade Trotsky. We have no idea as to 
just how long the Danish social democrats will allow comrade 
Trotsky to stay. It is not at all impossible that Swabeck will still be 
on the high seas when comrade Trotsky is already on his way back 
to Prinkipo. The whole enterprise is so truly speculative, unsound, 
and irresponsible as to make argument against it quite unnecessary. 

Our countermotions, which aimed at setting up a subcommit- 
tee to work seriously on preparations for our long-delayed inter- 
national conference which is now really under way, were accepted 
purely for the record. The committee decided, it is true, for such 
a subcommittee, but the plan is that Swabeck shall leave in all 
likelihood before the committee has even started to work. As a 
matter of fact it was only as an afterthought and for the record 
that Oehler made a motion for a document on the American situ- 
ation to be drawn up for Swabeck to take along. You can imagine 
the value of such a document. It will be drawn up with all the 
haste and superficiality of a newspaper article only in order that 
it may later be said that Swabeck took along a thesis. As for pre- 
liminary discussion on that mountain of problems with which we 
are faced in the International Left Opposition, there will of course 
be none. 

The real purpose of the trip, it is clear, is factional, nor can it 
have any other purpose. To this end the branches are now sup- 
posed to make a speedy collection of funds at a time when the 
sheriffs are literally at our door every day and the appearance of 
each issue of the Militant is accomplished only by miracles and 
our debts rise increasingly. I would never oppose Swabeck's tak- 
ing a trip to see comrade Trotsky on his own hook, because I find 
nothing wrong with that, either now, in the past, or in the future. 
Nor are my objections based upon financial considerations alone, 
because if there were a real need at the present time (as there 
undoubtedly will be when the international conference is actually 
called), the League would have to make every effort to raise the 
necessary funds regardless of their difficulties. 

Abern and I appealed the decision of the resident committee 
to the full committee, requesting that no action be taken in the 
meantime. This procedure was followed in 1930 when Cannon 
objected to the decision that Shachtman should go across. But this 
time, while we have a "right to appeal," the decision is being car- 

Failed Co-optations 357 

ried into effect in the meantime. I hope the other NC members 
will express themselves on this question in no uncertain terms. 

3. The situation in the New York branch is becoming increasingly 
tense. I hope none of the comrades is taking the attitude that this 
is a storm in a teapot; that nothing is wrong anywhere except in 
NY. Such an attitude, besides being provincial, would signify that 
we are ignoring one of the central points around which the whole 
League is now being kept in a dangerous factional war. The 
imperfections and shortcomings of the NY branch are undeni- 
able, but in general they are certainly not greater than those of 
our other branches. In many respects the NY branch is markedly 
superior. Its greatest "defect" in the eyes of the Cannon faction is 
that it refuses to accept blindly all the mistakes, prejudices, and 
procedures of that faction. By its very nature, the Opposition draws 
into its ranks as a general rule the most critical of the Commu- 
nist elements. As a reaction to the dead calm and compulsory obed- 
ience that prevails in the Party, this attitude sometimes becomes 
supercritical. What is decisive, however, is that this reaction is a 
healthy one. In the Opposition, even more than in the Party, we 
must keep in mind every minute of the day Lenin's precepts on 
discipline, leadership, policy, ranks, and their interconnection as 
set down in that excellent passage in "Left-Wing" Communism. Had 
the Cannon faction conducted itself with Lenin's penetrating views 
in mind, the situation in the NY branch would automatically have 
improved 100 percent. 

Just one example: When the comrades rise in the NY branch 
to criticize the NC for publishing a program on unemployment 
only after more than three years of the crisis, the criticism is not 
dealt with objectively, the defect is not acknowledged, but instead 
a violent and abusive offensive is launched against the critics. It is 
this bureaucratic attitude, and not "Shachtmanism" or "Carterism," 
which has aggravated the NY situation to its present pitch. 

The Cannon group has met the situation in the good, old- 
fashioned manner of the Bolshevization era in the Party. 401 From 
its adherents, big and small, we hear: The branch must be purged. 
The division in the branch is based upon the struggle between 
the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie in which, needless to say, 
Cannon represents the proletariat. It is a fight between the young 
upstarts and the old, experienced, stable leaders. One Cannon 

358 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

supporter has even developed, on the floor of the branch, the 
theory that after four years of existence the League is going 
through a period of Thermidorian reaction in the NY branch! 

For these and similarly profound reasons, every effort has been 
made to gain a faction majority for Cannon in the NY branch 
executive. Several weeks ago the elections produced the opposite 
result. By a purely arbitrary exercise of its power the NC ordered 
the discarding of four votes which would have given the Cannonites 
an additional branch executive member. The branch decided to 
circumvent this faction trick by holding new elections. The results 
are as follows: Weber (32), Saul (32), Milton (31), Lewit (30), 
Bleeker (30), Capelis (30), Sterling (29), Petras (29), Orland (21), 
Oehler (20), Stamm (19). Only the last two are Cannon support- 
ers. In the previous election there were three. 

The failure to get a faction majority in the branch is render- 
ing the Cannon group desperate. We have made every effort to 
collaborate with them in the practical work. I need point only to 
the fact that against the desires of many comrades we argued for 
putting in Oehler as full-time organizer of the branch, in spite of 
the fact that he has acted in an unbelievable factional manner dur- 
ing his whole tenure of office. The Cannon group on the other 
hand has stopped at nothing to disrupt the branch work. With 
hardly a single exception the branch activities for the past months 
have had to expend hour after hour in sterile discussions over 
purely factional issues artificially injected by Cannon to keep the 
branch in a state of turmoil so that it may be discredited. They 
have now reached the point where in the National Committee 
meetings, as well as on the branch floor, they make open threats 
of expulsions. It is unnecessary to state that we intend to resist 
any splitting of the organization, no matter what guise it may 
assume. Expulsion of groups of comrades is one of those guises. 

4. Just a word on Weisbord. With the acceptance of my motion 
in a recent committee meeting, negotiations with Weisbord have 
been suspended, for the time being at least. His stubborn refusal 
to meet our proposals seriously and honestly, his ridiculous and 
unworthy diplomacy on questions of his past standing in regard 
to centrism and the bloc with the right wing— to say nothing of his 
violent attitude in general— made further negotiations impossible. 
It is now up to Weisbord exclusively. If he finds it possible to restate 
his position in a politically satisfactory manner, then I am not 

Failed Co-optations 359 

opposed to resuming the negotiations and making his entry into 
the League a comparatively easy matter. This does not mean that 
I have any illusions about Weisbord. While he has a tremendous 
capacity for work which the League can utilize and which it 
wouldn't hurt some "leaders" to emulate— this quality is largely 
outweighed by other negative features. Assuming that Weisbord 
finally enters the League, there are two possible outcomes: One 
is that he proves to be alien to our movement, unassimilable and 
undesirable. This would mean that the experiment has failed and 
that we part company. The other alternative is that Weisbord is 
absorbed into the stream of the Opposition, his negative features 
are substantially modulated, and the League is able to profit by 
his positive qualities. In our present weak state the second alter- 
native is of course preferable. 

All of this is based upon a very serious and at present not yet 
visible change in Weisbord. Even LD has written some letters in 
which he expresses a dissatisfaction with Weisbord's procedure since 
he returned from Turkey. This may have an effect on Weisbord. In 
connection with this question I have been approached— not once— 
with the proposal that come what may and regardless of what 
position Weisbord takes, he should under no circumstances be 
admitted into the League, even if our refusal may mean "tempo- 
rarily" a break with LD, and the International Secretariat. I think 
such an attitude (that is, if it should come to that) would be a guar- 
antee of the League's ruin in a short time. And I for one will not 
go along with it. To break with the International Secretariat and 
LD over the Weisbord question, even assuming that we disagreed 
with their position, would mean to reduce the League to a tiny, 
nationally limited sect, consumed by internal wrangling and ren- 
dered impotent. Our international relations are the cement which 
not only holds the League together today, but prevents it from 
departing from the line of the Left Opposition. I have no hesita- 
tion in saying frankly that there is no limit to my fears of the con- 
sequence if the League under the Cannon faction leadership were 
left to sail on a national lake; the first substantial wind could then 
drive it to strange shores, that is, if the ship even held together. 

5. Many comrades have raised the question of a conference in 
the early future. I myself am beginning to incline in that direc- 
tion. First it is necessary to work out a program to be submitted 
to the National Committee. Such a program must not only 

360 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

constitute a critical analysis of the past, taking stock both of our 
internal developments and external policy, but it must contain con- 
crete proposals as to the sharp change in our policy (also both 
internally and externally) which is so urgently necessary now, which 
is generally acknowledged in words, but about which precious little 
is being done. For example, our proposal that either Swabeck or 
Oehler go to the mine fields during that critical period of the 
struggle where such excellent possibilities were afforded the Left 
Opposition, instead of sending two young and inexperienced com- 
rades, was rejected by the NC, which doesn't, however, spare any 
phrases about the need of a "turn" in our work. 402 Swabeck and 
Oehler, they say, were needed for work in the office. Besides, 
Swabeck was soon to go on a national tour which would cover the 
mine fields. The national tour has meanwhile been replaced by— 
or shall I say expanded into?— the international tour! How much 
of the internal situation would a conference solve? If it left the 
status quo it would solve nothing; worse than that, it would give 
its stamp of approval to the present intolerable situation. But if a 
conference could make the necessary changes in our work, in our 
external policy, in our internal regime; if it would in concrete 
reality, and not merely on paper, turn the face (and the hands 
and feet) of the League toward far more energetic and militant 
participation in the class struggle, then it would undoubtedly mark 
a milestone in the progress of the American Opposition. 

I am very anxious to hear the opinions you may have on this 
subject. This brief survey leaves many questions untouched. I hope 
to deal with them on another occasion. 


Mobilize Against Swabeck's Trip to Europe 

Letter by Max Shachtman to a Comrade 403 
2 December 1932 

Addressed "Dear comrade" and found in the papers of Albert Glotzer, 
this letter was probably circulated to Shachtman supporters nationally. 

Last night's meeting of the National Committee makes neces- 
sary this hasty postscript to the letter I sent you on November 26. 
Being ill, I could not attend the meeting myself, but Marty was 
present during the whole session. The only question of real im- 
portance dealt with there was the proposed trip across of Swabeck. 
What the Cannon faction decided last night confirmed to an iota 
and in every respect the views I advanced in my last letter! 

In the most casual and offhand manner, it was reported that 
in all likelihood comrade Trotsky would be compelled to leave Den- 
mark in a comparatively few days. In addition, it seems that we 
have a letter from Trotsky himself informing us that his stay in 
Denmark is to be of brief duration. These two intelligences by 
themselves, one would think, should suffice to deprive the pro- 
posed voyage of even that meager foundation which was originally 
advanced for it. When it was first advanced (about a week ago), 
the argument presented for the dispatch of a delegate, posthaste, 
centered exclusively around the argument that "only an idiot" 
would imagine that Trotsky went to Denmark "merely to deliver a 
lecture"; that the real purpose of it was for Trotsky to get closer 
to the European Opposition so that a "preliminary international 
conference" might be held in Copenhagen. We, on our part, 
argued that the whole enterprise was purely speculative, based on 
sheer impulse (and factional considerations), and that even if such 
a conference were held, the haste and suddenness would deprive 
it of any significance whatsoever; that the membership of the in- 
ternational Opposition would not have the slightest opportunity 
to discuss the burning problems that confront us. We said that 
Copenhagen not only did not offer any advantages over Prinkipo, 
but certain distinct disadvantages. As late as last Tuesday, at the 

362 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

New York branch meeting, Oehler reported on the committee 
decision, repeating the formula that this had to be done without 
delay because "we take it for granted" that there will be a confer- 
ence, since that was the real purpose in Trotsky's mind when he 
left for Denmark. 

Without batting an eyelash, however, Cannon and Swabeck 
yesterday reversed themselves without the slightest explanation. 
Cannon moved that if Trotsky leaves for Turkey, then Swabeck 
should proceed to Prinkipo! If the "preliminary conference" is to 
be held in Prinkipo— that is, in a locality where the factor of time 
pressure is eliminated, in contrast to Copenhagen— then every 
genuine basis for the trip at this time is removed. There remains 
only the factional basis. If Cannon's faction wants to send Swabeck 
to Trotsky, I have not the slightest objection. I object to the cyni- 
cal hypocrisy of sending him as an "official delegate" to a nonex- 
istent "preliminary conference." In view of this latest turn in the 
situation, I think it imperative for every branch of the League 
(yours in particular) to adopt a resolution of protest or criticism 
against the enterprise, not so much on "financial grounds" (which 
are after all subsidiary, even if not unimportant, considerations), 
but on the grounds that the genuine international conference is 
in the process of preparation and that the membership must have 
the opportunity to discuss the questions at length, prepare the 
documents in a carefully considered manner, and then decide the 
question of delegates when the date for the conference is actually 
fixed. This is the only way in which to prepare for a real interna- 
tional conference so that it may have the necessary authority and 
prestige when its labors are concluded. The plan for the "prelimi- 
nary conference"— for which no agenda has even been proposed, 
for which no documents are being prepared, for which no organi- 
zational arrangements have been or can have been made— is not 
merely a caricature, is not merely inconsequential from any stand- 
point, but still worse, it is merely the formality that masks an 
exclusively factional purpose. It drips with the odor of those trips 
made by the various caucus leaders in former years in the Amer- 
ican Party, ostensibly to attend "international plenums or 
congresses," but in actuality to "beat comrade X or Y to the draw," 
that is, to get a factional advantage by reaching Moscow in suffi- 
cient advance time to be the first to reach the central apparatus 
men. That Trotsky will not be a party to such a trick— for he does 

More Direct Contact 363 

not operate that way, nor can the Bolshevik-Leninists operate that 
way— goes without saying. It may serve as enlightenment to report 
that Stamm gave away the game by telling me: "I can easily under- 
stand why you are afraid (?!) of having Trotsky see Swabeck. Up 
to now the Old Man has seen the face of only two National Com- 
mittee members, Glotzer's and yours. You have everything to lose 
by his (i.e., LD's) seeing Swabeck"! Why I should "have everything 
to lose" by such a historical meeting, I cannot figure out. I do know 
that we have all talked more than once of what a good thing it 
would be for LD to make the personal acquaintance of Swabeck 
and Cannon. But that does not alter the need of standing up 
against the present proposal. It is a different thing entirely. If the 
Cannon faction is not interested in having the League pass through 
a thorough discussion prior to the sending of an international del- 
egate—then at the very least the League members should make it 
quite clear that they do not regard Swabeck's delegateship as 
proper or representative of their opinions. 

Swabeck, in his haste to depart (even though the office is on 
the verge of collapse, induced by an acute financial and organiza- 
tional crisis), plans to leave in about ten days. From this you will 
see how necessary it is for the branches to act at their very next 
meeting and to send in a formal expression of opinion concern- 
ing this whole scandalous procedure. 

^ ^ ^ 

We Want More Direct Contact 

Letter by Arne Swabeck to the 
International Secretariat and Leon Trotsky 101 

16 December 1932 

In our letter of December 8 we informed you of the decision of 
our National Committee to send comrade Swabeck to Europe as 
an international delegate. At the time the decision was made, we 
were under the impression, from press dispatches, that comrade 
Trotsky had been granted a three months' visa by the Danish gov- 
ernment, with the possibility of a longer stay there. Naturally we 

364 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

thought such a prolonged visit of comrade Trotsky to western 
Europe would be utilized to strengthen the contact of the various 
sections of the Left Opposition with him and with each other, and 
thereby put a firmer foundation on the preparations for the 
international conference. 

From that point of view the National Committee decided to 
raise a special fund to send comrade Swabeck to Denmark and 
authorized him to propose the holding of a preliminary conference 
of representatives of the leading sections with comrade Trotsky, if 
circumstances made it feasible. 

A few days later we learned from a letter from the Interna- 
tional Secretariat that the Danish visa was for eight days only. The 
National Committee thereupon decided to reaffirm its decision 
regarding the international delegate, with the amendment that 
comrade Swabeck proceed directly first to Prinkipo, in case com- 
rade Trotsky returned there. The visit of comrade Trotsky to 
Denmark had not been the fundamental consideration of the 
National Committee in its first decision, but only a special cir- 
cumstance facilitating and hastening an action which had been 
too long delayed for one practical reason or another. 

To our surprise and indignation, comrades Shachtman, Abern, 
and Glotzer opposed the decision to send comrade Swabeck to 
Europe and organized a furious campaign in the ranks of the 
League against it. With casuistic arguments which contrast our sug- 
gestion of a preliminary conference of the representatives of the 
most important sections with comrade Trotsky to a regularly 
organized international conference, with theses published in 
advance, full discussion in the sections, etc., they are creating the 
impression in the ranks, especially among the less experienced 
comrades, that the decision of the National Committee to send 
an international delegate to Europe, before the international con- 
ference is definitely scheduled, is an abnormal and indefensible 
action. In some of the agitation around this question on the part 
of the supporters of comrade Shachtman, there is to be noted a 
decidedly ugly nuance from an internationalist point of view. It is 
painful to report, on top of all this, that the special fund asked for 
by the National Committee to finance the trip abroad is systemati- 
cally sabotaged— the comrades influenced by the Shachtman gos- 
sip, among whom are to be found most of those still having an 
income, are all declining to contribute. This latter circumstance 

1. James P. Cannon 
and Red Army soldiers at time of 
Comintern Sixth Congress, 1928. 

2. Max Shachtman, 
Berlin, 1930. 

3. Youthful supporters of Communist Party's Cannon /action, Chicago, 1927. 

From left: Gil Green, Carl Cowl, Max Shachtman, Albert Glolzer. 

In background: Nathan Schaffner (Foster supporter). 

4. Arne Swabeck at his desk, CLA headquarters, New York, 1934. 



IIP: %-«2S 

^5 JESsTvl 

Lr\ L m 


5. Mural painted by Diego Rivera in CLA headquarters, New York, 1933. 

Upper roiu (from left): Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, 

Friedrieh Engels, Leon Trotsky, V. I. Lenin, Karl Marx. 

Loiver row (from left): Ruth Cannon (daughter of James P. Cannon), 

Sarah Avrin, Edgar Swabeek (son of Arm Swabeek), Carlo Cowl (son of Sarah Avrin), 

Arne Sivabeck, Max Shachtman, Christian Rakovsky, James P Cannon. 


The Draft Program 

of the Communist 


A Criticism of Fundamentals 

■Presented to the Sixth -m 

World Congress of the J 

.Communist International J 

Introduction by JamesP. Cannot 


■ lit* Strategy 
Of the World 



6. CLA published Trotsky's 1928 Critique of the draft program of the CI 

in two parts. Left: Sections brought by Cannon from Moscow (1929). 

Right: Pamphlet contains "Strategy and ladies in the Imperialist Epoch " (1930). 

11. Christian Rakovsky 12. Andres Nin 13. Leon Lesoil 

% ■ :1 

14. Kurt Landau 15. Josef Frey 

16. Oskar Seipold 

17. Pierre Frank 18. Raymond Molinier 19. Pietro Tresso 

20. Leon Trotsky (center) 

with Pierre Naville (left), 

Gerard Rosenthal, 

and Denise Naville, 

Prinkipo, early 1930s. 

21. From, left: Jan Frankel, 

Leon Sedov, Natalya Sedova, 

Jiri Kopp (Czechoslovakian 

Trotsky ist), and Leon 

Trotsky, Prinkipo, 1930. 



Official Organ of The Communist League of America (Opposition) 

II. \(> H I H HOIK NO. IS.-. | 

Hit )HHk, IMIIMMIO. I 1 ,11111 \n* 15, 1933 

II ■> I.'.. 

Hitler Is Consolidating the Power of Fascism In Germany! 
Whoever Blocks the Workers* United Front Is a Traitor! 

23. CLA's Militant 
(15 February 1933). 
Militant went triweekly during ^Cw 
campaign against Hitler's jS& 

consolidation ofpoiver. 




Organ of the International Left Opposition of Canada 

Hail Red Russia! 

Workers Celebrate Fifteenth Anniversary of Soviet Rule 

24. Young Spartacus 
Stri ke Against Hitlerism Ju ly 11! (November 1932), 

Fascism, Support Joint Council's Call for Two-Hour Stalinites and the . ; r /"< T A Ti. T • • 1 

Soei.1 Democracy General Strike against Fascst Terror Un.ted Front JOlimal Of CLA NatlOUal 

and Stalinism ^ ^ _, ^ ^ __..„ „.,,.., J J 

'■-;•:■- ;'■ ;:--v Youth Committee. 

25. Vanguard (July 1933), 

organ of 
Left Opposition in Canada. 

ANOIKTH EnilTOAH j n n /nnn 7 Tll rT m iiiirni*nv u.v H nOAtTIKH A1AGHKH 

r OIKOlJOITHIEWERiOfll ! toyaenin 



26. Communistes 

(December 1931), 

Greek journal of the CLA. 

27. Unser Kamf 

(15 February 1932), 

Yiddish journal of the CLA. 

Ueo n Irotsky 



Leon Trotsky 

Leon Trotsky 





TransUlel hy 
Max Shachtman 


[ 7V,™ W /,«», ri, R,„u. i, Jiucpl y^Ur 

Wilt Appcndka by Zmoricv, Vuyovittk, N«.uoov 
a 0«t.<r> 



*« lnlroiuclio* 
hy Max Shachtm*H 



Koncw PubliAm 

NEW YORK, ipji 



New York, 19)2 


28. Books (above) and pamphlets by Trotsky, 
part of the CLA's ambitious publishing program. 

Leon Trotsky 

In Defense of 

the Russian 


Speech Delivered at Copenhagen 
December .952 





On the Trade 
Union Question 


Loon Trotsky 



mi D/tMOER! 

Shall Fascism Really Be Victorious? 



The Kev to the International 



29. CLA member Gerry Allard, 
editor of Progressive Miner. 

30. Militant (10 September 1932) 

hailed PM A founding. 

Springfield, October 1932: 

15,000 Illinois miners rally for 

PMA union recognition. 


"Weekly Oman of the Communist Leaaut of America lOvhosition} w 

Weekly Organ of the Communist League of America [Qppo, 


ers Form New Union 

Luau Gretti Nt* Raise ^ tru 39 le *° New Heisli s 

QflTHE Progressive Miner|| 




uniiin r Prc.gra.we Miners' U nion PERRY CfflHTf 
Issues UltiniHtum to Horner; JQgjg gjj 
AppealtoAmerican Workers mtrr mrrntf 

31. March o/PMA women's 

auxiliary, 1933. PM A journal 

Progressive Miner (13 January 

1933) reports murder of 

auxiliary member by Peabody 

Coal Company gunmen. 

32. Progressive Miners of America picket at Peabody mine near 
Taylorville, Illinois, fall 1932. 

^ Two Demon- 

rnational Com- 
rade with the 
f the Workers? 




< a: 








^ c *E e 







dison Square - 

unist League < 
i the May Day 
Socialist Orga 
the United Fro 





t* O z 

a < O < 

s a: 

tz ^ 


[Grand Ballroom) 








are and Ma 
ns on May 
the Comm 
te) March i 
Union and 
he Road to 











on Squ 
f Does 
ch 1st 



s 3 


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3 £ £ 






































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35. New York hotel strike, 

early 1934. Militant went 

triweekly during strike. 


OFFir.IAf ORlVANOFTHJ COMMI'Mrvr I f At i v r>i iMPSb - rOPpntflTONl W 


Revolt At I 
Local 16's' 

EDITORIAL "[F.W.I. U. **«" '*"«' ■—*«■* fc*« r 0l» 

'• .-..,: ... ; . ••- .- «Fortress» -"^ _ c-^T^I.r 

36. Hote/ worfors feadm. 5./ Field, with telephone, was expelled from 
CLA for violating party discipline during strike. Others (from left): 
James Gordon, Charles Fairbanks, Emile Smith, Alexander Costas. 

31. Shachtman and Cannon during 1934 strike 
in Minneapolis, where both were arrested. 

38. Pickets confront scabherding deputy, 1934 Minneapolis Teamster strike. 
Strike leaders included CLA NC members Wince Dunne and Carl Skoglund. 

39. Shachtman and Cannon in Paris at time of founding of 
Fourth International 1938. 

More Direct Contact 365 

puts extraordinary difficulties in the way of the early execution of 
the National Committee decision and compels a postponement of 
comrade Swabeck's journey. With the present financial difficul- 
ties of the League and the burden it places on the membership, 
the collection of a special fund sufficient to finance the trip to 
Europe without full cooperation will unavoidably be a slow process. 

However, we remain firm in our determination to strengthen 
our international relations by direct and official representation 
and will carry it out at all costs. The deep internal crisis of the 
League, which has grown steadily worse since the plenum despite 
the unanimous agreements there, is only one of the considerations 
prompting our decision. For a long time we have felt the neces- 
sity of more direct contact, through a qualified representative, with 
comrade Trotsky, with the International Secretariat, and with the 
leading bodies of the most important sections in Europe. 

We have not had an official delegate abroad in this capacity 
since the early part of 1930— nearly three years ago. (The journeys 
of comrades Shachtman and Glotzer last year were undertaken 
solely on their own responsibility and financed by private funds. 
It is not necessary to speak of the unprofitable results of these 
journeys. But it is worth remarking that comrades who construed 
international relations in such a lighthearted and personal man- 
ner are precisely the ones to raise objections to the formal decision 
of the National Committee of the League to send its secretary to 
Europe as an official representative.) 

We have had reasons more than once to feel that the interna- 
tional contacts of the League were far from adequate. Comrade 
Trotsky's statement in his letter of May 27 that "It is unfortunate 
that you have no reliable comrade in Europe to represent your 
organization in the secretariat" did not pass unnoticed, and we 
have been seeking a way out of our practical difficulties to make 
such a representation possible— at least for a certain period. 405 

To a certain extent, meantime, we have found ourselves iso- 
lated from the international movement. The developments within 
the most important European sections in recent times remain 
insufficiently known to us. It is needless to add also that we have 
felt most acutely the necessity of personal discussion with com- 
rade Trotsky and the leading comrades of other sections in regard 
to the new problems which the situation of American imperial- 
ism is posing in all their magnitude. It is inconceivable to us that 

366 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

grown-up Communists can say— and mean it honestly— that the 
necessary interchange of information and opinion on these and 
other questions has to wait for the international conference. 

Concerning the internal crisis of the League: In the Internal 
Bulletin nos. 1, 2, and 3, which were forwarded to you after the 
plenum, the essence of the conflicts is indicated. All that has hap- 
pened since the plenum, deepening and aggravating the crisis, 
has proceeded along the same line in substance, if not in form. 

On the international question comrade Shachtman corrected 
himself at the plenum and subscribed to the National Committee 
resolution. But that did not prevent him from transferring to the 
League the same false methods of approach that led him astray 
in the European questions, and— it must be said plainly— some of 
the methods of those whom he covered or supported, directly or 
indirectly, in Europe. 

The National Committee majority is struggling to raise up a 
cadre capable of estimating questions from a fundamental political 
standpoint and orientate itself accordingly. Comrade Shachtman, 
by his actions, directly contradicts this process. This, in one word, 
is the basic cause of the conflict from our point of view. 

At the plenum he joined us in condemnation of the Carter 
group as representing a scholastic and harmful tendency. After 
the plenum the Carter group abstained from voting on the inter- 
national resolution on the ground of insufficient information, al- 
though all the material at the disposal of the National Committee 
was given to the entire membership in mimeographed bulletins. 
By this abstention they did not mean to support the disintegra- 
tors in Europe. But with true scholasticism, they looked for "in- 
formation" down to the last detail and overlooked entirely the fact 
that a struggle was taking place in the European sections which 
concerned the life of the International Left Opposition and which 
required every Oppositionist to take a stand. This action of the 
Carter group— since supplemented by direct attacks upon our 
international resolution— has not in the least drawn comrade 
Shachtman closer to the majority of the National Committee as 
against this group. On the contrary, he maintains a close bloc with 
this group to struggle against the National Committee. 

The National Committee is engaged in a conflict with a group 
of comrades in Boston who reject our trade-union policy (in the 
needle trades in which they are employed) from a standpoint of 

Cannon Overreaches 367 

ultraleftism which, in the given situation, converts them into virtual 
camp followers of the Stalinist "Third Period" dogmas. Comrade 
Shachtman's trade-union policy is identical with ours, but he forms 
a factional unity with the Boston comrades against us. This 
muddles up and sabotages the fundamental conflict and strength- 
ens the comrades in their prejudices. 

These two examples do not by any means exhaust the ques- 
tion of the postplenum disputes, but they indicate their funda- 
mental character and explain, what is yet confusing to many com- 
rades, why the League has a violent internal struggle "without 
political differences." We are now drawing up a document on the 
conflict since the plenum. All material will be submitted to the 
international organization so that all the sections can have the 
necessary information and be in a position to express their opin- 
ions before the conference of the League to be scheduled later. 

PS: Enclosed you will find copies of comrade Shachtman's motion 
in the NC and the resolutions adopted in some branches along 
the same line and at his instigation. 

^ ^ ^ 

Cannon Overreaches Himself 

Letter by Maurice Spector to Max Shachtman 406 
29 December 1932 

1. Last night our branch unanimously rejected the proposal to 
send Swabeck on an ambiguous trip to Prinkipo. The grounds are 
the absence of convincing and substantial political reasons. The 
executive is instructed to draw up a resolution for New York, which 
could be sent as soon as possible. I have myself never received a 
copy of your appeal. 407 Swabeck neglected to enclose it, and in a 
second letter he apologized for his absent-mindedness and again 
omitted to enclose it! It is this hiatus which has delayed my 
recording my stand. I cannot truthfully say that I have seen your 
appeal at least formally. But perhaps I shall let that go, and cast 
my vote on the basis of what knowledge I have of it from your 
other letters. 

368 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

2. I am somewhat disappointed, however, that under the circum- 
stances, I had (judiciously, I believe) to withdraw a suggestion that 
you come here for a week's stay. I was going to make it coincide 
with a banquet we are arranging for the 7th. At any other time, 
the suggestion would have carried without the slightest hesitation. 
But it came on the heels of the rejection of Swabeck's trip, and 
the feeling was expressed by Mac, principally, that your coming, 
especially as it was not on the initiative of the center, would be 
construed as a continued factional maneuver. The defect in this 
argument is patent. Cannon/Swabeck have long ago decided where 
to put the Toronto branch. I could in all likelihood by more vigor- 
ous intervention have still swung the decision in favor of your visit. 
I did not deem it wise, for the same reasons that our branch had 
to delay its vote on the plenum co-optations for so long, because I 
prefer to carry the branch with us instead of a split vote. More 
particularly, it is always a marked advantage to us if we can get the 
support of MacDonald, as we did on the co-optations and now on 
the Swabeck trip. The branch is built around our collaboration, 
that is not to say that if questions of principle emerge on which 
we differ that we will slur them over in the interests of a false 
harmony. But that is not the situation today. 

Of course, if the center were to send you, the demur of "fac- 
tional interpretation" would lose its point. This matter of your trip 
to Toronto is worth some more attention. One way or another, it 
should be made to materialize, while at the same time protecting 
it from any formal objections that it is not correct (in the diplo- 
matic sense of the word). 

Marty raises the Krehm matter again. Swabeck does so 
monotonously and purposefully. Our branch is sending a resolu- 
tion to New York on that, rejecting the miserable proposal of a 
couple of months ago— that "comrade Spector" and "comrade 
Green" get together to talk matters over. If you recall, the resi- 
dent committee's resolution in one sentence complimented us on 
our good work. Sentence two: Krehm and co. were stigmatized as 
having proven themselves more irresponsible. Sentence three: "Get 
together." In the name of everything, what kind of conclusion is 
this? From what premises? Are acts of disruption, refusal to accept 
plenum decisions, slanderous letters, degeneracy, etc., to be 
followed by no consequences in the Opposition? Is all that is 
necessary a verbal profession of acceptance of a "platform"? My 

Cannon Overreaches 369 

dear Max, there is no Krehm group, there has not been, there 
cannot be! This little clique of 37th-class pseudopoliticians have 
no standing, have not done a stroke of work, have not met more 
than once or twice since the plenum, have vilified us, and have 
carried on anti-Opposition activity. This is neither a Field nor a 
Weisbord element; it is an insult to the intellectual caliber of either 
of these to compare them with both. In a word, they should 
have been suspended or expelled from the organization for their 
postplenum conduct. They were not even censured. We loyally 
stood by the plenum commitments. But since then much water 
has flowed under the bridge and I refuse to recognize them as a 
"group." One or two can find work in the LO, if they apply to us 
for membership. Their applications will receive attention on their 
merits. Others who apply, like Roth or Yolles, I shall frankly oppose. 
But more material will be available for you when you scan my letter 
to Swabeck, and also the resolution. 

3. As to the conference: Al correctly writes me from Chicago that 
he feels a conference on the lines of the last plenum would be 
worse than useless. There is no magic in conferences. The prereq- 
uisite for any conference results must be a fresh analysis of condi- 
tions, the formulation of the new problems, definition of objec- 
tives, and proposals for action. If we can accompany our project 
of a conference with such a political preparation, it is justified. 
But candidly, I lack enthusiasm for a conference that will merely 
retrace the history of the organization and the lamentable record 
of Cannon's passivity and sabotage. To a certain extent, I am 
influenced by the fact that the LO in Toronto at least is drawing 
in fresh people, whose polemical education must be based on 
something more solid than what they might regard as hearsay. The 
estimation of the groupings, the characterization of the leaders, 
must always renew itself in the light of experience. It is not I that 
needs to be convinced, nor you, but the organization. I regret 
nothing, but you know as well as I do, my friend, that we were an 
extremely fortunate little band at the last plenum. We should all 
have been decorated with the order of the horseshoe (first class). 
I came to NY with the handicap for the NY colleagues of a 
wretched internal fight in Toronto. Marty (I know he is too honest 
to take umbrage at what I say), a prey to this impossible inferior- 
ity complex or lack of self-confidence, call it what you will, had 

370 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

not enacted by miles the role he is entitled to as a front-rank leader 
of Communism. But you, especially, in view of your responsibility 
and your location, increased our heavy handicap. We fought a 
defensive battle, on terrain that was not of our choosing. I believe 
that experience must have aged you considerably, at least have had 
a sobering effect. Our grouping was paying the penalty of loose- 
ness of organization and haziness of thought and lack of collec- 
tive leadership. Had we been in the position that Cannon/Swabeck 
demagogically arrogated to themselves or even had half their cards, 
the results for Cannon/Swabeck would have been unforgettable. 
What aided us of course was the essential honesty of our interna- 
tionalism and the pretentiousness of theirs. In a word, the last 
conference just saved our grouping from being heavily compro- 
mised and the organization from being delivered up to the ten- 
der mercies of an Oehler, a Swabeck, a Gordon, et tutti quanti 
[and all of them]. All this recapitulation is by way of explaining 
one's cautious approach to another conference. 

What is undoubtedly encouraging is the demonstration we 
have had since the plenum that factional smartness by itself is not 
decisive. That is where even a master of intrigue with the resources 
of a state at his disposal will break his neck, if he cannot confront 
and solve the big issues. And while Cannon is smart he is no Stalin. 
Even as a factionalist Cannon overreaches himself. I submit that 
had he accepted our suggestion to let the committee stand as it 
had been, his position would have been stronger, particularly would 
his prestige have mounted, if accompanied by a statement to the 
plenum renouncing all "the spoils of victory," "generously" offer- 
ing collaboration, you know the rest. But his mistakes flow from: 
1. undue personal animosity ("subjectivism" he would say in oth- 
ers) coloring his political measures, that same spitefulness, against 
which Lenin warned in a revolutionary leader; 2. from the under- 
estimation of his opponents; 3. the narrowness of his horizons, 
theoretical and strategical. 

This letter is overly long. I was going to raise the question of 
the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, but it will keep for 
another time. 408 


Results of the Postplenum Discussion 

by Martin Abern and Max Shachtman 409 
3 January 1933 

Submitted to the resident committee on January 5 and appended to the 
minutes, this document was a reply to the NC majority 's statement on 
the referendum, which had been authored by Cannon and published in 
CLA Internal Bulletin no. 5. 410 

On Cannon's motion the committee decided not to immediately dis- 
tribute Shachtman and Abern s statement as they demanded. Rather, 
the committee voted that the statement "be received in the record and 
published in the internal bulletin of preconference discussion." Having 
decided at its previous meeting to begin preparations for a national con- 
ference, the committee intended to publish discussion material in Inter- 
nal Bulletins instead of the Militant, as had been the practice for the 
CLA's First and Second National conferences. However, the third confer- 
ence was delayed, and this statement never appeared in an IB. 

The Shachtman faction was making an issue of the fact that Bernard 
Morgenstern, on the night of his release after 90 days in prison for 
"sedition, " had consented to his parents' request that a rabbi perform 
his wedding ceremony. The resident committee discussed the matter on 
December 29, when Morgenstern submitted a statement: "My act was 
done under certain sentiments and considerations of a personal nature 
and not out of the least impulse on my part toward reconciliation with 
bourgeois ideology or any of its religious superstitions. " He regretted that 
his action had harmed the League and offered his resignation as an 
alternate member of the National Committee. Shachtman moved to sus- 
pend Morgenstern from the League for one year. Instead, because of 
Morgenstern 's excellent record, the committee voted for Cannon 's motion 
to condemn Morgenstern and to accept his resignation from the NC. 
Cannon explained to Dunne: 

One might ask why the derelictions of Morgenstern, which are purely 
individual and isolated, can be grabbed up so eagerly as an issue, and 
why people who maintained an unruffled indifference to such over- 
shadowing questions as the international resolution can work up such 

372 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

a lather about it. The explanation, of course, lies in the inescapable 
logic of a faction that is not grounded in principle. Having no prin- 
cipled differences, or not daring to bring them forward and defend them, 
they must resort to all kinds of personal issues. An 

The statement finally issued by the National Committee 
majority on the results of the postplenum discussion and voting 
is so out of harmony with the facts, omits so many important 
points, and so distorts those with which it deals, that we are com- 
pelled, apart from other considerations, to set down our own pre- 
sentation of the situation. 

One of the aspects of the discussion which invested it with 
such an importance was the fact that it was the first one to revolve 
around a major internal dispute in the American section of the 
International Left Opposition. Consequently, its results afford the 
opportunity for drawing some lessons and conclusions for which 
there was no occasion in the past. An examination of some of the 
features of the discussion will show that they occupy a unique 
position in the records of the international Opposition, at the very 
least in the records of the American Opposition. 

1. The plenum met on 10 June 1932 and ended a few days later. 
The statement on the postplenum discussion was first presented 
to the National Committee by the Cannon-Swabeck faction con- 
trolling it, on 29 December 1932— that is, more than six and a half 
months later. Our repeated requests for a tabulation of the votes 
cast were ignored in the committee. It entertained the hope to 
the last minute that by some chance more votes would be cast, or 
votes already cast would be changed in order that the proposal to 
co-opt three members of the Cannon group into the National Com- 
mittee might finally be endorsed in the referendum. One would 
look with difficulty if not in vain for a precedent in the Commu- 
nist movement for so protracted a postplenum or postcongress 
period. The protests registered by us against this procedure were 
either passed over in silence or answered with sophistical insis- 
tence that "everybody be given a chance to vote"— although every 
branch had been informed at the outset that the discussion period 
was set for 30 days. 

2. The discussion, as actually conducted on a national scale, was 
in many respects a mockery of a democratically organized inter- 
nal discussion. Although the issues involved are of vital signifi- 
cance for the League, no internal bulletin was issued in which the 

Minority on Postplenum 373 

members of the organization might express their views. On several 
occasions, our proposal in the committee for the issuance of such 
a bulletin was flatly rejected. 412 A favorable recommendation on 
the same point made by the New York branch met with the same 
fate. The fault was the following: By means of the three bulletins 
issued, the Cannon-Swabeck group was able to reach the entire 
membership with its point of view. But a member of the Chicago 
branch, for example, had no means of communicating his views 
and opinions on the plenum to the members of the Minneapolis, 
or Boston, or New York branch, and vice versa. Other sections of 
the International Left Opposition have internal bulletins at all times 
in which members may contribute divergent views for discussion. 
Our League has the distinction of being denied an internal bulle- 
tin even during an "abnormal" period of sharp inner dispute. 

3. This arbitrary refusal to issue the internal bulletin is even more 
reprehensible in the light of other considerations. The "Carter 
group" was specifically criticized or condemned in two plenum 
resolutions, which were sent out to the membership for endorse- 
ment. The non-New York membership has never set eyes on Carter 
or his "group," or even seen a trace of any political statement or 
document from which his position might be judged. It should have 
been afforded the opportunity to read the standpoint of Carter, 
since we assume that they are not "hopeless idiots" who "take 
somebody's word for it." Yet the membership, by the refusal of 
the Cannon faction to permit an internal bulletin, was deprived 
of the opportunity of hearing from Carter, just as Carter was 
deprived of the opportunity of making known his point of view at 
least on the resolutions directly affecting him. What Opposition- 
ists can defend such and similar procedure (which has such 
atrocious precedents in the proletarian movement)? Only those 
who talk so incessantly about "principle" in order that the practical 
application of principle may be ignored. What political signifi- 
cance can now be attached to the votes of those comrades outside 
of New York who voted against the "Carter group" without ever 
having seen what they stand for or what defense they have against 
the criticisms and charges leveled at them? The only positive gain 
from this procedure lies in the hope that the membership will 
never permit its repetition, save at the risk of sacrificing in deeds 
what we proclaim in words. 

374 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

The same procedure applies also in the case of Saul in New 
York. He presented a resolution to the New York branch which 
criticized both groups in the National Committee. 413 In New York 
he was able to defend his standpoint quite adequately. Outside of 
New York, nobody knew of Saul's opinions. Nobody could associate 
himself with them or disassociate himself from them, for the simple 
reason that the elementary vehicle for an internal discussion in the 
Opposition— a bulletin at the disposal of the membership— was 
denied the organization, without even a reason for the denial being 
given us in the National Committee. From those and subsequent 
facts may be estimated how justified is the criticism recently made 
in the NY branch by comrade Cannon that, if anything, the 
procedure in the League heretofore has suffered from being 

4. Less excusable than any of the numerous arbitrary acts of the 
Cannon faction during the discussion was the complete suppres- 
sion of the document, "The Situation in the American League- 
Prospect and Retrospect," signed by Abern, Glotzer, and 
Shachtman. This document was presented for the information of 
the June 1932 plenum in answer to the document by Cannon and 
Swabeck (Internal Bulletin no. 3). Following the agreement reached 
on the most important question before the plenum, we agreed to 
withdraw our document from the records in the interests of unity, 
i.e., it would be withdrawn from the records in the interests of 
unity provided that the Cannon-Swabeck document, to which ours 
was an answer, would be kept in the archives and not be sent out. 
If it were to be sent out, our reply could not be withdrawn. After 
the plenum, Cannon presented a statement on its results which, 
he acknowledged at that time, could not be acceptable to the 
minority. At that committee meeting, provision was made for send- 
ing out in the Internal Bulletin a counterstatement on the plenum 
results. When we presented it, Cannon withdrew his first statement, 
wrote the one which finally appeared as the NC statement (Bulle- 
tin no. 1) and then proceeded to violate the plenum agreement 
by sending out in the discussion precisely those documents which 
were not to be sent out: i.e., the Shachtman statement on the Engels 
controversy and the Cannon-Swabeck statement attacking 
Shachtman. Confronted with an accomplished fact, we had no 
other course than to demand that our document also be sent out 
in the discussion. 

Minority on Postplenum 375 

To this the Cannon faction agreed and the National Committee 
voted to send it out. But like so many declarations and records on 
paper, the decision was never, to this day, carried into effect. With 
the decision came the motion that it be sent out only after a reply 
to go along with it had been drawn up by the National Commit- 
tee, that is, by comrade Cannon. The latter has had six months' 
time in which to draw up the reply. A few months ago in order to 
delay ending the protracted discussion in the New York branch, 
comrade Cannon announced that he had only a few pages to com- 
plete in his reply, which would be ready a few days later. Months 
have elapsed and no reply has been forthcoming. Worse yet, how- 
ever, is the fact that our document was never sent out to the member- 
ship in the discussion. This did not prevent the just-then organized 
Newark branch from adopting, under the tutelage of comrade 
Basky, a categorical and violent condemnation of the minority 
right at the beginning of the postplenum discussion. 

In a word, the three Internal Bulletins contained all the 
documents ever issued by the Cannon group but not the princi- 
pal document of the minority. In New York, the minority of the 
NC could defend its standpoint orally on the branch floor. On a 
national scale, its voice was shut off by the above-outlined 
"ultrademocratic" procedure. 

To this should be added the following facts: 1. Our amend- 
ments to the Toronto resolution of the National Committee were 
never sent out, despite our insistence; 2. Important corrections to 
the plenum minutes which we made and which related to the 
postplenum discussion were also prohibited from a place in the 
Bulletin?™ 3. It was decided in advance by the National Committee 
(Swabeck motion, 25 November 1932) that the minority can file 
its own statement on the postplenum discussion for the archives, 
but cannot have it sent to the membership together with the 
National Committee majority statement. From all this it will be 
seen that to sign solemn statements in America against Landau 
and Landauism in Germany is a comparatively simple thing to do. 
But that is no guarantee at all that the signers are above employ- 
ing the very methods pursued by Landau in dealing with minor- 
ity opponents. 

In the face of these indefensible, anti-Opposition, and anti- 
democratic practices, the minority must continue to refuse to take 
seriously all the paper charges about "petty-bourgeois politics," 

376 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

"political inconsistency," "factional excesses," "heterogeneity," 
"unprincipled blocs," "only principled path," etc. The documents 
and speeches of the majority faction in the NC are decorated with 
them. As shown by the first important dispute on a national scale 
in which the Cannon faction has engaged with an opponent, these 
practices and methods, plus others which are beneath mention, 
characterize the former group. Until they are changed, the glib 
repetition of the word "principle" will retain its hollow sound to 
the increasing injury of the League. 

5. The votes cast in the discussion may be analyzed as follows: The 
League voted virtually unanimously on the two resolutions deal- 
ing with the situation in the European Left Opposition. Nobody 
in the League could be found to defend the course of those groups 
or tendencies condemned by the plenum resolutions, thus putting 
to rest the light-minded charges made at the beginning about the 
existence in the American League of a "Landau" or "Naville" ten- 
dency. The attempt to make capital out of the fact that all nine 
abstentions on the international resolution are recorded in New 
York is shallow and crude. The list of the nine thus recorded be- 
cause of lack of information on the subject or other reasons will 
be seen to include in it just as many supporters of the Cannon 
group as there are opponents among them. In this case, as in so 
many others, can be found that factional myopia with which such 
important problems are approached by the National Committee 
majority. The charge was made against Shachtman by Cannon that 
the former prevented the National Committee from acting speed- 
ily on the disputed international questions, from recording the 
League promptly in order that alien tendencies in the European 
Opposition might not speculate upon possible support in the 
American League. This did not prevent the National Committee 
from prolonging to an unprecedented length the period of time 
originally set in order to enable the whole League to act swiftly 
and present its opinion to the European leagues in time to exert a 
positive influence. The discussion on the international question 
also showed the quintessential importance of providing the League 
membership with timely information on the developments in the 
ILO, primarily by the prompt issuance of the international bulletins, 
which are now more than a year delayed in the English edition. 

6. The significance and value of the votes cast on the "Carter 

Minority on Postplenum 377 

group" have already been referred to. Neither of the two resolu- 
tions obtained a majority of the votes cast. Out of the ten branches 
that voted in the postplenum discussion, only five voted on the 
question (New York, Boston, Youngstown, Philadelphia, Newark), 
whereas in none of the other five was a distinct vote cast specifi- 
cally on either of the two documents before them (Minneapolis, 
Kansas City, Chicago, St. Louis, Toronto). This may be ascribed 
essentially to two causes: a. Most of the League members felt, and 
justly so, that there was no good ground for seeking to magnify 
the so-called "Carter group" of three young comrades into an issue 
of national political significance and to convert it into a factional 
football; b. The failure of the non-New York comrades to learn 
what the position of Carter actually was, as we indicated above, 
made them hesitate to vote a condemnation out of hand. The 
efforts made since the plenum to sharpen the situation with respect 
to these comrades, to alienate them, in a word, to act toward them 
in a manner directly opposite to that proposed by us in our ple- 
num statement (a passage which is also incorporated on paper in 
the resolution of the NC majority) has not served to improve the 
situation. A glaring example of the attitude that should not be 
adopted is the provocative passage in the NC statement on the 
postplenum results which declares that Carter "has openly attacked 
the international resolution at branch meetings." Not only is this 
statement quite untrue, but it is calculated to exaggerate and 
artificially sharpen the attitude toward Carter in the League. Our 
intention to counteract the influence of Carter where it is harm- 
ful rests as before on the position we have taken in the past, without 
in any way making it difficult or impossible for him to continue 
with the work in which he has been actively and loyally engaged 
among the youth. We shall refuse also, as in the past, to make any 
factional combinations with the NC majority which seems, as 
implied in its first resolution on the question, to attain the earliest 
possible expulsion of these comrades from the League. There 
remains only to establish the actual vote on the two resolutions 
in question. The majority received the following votes cast 
specifically for its resolution: New York, 19; Newark, 4; Phila- 
delphia, 7; or a total of 30. The minority received the following 
votes cast specifically for its resolution: New York, 11; Boston, 7; 
Youngstown, 1; or a total of 19. These figures compare with the 
more than 130 votes cast for the international resolution. 

378 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

7. The Toronto resolution received a majority of the votes cast 
on it. Many branches did not record themselves specifically on 
the resolution, most likely on the grounds of insufficient infor- 
mation on the question. At the same time, it must be stated that 
the Toronto situation has not yet been brought to a definitive con- 
clusion. Our amendments were aimed at facilitating this conclu- 
sion by more clearly disassociating the NC from the thoroughly 
sterile elements around Krehm-Roth and strengthening the group 
around Spector and MacDonald. The leaders of the former group 
actually suffer from all the defects, multiplied a number of times, 
which the Cannon group ascribes to Carter. Nevertheless the 
unnecessary prolongation of the Toronto situation has been nur- 
tured by the dilatory tactics of the NC against which we many times 
have taken a clear stand. The Krehm-Roth group since the ple- 
num has led an entirely unproductive life and conducted itself in 
a manner that not only hampered the sturdy progress the branch 
has been making but has served to discredit the Left Opposition 
in Toronto. The branch around Spector-MacDonald, on the other 
hand, has not only grown considerably in membership, but has 
unfolded a healthy activity, gained in prestige and influence, and 
issued its own monthly organ, the Vanguard. The Krehm-Roth 
group continues to eke out an existence today largely due to the 
fact that the NC majority has consistently failed to bring matters 
to a solution, by insisting on an empty formula which the situa- 
tion has long since passed beyond. Less than ever is there any 
reason now for continuing a quite artificial preservation of the 
"two branch" condition in Toronto, where one is flourishing, while 
the other vegetates and stands in the way. 

8. In the course of the discussion, the question of the co-optations 
proposed to the National Committee soon became one of the prin- 
cipal axes. Our unheeded warning at the plenum against this purely 
factional proposal to establish a permanent, arbitrary, "guaran- 
teed" majority in the NC for the Cannon group, without any 
foundation in principled differences, was verified by the results 
of the referendum on the decision. Every effort was made to obtain 
a majority for the co-optations, but it was properly rejected by the 
League. In this connection, the figures published in the NC state- 
ment are not quite accurate. 415 The vote on the co-optations was 
as follows: 

Minority on Postplenum 379 





New York 
















Youngs town 



St. Louis 


Kansas City 










The discrepancy in the two sets of figures is explained as follows: 
The Philadelphia branch first cast seven votes; later on it sent in 
two more votes; but as is known, the branch has only seven 
members or did have seven at the time of the discussion. Newark 
first cast four votes; later on after the Newark "discussion" was 
concluded, another vote was sent in, the vote of a new member. 
Kansas City cast three votes, but as is shown by the reports made 
from the tours of comrades Swabeck, Clarke, Glotzer, Lewit, and 
Bleeker, there is and for the last two years there has been only 
one member in Kansas City. 

(We counted the Minneapolis vote on the co-optation, for that 
is what was actually at issue when the vote was taken. It should be 
noted that despite the presence in the branch of two NC mem- 
bers and one alternate, no vote was taken on a single resolution 
or motion of the plenum. It was cast as follows: "for the majority" 
and "for the minority.") 

Although the results of the referendum were known and were 
quite clear months ago, the "co-opted" members continued to sit 
in the National Committee and exercise the right of participation 
and decisive vote which they did not justly have. Following the 
decisive defeat of the co-optations, the NC majority, in direct 
violation of the spirit expressed in the referendum, voted to 
constitute a factionally aligned "political committee" in place of 
the resident committee which has been in existence since the foun- 
dation of the League. 

380 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

The explanation for the defeat of the co-optations given by 
the NC majority is entirely out of conformity with the facts. It 
declares that the three comrades of the "Carter group" cast the 
"deciding votes against the co-optations." The figures above 
promptly dispose of this contention. Further on, it says, "Other 
comrades who are in conflict with the NC on important political 
questions (Boston branch) also voted against the co-optations." 
And again the Boston comrades are referred to as being "in con- 
flict with the NC as a whole on questions which have a prin- 
cipled character." 

In these two observations are condensed the essentially fac- 
tional outlook of the Cannon group. Its subjectivity toward oppo- 
nents in the League drives it to the artificial magnifying of small or 
casual differences and even to the creation of them for the purpose 
of discrediting those who refrain from becoming part of the "revo- 
lutionary kernel" in which, as is known, there are no conflicts of 
a "principled character." On what "important political questions" 
"which have a principled character" is the Boston branch in con- 
flict with the NC? On not a single one! No record or document 
or trace of one exists to indicate it, nor can one be produced. 

If the reference is to one question, the NC policy in the needle 
trades (and that is the only possible reference), the statement is 
equally untrue. The branch has endorsed the NC policy of having 
the left wing demand unity on the basis of joining en masse and 
freedom of fraction and opinion. Not even the branch minority 
of two or three declares itself in disagreement with this policy. As 
we understand it, they do, however, declare that the Opposition 
should not take the initiative in openly proposing this policy, but 
leave it instead to the logic of events to force the Party to adopt it. 
In this disagreement, the two or three comrades are, of course, 
wrong, and their wrong stand is not mitigated by the fact that as 
disciplined comrades they carry out the decisions of the NC. Our 
policy toward these three devoted comrades, who have such a good 
record in the left-wing movement, should be to convince them of 
their false position by comradely discussion. It is in this manner 
that we gained the support of these comrades in the past when 
their views on needle trades policy did not harmonize with those 
of the NC. But not an inch of progress will be made by launching 
a factional, exaggerated offensive against them simply because they 
are not supporters of the Cannon group. 

Minority on Postplenum 381 

The idea that our policy is correct, but that we should not 
take the initiative in it, leaving that instead to the Party, is 
undoubtedly wrong on the part of these rank-and-file militants in 
Boston. But wherein does it differ from the position taken by com- 
rade Swabeck on the Gillespie Progressive Miners' Convention a 
few months ago? 416 We proposed in the NC that our fraction at 
Gillespie should take up the Communist banner, in the absence 
of the Stalinists; that it should defend the Communist Party presi- 
dential candidates and seek to win the assembled workers to revo- 
lutionary political action. In this we were supported by comrade 
Cannon. Swabeck, supported by Basky, proposed that we should 
not raise the question of endorsing the revolutionary ticket at all — 
unless the Socialists first raise the question of endorsing the So- 
cialist ticket! This did not, as is the case in Boston, put us at the 
tail of the Communist Party, but it did propose to have us drag 
behind the tail of the Socialists. Its political significance could only 
be, in effect, this: We are for the Communist ticket, but if the So- 
cialists are good enough not to bring up the question of politics 
and elections, we will not bring it up either; if they force us to, 
then we will. This question was of course settled on the spot in 
the NC, but nobody, not even comrade Cannon, proposed to con- 
duct a campaign against comrade Swabeck (who continued to in- 
sist that his position was correct) for having "conflicts of a prin- 
cipled character" with the NC. 

The attempts to explain away the defeat of the co-optations 
in the manner of the NC majority is in harmony with the factional 
obliqueness which prevents it from seeing a disputed question in 
anything but a distorted form. The minority lays no claim to any 
factional hidebound "homogeneity," or the title of "Marxian 
trunk," or "revolutionary kernel," or "Bolshevik group" of the 
League— claims which have driven the Cannon group blindly along 
that course which eliminates from it increasing numbers of League 
members. We do, however, assert our ability to collaborate in the 
work of the League in a comradely manner even with those mem- 
bers with whom we are in disagreement on this or that question, 
so long as these differences do not extend to the fundamental doc- 
trines of the Opposition. The lack of this ability in the Cannon 
group, in the mind of which a verbal "intransigence" and 
"principledness" covers up factional violations of many of the prac- 
tices and methods which are the distinct attributes of the Left 

382 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

Opposition in the Communist movement, has forced this group 
into most of its untenable positions and arguments. 

Thus a mountain is made of the election of Petras to the New 
York branch executive as a "reward" for the violation of discipline 
in going to the Weisbord meeting despite the NC prohibition— as 
if this act— indefensible though it is— constituted the sole or main 
test in the case. 417 At the same time, it is discreetly forgotten that 
the other two members violating the NC prohibition (Berman and 
Shulman) are supporters of the Cannon faction. And on top of 
that, no mention is made at all of the case of Morgenstern, leader 
of the Cannon faction in Philadelphia. His violation of elemen- 
tary Communist ideas (religious marriage) for doing that for which 
he had himself expelled two members of the Young Communist 
League several years ago— as they deserved— was covered up by the 
NC majority. Our restrained motion for suspension for one year 
was met with the theatrical cries, "You shall not lynch comrade 
Morgenstern!" The countermotion of Cannon must be read to the 
very end before one discovers whether Morgenstern is being 
praised or criticized for his conduct. 

The same attitude is displayed in the complaint over the elec- 
tions to the NY branch executive (which the NC tried arbitrarily 
to overthrow), but no mention is made of the fact that in Minne- 
apolis, virtually all the comrades supporting the minority were 
eliminated from the executive at the last election. 

The failure to gain the factional victory on the co-optations is 
not to be attributed to the "heterogeneous composition of the NY 
branch" or the "Carter group" or the "Boston branch." To present 
this utterly false picture as the one side and a "homogeneous prin- 
cipled group" on the other side will not stand the test of the slight- 
est examination. The fact remains that the bulk of the support 
given the Cannon group in the postplenum discussion came: 
1. from the two most stagnant and least active branches, Newark 
and Philadelphia, led by Morgenstern; 2. from the leaders of the 
Minneapolis branch, comrades Dunne and Skoglund, who have 
pursued such an opportunistic policy on one question after 
another as to bring them into real, and not imaginary, conflict 
with the NC time after time. 

This is not the place to draw all the lessons and conclusions 
from the recent developments in the internal situation of the 
League. Nor can this serve as the occasion for presenting a series 

Minority on Postplenum 383 

of proposals on the steps to be taken to solve the problem, as well 
as the many other problems of our work in general, which have 
been neglected and which press for solution. But it can be said 
now that it is fundamentally wrong to approach the problem, as 
does the NC majority, from the standpoint that the "NY branch 
remains as the focal point of the internal crisis." The fact is that 
the bulk of the members with party training and tradition in New 
York do not support the course of the Cannon group. The fact is 
that the bulk of the proletarian elements in the branch do not 
support the course of the Cannon group. The fact is that the bulk 
of the young comrades, in whose development the League places 
its whole future, do not support the course of the Cannon group. 
The fact is, above all, that we reject entirely the attempt to estab- 
lish the divisions in the NY branch on this arbitrary and essen- 
tially reactionary basis. It impedes the fusing together of all the 
diversified elements into a harmonious interlocking whole by fos- 
tering artificial barriers. It also plays to the prejudices of the back- 
ward comrades who begin to believe that our internal dispute is 
part of the general class struggle, in which one faction represents 
the proletariat and the other the petty bourgeoisie (or as one com- 
rade expressed it, the Thermidorian elements). 

To accept the formula of the Cannon group means to shift 
away from the central axis of the problem. It is not the problem 
of the New York branch, but the problem of rectifying the 
relations between the leadership and the membership; of closing 
the gap which has been created between them; of restoring the 
confidence of the one in the other (which cannot be established 
merely by demanding that the authority and prestige of the NC 
be acknowledged); of a patient, comradely approach to the 
membership and not a factionally distorted indifference or 
contempt for their views, particularly when they are not in agree- 
ment with those of the leadership; of eliminating those harmful 
and dangerous practices and methods to which we refer above— a 
problem of paramount importance; of not immediately meeting 
criticisms made by calling them "slanders" and "venomous per- 
sonal attacks"; and, not least of all, of orienting the League in 
actuality toward the systematic participation in the general class 
struggle, with the National Committee helping to set the example, 
etc., etc. 

Unless the problem is approached from these angles, il will 

384 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

not be solved. It most assuredly will not be solved by the method 
proposed in the statement of the NC majority which pledges it- 
self to a continuation of the past policy which has already so greatly 
sharpened and deepened the internal crisis in the League. The 
results of the postplenum discussion mean that it is high time that 
a halt be called and a change in the course inaugurated. In the 
coming preconference period, which we hope will not be unnec- 
essarily delayed, we shall endeavor to pose more concretely and 
extensively the steps that must be taken by the National Commit- 
tee and the League as a whole for a solution of our problems, 
steps which flow inexorably out of an objective analysis of our 
present position. 

^ ^ ^ 

Cannon's Regime Is on a Par With Landau's 

Letter by Max Shachtman to Maurice Spector 418 
3 January 1933 

This letter was written shortly after Morris Lewit and Sylvia Bleeker 
returned from a national tour to build Unser Kamf clubs. The tour 
was a means for organizing the anti-Cannon forces nationally. 

Your letter was a relief in many respects, for it clarified a num- 
ber of points which were not previously clear to me. If I take them 
up below in enumerated form it is only in order that I may cover 
everything I want to call to your attention and that the letter shall 
not be overlong and verschwommen [vague]. 

1. The decision of the branch on the Swabeck Luxusreise [luxury 
trip] did not come too soon, but it is highly satisfactory. Be assured 
that I understand the position you are in with regard to the score 
of new comrades who can but too easily be disheartened by being 
plunged into what is at first blush a rather obscure internal dis- 
pute. New York, Boston, Chicago, Youngstown, and Toronto— the 
distinct majority of the membership— have now registered their 
protests against this plan; but it appears that Cannon and Swabeck 
intend to go through with it at all costs— and one of the costs may 
quite likely be the weekly Militant. The latter is, as you will have 

Cannon Regime Like Landau 's 385 

gathered, hanging by a thread now and the somewhat dubious 
office management which has brought about the crisis is being 
veiled behind the age-old charge of factional sabotage on our parts. 
The sabotage presumably consists in my devoting seven months 
now to full-time work without one single penny of wages; Lewit's 
and Bleeker's full-time work on Unser Kamf for a year now with- 
out having drawn a sou; and the fact that our friends in the New 
York branch are not only the heaviest but virtually the sole im- 
portant financial contributors in the organization. If my skin were 
not so impervious to the venom of Cannon, I would feel more 
outraged at the insolence of the man who makes the charges 
against us, but who never distinguished himself by his sacrifices 
for the movement, as we recall.... 

Your inability to arrange for my visit to Toronto is distressing, 
but I don't suppose anything can be done about it under the 
circumstances. Here, too, I can understand the prevailing senti- 
ment and make allowance for it. Still, I regret tremendously that I 
am to be deprived of the opportunity of discussing with you and 
the other comrades the many questions of paramount importance 
to the League. 

2. The Krehm question has been on the agenda for some time 
now in the committee and all our efforts to bring it to a conclu- 
sion have met with stubborn resistance on the part of the major- 
ity. When I wrote you some time ago that I thought you might 
have brought an end to the situation sooner and more favorably 
if you had been a little more astute— I expressed, of course, a judg- 
ment from a distance, with all the defects that such judgments 
usually contain. This assertion did not signify on my part any re- 
vision of my previous appraisal of this "group." Certainly it did 
not mean that I have at any time relented in the National Com- 
mittee in my endeavors to have the regular branch recognized and 
the rotten faction game of Cannon with Krehm and co. desisted 
from; up to now, as you know, our efforts have been fruitless. Can- 
non has affirmed a burning desire not to "cut off comrades with- 
out making efforts to save them"— and demagoguery bolstered by 
a safe voting majority in the committee is virtually invincible! I 
look forward to your resolution and if it is along (he lines I antici- 
pate, we will press again for a conclusion on Toronto. 

3. The Morgenstern case came up at the last committee meeting, 

386 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

where I finally made the motion for his suspension from the 
League for a year, emphasizing that were there a normal situa- 
tion I would have moved for his expulsion, even as he had himself 
expelled two comrades from the Philadelphia Young Communist 
League years ago for no greater a crime against Communism- 
marriage by religious ceremony. Cannon presented a lengthy 
resolution. It must be read to the very bottom before you realize 
that M. is not being praised for his act, but.. .condemned. No ac- 
tion is taken against him beyond the harmless "censure." His "vol- 
untary" resignation from the committee (continued membership 
would have been too much, don't you think?!) was accepted. The 
scandal is made worse by the fact that throughout the trial it 
seemed that not Morgenstern, but Shachtman, had to be investi- 
gated and punished! At the end, Cannon launched into a decla- 
mation for the benefit of the gallery assembled outside the door. 
When he reached the exclamation: "You shall not lynch our com- 
rade Morgenstern!" (yes, literally!), I said: "Save your campaign 
speeches for the proper occasion, Cannon. You're in the National 
Committee now!" I could almost hear the applause from outside 
the door. This clear-cut case of Tammany protection for "one of 
the boys," accompanied by a stink-bomb offensive against those 
who demanded simple Communist procedure in his case, will not 
serve to increase Cannon's prestige or that of his "revolutionary 
kernel," Morgenstern included. 

4. Our most important problem now is the national conference. 
Your caution is not entirely warranted and, candidly, unless it is 
overcome we shall not be able to present the firm front which the 
situation demands. You will not, I hope, complain about the fait 
accompli when I tell you that we presented a demand at the last 
meeting for a conference on May 1. It was voted down in favor of 
Cannon's motion "endorsing the idea" of a conference on 
St. Nimmerlein's Tag [a day that will never come], which means 
absolutely nothing. The postplenum discussion results were a griev- 
ous disappointment to Cannon and he realizes his weak position. 
The muttered threats of a split, in the event that the "Communist 
group" (I must enlighten you: Cannon means himself) is in the 
minority, continue to be peddled in the corridors. We took action 
on the conference only after thoroughly sober reflection, be sure. 
Morris and Sylvia brought back a careful report from the various 
branches, and the demand is universal— without a single exception. 

Cannon Regime Like Landau's 387 

You will err to think that Cannon made any progress in the land 
with his campaign about "Landauism," etc. To the contrary, it 
proved a boomerang, and the decisive results on the co-optations 
(you are correct about his having blundered seriously on that score) 
will indicate that I am right. Take St. Louis, for instance. They 
voted against the co-optations. Then Goldberg, under a misappre- 
hension about a whispered report about what Chicago was going 
to do, prevailed upon the local comrades to vote for the co- 
optations. He explained craftily to Morris that it was done in order 
to give Cannon a false impression about his strength; this would 
impel him to call a conference in the expectation of "winning"; 
St. Louis would appear on the scene with a delegate vowed to 
trounce the Cannon faction! If you stop laughing long enough at 
this naive Machiavellianism, you will see that the aims, at any rate, 
of the St. Louis comrades are laudable. Chicago, now, on its own 
initiative, has unanimously adopted a resolution (which we pro- 
posed to the committee to endorse, but which it did not) calling 
for a conference on May 1, and John and Al are staunchly for it. 
So is Cowl; so are our two comrades who built the Davenport 
branch; so is Boston; so is Angelo, who supports us; so are the 
great bulk of the New York comrades. 

Will the conference be another June plenum? I more than 
doubt it. If I had any idea that it would repeat the wretched events 
of the plenum, I would continue to oppose the idea. I have held 
off with my agreement to a conference for two reasons, neither 
of which holds water any longer: 1. The plenum atmosphere cre- 
ated by Cannon, which has now completely worn off; not even 
Cannon seeks any longer to do much exploiting of my 1931 visit 
to Europe and the complications surrounding it. And how could 
he and what results would he obtain? It is a bit tedious to have 
dinned into your ears the worn echoes of a dispute that originated 
a year or a year and a half ago, and the comrades don't pay much 
attention to it. It will appear at a conference only as a sadly 
decomposed wraith. 2. My uncertainty about a staff with which to 
replace the present "leading kernel"— a most important question, 
for what political indictment of the present leadership can be 
presented without following it with inevitable organizational pro- 
posals and alternatives? Here, too, the situation has improved con- 
siderably. I believe that Marty is now prepared to take the place in 
the work which properly belongs to him; all the comrades have 

388 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

commented on the fact that his activities have increased consider- 
ably, and during the branch elections there was a spontaneous 
demand from the New York membership that he take the post of 
organizer instead of Oehler, who has proved to be not only fac- 
tional but incompetent. We resisted the demand not so much on 
Marty's account but because of our desire to cooperate as much 
as possible and not to leave ourselves open to the demagogic charge 
of "removals." As for a new National Committee, there is timber 
aplenty in our group and of an infinitely superior quality to the 
saplings and petrified redwood proposed in the late referendum. 
There are not only Marty, Al, Edwards, you, and I, but also Lewit 
and Jack Weber, a comrade I am desirous of proposing for the 
next committee. He has not been in the League for the period 
required by the Constitution; that is true; but his case in no way 
resembles Gordon's. Weber is not only a highly intelligent, well- 
informed, well-poised scholar, but a man of considerable experi- 
ence in the movement. Engineer by profession, he has been in 
the movement for two decades at least, to my knowledge. He taught 
in the Rand School in his old SP days; entered the Communist 
movement at the very outset; joined the Opposition some while 
ago. Interestingly enough, Cannon sent him into our group! That 
is, alter his first visits with Cannon at the time he joined the 
League, he sized up the man with uncanny accuracy. He stands 
high in the eyes of the New York comrades and his articles (even 
if they are drawn out) on Japan have aroused considerable inter- 
est concerning himself. 419 If I draw so long a portrait, it is only to 
acquaint you more intimately with a well-balanced and reliable 
comrade whom you will find it a pleasure to meet and for whom 
you will feel no need to apologize if he joins you on a National 

So you see, the questions you raise so cogently have been con- 
sidered by us here too. The conference, if it does not dispute over 
"Landauism," will not dispute either about what happened four 
years ago. There is enough and more in the last year to speak about. 
If I say that Toronto has given a picture of what the League as a 
whole must begin to do, not any longer on paper but in actuality, 
I am only stating a conviction. The self-satisfied office-chair squat- 
ting which forms the beginning and end of Swabeck's horizon— 
and Cannon's, for that matter— is compelling the League to stag- 
nate in its own tiny pool. We propose to draw up a resolution, 

Cannon Regime Like Landaus 389 

separate from the general thesis on which formal agreement is so 
easy to reach, dealing with the "internal situation and the next tasks 
of the League," or words to that effect. It will be an arraignment 
of the whole inner course and the methods of leadership of the 
Cannon group. This is not a "political question" in the grammar- 
school definition of the term adhered to by Oehler; but it is 
nevertheless of the highest significance for the League at the 
present time. Cannon has established a regime in the League— I 
am not throwing the word around loosely— which is mutatis mutan- 
dis on a par with Landau's. Perorations on principle for the pur- 
pose of executing unprincipled games; the arbitrary suppression 
of minority views (failure to issue an internal bulletin during the 
discussion; suppression of our lengthy preplenum statement; 
refusal to send out our concluding word on the postplenum dis- 
cussion; bureaucratic prohibition against attending "Weisbord's 
meeting"; failure to provide Saul and Carter with an opportunity 
to defend their views in the discussion on a national scale; etc., 
etc.); the artificial exacerbation of disputes and the manufacture 
of "differences" where they do not exist ("our fundamental differ- 
ences on policy with the Boston branch"— a new song from the 
Cannon repertory); the paralyzing of the New York branch with 
factional intrigue and disruption, simply because it burns no 
incense at Cannon's shrine; and the impeding of the work in 
Toronto for the same good reason— all this and much more from 
the voluminous catalog created by Cannon in the last year alone 
will constitute an arraignment against which he will have to draw 
to the very bottom of the wells of cunning for a reply. At the same 
time, we intend to present in the same preconference statement a 
positive criticism of the stagnation and permanent financial cri- 
sis (two sides of one coin) in the League and our proposals that 
the League strike out boldly on a course which will enable it to 
quit its present circle existence and slough off the elements who 
thrive on such an existence (Cannon, by the way, exemplified 
them), gaining by that new recruits who will more than make up 
for the dubious losses. 

The internal situation has reached the stage where to desist 
from a conference will only render the difficulties more acute. It 
is either/or! We must accept the inevitability of a Cannon incu- 
bus in the leadership, plus a sniping criticism here and there, now 
and then; or else we must challenge it openly. I am determined 

390 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

on the latter. Remember this: If we emerged from the plenum to 
our present position despite the handicaps which you refer to with 
such painful accuracy, it is a sign not of our weakness but of our 

Now that Cannon, despite his previous boasts that he would 
agree to a conference the minute the minority demanded it, has 
voted down our proposal, we intend to exercise our constitutional 
right to demand it from the membership directly. The statutes 
provide that it can be convoked by the executive committees or 
membership of branches representing the majority of the League. 
This can and should be done— but done promptly, else our objective 
will not be attained. Chicago is already recorded unanimously. 
Boston will vote this week on it. New York will undoubtedly carry 
our motion tomorrow night. So will St. Louis, Cleveland, Youngs- 
town, and Davenport. If Toronto throws its vote into the balance, 
the knife is at their throat. To act, you require no formal notifica- 
tion from the center. The initiative can come from you, on the 
basis of the need to settle the internal situation and the proposal 
of Chicago. I urge you solemnly to bring the question up (regard- 
less of what may stand in the way at the moment) at the next 
branch meeting and adopt a motion calling for the conference 
on May 1 . The date is most necessary, in order that the votes may 
count on a national scale for a common date. If you agree, do not 
bother to write immediately; your action will be better. If you are 
in doubt, write me air mail, because speed and concert of action 
now count for worlds. More later. 


Cannon's Suave Calumny 

Letter by Max Shachtman to Albert Glotzer 420 
8 January 1933 

The date of January 8 may be an error, since this letter refers to disputes 
recorded in the resident committee minutes dated January 9, where Abern 
and Shachtman submitted a statement against Cannon becoming CLA 
national secretary. Also at that meeting Cannon objected to the Militant 's 
report of the Spartacus Youth Club intervention led by Glotzer in Chicago 
at the recent Student Congress Against War.* 21 The committee postponed 
consideration of Cannon 's motion labeling the article "an inadequate 
and incorrect treatment of this affair, "pending receipt of a more detailed 
report by Glotzer. 

I am enclosing to you a statement on the results of the 
postplenum discussion which Marty and I submitted to the 
National Committee. It speaks for itself and less could not have 
been said. As we expected, the committee decided that it was not 
to be sent out to the membership. The— by your leave!— grounds 
for the refusal were the highly formal ones that the "discussion is 
at an end" and that the NC must have the last word on it. At the 
same time, Cannon promised to safeguard the rights of the 
minority by assuring us that when the preconference discussion 
opens, the present statement would appear in an internal bulle- 
tin. With this polestar before us, we are supposed to console our- 
selves in the meantime with the thought that the document will 
be safely stowed away in the archives. However, I am afraid that 
ways will be found by the membership of learning the contents of 
it even in the face of the suppression. I would not use the latter 
term if I did not remember that even under different circumstances 
and when the same formality could not be summoned to his aid, 
Cannon systematically sabotaged the sending out of our plenum 
document to the membership in the recent discussion, on the 
grounds that he was "preparing an exhaustive reply"— which never 
appeared for the simple reason that it was not and could not be 
written. If there were ever any doubt about it, it is now as plain as 

392 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

a pikestaff that our recent discussion was a stigma with which the 
League was branded by the Cannon faction which, in the course 
of it, showed that it had not risen very much higher in its meth- 
ods than the Stalinists, not, of course, of the 1932 vintage, but 
the Stalinists of 1925-1926, let us say. To learn by rote all the 
political and theoretical formulae of the Bolshevik-Leninists is 
evidently a far cry from having become a Bolshevik and from 
practicing those loyal methods with which that distinguished name 
were once associated. 

The other enclosure is a motion we made today in connec- 
tion with a new development in the committee. For some days 
the office has been buzzing lightly with the report that Cannon 
was to be dismissed from his job. On Thursday last, Swabeck 
presented us, out of the clear blue, with the motion that Cannon 
act as secretary during (and after) his trip to Europe with a wage 
minimum of $25. Had the proposal been made honestly and forth- 
rightly, it would not have induced in us the nausea it did. With a 
burst of righteous virtue, Cannon announced that under the 
pressure of "the masses" and of the situation, he had decided to 
sacrifice his job and work for the League. There is the whole Elmer 
Gantry for you! We requested and were finally given time for con- 
sideration and the matter was laid over to this afternoon's special 
meeting. Here we introduced the enclosed motion which opened 
up all the sluices of Cannon's infinite reservoirs of suave calumny. 
We were not only this, that, and the other thing, but also posi- 
tively the worst faction he had ever seen in his day and age; we 
were trying to starve him out before he began; we were trying to 
prevent him from working professionally for the organization, but 
we should not succeed. And more of the same. However, the 
memory of that nightmarish period during which he occupied the 
post in question and kept his feet cocked on the desk while the 
organization collapsed, plus the more recent memories of his 
genteel abstention from any work that would soil his fingertips or 
entail the expenditure of more energy than is required to indict a 
document against the minority— these are too redolent of what 
Cannon in office means to the organization for us to have been 
blackjacked into acquiescence by his blustering. We made that plain 
in the committee, too. Swabeck, who covered more than one page 
of type with bitter complaints about Cannon's negligence, indif- 
ference, and indolence, turned his bitterness against Marty now, 

Cannon's Suave Calumny 393 

in an attempt to make us forget what he once wrote to both Jim 
and us against the former. Oehler, who came to New York with 
the oath still fresh on his lips that he would find out why Cannon 
is doing nothing for the League, not writing for the paper, etc., 
and who for six months has sat like a stone image while Cannon 
pursued his sweet old way, made a campaign speech that would 
put Bourke Cochran to shame. You will see that we are forthright 
and blunt in our motion, as we are in the "discussion" statement; 
and high time it is. For years we have all suffered to varying degrees 
from a bad survival of the Party faction days. Years ago, regard- 
less of how acute the factional situation in the Party, the various 
leaders would make clever political points and achieve smart par- 
liamentary victories over each other in public, always preserving 
a sham dignity and politeness to each other, which served to fa- 
cilitate the 180-degree turns about-face with which the factions 
regularly startled the Party: "intransigent" hostility one day; ami- 
cable blocs or unity the next day. In private, the most deadly criti- 
cisms, the most annihilating analyses of the other camp were ex- 
pressed—and went no further. This dualistic system was not merely 
calculated to preserve the traditions and prestige of the institu- 
tion of leadership among the "masses." It was a part-conscious, 
part-unconscious reciprocity agreement among the faction chief- 
tains. The leaders' personal characteristics (I don't mean his fam- 
ily life, of course, but those of his characteristics which were re- 
flected in his political life and which were in some cases so rotten 
as to disqualify the man automatically from leadership in a healthy 
organization) were a. party taboo. Lovestone attacked Foster politely 
for his "line," which did not prevent him from making one un- 
principled bloc after another with him; but privately, Lovestone 
told the story of Foster's war record. And vice versa, for Foster 
secretly told the story of Lovestone's court testimony. 422 I think 
we were right in the Militant in telling both stories publicly, because 
both these individuals were patently unfitted to lead the proletar- 
ian party, regardless of what "line" they so lightly signed their 
names to. In a sense, the same applies to our situation. To preserve 
Cannon's prestige for the movement, to enable him to function 
unmolested, we covered up the record of his boundless laziness, 
his criminal negligence of the tasks assigned to him, those petty 
factional digs and intrigues which he clothes so masterfully and 
brilliantly with the oral garments of "principle." Unfortunately, 

394 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

he overreached himself, as Maurice would say. He has forgotten 
that this is the Bolshevik-Leninist Opposition and not the good 
old days in the Party. That is why we are now compelled from 
time to time to throw a beam of light upon dark spots and sewers. 
If they are filthy and stink, they are at least not of our creation. 
They can be cleaned up not by covering them up with a layer of 
leaves, as they used to do in medieval England, until the floor 
was covered with the stratified droppings of generations, but by 
pointing the light at them and telling the organization to clean 
them up. That is why we are compelled again to label Cannon 
and his faction leaders as what they are. And as we have learned, 
there is no possible ovei estimation of the abuse, the polished slan- 
ders to which we will be submitted because of it. But I for one am 
through with even the suspicion of hypocrisy in party relations 
for the sake of and in this meaning of the Oppositionist command- 
ment: To speak out what is.... 

In the long run and even right at this moment, it will bring 
nothing but good to us and the movement. It does not matter over- 
much what the Cannons will say in the coming weeks or months, 
although they will say a great deal. The amount of things they say 
will be in inverse proportion to the truth contained in them. I 
venture to predict that when Cannon is ready to pour out his 
arguments, you will hear him say with that serious eloquence of 
his: "I saved the League from disaster; Abern brought it to the 
brink of collapse. I worked to bring the League to its present level; 
Abern and Shachtman sabotaged. I made sacrifice after sacrifice; 
Abern and Shachtman brought us to the verge of financial ruin." 
Mark my words! 

A final point. At today's meeting, an attack upon you and our 
fraction at the Chicago antiwar conference was presaged by some 
"preliminary motions" by Cannon. He assailed your first article 
as inadequate and incorrect; opposed voting for the conference 
resolution which was adopted in Chicago; opposed Geltman 
accepting on the Action Committee. 423 What he has in mind will 
be clearer at the coming meeting of the committee, to which 
Geltman is to report, as well as at the joint meeting of the NC 
and the National Youth Committee proposed by Cannon. You 
know that Clarke introduced into the latter body a proposal re- 
jecting any united front of Communists and non-Communists in 
the struggle against war, rejected it in principle. It smacks of puerile 

Against Cannon as Secretary 395 

leftism to me, and I will go into the matter more extensively in 
the committee. In the meantime, I am awaiting your report 
on the conference, as well as the critical second article you 

Swabeck leaves tomorrow, on the basis of a century loan and 
$80 raised by Minneapolis, which came through in the "emer- 
gency," although its regular contributions have been down to the 
thin line of late. Imagine if the same held true for New York: With 
what impassioned gestures would the charge of "financial sabo- 
tage by the minority" be flung into the stormy discussions of the 

Thank you for the Daily Workers. It is a good... beginning! Let 
me hear from you, John, and Joe at the earliest opportunity. And 
it should not be imagined by you that the enclosed material is 
intended solely for your archives or for the perusal of a select aris- 
tocracy. Best wishes to you and yours. 

^ 4> 4> 

Against Cannon as National Secretary 

by Martin Abern and Max Shachtman 424 
9 January 1933 

This statement was submitted to the January 9 meeting of the resident 
committee and circulated as part of the minutes. The committee deferred 
action on the question until the following day. 

At the last meeting of the committee, comrade Swabeck made 
the following proposal: That in his absence, comrade Cannon shall 
occupy the seat of national secretary; that this selection is visual- 
ized as more than a merely temporary measure; that the occupancy 
of the post be based upon guaranteeing a minimum weekly wage 
of $25 to comrade Cannon and $15 a week to comrade Shachtman. 

We cannot agree to this proposal for the following reasons: 

1. It would add to the disbursement of the League a sum of $170 
a month. We are entirely in accord with the idea of paying the 
functionaries of the League on a regular basis, and the League 
must strive toward reaching this position as quickly as possible. 

396 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

But the realities of the situation must take precedence over the 
desires we may have. The fact is that at the present time and for 
months past, the income of the League has barely made it pos- 
sible for us to publish the Militant as a weekly and that only on 
the condition that for the past seven months neither of the two 
functionaries of the League has drawn any wages. The addition 
of $170 per month to our expenditures can only be accomplished 
by immediately endangering the issuance of the weekly Militant, 
if not also of other enterprises. The practical reality indicates that 
it will not be for several months yet that we shall even be able to 
approach the sum set for wages without risking the Militant's life. 

2. The past conduct of comrade Cannon in the League is a fact 
that we cannot ignore. During his occupancy of the post of secre- 
tary, comrade Cannon neglected his work in so disastrous a man- 
ner as to endanger the cohesive existence of the organization and 
to provoke the protest of every unit of the League. Even in the 
last seven months alone— to say nothing of the preceding period- 
comrade Cannon has not undertaken any important work for the 
League. His activity has been confined largely to the writing of 
some statements for the committee. These facts we are compelled 
to take into consideration when deciding upon the election of the 
administrator of the national work of the League— for which post 
is proposed a comrade whose conduct has not warranted in any 
way the agreement of any comrade with the proposal. 

We are desirous of obtaining the maximum possible contribu- 
tions to the League's work from every leading comrade and on 
the best-ordered and organized basis. In view of the situation, there- 
fore, we make the following counterproposal to be in effect for the 
coming period, until the League's position requires its revision: 

1. That in comrade Swabeck's absence in Europe, the secretarial 
work be conducted by a secretariat composed of comrades Cannon 
and Abern. 

2. That under the supervision of the NC this secretariat shall divide 
the current work of the national office among its two members. 

3. That until the financial improvement of the League's position 
warrants the payment (and not merely the promise of payment, 
which is all that we have been able to give up to now) of the 
functionaries, the two comrades composing the secretariat shall 
be requested to carry out the function assigned to them on a 

For Cannon as Secretary 397 

voluntary basis, in such a manner that they will be able to 
devote the greatest amount of their free time to it. Wherever 
necessary, other League work in which either of them is en- 
gaged shall be transferred to other comrades so as to facilitate 
their functioning. 

^ ^ ^ 

For Cannon as National Secretary 

by Arne Swabeck and Hugo Oehler 425 
10 January 1933 

This statement was submitted to the January 10 resident committee 
meeting and attached to the minutes. 

The document submitted by comrades Abern and Shachtman 
on the proposal for comrade Cannon to return to full-time work 
for the League is a stab at the organization, dictated by personal 
and factional considerations; dishonest in its contentions and 
assertions and false in its political motivation. 

On the political side of the question their proposal to solve 
the financial crisis by economy in the organizing staff reflects that 
superficial concept of the League as a literary circle, a concept 
which has already done too much harm and which stands in funda- 
mental conflict with our aims to develop the League along the 
lines of a fighting political movement which utilizes the full time 
of the most qualified people in the organization and direction of 
actions in the party and in the class struggle directly. 

The system of the complete nonpayment of functionaries which 
has grown up by default in the recent period— and which they now 
propose to establish formally in respect to the office of national 
secretary— is one of the heaviest contributing factors in causing the 
crisis. The basic weakness of the League is its narrow organiza- 
tion basis, its lack of contact and of organized actions, and its one- 
sided preoccupation with purely literary propaganda. This state of 
affairs, which to a certain extent was imposed on the League by 
circumstances and which served a certain purpose in popularizing 
the main ideas of the Left Opposition, represents now an outlived 

398 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

phase in the development of our movement. Any tendency to re- 
main on this spot, to freeze the organization into this narrow mold, 
carries with it the greatest danger of stagnation and retrogression. 

The League must broaden its base, extend its organization, 
and increase its activities in the Party and the class struggle. The 
first step in this direction is not to weaken the staff but to 
strengthen it. This is the concept motivating our proposal to call 
now on the full-time services of comrade Cannon, the most expe- 
rienced and qualified comrade in the League. The proposal of 
comrades Abern and Shachtman to restrict the functioning of 
comrade Cannon to the service he can render in spare time while 
working for a living elsewhere and, besides that, to encumber him 
with a paralyzing division of functions and useless "assistance," 
can only tend to narrow down the scope of our activities, to ren- 
der the financial crisis chronic, and to consecrate the League to 
stagnation as a literary circle. The differences reflected in the con- 
trasting proposal are not mere disagreements over a "practical" 
matter. They go to the heart of the conflict between us concern- 
ing the kind of an organization that is to be built, its opportuni- 
ties, perspectives, and tasks— a conflict which is going deeper and 
taking on a fundamental character. 

To dispense with professional functionaries; or to restrict their 
selection to those having private means of support; or to propose 
an editor as the sole full-time functionary of the League— this cor- 
responds in no way with the true conception of the present tasks 
of the League, with its possibilities and resources even as it is 
constituted today, and it shuts off any perspective of its rapid 
development and mobility in a situation which is rich in the 
prospect of big changes and shifts in the working-class movement 
and in the movement of Communism. The course now must be 
to tighten the organization internally to strengthen its political- 
organizing staff, to establish Communist discipline and responsi- 
bility, to cleanse the League of trif lers, windbags, and bohemians, 
to insist on activities and sacrifices from every member. The 
Bolshevik struggle for these aims is inextricably bound up with 
any serious orientation toward increased and more effective 
participation in the class struggle and in the Party movement. Talk 
of the latter without supporting the former is only phrase- 
mongering that will not lead the League one step forward, but on 
the contrary can only retard its progress. 

For Cannon as Secretary 399 

The concrete counterproposal regarding the work of the 
national office of the League made by comrades Abern and 
Shachtman conflicts with our view of the matter no less funda- 
mentally than does their whole general concept of the problem 
under consideration. The national secretary of the League, in our 
conception, is not to be simply an "administrator" of various 
"enterprises." The function is not a sum of technical and admin- 
istrative duties to be divided between two or more comrades. 
For the necessary work of a technical character the League has 
adequate forces which can volunteer their services to assist the 
secretary or be drafted for this purpose. The business adminis- 
tration of the Militant and the Pioneer Publishers is already in 
competent hands and constitutes no problem. The function of the 
national secretary is to organize and direct the activities of the 
League from a political point of view according to the policies 
and decisions of the NC. In an organization of the size of the 
League it is a farce to speak of two secretaries. The political and 
organizing direction requires a concentration. The thing is to select 
the one who is best qualified, who is ready to assume the full 
responsibility and to take the risks of economic personal survival. 
This is the meaning of our proposal of comrade Cannon for 
the post. 

In the attempts to dispute the qualifications of comrade 
Cannon for the office of national secretary and the objections to 
his appointment on this ground, comrades Abern and Shachtman 
reveal once again— as in their opposition to the sending of an in- 
ternational delegate— that narrow factional attitude that strikes 
directly at the interests of the movement. The opposition to com- 
rade Cannon's return to full-time work at the moment when the 
League and the movement generally stand in the greatest need of 
his services to the fullest extent comes with characteristic consis- 
tency from the very people who up till yesterday led a personal 
agitation against comrade Cannon because he didn't devote his 
full time to the League. The personal campaign against comrade 
Cannon, carried on with such venomous slander and in such a 
contradictory manner, bears its real character on its face. It is not 
based in the least degree on his lack of "qualifications"; it is not a 
criticism of his weakness but a tribute to his strength, as is the 
case with the campaign of the enemies of the Left Opposition in 
America who, from the first to last, have directed their slanders 

400 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

to the personal address of comrade Cannon. The campaign in the 
League on the same lines merely rides on the waves of prejudice 
set in motion by the agitation in part and caters to the weakest, 
most backward, and most susceptible elements in the League who 
are influenced by this agitation. 

The attempt to undermine the solidly grounded prestige of 
comrade Cannon, and now the bolder attempt to challenge his 
qualifications for the post of national secretary, can only alarm 
the experienced and tested militants of the League who know the 
leaders and also know how to appraise them. The more helpless 
the group of Abern and Shachtman finds itself in the conflict where 
political considerations are involved, the more reckless becomes 
their purelv factional course. Commencing onlv a few months ago 
with protests against an alleged design to eliminate them in a pro- 
test that never had the slightest foundation in fact— they are already 
demonstrating in practice a real program of elimination of their 
own. In the New York branch where, by an unprincipled combina- 
tion with the Carter group and with various other elements in 
disagreement with the NC and with each other, thev have a major- 
it v, the factional course has already led to the elimination of all 
but two supporters of the XC from a branch executive committee 
of eleven members, to their exclusion from all important subcom- 
mittees, to the system of the crassest factional abuse of the chair- 
manship at meetings, to the course of insulting and baiting of the 
XC majority and the creation of an atmosphere of split. 

Xow, by their document under consideration, they proceed to 
announce their program for the national organization in the same 
sense— to eliminate comrade Cannon and those most closely asso- 
ciated with him from the national functionary staff, if not from 
the XC itself. This is what is really involved in the factional struggle 
for control of the League by the block of Shachtman-Carter. That 
it signifies for the disintegration of the League and its political 
disorientation is written all too plainly in the false positions they 
have taken every time they have come forward with an indepen- 
dent policy against that of the XC. The reckless factional progress 
of the Shachtman group is a direct menace to the life of the League. 

The political and personal objections to the return of com- 
rade Cannon to full-time work in the League are supplemented in 
the document of comrades Abern and Shachtman bv "financial" 
arguments. Our proposal to lift the League out of the crisis by 

For Cannon as Secretary 401 

strengthening its staff, expanding its activities and thereby its 
financial revenue, is represented simply as a proposal to add so 
many dollars to a budget already out of balance. By that they seek 
to construe the proposal not as a benefit to the League but as a 
burden to it. And some of the less conscious immediate followers 
are already agitating against the proposal as a personal benefit to 
comrade Cannon. With this the ground is laid to sabotage the con- 
tributions which would be required to carry out our proposal and 
then to attribute the ensuing financial difficulties of the League 
to the wages taken by comrade Cannon. We have seen a sample of 
these tactics in the sabotage of the international delegate fund 
which met with a complete boycott from the Shachtman faction. 

Among Communists who have raised themselves above the 
crude prejudices of such primitive movements as the IWW, the 
necessity for professional functionaries has been recognized and 
defended, their personal disinterestedness had not been questioned 
without good reasons, they have not been considered per se as 
exploiters of the movement, and they have been respected in their 
calling. Among all those who have devoted themselves to the move- 
ment in America to our knowledge no one has a better right to 
this respect than comrade Cannon. In entering the employment 
of the party, in remaining in it, and in leaving it, he showed his 
personal disinterestedness no less than any other revolutionists. 
His record in this respect is known. Not even the Stalinists, who 
spared few slanders, ever ventured to impugn it. In none of the 
inner-party struggles, from the foundation of the Party onward, 
was the accusation of any motive of personal financial gain ever 
directed against comrade Cannon; or, so far as our knowledge 
goes, against any other leading professional workers. 

It remained for the partisans of Shachtman and Abern— in the 
Left Opposition— to circulate this nauseating calumny. The doc- 
ument of Abern and Shachtman is a direct incitement on the 
"money question" to the ignorant, the backward and demoralized 
elements who are infected with syndicalistic prejudices against the 
payment of functionaries and to the petty bourgeois-minded who 
measure in money. We know quite well that such a foul agitation 
will weigh heavily against the success of comrade Cannon's work 
as national secretary, at least in its first stages. But in spite of that 
we insist on our motion and we urge comrade Cannon to take up 
the assignment and at the same time the Communist battle against 

402 CLA 1931-33: The Fight 

such alien arguments and methods. The very fact that such 
degenerate sentiments can exist in our ranks and that leaders can 
be found to exploit them is a fearful warning of internal danger 
to the League. An intransigent Bolshevik fight is necessary to com- 
bat it. Comrade Cannon has the duty to lead this fight, even 
though the alien, anticommunist sentiments are directed, in the 
present instance, against him personally. 

<► ^ ^ 

On Assuming the Post of National Secretary 

by James P. Cannon 426 

10 January 1933 

This statement was attached to the minutes of the January 10 resident 
committee meeting that considered the proposal for Cannon to assume 
the post of national secretary in Swabeck 's absence at a weekly wage of 
$25. The committee deadlocked, with Swabeck and Oehler voting for, 
Abern and Shachtman against, and Cannon abstaining. Swabeck then 
moved to accept Cannon 's offer to take the post on a voluntary basis. 
Cannon voted for this motion, which passed over the continued objections 
of Abern and Shachtman. 

I agree fully with the main point of view outlined in the 
statement of comrades Swabeck and Oehler, insofar as the funda- 
mental questions are concerned, and think this is the direction 
the League must take. And I am ready, as I said at the previous 
meeting, to take the responsibility and all that it involves on my 
part in accepting the office of national secretary, not simply as a 
temporary measure. My aim and desire is to devote my time 
exclusively from now on to professional work for the movement 
as long as the movement finds my services acceptable. 

Together with comrades Swabeck and Oehler I am in favor of 
a Bolshevik fight on the fundamental issues involved and will do 
my part in it in any case. But I doubt the wisdom of allowing myself 
to become the center of a "money argument" as is now indicated. 
It is hardly compatible with the dignity of a revolutionist. Besides 
that, a dispute on these grounds would undoubtedly have a strong 

No Financial Sabotage 403 

tendency to obscure the really important and fundamental ques- 
tions in dispute, add to the demoralization, and also militate 
against the solution of the financial crisis. 

For these reasons I think it best to remove the "money ques- 
tion" insofar as it relates to me personally and to accept the post 
of national secretary on a voluntary basis. I will give all the time I 
can; as long as my personal resources and credit hold out I will 
give my whole time. The conference will have to decide the 
fundamental disputes concerning the character, the tasks, and the 
perspectives of the League as an organization. The disposition of 
my services will follow logically from that, one way or the other. 
On this point I will neither present demands, nor refuse responsi- 
bilities. It is a matter for the League to decide. 

4- 4- 4> 

No Financial Sabotage 

by Martin Abern and Max Shachtman 427 
23 January 1933 

This statement was submitted to the resident committee meeting of 
February 4 and attached to the minutes. Abern and Shachtman here 
refer to a resident committee meeting on 15 December 1932 where the 
charges of financial sabotage were discussed. In a 17 September 1932 
letter to the Minneapolis branch, Tom Stamm had written: 

The financial crisis is still raging here like a typhoon. As far as I can 

see the minority is sitting tight on this question and letting us struggle 

as though we were in a quicksand, getting in deeper in our efforts to 

extricate ourselves. Their contribution to the solution of the problem is 

to make it appear that we were inefficient in the running of the office 

and the handling of finances. 

The resident committee rejected Shachtman