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James P. Cannon 

and the Early Years 
of American 

Selected Writings and 
Speeches, 1920-1928 




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James P. Cannon and the 
Early Years of American Communism 

Tides in the Prometheus Research Series 

• No. 1 Guidelines on the Organizational Structure of Communist Parties, 
on the Methods and Content of Their Work, 94 pages, August 1988. 

A new English translation of the definitive German text adopted by 
the 1921 Third Congress of the Communist International. ($6.00) 

• No. 2 Documents on the "Proletarian Military Policy," 101 pages, 
February 1989. 

Includes rare materials from the Trotskyist movement in the U.S. and 
Europe during World War II, as well as an analytical introduction by the 
International Executive Committee of the International Communist 
League (Fourth Internationalist). ($9.00) 

• No. 3 In Memoriam, Richard S. Fraser: An Appreciation and Selection of 
His Work, 108 pages, August 1990. 

Fraser pioneered the Trotskyist understanding of black oppression in 
the United States, fighting for the perspective of Revolutionary Integra- 
tion. Contains material from entire span of Fraser's political life, includ- 
ing seminal 1953 lectures, "The Negro Struggle and the Proletarian 
Revolution." ($6.00) 

These bulletins in 814" by 11" format are available from Spartacist 
Publishing Company. Prices include shipping and handling. 

A brochure describing the Library is available from: 

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James P. Cannon 

and the Early Years of 
American Communism 

Selected Writings and Speeches 

Prometheus Research Library 



Cover: 1926 Passaic strike support rally in New York's Union Square, Interna- 
tional News? eel photo courtesy of American Labor Museum, Haledon, New 
Jersey; photograph of James P. Cannon is from 1928 Labor Defender. 

Cover design by Bruce Mishkin 

Prometheus graphic from a woodcut by Fritz Brosius 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 92-82578 

Publisher's Cataloging in Publication 

Cannon, James Patrick, 1890-1974. 

James P. Cannon and the early years of American Communism: 
selected writings and speeches, 1920-1928 /James P. Cannon, 
p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 
ISBN 0-9633828-0-2 (cloth) 
ISBN 0-9633828-1-0 (pbk.) 

1. Communism-United States- 1917-Sources. 2. Socialism- 
United States-Sources. I. Title. 

HX86.C159 1992 335'.43'0973 


Prometheus Research Library books 
are published by: 

Spartacist Publishing Company 

Box 1377 G.P.O. 

New York, New York 10116 

Copyright© 1992 by Spartacist Publishing Company 
All rights reserved 

Printed in the United States of America ©^^2^94 

The paper used for the text of this publication meets the minimum requirements 
of American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper 
for Printed Library Materials ANSI Z39.48-1984. 

To George Breitman (1916-1986), general editor of 

Writings of Leon Trotsky and of James P. Cannon: Writings 

and Speeches, who goaded us to produce a representative 

collection of Cannon s writings and speeches in the 1920s. 

This led into the research which underlies this book. 

To Louis Sinclair (1909-1990), for his work over many 

years in meticulously cataloging Trotsky's works, as well as 

for his index of international Trotskyist internal bulletins. His 

pioneering Trotsky: A Bibliography serves as an inspiration. 

To Martha Phillips (1948-1992), a field representative 

for the Prometheus Research Library, whose achievements as a 

revolutionary included being an able and energetic educator 

for the heritage of James P. Cannon. She was murdered 

at her post in Moscow, 9 February 1992, 


About James P. Cannon xiii 

Editorial Note xv 

Introduction 1 


The IWW at Philadelphia, 27 August 1920 71 

Another Renegade, 11 December 1920 75 

The Story of Alex Howat, April 1921 78 

The Political Prisoners, 1 May 1921 85 

Who Can Save the Unions?, 7 May 1921 88 

Workers Party of America Born, 23 December 1921 90 

The American Question, ca. November 1922, 

with Max Bedacht, Arne Swabeck et al 95 


The Fifth Year of the Russian Revolution, early 1923 98 

What Kind of a Party?, 3 March 1923 117 

Don't Pack the July 3 Conference, 25 May 1923 124 

The Workers Party Today — And Tomorrow, 

25 August-22 September 1923 127 

Amalgamation — The Burning Question, 

20 September 1923 150 

Statement on Our Labor Party Policy, November 1923, 

with William Z. Foster 153 

What Happened at Portland?, 24 November 1923 179 

The IWW and the Red International of Labor Unions, 

1 December 1923 183 


The IWW Convention, January 1924 190 

Reply to the Thesis of Comrades Lore and Olgin, 

12 April 1924, with Alexander Bittelman 196 


St. Paul— June 17th, May 1924 207 

Our Aims and Tactics in the Trade Unions, 27 July 1924 ... 213 

Communist Candidates and the Farmer-Labor Party, 

29 July 1924 223 

The Bolshevization of the Party, 5 October 1924 232 

The Minority Attitude Toward Our Election Campaign — 

A Warning Signal for the Party, 3 December 1924 244 

Lovestone Quotes Mahoney, 8 December 1924 250 

The CEC, the Minority and Comrade Lore, 

11 December 1924 257 

How to Organize and Conduct a Study Class, 

13 December 1924 264 

A Year of Party Progress, 27 December 1924, 

with William Z. Foster and Alexander Bittelman 268 

Statement on Two and a Half Internationalism, 
27 December 1924, with William Z. Foster, 
Alexander Bittelman, Earl Browder, Fahle Burman, 
William F. Dunne and Martin Abern 284 


Controversial Questions in the Workers Party of America, 

ca. February-March 1925, with William Z. Foster 287 

Recommendations to the American Commission (excerpt), 

ca. February-March 1925, with William Z. Foster 317 

Pepper: Menace to Party Unity, 13 February 1925 319 

The Situation Is Different in America, 30 March 1925 321 

We Must Acknowledge Our Mistake, But We Want 

No Fake Labor Party, 5 April 1925 324 

Proposal On Comrade Pepper, 6 April 1925 328 

Struggle Over Leadership of the ILD, 26 June 1925, 

minutes of Workers Party Executive Council (excerpt) . . 329 

ILD Will Grow Quickly, 15 July 1925 331 

Cannon Replies to Henry Askeli, 8 August 1925 333 

Achievements of the Parity Commission, 11 August 1925 . . . 343 

Our Party and the Communist International, 

4 October 1925 347 


On Trade-Union Policy, 10 October 1925, motions by 

Cannon, statement by Cannon with William F. Dunne . . 359 

Unify the Party!, 16 November 1925, with Max Bedacht, 
William F. Dunne, Jay Lovestone, C.E. Ruthenberg 
and the National Executive Committee of the YWL .... 362 


Broaden the TUEL, 18 March 1926 367 

Our World Party at Work, 27 May 1926 369 

The United Front at Passaic, June 1926 375 

For Industrial Groups on a Broader 

Basis Than the TUEL, 29 October 1926 382 


Conference on Moderating Factionalism, 7 February 1927, 
unsigned summary of conversation between J. P. Cannon, 
C.E. Ruthenberg, Max Bedacht and Jay Lovestone 383 

For the Liquidation of Factionalism, 6 May 1927 392 

Theses on the Party Factional Situation (excerpt), 

ca. May 1927, with William Weinstone 427 

Letter to the American Commission, 16 June 1927, 

with William Weinstone and William Z. Foster 440 

Report from Moscow, 26 June 1927, 

unsigned Cannon Group factional circular 452 

Lovestone Faction an Obstacle to Party Unity, 

ca. June 1927 461 

The Red Month of November, November 1927 471 


Workers Entering New Path of Struggle, 5 February 1928 . . 476 

Party Work and Accountability, March-April 1928 494 

Organization of Propaganda Meetings, 14 May 1928 497 

Opening the Election Campaign, 5 June 1928 502 

I Will Go to the Sixth Congress, 13 June 1928 506 

The Voice of the Communist Movement, 26 June 1928 .... 507 
Trade-Union Questions, July 1928 512 


Against the Opportunism of the Lovestone Majority, 

25 July 1928 521 

I Stand on My Record, 27 October 1928 526 

Appendix 1: Cannon's Collaborators 535 

International Labor Defense Activities from January- 
July 1928, 23 July 1928, by Martin Abern 536 

Letter on the Textile Situation, 23 July 1928, 

by Arne Swabeck 542 

Report on the Mining Situation by Arne Swabeck and 
Motions on the Mining Situation, 8 August 1928, 
by Arne Swabeck and Alfred Wagenknecht 544 

Attack on the National Miners' Union Convention, 

18 September 1928, by Martin Abern 550 

Letter to Lovestone, 2 November 1928, 

by Antoinette Konikow 559 

Appendix 2: 

Report to Political Committee on the Right Danger and 

Trotskyism, 25 December 1928, by Jack Stachel .... 561 

Photo Sources 572 

Glossary 573 

Bibliography of the Writings and Speeches 

of James P. Cannon, 1912-1928 602 

Index 611 

'James P. Cannon was the finest communist political leader 

this country has yet produced. In his prime he had the 

evident capacity to lead the proletarian revolution 

in America to victory." 

Workers Vanguard No. 52, 13 September 1974 

About James P. Cannon 

James Patrick Cannon was born on 11 February 1890 in 
Rosedale, Kansas, which is now a part of Kansas City. Won to 
socialism by his father, an Irish Republican and Populist who had 
come over to the Socialist movement in 1897 with Eugene V. 
Debs, Cannon joined the Socialist Party (SP) in 1908 at the age of 
18. In 1911 he quit the SP to join the syndicalist Industrial Work- 
ers of the World (IWW). From 1912 to 1914 he traveled the 
American Midwest as an agitator and organizer for the IWW; from 
1914 to 1919 he was active in the local Kansas City chapter. 

Galvanized back into political action on the national field by 
the Russian Revolution, Cannon rejoined the SP in order to hook 
up with its developing pro-Bolshevik left wing. In April 1919 Can- 
non helped to launch a communist newspaper in Kansas City, 
Workers' World. In June Cannon was Kansas City delegate to a 
national caucus of the SP left wing held in New York City. At an 
August 1919 convention in Chicago, the left wing split from the 
Socialist Party, and two communist parties were formed. Although 
he did not attend the convention, Cannon and the entire Kansas 
City left wing joined John Reed's Communist Labor Party (CLP) 
rather than the rival Communist Party of America. Cannon was 
elected CLP secretary for Missouri and organizer for the 
Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri district. 

The two communist parties eventually merged their forces 
and founded the Workers Party of America. This was the name 
the party retained until 1929. Cannon was the chairman of the 
Workers Party from its founding in December 1921 through its 
third convention in December 1923. He was a member of the 
Central Executive Committee (Central Committee) from 1920 to 
1928 and the Executive Council (Political Committee) from 1922 
to 1928. Cannon was assistant executive secretary of the partv 
from December 1923 until August 1925; throughout this period 
Cannon was a prominent public party spokesman, as well as the 


party's education director. He was the Workers Party candidate 
for governor of New York in the fall of 1924. 

In July of 1925 Cannon was instrumental in founding the 
International Labor Defense (ILD), a united-front defense organi- 
zation. Cannon was secretary and chief administrator of the ILD 
from its foundation until his 1928 expulsion from the Workers 
Party. He was a frequent public speaker on behalf of the ILD, 
which organized mass agitation against the execution of the anar- 
chists Sacco and Vanzetti, among other campaigns. 

Cannon first went to Moscow to serve as the American dele- 
gate to the Executive Committee of the Communist International 
(ECCI) in June 1922. He spent seven months there, first as a 
member of the Presidium of the ECCI from June through Novem- 
ber and then as a delegate to the Fourth Congress of the Commu- 
nist International. He made four other trips to Moscow later in 
the decade: in 1925 he was delegate to the Fifth Plenum of the 
ECCI; in 1926 he attended the Sixth ECCI Plenum; in 1927 he 
was a delegate to the Eighth ECCI Plenum; and finally, he was a 
delegate to the Sixth World Congress, July-August 1928. It was at 
the Sixth Congress that Cannon was won to Leon Trotsky's Left 
Opposition. In October 1928 he was expelled from the Workers 
Party for Trotskyism, along with Martin Abern and Max Shacht- 
man. At the time of his expulsion Cannon was the party's candi- 
date for Congress in New York's Second District. 

For the next 25 years Cannon was the principal leader of 
American Trotskyism, retiring as National Secretary of the Social- 
ist Workers Party (SWP) in 1953. At the time of his death in 
August 1974 Cannon was still the National Chairman of the SWP; 
however the party had abandoned the Trotskyist program more 
than ten years earlier. The SWP's Pathfinder Press distributes a 
posthumous series of Cannon's writings as a Trotskyist, James P. 
Cannon: Writings and Speeches. Four volumes in the series have 
been published, covering the years 1928-31, 1932-34, 1940-43, 
1945-47. Pathfinder also distributes a number of books by Cannon 
that were published during his lifetime, including Notebook of an 
Agitator, which includes many of his popular, agitational articles 
from 1925 to 1928, as well as The History of American Trotskyism 
and The First Ten Years of American Communism. 


Editorial Note 

This book was a struggle to create. We began to compile the 
material in 1984 under the tutelage of George Breitman, who had 
been the Pathfinder Press editor responsible for both the Leon 
Trotsky and James P. Cannon writings series. We had collected 
most of Cannon's published articles by September 1985, when 
George wrote us a memo urging that we make the book a top 
priority, noting "mainly it is a matter of selecting what will go 
into the book and what will have to be excluded." We had little 
experience in this kind of editorial work, however, and George's 
death in April 1986 caused us to put aside the ambitious Cannon 
book project in favor of the more modest goal of publishing a few 
library research bulletins. It was only after we had published three 
bulletins in our Prometheus Research Series that we were able to 
continue work on this book. 

The bibliography lists all the writings and speeches by James 
P. Cannon which we were able to locate in published and unpub- 
lished sources, from 1912 through Cannon's expulsion from the 
Workers Party in the fall of 1928. We were able to review material 
from the James P. Cannon and Rose Karsner Papers, 1917-1924 
which were recently deposited by the Socialist Workers Party in 
the Archives Division of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 
These papers were opened to researchers only in July 1992; they 
contain some items which were unavailable from other sources, 
including personal political correspondence. We have thus 
searched the bulk of open archives likely to contain documents or 
speeches by Cannon from the 1920s; however it is possible that 
the files of the Communist International in Moscow contain addi- 
tional material. 

We have edited all the Cannon material included in this vol- 
ume, modernizing spelling and correcting obvious typographical 


errors and inconsistencies. Where possible we have checked the 
accuracy of quotations cited. We have also provided explanatory 
introductions and footnotes to Cannon's texts. However, the avail- 
able documentation of the early American Communist movement 
is very partial. We have not been able to identify all of the individ- 
uals mentioned by Cannon. Nor have we been able to provide 
background information on all the issues under dispute in the 
Workers Party. 

An extensive glossary of names, organizations and terms possi- 
bly unfamiliar to the contemporary reader is provided at the end 
of the volume. Abbreviations are listed in the index. 

A section of photographs can be found in the middle of the 
volume, a list of sources appears on page 572. We would like to 
thank the New York Reference Center for Marxist Studies for 
allowing us to copy the Workers Monthly, Labor Herald and Labor 
Defender photographs which appear in this section. 

We thank Theodore Draper for making available to us his 
research papers deposited at the Hoover Institution Archives in 
Stanford, California, and at the Robert W. Woodruff Library at 
Emory University. The librarians at both these institutions were 
extremely helpful, as was Dorothy Swanson and the staff at the 
Tamiment Institute Library in New York. We thank Frank Lovell, 
Albert Glotzer, Harvey Klehr and Morris Lewit for their assistance 
in identifying some of the individuals named in this volume. We 
thank Anne Stillwaggon for her advice on book publishing. 

Unless otherwise stated, all unpublished transcripts, letters 
and manuscripts published here are from originals or photo- 
copies in the collection of the Prometheus Research Library. 

The compilation and selection of the material for this book, 
as well as the introduction and editorial notes, were centrally the 
work of Emily Turnbull and James Robertson; Lisa Diamond, 
Jonathan Lavine and Diana Kartsen were responsible for copy- 
editing. The glossary was prepared by Keith Anwar; the index was 
compiled by Jonathan Lavine; the bibliography of Cannon's writ- 
ings was prepared for publication by Steve Miles; Cory Pearson 
was the photographer; Maria Gianotten designed the photograph 
pages. Hector Cornejo, Bree Conover, John Heckman, Diana 
Kartsen, and Carl Lichtenstein were centrally responsible for 



On 27 October 1928 James P. Cannon, a member of the 
Political Committee of the American Communist Party — called at 
that time the Workers (Communist) Party — was expelled for 
attempting to organize within the party in support of Leon 
Trotsky's Left Opposition. The Trotskyist opposition was fighting 
to return the Soviet regime and the Communist International to 
the revolutionary internationalism of Lenin's day, insisting that 
the fate of the Soviet regime depended on the international 
extension of the October Revolution and that the forging of 
Leninist vanguard parties was key to that extension. 

By the time of Cannon's expulsion Trotsky and other leading 
members of the Left Opposition had already been expelled from 
the Soviet party and the Communist International. Many had 
been sent into internal exile in the Soviet Union; Trotsky himself 
was in Alma Ata in Soviet Central Asia. Most of those fighting 
against the Stalinist degeneration of the Russian Revolution 
learned only much later that their fight had found support in the 
adherence to their cause of a senior American party leader. 

More importantly, they learned that Cannon did not stand 
alone. Expelled along with Cannon were fellow Central Commit- 
tee member Martin Abern and alternate member of the Central 
Committee Max Shachtman, both of them close associates of 
Cannon since the early days of American Communism, leading 
members of the longstanding "Cannon group" (or faction) 
within the party, and leaders, along with Cannon, of the Inter- 
national Labor Defense. Over the next few months more than 100 
members of the Workers Party were expelled, some for making 
forthright statements in support of Cannon, Abern and Shacht- 
man, most for simply questioning the propriety of the expulsions. 
The newly expelled had almost all been supporters of the Cannon 
faction, and they included Arne Swabeck, another full member of 


2 Early Years of American Communism 

the Central Committee, as well as Vincent R. Dunne, most of the 
Twin Cities leadership, and Cannon's companion Rose Karsner, a 
founding member of the party and a central administrator of the 
ILD. Expelled from the Canadian Communist Party was Maurice 
Spector, party chairman and member of the Executive Commit- 
tee of the Communist International, along with a small band of 

Not all of the Cannon faction opposed the expulsions. In 
particular Cannon's closest friend and associate, William F. 
Dunne — a full Central Committee member and candidate mem- 
ber of the Political Committee who was on foreign assignment for 
the Communist International at the time of the expulsions — 
stayed in the party and denounced Cannon. Manuel Gomez, alter- 
nate member of the CC and head of the party's Anti-Imperialist 
League, testified against Cannon in the Political Committee. In 
all, probably only about half the members of the faction — which 
was composed almost entirely of party cadre and was thus the 
smallest of the three major factional groupings in the party — were 
expelled, and not all of these became members of the Trotskyist 
Communist League of America (CLA) when it was founded in 
May 1929. But a solid majority of those who founded the Ameri- 
can section of the Left Opposition were Cannon faction support- 
ers of long standing. 

The genesis of the CLA from an established grouping within 
the Communist Party, with years of political collaboration and 
agreement behind it, gave it an organizational stability and polit- 
ical cohesion lacking in other International Left Opposition 
sections outside of the Soviet Union itself. Most other leaders who 
came over to the Left Opposition from parties of the Communist 
International did so only after they had been discredited and 
stripped of all supporters. Cannon stands out as the only one 
expelled while he was still a credible party leader, able to win 
others to his political course. 

The material presented in this book is designed to shed new 
light on the unique origins of American Trotskyism by providing 
a documentary record of the political evolution of Cannon and 
his faction within the Workers Party. Though we have been able 
to include some of the popular agitational pieces, our selection 
of Cannon's writings and speeches is heavily weighted toward 

Introduction 3 

internal factional material. We include here many documents 
coauthored by Cannon, and others which he cosigned but prob- 
ably had no part in writing. In most cases it was impossible to 
determine the actual authorship of the jointly signed material, 
and the political profile of the Cannon faction would have been 
severely skewed if we had not included the major coauthored 
statements. Where necessary we have also supplemented this ma- 
terial with excerpts from the party's Executive Council (Political 
Committee) minutes. 

Yet it would be a mistake to look at this material simply as a 
prelude to Cannon's later emergence as the authoritative Ameri- 
can Trotskyist leader. For Cannon was also one of the most able 
Communist leaders in the 1920s, a period when the party was not 
yet homogenized into a rigid Stalinist orthodoxy. This was a 
time of real, necessary and inevitable debate about the tasks 
facing Communists in the United States. From 1924 these debates 
were increasingly dominated, and increasingly deformed, by a 
Communist International which was losing its revolutionary per- 
spective. The American party, feeling the pressure of an expand- 
ing and stable American imperialism, readily followed in the 
International's wake. Thus the experience of building a Leninist 
party in the United States in the 1920s was largely negative. But if 
Cannon, feeling at a dead end in the internal factional wars, was 
able to make the leap in 1928 to Trotsky's programmatic and 
international understanding of Stalinism, it was in large part 
because he had tried, in the preceding period, to chart a path for 
the party based on revolutionary communism. 

This book does not stand alone but supplements the excellent 
two-volume history of the American Communist Party (through 
1929) written by Theodore Draper, one of only two "reasonably 
adequate histories" of Comintern sections, according to the 
historian E.H. Carr (the other being J. Rothschild's history of 
the Bulgarian party). 1 An ex-Communist if anti-Communist, 
Draper had a sympathy and feel for the subject usually lacking 

1 Joseph Rothschild, The Communist Party of Bulgaria, Origins and Development 
1883-1936 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959). E.H. Carr recommended 
the Draper and Rothschild histories in Socialism in One Country 1924-1926, Vol. Ill, 
Part 1 (New York: Macmillan Company, 1964), v-vi. 

4 Early Years of American Communism 

in professional historians. Moreover, he was able to interview 
many former party leaders in preparing The Roots of American 
Communism and American Communism and Soviet Russia} Cannon, 
in semi-retirement, was able to devote considerable time to 
answering Draper's questions about the Communist movement. 
His letters were a major independent contribution to Draper's 
researches, and they were later published as The First Ten Years of 
American Communism. Draper wrote a preface for Cannon's book, 
and in it he paid tribute to Cannon's excellent memory of the 

For a long time, I wondered why Jim Cannon's memory of events in 
the Nineteen-Twenties was so superior to that of all the others. Was 
it simply some inherent trait of mind? Rereading some of these 
letters, I came to the conclusion that it was something more. Unlike 
other communist leaders of his generation, Jim Cannon wanted to 
remember. This portion of his life still lives for him because he has 
not killed it within himself. 3 

Draper contrasted Cannon's letters with other autobiographi- 
cal efforts: "Official American communists have published so- 
called autobiographies, but they have been largely spurious. 
Cannon's letters are the real thing." 4 It hardly needs to be noted 
that the documentary record presented here, culled from the 
published press of the Communist International and the Workers 
Party as well as from unpublished archival sources, fully validates 
Cannon's First Ten Years, even as it amplifies and augments it. 
Such a documentary record — even a highly selective one — cannot 
be said to exist for the accounts of many leading ex-Communists, 
to say nothing of the official histories penned by Stalinist hacks. 
William Z. Foster's tendentious History of the Communist Party of the 
United States writes Cannon, among others, almost entirely out of 
the party's early years, while Earl Browder and Benjamin Gitlow 
portray Cannon — in their own image — as simply an unprincipled 

2 Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism (New York: Viking Press, 
1957) and American Communism and Soviet Russia (New York: Viking Press, 1960). 
They will henceforth be cited in the footnotes as Draper I and Draper II. 

3 Theodore Draper, preface to James P. Cannon, The First Ten Years of American 
Communism (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1962), 12. Henceforth Cannon's book will be 
referred to as First Ten Years. 

4 Ibid., 11. 

Introduction 5 

and power-hungry intriguer. 5 Bertram D. Wolfe, on the other 
hand, disingenuously disappears his own role as Jay Lovestone's 
chief factional hatchet man and anti-Trotsky expert. 6 These 
accounts — written by those who contributed greatly to the Stalini- 
zation of the Workers Party and its destruction as a revolutionary 
organization — often make unintentionally hilarious reading. We 
could supplement Draper's observation: if Cannon had reason to 
remember, he also had nothing to cover up. Cannon went on to 
become the finest communist political leader the United States 
has yet produced. 

Cannon in the IWW 

Cannon was one of those who came to Lenin's communism 
by way of the syndicalist movement. But Cannon's syndicalism was 
not the "boring from within the American Federation of Labor" 
variety espoused by William Z. Foster, who also joined the Com- 
munist movement. Cannon had been a member of the Industrial 
Workers of the World (IWW), a "Wobbly." He had quit the So- 
cialist Party (SP) at the age of 21 to champion the "one big 
union" envisioned by the IWW, which eschewed the electoral 
political activity of the SP in favor of what it called "direct 
action." Cannon was part of a great exodus of left-wingers from 
the Socialist Party at that time — many quit after the SP adopted a 
constitutional clause against the advocacy of "sabotage" in 1912 
and many more left when the SP removed IWW leader "Big Bill" 
Haywood from its Executive Board in 1913. 

In many ways Cannon was typical of the revolutionary-minded 
proletarian youth who flocked to the early IWW, disgusted with 
the middle-class reformism of the dominant SP leadership. The 
IWW believed in dual unionism — the strategy of building new 
revolutionary unions from the great mass of non-unionized, 
largely unskilled workers, rather than "boring from within" the 

5 William Z. Foster, History of the Communist Party of the United States (New York: 
International Publishers, 1952); Benjamin Gitlow, I Confess (New York: E.P. Dut- 
ton & Co., 1940); Earl Browder's undated and unfinished manuscript, No Mans 
Land, which positively drips with rivalry toward Cannon, is deposited in the Earl 
Browder Papers, George Arents Research Library, Syracuse University. The Earl 
Browder Papers are also available from the Microfilming Corporation of America. 

6 Bertram D. Wolfe, A Life in Two Centuries (New York: Stein and Day, 1981). 

6 Early Years of American Communism 

existing conservative American Federation of Labor (AFL) craft 
unions. The dual-unionist ideology heavily influenced the nascent 
American left wing, and it was to plague the early Communist 

Cannon had made a special study of public speaking in high 
school (he had dropped out of school at the age of 12 to help 
support his family by working in a meatpacking plant, but he 
returned to high school in 1907 and attended for three years). It 
was his ambition to become a soapbox agitator for the IWW, and 
he did indeed become a popular speaker at 6th and Main in 
downtown Kansas City. He was a delegate to the seventh national 
convention of the IWW in Chicago in 1912. He served as secretary 
of the convention and took an active part in its proceedings. He 
caught the eye of IWW leader Vincent St. John and after the 
convention he became a protege of St. John. 

Cannon cut his teeth in the labor movement as a Midwest 
organizer and speaker for the IWW from 1912 to 1914. After the 
convention St. John sent Cannon to Jackson, Michigan, where an 
auto strike was on. But the strike fizzled and Cannon ended up in 
New Castle, Pennsylvania, working on the IWW journal Solidarity. 
The winter of 1913 saw Cannon make a speaking tour of the 
Midwest in support of the Akron rubber strike; he spent two 
weeks in jail in Peoria, Illinois toward the end of that year for his 
activity in support of the Avery manufacturing strike. Cannon 
learned as he went along during this period of itinerant organiz- 
ing. His experience was characteristic of the IWW at the time, as 
he later noted in a tribute to Vincent St. John, who was widely 
known as "the Saint": 

"The Saint," of affectionate memory, was a wonderful man to learn 
from. He was short on palaver and had some gaps in his theory, but 
he was long on action and he was firmly convinced that the water is 
the only place where a man can learn to swim. His way of testing, 
and also of developing, the young militants who grew up under his 
tutelage was to give them responsibility and shove them into action 
and see what happened. Those who acquired self-confidence and the 
capacity to make decisions under fire on the spot, which are about 
90 percent of the distinctive quality of leaders and organizers, even- 
tually received credentials as voluntary organizers and thereafter 
enjoyed a semi-official status in the strikes and other actions which 
marked the career of the IWW in its glorious hey-day. The shock 

Introduction 7 

troops of the movement were the foot-loose militants who moved 
around the country as the scene of action shifted. 7 

After Cannon was released from the Peoria jail, St. John sent 
him to Omaha, then to Duluth, where he worked with Frank Little 
in an ore dockers strike. Later on in 1914 Cannon was a delegate 
to the IWW's eighth convention. Afterward he returned to Kansas 
City, joining his first wife, Lista Makimson, who was a school- 
teacher there. Lista had come to visit Cannon when it looked like 
he might face a long jail term for his activity in the Avery strike; 
they were married in Pekin, Illinois. Cannon remained active in 
the Kansas City IWW; during World War I he registered for the 
draft as a conscientious objector and was known as a vocal oppo- 
nent of the war. 8 It was the Russian Revolution which galvanized 
Cannon back into political action on the national field. He was 
far from the only one so affected. A pro-Bolshevik left wing was 
developing inside the Socialist Party; Cannon, disillusioned by 
the IWW's failure to grasp the significance of the workers revolu- 
tion in Russia, rejoined the SP in order to hook up with this left 
wing. In 1919 Cannon and Earl Browder, who had been a local 
supporter of William Z. Foster's syndicalist organization, launched 
a pro-Bolshevik journal in Kansas City, Workers' World. 

The Birth of American Communism 

The year 1919 saw the crest of the wave of labor radicalism 
which swept Europe in opposition to the great carnage of World 
War I and in support of the 1917 Russian Revolution. 1919 was 
the year of the Spartakist uprising in Germany, the short-lived 
Hungarian Soviet Republic, the founding of the Communist 
Third International. Even on the distant and politically backward 
shores of the United States the wave sweeping Europe made its 
ripples. More man-hours were lost due to strikes in the United 

7 "Spirit and Technique of the Pioneers," in the California Socialist Party's Labor 
Action (San Francisco), 28 November 1936 (reprinted in Notebook of an Agitator, 
New York, Pioneer Publishers, 1958, p. 104). Cannon also paid tribute to St. John 
in his 1961 essay, "The IWW: The Great Anticipation," First Ten Years, 277-310. 

8 Transcript of Joseph Hansen interview with James P. Cannon, 5 October 1956, in 
the James P. Cannon and Rose Karsner Papers 1919-1974, Archives Division, State 
Historical Society of Wisconsin, Box 25. This collection is hereafter referred to as 
the Cannon Papers. 

8 Early Years of American Communism 

States in 1919 than in the next six years put together. In February 
a solidarity action in support of higher wages for shipyard workers 
in Seattle grew into a citywide general strike, and for five days the 
labor unions ran the city. Later that year the Seattle longshore- 
men refused to load arms shipments bound for the White Guard 
counterrevolutionary troops in Siberia. The coal miners went out 
on national strike; so did the steel workers. The ranks of the So- 
cialist Party swelled, mostly through an influx of foreign-born 
workers, those most affected by events in Europe. The Socialist 
Party's pro-Bolshevik left wing had the support of two-thirds of 
the party's more than 104,000 members. In September the Ameri- 
can Communist movement was born. Unfortunately, most of the 
members of the SP's left wing did not make the transition to the 
Communist movement. 

The American bourgeoisie did not leave this wave of labor 
radicalism to recede on its own. Race-hate was the bourgeoisie's 
first line of defense: in 1919 there were 70 lynchings and 25 anti- 
black pogroms, including a crucial one in Chicago which broke 
the back of an interracial union-organizing drive among the meat- 
packers. The young Communist movement was also subjected to 
massive state repression, beginning in November, only two months 
after its birth. Dubbed the "Palmer Raids" after then-Attorney 
General A. Mitchell Palmer, the persecution lasted for over four 
months. Communist offices and newspapers were raided; over 
6,000 Communists were arrested in nationwide raids in the first 
week of January 1920. Foreign-born Communists were deported 
en masse (249 deported to Russia in December 1919 alone). Many 
leading Communists were jailed and/or faced trial on "criminal 
syndicalism" charges. 

The repression had the desired effect, driving away many of 
the left-wing SPers from the young Communist movement. But 
this movement had other problems. It was crippled from birth by 
a bitter organizational split. The Communist Party of America 
(CPA) of Louis Fraina, dominated by seven large and insular East 
European foreign-language federations, lacked both a sense of 
American social reality and any real desire to affect it. The Com- 
munist Labor Party (CLP) of John Reed was more concerned with 
actual American conditions — Cannon and the entire Kansas City 
left wing had joined it. But both parties carried the ideological 

Introduction 9 

baggage of the sterile ultraleftism of the old SP left wing, which 
had been strongly influenced by the theories of Socialist Labor 
Party leader Daniel De Leon and the Dutch theoreticians Anton 
Pannekoek and Hermann Gorter. Cannon later explained the 

The traditional sectarianism of the Americans was expressed most 
glaringly in their attempt to construct revolutionary unions outside 
the existing labor movement; their refusal to fight for "immediate 
demands" in the course of the class struggle for the socialist goal; 
and their strongly entrenched anti-parliamentarism, which was only 
slightly modified in the first program of the Communist Party. 9 

Both the CLP and CPA went underground in reaction to the 
Palmer Raids. Both decided, on principle, to remain there, 
eschewing public political activity as the postwar revolutionary 
tide swirled above them. 

Cannon in the Underground 

It was only the influence of the Communist International 
(Comintern) that persuaded the American Communists to over- 
come the ultraleftism which infected the early movement. Cannon 
also explained how this occurred: 

All that hodgepodge of ultra-radicalism was practically wiped out of 
the American movement in 1920-21 by Lenin. He did it, not by ad- 
ministrative order backed up by police powers, but by the simple 
device of publishing a pamphlet called Left-Wing Communism: An 
Infantile Disorder. .. .The "Theses and Resolutions" of the Second 
Congress of the Comintern in 1920 also cleared up the thinking of 
the American communists over a wide range of theoretical and polit- 
ical problems, and virtually eliminated the previously dominating 
influence exerted by the sectarian conceptions of De Leon and the 
Dutch leaders. 10 

Cannon was one of the first to grasp Lenin's message. He first 
entered the national arena in the Communist movement when he 
gave a powerful speech against dual unionism to the founding 
convention of the United Communist Party (UCP) in May 1920. 
This convention was the first small step on the road to uniting all 
the forces in the U.S. that stood for the Third International: it 

9 Cannon, First Ten Years, 318. 

10 Ibid. 

10 Early Years of American Communism 

united the Communist Labor Party with a C.E. Ruthenberg-led 
split from the Communist Party of America. The UCP was not yet 
ready to shed its ultraleftism and adopt the Bolshevik position of 
working within the reactionary American Federation of Labor 
where necessary. But Cannon's status as an ex-Wobbly and there- 
fore a "reformed" dual unionist so impressed the delegates that 
he was elected to the Central Committee and appointed organizer 
for the St. Louis/Southern Illinois Coal District. 11 

Though they were few, the syndicalists who came over to the 
Communists were crucially important. For they made the Ameri- 
can party rich in its acquired inheritance. Not only SP party men 
like Ruthenberg and foreign-language federation sectarians, but 
also trade unionists who knew the score in the American labor 
movement — all these currents endeavored to assimilate Lenin's 
communism. The cross-fertilization that resulted gave a vitality to 
the early American party, a vitality totally lacking in, for example, 
the early British Communist Party, which failed to win over the 
syndicalists and Celts of the Socialist Labour Party and was left 
with only former members of H.M. Hyndman's sterile British So- 
cialist Party. 12 The IWW withered to a shell of its former self after 
1919, but Cannon remained concerned with winning its remnants 
to Leninism. It was Cannon's ties to the pre-WWI radical move- 
ment that impressed the young Max Shachtman, among others: 

He made an enormous impression upon me, which never really 
died.... He was known as an excellent orator, a very smooth writer, an 
exceedingly intelligent and shrewd politician; and he had what com- 
paratively few of the then leaders of the Communist party had: 
namely, he had a living, personal connection with the pre-Bolshevik 
revolutionary radical movement in this country. 13 

In the fall of 1920 Cannon was named editor of The Toiler, the 
UCP's weekly newspaper published in Cleveland. It was around 
this time that he started spending most of his time in New York 
instead. Many of the prominent party leaders, including Ruthen- 

11 Cannon was always very proud of his speech to that UCP convention. See 
Cannon, First Ten Years, 197-198. Unfortunately we could find no transcript. 

12 See Raymond Challinor, The Origins of British Bolshevism (London: Croom Helm, 

13 Reminiscences of Max Shachtman (1963), Columbia University Oral History 
Research Collection, 24. 

Introduction 1 1 

berg, were in jail as a result of the Palmer Raids. Cannon himself 
was under indictment. In April 1920 he and Charles Baker, the 
National Organizational Secretary of the CLP, were charged 
under the Lever Act for obstructing the production of coal during 
the 1919 miners strike — Cannon had spent two months in jail for 
his support activities — but the 1920 indictment never came to 
trial (charges were dropped in February 1922). So Cannon was 
one of the few available communist leaders who had the English- 
language ability and office skills necessary for party administra- 
tion. Cannon later described how, as much as he preferred to 
leave the major decisions to others, he soon recognized that they 
were politically unqualified: "I knew then that I had to fight for 
the leadership." 14 

And fight he did. The two Communist parties were finally 
united, upon the Communist International's insistence, in May of 
1921. Cannon and the young Jay Lovestone became the main axis 
of the leadership which steered the newly united, but still under- 
ground, party into legal political activity. They were aided by the 
development of a new pro-Communist group within the Socialist 
Party, organized around the journal Workers' Council. In December 
1921 the Communists merged with the Workers' Council forces 
and founded the Workers Party as a legal party (a parallel "ille- 
gal" Communist Party apparatus remained until April 1923). 
James P. Cannon was the Workers Party's first chairman and its 
major public spokesman. 

Not surprisingly, there exists today very little record of the 
internal deliberations of the American Communist movement 
from the underground period. We have found a few articles on 
the IWW signed by Cannon in late 1920, when the Communists 
were trying to intersect an intense discussion among the Wobblies 
on relations with the Communist International. We also found an 
extensive article, published in The Liberator, on Kansas miners 
leader Alexander Howat. All these articles reflect Cannon's ori- 
gins in the IWW and Midwestern labor movement, and they are 
included in this book. However, the record of Cannon's activities 
as an adept and skillful Communist politician begins with his 

14 Quoted in Harry Ring's reminiscences of Cannon in James P. Cannon As We 
Knew Him (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1976), 169. 

12 Early Years of American Communism 

address to the founding convention of the Workers Party, also 
included here. 

The United States in the 1920s 

The political climate of the United States had shifted dramati- 
cally by the time the Workers Party emerged from the under- 
ground. The intense repression of the Palmer Raids was very 
short-lived — the raids were over by the summer of 1920. But this 
was because the bourgeoisie soon realized that the force used was 
out of all proportion to the threat. The revolutionary sentiments 
that seemed to have gripped the working class were fading. 

In the fall of 1920 Republican Warren Harding, running on 
a program of returning the country to "normalcy," was elected 
president with a landslide majority of 61 percent. The vote rep- 
resented a massive repudiation of Woodrow Wilson's overseas 
crusading and of the liberal reform movement known as "Pro- 
gressivism" which had swept through both major bourgeois 
parties on and off for most of the previous two decades. Harding 
pardoned Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs, who had been 
sentenced to 16 years in prison for his opposition to WWI, as well 
as many IWW activists similarly imprisoned. 

Even as Harding softened the political climate, he refused to 
pardon the Communists under indictment. The Workers Party 
was tolerated, but the underground Communist Party convention 
at Bridgman, Michigan was broken up by the police in August 
1922 and many of the party's leaders, including C.E. Ruthenberg, 
were arrested. The bourgeoisie remained vigilant against the 
"Bolshevik menace," and the rest of the decade was one of legal 
reaction. At the same time as the Bridgman raid Harding's admin- 
istration sought, and got, a sweeping injunction which was used to 
outlaw the railway shopmen's strike. This set the tone for the 
period, which saw the repeated use of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act 
against the unions. The Supreme Court outlawed minimum-wage 
laws and declared "yellow dog" contracts, which made the prom- 
ise not to join a union a condition of employment, perfectly legal. 
At the end of the decade Supreme Court Chief Justice and for- 
mer President William H. Taft said that the aim of it all had been 
"to prevent the Bolsheviki from getting control." 

The grip of Jim Crow racial segregation had consolidated 
across the South in the decades before World War I, and the Ku 

Introduction 13 

Klux Klan, reborn in 1915, was recruiting by the thousands in the 
1920s. Anti-immigrant and Asian-exclusion sentiment ran at an 
all-time high. In 1921 an emergency bill was passed limiting 
annual immigration from any nation to 3 percent of the number 
of that country's nationals who had been living in the United 
States in 1910. The National Origins Act of 1924 changed that to 
a percentage of nationals resident in 1890, further discriminating 
against the more recent East European immigrants. The act pro- 
hibited further Japanese immigration (Chinese immigration had 
been banned in 1882) and it barred the entry of women from 
China, Korea, Japan and India, so that Asian males already resi- 
dent in the United States could not bring their wives into the 
country and start families here. The shortfall in the labor pool 
caused by the slowing down of foreign immigration was made up 
by an exodus from America's farmlands, particularly the migra- 
tion of black workers northward. Agricultural prices had collapsed 
in 1921; they never recovered. 

The business of America was business. A speculative economic 
boom fueled government corruption (like the Teapot Dome oil 
scandal) and led to the 1929 stock market crash, but the watch- 
word of the early decade was "scientific management," and its 
symbols were the stopwatch and the timeclock. There was massive 
mechanization of basic production processes: output per man- 
hour in manufacturing rose 72 percent from 1919 to 1929. For 
the first time a mass market developed for consumer durables like 
cars, radios, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners. 

But the benefits of the increase in productivity barely trickled 
down to the American working class. The stock dividend pro- 
portion of national income rose by over 64 percent; wages and 
salaries advanced by only slightly more than 20 percent. Real 
wages grew only 9.1 percent on average from 1923 to 1928, but 
the increase for those at the bottom of the wage scale — newer 
immigrants and blacks — was much lower. Wage differentials in 
the United States were at the time among the highest in the 
world. High wages for craft workers was the price that the job- 
trusting bureaucrats at the top of the American Federation of 
Labor exacted for attempting to ensure labor peace. 

The decade was one of decline and demoralization of the 
trade-union movement. Membership in the AFL peaked at slightly 
more than 5 million workers in 1920. By 1929 it was less than 3.5 

14 Early Years of American Communism 

million. Almost 20 percent of the non-agricultural workforce was 
unionized in 1920; the figure had fallen to just over 10 percent by 
1930. Many unions virtually disappeared. Especially hard hit were 
the miners and the textile unions; it is no accident that the 
Workers Party maintained a substantial base of support in these 
two industries for most of the decade. The craft unions came 
more and more to dominate the AFL. Blacks had no choice but 
to work in open shops, if they worked: 24 of the major AFL 
unions discriminated against blacks by statute; most of the others 
did so informally. And the union leaders made no bones about 
their enlistment in the war against godless communism. Photo- 
Engravers leader Matthew Woll, a member of the AFL Executive 
Council, declared, "It is no secret that the American Federation 
of Labor is the first object of attack by the Communist movement. 
Consequently the American Federation of Labor is the first line of 
defense." 15 

Cannon's Seven Months in Moscow, 1922 

Even after the founding of the Workers Party in December 
1921, the ultraleftist disease lingered in the American Communist 
movement. Diehard undergrounders insisted on maintaining the 
parallel illegal apparatus of the Communist Party, even after it 
became clear that the Workers Party could function openly. 
Soon a fight was raging between the undergrounders-on-principle 
(known as the "Goose Caucus") and those who wanted to abolish 
the underground party (who were known as the "Liquidators"). 
Cannon was one of the principal "Liquidators." Freed of major 
administrative responsibility for the party by C.E. Ruthenberg, 
who became secretary of the Workers Party after his release from 
prison in the spring of 1922, Cannon was designated to represent 
the "Liquidators" before the Executive Committee of the Com- 
munist International (ECCI) in Moscow. He left New York in May 
and spent the rest of the year in Moscow. 16 

15 Quoted in Irving Bernstein, The Lean Years (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960), 
141. The facts and figures on the American labor movement cited in the preced- 
ing paragraphs also come from this source. 

16 Caleb Harrison had been elected Workers Party secretary, but he did not have 
the skills for office administration and most of the tasks had fallen to Cannon, 


Introduction 15 

Cannon had to fight hard to convince the Comintern lead- 
ership of the necessity for abolishing the underground party. The 
black poet Claude McKay, who also attended the Comintern's 
Fourth Congress and participated in the discussion around the 
American question though he was not formally a member of the 
Workers Party, described Cannon's demeanor: 

I listened to James Cannon's fighting speeches for a legal Commu- 
nist party in America. Cannon's manner was different from Bill 
Haywood's or Foster's. He had all the magnetism, the shrewdness, 
the punch, the bag of tricks of the typical American politician, but 
here he used them in a radical way. I wondered about him. If he 
had entered Democratic or Republican politics, there was no barrier 
I could see that could stop him from punching his way straight 
through to the front ranks. 17 

But Cannon's Midwestern American "bag of tricks" was 
hardly going to sway the leadership of the Communist Interna- 
tional. In a letter to Draper, Cannon described how the tide was 
finally turned in favor of the "Liquidators" after Cannon, Max 
Bedacht and Arne Swabeck were able to present their position 
directly to Leon Trotsky. 18 We publish here the famous docu- 
ment on "one sheet of paper — no more" where Cannon and his 
cothinkers summarized their position for the Russian leaders. Un- 
fortunately, we have been unable to locate any other record of 
Cannon's 1922 interventions in the ECCI, American Commission 
or other bodies. We do publish here "In the Fifth Year of the 
Russian Revolution," the speech Cannon gave on his tour of the 
United States upon his return. 

In Moscow Cannon served as American party representative 
on the Presidium of the ECCI, a post which put him in intimate 
touch with the day-to-day workings of the Communist Inter- 
national and its leaders. He also worked on the executive body 
of the Red International of Labor Unions. This experience was 
crucial, for in 1922 the International was still infused with the 

who viewed Ruthenberg's release from prison as "a godsend." See Theodore 
Draper, Interview with James P. Cannon, 24 April 1956, Theodore Draper Re- 
search Files, Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University (hereafter cited as 
Draper Files), Series 3, No. 7. 

17 Claude McKay, A Long Way from Home (New York: Arno Press and The New York 
Times, 1969), 178. 

18 See Cannon, First Ten Years, 64-73. 

16 Early Years of American Communism 

revolutionary will and spirit that had animated its founding. The 
experience instilled in Cannon a deep and abiding international- 
ism, and a respect for Zinoviev, in particular, which was later to 
prove crucial in Cannon's evolution to Trotskyism. 19 The "Liqui- 
dators" succeeded in carrying the day and the International's 
salutary intervention prevented another pointless split in the 
American party. The trust Cannon developed toward the Comin- 
tern made him slow to realize later in the decade that things had 
fundamentally changed with the ascendancy of Zinoviev, Stalin 
and Bukharin in the Russian party. 

The Degeneration of the Comintern 

Even in 1922 the clouds were gathering for the storm that was 
to break in the Russian party in late 1923 and early 1924. Lenin 
was already sick and Cannon saw him only once, when Lenin 
spoke to the Fourth Congress. The Bolsheviks had won the bloody 
civil war, but the country was devastated, and large sections of the 
working class had virtually disappeared. The New Economic Pol- 
icy (NEP) allowed for a necessary breathing space, but the revival 
of trade brought with it the newly wealthy "Nepmen," and this 
petty-bourgeois layer had its effect upon the old tsarist administra- 
tors who were still ensconced in many areas of government. 

All this weighed heavily on the relatively small layer of Bolshe- 
vik cadre. Already at the 11th Party Congress in Moscow in March 
1922 Lenin had asked the question "Who is running whom?" in 
the state administration. In December 1922 Lenin made a bloc 
with Trotsky to fight Stalin and dictated his famous "Testament," 
adding a postscript calling for the removal of Stalin from his post 
as General Secretary in January 1923. But Cannon would have 
learned little of this during his stay in Moscow. Lenin's Testament 
was kept hidden, and Trotsky compromised with Stalin at the 
12th Party Congress in April 1923. 

1923 was the year of transition in the Soviet Union. When the 

19 Cannon pointed to the importance of Zinoviev's 1926-27 bloc with Trotsky in 
his First Ten Years of American Communism (p. 186): "It was Zinoviev's bloc with 
Trotsky and his expulsion, along with Trotsky, that first really shook me up and 
started the doubts and discontents which eventually led me to Trotskyism. I have 
always been outraged by the impudent pretensions of so many little people to 
deprecate Zinoviev, and I feel that he deserves justification before history." 

Introduction 17 

German Communist Party let slip a promising revolutionary situa- 
tion, putting an end to all hopes of immediate international 
extension of the proletarian revolution, this gave the increasingly 
conscious bureaucratic layer atop Soviet society an impetus to 
action. In the fall of 1923 the Russian party had its last open and 
full discussion, threatening the incipient bureaucratic consolida- 
tion. In the discussion leading up to the 13th Party Conference in 
January 1924 the loose "Trotskyist" opposition obtained 20 to 30 
percent of the vote in the Moscow and Leningrad party organiza- 
tions, but Stalin's apparatus rigged the elections to the confer- 
ence and won its decisive victory there. 

Trotsky had sounded the alarm about the German situation 
in the Comintern; the troika of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin, 
fearing he might be successful, refused to let him go to Germany. 
In the aftermath of the botched uprising Trotsky demanded a full 
accounting of the role of both the German leadership and the 
Comintern in the defeat. But Zinoviev made a scapegoat of the 
German leadership and denied the decisive nature of the defeat. 
The discussion of the German question in the ECCI Presidium in 
January 1924 was dishonest, deformed by the troika's attempt to 
justify its rule and discredit Trotsky. So were the discussions at the 
Fifth Comintern Congress in the summer of 1924. In December 
1924 Stalin advanced the program of "socialism in one country." 
Over the next decade and a half, while the cadres of Lenin's party 
were first purged and then physically destroyed in the course of 
bureaucratic consolidation, the Comintern was made into the 
Kremlin's instrument to betray other countries' revolutions. The 
full evolution of Trotsky's views on the degeneration of the Soviet 
Union and CI, and the developments foreseen in later works such 
as The Revolution Betrayed (1936), are only today being fully played 
out in the final cowardly collapse of Stalinism within and outside 
the ex-USSR. 

After 1924 it was the expediencies of the fight in the Russian 
party which more often than not determined the political line 
of the Communist International. The terms of political debate 
shifted, and issues were no longer debated on the basis of intrin- 
sic merit but increasingly according to what looked "correct" 
vis-a-vis the fight against Trotsky and his allies in the Russian 
party. The pseudo-leftism and glorification of the peasantry under 
Zinoviev in late 1924 and 1925 gave way in 1926-27 to the general 

18 Early Years of American Communism 

rightism of Bukharin's reign after Zinoviev and Kamenev recoiled 
from their erstwhile ally Stalin and formed a bloc with Trotsky. 
All Workers Party documents written in 1924 and after, especially 
those written for consumption in Moscow and including those 
written by Cannon and his cothinkers, can only be fully under- 
stood in this context. 

The Comintern's degeneration was not the only thing pushing 
against the revolutionary will of the Workers Party, however. For 
if the Russian Revolution waned, enthusiasm for a revolutionary 
policy on the part of leaders of the sections of the Communist 
International did as well. The appetite to repeat the experience of 
the Soviet Revolution diminished as the stabilization of the capi- 
talist world grew in the aftermath of the German defeat of 1923. 
An expanding and self-confident imperialism weighed particularly 
heavily on the American party, as Cannon later explained: 

"Moscow domination" did indeed play an evil role in this unhappy 
time, but it did not operate in a vacuum. All the conditions of Amer- 
ican life in the late Twenties, pressing in on the unprepared infant 
party, sapped the fighting faith of the party cadres, including the 
central leaders, and set them up for the Russian blows. The party 
became receptive to the ideas of Stalinism, which were saturated 
with conservatism, because the party cadres themselves were uncon- 
sciously yielding to their own conservative environment. 20 

John Pepper Comes to America 

The Communist International began its degeneration just as 
the American party was finally making the turn toward the work- 
ing class. The task of winning the majority of the active proletariat 
for communism confronted all the parties of the International, 
even those that were qualitatively larger than the American one, 
for in most of Europe the Social Democracy had retained the 
allegiance of substantial sectors of the working class. The Third 
Comintern Congress had been held in 1921 under the watchword 
"To the Masses!" and the tactic of the united front had been 
introduced shortly afterward; the Communist parties were to 
propose joint pactions to the reformist parties of the Second Inter- 
national, exposing in practice their failure to act in the interest of 
the working class. 

2» Cannon, First Ten Years, 25. 

Introduction 19 

In the United States, however, the vast majority of the work- 
ing class remained under the sway of the two main bourgeois polit- 
ical parties. During the first decade of the 20th century the 
American Socialist Party had won the support of a substantial 
working-class minority, but that support dissipated after 1912, the 
year Eugene V. Debs won almost one million votes in the U.S. 
presidential elections. Hillquit's purge of the SP left wing around 
Big Bill Haywood had driven many militants into the IWW, where 
they were unfortunately isolated from the mainstream craft 

In purging the SP left wing, Hillquit was merely following in 
the shadow of Samuel Gompers. The November 1911 confession 
to the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building by the structural 
iron workers' unfortunate McNamara brothers had severely em- 
barrassed Gompers, who had publicly and repeatedly insisted on 
the brothers' innocence. The case had galvanized pro-labor senti- 
ment in the country, resulting in the near election of a Socialist 
mayor in Los Angeles. In the aftermath Gompers took great pains 
to dissociate the AFL from anything approaching labor militancy 
and independent working-class political action. As a result, the 
step which Frederick Engels in 1886 had called "the first great 
step of importance... the constitution of the workers as an inde- 
pendent political party, no matter how, so long as it is a distinct 
workers' party," had not been taken on a national level. 21 

The newly founded Workers Party began agitation for a labor 
party in late 1922, attempting to form a united front with the pre- 
existing "Farmer-Labor" movement. The major advocate of the 
new labor party orientation was onejozsef Pogany, known as John 
Pepper, who had become a figure of the party leadership during 
Cannon's Moscow sojourn. Pepper, one of the leaders of the 1919 
Hungarian Workers Republic disaster, was part of a Comintern 
delegation sent to unite the various Communist forces in the U.S. 
in the summer of 1922. The delegation was led by the Pole 
Henryk Walecki (known in the U.S. as Valetski), a post-WWI con- 
vert to Bolshevism whose later career in the Comintern caused 

21 Frederick Engels, Letter to F.A. Sorge, 29 November 1886. Published in Karl 
Marx and Frederick Engels, Letters to Americans 1848-1895 (New York: International 
Publishers, 1953), 163. 

20 Early Years of American Communism 

Trotsky to remark: "People of Walecki's calibre will never con- 
quer anything. But they are perfectly capable of losing what has 
been conquered." 22 Walecki hesitated to take a strong side in 
the fight between the Goose Caucus and the "Liquidators." He 
did, however, manage to get all the forces claiming allegiance to 
the Comintern to finally unite in one party. 

Pepper had evidently been assigned to the U.S. simply to work 
with the party's Hungarian-language Federation, but he passed 
himself off as some kind of permanent official Comintern "repre- 
sentative" and was elected to the party's Central Committee at the 
1922 Bridgman convention. An unprincipled adventurer who was 
a frequent target of Trotsky in internal Comintern disputes, 
Pepper became a major destabilizing factor within the American 
party: "He was a phony, but by far the most brilliant phony I ever 
knew. He sparkled like an Arkansas diamond," wrote Cannon in 
later years. 23 Having arrived in the country knowing nothing of 
the language, Pepper wrote in English the party's first pamphlet 
for a labor party in October 1922, only three months later. 24 

The Workers Party was a small party by Comintern standards 
— it claimed only slightly more than 12,000 members by late 1922. 
Nonetheless, the growing predominance of American imperialism 
in the world made the U.S. party of strategic concern, and the 
party was given a representative on the International's Executive 
Committee. But while many Russian leaders had spent years in 
exile in Europe and felt they knew something about France, Ger- 
many, or even Britain, none of the major Comintern leaders had 
spent more than a few months in the United States. They did not 
presume to dictate where they did not know the situation; there 
was no one to give the American party the attention that, say, 
Trotsky gave the French Communist Party in the early years. 
People of the calibre of John Pepper were able to storm into the 
breach and they were the sort who also adapted well as the Com- 
intern degenerated. Pepper plunged the party onto a political 

22 Leon Trotsky, "Who Is Leading the Comintern Today?", The Challenge of the Left 
Opposition (1928-29) (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1981), 187. 

23 Cannon, First Ten Years, 80. 

24 The first edition of the pamphlet, For a Labor Party, was published as "a state- 
ment by the Workers Party." Subsequent editions in 1923 were signed by John 

Introduction 21 

course that was both organizationally sectarian and politically 

The Farmer-Labor Party 

November 1919 had seen the formation of a reformist na- 
tional "Labor Party" in Chicago. Max Hayes, president of the new 
party, was a confirmed anti-Communist — he had already quit the 
Socialist Party in Cleveland after the left wing led by C.E. Ruthen- 
berg had taken control. But the driving force of this Labor Party 
was the head of the Chicago Federation of Labor, John Fitz- 
patrick. Fitzpatrick was an Irish nationalist with a reputation as a 
radical trade unionist opposed to AFL chief Samuel Gompers. He 
had been an opponent of U.S. entry into WWI, and he and his 
chief assistant, Edward Nockels, had given AFL backing to William 
Z. Foster when he organized the 1919 steel strike. 

Fitzpatrick had run for mayor of Chicago on a local labor 
ticket and garnered 56,000 votes in the spring of 1919. His na- 
tional Labor Party united the local labor parties that had sprung 
up in a number of U.S. cities, including Seattle in the aftermath 
of the general strike, and New York City. While the labor tops 
were in large part trying to undercut pro-Communist sentiment, 
the parties also reflected the real political ferment within the 
working class. 

The Communist movement was too infected with ultraleftism 
to take much notice of the labor party movement in 1919. By the 
time the party woke up in late 1922 Fitzpatrick's Labor Party was 
no longer an unambiguously working-class organization. In July 
1920, prior to its second convention, the Labor Party leadership 
had entered into negotiations with the bourgeois Committee of 
48, inheritors of Theodore Roosevelt's "Bull Moose" Progressive 
Party tradition. The negotiations did not produce agreement, but 
the forces of the Committee of 48 nonetheless merged their con- 
vention with that of Fitzpatrick's party. They sought the nomina- 
tion for the presidency of the United States of the Progressive 
war-horse "Battle Bob" La Follette, Governor of Wisconsin from 
1900 to 1906 and then U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. La Follette 
was a longstanding Republican, but an anachronism in a party 
which had abandoned the short-lived "Progressive" tradition for 
Harding's "normalcy." 

Though there were already far fewer trade unions represented 

22 Early Years of American Communism 

at the Labor Party's 1920 convention (Gompers was moving to 
strangle it), Fitzpatrick was not yet ready to completely junk his 
party's "labor" identity by supporting so openly bourgeois a 
candidate as La Follette. Instead the party nominated Parley 
Parker Christensen of Utah, a lawyer and supporter of the Com- 
mittee of 48 who had defended the IWW in the past. The party's 
class identity was further watered down when the convention 
changed the party's name to the Farmer-Labor Party, seeking the 
vote of rural populists. 

At the time the chronic disaffection of the American family 
farmer had been captured by the Non-Partisan League, an organi- 
zation that advocated cheap rural credit and state ownership of 
grain elevators. The League was the last gasp of a Western agrar- 
ian radical populism which went back to the Grange of the 1870s, 
a current which had always in the past been co-opted by bour- 
geois "Progressivism." The Non-Partisan League was strong in the 
Western states, particularly Minnesota and the Dakotas. Its strat- 
egy was to take over either of the local bourgeois parties (usually 
the Republican) through election primaries. 

Farmer-Labor Party candidate Christensen polled a quarter of 
a million votes in the 1920 elections. He did particularly well in 
Non-Partisan League states like the Dakotas and Montana, as well 
as Washington where the memory of the Seattle general strike 
remained strong. The agrarian Western states remained the elec- 
toral bastions of the "Farmer-Labor" movement through the 1924 
elections. 25 

Fitzpatrick's Farmer-Labor Party joined the Conference of 
Progressive Political Action (CPPA), an organization founded by 
the railroad union tops in February 1922, hoping to pressure it 
into founding a party modeled on the reformist British Labour 
Party. The CPPA was explicitly not a party, but an agency to sup- 
port "Progressive" candidates of any party in state and local 
elections. When the CPPA voted to keep this "non-partisan" 
orientation at its conference in December 1922, Fitzpatrick split 
in disgust. The Workers Party, whose delegates the CPPA confer- 
ence had refused to seat, went with him. 

25 Nathan Fine, Labor and Farmer Parties in the United States 1828-1928 (New York: 
Rand School of Social Science, 1928), 363-397. 

Introduction 23 

Fitzpatrick then agreed to call a conference to found a new 
party and to work with the Workers Party in building the confer- 
ence, which was called for 3 July 1923. The Workers Party eagerly 
and enthusiastically entered into the bloc with Fitzpatrick. The 
fact that Fitzpatrick's Farmer-Labor Party had already taken a 
giant step backward from its original stand for independent 
working-class political action did not concern the Workers Party 
leadership, which accepted the "Farmer-Labor" orientation and 
designation. In this they may have been adversely influenced by 
Zinoviev's confused formulations on possible "workers and peas- 
ants governments" at the Fourth Comintern Congress. 

But the Workers Party leadership was also exhibiting a woeful 
and willful ignorance of recent American political history. In 1912 
Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs had run against Teddy 
Roosevelt's Progressive Party, pulling almost a million votes in the 
presidential elections. The Progressive current had sought, since 
that time, to co-opt working-class and petty-bourgeois socialist 
currents into the movement for a third bourgeois party. The 
Communist leadership was blind to this danger. The party did not 
attempt to draw a clear class line in its propaganda by insisting 
that the new party be unambiguously working-class in character. 
Nor did they insist that the new party make a complete break with 
bourgeois political currents, including La Follette's. 

The Split with Fitzpatrick 

The Workers Party did not combat Fitzpatrick politically but it 
flouted his organizational concerns at every turn. The story of the 
precipitous and ill-conceived break with the Fitzpatrick forces at 
the July 3 conference is well told by Theodore Draper. 26 Given 
the growing conservative mood in the country, a split was prob- 
ably inevitable sooner rather than later. Fitzpatrick was under 
intense and immediate pressure from the AFL to split with his 
Communist allies. Most of the AFL unions refused to send dele- 
gates to the July 3 conference. At the first meeting of the united- 
front conference preparations committee, Fitzpatrick's line to 
the Workers Party was: "Let's get the record straight — we are 
willing to go along, but we think you communists should occupy 

26 Draper II, 38-51. 

24 Early Years of American Communism 

a back seat in this affair." 27 

What was not inevitable was the weight of the forces on each 
side of the split. If the Workers Party had tried to polarize Fitz- 
patrick's party on a programmatic class basis, they might have 
come out of the venture with augmented forces. Instead, under 
the leadership of Pepper, they viewed the conference as a get- 
rich-quick scheme. They accepted the two-class "Farmer-Labor" 
designation, muddying the political waters, while organizing to 
take control of the conference completely away from Fitzpatrick. 
In the end the independent trade-union forces in attendance went 
with Fitzpatrick, leaving only the Workers Party and a few petty- 
bourgeois Non-Partisan League populists in the newly founded 
Federated Farmer- Labor Party (FFLP). 

Fitzpatrick was furious; he became a bitter, vengeful enemy of 
the Workers Party, which now lost the protection the alliance had 
provided them in the national AFL. The effect was immediate on 
William Z. Foster's Trade Union Educational League (TUEL), 
which had become the party's trade-union arm. In August 1923 
Morris Sigman, newly elected head of the International Ladies' 
Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), declared TUEL membership 
incompatible with membership in his union. By the end of 1925 
most major unions had done likewise. John L. Lewis revoked the 
charter of the Nova Scotia United Mine Workers (UMW), which 
had applied for membership in the Comintern's Red Interna- 
tional of Labor Unions. 28 In November 1923 William F. Dunne, 
prominent party member and delegate from Butte, Montana, was 
refused his seat at the annual AFL convention in Portland. The 
UMW motivated Dunne's expulsion; only six delegates voted 
against it. 

Cannon had almost no part in the deliberations of the Work- 
ers Party leadership leading up to the July 3 convention. Immedi- 
ately after his return from Moscow in January 1923 he had been 
sent on national tour to speak about the situation in Soviet Rus- 
sia, probably a conscious maneuver on the part of Pepper to get 

27 Arne Swabeck, unpublished and untitled autobiography (photocopy of manu- 
script in Prometheus Research Library), Chapter VII, 7. Swabeck was one of the 
chief negotiators for the Chicago Workers Party. 

28 David M. Schneider, The Workers' (Communist) Party and American Trade Unions 
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1928), 48-49. 

Introduction 25 

him out of the way. But in May he passed through Chicago and 
got wind of how things were going when Arne Swabeck and other 
Chicago leaders complained to him. Cannon fired off a letter to 
Ruthenberg, which we publish here, complaining about the stu- 
pidity of attempts to pack the conference. Needless to say, his 
advice was ignored. 

The Fight Against "Pepperism" 

Cannon described how, in the aftermath of July 3, he made a 
pact with William Z. Foster to fight against Pepper's leadership of 
the party. 29 The Foster-Cannon faction won control of the Work- 
ers Party at its Third Convention in December 1923, moving the 
party headquarters from New York to the proletarian center of 
Chicago. They retained control of the Central Executive Com- 
mittee (CEC or Central Committee) up until the party's Fourth 
Convention in August 1925. The Cannon faction was born as an 
integral part of the Foster-Cannon faction of this period. We 
publish here Cannon's opening shot in the campaign against 
Pepper, "The Workers Party Today — and Tomorrow," as well as 
the theses on the labor party submitted by Foster and Cannon to 
a CEC plenum in November 1923. 

John Pepper did not stand alone against the Foster-Cannon 
forces. He had carefully built up a base of support in the party, 
based largely on the ex-ultraleftists of the Goose Caucus, and had 
found a willing pupil for his unique brand of opportunism/ 
adventurism in Jay Lovestone. Moreover, party secretary C.E. 
Ruthenberg lent his significant credibility to the Pepper faction, 
as did Max Bedacht. 

While the two factions may have initially differed on their 
evaluation of the split with Fitzpatrick, in the aftermath there 
were few differences on the orientation of the party. Both the 
Pepper-Ruthenberg and the Cannon-Foster factions compounded 
the party's initial error in failing to polarize the Fitzpatrick 
Farmer-Labor Party around a class axis. They proposed that the 
Workers Party enter into an ongoing political alliance with the 
"Progressive" forces. 

What remained of the petty-bourgeois agrarian populists and 

29 Cannon, First Ten Years, 84-94. 

26 Early Years of American Communism 

trade-union "Progressives" in the Federated Farmer-Labor Party 
were already lining up behind the proposed candidacy of Robert 
M. La Follette for the 1924 presidential elections. It was clear that 
the AFL, the Socialist Party and the pathetic remnants of the Non- 
partisan League were all going to participate in the attempt to 
found a new "Progressive" party. In his inimitable fashion, Pep- 
per saw in this a "La Follette revolution" which "will contain 
elements of the great French Revolution, and the Russian Keren- 
sky Revolution. In its ideology it will have elements of Jefferson- 
ianism, Danish cooperatives, Ku Klux Klan and Bolshevism. The 
Proletariat as a class will not play an independent role in this 
revolution." 30 So, Pepper argued, the Workers Party had to go 
along with La Follette and separate itself out at some unspecified 
later date. This strategy of ongoing political blocs with bourgeois 
forces would ultimately be perfected by the Communist Interna- 
tional under Stalin as the "Popular Front" or "People's Front." 

Foster and Cannon held no brief for Pepper's anti-Marxist 
theoretical schemes. But they feared the party's further isolation 
in the trade-union movement if they attempted to swim against 
the political tide for La Follette. Even before the December 1923 
Workers Party convention, Foster and Cannon had come to essen- 
tial political agreement with the Ruthenberg faction on this 
question. In November Foster and Cannon had withdrawn their 
theses, which condemned the formation of the FFLP, and voted 
instead for a new, conciliatory set of theses by Ruthenberg- 
Pepper. The new "November Theses" stressed the necessity of a 
continued bloc with the "Progressives" even as it hailed the for- 
mation of the FFLP. 

Both major factions were thus in agreement as the Workers 
Party embarked on an opportunist course which led it close to 
open support for La Follette. Their policy of building a party with 
La Follette's supporters, without openly advocating — or strongly 
opposing — La Follette's candidacy, was known as the "third party 
alliance." Cannon's writings from the fall of 1923 through May 
1924 fully support the "third party alliance," wrongly painting the 
La Follette "Progressives" as working-class centrists rather than as 
a bourgeois political current with supporters in the workers move- 

so Cited in Draper II, 83. 

Introduction 27 

ment. In later years, Cannon noted the essential unity that existed 
at the top of the Workers Party on the La Follette question: 

The cold fact is that the party which had proclaimed itself at its 
inception as a revolutionary party of the working class, and had 
adopted a corresponding program, became, for a period in 1924, 
the advocate of a "third party" of capitalism, and offered to support, 
under certain conditions, the presidential candidacy of the petty- 
bourgeois demagogue La Follette.... 

The bewildered party disgraced itself in this affair, and all the promi- 
nent leaders without exception, myself included, were in it up to our 
necks, with no excuse save that of ignorance and no reason except 
perhaps the foolhardy ambition to outwit ourselves. If I can force 
myself to return to this leap into political irrationality, even now — 30 
years later — it is only because a bad experience, honestly evaluated 
and accounted for, may serve a useful purpose in immunizing the 
movement against similar abnormalities in the future. 
Foster's role in this sorry business was the same as mine and that of 
all the other American leaders at the time. Pepper — interpreting 
what he took to be the Comintern line — formulated the policy; the 
rest of us went along. Considering the fact that Pepper had been 
defeated and put in the minority at the party convention, at the end 
of 1923, this says a lot for his resilience and continuing influence, 
but it doesn't say much for the rest of us. 31 

The only Workers Party leaders to oppose the "third party 
alliance" were Ludwig Lore and Moissaye Olgin, whose bases 
were, respectively, in the German Federation cadre and the 
Jewish workers in the garment unions. Both Olgin and Lore 
were well enough schooled in pre-Leninist Social Democratic 
Marxism to recognize that an ongoing alliance with the Repub- 
lican La Follette was not the road to the "distinct workers party" 
that Engels had written of. Lore's New York group held the 
balance of power between the Foster-Cannon and Pepper- 
Ruthenberg factions at the December 1923 convention. The 
Cannon-Foster faction won the day only by getting the Lore 
group's support. This they managed to do without abandoning 
their faction's support for the "third party alliance." By common 
agreement, the question was referred to the Comintern. 

The support of the Finnish Federation was also key to the 

31 Unpublished notes by Cannon, written for Theodore Draper, ca. 1959, Cannon 
Papers, Box 7. 

28 Early Years of American Communism 

Cannon-Foster victory. The Finnish Federation had come over to 
the Workers Party from the Socialist Party only in 1921; it was a 
clannish group, based on agricultural and cultural cooperatives. 
The Finnish membership gave their allegiance to Soviet Russia 
but wanted little part in American politics. They were a pivotal 
group within the Workers Party because they comprised about 50 
percent of the membership: 6,509 out of a total party member- 
ship of 12,394, according to figures prepared for the Workers 
Party's 1922 convention. In contrast, total membership of the 
English-speaking branches at the time was only 1,276. 32 

It was Cannon who carefully built up support for the Foster- 
Cannon faction, masterminding the coup against Pepper- 
Ruthenberg at the party's December 1923 convention. In winning 
Lore's and Olgin's support, Cannon was also able to finally bring 
about unity between the warring factions of Alexander Bittelman 
and Moissaye Olgin in the Jewish Federation. Cannon's immense 
skills as a factional politician were later described by Bittelman: 

As I became better acquainted with Jim, I began to notice and ap- 
preciate his skills in internal party politics.... He seemed fully aware, 
not alone of the political differences between the two groups, but 
also of the individual and personal frictions and incompatibilities 
between, say, Salutsky and myself, or between Olgin and Shachno 
Epstein, by way of example. 

These skills in intra-party politics, the playing of which he obviously 
enjoyed very much, were unquestionably a source of strength to Jim 
himself as well as to our party, or parties — the Communist Party 
and the Workers Party. I remember a certain image of him that I 
acquired after a while. It was the image of a caretaker of a large 
experimental institution or laboratory, moving about the various 
machines, tools, gadgets, testing tubes, etc., making sure they oper- 
ate properly, oiling, fixing, changing, improving and adjusting. That 
was Jim Cannon's main contribution in our party; and, for the par- 
ticular phase in its development a very important contribution. His 
humor and wit played no small part in all of that. 33 

Cannon's skills as a politician were not universally appreci- 
ated. In a letter to the ECCI defending John Pepper, who had 

32 "Report of the Central Executive Committee to the Second National Conven- 
tion, New York City, Dec. 24-25-26, 1922," Draper Files, Box 22, Folder 19. 

33 Alexander Bittelman, Things I Have Learned, Alexander Bittelman Collection, 
Manuscript 62, Tamiment Library, New York University, 358-359. Bittelman's 


Introduction 29 

been recalled to Moscow, Jay Lovestone complained in early 
1924: "The seeds of the present factional struggle were sown 
when Comrade Cannon returned from the Fourth Congress of 
the Comintern." 34 But the aim of Foster-Cannon had been to 
put an end to "Pepperism," not to push aside Pepper's American 
backers. Ruthenberg remained secretary of the party even after 
the Foster-Cannon victory. Cannon became assistant secretary, 
while Foster was party chairman. In the period after the conven- 
tion Cannon was at great pains to build a collective at the top of 
the party, as is evident from a letter he wrote in the spring of 
1924 to a Lore supporter and leader of the Jewish Federation in 
New York: 

2. Jeiuish Affairs The unification effected in the leading strata will 
gradually spread to the ranks if the leading comrades will work to 
that end consciously and patiently. The most important thing to 
strive for, of course, is ideological unity on a broad basis.... 
What you do not see clearly yet is that the party is in the midst of a 
profound crisis of growth. It is going through a transition period. The 
old party, which was a loose collection of warring groups without a 
single authoritative, leading group, is working its way, with much 
travail, into a homogeneous body led by a support and confidence 
of the great majority of the party members, [emphasis in original] 35 

Factional Gang War 

Nonetheless the factional lineups hardened, leading to the 
factional gang warfare which plagued the party for most of the 
rest of the decade. Personal antipathies and social factors cer- 
tainly played a role in the developing factional war, as Alexander 
Bittelman, himself a member of the Cannon-Foster inner circle, 

Most of the Cannon-Foster circle were a rather rough-and-ready 
group of individuals. There was among them much camaraderie, 
plain spoken talk and few niceties in mutual relations. In group 
discussions they would use what they chose to call "trade union 
language," in which variations on "damn it" were of the more 

rambling autobiographical manuscript stands in stark contrast to the usual dishon- 
est accounts by ex-Stalinists. It was written in 1963 after he had been expelled 
from the Communist Party. 

34 Jay Lovestone, Letter to the ECCI, Draper Files, Box 10, Folder 22. 

35 Letter to Noah London, 29 April 1924, Cannon Papers, Box 1. 

30 Early Years of American Communism 

innocent expressions. And candor compels me also to say this: in 
our own circle four-letter exclamations were a dime a dozen and 
sometimes cheaper. Whereas Ruthenberg, in circumstances which 
tempt one to resort to some such exclamation, would merely say: 
"Goodness gracious." I can never forget the expression on the 
faces of some of my comrades in the Cannon-Foster circle on such 
occasions. 36 

Ruthenberg saw in the Foster-Cannon bloc a bunch of upstart 
trade-union opportunists who threatened communist orthodoxy. 
Max Bedacht, who was, like Ruthenberg, a proper and straight- 
laced German (he never got over the antipathy he felt because 
Cannon was chewing tobacco when they first met), thought like- 
wise. 37 Though "C.E." Ruthenberg (no one ever called him by 
his first name) had an honorable history as an SP left-winger and 
was the faction leader with mass appeal among the Workers Party 
rank and file, he was an aloof individual who by all accounts left 
to others the details of the internal factional struggle. Pepper was 
Ruthenberg's factional operative until Pepper was recalled to 
Moscow in May 1924; after that Jay Lovestone played the role. 
Lovestone became the dominant force within the Ruthenberg 
faction, even before Ruthenberg's untimely death in March 1927. 

Pepper was "the consummate type of the man who knows 
how to adapt himself, a political parasite." 38 Lovestone was a 
man molded in Pepper's image. If the search for a get-rich-quick 
road to mass influence through the Farmer-Labor movement was 
the political basis of the early Ruthenberg faction, Lovestone's 
corrupt and cynical organizational methods were the internal 
counterpart. His factional cohort, Benjamin Gitlow, wrote accu- 
rately (if bitterly), at least on this question: 

He was unmarried, as far as anyone knew, but beyond that not a 
man in the Party knew anything more about him. But Lovestone 
knew everything about everybody in the Party. He was a walking 
Walter Winchell of the lives and scandals of the important Party 
members. To him many Party comrades would confide their inner- 
most secrets, yet he confided nothing. The leaders of the Party 

36 Bittelman, op. cit., 407. 

37 Max Bedacht to Theodore Draper, 9 December 1954, Draper Files, Box 10, 
Folder 15. 

38 Trotsky, "Who Is Leading the Comintern Today?", op. cit., 185. 

Introduction 31 

feared and hated him more than any other man because he knew 
too much. His personal file was the talk of the Party. Whenever he 
could get a leader of the Party down in black on white, it went into 
his file, and when one least expected it, the letter, foolishly written, 
the remark, damaging to one's character, was publicly used if the 
occasion demanded it. 39 

Antipathy to Lovestone characterizes all those who were on the 
other side of the factional divide in the Workers Party. Bittelman 
later wrote that "Lovestone's way was ruthless, unscrupulous and 
iron-fisted." 40 "In intimate circles," according to Cannon, "Fos- 
ter remarked more than once that if Lovestone were not a Jew, he 
would be the most likely candidate for leadership of a fascist 
movement. That was a fairly common opinion." 41 

There was nothing that Lovestone wouldn't do in the fight to 
put his faction in control of the Workers Party. Cannon explained 
why Lovestone was the predominant figure in the Ruthenberg 

Wolfe was a more serious student, he was better educated and more 
effective both as a speaker and a writer than Lovestone himself. And 
Bedacht, a product of the old pre-war German school, knew far 
more about formal Marxist doctrine and took it more seriously. But 
both of them lacked Lovestone's will, his ruthless and driving ambi- 
tion, to say nothing of his truly diabolical passion for intrigue and 
his indefatigable energy in setting men against each other and foul- 
ing things up generally. 42 

"I don't know whether you can get a comprehension of what 
it meant to fight with a son-of-a-bitch like Lovestone," Cannon 
later told Draper. 43 But if Lovestone kept the factional pot boil- 
ing in the American party, it was the increasingly Stalinized Com- 
intern that provided the heat. 

Trotsky Fights the "Third Party Alliance" 

It was Leon Trotsky in Moscow who insisted on pulling the 
Workers Party back from the opportunist course of the "third 

39 Benjamin Gitlow, op. cit., 325. 

40 Bittelman, op. cit., 474. 

41 Cannon, First Ten Years, 156. 

42 Letter by Cannon to Theodore Draper, 4 August 1954, Cannon Papers, Box 7. 

43 Draper interview with Cannon, 24 April 1956, Draper Files, Series 3, No. 7. 

32 Early Years of American Communism 

party alliance" in 1924. Trotsky's views were already being cen- 
sored by the triumvirate; he was not able to publish any articles 
attacking the policy of the American party in the English-language 
Comintern journals. But a collection of his Comintern writings 
between 1919 and 1923 was soon to be published in Russian. He 
took the opportunity to write an introduction on current Comin- 
tern problems. Attacking the attempt to downplay the significance 
of the 1923 German defeat, Trotsky pointed out that there had 
been an international turn toward stabilization of the capitalist 
world. He insisted that the Comintern's European sections must 
pay more attention to combatting reformist and bourgeois trends 
within the workers movement. He particularly lambasted the 
Workers Party leadership: 

For a young and weak Communist Party, lacking in revolutionary 
temper, to play the role of solicitor and gatherer of "progressive 
voters" for the Republican Senator La Follette is to head toward the 
political dissolution of the party in the petty bourgeoisie. After all, 
opportunism expresses itself not only in moods of gradualism but 
also in political impatience: it frequently seeks to reap where it has 
not sown, to realize successes which do not correspond to its influ- 
ence. Underestimation of the basic task — the development and 
strengthening of the proletarian character of the party — here is the 
basic trait of opportunism!... The inspirers of this monstrous oppor- 
tunism, who are thoroughly imbued with skepticism concerning the 
American proletariat, are impatiently seeking to transfer the party's 
center of gravity into a farmer milieu — a milieu that is being shaken 
by the agrarian crisis. By underwriting, even if with reservations, the 
worst illusions of the petty bourgeoisie, it is not at all difficult to 
create for oneself the illusion of wielding influence over the petty 
bourgeoisie. To think that Bolshevism consists of this is to under- 
stand nothing about Bolshevism. 44 

Trotsky's preface was dated May 20. The same day, the Comintern 
issued its decision on the question. Zinoviev had finally conceded 
the main point to Trotsky: "An alliance with the La Follette move- 
ment would not serve the liberation of the petty-bourgeois masses 
from domination by capital." But Zinoviev could not adopt Trots- 
ky's hard line against a two-class party without undercutting the 
triumvirate's campaign against Trotsky for "underestimating" the 

44 Leon Trotsky, introduction to The First Five Years of the Communist International, 
vol. I (New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1945), 13-14. 

Introduction 33 

peasantry. The decision accepted the need for a farmer-labor 
party in America: 

These two independent tasks — the task of building around the Com- 
munist Party a broad class labor party and of establishing a bond 
between the labor party and the poorest elements of farmers — have 
developed in the United States, thanks to the peculiarities of histori- 
cal evolution, as one problem, namely, the building of a common 
party of workers and exploited farmers.... The American Communists 
must establish within the Farmer-Labor Party a strong consolidated 
labor wing including the agricultural wage workers. 40 

Subsequent Comintern decisions on the labor party question 
in the United States only compounded and amplified the confu- 
sion on the question of the "two-class party" exhibited in this 

The Comintern decision accepted the Cannon-Foster conten- 
tion that the split with Fitzpatrick's forces had been a disaster. 
(Even Israel Amter, a hard Ruthenberg-Pepper supporter, had 
been forced to admit in the Comintern's journal that "experience 
demonstrates that the conception of comrades Foster-Cannon was 
correct.") 46 But the ECCI was careful not to endorse either fac- 
tion, and it criticized Cannon by name: 

If the group represented by comrades Ruthenberg and Pepper has 
made the mistake of not realizing sufficiently the dangers besetting 
the party on the long path leading to securing the co-operation of 
the petty-bourgeois masses, the comrades gathered around the other 
group, such as comrades Hathaway and Cannon, have made a num- 
ber of declarations which show that in their efforts to secure influ- 
ence on the petty bourgeoisie they failed to maintain the Communist 
position. 47 

In his capacity as secretary of the Farmer-Labor Federation of 
Minnesota, Hathaway had signed a statement against the impo- 
sition of communist "utopias," an act attacked by both Trotsky 

45 "Workers Party Issues Declaration of Policy," Daily Worker, 20 August 1924. This 
Workers Party declaration incorporated most of the ECCI May 20 decision. 

46 Israel Amter, "Neue Perspektiven der Einheitsfronttaktik in den Vereinigten 
Staaten" ("New Perspectives of the United Front Tactic in the United States"), 
16 April 1924, in Kommunistische Internationale No. 34-35, 128. Translation is by the 
Prometheus Research Library. 

47 "Workers Party Issues Declaration of Policy," op. cit. This is probably the con- 
demnation that Cannon referred to in History of American Trotskyism (New York: 
Pioneer Publishers, 1944), 35-36. 

34 Early Years of American Communism 

and the ECCI decision as a particularly egregious example of 
opportunism. No specific declaration of Cannon's was mentioned, 
but the singling out of Cannon was no doubt due to Pepper's 
Comintern influence. In effect, the attack on Cannon served to 
deflect attention from the fact that both factions had "failed to 
maintain the Communist position." The public criticism had to 
have affected Cannon's standing in the party. Readers will note a 
marked shift toward Communist orthodoxy in Cannon's writings 
in the summer of 1924. While other party leaders viewed the 
Comintern's decision as only a temporary setback, Cannon sought 
to assimilate its full significance for communist strategy. 

The 1924-25 Faction Fight 

Cannon wasn't the only one who shifted gears in the sum- 
mer of 1924. The entire Workers Party awkwardly and abruptly 
changed course after receiving the Comintern decision. La Fol- 
lette issued a ringing denunciation of the Communists just at 
that time, making the party's sudden change in orientation a bit 
easier to explain to the radical public. The June 17 St. Paul 
convention of the Farmer-Labor movement did not nominate La 
Follette for president. In the end the Workers Party ran its own 
candidates in the elections: William Z. Foster for president and 
Benjamin Gitlow for vice president. They polled slightly more 
than 33,000 votes, a respectable showing considering that the 
party was able to get on the ballot in only a few states. La 
Follette's third party polled far fewer votes than expected — only 
4.8 million. His supporters viewed the election results as a 
defeat. Republican candidate Calvin Coolidge, Harding's succes- 
sor, won by a landslide. 

The faction fight rekindled in the Workers Party almost as 
soon as the polls closed. The basic issue was the evaluation of the 
election results: Cannon and Foster insisted that the Farmer- 
Labor movement had been co-opted by La Follette and was now 
dead. Nothing was to be gained by continuing to raise the labor 
party slogan; the party should concentrate on united-front cam- 
paigns around concrete issues in the trade unions. Ruthenberg- 
Lovestone argued that the La Follette forces had won a great 
victory in the elections, that the party had to continue to orient to 
the movement which had supported him, and that agitation for a 
labor party should remain on the party's agenda. 

Introduction 35 

Both sides could, of course, claim to stand on the muddled 
May 1924 Comintern decision. Cannon and Foster were, unwit- 
tingly, emphasizing Trotsky's thrust while Ruthenberg-Lovestone, 
taking advantage of the Comintern's acceptance of the two-class 
Farmer-Labor Party, were pushing for what was basically a reversal 
of the anti-La Follette decision. The fight consumed the party 
from December 1924 right through to the party's Fourth Conven- 
tion in August 1925. 

We publish here most of Cannon's polemics from this crucial 
fight in the Workers Party, both those he wrote in his own name 
and those he coauthored. As the fight progressed, the issues in 
dispute in the American party were further muddled by Zinoviev's 
anti-Trotsky campaign. But it is no less true that the anti-Trotsky 
campaign in the American party was muddled by the party's pre- 
existing factional lineup. 

The Fight Against Lore's "Two and a Half Internationalism" 

Foster had succeeded in having Pepper recalled to Moscow in 
May 1924. But Pepper was all the more dangerous there, work- 
ing in the Comintern apparatus as an agent for Ruthenberg- 
Lovestone. Trotsky's May 1924 essay was not available in English, 
and Cannon later told Draper that he was not aware of differ- 
ences between Trotsky and Zinoviev on the American question. 
But John Pepper certainly was. Trotsky's victory on the central 
issue of La Follette's candidacy had been Pepper's defeat. Pepper 
recognized that Stalin's ascendancy meant that this defeat was 
reversible, and this fueled the American faction fight. 

The only tendency in the Workers Party that opposed the 
"third party alliance" was that of Ludwig Lore. Moreover, in early 
1924 Lore, writing in the party's German-language Volkszeitung, 
which he edited, had painted the victory of the Foster-Cannon 
faction as a victory for Trotsky's opposition. Lore had a great deal 
of personal sympathy for Trotsky, but he was no Trotskyist; the 
Volkszeitung also supported the expelled rightist German leader 
Paul Levi, and Lore's public complaints about the zigzags of Zi- 
noviev had more in common with Levi than with Trotsky. The 
1924 Comintern decision on the American question had directed 
the party leadership to wage a struggle against Lore's "Two and a 
Half Internationalist" tendency, even as it propounded Lore's 
position against the La Follette alliance. 

36 Early Years of American Communism 

In order to avoid losing Lore's support, Foster and Cannon 
had initially refused to take a position in favor of the Stalin- 
Zinoviev-Kamenev "Old Guard" in the Russian party when Pep- 
per tried to force the issue in the Central Executive Committee in 
March 1924. But Foster, who went to Moscow in May to put for- 
ward the case for the "third party alliance," quickly realized that 
opposition to Trotsky was the sine qua non for favor in the eyes of 
the Zinoviev leadership. After Foster's return he and Cannon 
began voting for the anti-Trotsky resolutions proposed by Ruthen- 
berg and Lovestone, but their slowness to endorse the "Old 
Guard" was a key weapon in Pepper's arsenal. After Pepper's 
advantage became clear, both Foster and Cannon moved quickly 
to separate themselves from Lore and remedy the situation. None- 
theless, Lovestone took to referring to the Foster-Cannon faction 
as the "Foster-Lore Group." 

Lore's real crime, as far as Zinoviev was concerned, was his 
support to Trotsky. But there was truth to the charge that Lore 
remained a social democrat who, like Kautsky with his short-lived 
"Two and a Half International," was trying to straddle the fence 
between reformism and communism. Lore's group of party sup- 
porters were definitely a rightist bunch, centered on a layer of 
trade-union officials like needle trades leader Charles Zimmer- 
man. In June 1924 Cannon had labeled Zimmerman "a danger- 
ous opportunist who has to be watched"; Zimmerman's later 
trajectory would indicate that this was not an exaggeration on 
Cannon's part. 48 The needle trades leaders soon broke with Lore, 
and they retained membership in the Workers Party even after 
Lore was expelled in 1925. Their opportunism remained a fre- 
quent target of Cannon. 

As is apparent from the material we publish here, Cannon 
energetically took up the ideological struggle against Lore's 
"Two and a Half Internationalism." He also pushed Zinoviev's 
"Bolshevization" campaign. But even as he promoted these cam- 

48 Zimmerman was part of Lovestone's Right Opposition in 1929 and ended his 
days as a simple trade-union bureaucrat. Zimmerman quotes Cannon in a letter 
to Foster, 16 June 1924, Charles S. Zimmerman Records, Box 45, Folder 6, 
ILGWU Archives, New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cor- 
nell University. 

Introduction 37 

paigns, which were code words for anti-Trotskyism in the Com- 
intern as a whole, he remained essentially a passive supporter of 
the broader anti-Trotsky campaign. He was able to take this posi- 
tion in part because Loreism was a real right-wing tendency within 
the American party. 

Though they turned against their erstwhile supporters in the 
Lore faction, the Cannon-Foster faction hardly had the profile of 
a left wing. They correctly insisted on the necessity of a proletarian 
majority in any farmer-labor movement, but they did not criticize 
the party's failure to insist on the working-class character of the 
party formed at the July 3 Chicago convention. Their documents 
reveal a tendency to adapt to the backward prejudices common in 
the AFL unions. There is little emphasis, for example, on the 
need for the party to aggressively wage a fight against the racist 
Jim Crow restrictions in most union constitutions. And they said 
little about American imperialism's increasingly restrictive and 
racist immigration policies. 

The decision against support to La Follette had been part of 
a general left turn by the Comintern in 1924-25. Afraid that Trots- 
ky might pick up support, Zinoviev maneuvered to outflank him 
on the left. The years 1924-25 were later described by Trotsky as 
"the years of Left mistakes and putschist experiments." 49 Under 
the general rubric of "Bolshevization," most of the established 
sectional leaderships were replaced by figures loyal to Zinoviev 
and hence more willing to spout the leftist rhetoric he demanded. 
The ascendancy of Ruth Fischer and Arkadi Maslow in Germany 
was symptomatic of this trend. Pepper knew how to couch the 
Ruthenberg faction's orientation in terms of the pseudo-leftism 
that was the political currency of the Comintern under Zinoviev. 
It was this, combined with Pepper's skillful playing of the Trotsky 
card, that ensured the defeat of the Foster-Cannon faction at the 
Comintern's Fifth Plenum in March-April 1925. 

The 1925 Decision on the Labor Party Slogan 

The dispute on the labor party slogan was fought out in the 
American Commission which convened in Moscow around the 

49 Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin (New York: Pioneer Publishers, 
1936), 118. 

38 Early Years of American Communism 

ECCI Fifth Plenum in March-April 1925. We publish here tran- 
scripts of some of Cannon's remarks to American Commission 
sessions, as well as the Foster-Cannon article "Controversial Ques- 
tions in the Workers Party of America," which was published 
in the Russian- and German-language Communist International 
around the time of the plenum. Foster and Cannon were roundly 
defeated in the commission. 

The plenum declared, "it must be recognized that in the 
elections La Follette gained an important victory," and decreed 
the urgent necessity of continued agitation around the labor party 
issue. The ECCI did not correct the party's former position in 
favor of a two-class farmer-labor party even though it reversed it: 
"Our slogan itself should now be revised insofar that we no lon- 
ger agitate for a 'farmer-labor party' but only for a 'labor party,' 
since in the changed conditions the premises for the formation of 
a joint party of workers and small farmers are lacking." 30 Politi- 
cal clarity was beside the point to the ECCI. 

As a propaganda slogan, the demand for a labor party could 
have had a place in the communist arsenal at this time. But to 
insist on the need for an agitational campaign around the slogan 
was tantamount to insisting on a continued orientation to the 
bourgeois "Progressive" forces. An unsigned article in the March 
English-language Communist International had argued this ex- 
plicitly: "The La Follette movement is an inevitable stage in the 
process of the revolutionization of the American proletariat.... The 
chief political task of the American Communists now consists in 
breaking the proletarian and poor farmer elements, away from 
the La Follette movement...." 01 The La Follette third party 
movement was dead, however, so the opportunist orientation de- 
manded by the Comintern remained a dead letter in the next 
period, except in a few states like Minnesota, where small 
"Farmer-Labor" remnants survived. 

The Comintern leadership clearly favored the Ruthenberg- 
Lovestone faction. But the Cannon-Foster faction still had the 

50 "Decision of the Communist International on the American Question," Daily 
Worker, 19 May 1925. 

51 "The Future of the La Follette Movement," Communist International No. 9, 
March 1925. 

Introduction 39 

votes in the American party: they won a majority of delegates 
in the elections to the party's Fourth Convention, held in 
August 1925. Both Cannon and Draper describe how a cable from 
Moscow intervened to change the verdict of the American 
party. 52 The Comintern cable declared that the "Ruthenberg 
Group is more loyal to decisions of the Communist International 
and stands closer to its views," demanded that the hated Love- 
stone remain a member of the Central Executive Committee and 
insisted that the Ruthenberg faction get at least 40 percent of the 
seats on the incoming CEC. 

The Cannon-Foster Split 

Cannon and Foster split over how to respond to the cable. 
Cannon wanted to comply with the sense of the cable and give 
each faction 50 percent of the incoming CEC. Foster wanted to 
flout the Comintern and wash his hands of the new CEC by giving 
the Ruthenberg group an absolute majority. Cannon carried a 
bare majority of the Foster-Cannon caucus and the faction fol- 
lowed his proposal. But the Comintern representative to the new 
CEC, S.I. Gusev — a Russian who had followed Stalin's line in the 
Russian party since the Civil War days — declared his intention to 
vote with the Ruthenberg faction, giving them the majority in 
any case. In the aftermath, the following joke reportedly became 
popular among the more cynical party members: "Why is the 
Communist Party of the United States like the Brooklyn Bridge? 
Because it is suspended on cables." 53 

But Cannon was not at all cynical where the Communist 
International was concerned. He was a loyal "Cominternist" and, 
as he later told Draper, he had "been convinced in our discus- 
sions with the Russians, that we had made a political error in our 
estimate of the prospects of a labor party in the United States, 
and I was most concerned that we make a real correction. With 
inadequate theoretical schooling I was already groping my way to 
the conception, which later became a governing principle, that a 
correct political line is more important than any organizational 

52 Draper II, 127-152; Cannon, First Ten Years, 131-138. 

53 Gitlow, op. cit., 187. 

40 Early Years of American Communism 

question, including the question of party control." 54 

For Foster, however, the question of party control remained 
paramount. The split in the Cannon-Foster faction hardened and 
became permanent because Foster and Bittelman insisted on 
appealing the Comintern cable after the convention and sought 
to mobilize the base of the Cannon-Foster faction against the 
Comintern. Such an opposition was necessarily based on the 
rightism of the Finns and of Lore's supporters (who remained in 
the party even though Lore himself was expelled by the conven- 
tion). Cannon had already written a polemic against the anti- 
internationalism of the leader of the Finnish Federation, Henry 
Askeli. In later years Shachtman described the thinking of Can- 
non and his supporters when they broke with Foster: 

The kind of support we would necessarily rally, the kind of support 
that would come to us whether we rallied it deliberately or not, 
would be of a kind that first would mobilize all of the right-wing 
elements of the party against the Comintern, and in mobilizing 
them behind the appeal, we would be placed increasingly at the 
mercy of these right-wing elements. They would constitute more and 
more of our troops. And, willy-nilly... a split would ensue. Why willy- 
nilly? Because nobody really felt the Comintern would reverse its 
decision. 55 

The break between Cannon and Foster became final when Can- 
non spoke out against the Foster-Bittelman appeal in a speech, 
which we publish here, to the Young Workers League conference 
in October. Foster retained the support of the Finns and the core 
of the TUEL apparatus — his group had the bigger rank-and-file 
base. But the Cannon-Foster cadre had split down the middle. 
Cannon won the youth, including Shachtman, the party leader- 
ships in Detroit and Minnesota, as well as Abern, Swabeck, Gomez 
and Cannon's best friend and collaborator, William F. Dunne. 

Cannon and his supporters blocked with the Ruthenberg 
faction in the period after his split with Foster, trying to forge a 
collective pro-Comintern leadership. Their joint resolution "Unify 
the Party!" is included here. But even as Cannon broke with 
Foster, he and Dunne were compelled to register a protest in the 
Political Committee against Ruthenberg's attempts to undercut 

54 Cannon, First Ten Years, 132-133. 

55 Shachtman, op. cit., 95-96. 

Introduction 41 

Foster's Trade Union Department. Their bloc with Ruthenberg- 
Lovestone did not last very long. 

The International Labor Defense 

The International Labor Defense (ILD) was the center of 
Cannon's public political work from August 1925 until his expul- 
sion in 1928. In a letter to Draper, Cannon told the story of how 
the ILD was conceived in Moscow in 1925 with ex-Wobbly "Big 
Bill" Haywood. Rose Karsner, at the time head of the Interna- 
tional Red Aid campaign in the United States, was also in Moscow 
and participated in the discussions. Cannon detailed the proud 
history of the ILD's non-sectarian defense of class-war prison- 
ers. 56 Such defense had been a theme of Workers Party propa- 
ganda since the party's inception, but the ILD gave it flesh and 

It appears that only the timing of the ILD's founding allowed 
it to survive the vicissitudes of the internal party struggle. Just 
before the Fourth Convention Cannon was able to force his 
plans for the establishment of the ILD through the Executive 
Council (Political Committee) over Ruthenberg's objections, as 
indicated in the 26 June 1925 minutes, excerpts of which we pub- 
lish here. If Ruthenberg had prevailed and Max Bedacht had been 
appointed ILD secretary, the entire project would probably have 
been scuttled since Cannon's personal ties with the IWW and ex- 
Wobbly milieu were key: the Wobblies demanded that Cannon be 
secretary of the organization as a condition for cooperation. 57 

By late August Ruthenberg-Lovestone had a majority on the 
Executive Council, but the ILD was protected (as Foster's TUEL 
was not) by Cannon's initial alliance with Ruthenberg. Cannon 
had time to build it into the party's largest and most successful 
united-front organization. Its monthly magazine, the Labor De- 
fender — edited by Max Shachtman and managed by Martin Abern 
— had a circulation of 22,000 by July 1928. Cannon wrote fre- 
quently on ILD matters in both Labor Defender and the party's 
Daily Worker. 

In 1958 Cannon published a selection of his popular, agi- 

56 Cannon, First Ten Years, 160-165. 

57 James P. Cannon, unpublished interview with Harry Ring, 15 August 1973. 

42 Early Years of American Communism 

tational writings over the years, Notebook of an Agitator. 58 He in- 
cluded most of his ILD material and all of his major articles on 
the campaign against the execution of the anarchists Nicola Sacco 
and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in 1927. Notebook of an Agitator also in- 
cludes some other popular pieces Cannon wrote while in the 
Workers Party, including his tribute to C.E. Ruthenberg. This 
book is still readily available; we therefore publish none of these 
articles here. We include here only one ILD article which was not 
in Cannon's selection: "The Red Month of November" (Novem- 
ber 1927). 

The American Negro Labor Congress 

The International Labor Defense was not the only united- 
front organization formed by the Workers Party in 1925, though it 
was the most successful one. In October the American Negro 
Labor Congress (ANLC) was founded at a conference in Chicago 
attended by some 40 black Communists and close sympathizers. 
But despite the extensive propaganda the party devoted to the 
need to fight for black rights and against Ku Klux Klan and lynch 
mob terror, the ANLC remained a paper organization for most of 
the decade. 

The founding of the ANLC represented a radical departure 
from the traditional attitude of the American left wing toward the 
oppression of the black population. The Socialist Party had in- 
cluded open racists; its best element was represented by Eugene 
V. Debs' famous statement that the Socialist Party had "nothing 
special to offer the Negro." 

The syndicalists were significantly better than the SP on this 
question; they actively fought Jim Crow in the labor movement. In 
its first decade the IWW made significant headway in organizing 
an integrated timber workers union in the South. Cannon's ac- 
count of the 1912 IWW convention takes special note of the fact 
that two black delegates attended the convention, including one 
from the Brotherhood of Timber W 7 orkers, calling the integrated 
meeting "proof that we have surmounted all barriers of race and 
color." 5i The Chicago Stockyards Labor Council, organized by 

38 James P. Cannon, Notebook of an Agitator (New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1958). 
59 James P. Cannon, "Seventh Convention, Harmonious Gathering of Young Men 
Fighting for Industrial Freedom," Solidarity, 28 September 1912. 

Introduction 43 

Foster and Johnstone in 1919, made some headway in organizing 
black workers as well as white. On the eve of the July 1919 Chi- 
cago race riot the Stockyards Labor Council tried to organize 
an integrated packinghouse workers' march through the black 
neighborhoods of Chicago's South Side. When the packing bosses 
succeeded in having the march banned (on the pretext that it 
might foment racial tension!), Foster and Johnstone organized 
two separate marches — one black and one white — both of which 
marched the planned route, to the cheers of the black commu- 
nity which lined the parade routed 

But even the best of the syndicalists did not hark back to 
Marx and Engels' writings on the revolutionary nature of the 
American Civil War. No one in the American left wing saw the 
fight against the oppression of black people as a motor force for 
the American socialist revolution. 

The Workers Party in the 1920s broke with this tradition of 
lack of attention to the unique racist structure of American capi- 
talism. The Russian Bolsheviks had developed their party in in- 
tense opposition to the Great Russian chauvinism of the tsar's 
empire, and they understood that the demands of oppressed 
minorities could be a powerful revolutionary force. Cannon re- 
called in his 1961 essay, "The Russian Revolution and the Ameri- 
can Negro Movement," how important the Russian influence was 
in reorienting the American Communist movement: 

The best of the earlier socialists were represented by Debs, who was 
friendly to all races and purely free from prejudice. But the limited- 
ness of the great agitator's view on this far from simple problem was 
expressed in his statement: "We have nothing special to offer the 
Negro, and we cannot make separate appeals to all the races. The 
Socialist Party is the party of the whole working class, regardless of 
color — the whole working class of the whole world" (Ray Ginger, 
The Bending Cross). That was considered a very advanced position at 
the time, but it made no provision for active support of the Negro's 
special claim for a little equality here and now, or in the foreseeable 
future, on the road to socialism. 

And even Debs, with his general formula that missed the main point 
— the burning issue of ever-present discrimination against the Ne- 
groes every way they turned — was far superior in this regard, as in all 

6(> James R. Barrett, Work and Community in the Jungle, Chicago's Packinghouse Work- 
ers 1894-1922 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 205-206. 

44 Early Years of American Communism 

others, to Victor Berger, who was an outspoken white supremacist. . . . 
The difference — and it was a profound difference — between the Com- 
munist Party of the Twenties and its socialist and radical ancestors, 
was signified by its break with this tradition. The American commu- 
nists in the early days, under the influence and pressure of the Rus- 
sians in the Comintern, were slowly and painfully learning to change 
their attitude; to assimilate the new theory of the Negro question as 
a special question of doubly-exploited second-class citizens, requiring 
a program of special demands as part of the over-all program — and 
to start doing something about it. 

The true importance of this profound change, in all its dimensions, 
cannot be adequately measured by the results in the Twenties. The 
first ten years have to be considered chiefly as the preliminary 
period of reconsideration and discussion, and change of attitude 
and policy on the Negro question — in preparation for future activity 
in this field. 

The effects of this change and preparation in the Twenties, brought 
about by the Russian intervention, were to manifest themselves ex- 
plosively in the next decade. The ripely favorable conditions for 
racial agitation and organization among the Negroes, produced by 
the great depression, found the Communist Party ready to move in 
this field as no other radical organization in this country had ever 
done before. 61 

Many of the initial black cadre of the American Communist 
movement came from the milieu around A. Philip Randolph's 
journal, the Messenger, and his Harlem Socialist political club. 
Randolph sided with the reformist SP majority in the 1919 split; 
those blacks who saw the Russian Revolution as the way forward 
gravitated to the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB), founded late 
in 1919 by Cyril Briggs. The ABB's initial aim of "African libera- 
tion and redemption" was later expanded to that of the "immedi- 
ate protection and ultimate liberation of Negroes everywhere" 
and it became a recruiting ground for the Communist movement 
by the summer of 1921. Claude McKay, who had worked with the 
British Communists in London from 1919 to 1921, played a role 
bringing the Harlem ABBers into the orbit of the American 

The Brotherhood sent a fraternal delegation to the founding 
convention of the Workers Party in December 1921 and many 

61 Cannon, First Ten Years, 230-233. 

Introduction 45 

ABB members joined the new legal party. While the ABB retained 
a separate existence and identity through 1924, it was closely 
associated with the Workers Party; its remaining local organiza- 
tions were advised to join the Workers Party in 1925. In New 
York the ABB was based mostly among political activists of West 
Indian extraction, while in Chicago it had a significant base 
among the Southern-born skilled building tradesmen organized 
in the American Consolidated Trades Council (ACTC). Edward 
Doty, a plumber by trade, was the Chicago ABB post commander 
and also the founder of the ACTC. 62 

In discussions on the question of the oppression of the Amer- 
ican black population in the early congresses of the Communist 
International (such discussions took place at the Second, Fourth 
and Fifth World Congresses in 1920, 1922 and 1925 respectively), 
the question was viewed primarily as an extension of the colonial 
question. The early Comintern laid great emphasis on the leader- 
ship role American blacks were destined to play in the liberation 
of the African colonies. Concomitantly the American party tried 
to influence and recruit from Marcus Garvey's back- to- Africa Uni- 
versal Negro Improvement Association; in the mid-1920s the party 
supported the anti-Garvey opposition as the UNIA fell apart fol- 
lowing Garvey's 1922 arrest. 63 Both the party and the ABB par- 
ticipated in an ill-fated "All-Race Negro Congress" in Chicago in 
February 1924, but the majority of black middle-class delegates 
were resolutely opposed to a pro-labor, communist perspective. 64 

With the formation of the American Negro Labor Congress in 
1925, the party's orientation shifted to organizing American 
blacks as part of the working class, taking into account the begin- 
ning of the mass migration which was to transform the predomi- 
nantly Southern agrarian black population of sharecroppers and 
tenant farmers into a key component of the urban American 

62 Philip S. Foner and James S. Allen, eds., American Communism and Black Ameri- 
cans: A Documentary History, 1919-1929 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 
1987), 16-27; Mark Naison, Communists in Harlem During the Depression (Urbana: 
University of Illinois Press, 1983), 5-11; Harry Haywood, Black Bolshevik: Autobiogra- 
phy of an Afro-American Communist (Chicago: Liberator Press, 1978), 121-131. 

63 Naison, op. cit., 9; Foner and Allen, op. cit., 76-86; Political Committee Minutes, 
21 September 1926. 

64 Foner and Allen, op. cit., 38, 53-63. 

46 Early Years of American Communism 

proletariat. But the ANLC still reported to the Comintern's East- 
ern Department, and the black Americans who went to Moscow to 
study in the 1920s were sent to the University of the Toilers of the 
East, an institution established expressly for educating Commu- 
nists from the colonial world. 65 

Perhaps because the fight for black liberation was not seen as 
strategic for the American socialist revolution, the party's line on 
the fight against racial discrimination, and the work of the ANLC 
after 1925, were not issues in the factional struggles that racked 
the Workers Party in the 1920s. There is little on the question in 
the Cannon factional writings we publish in this book. 

It is notable, however, that at least according to Harry 
Haywood, most of the party's black members supported the 
Ruthenberg-Lovestone faction. This factional lineup was not to 
change until the Comintern's Sixth Congress in 1928 when Hay- 
wood, then a student at the Lenin School in Moscow, joined the 
Foster-Cannon factional bloc. Haywood was then the only black 
member of the American party supporting Stalin's position that 
blacks in the Southern United States "black belt" formed a 
nation whose right to self-determination the party should cham- 
pion. The Foster-Cannon opposition, with Foster and Dunne in 
the lead, jumped on the self-determination bandwagon early, in 
order to use this as a club against the Lovestone faction. Most 
of the black American party members initially resisted the self- 
determination slogan, arguing that the party should continue to 
champion full social and political equality for blacks — Haywood's 
brother, Otto Hall, who was also a student in Moscow, accused 
Haywood of seeking to provide grist for Foster's factional mill. 66 

While support for the post-1925 CEC majority does not appear 
to have netted the ANLC leaders access to greater party resources 
or attention — the minutes of the Political Committee meeting of 
7 December 1927 reveal that Lovestone simply dismissed an 
ANLC request that the party fund two full-time ANLC organizers 

65 The ANLC's founding documents are reprinted in Foner and Allen, op. cit., 
109-129. The ANLC was to report to the Eastern Department, according to the 
8 April 1926 minutes of the Workers Party Political Committee. See Haywood, 
op. cit., 148-175, for an account of his studies at the University of the Toilers of 
the East. 

66 Haywood, op. cit., 140-147, 245-280. 

Introduction 47 

— this was nonetheless a real element in the internal dynamics of 
the party. Haywood reports that Robert Minor's attention to the 
black members, as well as his writings on the question of black 
oppression, played a role in winning the black members to the 
Ruthenberg-Lovestone group. Haywood also remembers that the 
Ruthenberg-Lovestone faction was seen as pro-Comintern, while 
the Foster-Cannon supporters were seen as "opportunist, narrow- 
minded trade unionists lacking in Marxist theory." b7 

It was the Foster-Cannon faction which was most closely 
identified with the party's exclusive emphasis on "boring from 
within" the reactionary AFL unions. Most of these unions actively 
refused to admit the blacks who had streamed into the Northern 
factory cities during WWI. The AFL orientation of the Workers 
Party in the 1920s meant, in practice, that the party could not 
organize black workers. While Cannon was never personally com- 
mitted to the exclusively AFL trade-union policy, Cannon's lieu- 
tenant Bill Dunne leaned more in Foster's direction. And Dunne 
was the Cannon-Foster faction "expert" on what was then called 
the "Negro question." 68 

Dunne was the Workers Party's representative to the Fifth 
Congress of the Comintern in 1924, and to the Third Congress of 
the Red International of Labor Unions (Profintern) which fol- 
lowed. When the head of the Profintern, A. Lozovsky, suggested 
at the congress that the American party should organize separate 
unions of black workers where the AFL unions refused to organ- 
ize blacks, Dunne adamantly opposed this perspective. Pointing to 
the racial integration in the UMW, where the party actually had a 
significant base, Dunne basically alibied the racist policies of the 
AFL bureaucracy. His words speak volumes about the limitations 
of the American party at the time: 

The fact that black workers are unorganized is not due to racial 
antagonism, but is because the American workers are unorganized in 
general. In those industries where Negroes work, they are admitted 

67 Haywood, op. cit., 141. 

68 See William F. Dunne, "Negroes in American Industries," Workers Monthly, 
March-April 1925; "Negroes as an Oppressed People," Workers Monthly, July 1925; 
"Our Party and the Negro Masses," Daily Worker, 13 August 1925; "The NAACP 
Takes a Step Backward," Workers Monthly, August 1926. Three of these are re- 
printed in Foner and Allen, op. cit. 

48 Early Years of American Communism 

into the unions as members with equal rights; this is the case in the 
miners union, the largest organization in the American Federation 
of Labor; this is the case in the building trades. There are unions 
which encompass only skilled workers and they, of course, do not 
admit Negroes. But when Negroes appear in these industries in 
significant number, and compete with the members of the unions, 
then they will be accepted as members with equal rights. If we are 
opposed to dual unions in general, then we cannot be in favor of 
parallel Negro unions. Certainly racial antagonism exists, but the 
best way to fight it will be by accepting white and black workers into 
one organization, not by mobilizing the Negroes on one side of the 
barrier and whites on the other. 69 

Dunne's speech contrasts sharply with the urgency Trotsky con- 
veyed on the question of fighting race prejudice in the American 
labor movement, in a letter to Claude McKay published the year 
before Dunne spoke: 

In North America the matter is further complicated by the abomi- 
nable obtuseness and caste presumption of the privileged upper 
strata of the working class itself, who refuse to recognize fellow work- 
ers and fighting comrades in the Negroes. Gompers' policy is found- 
ed on the exploitation of such despicable prejudices, and is at the 
present time the most effective guarantee for the successful subjuga- 
tion of white and colored workers alike. The fight against this policy 
must be taken up from different sides, and conducted on various 
lines. One of the most important branches of this conflict consists in 
enlightening the proletarian consciousness by awakening the feeling 
of human dignity, and of revolutionary protest, among the Negro 
slaves of American capitalism. /0 

The Communist International eventually prevailed over the 
leadership of the American party, and the resolution adopted by 
the Workers Party's Fourth Convention in August 1925 included 
the proviso: "Where Negroes are not permitted to join the 
existing 'white' trade unions, it is the duty of the Communists 
to take the initiative in the formation of organizations of Negro 
workers, declaring in principle against dual unionism and 

69 Protokoll iiber den Dritten Kongress der Roten Gewerkschafts-Internationale, abgehalten 
in Moskau vom 8. bis 21. full 1924 (Berlin: Verlag der Roten Gewerkschafts- 
Internationale Auslieferungsstelle, n.d.), 99-100. Translation by the Prometheus 
Research Library. 

70 Leon Trotsky, "A Letter to Comrade McKay," first published in International 
Press Correspondence, 13 March 1923, and reprinted in The First Five Years of the Com- 
munist International, Vol. II (New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1953), 355-356. 

Introduction 49 

against racial separation, and declaring as a primary purpose the 
struggle for admission into the existing unions, but functioning 
as full-fledged Negro unions during the struggle." 71 

This policy remained a dead letter, however, so long as 
Foster's exclusive emphasis on the AFL dominated the party's 
trade-union work. Taking note of A. Philip Randolph's success in 
organizing the Pullman Porters, Dunne proposed to the Political 
Committee on 21 September 1926 that the ANLC take the initia- 
tive in calling a national conference on organizing black workers. 
But nothing appears to have come of this initiative. It was only 
when the party finally broke out of the AFL straitjacket and put 
the struggle for black rights at the center of the struggle for the 
American revolution (the discussions at the Comintern's Sixth 
Congress in 1928 at least accomplished this task, though they also 
resulted in the adoption of Stalin's ridiculous theory, most often 
ignored in practice, that blacks in the Southern "black belt" 
constituted a nation) the party was able to make significant gains 
among the black population. 72 The groundwork for the gains 
made by the party during the early 1930s was painstakingly laid in 
the discussions and accretion of black cadre during the 1920s. 

The TUEL and the Sixth Plenum of the ECCI 

Cannon was in Moscow for the ECCI's Sixth Plenum in Febru- 
ary 1926, but he seems to have taken no part in the proceedings. 
The fight against the joint Trotsky-Zinoviev-Kamenev opposition 
was already in the air. Bukharin was beginning to eclipse Zinoviev 
in the Comintern, though he did not take over as secretary until 
the Eighth Plenum in November of 1927. Ultraleftism was now 
seen as the "main danger" in the Comintern parties; Fischer- 
Maslow had already been deposed as German party leaders. The 
turn to the right might have been expected to benefit Foster, but 

71 "The American Negro and the Proletarian Revolution," in The Fourth National 
Convention of the Workers (Communist) Party of America (Chicago: Daily Worker Pub- 
lishing Co., n.d.), 117. 

72 See Dan T. Carter, Scottshoro, A Tragedy of the American South (Baton Rouge: 
Louisiana State University Press, 1969), Robin D.G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe, 
Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (Chapel Hill: University of North 
Carolina Press, 1990), and Naison, op. cit., for accounts of the Communist Party's 
work during the 1930s. 

50 Early Years of American Communism 

Bukharin was a personal friend of Lovestone; under his leader- 
ship the Comintern would continue to favor the Ruthenberg- 
Lovestone faction. 

Foster and Bittelman had gone to Moscow to appeal the Com- 
intern cable in the fall of 1925. They met personally with a sym- 
pathetic Stalin, who was apparently already looking to keep the 
Foster group in reserve for any future moves against Bukharin. 73 
While Foster and Bittelman were not successful in overturning the 
new Ruthenberg majority, they did succeed in getting some Com- 
intern protection against the worst of Ruthenberg-Lovestone's 
factional excesses. This was largely because of the intervention of 
RILU head A. Lozovsky. Cannon later explained to Draper: 

Lozovsky supported Foster, was hostile to the Ruthenberg faction 
and vigorously opposed all the attempts of the Ruthenberg leader- 
ship to cut down Foster's latitude in trade union work. But at this 
time, as I recall it, the issues on which Lozovsky's interventions were 
based were not differences of party policy in the trade union move- 
ment but the work itself. He knew that Foster was serious and thor- 
oughgoing in his approach to trade union work, and he thought the 
Ruthenbergites merely dabbled with it. In that he was dead right. 
But even here it must be assumed that Lozovsky's interventions for 
the protection of the Foster group were not independent operations 
on his part. The way things worked in the relations of the Profintern 
and the ECCI, it is quite inconceivable that Lozovsky acted without 
the knowledge or approval of the leaders of the Russian CR Indeed, 
his support of Foster in trade union work, which was the field to 
which he limited his intervention, seems in retrospect to coincide 
with the consistent policy of the Russians at that time. This policy 
was to give the edge to the Ruthenbergites politically but to empha- 
size Foster's priority in trade union affairs and to push back the 
Ruthenbergian invasions of the field, [emphasis in original] 74 

The persecution by the AFL leaders had driven the TUEL 
underground in most unions; party members had been forced to 
deny TUEL affiliation or face expulsion. After he gained control 
of the party Ruthenberg had sought to destroy the TUEL, and 
Foster's base of party support along with it. Benjamin Gitlow was 
pushed as the new "trade-union" expert, and a plan was ex- 

73 See Alexander Bittelman, op. cit., 440, for a description of the meeting with 

74 Letter by Cannon to Theodore Draper, 19 July 1955, Cannon Papers, Box 7. 

Introduction 51 

pounded to "convert" the TUEL into a broad "left bloc" organi- 
zation through a new national organizing committee and national 

Cannon supported the move to broaden the TUEL, as is evi- 
dent from his remarks at a Moscow discussion on the American 
question (the only record found of his trip to Moscow) which we 
publish here. In late 1925 Cannon and Bill Dunne, who was the 
Cannon faction's trade-union operative, had generalized their 
break with Foster into a critique of the party's trade-union work, 
arguing in fact for the complete liquidation of the TUEL: 

Conceived as the progressive bloc, the TUEL consists now almost 
wholly of Communist fractions. The existence of such a bloc be- 
tween us and the broad progressive movement is a source of endless 
confusion, and the TUEL in its present status serves to prevent rath- 
er than encourage the building of a national oppositional bloc in 
the American trade union movement. 

As already pointed out, our party's trade union work achieved its 
best results when the TUEL was in fact a left bloc movement. But 
the TUEL is now so identified with the party that its usefulness as a 
left bloc organization has been destroyed completely. 75 

The move to liquidate the TUEL embodied an inherent contra- 
diction. On the one hand, the move away from Foster's exclusive 
emphasis on "boring from within" the AFL was a step forward. It 
was under the banner of a non-AFL united-front organizing com- 
mittee that the Workers Party led the great Passaic textile strike in 
early 1926, which began while Cannon was in Moscow. On the 
other hand, the liquidation of the TUEL could also have been an 
excuse to put an end to an open Communist presence in the 
trade unions. While Cannon had emphasized the crucial role of 
open Communist work in the trade unions in his 1924 speech, 
"Our Aims and Tactics in the Trade Unions" published in this 
volume, Dunne tended to put the stress on the liquidationist 
aspects of their position. 

In any case, the ECCI refused to get rid of the TUEL. The 
Sixth Plenum decision decreed that the Foster group was to have 

75 "Draft Resolution on Trade Union Policy and Tactics," Cannon Papers, Box 8. 
No author is indicated on the typed manuscript, but "1925 Bill Dunne Draft" had 
been written in pencil across the top. A number of mimeoed Foster faction circu- 
lars from late 1925, found in the same file, also support the contention that Can- 
non and Dunne wanted to liquidate the TUEL. 

52 Early Years of American Communism 

a majority on the party's leading Trade Union Committee. Foster 
was to remain head of the TUEL and his policy of eschewing all 
attempts to organize outside of the framework of the AFL was 
endorsed (the Passaic strike was settled after Foster's return from 
Moscow by turning the organizing committee over to the AFL). 
But the Comintern ordered the TUEL to enlarge its base of sup- 
port within the AFL; the TUEL was to drop its explicitly commu- 
nist program and broaden itself into a united-front organization. 

Whatever the differences over the TUEL, all factions were 
committed to the strategy of searching for "Progressive" trade- 
union allies with whom to make united fronts. Cannon and 
Dunne not only endorsed the strategy but actively pushed it in 
the numerous discussions around trade-union questions which 
occurred in the Political Committee, as is evident from Cannon's 
motions on the TUEL at the 29 October 1926 Political Committee 
meeting, which we publish in this book. 

By that time "Progressive" was an ambiguous term in Work- 
ers Party parlance. With La Follette's party dead, the term encom- 
passed everything from authentic militant trade unionists like 
Alex Howat of the miners, to left-talking bureaucrats on the make 
like David Dubinsky in the ILGWU and supporters of the Minne- 
sota Farmer Labor Party (which became a shill for the Democratic 
Party). The Workers Party did not always distinguish between an 
action-oriented united front and an ongoing political bloc. The 
strategy of seeking to always enter into united fronts with so-called 
progressives therefore tended to cut across the clear communist 
perspective for trade-union work which Cannon laid out in "Our 
Aims and Tactics in the Trade Unions." 

While the Foster faction bitterly resented what they regarded 
as Cannon's defection to Ruthenberg, Cannon did not view him- 
self in this light. In a letter written from New York, where he 
stopped en route to the Sixth ECCI Plenum, Cannon urged his 
supporters in Chicago to "remember the attitude we agreed upon: 
no indication of any preferences, decision on all questions as 
they arise according to our main political line, regardless of who 
is for or against." /6 After he returned from Moscow, Cannon 
embarked on a campaign to end factionalism in the party. 

76 Letter to Comrades from Jim, 16 December 1925, Cannon Papers, Box 1. 

Introduction 53 

Anti-Trotskyism in the Mid-1920s 

Cannon later wrote that in the spring of 1926, by accident, he 
got hold of a Left Opposition document about the Anglo-Russian 
Trade Union Unity Committee. It was under the cover of this 
committee that the reformist British trade-union bureaucrats scut- 
tled the May 1926 General Strike, and Cannon was won over to 
Trotsky's position condemning the Anglo-Russian Committee, 
though he kept quiet about it. 77 It should be noted that to hold 
a private opinion on Trotsky at variance with the public party 
position was by no means unusual in the Comintern at the time. 
It is important not to read back into the Communist movement of 
the mid-1920s the anathema that Trotsky later became, as Max 
Shachtman explained: 

Although everybody voted pro forma, as I said before, against Trotsky, 
nevertheless our respect and admiration for Trotsky as the organizer 
of the Bolshevik revolution and next to Lenin the principal leader of 
the Communist International was pretty much undiminished. I men- 
tion this in connection with Dunne only for this reason. On one of 
his visits to Moscow as a representative of the American Party... he 
wrote back a letter to our faction which we circulated as a faction 
letter that he and with him all of Moscow was delighted that Trots- 
ky's pictures were back in the windows again. That was the period 
when the Stalin-Zinoviev combination was breaking up, and Stalin 
modified at that time and almost abandoned an active attack against 
Trotsky in order to concentrate his fire upon Zinoviev.... 
It was characteristic of many of us in the movement at that time — 
this was in the middle of the '20s — that while we didn't consider 
ourselves Trotskyists — God forbid; that was unorthodox — the reac- 
tion of Dunne to the fact that Trotsky, at least so far as his picture 
was concerned, was no longer considered a heretic aroused a good 
deal of delight in all of us. We were relieved. We felt: all right, so he 
is wrong; we know he is wrong, but still he is not the scoundrel that 
they had made him out to be. That, by the way, was very true of 
many people in Europe in the Communist International, who had 
also gone along without enthusiasm in voting against Trotsky. 78 

Antoinette Konikow, a veteran of the Marxist movement 
going back to the 1880s, who in 1927 openly supported Trotsky's 

77 Cannon, The History of American Trotskyism, 46. Some of Trotsky's writings on 
Britain were published in International Press Correspondence and Communist Inter- 
national in 1926 and it may be these that Cannon is referring to. 

78 Shachtman, op. cit., 53-54. 

54 Early Years of American Communism 

Left Opposition in the Workers Party's Boston branch, was even 
tolerated up until the expulsion of Trotsky, Zinoviev, et al. from 
the Soviet party at the end of 1927. Even then she was only re- 
moved from her post as an instructor in the local party school. 79 
Konikow was not expelled from the Workers Party until after 
Cannon was (see her letter to the Political Committee published 
here in Appendix I). 

Cannon certainly voted for all of the ritual anti-Trotsky resolu- 
tions. He was distinguished, however, by his failure to actively take 
up anti-Trotsky polemics. Both Foster-Bittelman and Ruthenberg- 
Lovestone tried to take advantage of the fight against the Left 
Opposition to further their own factions and their own careers 
within the Workers Party. Foster continually quoted Stalin; Love- 
stone was one of those who proposed Trotsky's expulsion at the 
Eighth Comintern Plenum in 1927. Cannon refused to take part 
in this cynical game. 

In the spring of 1925 Max Eastman had published a book in 
support of Trotsky, Since Lenin Died. On 18 October 1926 he suc- 
ceeded in getting Lenin's "Testament" printed in the New York 
Times. The party had advance warning of the impending publica- 
tion; at a Political Committee meeting on October 16, Lovestone 
reported that the Daily Worker would prepare a response. Though 
Trotsky had been obliged to denounce Eastman's efforts, the epi- 
sode could not have failed to increase Cannon's unease on the 
question. This may have been one of the reasons he requested to 
be a delegate to the Seventh Plenum of the ECCI in late 1926, 
which was to debate Stalin's program of "socialism in one coun- 
try." The Ruthenberg majority voted him down. 80 

Ruthenberg's Sudden Death 

Cannon voted independently within the Political Committee 
for most of 1926 and early 1927, blocking on the basis of the 
particular issue with whatever faction he happened to agree with, 
campaigning against the factionalism of both other groups. Rela- 
tions with the Ruthenberg group must have worsened consider- 
ably after Ruthenberg proposed in the summer of 1926 that the 

79 Minutes of Political Committee No. 13, 14 December 1927. Cannon voted with 

the PC majority for Konikow's removal. 

so Minutes of Political Committee No. 97, 29 October 1926. 

Introduction 55 

party headquarters and Daily Worker move back to New York City. 
Cannon and Dunne vigorously opposed the move. 81 With sup- 
port from Moscow, Ruthenberg was able to move the Daily Worker 
back to New York by January 1927; Dunne, as one of the editors, 
moved with the paper. Cannon did not move until the party head- 
quarters did, later that year. 

Working from Chicago in the fall of 1926 Cannon was able to 
make an important recruit to his campaign against factionalism: 
New York district organizer William Weinstone, long a supporter 
of Ruthenberg- Lovestone. It was Lovestone's corruption which evi- 
dently pushed Weinstone in Cannon's direction. 82 Weinstone 
brought with him a few other leading members in New York, 
including Jack Stachel, and together with Cannon's supporters 
they sought to build "a faction to end factions." 

Cannon cemented his alliance with Weinstone in a trip to 
New York in January 1927. In a letter to his factional supporters, 
Cannon reported that, as regards the "Weinstone-Stachel group 
— its break with the Ruthenberg group can be regarded as abso- 
lutely definite on ideological and political grounds. They are in 
direct conflict with them on the external as well as the internal 
line of the party not less than we are and for precisely the same 
reasons." 83 Cannon told his supporters that the Weinstone group 
was also working closely with the New York Foster faction, and 
that there had been significant discussion of the possibility of 
forming a "triple alliance" against Ruthenberg-Lovestone. But 
Cannon adamantly opposed the perspective of the triple alliance, 
as he told his supporters in a subsequent letter: 

I do not quite remember how I expressed my point of view on one 
aspect of the question in the previous letter, and to avoid any 
possible misunderstanding I want to state and underscore here the 
opinion that it would be absolutely wrong for us to give anyone the 
impression that we are advocates of the "triple alliance" or the 
"reunification of the old majority group." On the other hand, we 

Bl "Statement on the Question of Moving Party Headquarters and the Daily Worker 
to New York," and "Supplementary Statement to the Political Committee on the 
Question of Moving the Headquarters and Daily Worker by James P. Cannon," 
Cannon Papers, Box 8. See also Letter to Comrades from Bill Dunne, 3 August 
1926, Cannon Papers, Box 1. 

82 Militant, 1 January 1929. 

83 Letter to Comrades, 10 January 1927, Cannon Papers, Box 1. 

56 Early Years of American Communism 

should not be so stupid as to neglect to utilize any sentiment that 
may exist for such ideas for the purpose of discussing policy and for 
propagating the idea that policy must be the decisive question gov- 
erning all important actions in the party. 84 

Cannon's campaign against factionalism may have been mak- 
ing headway, as revealed by the summary of a 7 February 1927 
discussion between Cannon and Ruthenberg and his leading 
supporters, which we publish here. In the next period, Cannon 
coauthored with Ruthenberg a major Political Committee state- 
ment designed to stop the faction fighting over the party's work 
in the various cooperative movements. 85 Ruthenberg's sudden 
death on March 2 upset the equilibrium in the party and opened 
a particularly frenzied period in the internal party faction fight. 

Draper gives a full account of the brawl which ensued as Love- 
stone attempted to assume Ruthenberg's mantle. 86 Cannon and 
Weinstone made a bloc with Foster to support Weinstone for party 
secretary, and they had a majority of the CEC. Dunne, who had 
always had a closer political affinity than Cannon with the narrow 
trade unionists of the Foster faction, pressed for a broader politi- 
cal agreement with Foster in a 2 April 1927 telegram to Cannon. 
In his draft reply to Dunne, Cannon remained adamant in his 
opposition to the "triple alliance": 

No combination now either faction STOP Next period one of inde- 
pendent principal struggle STOP Relations other groups can ensue 
only when Jays dictatorship and Fosters hegemony are smashed by 
fight and we have consolidated sufficient organized strength and 
influence to guarantee against danger compromising line or weaken- 
ing organizational position STOP Absolutely opposed any agree- 
ments or commitments either faction before or at plenum STOP All 
energy must be concentrated now on consolidation own forces on 
external internal and critical program and coming out openly and 
militantly as independent group STOP 87 

Lovestone flouted the CEC and ran off to Moscow, followed 
by Foster, Cannon and Weinstone. Yet another American Com- 

84 Letter to Comrades, 15 January 1927, Cannon Papers, Box 1. 

85 The statement was attached to the minutes of Political Committee No. 119, 
24 February 1927. We do not publish it here. 

86 Draper II, 248-267. 

87 Draft Reply to 2 April 1927 Telegram from Bill Dunne, written in pencil on 
back of Dunne's telegram, Cannon Papers, Box 1. 

Introduction 57 

mission was convened in Moscow and we publish here some of 
Cannon's remarks to it. It was pressure in Moscow that finally 
forced Cannon to agree to the bloc with Foster, as is evident from 
the 26 June 1927 Cannon factional circular which we publish 
here. Though Cannon was not the author, the letter is based on 
his reports from Moscow. Such private circular letters, supple- 
mented by faction caucus meetings, were used by all three fac- 
tions to keep their members informed of internal developments. 
We also publish the joint Cannon-Weinstone-Foster letter to the 
American Commission, as well as excerpts from the original theses 
Cannon and Weinstone prepared for the plenum. 

In 1927 there were few differences over political program 
between the various factions. The documents we print here strain 
to manufacture issues based on Moscow's concerns at the time. 
One of these was the "war danger": the British had just broken 
diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, and Chiang Kai-shek's 
Chinese armies had just crushed the Shanghai workers' com- 
mune. Stalin used a war scare to help deflect attention from the 
disastrous results of his two-class "workers and peasants" alliance 
with Chiang's Kuomintang. 

The fight for control of the American party was no less vi- 
cious for the lack of political differences. The initial Comintern 
decision did not, however, favor either side. It was only after the 
hapless Alexander Bittelman, who had remained in the United 
States, formed an ill-advised "National Committee of the Opposi- 
tion Bloc" within the Workers Party that Lovestone was able to 
unambiguously win the Comintern's support. An excerpt from a 
Lovestone circular, which "explains" the Comintern condemna- 
tion of the National Committee of the Opposition Bloc, captures 
the flavor of most Lovestone polemics: 

The Communist International considers this factionalism without 
political differences the "WORST OFFENSE AGAINST THE PARTY" 
particularly in the "present objective situation" — the WAR situation, 
which demands the CONCENTRATED attention of the Party.... 
The opposition is spreading fake cables from Foster, which the next 
day they "correct" with another fake cable. Now we know that the 
Comintern refuses to support such tactics and has given the group a 
sound slap in the face. 

You will notice that Cannon-Weinstone are not mentioned at all. 
They are, as we predicted, completely ignored by the Comintern. 

58 Early Years of American Communism 

They had no reason for existence in the Party and the Comintern 
refuses to be fooled by them. They declared that the Party situation 
could not be settled without their going to Moscow. They have gone 
— and will come home with their tails between their legs — unless 
their tails have been cut off in Moscow. 88 

The fight was bitter right through to the American party's 
Fifth Convention in August 1927. Even the campaign against the 
execution of Sacco and Vanzetti became a factional football — 
Cannon was thwarted in his attempts to organize a national Sacco 
and Vanzetti conference before the execution on August 23, as 
well as in his attempts to have the party convention postponed to 
allow for full participation in the last-minute agitation against 
the execution. He was forced to protest the Daily Workers 
downplaying of the ILD's role in the campaign. 89 It is a tribute 
to the ILD that the campaign mobilized as much protest as it did. 

Lovestone won a majority of the Fifth Convention, which 
opened August 31. The Opposition Bloc demanded a minority 
credentials report, questioning the honesty of the elections organ- 
ized by Lovestone's apparatus. But it was useless to appeal. Wein- 
stone soon abandoned the Opposition, but Cannon and Foster 
maintained their bloc against Lovestone. 

Lovestone Becomes Lovestone 

Lovestone's ascendancy shifted the political center of the old 
Ruthenberg faction. Lore's old supporters in the needle trades 
leadership issued a formal statement of affiliation to the Love- 
stone group. Ruthenberg's chief ideologist, Max Bedacht, was 
thrown aside. Lovestone's chief lieutenant was his old CCNY 
chum Bertram Wolfe, a man who had twice fled his posts in the 
old underground movement in the face of government persecu- 
tion and who owed his office only to Lovestone's patronage. 90 
Wolfe became Lovestone's chief anti-Trotsky expert and ideol- 
ogist. Under their tutelage the party began to develop the theme 
that the Workers Party was the true heir to the tradition of the 

88 Unsigned circular headed "Very Latest!!!, Most Important!!!, To Be Given to 
Every Member of the Party Without Affiliation!!", 7 July 1927, in the collection of 
the Prometheus Research Library. 

89 Minutes of Political Committee No. 148, 11 August 1927. 

90 Bertram Wolfe, op. cit., 232-248; 261-275. 

Introduction 59 

American Revolution of 1776. They also expounded the thesis that 
conditions were unfavorable for the class struggle in general and 
for an independent party election campaign in 1928 in particular. 

As is evident from Cannon's speech to the American party's 
February 1928 plenum, which we publish here, Cannon tried in 
the aftermath of the Fifth Convention to mitigate the factional 
struggle. But he found himself forced to fight some of the more 
egregious examples of the party's right turn. In particular, he 
opposed the support Weinstone's New York organization had 
given to the Socialist Party candidate for judge, Jacob Panken, 
who had a major base, not uncoincidentally, in the needle trades 
unions. 91 Cannon also insisted that the party organize aggres- 
sively against John L. Lewis in the miners union, calling for a 
national miners conference which would lay the basis for a new 
union. In this period the Cannon faction took on the coloration 
of a genuine left opposition, while the Lovestone group fully 
evolved into the American version of Bukharin's Right Opposition. 

The winds were, of course, already changing in Moscow by 
early 1928. The domestic policies advocated by the Bukharin right 
wing had led to the disaster Trotsky had predicted: the wealthier 
peasants (kulaks), encouraged by Bukharin to "enrich" them- 
selves, had begun to hoard grain, trying to force a price rise and 
threatening to starve Soviet cities. Stalin moved with brutal vio- 
lence to forcibly collectivize the peasantry. His left flipflop in 
domestic politics was bureaucratically paralleled by a turn to the 
left by the entire Comintern, as Stalin took the opportunity to 
both undercut Trotsky's Left Opposition and eliminate Bukharin 
as an authoritative figure. 

Stalin was moving against Bukharin by the Comintern's Ninth 
Plenum in February 1928. But the official political line moved 
only slowly to the left, toward the dual unionism and ultraleftist 
rhetoric of Stalin's "Third Period." In the beginning the Comin- 
tern simply criticized the American party for adapting to the AFL 
bureaucracy and called for new unions only where the AFL re- 
fused to organize the unorganized. Even this was too much for 
Lovestone, and initially Foster, who resisted the abandonment of 

91 Cannon, Foster and Bittelman all voted against this policy in the Political 
Committee; see minutes of Political Committee No. 4, 12 October 1927. 

60 Early Years of American Communism 

his "boring from within" policy until it became clear that he had 
to either accept the dual unionism of Stalin's Third Period or 
give up his post as a leader of the party. (That he would abandon 
long-held political views in favor of his party post had long been a 

Cannon had always been opposed to Foster's AFL fetishism; 
he had also been an enthusiastic proponent of a more active 
Workers Party orientation to organizing the unorganized. Thus 
for a brief period during the Comintern's swing to the left, its 
formal positions coincided with Cannon's own. He was the only 
major party faction leader to support the new anti-AFL orien- 
tation, and he had to fight within the Political Committee even 
to get his 1928 article on the trade-union question published. 
(Bittelman, who could read Russian and knew which way the 
political wind was blowing in Moscow, soon broke with Foster on 
the question and blocked with Cannon.) Within the Political 
Committee Cannon also insisted that the party run in its own 
name in the upcoming elections, while Lovestone initially resisted, 
desperate to find some "labor party" gimmick. We publish here 
Cannon's articles on both these questions. 

Cannon's star was thus actually rising within the Comintern as 
it zigzagged left in 1928. But Cannon was far from a cynical fac- 
tional games player and he was not heartened by the Comintern's 
left turn. He was, by all accounts, increasingly disaffected. He had 
come to a total dead end in his campaign to end the party's fac- 
tional wars, and he knew it. At the February plenum he refused to 
speak on the Trotsky question, despite William Dunne's urgent 
pleas that this failure would hurt the standing of the faction. It 
was at this plenum that he and Canadian Communist Party leader 
Maurice Spector also first spoke to each other of their doubts 
about the dirt being heaped on Trotsky. 

After the plenum, Cannon went on a two-month national tour 
for the ILD. In Minnesota, Carl Skoglund and Vincent Dunne, 
local party leaders who later became founding members of the 
CLA, asked Cannon what he thought about the expulsion of 
Zinoviev and Trotsky. Cannon replied, "Who am I to condemn 
the leaders of the Russian revolution." 92 Cannon did not make 

92 Cannon, The History of American Trotskyism, 47. 

Introduction 61 

much of a pretense of hiding his views from his faction partners. 
Alexander Bittelman recalled a frequent saying of Cannon's in 
private conversations at the time: "Stalin makes shit out of leaders 
and leaders out of shit." 93 

Cannon initially resisted going as a delegate to the Sixth Con- 
gress of the Communist International which opened in August 
1928, horrifying his top factional lieutenants. Cannon argued that 
with the party engaged in major campaigns in the miners union, 
in the textile union and in a national presidential campaign, some 
of the party leadership should stay home. He agreed to go only at 
the last minute, as he indicated in the statement he submitted to 
the Political Committee, which we publish here. 

Cannon Becomes a Trotskyist 

At the Fourth Congress in 1922 Cannon had been appointed 
a member of the commission assigned to develop a program for 
the Communist International. In 1928 Bukharin finally submitted 
a draft program and Cannon was again made a member of the 
commission at the Sixth Congress, as was Maurice Spector. Trots- 
ky, already in internal exile at Alma Ata in Soviet Central Asia, 
had written a critique of Bukharin's draft program which he sub- 
mitted to the congress. For some reason the Comintern apparatus 
translated large parts of the first and third of the three sections of 
Trotsky's critique. This was submitted to members of the Program 
Commission, who were not notified that only part of the docu- 
ment had been translated. 94 

It's not hard to imagine the profound impact even this partial 
version of Trotsky's document had on Cannon. Trotsky's condem- 
nation of the Comintern's political zigzags since the adoption of 
Stalin's reactionary program of "socialism in one country" power- 
fully corresponded to Cannon's own personal experience. Trots- 
ky's scathing attack on John Pepper's "third party alliance," 
which Trotsky explained as part of a general Comintern turn to 
two-class parties in 1924-25, must have been a revelation: 

The most caricature-like character in this respect was assumed by the 
Workers' Party of America in its efforts to support the candidature 

93 Cited in Bittelman, op. cit., 510. 

94 The entire critique is published in English as The Third International After Lenin 
(New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1936). 

62 Early Years of American Communism 

of the bourgeois, "anti-Trust" Senator La Follette, so as to attach, in 
this manner, the American farmers to the wheel of the Social Revo- 
lution. Pepper, the theoretician of the maneuver, who is one of 
those who has ruined the Hungarian Revolution and who failed to 
notice the Hungarian peasantry, made here a great effort to ruin the 
Workers' Party in its first stages of activity.... This confused idea 
had its followers and half followers among the leaders of the Comin- 
tern. In the course of a few weeks the scales vacillated from one side 
to the other until finally a concession was made to the letter of 
Marxism. Having been taken off its feet the American Party had to 
be cut off from the noose of the La Follette party which died even 
before its founder. 95 

Cannon's experience with Pepper and the La Follette disaster 
predisposed him to accept Trotsky's condemnation of Stalin's 
policy of building up the bourgeois-nationalist Kuomintang as a 
supposed "workers and peasants" party in China, a policy which 
had strangled the Chinese Revolution. Now Trotsky explained 
that the degeneration of the Russian Revolution by early 1924 was 
itself the root of the problem; the change Cannon had seen occur 
in the Communist International since the Fourth Congress was 

Cannon and Spector paid little attention to the formal con- 
gress proceedings as they read and studied Trotsky's document 
which offered Cannon a programmatic way out of his impasse in 
the internal faction fight. Both he and Spector resolved to take 
up the fight for the Left Opposition. 

Cannon did speak once during the Sixth Congress and his 
speech is reprinted here. The faction fight in the American party 
did not stand still while Cannon studied. Dunne had re-cemented 
the Cannon faction's bloc with Foster before Cannon arrived in 
Moscow. The bloc went on the offensive against Lovestone and 
submitted a document to the congress, "The Right Danger in the 
American Party." We have not included this lengthy document 
here. 96 As rumors of a split between Stalin and Bukharin spread 

95 This quote is taken from the translation serialized in the CLA's newspaper, the 
Militant. See "The Draft Program of the Comintern: A Criticism of Fundamen- 
tals," Militant, 1 July 1929. The Militant's introduction to the series drew readers' 
attention to this passage on La Follette and noted that Trotsky had led the fight 
against the "third party alliance." 

96 "The Right Danger in the American Party" was serialized in the Militant, 15 
November 1928-15 January 1929. 

Introduction 63 

through the congress, the Foster-Cannon supporters had every 
reason to believe that control of the American party would soon 
be coming their way. Everyone in the Comintern knew that 
Bukharin's — and therefore Lovestone's — days were numbered. 
Stalin confirmed this by granting Foster and Bittelman an audi- 
ence during the congress. 

If private sympathy for Trotsky had been tolerated in the 
Comintern in the past, it was clear by the Sixth Congress that this 
was no longer to be the case. Cannon and Spector were wisely 
and necessarily cautious about their adherence to Trotsky's Left 
Opposition, as Cannon later explained: 

Our chief concern was to get the document out of Russia and use it 
in working for the Opposition in our own parties. We did not want 
to risk exposure and possible detention in Moscow by probing 
around in the other delegations on this explosive subject.... I can't 
recall that Spector and I ever speculated about possible sympathizers 
with our own views in the other delegations. We took it for granted 
that they considered Trotskyism a closed question. 97 

Nonetheless, Cannon did seek to approach his cofactionalists. 
Manuel Gomez, a key Cannon factional lieutenant at the time, 
later told Draper that Cannon was very cagey in approaching him 
on the subject: 

Cannon talked at great length about it in Moscow without talking 
about it. He talked a great deal about Trotsky without supporting 
Trotsky and without opposing Stalin — but raised questions in a very 
ambiguous way that made one ask himself, "Why is he talking like 
that anyway? There is something peculiar going on here." 98 

It is hard to believe that Cannon would not also have 
approached Bill Dunne, who was also a delegate to the congress. 
Dunne's response must also have been strongly negative. Cannon 
never spoke about this in later years, though in 1929, according 
to one source, Cannon did "admit" that he "was in a great 
measure responsible for the estrangement of Dunne." 99 Dunne 
went to China on Comintern assignment after the congress; from 

97 Letter by Cannon to Theodore Draper, 28 May 1959, Cannon Papers, Box 7. 

98 Theodore Draper interview with Manuel Gomez, 18 February 1964, Draper 
Files, Series 3, No. 9. 

99 Letter from Albert Glotzer to Max Shachtman, 13 September 1929, Cannon 
Papers, Box 1. 

64 Early Years of American Communism 

Hankow he sent a cable denying rumors that he supported Can- 
non. But Dunne's three brothers in Minneapolis became found- 
ing members of the Trotskyist Communist League of America. 

Cannon needed to get a copy of Trotsky's critique back to the 
United States where he would have a chance to recruit others. 
But the copies handed out to Program Commission members 
were individually numbered and the members were required to 
turn them in at the congress's end. It is unclear how Cannon and 
Spector managed to get a copy out of the Soviet Union. Shacht- 
man later retailed the story that they stole a copy from one of the 
Australian delegates. According to another account, they smug- 
gled the document out of the country in a child's teddy bear with 
the help of an Irish delegate, George Weston. 100 Cannon him- 
self was always very close-mouthed on the subject. 

Nonetheless Cannon's interest in Trotskyism was not such a 
secret in Moscow. On the floor of the congress Lovestone sup- 
porter Harry Wicks attacked Cannon for using Trotsky's words to 
criticize Pepper. 101 Swabeck reports that rumors of Cannon's 
Trotskyism preceded him back to the United States. Swabeck also 
reports that William Z. Foster, who was the first of the American 
delegates to arrive back from Moscow, also praised the "masterful 
contents" of the Trotsky critique in a joint meeting of the Foster- 
Cannon caucus. 102 

Foster's position in the party was then at a low ebb — his own 
faction had rebelled against his leadership in Moscow and offered 
to support Cannon for future party leader. 103 Perhaps Foster fig- 
ured Cannon knew something he didn't. More likely, there was a 
widely held supposition in the Comintern at the time that Stalin 
had Trotsky's document distributed to the congress because he 
was planning to rehabilitate Trotsky to use against Bukharin. 
Foster was certainly a man to hedge his bets. 

But Bittelman knew better, and it became clear soon after 
Cannon's return to New York on September 23 that Cannon him- 

100 Shachtman, op. cit., 153-154; Sam Gordon in James P. Cannon As We Knew Him, 

101 International Press Correspondence, 11 August 1928, 850. 

102 Swabeck, op. cit., Chapter XII, 1. 

103 Cannon, First Ten Years, 210-215. 

Introduction 65 

self was not hedging his bets, but actively organizing to win 
adherents to the Left Opposition. Cannon, Shachtman and Abern 
were expelled from what had been the joint Foster-Cannon Oppo- 
sition on October 5. On October 16 charges were preferred 
against them in the Political Committee by Foster, Bittelman and 
Philip Aronberg. Cannon, Abern and Shachtman were removed 
from their posts in the ILD on that same day, but by that time 
they had managed to get a copy of the complete subscribers list of 
the Labor Defender (they later mailed everyone on it a copy of the 
first issue of the Militant, dated 15 November 1928). Over the 
next week and a half they temporized, trying to gain new adher- 
ents. Only on October 27 did they submit a statement in support 
of the Left Opposition. Cannon was extensively questioned in the 
Political Committee before he was expelled that day, and we pub- 
lish excerpts from the transcript here. 104 At that time Cannon 
saw his adherence to the Left Opposition as the logical and natu- 
ral end result of his entire history in the Workers Party. 

The material presented in this book shows that there were 
factors in the political profile of Cannon's faction that militated 
against his leap to the Left Opposition: a parochial concern for 
American questions, insistence on the strategy of a bloc with the 
"progressives" in the trade unions, lack of emphasis on the fight 
against special oppression of blacks and minorities in the United 
States. Shachtman and Abern were soon to ridicule the idea that 
the American Left Opposition had undergone a period of "gesta- 
tion" within the old Cannon faction: 

On every fundamental question of principle, the Cannon group 
stood upon the platform of international Stalinism sometimes a 
little to the Right of it and sometimes a little to the Left of it.... If 
anything, it was the least "international" of all the party groups, 
and concerned itself less than any others with such questions as the 
British general strike, and the Anglo-Russian Committee, the Chi- 
nese Revolution, the struggles within the Russian Party although the 
interests of the other groups were purely factional.... To the extent 
that we have developed towards the full and basic views of the Left 

104 The statement submitted by Cannon, Abern and Shachtman is available in 
James P. Cannon, The Left Opposition in the U.S. 1928-31 (New York: Monad Press, 
1981), 29-35. 

66 Early Years of American Communism 

Opposition, we have had to break both politically and organization- 
ally with the old Cannon group.' 05 

Shachtman was not being candid. Insofar as any member of 
the Cannon faction had written about international issues, espe- 
cially China, it had been Shachtman — it was he who had unthink- 
ingly spouted the Stalinist line. Moreover, in 1925 Shachtman had 
linked the fight against Lore to the fight against Trotsky more 
explicitly than Cannon did in his own writings. Shachtman wrote 
that it was necessary to fight not only Lore, but also "those who 
avow themselves of Loreist tendencies... while formally repudiating 
any connection with right-wing deviations. As Bukharin pointed 
out: many comrades who raise their hands in holy terror at being 
associated with Trotskyism and vehemently assert their opposition 
to it, nevertheless follow a purely Trotskyist policy in the peasant 
question, for example." 106 

When, in 1932, Shachtman and Abern led a rebellion against 
Cannon's leadership of the Communist League of America, they 
were only interested in telling one side of the story. The material 
presented here also tells another, one that predisposed a deliberate 
and considered workers' leader like Cannon to turn away from 
high office within the American party in favor of remaining true 
to the revolutionism that had animated his youth and continued 
to animate the program of the Left Opposition. 107 

Abern, Shachtman and Glotzer weren't the only ones who in 
later years tried to revise the record of the Cannon faction for 

105 Martin Abern, Albert Glotzer and Max Shachtman, "The Situation in the 
American Opposition: Prospect and Retrospect," 4 June 1932, 14-15. 

106 Max Shachtman, "A Communist Milestone. The Fourth Convention of the 
Workers Party of America," Workers Monthly, August 1925, 452. For Shachtman's 
articles on China see "China and the Imperialist Struggle," Workers Monthly, July 
1925; "The Limitations of American Imperialism," The Communist, March 1927, 
25-31; and "American Imperialism Shall Not Throttle the Chinese Revolution," 
Labor Defender, July 1927. In the spring of 1928 Shachtman went on a national 
speaking tour for the ILD on the subject of China. 

107 Shachtman, Glotzer and Abern remained in the Trotskyist movement only 
until 1940, when they caved in to the anti-Soviet hysteria caused by the Stalin- 
Hitler pact and abandoned the military defense of the Soviet Union. By the early 
1960s Shachtman was defending the U.S. imperialist-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of 
Cuba, and functioning as a sort of grey eminence behind Albert Shanker's crusad- 
ing Cold War bureaucracy in the American Federation of Teachers. When Shacht- 
man died in 1972 ILGWU bureaucrat Charles Zimmerman, whose opportunism 


Introduction 67 

their own political purposes. In 1949 William Z. Foster rather 
pathetically tried to tar Cannon with Lovestone's brand of "Amer- 
ican exceptionalism": 

Cannon, who for several years had been a member of our Party's 
Central Committee, expressed his American exceptionalism, his 
fear of the "overwhelming power of American capitalism," by an 
acceptance of Trotskyism, with all its radical phrases, its pseudo- 
revolutionary programs, and its treachery to Socialism and the 
working class. 108 

Foster was just echoing his mentor, Stalin, who had made Ameri- 
can "exceptionalism" a major crime in a speech to the Comin- 
tern's American Commission in May 1929. Stalin argued that 
communist internationalism is based on "the general features of 
capitalism, which are the same for all countries." This line was 
used to justify the simultaneous turn by all sections of the 
Communist International to "Third Period" ultraleftism. 

Trotsky had polemicized against Stalin's absurd thesis that 
specific national features are "'merely supplementary to the gen- 
eral features,' like warts on a face." "In reality," wrote Trotsky, 
"the national peculiarities represent an original combination of 
the basic features of the world process. The originality can be of 
decisive significance for revolutionary strategy over a span of 
many years." 109 

Even by the time of the "Third Period" the Communist Inter- 
national had buried any concern for revolutionary strategy in the 
"socialism in one country" grave. But after 1935 the peculiar 

had been such a frequent target of the Cannon faction in the 1920s, was a fea- 
tured speaker at the memorial meeting. Abern died in 1949; Glotzer supported 
Shachtman in his political evolution. 

In The Prophet's Army, Trotskyists in America, 1928-1941 (Westport, Connecticut: 
Greenwood Press, 1977, 199) Constance Ashton Myers claims that at the end of 
his life Shachtman came to "hold an abiding respect for Stalin and for what he 
viewed as an essential wisdom in the Communist party," in particular for Stalin's 
handling of the Chinese revolutionary movement in the 1920s. 

108 William Z. Foster, "Cannon, Lovestone, and Browder," Political Affairs, Septem- 
ber 1949, 17. 

109 Leon Trotsky, "Introduction to the German Edition" of The Permanent Revolu- 
tion, translation published in The Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects 
(New York: Pathfinder Press, 1969), 147. The quotation from Stalin's speech to 
the May 1929 American Commission is taken from the same source; the speech 
does not appear in Stalin's Collected Works, though it was printed in The Communist 
(June 1930). 

68 Early Years of American Communism 

"warts" of various national capitalisms became all-important to 
Stalin, as the Soviet Union vainly sought to make a deal with 
French, British and American imperialism in order to stave off 
the threat posed by Hitler's Germany. "Communism is 20th Cen- 
tury Americanism" proclaimed the American Communist Party, 
and William "Zigzag" Foster went along without a peep as the 
CP uncritically supported Franklin Roosevelt, the WWII no-strike 
pledge and U.S. imperialism's war aims. The material published 
here reveals Cannon to be concerned with revolutionary strategy 
throughout the 1920s, despite the party's internecine factional 
struggles and despite the Stalinization of the Communist Inter- 
national, giving the lie to Foster's ludicrous attempt to paint 
Cannon as an "exceptionalist" quaking before the power of 
American imperialism. 

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, interna- 
tionalism 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 cynical by the corrupt 
maneuvering inside the degenerating Comintern. The fact that a 
number of Cannon's factional supporters, including Abern and 
Shachtman, made the leap to Trotskyism with Cannon, only rein- 
forces this point. 

In order to give the reader an idea of the breadth of experi- 
ence and political profile of the broader Cannon faction, we in- 
clude in Appendix I some material by Martin Abern and Arne 
Swabeck from the summer of 1928. Cannon's supporters ran a 
good deal of the party's public work while the party leadership 
was in Moscow attending the Sixth Comintern Congress. Their 
reports and letters on the ILD and the campaigns for new unions 
among the miners and textile workers serve to illustrate the point 
that Cannon's supporters were not mere factional games players 
like most of Lovestone's supporters. The Cannon factional leader- 

Introduction 69 

ship had roots and experience in the workers movement. They 
had been around, involved in all the hot spots, and the contacts 
they made and the experience they gained stood the Trotskyist 
movement in good stead later on. 

Lovestone's Political Committee was so worried about Arne 
Swabeck's base of support among the party miners in southern 
Illinois that it sent Foster himself to tour the area in early Decem- 
ber 1928. no They evidently had reason to worry. The response 
of one puzzled miner was reportedly: "I don't know Mr. Trotsky 
and I don't know Mr. Cannon; but I know Arne Swabeck, and you 
can't tell me that he is a traitor to the working class." 111 The 
CLA played a role in a campaign to establish the Progressive Mine 
Workers of America in the area a few years later. 

In Appendix II we publish a transcript of Lovestone hench- 
man Jack Stachel's report on the Trotskyists to the Workers Party 
Political Committee on 25 December 1928. Cannon's apartment 
had been burglarized and most of his correspondence stolen on 
December 23. If there was ever any doubt as to the identity of the 
culprits, Stachel's report removes it: he quotes many of the stolen 
letters and crows about the great "blow" that had been struck 
against the Trotskyists. His report reveals the broad extent of 
Cannon's support in the party up until that time. 

In early 1929 Lovestone and a shrunken band of supporters 
were also expelled from the party. They passed through the 
Bukharinite international Right Opposition on their road to be- 
coming paid agents for the American labor bureaucracy and the 
U.S. government. The expulsion of Lovestone completed the 
Stalinization of the Communist Party — the Workers Party's name 
had been changed to Workers (Communist) Party in 1925; it was 
finally changed to Communist Party in 1929. After 1929 there was 
only one faction — Stalin's faction — in the U.S. party, as in the 
Comintern as a whole. The American party leadership no longer 
had any say in determining its political line or perspectives. 

But it was different in the earlier period, and that history 
belongs to American Trotskyism more than it does to today's 
pathetic Stalinist supporters of whatever the current version of the 

io Minutes of Political Committee No. 71, 1 December 1928. 
II Swabeck, op. cit., Chapter XII, 3. 

70 Early Years of American Communism 

La Follette "third party alliance" happens to be. This was the 
perspective Cannon himself defended: 

The important thing to remember is that our modern Trotskyist 
movement originated in the Communist Party — and nowhere else. 
Despite all the negative aspects of the party in those early 
years. . .despite its weaknesses, its crudities, its infantile sicknesses, its 
mistakes; whatever may be said in retrospect about the faction strug- 
gles and their eventual degeneration; whatever may be said about 
the degeneration of the Communist Party in this country — it must 
be recognized that out of the Communist Party came the forces for 
the regeneration of the revolutionary movement.... Therefore, we 
should say that the early period of the Communist movement in this 
country belongs to us. 112 

Each political generation in the communist vanguard will have to 
ascribe its own significance to the material we publish here. But it 
had better be assimilated, along with much else. This was certainly 
Cannon's hope, when he wrote about the publication of The First 
Ten Years of American Communism: 

I don't care so much about the public reception this book may re- 
ceive, but I do hope that the activists in our movement will study it 
attentively and reflect on the lessons I had to learn so painfully in 
the early years of American communism — without benefit of instruc- 
tion and advice from others who had had previous experience with 
the problems of factionalism which so bedeviled all the pioneer 
American communists, who had to start from scratch, and play by 
ear, and try to learn as they went along. Very few of them learned in 
time, and that was one of the main causes of their catastrophe. 113 

The core questions addressed by Cannon in the 1920s have 
not gone away: the political relationships between the working 
class and the petty bourgeoisie; the tension between the trade- 
union bureaucracy and the working class, organized and unorgan- 
ized; the struggle against the oppression of ethnic minorities in 
the U.S., centrally the struggle against the oppression of black 
people. Only a proletarian revolution, based upon recognition of 
these questions, can begin to effect a solution. 

Prometheus Research Library 
August 1992 

112 Cannon, The History of American Trotskyism, 39. 

113 Letter by Cannon to Gerry Healy, 8 February 1961, Cannon Papers, Box 7. 

The IWW at Philadelphia 

Published 27 August 1920 

The following article by Cannon was published in The Toiler, the 
United Communist Party weekly journal produced in Cleveland, Ohio. 
The UCP had been founded at a convention in May which united the 
Communist Labor Party (CLP) with a C.E. Ruthenberg-led split from the 
Communist Party of America (CPA). The convention had adopted a 
position of support to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) as 
opposed to the reactionary business unionists of the American Federation 
of Labor. This policy was, however, controversial and Cannon opposed 
it. Cannon used the pseudonym "Dawson" at the convention and his 
role in the dispute on the trade-union question was described in the con- 
vention report written by Y.F. (The Communist, 12 June 1920): 

"The CPA convention had passed up the question of the IWW 
because it luas apparent that this question could not be settled by agree- 
ment. Perhaps two-thirds of the CPA delegates favored a direct endorse- 
ment of the IWW and a program of cooperation, reserving criticism of the 
IWW theorizing. The other CPA delegates considered the IWW as essen- 
tially no better than the AFL, citing the reactionary character of the IWW 
in some of the Eastern cities. All of the CPA delegates were agreed upon 
an absolute stand against the AFL as an inherently anti-revolutionary 
organization which must be destroyed. 

"On the other hand, there was a strong current in the CLP ranks for 
a treatment of the subject of industrial unionism from a general view- 
point which would neither include direct endorsement of the IWW nor 
absolute condemnation of the AFL. The lead in this debate was taken by 
Dawson who argued that the AFL must be considered from the angle of 
the local unions, not from the side of the Gompers officialdom; that 
industrial unionism xuas having a development in many fields aside from 
the IWW; that the need was for a call to a new general industrial union, 
a new One Big Union. " 

Cannon had adopted his new position of opposition to dual 


72 Early Years of American Communism 

unionism under the influence of V.I. Lenin and the leadership of the 
Communist International This position was finally adopted by the Amer- 
ican Communist movement at the convention which fused the UCP and 
CPA in May 1921. 

Throughout 1920, the UCP attempted to woo the IWW for commu- 
nism, and by the summer there was a current in the IWW, including 
some members of its General Executive Board, which favored affiliation 
to the Third International. The August 1920 issue of One Big Union 
Monthly, which published the General Executive Board statement Cannon 
quotes in this article, was entitled "Special Bolshevik Number. " 

Nothing has so stirred the radical labor movement of the East 
for many a day as the rumor, later verified and admitted to be a 
fact, that members of the IWW were loading high explosives at 
Philadelphia to be shipped to Poland and used in the infamous 
war against Soviet Russia. 1 It seemed unbelievable that the IW 7 W 
of Frank Little, the IWW that has always been in the vanguard of 
the class struggle, bearing the brunt of the fight in America and 
inspiring the whole world's movement by its heroic deeds and 
sacrifices, could now be engaged in this nefarious enterprise — this 
high treason to the international working class. 

The information reached New York members of the organiza- 
tion (from an outside source, not from protesting members at 
Philadelphia) on August 6, and, as a result of their prompt inter- 
vention and vigorous protest, the matter was brought before the 
General Executive Board and the Philadelphia branch of 7,000 
members expelled. The contention that this dastardly work was 
done by new members, who are unfamiliar with the principles of 
the IWW, is not borne out by the facts. The Philadelphia Trans- 
port Workers branch is an old one, having been in existence 
continuously since 1913, and many well-known and influential 

1 In May 1920 the Polish army, backed by French imperialism and under the lead- 
ership of the fascistic dictator Jozef Pilsudski, invaded Soviet Russia. The Red Army 
soon drove out the Polish forces, but the Soviet government, hoping to spark a 
revolutionary uprising in Poland and link up with unfinished revolutionary devel- 
opments in Germany, decided to follow the retreating Poles across the border. 
Unfortunately, Soviet hopes proved unfounded. The Red Army was defeated by 
the Poles in the battle of the Vistula in mid-August. In October the Soviet govern- 
ment signed a provisional peace agreement with Poland. 

IWW at Philadelphia 73 

members of the organization are in Philadelphia at the present 
time taking active part in the affairs of the union. No satisfactory 
explanation has yet been made of their failure to take quick and 
decisive action. True revolutionary men, confronted with such a 
situation, would have prevented the loading of the ships even at 
the cost of their own lives. 

Statement of Executive Board 

The General Executive Board has issued a statement in which 
the actions of the Philadelphia members are severely condemned 
as being diametrically opposed to every principle of working class 
honor that the IWW has "stood for, fought for and bled for 
from its inception." It sounds a new note in the current literature 
of the organization, in refreshing contrast to the "evolutionary 
bunk" printed in their official organ, the One Big Union Monthly. 
The statement, in part, reads as follows: 

"The IWW has proved by deeds that it is willing and eager at 
all costs to fight and sacrifice for the cause of international soli- 
darity. It still keeps the faith. 

"The organization was designed to make it impossible for one 
group of workers to be used against another group in the great 
struggle of the classes. We do not want and will not tolerate in 
our membership men who can stoop so low as to aid and abet any 
capitalist government or any other national or international 
section of the common enemy in keeping the working class in 

"We look with horror and disgust upon the action of the 
Philadelphia longshoremen in loading high explosives on ships 
for the purpose of butchering our brave fellow workers in Russia 
who have established the first working class government in the 

"The IWW has stood the brunt of the fury of master class 
hatred in America. More of our members have been imprisoned, 
murdered and brutalized than all other revolutionary organiza- 
tions combined. The reason is that we stand and have always 
stood for the use of militant direct action to overthrow the dicta- 
torship of the capitalist class. 

"The IWW wishes to keep its fair name untarnished in the 
eyes of the world's proletariat. 

74 Early Years of American Communism 

"We call upon the membership of our organization to use 
their utmost power to assist the Soviet government of Russia in 
fighting the world's battle against capitalism." 

Appeal to Communists 

"We pledge ourselves and our organization to help overthrow 
capitalism and everything that stands for capitalism. 

"We appeal to the working class in general and the United 
Communist Party in particular to take a stand in industry and 
help build up a revolutionary organization that will make forever 
impossible a repetition of the dastardly action of the Philadelphia 

"The IWW holds out the clean hand of brotherhood to the 
revolutionary workers of the world." 2 

2 The decision expelling the Philadelphia local of Marine Transport Workers 
Industrial Union No. 8 was reversed in the fall when a new leadership, opposed to 
relations with the Communist International, took over administration of the IWW. 
The Philadelphia IWW local was an unusual one, made up largely of black work- 
ers. In July it had led a militant strike on the Philadelphia docks. But it functioned 
increasingly as ajob-trusting business union, maintaining a closed shop and charg- 
ing an initiation fee of $25 in order to keep out casual laborers. This was an 
offense against the revolutionary principles of the IWW, whose usual initiation fee 
was only $2. In December 1920 the new General Executive Board expelled the 
Philadelphia Marine Transport Workers local again — this time for charging such a 
high initiation fee. 

Another Renegade 

Published 11 December 1920 

The following article by Cannon luas published in The Toiler, the 
United Communist Party 's weekly journal which Cannon had begun to 
edit in the fall of 1920. The August 1920 "Special Bolshevik Number" 
of the IWW's One Big Union Monthly had published a lengthy appeal 
to the IWW by the Executive Committee of the Communist International, 
which explained: "Soviet Russia is on strike against the whole capitalist 
world. The social revolution is a general strike against the whole capital- 
ist system. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the strike committee of the 
social revolution. " This appeal had an impact on the IWW membership 
— after he finished reading it, Big Bill Haywood exclaimed, "Here is 
what we have been dreaming about; here is the IWW all feathered out!" 
But support for Soviet Russia and Communism remained a very contro- 
versial question in the IWW. 

In the fall a new, anti-Communist General Executive Board took 
over IWW administration. The new leadership opened up a 90-day dis- 
cussion period on the question of whether the IWW should affiliate to the 
Third International. They also submitted the question to a membership 
referendum, recommending against affiliation. During the discussion the 
pages of the Chicago-based IWW weekly paper Solidarity were full of 
pro-Bolshevik articles, while the Seattle Industrial Worker published 
an editorial, quoted by Cannon below, which opposed affiliation until 
the IWW received "accurate information as to the actual condition of 
the luorkers of Russia." 

The results of the referendum, announced in mid-December, shortly 
after Cannons article was published, were murky. The proposal for 
unconditional affiliation to the Third International lost, 602 votes to 
1658. But a motion for affiliation so long as the IWW would not have to 
take part in "parliamentary action " was passed. In any case, the Gen- 
eral Executive Board declared the proposal to affiliate to the Third Inter- 

76 Early Years of American Communism 

national defeated, and the 13th IWW Convention, which met in May 
1921, declared the referendum null and void. 

The counterrevolution has set up a new outpost in this coun- 
try at Seattle, Washington. Mr. H.F. Kane is the officer in charge 
and he occupies the exalted position of editor of the Industrial 
Worker, western organ of the IWW. Mr. Kane is too far away from 
Soviet Russia to lend a hand to General Wrangel. But that doesn't 
prevent him from doing his little bit behind the lines, after the 
manner of the stay-at-home patriot who couldn't go to war but 
made four-minute speeches to help it along. 

The question of affiliation with the Third International is 
before the membership of the IWW and Mr. Kane's particular job, 
it appears, is to see to it that the outlawed and persecuted direct 
actionists of the IWW make no alliance with the outlawed and 
persecuted direct actionists of the Third International. The Rus- 
sian Revolution, which is the Third International in action, is the 
object of his attack. He warns the members of the IWW to think 
twice before they make an entangling alliance with a working class 
government which, he says, is "propped up by bayonets and which 
has sent invading armies into other countries." For the Russian 
workers and peasants to defend themselves, like the IWW men at 
Centralia, 1 with weapons in their hands, and make good with it 
and beat off all their oppressors: this is what Mr. Kane condemns. 

In the issue of October 30th, which has just come to our 
notice, he propounds a series of questions for the western lumber- 
jacks to answer before they join hands with the roughneck Bolshe- 
viki. This is one of them: 

"Are the workers of Russia permitted to freely travel through 
the interior looking for employment?" 

There you have it, fellow workers! If you line up with the 
Third International you are in danger of sacrificing your dearly 
bought privilege of chasing a job from one place to another, the 
employment sharks will be put out of business, and the whole 
country will go to hell! Of course, you may have more time to 
hunt and fish, or look around for decent homes to live in. But 
your own government, "propped up by bayonets," will deprive 

1 For an account of the Centralia massacre, see Cannon's article, "The Red Month 
of November," page 472. 

Another Renegade 77 

you of the pleasure of searching for a master. 

This is old stuff, of course. We have read it many times in 
capitalist papers and magazines. John Spargo and Charles Edward 
Russell explained it all to us long ago, and the New York Times 
seldom lets a day go by without mentioning it. The last conven- 
tion of the AFL sounded a warning to the same effect, and Lloyd 
George talks with tears in his voice about the "blood and terror" 
of the Bolsheviks. But we doubt if the international bourgeoisie, 
in their most sanguine moments, ever counted on such help from 
the press of the IWW. 

Renegades come and go, and one more or less makes but 
little difference in the final summing up. Harold Lord Varney 
made quite a little splash, but he has already sunk beneath the 
black waves of oblivion. 2 But there is one thing to be said for 
Varney. He broke with the IWW before he sold out to the master 
class. He didn't play the double game. He didn't say industrial 
freedom and counterrevolution in the same breath. He re- 
nounced Frank Little before he shook hands with his assassins. 

We have confidence that the western members of the IWW 
will deal promptly with this man Kane who has attacked the revo- 
lution in their name. A plain man of the rank and file has already 
answered him in a masterful article in the issue of November 20. 
They may be confused by queer and crooked arguments of the 
One Big Union Monthly against the Third International. They may 
want to study it over a while before they undertake the heavy re- 
sponsibilities of affiliation. But you can't fool them about the 
Russian Revolution, Mr. Kane! They know, as the workers all over 
the world know, that the workers republic of Russia represents 
their highest hopes and aspirations. They know that the enemies 
of the Russian Revolution are the enemies of the working class! 

2 Harold Lord Varney had joined the IWW at the age of 18 in 1912. By 1919 he 
was one of the organization's major propagandists and the author of a history of 
the IWW. Just before the Palmer Raids began in Chicago in early January, he sud- 
denly moved to New York. After he was indicted on criminal syndicalism charges 
in Chicago, he wrote a renunciation of the Wobblies which appeared in the New 
York Sunday World on 8 February 1920. Varney claimed that the IWW's only aim 
now was to destroy the AFL and wrote that "The system which we revolutionists 
have called capitalist is regnant today because it has shown itself practical, work- 
able and human." Varney wrote in the same vein for other bourgeois journals, 
including the New York Times. 

The Story of Alex Howat 

Published April 1921 

The following article by Cannon was published in The Liberator. 
Though the Kansas United Mine Workers membership numbered only 
12,000, making it one of the smaller districts in the union, the Kansas 
miners were among the most militant sectors of the American labor move- 
ment. Their leader Alexander Howat had been imprisoned in 1919 for 
refusing to call off a local strike, and frequent wildcats finally caused the 
state to set up a special Industrial Court in 1920. 

Alexander Howat is the president of District 14 of the United 
Mine Workers. He has been an officer of that union for the most 
of 19 years, and has not yet learned the profession of labor lead- 
ership. He still thinks like a coal digger. The Southwestern Coal 
Operators' Association has had a 20 years' struggle with the coal 
miners of Kansas and has never been able to deal with the presi- 
dent of the union in the manner in which professional labor 
leaders are habitually dealt with. 

This alone went far to bring about the famous Kansas contri- 
bution to statecraft. The legislature was called into special session 
for the purpose of passing the Industrial Court law, which forever 
puts an end, legally, to all strikes in the state of Kansas. Unions 
are permitted, of course, but they must be strikeless unions. Dis- 
putes between employer and employees are legally to be settled by 
three judges of the Industrial Court appointed by the governor. 
Thus the function of the state — "to moderate the collisions be- 
tween the classes" — reaches its ultimate in the state of Kansas. 
Even on the organized industrial field there shall be no active 
class struggle. An Industrial Court shall settle disputes "with jus- 
tice to all concerned" and without stopping production. 

Then the coal diggers met in district convention and "re- 
pealed" the Industrial Court law, so to speak. District 14 of the 
United Mine Workers made it "illegal" under union law for its 


Story of Alex Howat 79 

officers to have any dealings whatever with the Industrial Court 
law of the state. The miners union statute provides heavy penal- 
ties against members who may recognize the state Industrial 
Court statute. 

It has been something more than a year since these two con- 
flicting laws were enacted, and now the population of Kansas is 
split between the two authorities — the government of Kansas and 
the miners union of Kansas. 

Last winter the Industrial Court summoned Alexander Howat, 
as district president of the union, to come before it to testify in a 
labor dispute. Not only did he and his Executive Board refuse to 
appear, but Howat published a statement denouncing the Indus- 
trial Court for attempting to interfere with the affairs of the 
miners union and to "chain men to their jobs like slaves." For 
this Howat and the other officers of the union were sent to jail 
for contempt of court. The coal miners of Kansas went out in a 
mass on a protest strike until their representatives were released 
on bond. 

Since the passage of the anti-strike law, it has been the cus- 
tom for the miners to walk off the job when occasion demanded, 
without waiting for a formal strike order from the Executive 
Board. The Industrial Court has not proceeded against the min- 
ers involved in these local strikes. Neither has it attempted to 
prosecute the miners for the protest strikes which they engaged in 
each time Howat and the Executive Board members were arrested. 

In February an old dispute came to a head at the H&J mines 
of the Mackie Fuel Company over some back pay amounting to 
about $200 which the union claimed to be due a boy named Carl 
Mishmash. President Howat and the District Executive Board 
called a strike to compel the company to make a settlement. 

Howat and the other officers of the union were arrested, for 
calling strikes in violation of the Industrial Court law. All the 
mine workers went on a protest strike again, and most of them 
came into Pittsburg to attend the trial. 

"I hope Alex tells them to go to hell," said an Italian boy 
who couldn't get past the steps of the courthouse. The courtroom 
only held a fraction of the miners who wanted to hear Howat talk 
to the judge. They packed the hallways and stood in clusters 
around on the sidewalk and the street corners. They gathered in 

80 Early Years of American Communism 

the poolrooms, restaurants and cigar stores, all talking about the 

The Attorney General and the county attorney wanted Howat 
to make "damaging admissions." He made plenty of them with- 
out concern. Howat was asked if he didn't think it would be bet- 
ter to take the grievance of young Mishmash into the Industrial 
Court. His answer was emphatic: 

"No. I never did see any good for labor come out of courts." 
"Will you call off the strike now?" inquired the Attorney 

"No. We will not call off the strike until the Mackie Fuel 
Company pays that fatherless boy and his widowed mother the 
back pay that is due them." 

"Do you not intend to obey the law?" 
"The Industrial Court law is unconstitutional." 
After a day of argument of attorneys, Howat, Vice President 
August Dorchy and Executive Board members John Fleming, 
Willard Titus, James Mcllwrath and Hearl Maxwell were sen- 
tenced to a year in jail. The miners in the courtroom were silent 
for a moment. Then one standing in the back of the room cried 

"Jail one year, no work one year!" 

This expression in various forms was repeated throughout the 
room. Most of the miners waited at the courthouse until the 
appeal bonds were made out and the men released. 

Soon after the court adjourned I saw Howat, who told me: 
"Governor Allen said the Industrial Court law would stop 
strikes. We said it wouldn't. And the fact that there is a strike now 
on in this district proves that it can't stop strikes. The best they 
can do is to put men in jail. And we are not afraid of that. We 
know what we are up against. We will stay in jail until we are car- 
ried out in boxes before we will yield an inch in this fight. The 
miners of Kansas cannot fight this battle all alone. But I have 
confidence that the miners of America and organized labor gen- 
erally will come to our aid, because we are fighting for them as 
well as for ourselves." 

The bankers and businessmen and most of the professionals 
are on the side of the state of Kansas. They express themselves 
freely in private conversation, but few of them will say anything 

Story of Alex Howat 81 

about the fight for publication. Several indiscreet merchants have 
felt the heavy hand of the union boycott, and their experience 
has made the others cautious. Pittsburg is a union town. The min- 
ers have assisted and inspired the organization of most of the 
other trades. The jitney drivers, the cooks and waiters, the 
streetcar men, the office workers, the telephone girls — all have 
functioning unions. The girls who work in the ten-cent store are 
organized and they went out with all the other unions in a one- 
day protest strike when Howat was first arrested. The spirit of the 
miners strongly influences the other unions of the town. They 
have learned to act together. 

A tea and coffee salesman was delivering a set of dishes as a 
premium from his company the day of the Howat trial. The 
woman customer asked him what he thought about it. 

"They ought to give him life — " 

He didn't finish what he was going to say. At that point the 
lady raised the dishes and broke them over his head. 

During the great coal strike in the fall of 1919 Governor Allen 
undertook to get the Kansas miners back to work. A court order 
was secured which placed all the miners under temporary control 
of three receivers appointed by the court on recommendation of 
the governor. To make it fair for all concerned, one receiver was 
selected from the coal operators, one from what is called the 
public, and one from the miners union — a sort of coalition gov- 
ernment of industry. Governor Allen had just returned from Red 
Cross service in Europe. He learned something over there of the 
weakness of Socialists for bourgeois cabinets. He appointed 
Willard Titus, a member of the Mine Workers' District Executive 
Board and an old-time Socialist, to represent labor on the Board 
of Receivers. 

It was a clever stroke on his part. But Titus is not that kind of 
a socialist. He sent a short note to the governor, informing him 
that he could not serve the state of Kansas as a receiver for the 
reason that such an action on his part might conflict with the 
constitution and bylaws of the United Mine Workers of America, 
which was the only body authorized to call off a strike of miners. 

This is a point of view that is widely held among the miners of 
District 14. They have no literature on the subject. It is not stated 
in their preamble or declaration of principles. But when the 

82 Early Years of American Communism 

union orders a strike and the court orders no strike, the miners 
are not troubled by a divided loyalty. They lay down their picks 
and go home until further orders from the union. 

This looks like a new philosophy which regards a union as an 
authority higher than any other institution. It is a philosophy 
which not only turns gray the hair of Kansas employers, but also 
shocks the sense of propriety of the national heads of the United 
Mine Workers of America. The national officers of the UMW were 
fighting Bolshevism in Kansas many years before Gompers heard 
of Bolshevism in Russia. They never got along well with Howat 
and always maintained that he carried things too far in his fights 
with the operators. Howat brought his ideas with him regularly to 
the national conventions of the union, and this tended to intro- 
duce class feeling. 

Seven years ago the Southwestern Coal Operators' Association 
involved itself in a civil suit which required that its books be 
examined in court. A mysterious entry on their books was an item 
of $25,000, which they, with apparent hesitation, explained repre- 
sented a bribe paid to Alexander Howat. John P. White, who was 
then the International president of the United Mine Workers, was 
terribly agitated and demanded that Howat resign until he had 
proved his innocence. 

Howat went back to the mines. He stayed there, working as a 
coal miner for 21 months. The systematic campaign to destroy his 
influence with the miners began. National organizers were sent 
into District 14 to undermine him. The national president wrote 
letters periodically to all the locals denouncing him as a betrayer 
of the workers. Each time Howat, at his own expense, circularized 
the locals with his answer. The controversy culminated in a chal- 
lenge by Howat to debate the issue before mass meetings of the 
members in his district. White accepted. A series of debates in the 
different towns of the district was arranged. 

The first and only debate took place in the Opera House of 
Pittsburg, Kansas. The miners still talk about it. Standing room 
was not available to half of those who wanted to hear it. White 
spoke and Howat answered him. The miners voted confidence in 
Howat and demanded that he be provided with his own attorney 
for a libel suit against the Operators' Association. White agreed. 
The next debate was scheduled for the following evening at 

Story of Alex How at 83 

Frankfort, in the heart of the Kansas coal fields. Several thousand 
miners were waiting, but White did not appear. 

Frank Walsh was engaged by Howat, and the case finally came 
to trial in May 1916 in Kansas City. By tracing the bank checks 
and vouchers, Walsh accounted for all of the mysterious $25,000 
and proved that Howat had not received a cent of it. Howat was 
awarded $7,000 damages by the jury. 

But the Kansas miners had not waited for the verdict of the 
jury before bringing in their own. Prior to the trial they re-elected 
him district president by an almost unanimous vote. He has had 
no serious opposition since. 

Howat was a candidate for the International vice presidency 
in the last election. 1 A great deal more of electioneering and 
ballot-box stuffing than usual was required to beat him. Three 
hundred national organizers, 26 International board members 
and 65 traveling auditors campaigned against Howat, the coal 

The International officers of the United Mine Workers of 
America will not lose anything if the Kansas organization is bro- 
ken up and Howat and the other officers are put in jail. The 
Illinois miners sent $100,000 direct to the Kansas miners, but the 
International treasury has sent them nothing. 2 Unlimited support 
was promised as one of the considerations of the Kansas miners 
going back to work during the big general strike, but it was never 
made good. 

"The International is against us," one of the local leaders in 

1 Howat ran on a slate headed by R. Harlin of Washington state, who challenged 
John L. Lewis for the UMW presidency. Lewis defeated Harlin by 60,000 votes, but 
Howat was defeated by Lewis' running mate, Philip Murray, by only 11,000 votes. 

2 Alexander Howat was among those who opposed Lewis in his bid to unseat Sam- 
uel Gompers as head of the AFL in June 1921, and was the first of the opposition- 
ists to be drummed out of the UMW by Lewis. Later in 1921 the entire Executive 
Board of District 14 was suspended from the union for refusing to order an end to 
a strike at a small Kansas concern, where 40 miners had ignored the legal require- 
ment to submit a dispute over work conditions to arbitration. The September 1921 
UMW convention upheld the suspension, and shortly thereafter Howat was jailed 
for violating the Kansas Industrial Court law. At the February 1922 UMW conven- 
tion Lewis only narrowly defeated another challenge by Howat. Though Gompers' 
AFL supported Howat, the District 14 leader spent the rest of the decade fighting 
for his reinstatement. 

84 Early Years of American Communism 

District 14 told me, "and that is the hardest thing we have to 
contend with. The coal operators and the Industrial Court of the 
state of Kansas would have given up their fight long ago if they 
hadn't known that they could depend upon the secret support of 
the International. Instead of backing us up to the limit like real 
leaders of the union ought to do, they are always threatening to 
revoke our charter and looking for a pretext to enable them to 
do it." 

The Political Prisoners 

Published 1 May 1921 

The following article by Cannon was published in The Red Album, a 
special pamphlet issued for May Day and published by The Toiler. A 
copy of this rare pamphlet is in the collection of the Reference Center for 
Marxist Studies in New York City. 

Every war has its hazards: the class war more than any other, 
for the organized workers wage it for the largest stakes in all the 
world's history — for the Earth and all its fruits, for the complete 
expropriation of the present-day ruling class. In this worldwide 
struggle there is no compromise and no quarter. The aim of the 
workers is nothing less than the complete abolition of the capital- 
ist system. Both classes are organizing on an international scale. 

The list of the prisoners of the class war — the Workers' Roll 
of Honor — is a long one and it increases steadily in spite of all 
the predictions that "normal conditions" of civil liberty will be 
restored. There can be no more normal conditions. This is the 
era of the world revolution. The war is on and there will be no 
more peace until the workers triumph everywhere. 

It is to be expected that many will fall in battle and many be 
taken prisoner by the enemy before the final goal is reached. The 
ruling class today is the capitalist class. They maintain themselves 
in power by force and violence. They make the laws according to 
their own class interests. The revolutionary movement is a menace 
to their system. Therefore it is an outlaw movement. Everyone 
who takes an active part in the struggle for the liberation of the 
working class takes a chance of going to prison. When the work- 
ers get on top they will reverse the order of things. The workers 
will make the laws then according to their class interests. They 
will outlaw their class enemies and put them in jail. That is what 
they are doing in Russia today. It is a very simple proposition. 
Absolutely natural, absolutely necessary. 


86 Early Years of American Communism 

The ruling class of America used to laugh at the talk about 
socialism. They didn't take it seriously. But the Russian Revolution 
created a panic amongst them. It demonstrated that the thing can 
be put over quickly if the time is ripe and the workers get the 
right idea. When they saw the conditions for working class revolt 
developing here in the United States, they began to search for 
agitators to put in their jails. They wanted to lock up their ideas. 

At first they grabbed everybody who talked "radical"; but 
after a while they decided that some kind of talk doesn't hurt 
much. They learned to discriminate between the dangerous ideas 
and the harmless ones, and to recognize certain propaganda as 
legal. Some ideas are not legal according to capitalist laws and 
never will be. 

The Communists have an idea that the masters fear, therefore 
it is illegal and the persecution of the Communists continues. The 
New York State prison holds five of them; twenty more at Chicago 
were convicted during the last year of "peace." 1 Revolutionary 
unionism is a dangerous idea, so the IWW men stay in jail and 
others go to join them. 

There is a definite purpose behind this persistent and system- 
atic railroading of working class agitators. The money-sharks who 
rule America thought they would be able to break up the move- 
ment by taking away the leaders and intimidating the rank and 
file. But the revolutionary movement grows up out of the life 
needs of the workers and there is no power that can break it. 
Persecution is but the fire in which it is tempered and hardened. 
When leaders go to prison others come forward out of the ranks 

1 The anti-Communist persecution known as the "Palmer Raids" began first in 
New York, where hundreds of Communists were arrested in November 1919. Over 
75 were prosecuted but only five — C.E. Ruthenberg, I.E. Ferguson, James Larkin, 
Harry Winitsky and Benjamin Gitlow — were convicted of criminal anarchy. They 
received sentences of five to ten years, though most served only about two 
years. Larkin, a leading Irish Socialist and labor leader, had remained in Amer- 
ica after a November 1914 U.S. lecture tour, helping to found the Communist 
movement. He served almost three years before being pardoned and deported 
back to Ireland. 

The Palmer Raids began on 1 January 1920 in Chicago and were expanded 
nationally the next day. While hundreds of Communists were arrested in Chicago, 
only 20 were convicted, among them L.E. Katterfeld, Charles Krumbein and Max 
Bedacht. They all received sentences of one to five years. 

Political Prisoners 87 

and take their places. When fainthearted followers desert, new 
recruits, better suited for the stern requirements of the class war, 
are enlisted. 

The men who have gone to prison for the workers' cause 
know this. That knowledge enables them to bear their confine- 
ment without complaint, oppressive as it is to men of independ- 
ent spirit. They see the proletarian revolution still triumphant in 
Russia; they see it rising in all the countries of Europe where 
capitalism has played out its string and cannot reorganize produc- 
tion; they know that we, who are on the outside of the jails, have 
not forgotten them nor our sacred obligation to appeal to the 
all-powerful workers in their behalf. 

The day is coming when the toiling masses of America will 
hear that appeal and act upon it. Then the prison doors will be 
opened and the prisoners set free, for the masses have an author- 
ity higher than that of any court. To redouble our efforts to 
hasten on the day of liberation is the pledge we make to our 
imprisoned comrades on this First of May. 

Who Can Save the Unions? 

Published 7 May 1921 

The following article by Cannon was published in The Toiler. 

The Central Trades and Labor Council of Greater New York 
has just adopted three recommendations of a special committee 
of 25 appointed to devise ways and means to combat the "open 
shop" campaign of the bosses. The unions cannot fight the open 
shop by the measures proposed; in that respect they have no 
value. But as striking examples of what not to do they may serve a 
useful purpose and, from that viewpoint, should be considered 
and analyzed. This is what the special committee recommended: 

1. To organize a speakers bureau which will present the 
case for unionism to civic bodies, church forums and similar 

2. To amend the constitution of the central body, permitting 
the seating of fraternal delegates from non-labor organizations 
interested in unionism. 

3. To seek greater cooperation with such bodies as the 
Interchurch World Movement, and other organizations felt to be 
working for union labor. 1 

All three of these undertakings are based on a misconception 
of the nature of the struggle. The impression seems to be that 
labor's troubles in the present crisis are mainly due to a "mis- 
understanding" as to the aims of the labor movement on the part 
of some pious people who don't work for a living, but who are 
"felt to be working for union labor." But the real misunderstand- 
ing is in the minds of the delegates who adopted this program. 

1 The Interchurch World Movement was a Christian social reform organization 
initiated in 1919 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a devout Baptist. It functioned in the 
early 1920s, and among other activities issued an influential report on the 1919 
steel strike. 


Who Can Save the Unions? 89 

Civic bodies, church forums, "non-labor organizations" — the ele- 
ments who go to make up such groupings are poor props for 
the unions to seek to lean upon. They may "feel" for organized 
labor, but the organized workers never feel it in the shape of 
substantial support in their fight. 

The "open shop" campaign is one of the manifestations of a 
state of war that exists in society between two opposing classes: 
the producers and the parasites. This war cuts through the whole 
population like a great dividing sword; it creates two hostile 
camps and puts every man in his place in one or the other. 
Those to whom the New York unions would turn for aid are bene- 
ficiaries of the present system of labor exploitation. Their inter- 
ests lie with the system and, as a general rule, people do not allow 
their sympathies to interfere seriously with their interests. They 
live in the camp of the enemy. Their material welfare is bound up 
with those who aim to destroy the unions. 

No, the labor unions can get no help in their struggle outside 
of the working class. More than that, they need no other support. 
The working class has the power not only to defeat the effort to 
destroy the unions, but to end the system of exploitation alto- 
gether. The principal thing lacking for the quick development of 
this power is the mistaken point of view illustrated by the program 
of the New York central body. 

Let the labor unions put aside their illusions; let them face 
the issue squarely and fight it out on the basis of the class strug- 
gle. Instead of seeking peace when there is no peace, and "under- 
standing" with those who do not want to understand, let them 
declare war on the whole capitalist regime. That is the way to save 
the unions and to make them grow in the face of adversity and 
become powerful war engines for the destruction of capitalism 
and the reorganization of society on the foundation of working 
class control in industry and government. 

Workers Party of America Born 

23 December 1921 

The following speech was delivered by Cannon as greetings to the found- 
ing convention of the Workers Party of America, held in New York City, 
23-26 December 1921. This transcript was published in the 6 January 
1922 issue of Voice of Labor, a Chicago weekly edited by William Z. 
Foster and others. 

Comrades, after our long struggle to unite our forces, we have 
succeeded. We have brought together into a convention practi- 
cally every important left wing element in America. We have 
brought them together to unite them, and we will not listen to 
any man who speaks any other word than unity in this conven- 
tion. (Applause.) We have had for two years many struggles and 
much strife in our ranks. This was inevitable after the great 
upheaval of the World War and the Russian Revolution that 
shook all of our organizations to their foundations and put every 
one of our old theories and dogmas to the acid test of how it 
measured up to the crisis. Every one of us was compelled to revise 
some of our theories and some of our plans. It was no more than 
natural, I might say it was inevitable, that in the beginning we 
should have some confusion and some disorganization. Many of 
us who are here in this convention responded and reacted very 
quickly to the call that came from Russia. Many who are here in 
this convention answered the call for the Third International the 
first day its banner was raised. Others moved slowly. Others at 
times became impatient with us because they felt that we were too 
impatient. But we have all moved steadily and consistently to the 
position where we stand today, where I think there is not a single 
man or woman in this convention who is not ready to say in cate- 
gorical terms that he looks for leadership and guidance of the 
world proletariat, not to the Second International that betrayed 
the workmen and led them into the universal slaughter, not to 


Workers Parly of America Born 91 

the compromisers and evaders of the revolution of the Two and a 
Half International, but I think every man and woman in this hall 
will say with me that we look for our guidance to the inspirer, the 
organizer and the leader of the world proletariat, the Communist 
International. (Loud, prolonged applause.) 

I say, comrades, we have come here by different roads. Some 
moved by one, some by another. By many methods and as a result 
of many struggles, we have come to a common ground where we 
shall unite. There are no fears upon our part, and there need be 
no fears upon the part of anyone about the character of the party 
we are launching today, because the people who are here to do it 
are not men who have sprung up overnight. 

It is not an artificial gathering manufactured by our Confer- 
ence Committee. The men and women who are here to make the 
Workers Party are the men and women who for many years past 
have been in the vanguard of the movements that have led to it. 
They have struggled and suffered and they bear the scars of the 
battle, and that is the guarantee of the revolutionary integrity of 
this organization. Now, I think that there is no one here who is 
more optimistic about the task before us than the circumstances 
warrant. I think we know enough, comrades and fellow workers, 
of the colossal tasks ahead of us not to take them lightly, not to 
take them in a spirit that we are going to solve them by resolu- 
tions or by an excessive amount of phraseology in our programs. 
We know that we are going to solve them only if we try in a true 
Marxist spirit to analyze them and understand them and then face 
them and fight out the issues. The task is before us. 

We have a labor movement that is completely discouraged 
and demoralized. We have an organized labor movement that is 
unable on any front to put up an effective struggle against the 
drive of destruction organized by the masters. We have a revolu- 
tionary labor movement which, until this inspirational call for 
a Workers Party convention, was disheartened, discouraged and 
demoralized. Our labor unions, upon which the workers build 
their first line of resistance — and I want to say right here, com- 
rades, that you must face it as the most menacing thing on the 
horizon — the labor unions of America are being broken up 
because there is not sufficient unified understanding, because 
there is not sufficient leadership to save them, and I say that 

92 Early Years of American Communism 

unless we comrades, unless we, the revolutionary workers, we who 
know that only on a program of the class struggle can they mass 
and fight victoriously, unless we organize and prepare to unify 
and direct them, to lead their struggles, then I say, the American 
labor movement will be destroyed and black reaction will settle 
upon this country. We have a responsibility upon us, and we must 
find the way out. Yes, reaction is in full sway in America. 

Many of our finest spirits, our bravest boys, our best fighters 
languish their lives away in the penitentiaries of America. The 
boys that threw themselves into the struggle during the war, those 
who did not take down their flag when the persecution became 
severe, the very cream of the movement, have languished in 
prison for over two years, and I say it is a shame and a disgrace 
that we have not made any effective protest against it. It is a 
pitiful thing that for two years the campaign for release of our 
fellow workers and comrades, which should have been carried on 
upon the basis of the class struggle, which should have been the 
rallying cry to arouse the workers and inspire an irresistible 
campaign for amnesty, has been left almost entirely to such as the 
American Civil Liberties Bureau on the one hand, the Socialist 
Party's Amnesty Committee on the other, and the IW W lawyers on 
the third, and there is very little difference between them. 

Now, I say, we are going to change the rout the workers are 
confronted with. We are going to try to stop the stampede by 
putting up a program and plan of action with a set of fighting 
leaders, and give out the rallying cry: Fellow workers, stand and 
fight! It is better to die in the struggle than to be driven to death 
and crushed without effective resistance. (Applause.) 

I think that everyone who was present at our meeting last 
night had ample reassurance and an ample answer to the ques- 
tion upon everybody's lips: Is this real unity, is this at last an effec- 
tive getting together? 

At last night's meeting the question was answered, as it is 
today. There came to that meeting fighting men and women 
from all fields, from all movements. From the IWW for the Red 
International of Labor Unions came George Hardy. From the 
American Federation of Labor came J.W. Johnstone. From the 
Socialist Party, from the left wing, from those who long ago left 
the Socialist Party, from all parts of the country they came, they, 

Workers Party of America Born 93 

the battlers, came, showing the marks and scars of conflict and 
persecution. They came to submit in the name of unity, and they 
sealed and guaranteed our pledge to present a unified movement 
to the workers of America. 

There are only a few things I wish to touch upon further. 
They are a few suggestions on the nature of our organization. In 
our Convention Call you will notice we are not very verbose. We 
did not put in very many revolutionary words or foreign phrases, 
because that period is past and the time is here for action — 
revolutionary action is here. We are prepared to meet this need 
on the basis of the definite and emphatic principles upon which 
we stand. One of these is a fighting party, and that, I say, is the 
difference between us and other political organizations claiming 
the support of the workers. The difference between us and the 
Socialist Party or the Farmer-Labor Party, or the Gompers 
bureaucracy, will not be alone in the fact that we declare for the 
final revolution and they do not, not because we are willing to 
hold before the workers the final goal and all of these others are 
not, but because in terms of class struggle, on questions of bread 
and butter, on housing, on labor organization, wages and hours, 
they are afraid to fight, and the Workers Party says it will fight on 
every single one of these issues. That is the difference between a 
betrayers' organization, a cowardly organization, as against a work- 
ers' organization. I have talked to comrades who have fears of 
reformist tendencies. They are afraid we did not put enough 
revolutionary words in our program, and I say, comrades, there is 
no danger of reformism in a party that is organized and led by 
class-conscious fighters. Reformism comes only from those who 
do not want to fight, and the guarantee that our organization 
will not be reformistic is not alone in our program, but in the 
personnel of the delegates who have fought consistently and 
determinedly on the basis of the class struggle in the past, and 
that is the guarantee of our activity in the future. 

With regard to the form of organization, we also speak specifi- 
cally. We want a centralized party. Now what do we mean by that? 

We want to build a serious movement that will be bound 
together by enough discipline to enable it to act as a united body. 
We are not going to have an excessive amount of referendums in 
our organization, because those go with organizations that are 

94 Early Years of American Communism 

more concerned with talk than with activity. We want an organ- 
ization able to move as one man and effectively in the right 
direction, and for that purpose we build it up on the basis of 
democratic centralization. We bind it together by discipline, and 
we call upon every man and woman to enter it in the spirit of the 
soldier, ready to give everything the organization asks, and willing 
to do everything the organization says. We want to make it conse- 
quently a party of action, a fighting party, a centralized party. 
These are our slogans, comrades. If we will follow them, we will 
build up an organization to which the disheartened and demoral- 
ized workers of America will rally. They will hail it as a morning 
star. They are looking for it. I say, comrades, they are looking for 
it with longing eyes. The workers do not like division. There is 
nothing that dispirits them more than to see their own battle 
front divided, their own leaders demoralized. In the past we were 
not able to give them unified leadership. Let us move quickly 
away from past mistakes. The first step in the right direction is to 
take out of our minds the last bit of small personal malice against 
individuals or organizations which might militate against the best 
fraternal spirit in which we must meet and unite forces. Let us, 
every one of us, in the true spirit of revolutionary comradeship, 
join together in this work. The past is dead. Let the dead past 
bury its dead. We have come together to face the future. Let us 
judge each other upon the activities of the future and not upon 
the activities that lie behind us. 

The final word is for unity, unity of the revolutionary workers. 
Down with those who speak against us! Down with those who seek 
to divide the revolutionary movement! Long live the unification 
of revolutionary forces! Long live the Workers Party to be! Long 
live the workers republic that the Workers Party fights for. (Long 
and loud applause.) 

The American Question 

ca. November 1922 

The following unpublished and undated document was written at the 
behest of Leon Trotsky during the Fourth Congress of the Communist 
International (held in Moscow, 5 November- 5 December 1922) by Can- 
non and other American Communists who were struggling against the 
maintenance of the dual structure of a clandestine Communist party 
alongside the legal Workers Party. It played a crucial role in winning 
Comintern support for the liquidation of the underground party. Among 
the document's signers were delegates Cannon, Max Bedacht and Arne 
Swabeck, under the names Cook, Lansing and Marshall. The other sig- 
natories have not been identified, though one of the Young Communist 
League delegates is probably Martin Abern who was in Moscow at this 
time. This is a translation of a German-language copy in the Theodore 
Draper Papers, Special Collections Department, Robert W. Woodruff 
Library, Emory University. A slightly different English translation was 
published in Spartacist No. 40 (Summer 1987). 

In the United States the objective preconditions for revolution 
are not yet fully developed. In addition, the class consciousness of 
the American workers is still undeveloped; they have not even 
risen to the point of undertaking independent political action. 

However, there is developing within the trade union move- 
ment a rapidly increasing rebelliousness against the official union 
bureaucracy and, linked to this, a steadily growing tendency in 
favor of a labor party. Our main task at present is to develop 
these tendencies, to crystallize and organize them; tactics must 
be oriented toward making us an integral component of the labor 
party when it is founded. 

The illegality of the Communist Party of America is a major 
obstacle in its work. In addition, American workers are still domi- 
nated by democratic illusions, so that they grasp neither the aim 


96 Early Years of American Communism 

nor the reasons for conspiratorial, clandestine organizations. We 
must therefore wage a determined struggle for a legal Communist 
party. A large part of the organized workers movement will sup- 
port us in such a struggle. If we win, the party will enjoy the enor- 
mous advantages of legal party organization, at least for a time. 
But if we lose, the fact of our defeat will greatly contribute to 
destroying the democratic illusions of the masses; at the same time 
they would come to grasp the necessity of illegal organization. 

This struggle must be carried out with the legal party that 
already exists. Every function which can be carried out openly 
and legally must be transferred to it; its program must gradually 
be strengthened and clarified; the duties of members must be 
increased and their discipline must be tightened; all with a view 
toward the goal of making it a real Communist party. 

We are hindered in carrying out these tasks by the fact that 
the great majority of members are comrades born abroad, mainly 
of Russian origin, who judge things not from the standpoint of 
the objective conditions prevailing in America, but on the basis 
of their subjective conceptions, which are based on events in 
Europe. This is why they oppose every attempt to realistically 
apply the Comintern's tactical guidelines to American conditions. 

The simultaneous existence of these two irreconcilable ele- 
ments in the party is the real cause of the ineffectiveness and 
sterility of the American movement. The bitter disputes and splits 
which develop in the American party over every fleeting question 
are merely symptoms of the more deep-seated sickness in the 
party. The unity imposed by the Comintern has not resolved the 
problem in America, but only aggravated it. 

We ask the Comintern for a clear presentation of its guide- 
lines concerning the questions mentioned above and request, in 
the event that a new split occurs in the course of realistically 
implementing these guidelines in America, that the Comintern 
not again insist on a mechanical formula for unity. 

Signatures follow: 

Marshall, Cook and Lansing 

Minority of the delegation to the Comintern 

The American Question 97 

By signing, the following comrades declare that they are 
in complete agreement with the above: 

Starr and Marlow 

Delegates of the Young Communist League of America to 

the Congress of the Youth International 

Godfrey, Brooks and Knowles 

Delegates of the Trade Union Educational League to the 

Congress of the Profintern 


Communist Party of America regional organizer 

The Fifth Year of the Russian Revolution 

Early 1923 

When Cannon returned from Moscow in January 1923, he undertook a 
five-month speaking tour around the U. S. This lecture on Soviet Russia 
was published by the Workers Party in a 1923 pamphlet. 

Russia Through the Shadows 

The story of Soviet Russia for the first four years after the 
revolution was a story of desperate struggle against tremendous 
odds. The fight of the Russian workers did not end with their 
victory over the bourgeoisie within Russia. The capitalist class of 
the entire world came to the aid of Russian capitalism. 

The workers republic was blockaded and shut off from the 
world. Counterrevolutionary plots and uprisings inside of Russia 
were financed and directed from the outside. Mercenary invading 
armies, backed by world capital, attacked Soviet Russia on all 
sides. On top of all this came the terrible famine which threat- 
ened to deal the final blow. 

In those four years Soviet Russia indeed went "through the 
shadows." But now, after five years of the revolution, we can tell a 
brighter story. In 1922 Soviet Russia began to emerge from the 
shadows and started on the upward track. The long and devastat- 
ing civil war was at an end and the counterrevolution stamped 
out. The great famine was conquered. The last of the invading 
foreign armies — except the Japanese in the Far East — had been 
driven from Russian soil; and the workers government, freed from 
the terrible strain and necessity of war, was enabled, for the first 
time, to turn its efforts and energies to the great constructive task 
of building a new Russia on the ruins of the old. 

While I was yet in Russia the Red Army drove the Japanese 
out of Vladivostok and set up the Soviets again. And before the 
Fourth Congress of the Communist International was ended, we 


Fifth Year of the Revolution 99 

had the joy of hearing comrade Lenin say that all the territory of 
Russia was at last living in peace under the red flag of the Soviets. 

I reached Moscow on the first day of June. Signs of recupera- 
tion from the long travail were already noticeable. The streets and 
sidewalks were being repaired and buildings were being painted; 
for the first time in five years, they told me. During the war all 
resources and all energies went for bitter necessity; everything else 
had to wait. Even the buildings in the Kremlin got their first coat 
of paint this year. 

I was riding on a Moscow streetcar one day soon after my 
arrival, with a comrade who had once been in America and who 
now holds a responsible position in the Soviet government. I 
spoke of the good appearance and condition of the car; it had 
just been newly painted, and looked very pretty. They know more 
about blending colors than we do; and they care more about it, 
too. He told me that the Moscow streetcar system had been 
greatly improved during the past year. The number of cars in 
operation had been greatly increased, the trackage extended and 
a fairly reliable schedule maintained. The Moscow streetcar work- 
ers were very proud of their achievement; especially so because 
the improvement in the service had brought with it a correspond- 
ing improvement in their own living conditions. 

The famous Genoa Conference was still alive at that time, the 
conference which Lloyd George called to settle the problems of 
Europe, but which didn't succeed in settling anything except the 
career of Lloyd George. France and Belgium, you will remember, 
were demanding that the property in Russia which had been 
confiscated by the revolution should be restored to the original 
foreign owners. Russia had not yet given her final answer, and I 
asked my friend in the streetcar what he thought it would be. 

He said, "Most of the big industrial plants in Russia, and 
even a part of the railroad system, belonged to foreign capitalists 
before the revolution. Russia was practically a colony of European 

"Do you know," he asked me, "who used to own the streetcar 
system in Moscow — it belonged to the poor Belgian capitalists, 
and they are trying to get it back at Genoa." 

I asked him what chance the poor Belgian capitalists had to 
get their streetcars back. He answered, "No chance at all." 

100 Early Years of American Communism 

He told me as soon as that demand became known the 
Moscow streetcar workers — as well as the workers in the other 
important industries — called meetings and passed resolutions to 
this effect: "The foreign capitalists tried for four years to take 
these industries away from us by armed force, and they couldn't 
succeed. Now we are certainly not going to let them talk us out of 
them at the diplomatic table." 

Before I went to Russia I had read much about the impend- 
ing collapse of the Soviet government. A story of this kind used to 
appear on an average of about once a week in the New York Times 
and other capitalist newspapers; and no doubt you have all read 
them. Here lately the capitalist press has dropped that story and 
the Socialist Party and the IWW papers have taken it up. I spent 
seven months in Russia, and I assure you that I looked diligently 
for the signs of this famous "collapse," but I couldn't find it. On 
the contrary, the more I investigated, the more I saw of the atti- 
tude of the Russian workers, the more I became convinced that 
the Soviet government under the control of the Communist Party 
is firmer and stronger now than at any period in its history. 

I saw the power of the Russian Communist Party tested by an 
historic conflict with another party which challenged its control. 
The occasion was the trial of the leaders of the so-called Social 
Revolutionary Party. 

These Social Revolutionaries were brought to trial before the 
proletarian court and when I was in Moscow, I was present, with 
an interpreter, on the day it opened in the Labor Temple, and at 
many of the other sessions. It was a fair trial — nothing like it ever 
occurred in America. The defendants were allowed to talk as 
freely and as much as they pleased. There was no restriction what- 
ever on their liberty to speak in their own defense. The trouble 
with them was that they had no defense. The Soviet government 
had the goods on them. A number of the prisoners had repented 
of their crimes against the revolution, and they testified for the 
Soviet government. 

The case was clear. These leaders of the SR Party, defeated in 
the political struggle with the Communist Party, resorted to a 
campaign of terror and assassination. They murdered Uritsky and 
Volodarsky. They dynamited the building which housed the 
Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party and killed 

Fifth Year of the Revolution 101 

fourteen people. They had Trotsky and Zinoviev marked for assas- 
sination. It was an SR bullet that brought Lenin down and from 
which he still suffers today. 

They went even further than that. They went to the point that 
all the opponents of the Soviet system go in the end. They collab- 
orated with the White Guards and they took money from the 
French government to do its dirty work in Russia. All this was 
clearly proven in the trial; most of it out of the mouths of men 
who had taken active part in the campaign. 

While the trial was in progress occurred the anniversary of 
the assassination of Volodarsky, one of the most beloved leaders 
of the revolution, who had been shot down by the SRs; and the 
Communist Party called upon the workers to honor his memory 
by a demonstration for the Soviet government and against the 
SR Party. The Communist speakers went to the factories and 
requested that no worker march except of his own free will. 

I stood in Red Square and watched that demonstration. Prac- 
tically the whole working class population of Moscow marched 
that day, carrying banners which proclaimed their solidarity with 
the Soviet government and the Communist Party, and demanding 
the death penalty for the leaders of the counterrevolutionary, 
White Guard SR Party. 

I was standing in the reviewing stand with the members of the 
Executive Committee of the Communist International. It was five 
o'clock in the evening. The demonstration had commenced at 
noon and the workers of Moscow were still marching in wide 
streams from all directions through Red Square. One of the lead- 
ers of the Russian Communist Party turned to us and said, "Com- 
rades, this is the funeral of the counterrevolution in Russia!" 

So it was. The counterrevolution in Russia is as dead as the 
King of Egypt. The only places there is any life left in it are Paris, 
London and the East Side of New York. 

Economic Reconstruction 

Politically, the Soviet regime, under the leadership of the 
Communist Party, greatly strengthened itself in the past year. And 
economic progress went hand in hand with political improve- 
ment. Much of this economic progress, and its reflection in the 
field of politics, was due to the timely introduction of the New 

102 Early Years of American Communism 

Economic Policy, or, as they say in Russia, the "NEP." 

Early in 1921 it became evident that some of the drastic 
economic measures taken by the Soviet government, under the 
pressure of political and military necessity, could not be adhered 
to. The backward social and industrial development of Russia, 
together with the failure of the European proletariat to succeed 
in making a revolution, compelled the Soviet government to 
make a retreat on the economic field. 

The Soviet government had been forced to adopt many of 
these extreme economic measures by political and military neces- 
sity. But Lenin did not hesitate to say that they had been going 
too fast. The economic development of Russia did not permit the 
direct transition to a system of pure socialist economy. 

When this frank and obvious statement was made by Lenin, 
the yellow socialists of the Second International, as well as some 
so-called "Marxians" of this country who have been against the 
Russian Revolution because it wasn't made according to their 
blueprint, find much satisfaction. They say: "Ha! Ha! We told you 
so. The Bolshevik Revolution was a mistake!" Their conclusions 
are that the workers of Russia should give up the political power 
and go back to capitalism. 

But the Russian Bolsheviks are practical people. They have 
made the revolution once and they don't intend to go back and 
do it over again. They say: "No, the revolution was not a mistake, 
and we will not go back to capitalism. We will make a retreat on 
the economic field, but we will keep the political power in the 
hands of the proletariat and use that as a lever to develop our 
industry to the point where it can serve as a base for a system of 
socialist economy. And if we can't find anything in the books to 
support this procedure, we'll write a book of our own." 

There are people who say that Russia has gone back to capita- 
lism, but that is not true. In Russia they say, "It is neither capi- 
talism nor communism, it is 'NEP'!" Trotsky described the 
present situation in Russia as follows: 

"The workers control the government. The workers govern- 
ment has control of industry and is carrying on this industry 
according to the methods of the capitalist market, of capitalist cal- 
culation." I think that is the best concise definition of the NEP. 

The state controls commerce and has a monopoly of foreign 

Fifth Year of the Revolution 103 

trade. The state owns all the land, and from the peasants who 
cultivate the land it collects a tax in kind of approximately 10 
percent of the crop. Free trade is permitted. The peasants may 
sell or exchange their surplus products after the tax has been 

Private enterprises exist alongside of state enterprises. The 
workers in both state and private enterprises are paid wages in 
money and the medium of calculation and exchange is money. 
That is the NEP. 

The New Economic Policy was first introduced in the spring 
of 1921; but it was not until 1922 that the effects of it began to be 
felt on a wide scale. During the period that I was in Russia the 
positive and beneficial results of the NEP could be seen in all 

The paper money of Soviet Russia, like that of all countries 
ruined by the war, was greatly inflated. But in 1922 it was stabi- 
lized for a period of six months as against three months in 1921. 
The peasants were able in 1922 to overcome the famine and they 
voluntarily brought their tax in kind to the government elevators 
and warehouses. Only in the most exceptional and isolated cases 
was it necessary to use force to collect the tax. 

Before the revolution the Russian peasant had the landlord 
on his back. Today the landlord system is done away with; there is 
not one landlord left in the whole of Russia. All that the peasant 
produces, above his tax in kind of approximately 10 percent, is 
his own, to do with as he sees fit. The result is a very friendly 
attitude toward the Soviet government. 

1922 marked the beginning of a general revival in trade 
industry. The revolution inherited from the old regime an indus- 
trial system that was poorly developed, inefficiently managed 
and badly demoralized by the strain of the imperialist war. The 
long civil war, the interventions and the blockade dealt still 
heavier blows to Russian industry and almost brought it to com- 
plete ruin. 

To try to do anything with it seemed a hopeless task. Agents 
of other governments, industrial experts, went to Russia, investi- 
gated her industries and reported that they couldn't be revived 
without assistance from the outside. It was reports of this kind 
that bolstered up the hope of European and American capitalists 

104 Early Years of American Communism 

and their political agents that the Soviet government was certain 
to fall. 

These gentlemen reckoned without the Russian working class 
and the Communist Party that leads and inspires it. 

In the revolution and the war which followed it for more than 
four years, the Communist Party dared the "impossible" — and 
accomplished it. The same courage and determination character- 
ize its attack on the problem of industry. Seval Zimmand told me 
a story of a meeting which he had an opportunity to attend in the 
Ural industrial district. It was a conference of engineers, factory 
managers and trade union leaders presided over by Bogdanov, 
the commissar of the Supreme Council of Public Economy. After 
discussing all features of the situation with the engineers and 
managers and hearing their reports, Bogdanov said, "I know that 
it is hard to improve the industries in the Ural. But the industries 
of the Ural can be improved and the industries of the Ural must 
be improved." 

There, in one word, is a definition of the Communist Party of 
Russia — the party of MUST! While others say, "It is impossible," 
and, "We had better wait," or, "It can't be done," the Commu- 
nist Party says, "It must be done!" — and the Communists go 
ahead and do it. 

Russian industry, on the whole, in 1922 registered a general 
increase of production of more than 100 percent. This brought 
the standard of production up to 25 percent of the pre-war condi- 
tion. This condition is bad enough, but the Russian workers lived 
through a worse one, and they have begun to make headway. 

Russian exports in 1922 were six times greater than the year 
before. In 1921 the exports were only 5 percent of the imports. 
Last year they were brought up to 25 percent. All the light indus- 
tries, that is, those which produce for the market, improved 
remarkably last year and are now in pretty fair shape. The heavy 
industries, that is, the coal, iron, steel and oil industries, whose 
product goes mainly to the other state industries — only about 
10 percent of it being sold in the market — recover more slowly. 
Here the problem is a colossal one. For a long time after the 
revolution, all these basic industries were in the hands of counter- 
revolutionary armies. The iron region in the Urals, the coal, iron 
and steel in the Donets Basin — the Pennsylvania of Russia — and 

Fifth Year of the Revolution 105 

the oil fields around Baku, were all held by hostile armies. When 
the Red Army recaptured these territories, the industries were in 

The Soviet government bent itself to this task and in 1922 
made substantial headway. Coal production was increased 25 
percent over 1921, naphtha 20 percent, cast iron 42 percent, 
while iron and steel production in 1922 doubled that of the year 
before. In 1913, before the imperialist war began, the Russian 
railroads loaded 30,000 cars a day. In 1918, at the low tide of 
the revolution, when the blockade was still in effect and hostile 
armies surrounded Russia with a ring of steel, the number of rail- 
road cars loaded daily dropped to 7,590. By 1921 this figure was 
brought up to 9,500. In 1922 the improvement was continued and 
11,500 cars were loaded; this is more than one-third of the pre- 
war volume. 

Russia's great problem today is the problem of heavy industry. 
The leaders of the Russian Revolution recognize this and are 
concentrating all their energies on that task. 

The Soviet government is saving on everything in order to 
help the heavy industry. All state appropriations, even those 
for schools, are being reduced for this purpose. When some 
sentimental people complained that the reduction of school 
appropriations was a backward step, Lenin answered that the 
chance for Russia to become a really civilized and cultured nation 
depended on the improvement of the heavy industry. That is the 

The Soviet government last year made a profit of 20 million 
gold rubles on its trading activities. That is the equivalent of ten 
million dollars, and the whole of it was given by the government 
as a subsidy to heavy industry. Likewise a considerable portion of 
the tax collected from the peasants and from the Nepmen en- 
gaged in commerce goes for that purpose. 

One way of attracting outside capital, which has attained 
some degree of success, is through the formation of so-called 
mixed companies. The Soviet government goes into partnership 
with private capitalists in commercial enterprises, such as putting 
up part of the capital and sharing in the management and the 
profits. Lenin told us that by this means a large number of work- 
ers are enabled to learn from the capitalists how to carry on 

106 Early Years of American Communism 

commerce; and the Soviet government retains the right to dis- 
solve the companies later. 

The wages of the Russian workers kept pace with the improve- 
ment of production, increasing in just about the same proportion. 
Wages are not yet up to the pre-war standard. The Russian shoe 
workers today get 33.3 percent of pre-war wages. The metal work- 
ers get 42.9 percent, the textile workers 42.1 percent and the 
wood workers 57.9 percent. Wages vary according to the condi- 
tions of the various industries. The foodstuff industry is pretty well 
on its feet and the bakery workers get 81.9 percent of pre-war 
wages, while the tobacco industry pays 13.1 percent. These figures 
do not tell the whole story. Because the workers, under the Soviet 
government, get many special privileges such as cheap rent, food 
at cost, etc. 

The Russian worker, after five years of the revolution, is not 
as well off materially today as he was under the tsar. But his condi- 
tion is now steadily improving and the political and spiritual gains 
of the revolution are beyond calculation. There is no sentiment 
among the workers for a return to the old regime. To those who 
measure everything in terms of concrete, immediate material 
gains, and who ask the Russian workers what they have to show 
for their five years of revolution, they answer: "The revolution is 
not over yet." 

Trotsky pointed out at the Fourth Congress of the Communist 
International that the French standard of living, ten years after 
the great revolution which smashed the feudal system and opened 
the way for the development of the capitalist mode of production, 
was far below that which prevailed immediately before the revolu- 
tion. Revolutions destroy before they can build anew, and in this 
destruction the people suffer. But the destructive phase of the 
Russian Revolution is already past and in five more years, at the 
present rate of progress, there is no doubt that the material con- 
ditions of the Russian workers, as well as their spiritual, intellec- 
tual and political conditions, will be far better than ever before. 

Since private industrial and commercial enterprises exist 
alongside of state enterprises, the question naturally arises — and 
it certainly is a most important question — what is the relative 
strength of the two? This question is answered by the figures on 
the number employed by each. The state controls all means of 

Fifth Year of the Revolution 107 

transport, including the railroads, and in this transportation 
industry 1,000,000 are employed. The state trusts — these are cor- 
porations organized by the state for the commercial and financial 
management of the various industries under its control — employ 
1,300,000. And in non-trust state enterprises another half million 
workers. This brings the total of state employees up to 2,800,000. 
Private enterprises employ only 70,000. 

There is little danger in this ratio. The danger is still lessened 
by the fact that the state holds all the big and important indus- 
tries which are the bases of power while private capital is confined 
to smaller factories and to commerce. The average number of 
workers employed in state enterprises is 250 while private plants 
have an average of only 18. 

Trade Unionism in Russia 

Practically all the workers employed in both state and private 
undertakings are organized into the Russian trade unions. These 
trade unions are organized according to the industrial form; 
there is but one union for each industry. The membership of the 
Russian trade unions is three million. Before the revolution the 
total membership of all the trade unions of Russia was only 1,385. 

The trade unions have played a great part in the revolution. 
During the period of "war communism" they were closely united 
to the apparatus and took upon themselves a number of govern- 
ment responsibilities. But under the New Economic Policy they 
have completely separated from the state machinery and have 
reorganized as independent bodies, having for their main func- 
tions the defense of the interests of the workers in the factories. 

Strikes were never prohibited by law under the Soviet govern- 
ment, but during the period of the civil war the Trade Union 
Congress voluntarily decided to forego that method of struggle. 
Under the New Economic Policy, however, the right to strike has 
been reaffirmed. Strikes are discouraged and do not occur very 
often. Boards of conciliation, courts of arbitration and mutual 
agreements are first resorted to, and as a rule all controversies are 
settled by these means. 

I never saw a strike in Soviet Russia and never heard of one 
taking place while I was there. But comrade Melnichansky, the 
head of the Moscow trade unions, told me of a few that had 

108 Early Years of American Communism 

occurred under his jurisdiction. In those cases all the methods 
and forms of industrial warfare familiar to European and Ameri- 
can labor movements automatically developed, such as strike 
committees, pickets, strike benefits, etc. There had been rare 
cases, he told me, when unscrupulous employers had tried to 
operate the struck plant by means of ignorant peasants recruited 
from the villages. The government gave no favor to this "freedom 
of contract" so popular with our own government. And a visit 
from the pickets usually sufficed to convince the strikebreakers 
that they had better go back where they came from. I asked com- 
rade Melnichansky if they had encountered any strike injunctions. 
He laughed and answered, "My dear comrade, you must under- 
stand that this is not America!" 

I attended the Fifth All-Russian Trade Union Congress. It is 
analogous to the national convention of the American Federation 
of Labor, but it was quite a different looking delegation from the 
sleek, fat, overdressed "men of labor" who meet once a year 
under the chairmanship of Gompers. There were more than a 
thousand delegates present at this congress, and I saw only one 
man who appeared to be overweight. 

The congress was held in the Moscow Labor Temple which, 
in the old days, was the Nobles Club. It is a gorgeous place, with 
marble pillars, crystal chandeliers and gold leaf decorations. One 
could imagine that the "Nobles" had many a good time there in 
the "good old days." But, in the words of the comic strip artist, 
"Them days is over." The workers are the ruling class today and 
they have taken all the best places for their own purposes. 

I saw something at that congress that never yet happened in 
America. Zinoviev and Rykov came to the congress to make a 
report on behalf of the government. I thought how natural it was, 
in a country ruled by the workers, for the government to report 
to the trade unions. It is just as natural as it is in America for the 
government to report to the Chamber of Commerce. The same 
principle applies. Governments have the habit of reporting to 
those whom they really represent. The old proverb says, "Tell me 
whose bread you eat and I'll tell you whose song you sing." 

The Soviet government is a labor government and it makes no 
secret of the fact that it is partial to the working class. It doesn't 
pretend to be fair or neutral. They frankly call the government a 

Fifth Year of the Revolution 109 

dictatorship. "It's just like your own government in America," 
they told me, "only it is a dictatorship of a different class." 

"Otherwise the two governments are much alike," they said. 
"They are both dictatorships. But there is another difference. The 
Russian government says it is a dictatorship and makes no camou- 
flage about it. The government of the United States pretends to 
be fair and democratic, to represent both the workers and the 
capitalists, but whenever you have a big strike the government 
soon shows whom it belongs to." 

Ninety-eight percent of all the delegates to this Fifth All- 
Russian Trade Union Congress were members of the Communist 
Party. Those figures constitute another answer to the question: 
"How does the Communist Party keep in power?" When more 
than a thousand trade union delegates come together from all 
parts of Russia, and more than 98 percent of them are Commu- 
nists, it is a pretty reliable indication, I think, that the Communist 
Party has its roots very deep in the basic organizations of the 

Referring to the fact that wages of the Russian workers had 
been increased 100 percent during the past year, keeping even 
pace with the increased production, Zinoviev laid before the con- 
gress the program of the Communist Party on the question of 
wages and production. He said the two must go forward together, 
hand in hand. 

"Every country in the world," he said, "outside of Russia has 
built up its industrial system at the price of an impoverished and 
exploited working class. The capitalist countries have built a mar- 
velous industrial system; they have erected great structures of steel 
and stone and cement; they have piled up wealth that staggers 
calculation. And alongside of all this they have a hungry and 
impoverished working class which made it all. For all their toil 
and accomplishments the workers have reaped a harvest of 
poverty and misery." "Russia," he said, "must not go that way. 
We are a working class nation and we must not forget that the 
interest of the workers must be our first concern, always. We will 
strain all energies to increase production, but here at the begin- 
ning let us lay down an iron rule for our future guidance: that 
every improvement in industry must bring a corresponding im- 
provement in the living standards of the workers in the industry. 

110 Early Years oj American Communism 

We want to build a big industry and we want to build it quickly. 
But we also want to build a bigger and better human race." 

The Workers and the Red Army 

Between the trade unions and the Red Army there is a close 
and fraternal unity that does not prevail between the labor move- 
ment and the army of any other country in Europe. The trade 
unionists regard the red soldiers as the protectors and defenders 
of the labor movement, and they treat them with the highest 

There is a reason for this attitude. When some of the indus- 
trial districts of Russia fell into the hands of the counter- 
revolutionary armies, the first thing the White Guards did, after 
dissolving the Soviets, was to break up the trade unions, shooting 
or jailing the leaders; it was something like West Virginia. And 
when the Red Army reconquered those territories, the trade 
unions were immediately reorganized under the protection of its 
bayonets. This is the reason for the brotherly solidarity between 
the unions and the army. 

It was not surprising, therefore, that the Red Army should 
send a representative to the Trade Union Congress. General 
Budenny, the head of the famous Red Cavalry, was there and he 
was given a tumultuous reception. I was thinking of the time a 
general of our army visited the American trade unionists, the 
time that General Wood came to Gary. 1 For several minutes they 
applauded and shouted for General Budenny. He was embar- 
rassed and had difficulty getting started. His speech consisted of 
only one sentence, but it was enough. Drawing himself up to a 
military posture, he clicked his heels together and saluted the 
delegates and said, "Comrades, just tell us what you want us to 
do, and we'll do it!" 

The Red Army is a new factor in the international situation, 
and a very important one. The diplomats cannot meet today to 
partition off the earth without asking, "What will the Red Army 

1 A reference to the occupation of Gary, Indiana by federal troops under the com- 
mand of Major General Leonard Wood during the 1919 steel strike. Martial law 
was declared, and hundreds of strikers were arrested and deported as the troops 
helped break the strike. 

Fifth Year of the Revolution 111 

do?" The red soldier is present at all the councils of the war mak- 
ers. He puts his fist on the table and says, "I am in on the war 
game in Europe from now on!" 

The Red Army is something new under the sun, a proletarian 
army, made up exclusively of workers and peasants, with most of 
its officers drawn from the working class. It proved its mettle in 
the long and successful struggle against the interventionist armies. 
It has a morale, spirit and discipline unknown to the military his- 
tory of Europe. There is not an army on the continent of Europe 
that, man for man, can stand up against it. 

When I was in Russia the size of the Red Army had been re- 
duced to 800,000 men. Since I left, it has been still further 
reduced to 600,000. But that is not its full strength by any means. 
The standing army of 600,000 is only a skeleton around which five 
million men, already trained for service, can be quickly organized. 

The Red Army is a powerful military machine, but that is not 
all. It is a school, the greatest school on earth. The great bulk of 
its soldiers come from the peasantry, and 80 percent of the Rus- 
sian peasants are illiterate. But in the Red Army they are all 
taught to read and write. Last May Day they celebrated the liqui- 
dation of illiteracy in the Red Army. Trotsky made the statement 
that on that day there was not a soldier in the army who was not 
able to read and write. The Russian Bolsheviks have taken an 
instrument of destruction and utilized it for a great constructive 

I visited some Red Army camps and learned something about 
the spirit of the soldiers at first hand. I had read something about 
it and wished to check up on what I had read. I asked Trotsky 
about it and he said, "Go to the camps and see the soldiers them- 
selves. Then you will understand it." I asked him why the red 
soldier has a different attitude toward the government from that 
of the other soldiers of Europe, and he answered, "The attitude 
of the red soldier toward the Soviet government is determined by 
the attitude of the Soviet government toward the red soldier." 

That is the secret of it. That is the reason for the intense 
loyalty of the red soldier which the old-school militarists cannot 
understand. The red soldier is respected and honored in time of 
peace as well as in war. He is not heroized as he marches off to 
battle and then chased up a back alley when he comes home. He 

112 Early Years of American Communism 

is not given a medal when he is needed and refused a job or a 
handout when the war is over. In the working class society of 
Russia the red soldier has a place of dignity and honor. In Russia 
the soldiers and the workers are the real "people of importance." 

I saw another phase of the educational work of the army in 
one of the camps. It was a moving picture show attended by about 
two thousand soldiers. It was a moving picture of large-scale grain 
farming in Canada. Most of the soldiers in the audience were 
peasant lads. They had come from the villages and their idea of 
agriculture was founded on the primitive, individualistic methods 
they had always known. Most of them had never seen a farming 
implement larger than a one-horse plow. Here on the screen 
before them was flashed a picture of modern farming on a big 
scale, with tractors, gang-plows and great threshing machines; a 
single working unit covering hundreds of acres at a time. 

They drank in that picture very eagerly. As I watched them I 
saw another picture. I saw those peasant lads going back home 
when their service in the army would be ended, with their newly 
acquired knowledge and their vision of the great world outside 
their little villages, telling their friends and their old folks of the 
great farming machinery which the city worker will manufacture 
for the peasants and which will be the means of developing large- 
scale communal farming instead of small-scale individual farming, 
and which will transform the individualist peasant of today into 
the Communist peasant of tomorrow. 

I found the red soldiers pretty well informed as to what is 
going on in the world. They spoke of the prospects of revolution 
in Germany with the air of men who had read and talked much 
about it. That is part of their education; Trotsky keeps them fully 
informed about international developments, and there are special 
Communist detachments in all regiments who carry on a constant 
propaganda for internationalism. 

Capitalist journalists write a great deal about the intense 
national patriotism of the Red Army. These stories are usually 
written by journalists who sit around in Moscow hotels and cook 
up stories about it, and, as a rule, they are very far from the truth. 
As a matter of fact, the main effort of Communist propaganda in 
the army is to overcome tendencies toward Russian national patri- 
otism and to develop a patriotism to the international proletariat. 

Fifth Year of the Revolution 113 

Since the army quit singing God Save the Tsar it has had no na- 
tional official hymn. The official air played in the Red Army is the 
Internationale. Internationalism is the watchword. 

This was impressed upon us very vividly by a speech we 
heard at the graduation exercises of the school of Red Cavalry 
commanders at Moscow. A number of international delegates 
attended those exercises and spent the entire day with the young 
students who were just finishing their studies. For several hours 
we watched them perform hair-raising feats on horseback and late 
in the afternoon we had dinner with them in the mess hall. After 
dinner the delegates from the various countries each spoke a few 
words of greeting to the graduates and then they put up one of 
the graduates to respond. He was lifted upon the table from 
which we had just eaten our dinner, a young Communist lad who 
only a short time before had been taken from the factory, put 
through an intensive course of instruction and on that day was 
being turned out as a red commander. 

"Comrades," he said, "we greet you as comrades and broth- 
ers in the same army with us. We do not want you to think of us 
as soldiers of Russia, but as soldiers of the international prole- 
tariat. Our army is a working class army and the working class of 
the world is our country. We will be very glad when the workers 
of Europe rise in revolt and call on us for assistance; and when 
that day comes they will find us ready." 

The Workers and Internationalism 

It is not only the red soldiers in Russia who are international- 
ists. Internationalism permeates the entire working class. When 
the Russian workers rose in revolt five years ago and struck the 
blow that destroyed Russian capitalism they were confident that 
the workers throughout Europe would follow their example. They 
have been waiting five years for the international revolution and 
they still believe it is coming. Nothing has been able to shake that 
faith. They believe in the workers of Europe as they believe in the 

Ah, the faith of those Russian workers! It is so strong that it 
communicates itself to others. All of us who saw and felt it came 
away with our own faith surer and stronger. One afternoon I 
heard a band playing in the street outside the hotel where I was 

114 Early Years of American Communism 

living. I looked out the window and saw a big parade marching 
with banners flying. I took a Russian comrade with me and we 
followed the parade. It wound up at the Labor Temple with a 
mass meeting. There were enthusiastic speeches, the band played 
the Internationale and the crowd sang it. It was a demonstration 
of the bakery workers of Moscow with the bakers of Bulgaria 
who were out on a general strike. And those bakery workers of 
Moscow, from their meager wages, raised a fund to send to their 
comrades in faraway Bulgaria to cheer them on in the fight. 

On the fifth anniversary of the revolution the delegates of the 
Communist parties and red trade unions were the guests of the 
proletariat of Petrograd. 2 A great throng of workers met us at the 
station. We symbolized to them the international labor movement 
and they gave us a warm and generous welcome. Red Army troops 
were drawn up before the station, the streets in all directions 
were packed with workers who had come to greet us, and from 
every building and post flew banners, proclaiming the fifth anni- 
versary of the Russian Revolution and hailing the international 

That day we saw a demonstration of the workers of Petrograd. 
I shall never forget it. They had built a special reviewing stand 
for us before the Uritsky Palace and we stood there and watched 
them march by in detachments according to the factories where 
they worked. They carried the same old banners which they had 
carried five years before, many of them torn by the bullets that 
flew during the decisive battle. 

I never saw before such an outpouring of people, nor such 
enthusiasm. The parade commenced at eleven o'clock in the 
morning. Hour after hour we saw them come in wide streams 
across the square. The afternoon wore away and turned to dusk. It 
was six o'clock and we grew tired of standing and had to leave, 
and still the workers of Petrograd were coming by the thousands, 
carrying their revolutionary banners and singing the Internationale. 
All the workers of Petrograd marched that day to show their soli- 
darity with the international proletariat and to prove to us that 

2 The name of the city was changed to Leningrad after V.I. Lenin's death in 1924. 
It had been called St. Petersburg before 1914 and was renamed Petrograd during 
World War I by the tsarist government as an anti-German gesture. 

Fifth Year of the Revolution 115 

they still believe in the revolution they made five years before. 

The next day, as though to show us that the Russian Revolu- 
tion and the International has not only spirit and solidarity on 
its side, but military power also, they let us see a parade of the 
Red Army. 

It was a cheering and inspiring sight to see the red soldiers 
on the march with their rifles over their shoulders and their 
bayonets shining in the sun. They marched in perfect step, with 
heads erect, the picture of physical prowess. As they passed the 
reviewing stand they all shouted, "Long live the Communist Inter- 
national!" and we shouted back, "Long live the Red Army!" 

In the reviewing stand that day were delegates of the Commu- 
nist parties of other countries; and beside us sat the diplomats of 
foreign governments in Russia. It is the custom to invite them 
whenever there is a parade of the Red Army. They say that when 
the diplomats see the red soldiers march, it cools their enthu- 
siasm for another war against Soviet Russia. 

Before we left Petrograd we made a pilgrimage to the Field 
of Mars, where in one great grave are buried the victims of the 
November Revolution. 3 Five years before it was the scene of des- 
perate battle. The air was torn by rifle fire and the cries of those 
Petrograd workers who had risen in revolt and staked their lives 
on the issue. On the 7th of November, five years before, the work- 
ers of Petrograd fought there the battle of the human race and of 
the future. Many of them fell, never to rise again. 

We stood there, with heads uncovered, in a cold, drizzling 
rain. The once noisy battlefield was quiet. There was no sound 
but the soft music of the Funeral Hymn of the Revolution, and the 
very ground, once spattered with the blood of our heroic dead, 
was banked high with flowers, placed there in gratitude and love 
by the delegates of the Communist parties and red trade unions 
of all lands. 

Those Petrograd workers put their lives in the scale. They had 
lived lives of misery and oppression, but they were possessed by a 

* The Bolshevik Revolution occurred on 7 November 1917 according to the mod- 
ern calendar. However, the old-style Julian calendar was still in use in Russia in 
1917, and its dates are 13 days behind the modern calendar. By the Julian calen- 
dar, the revolution occurred on October 25. Hence the revolution is generally 
referred to as the October Revolution. 

116 Early Years of American Communism 

daring vision of the future when the lives of all men will be better 
and fairer. They were the heralds of a new day in the world when 
there will be no more masters and no more slaves, and they gave 
their lives to hasten on that day. 

There is an end now to their labor, their struggle and their 
sacrifice. They rest beneath the Field of Mars and their mouths 
are stopped with dust. But still from the grave they speak, and 
their voices are heard all over the world. They lighted an ever- 
lasting fire in the sky which the whole world is destined to see 
and follow. 

Those Petrograd workers struck the blow which shattered the 
capitalist regime in Russia and put the working class in power. 
But they did more than that, because the Russian Revolution did 
not stop in Russia. It found its way over the borders. It broke 
through the blockade and spread all over the earth. The Russian 
Revolution was the beginning of the international revolution. 

Wherever there is a group of militant workers anywhere in 
the world, there is the Russian Revolution. The Russian Revolu- 
tion is in the heart of every rebel worker the world over. The 
Russian Revolution is in this room. 

Comrade Trotsky told us, just before we left Moscow, that the 
best way we can help Soviet Russia is to build a bigger trade union 
movement and a stronger party of our own. Recognition by other 
governments will be of some temporary value, but the real recog- 
nition Soviet Russia wants is the recognition of the working class. 
When she gets that she will not need the recognition of capitalist 
governments. Then she can refuse to recognize them! 

For, after all, Soviet Russia is not a "country." Soviet Russia is 
a part of the world labor movement. Soviet Russia is a strike — the 
greatest strike in all history. When the working class of Europe 
and America join that strike it will be the end of capitalism. 

What Kind of a Party? 

Published 3 March 1923 

The following article by Cannon was printed in the 3 March 1923 issue 
of The Worker, weekly newspaper of the Workers Party. 

What kind of a party — that is the question. We are turning 
a new page in the history of the American movement and it is 
important that we agree amongst ourselves now as to what we 
wish to write upon it. Two fortunate circumstances have conspired 
together to give us this opportunity; the one being the favorable 
political development in America, and the other the intervention 
of the Communist International which has prodded the party 
forward to take full advantage of this favorable development. 

We are fighting our way, as a party, back into the open. After 
long argument and a push from Moscow — we are undertaking to 
establish and maintain an "Open Communist Party." What kind 
of a party do we want it to be — large or small, broad or narrow? 
The next future of the party depends, to a large extent, upon the 
answer we give to this question. 

It faces us at every turn. Every time we discuss a question of 
policy it has to be considered. New contacts we are making with 
radical trade unionists compel us to think about it. It was brought 
to the front again by the recent declaration of Scott Nearing, in 
which he showed a very friendly attitude toward us. Some party 
members, myself among them, have frankly welcomed the pros- 
pect of such additions to our ranks, on the condition, of course, 
that they agree to our general statement of principles. Others, 
with equal frankness, express fears about admitting those who 
may not be 100 percent "kosher" into the party, which, accord- 
ing to their view, already has too many "centrists." They think the 
party suffers now for lack of purity; we say its main weakness is 
that it is not big enough and not broad enough. 

Which point of view is correct? The answer depends upon 


118 Early Years of American Communism 

another question: the one asked at the beginning of this article — 
What kind of party? If you have the small party idea, if you think 
the "million masses" — to borrow a phrase from De Leon — can be 
led by a clever clique, you will very naturally fear the influx of 
new elements. On the other hand, if you see things as we see 
them, you will prop the door wide open and, if necessary, kick 
out the window. We try to look at the American situation as it 
really is, and to shape our tactics accordingly. We see the best 
organized and most powerful capitalist class on earth; we see a 
highly developed labor movement and a strongly entrenched 
bureaucracy at the top of it, and we say: Only a big party can cope 
with this situation. Our greatest danger, from which we must flee 
as from a pestilence, is the tendency toward sectarianism, the 
tendency to let the party degenerate into a small, self-satisfied, 
exclusive circle of narrow partisans without influence on events 
about it and without receiving any control from them. 

Scott Nearing and the large group whom he, to a certain 
extent, typifies and symbolizes — former Socialists, former IWWers 
and trade union radicals — are very close to us. We can assimilate 
the bulk of them if we really make the effort. They have no set 
prejudices against us; no opposition in principle. They are sepa- 
rated from the party mainly by doubt, hesitation and pessimism. 
And they lack confidence in the party. All these difficulties can be 
overcome by systematic work and a friendly, sympathetic attitude 
toward them. 

For us it is a life and death proposition to draw in these new 
elements; to start a definite movement toward the party within the 
next year. The party has big tasks before it and it must grow big- 
ger to meet them. We must get more members into the party. We 
must get them quickly. Our failure to do so, with external condi- 
tions so favorable, will prove there is something wrong with us. 

The membership of the Trade Union Educational League is 
much broader than that of our party. It embraces many ele- 
ments who are far from understanding the fine points of Marxian 
theory. Yet it works. It is causing Gompers more concern than any 
small group of pure disciples ever did. The reasons for its success 
are clear enough. One reason, and not a small one either, is that 
it set out at the start to be a broad movement, a sweeping move- 
ment, drawing in everyone who wants to fight the labor fakers 

What Kind of Party? 119 

and the bosses. Another reason is that it has its feet on the solid 
ground of reality. The revolutionary implications of its propa- 
ganda and activity are clear and unmistakable; but it does not 
deal exclusively or mainly in the ultimate. It is taking hold of the 
workers in the trade unions because it has something to say and 
do concerning the concrete problems which press hard against 
them in their daily lives. Incidentally, and for these reasons, the 
Trade Union Educational League is a revolutionary factor of 
great importance. The man in the shop will listen to a little talk 
about the final revolution from a man who works and fights 
beside him in a practical way; the propagandist who hurls an 
abstract proclamation at him from somewhere "above the battle" 
gets no attention. 

Everyone in our party recognizes the great importance of the 
Trade Union Educational League. It is undoubtedly true that with 
many this recognition is as yet theoretical and platonic; it does 
not result in any serious consequences. It is sufficient now to note 
this. I intend to speak about it more fully in another article. We 
are dealing here with theories of the movement; and since we 
are all united on the question of the Trade Union Educational 
League — in theory — we can proceed from a common point. 

The question is: What shall be the future relation between the 
party and the League, and what can we learn from the experience 
of the League? Up to the present time we have taken it as a mat- 
ter of course that the League should organize the militant left 
wing of the trade unions into a broad organization while the party 
should aim only to be a small nucleus within it, supporting it in 
every way and trying to exert an influence on its general policy. 
This theory has been pretty generally accepted and has worked 
out fairly well so far. 

Now, since we are "starting a new chapter in our work" we 
ought to ask ourselves whether this theory is the best one possi- 
ble, or whether this relation between the party and the trade 
union left wing is necessarily permanent. Undoubtedly it was the 
only thing possible at the start, in view of the weakness of the 
party and the strength of the left wing. But I am of the opinion 
that we can and should now take a leaf from Foster's book. I 
think we should set to work with the conscious purpose of making 
the party as broad as the militant left wing in the trade unions 

120 Early Years of American Communism 

and identical with it. The party should not be always a small 
nucleus within the left wing but it should aim to become, in time, 
the left wing itself. 

Is there anything startling in this proposal? There shouldn't 
be. In almost every other country the situation which I have set 
up as a goal to strive toward has already been reached. The Com- 
munist Party, being the only revolutionary party, has quite natu- 
rally become the undisputed leader of the revolutionary left wing 
in the world labor movement. Everywhere, except America. Here 
the party was so small, so obscure, so unequal to its task, that the 
leadership of the left wing passed over to a non-partisan body. We 
must admit that this non-partisan body has done a very good job 
so far, with our help. But he who is satisfied for the party to be a 
helper in a big enterprise doesn't think much of the party; and 
he forgets its historic mission, which is to be the leader of the 
majority of the working class through the revolution. We are far 
from that now. Long before we reach that point we must prove 
that we are able, as a party, to lead the revolutionary minority in 
the trade unions. The party can fill this more modest role only on 
one condition: that the party grows much bigger, broader, and 
more realistic and practical in its work. 

During the six months I was in Moscow I studied the tactics of 
the International on this point with special interest because I 
already had the opinion that our party was much smaller and 
narrower than it needed to be and that the fault lay, partly, with 
our own conceptions. That opinion was strengthened and con- 
firmed by what I learned there. The expression "mass party," 
which the great leaders never tire of hammering into the young 
Communist parties, means what the words say. The Communist 
Party must not only aim to be the leader of a mass movement; it 
must itself be a mass movement. 

It is a great mistake to think that all the parties in the Comin- 
tern are already thoroughly Communist in their activity as well as 
in their programs. I had a pretty good chance to see them as they 
really are — the actions of one or more of them were being con- 
stantly considered by the Executive Committee — and I came to 
the conclusion that there are few which are "purer" in the doctri- 
nary sense than our own. There is no group in our whole party 
that ever went so far to the right as the center of the French 

What Kind of Party? 121 

party, which represented at that time a majority of the members, 
or the ruling faction of the Norwegian party. Yet the International 
did not start a "centrist" hunt. They demanded the exclusion 
only of those individuals who were clearly anti-Communist — 
bourgeois agents in our ranks. They dealt very patiently and 
carefully with those who, while far from being thoroughgoing 
Communists, showed the will to move in the right direction. The 
International tried in every way to hold on to those who, as 
Zinoviev said, "want to be Communists." 

The meaning and the purpose of this strategy became very 
clear to me. The leaders of the Comintern start out with the idea 
that we must get large masses of workers into our party and 
still larger masses to follow its leadership. That is the main idea 
behind all of their maneuvers and they never lose sight of it. We 
must have the masses, so they reason; otherwise we are bound to 
lose, no matter how good our intentions. We must break ever- 
larger numbers from the influence of the reformists and the 
bourgeoisie and get them under our influence. And we must swell 
the membership of the party; make it a "mass party." That is the 
sine qua non, the condition without which the victory of the pro- 
letariat is impossible. 

Germany is a smaller country than the United States and the 
struggle for power there will certainly be no harder than here. Yet 
the German Communist Party, with its 250,000 members, is not 
yet large enough or influential enough for the task. Zinoviev 
suggested to the German comrades the slogan of "A million 
members for the party!" Those who have the small party idea in 
America might very profitably reflect on this. 

We hear it stated often, in support of the small party theory, 
that the Bolsheviks of Russia had but ten thousand members 
"at the time of the revolution." This is true — if you mean the 
Kerensky revolution, which put the bourgeoisie in the saddle. But 
during that same speech where he suggested the slogan to the 
German party, Zinoviev pointed out that the Bolshevik Party had 
a quarter of a million members at the time it led the struggle for 
power in October. Of course, he made it clear that the influence 
of the party is not measured exactly by its size. The fundamental 
requirement is the support of a majority of the working class. 
The German party may accomplish this with less than a million 

122 Early Years of American Communism 

members, but it will be more apt to accomplish it with them. 

It is claimed that there is danger in a conscious effort to 
broaden the party, a search for large numbers of new members 
quickly, and an adaptation of the party's tactics to facilitate this 
end. These questions are asked: "If we run after members will not 
centrists, even opportunists, find their way into the party? Is there 
not danger that our doctrine will be diluted and the party lose its 
firm Communist character?" 

To the first question we must frankly answer, yes. As the party 
broadens itself it will undoubtedly attract some elements who 
cannot be assimilated and whom we will eventually have to dis- 
card. But we will easily cope with that danger if we have confi- 
dence in ourselves. A healthy body does not avoid disease germs; 
it throws them off. Besides, that danger is only incidental; it is one 
of many that we cannot possibly avoid if we are going to be a 
serious party playing a serious part in the class struggle. The real 
danger before the American movement at the present time is that 
we may allow it to remain small and doctrinaire — a little clique of 
personal friends and partisans, running no risks because it is 
afraid of them. 

The second danger, that our own doctrine will be diluted, we 
need not fear at all. Communist principles and tactics, as taught 
by the great leaders, are made of the stuff of life: they live and 
thrive on contact with reality. They have no meaning except as 
they are put to constant use and to every test. Communist princi- 
ples are living things. They have no significance standing alone. 
They are made to mix with the mass labor movement and from 
that mixture fruitful issue comes. If vou believe in the principles 
and tactics of Communism, put them to work! Give them a real 
chance to show how strong they are. The result will be, not to 
weaken and dilute the partv, but to build and strengthen it and 
clarify its purpose and multiply our own faith and confidence a 
thousand times. The movement to broaden the party, in its mem- 
bership and its activities, is not a departure from Communist prin- 
ciples and tactics. On the contrary, it is based on the desire to 
really begin to apply them in America. 

Broaden the party! — that is our slogan. It represents in a 
word the will of those who are dissatisfied with the present, but 
who are filled with confidence for the future. We believe that our 

What Kind of Party? 123 

party, after four years of experience and with the help of the 
International, is finding the right road. That road leads to a big- 
ger and broader party, working and fighting realistically in the 
heat of the daily struggle, and extending its influence over an 
ever-widening circle of conscious workers. This is not merely a 
pious aspiration on our part. The conditions for the making of 
the kind of a party we want are already at hand. The conditions 
are at hand for the making of such a party within a comparatively 
short time. We cannot fail unless we ourselves fail to understand 
what it is we have to do. 

Don't Pack the July 3 Conference 

25 May 1923 

In the spring of 1923 the Workers Party joined with the Farmer-Labor 
Party, led by Chicago Federation of Labor leader John Fitzpatrick, in 
organizing a convention for a nationwide party of xuorkers and farmers 
to be held 3 July 1923 in Chicago. When Cannon passed through Chi- 
cago on his speaking tour, the local Workers Party leaders told him of 
their fears that the policies of the national party leadership were inex- 
orably leading to a break with the Fitzpatrick forces. In response Cannon 
addressed the following letter to Workers Party national secretary C.F. 
Ruthenberg in Neiu York. 

Dear Comrade: 

We sent you a wire today regarding the question of party 
delegations to the forthcoming conference here. We have also 
noted the elaborate preparations for big delegations from the 
party local units and fraternal organizations to this affair. We 
think it is absolutely necessary to come to some understanding as 
to what we are trying to do and this cannot be done without 
knowing the developments in the situation from day to day. 

As you have very probably been informed by comrade Love- 
stone, we had an informal discussion the other day with the other 
people here. He surely must have impressed you with the danger 
of our making serious errors if we are not careful. 

The refusal of the Socialist Party to accept the invitation to 
participate has created quite a serious situation which perhaps is 
felt much more strongly here by those in touch with the other 
people than it is by you comrades in New York. Everyone here is 
of the opinion that the greatest tact and caution is necessary by 
our party to avoid giving the enemies of the conference an oppor- 
tunity to brand it as a Workers Party affair. This will have the 
effect of blowing it up entirely. 

I am under some difficulty in writing to you on the question 


Don't Pack Conference 125 

because I have received absolutely no informalion about the com- 
mittee's discussions and decisions on this whole question, and do 
not know just what your point of view is about the conference 
except as it is reflected in the apparent effort to get a big party 
delegation. In this respect all the active comrades here including 
myself hold an absolutely contrary opinion. What is it we expect 
this conference to do? Do we look upon this conference as an 
opportunity for a big public forum for the advertisement of the 
Workers Party wherein we will have a hard struggle with the other 
elements in it? If that is the case, of course, we are working chiefly 
for party advantage and advertisement at the conference itself. 
Then we want to pack in as many delegates as we can possibly 
muster up. But that is not our view of the conference. We think 
the chief significance of this conference consists in the possibility 
of laying there the basis for the organized drive towards a labor 
party and our party cooperating in it as an integral unit from the 
start. The thing that we want is the launching of an organization 
campaign in the trade unions towards the center which is created 
by that conference. 

Having already gained the right for our party to participate in 
the conference, the next question we have to consider is the sin- 
gle one of how we can best act to make the conference a success 
and to give its enemies as few weapons as possible when it gets 
under way. 

It seems quite obvious to us that the failure of the SP to 
accept the situation has a meaning which we cannot fail to take 
into account. It is certainly not far-fetched to assume that with the 
SP out of it, Gompers will feel free to attack the conference as a 
red proposition and try to scare all of the conservative elements 
away from it. If we flood the conference with Workers Party dele- 
gates, we simply lay the conference open to such a successful 
attack and thereby defeat ourselves by defeating the conference; 
and it will be no consolation to us that we had a lot of strength at 
the conference and got a lot of newspaper publicity. 

We are not the only ones that see the tremendous dynamic 
possibilities of this conference, you can be sure. It would be a 
tragedy indeed if through our overzeal in the matter, we give a 
weapon into the hands of the enemies of the labor party. The 
whole situation is so tense and will be so much affected by the 

126 Early Years of American Communism 

turn of every event between now and the time of the conference 
that we think it is absolutely impossible for our party to steer the 
right course and avoid costly mistakes unless it has authorized 
representatives here on the ground in daily touch with the situa- 
tion, so that the decisions made by our committee in all matters 
pertaining to the conference from now on be based on a very 
close knowledge of the actual situation and in agreement with 
those who are cooperating with us for the main purpose of 
the conference. A subcommittee located in Chicago should be 
appointed at once to keep in consultation with the other parties 
to the enterprise. I suggest for this committee comrades Browder, 
Swabeck and Krumbein. If it is possible to send one or more from 
New York to serve on this committee, so much the better. 

In fact, I think the Political Committee of the party should by 
all means try to find a way to come to Chicago and sit here while 
all these delicate questions are being handled from day to day. 

We all here feel the tenseness and importance of the situation 
and await the reply of the CEC to this communication with the 
greatest anxiety. 

Fraternally yours, 
James P. Cannon 

Another point. It can safely be assumed that a number of Inter- 
nationals and other labor organizations which come to the confer- 
ence will not commit themselves there. That is another reason for 
not giving the conference too much of a WP color. This letter has 
been shown to Swabeck, Browder, Krumbein and others and is 
endorsed by them. Please send the answer to Swabeck and a car- 
bon copy to me on the road. 

The Workers Party Today — And Tomorrow 

Published 25 August-22 September 1923 

The following five-part series by Cannon xvas published in the party 's 
weekly journal, The Worker. The articles marked the opening salvo 
in Cannon's struggle against Comintern "representative" John Pepper, 
whose policies had led to the disastrous break with John Fitzpatrick 's 
"progressive" forces at the July 3 Chicago convention. The Federated 
Farmer-Labor Party formed by Workers Party supporters at that conven- 
tion obtained little in the xuay of independent trade-union support. 

Part I. Some Aspects of the Labor Party Campaign 

The struggle for a labor party in America is still in its infancy, 
and so is the career of the Communists. Both, however, have 
progressed to the point where lessons may be drawn from the 
tactics employed; and this is one of the chief gains of both. It was 
nobody's theory, but the decree of history, that these two develop- 
ments — the beginning of the organized fight for the labor party, 
and the appearance of the Communist Party in the open arena of 
the class struggle — should take shape simultaneously. And it 
requires no prophet to say that the two will be henceforth inter- 
locked. The question of the labor party cannot be considered 
separately from the role of the Communist Party in it any more 
than the Communist Party can be considered independently of 
the labor party. 

The recognition that the awakening to class consciousness of 
the American workers would be reflected in the movement toward 
a labor party marked a decisive turning point in the life of the 
Workers Party as well as in the struggle for a labor party. 

As soon as we saw that our fate as a Communist nucleus was 
indissolubly bound up with that of the broader movement of 
conscious and semi-conscious workers for political expression, the 


128 Early Years of American Communism 

revolutionary changes in our conceptions and activities began. 
Consciousness on the part of the party leaders initiated these 
changes, but necessity was the driving force. The very nature of 
the demands made upon the party compelled it to bend and 
shape itself to the requirements of the new task. Sectarian concep- 
tions could not live in this atmosphere. 

And if our participation in the broader movement has exerted 
a powerful influence on our own party, no less can be said of the 
labor party itself. The Chicago conference, which, as comrade 
Pepper truly said, was "not the end, but rather the beginning of 
the formation of a genuine labor party," reflected the deep 
impression already made by the Communists. The genuine labor 
party — that is, the party formed and supported by the organized 
masses — lies in the future. There will be much propaganda, many 
conferences and a long, hard struggle before it is a reality. But 
the Chicago conference threw a searchlight on the road that leads 
toward it. 

It showed that the movement for a labor party has reached a 
new stage since the Communists have acquired an influence in it. 
An organized form and a militant character — this is what the 
Communists are giving to the labor party movement. The labor 
party is no longer an issue to play with, a means of recording 
one's sentiments and marking time. At Chicago the Communists 
showed that they intend to go forward with the fight for the labor 
party regardless of who drops by the wayside, and the rank and 
file delegates there, who really want the labor party, showed that 
they will go with those who lead the fight for it, even at the risk of 
being called Bolsheviks. 

Before Chicago we said the movement for a labor party would 
get no help from the reactionary leaders, but that it inevitably 
takes the form of a struggle against them. After Chicago we can 
also say that even many "progressive" officials, who have been 
"standing" for the labor party, are not willing now to make a 
serious fight for it, and that for the present, if we want to remain 
true to the labor party, we must go ahead without them. The 
Chicago conference brought out clearly, and emphasized more 
than ever, the essential rank and file character of the present 
stage of the labor party campaign, and, therefore, enlarged the 
role of the Communists. 

The Party Today and Tomorrow 129 

The attack on the rank and file conference at Chicago 
showed that the reactionaries will fight any serious move toward a 
labor party so fiercely, and draw the line so sharply, that there will 
be no middle ground to stand on. All those who want to be 
friends with the reactionary officials will have to take their stand 
against the labor party and against the rank and file workers. And 
those who want the labor party will have to fight with the rank 
and file against the present leaders. The "friends" of the labor 
party and the advocates of nebulous "independent political 
action" will be rejected by the rank and file, as they were at Chi- 
cago, and by the reactionaries, as they were at Albany. 1 The labor 
party issue is rapidly dividing the entire labor movement into two 
distinct camps for the greatest battle in American labor history. 

The left wing, i.e., the class-conscious elements of the rank 
and file, versus the reactionary officialdom — that is the lineup. 
The very idea of the appearance of the working class as an 
independent party in the political arena implies a certain degree 
of class consciousness. And for that very reason class conscious- 
ness is the only sound basis upon which the genuine labor party 
can be built or the present struggle for it organized. There is 
plenty of evidence already to prove that the size and strength and 
stability of the labor party movement is equal to the size and 
strength of the militant left wing. And from this evidence we draw 
the conclusion that the organization of the labor party must begin 
with the organization of the left wing into a separate political 

The workers of America have made many attempts in many 
places at independent political action, and, while this experience 
has not been uniform, it shows in every case that such action has 
no stability unless it is led by an organized body of class-conscious 
workers. Any other condition results in a mushroom growth 
which only lives for a day. 

Labor parties formed with the hope of quick political success 
begin to disintegrate with the first failure. Most of the state units 
of the old Farmer- Labor Party collapsed after the first campaign. 

1 A reference to a meeting of the Conference for Progressive Political Action held 
in late July in Alhany, New York. The railroad union leaders walked out of the 
conference rather than countenance any talk of independent political action. 

130 Early Years of American Communism 

Where they lived longer and made a stubborn effort to keep in 
the field it was invariably due to their control by a body of mili- 
tant workers who were committed to the labor party as a princi- 
ple. The state of Washington provides the classic illustration of 
both these points. 

The Farmer-Labor Party in this state has been organized for 
several years and has weathered several campaigns, local, state 
and national. At one time it had the backing of the whole labor 
movement of the state, but failure to win in its first election soon 
deflated the movement to its natural size. Pressure from Gompers 
on the one hand, and overtures from the capitalist parties on 
the other, soon brought about the defection of the state labor 
machine. In its later campaigns the party was supported only by 
the most advanced local unions and the organizations of the poor 
and exploited farmers, the conservative unions and the organiza- 
tions of well-to-do farmers having withdrawn their support. There 
the movement crystallized into a stable minority party of the left 
wing of the farmers and city workers. 

It will gain the official support of the labor movement again 
only when the class-conscious elements become dominant or gain 
sufficient strength to force the leaders into line. The leaders of 
this party are not Communists, but they have learned by their own 
experience that the labor party has to fight for its life, not with 
the conservative leaders but against them. That is why, when the 
showdown came at Chicago, they did not hesitate for one minute 
to break with the old leaders to go with the new ones who stood 
for militant struggle. 

Those who form their theories about the labor party from 
British experience overlook the fact that America has already 
accumulated some experience, such as this cited here, and that 
this American experience is vastly different from the British. We 
are much more "American" than the Socialists and "progres- 
sives" who attack us for "taking orders from Russia," because we 
base our policy on an analysis of the struggle in America, and on 
deductions drawn from concrete American experience. 

We are bound to the labor party by principle and, while we 
have not sought to control it, our duty will not allow us to shirk 
the responsibility of leadership, when other leaders retreat. But 
this puts upon us the double responsibility to watch carefully 

The Party Today and Tomorrow 131 

where we are going. It is necessary to rouse the enthusiasm of all 
our party members and sympathizers for an aggressive and mili- 
tant campaign for the labor party; but it is also important not to 
let our enthusiasm lead us to overestimate the rate of radical 
development, and rush into premature actions. And we must 
guard against the danger of isolation, and take special care that 
the semi-conscious and honest progressive workers are not alien- 
ated from us by any fault of ours, by foolish mistakes, by what may 
appear to them as our own narrow party interests, or by over- 
anxiety for quick results. 

The interests of the Workers Party are identical with the inter- 
ests of the wider circle of radical workers who are seeking for 
expression through the labor party. Unless our party plays an 
active part in the labor party movement, it is bound to wither into 
a futile sect, and the developing class struggle will pass it by. And 
those overzealous "friends" of the labor party who are willing to 
subordinate the Workers Party, or eliminate it entirely, would rob 
the labor party of an element indispensable to its life and growth. 
The presence of the disciplined body of Communists within the 
labor party is the one and only guarantee that it will not be killed 
by its savage enemies from without, or sabotaged and betrayed by 
its unreliable friends within. The labor party will have a stable and 
healthy growth from now on only to the extent that it becomes 
organized, develops a militant character, and carries on an un- 
compromising struggle against the capitalist parties and their 
agents in the labor movement. The Communists will assist the 
labor party to follow this line. 

The weakness and lack of aggressiveness of some of the ele- 
ments who have hitherto played an important part in the labor 
party imposes a double task upon the Communists. We are 
obliged by the new developments to take a much larger share of 
responsibility in the labor party campaign, and to give more of 
our time and energy to it. And these increased duties and respon- 
sibilities demand that we build and strengthen the Workers Party, 
for our effectiveness in the broader movement is measured by the 
strength and discipline of our own independent party of Commu- 
nism. The campaign we are now starting to increase the member- 
ship of the Workers Party is one of the most important immediate 
steps in the struggle for the labor party. 

132 Early Years of American Communism 

Part II. A Look at the New Movement 

After I returned from Moscow I started out on a cross-country 
speaking tour with two questions uppermost in my mind. They 
were: first, how quickly will the party be able to assimilate the 
decisions of the Fourth Congress, and, second, how soon will the 
results begin to manifest themselves? 

My propaganda tour lasted nearly five months and took me to 
every section of the country where we have party connections. I 
had been pretty familiar with the party since it was organized in 
1919, as well as with the socialist and syndicalist movements from 
which it sprang. Then the six months I spent on the Executive 
Committee of the Communist International, where the problems 
of the various affiliated parties were dealt with almost daily, 
enabled me to get a clearer understanding of what the great 
leaders mean by the term Communist party. I was, therefore, able 
to look at the party today, in comparison with the party in its first 
three years, and with the older movements which preceded it; and 
also to form an opinion as to the progress we are making towards 
becoming a genuine Communist party. 

First of all, on the basis of what I saw and learned on the long 
trip, I have no hesitancy in saying that, in all respects, we are 
making great headway. And with equal certainty the reasons for it 
can be stated: the advice of the Communist International, and the 
increased activity in party affairs, and influence on party policies, 
of a number of experienced and practical trade union men. 

Anyone who knew the real condition of the party only a year 
ago cannot but regard the progress as phenomenal. From all 
standpoints we are in better shape than ever before: the party 
has stronger discipline, closer unity, more homogeneity, wider 
influence and more of the characteristics of a real Communist 

But when I make these statements, it must be understood that 
I am speaking comparatively. I have in mind the fact that the life 
of the American Communist movement, for the first three years, 
was mainly an internal one, poisoned with sectarian dogmas and 
paralyzed by factional disputes. I do not mean to say that we have 
capitalism by the throat, or that our party has become the leader 

The Party Today and Tomorrow 133 

of a big proletarian mass movement. To expect this of a party that 
is just finding its legs, and of a class that is showing only faint 
signs of awakening to class consciousness, would be to expect a 
miracle. And Communists, by official decision of the Enlarged 
Executive, are not allowed to believe in miracles. 

The real progress the party has made, especially during the 
past year, is indicated principally by the nature of its activity. The 
main activity of the party today is external, not internal. From a 
small sect of abstract theory and routine propaganda it is striving 
to become a party of campaigns and actions over concrete issues, 
and it is doing this without falling into the theoretical errors, 
confusion and opportunism which wrecked the older movements 
in America when they tried to broaden the scope of their work. 

These changes in the character of the party, more than the 
increased amount of influence it has gained, represent the ad- 
vancement it has made. The class struggle is not a slot machine 
which automatically returns a package of influence for the first 
penny of real, practical effort we insert into it. The results are 
sure, nevertheless, and we need not worry if the party has not 
become popular overnight. Such a party as we are striving to 
become will inevitably extend its prestige by leaps and bounds. Of 
this we can be confident. 

A year ago we could all say that sectarianism was our greatest 
danger. Now it is quite clear that we are overcoming that trouble, 
and doing it much more rapidly and with less internal travail than 
the most optimistic amongst us hoped. We have taken deeply to 
heart the advice of the International, and are trying with all our 
zeal and energy to become a body of realistic fighters in the daily 
struggle, without forgetting for one minute the revolutionary aims 
of the movement. The whole party has learned, in theory at least, 
that revolutionary work in America today is daily work, the work 
of leading the fight for regeneration of the labor movement and 
raising the level of working class consciousness, of carrying the 
war to the capitalists and their labor lieutenants on questions 
which press hard against the workers today. 

We are at the very beginning of this work and, taking into 
account the present stage of the class struggle in America, we can 
see, surely, that many years of pioneer work are ahead of us. For 

134 Early Years of American Communism 

that reason we ought to carefully study the situation and the part 
we are playing in it. A constant and fearless self-criticism is the 
only thing that will prevent the little mistakes that inevitably 
occur in the daily work from growing into big ones. Thoughtless 
mistakes are a luxury which a revolutionary party cannot well 

Our campaigns for amalgamation and the labor party have 
deeply stirred the trade unions, without a doubt, and have already 
produced a number of results which should be noted. We have to 
face the fact that the expected increase in party membership has 
not yet materialized; but, in the real sense of the word, the party 
has grown. We have succeeded, through these campaigns, in 
drawing into the party quite a number of well-connected trade 
unionists. These elements are like nuggets of gold to the party. If 
we had nothing else to mark up to the credit side of these cam- 
paigns we would be repaid a thousandfold for the energy we put 
into them. 

In several localities our party has been able to set the whole 
labor movement in motion through the instrumentality of a few 
of these strategically situated individuals. Lenin, in one of his 
books, speaks very warmly of the "eminent workingmen" who, in 
the days of blackest reaction in Russia, got themselves so situated 
that, in spite of all difficulties and obstacles, they could carry out 
the party's work in the labor organizations. The dynamic possibili- 
ties of a party made up principally of such elements, and armed 
with the tactics of Leninism, staggers the imagination. That would 
be a real Bolshevik party! 

Besides drawing a number of these workers directly into the 
party, we have also succeeded in organizing around us a much 
wider body of sympathizing workers than we ever had before. But 
it must be admitted that our propaganda and agitation has run far 
ahead of our organization. Many of our well-aimed bullets turn 
out to be blank cartridges for this reason. With such a small party 
we are only able to fight successfully if a much larger body of sym- 
pathizing workers stands with us. When we get too far ahead we 
run into trouble. Many of the fights which appear to be very spec- 
tacular have more smoke than fire, as far as we are concerned. 

Organized opposition confronts us all along the line. The 

The Party Today and Tomorrow 135 

fights we have started in several of the big unions, and especially 
the formidable showing of our party at the Chicago Farmer-Labor 
conference, have greatly alarmed our old enemies, and united 
them with some new ones against us. In one way this can be taken 
as a proof that we are active and that the reactionaries fear us. 

The united front against the capitalists is still a propaganda 
slogan; but the united front against the Communists is a reality. 
We seem to be organizing our enemies faster than we are organiz- 
ing our friends. 

An old sickness of the American party — a psychological one — 
is not yet completely cured. That is the tendency to get unduly 
excited, to overestimate the radical development, and plunge into 
premature actions which bring disastrous defeats and paralyzing 
reactions in our own ranks. 

We have progressed earthward during the past year, but we 
are still too much up in the air. We still throw more bluffs and 
make more noise than our strength warrants. This would not mat- 
ter if we were not the ones who suffer by it. Many times during 
the past year delicate situations which might have been matured 
by quiet work have been shot to pieces by too much advertise- 
ment and boasting of our intentions. Lincoln's story of the river 
steamboat is not a bad one to remember. This boat had a small 
engine which could not generate enough power to move the boat 
and blow the whistle at the same time. Our engine is not very 
large either. 

An aggressive, fighting policy is, of course, the breath of life 
to a party such as ours. And in our general propaganda our 
demands should not be modest ones. We can be as bold as the 
"SLP" in this respect and demand "the unconditional surrender 
of the capitalist class." But when we take up specific fights on 
concrete questions of the day, and raise slogans of action in 
regard to them, we have to take into account the relative strength 
of our forces with those of our enemies, and endeavor to regulate 
the tempo of our campaign somewhat by the rate at which the 
struggle is naturally developing. 

When we fail to do this, we overstimulate the movement, run 
away ahead of our own sympathizers and bring the issue to a head 
prematurely. Then we suffer from the consequent reaction, and 

136 Early Years of American Communism 

the isolation of our comrades who, in such cases, often have to 
hunt for cover and keep still for a while in order to regain their 

Outside of the defects noted here which, after all, are the 
result mainly of the busy life we have been living, and the lack 
of time for self-examination, there is very little to find fault with 
in the party. It is on the right road, its general line of tactics is 
correct, and it has excellent prospects for healthy growth. If we 
cannot find the grounds for the optimistic hope expressed by 
comrade Zinoviev in his letter that "In the near future the 
Workers Party will mature to one of the truly Communist mass 
parties of the world," we can say, confidently, that the party is 
going forward at a good rate of speed, and that it will give a good 
account of itself in the next year. 

Part III. The United Front Against the Communists 

The united front is a very good slogan, and everybody nowa- 
days seems to be in favor of it. Our united front slogan has been 
such a good success that our enemies have adopted it, with an 
amendment of their own. Those who are unwilling to make a 
united front against the capitalists are making a united front 
against the Communists. 

Look at them: Farrington and Lewis, after calling each other 
crooks and grafters and proving it, unite to fight the "Reds," 
while indictments against our active comrades in Pennsylvania 
dovetail neatly into their plans. The Socialist Party makes peace 
with Gompers and war on us. The "progressive" leaders of the 
old Farmer-Labor Party take up the fight against us with Gom- 
pers' slogans of "Red," "Force and Violence," etc. While these 
big dogs spring at our throat the little ones snap at our heels, the 
Socialist Labor Party, Proletarian Party, etc. 

We were never short of enemies. Quite a number of "progres- 
sives" have been in a sort of coalition with us. Now even some of 
these are joining in an effort to isolate us. An analysis of the 
make-up of the American labor movement, however, will show 
that this situation is not a permanent crystallization, and that it is 
possible, by using the right tactics in the developing class struggle, 
to break up the present anti-Communist front and bring about 

The Party Today and Tomorrow 137 

realignments of various kinds which will advance the movement as 
a whole and strengthen our position in it. 

No European Analogy 

The American movement has no counterpart anywhere else 
in the world, and any attempt to meet its problems by the simple 
process of finding a European analogy will not succeed. The 
key to the American problem can be found only in a thorough 
examination of the peculiar American situation. Our Marxian 
outlook, confirmed by the history of the movement in Europe, 
provides us with some general principles to go by, but there is no 
pattern, made to order from European experience, that fits Amer- 
ica today. 

In all the European countries the workers movement has 
matured to class consciousness and is committed, in theory, to 
socialism. The working class is organized politically and does not 
support the capitalist parties. The three factions of the movement, 
right, center and left, each have a political party organization, all 
of which are professedly anti-capitalist. 

How different is the situation in America. Here the dominat- 
ing element in the labor movement defends the capitalist system 
in theory as well as in practice, and the great body of workers still 
support the capitalist parties. The immaturity of the American 
working class is nowhere more clearly revealed than in the fact 
that only a minority support the labor party. A working class with- 
out a party of its own is an infant that has not yet celebrated its 
first birthday. 

Beside the Communists, who, of course, are an organized 
party with a clearly defined revolutionary program, four other 
elements make up the American labor movement; and all four of 
them are now centering their chief opposition on the Commu- 
nists. These four elements are: 1) the right wing bureaucracy; 
2) the Socialists; 3) the revolutionary sects; 4) the "progressives." 

The Right Wing 

The right wing, the ruling bureaucracy, is by all standards the 
most reactionary in the world. Its philosophy is capitalistic, not 
socialistic as is the case in the European countries. It is organized 
and has a definite program of systematic opposition to all radical 

138 Early Years of American Communism 

proposals. It rights all progress under the very same slogans used 
by the capitalistic press. 

Gompers denounces the Trade Union Educational League on 
patriotic grounds, and accuses the Communists of wanting to 
overthrow the United States government, with the same moral 
indignation that inspires a prosecuting attorney who speaks 
against us in court. Lewis, of the miners union, goes one step 
farther in defense of capitalist institutions. He crosses the 
Canadian border and expels the Nova Scotia miners, one of his 
charges against them being that they went on strike to under- 
mine the "constituted authorities" in Canada. His devotion to 
capitalism is not confined within the narrow limits of national 

The leaders of the labor movement lean so far backward in 
support of the profit system that many politicians in the capitalist 
parties appear to be revolutionaries in comparison with them. 
Senator Wheeler, of Montana, made the statement that "the 
bankers in Montana are more radical than the labor leaders in 
Washington." These bureaucrats are our natural enemies. They 
belong in the united front against us. 

No Peace with Socialist Party 

The Socialists are also an organized party with a definite pro- 
gram of reformism. Fortunately for the working class it is a small 
party with a dwindling influence, and its miserable role is not 
an important one. It crawls before the black reactionaries, but 
against the left wing it is militant and venomous. War to the 
knife is the only attitude a revolutionary party can have toward 
it. We fight the reformist Socialist Party because we know from 
the bitter experience of the European workers that reformism is 
poison to the labor movement. 

If we can prevent such a party from ever getting a grip in 
America it is quite possible that the working class will be able to 
cross the bridge to revolutionary understanding much quicker 
and less painfully than the workers of Europe have done. There is 
no possibility of peace between the Communist left wing and the 
Socialist Party unless it completely changes its present character 
and attitude. There is no sign of this, so we can say that it also has 
its proper place in the united front against us. 

We need not devote much time here to the third factor enu- 

The Party Today and Tomorrow 139 

merated above: the little, voluble, chattering sects of revolutionary 
phrasemongers who take no real part in the struggle, and whose 
energy is expended in snapping and barking at our heels. The 
struggle will dispose of them. It will sweep into the ranks of the 
fighting party all of them who honestly want to fight against capi- 
talism. As for the others, to whom super-radical phrases are 
merely a cloak to hide behind, they have already shown that in 
action they are against us. 

The "Progressives" 

The fourth element — the so-called "progressives" — is one 
that, like the right wing, is peculiar to America. Altogether it 
makes up a considerable section of the movement, a vague, indef- 
inite, unorganized group shuffling back and forth between the 
organized militant right and the organized militant left. They are 
the American "centrists"; but for several reasons they cannot be 
dealt with precisely according to the formula which the Commu- 
nists use in dealing with the centrists in Europe. 

They are not nearly so definite a grouping nor so highly 
developed politically as the classic centrists of the international 
movement. For one thing, they have practically no organization, 
no systematic and consistent political philosophy, and they have 
no recognized, authoritative leaders of the highly trained, profes- 
sional European type. They do not represent a crystallized move- 
ment, but a hazy sentiment which, speaking in terms of America, 
where anything resembling a class viewpoint is progress, is really 

This "progressive" element is already quite large, and it is 
growing. It has not yet acquired sufficient consciousness to 
develop an organized form; that is why it is so uncertain, inconsis- 
tent and non-militant in action. But at bottom it is a revolt against 
Gompersism. This is plainly indicated by its general support of 
such proposals as the labor party, amalgamation, recognition of 
Soviet Russia, etc., wherever it is not called upon to fight too hard 
for them. 

Present Alignment Only Temporary 

Up until recently most of these progressives were going along 
in a rather loose alliance with us in support of these measures. 
At the Chicago conference, and in some localities before the 

140 Early Years of American Communism 

Chicago conference, through no fault of ours in a single case, a 
number of these "progressives" broke away from this alliance and 
joined the united front against us. But I do not think the bulk of 
them naturally belong there, or that we should take it for granted 
they will stay. 

The rapidly developing class struggle will not permit any 
elements which stand for progress to stay united with the dead 
reaction of the Gompers regime. The "progressives" cannot do it 
without repudiating all the things they have been standing for 
up till now. Some of the leaders may be willing to do this, but 
the progressive movement cannot so easily change its character 

It is more a drifting movement than a conscious one, and the 
intensifying struggle accelerates the drift toward the left, not 
toward the right. This situation offers tremendous possibilities for 
the Workers Party, and it should certainly be a part of our strategy 
in the labor movement to look forward to the possibility of a 
rapprochement with the "progressives," at least with those who 
have not consciouslv betrayed the movement and gone over to 

In next week's article I will undertake to analyze the "pro- 
gressive" movement, and the reasons which brought about the 
break between some of the leaders and the Communist left wing, 
and, also, to set forth what, in my opinion, our tactics toward 
them should be in the future. 

Part IV. The Workers Party and the Progressives 

Why did some progressives break with us, and what does it 
signify? This is an important question for us because it has a vital 
bearing on our future strategy in the labor movement. It affects 
our fight for the labor party, for amalgamation and, most of all, 
for the recognition of our party as an integral part of the labor 
movement. In order to find the answer we have to analyze the 
progressive movement, and if we analyze it correctly we should 
have little difficulty in arriving at the proper attitude toward it. 

The great mass of the awakening workers whom we classify 
under the heading of "progressives" — those who have broken 
away from the ruling bureaucracy and who have not yet joined 

The Party Today and Tomorroiv 141 

the left wing — are not under the control of an organized party. 
And it is precisely this situation that makes our task of strength- 
ening and extending the Communist influence immeasurably 
easier than that of our comrades in Europe, who are confronted 
at every turn by the opposition of powerful Socialist parties. 

It is our good fortune to have already created a clearly 
defined, if small, Communist party which is operating in an inten- 
sifying class struggle with a politically undeveloped, but rapidly 
fermenting labor movement. These features of the American 
situation give the Communists their supreme opportunity. By 
following the right line of strategy, correctly appraising the other 
elements and adopting the correct attitude toward them, our 
party can drive forward with the speed of a locomotive. 

Defining the Progressives 

In order to talk about the other elements in the movement 
we must first define and label them. The word "progressives" is 
both a definition and a label for those with whom we are princi- 
pally concerned in this article. We cannot speak of them in any of 
the classic terms of the class struggle, because they are only partly 
class-conscious. From the standpoint of the international proletar- 
ian movement they are neither right, left nor center. They are not 
Socialists, Communists, centrists, anarchists, or syndicalists. They 
are — progressives. 

This is a very vague word, it is true; but the section of the 
American labor movement it describes is, as yet, very hazy in its 
outlook, and its composition is a hodgepodge. It is altogether too 
loose and indefinite a body to be spoken of in precise socialist 
terminology. And that is the crux of the question. 

Progressivism is a revolt against Gompersism that has not yet 
developed a systematic philosophy or an organized form. It is not 
as yet a conscious movement and it does not show a uniform 
development in all parts of the country, and in all the Interna- 
tional unions. The administration of the Amalgamated Clothing 
Workers is not the same thing as the administration of the Seattle 
Central Labor Union. There is some difference between Fitz- 
patrick of Chicago and Cramer of Minneapolis. The Detroit Fed- 
eration of Labor is not the West Virginia Federation of Labor. But 
all of them, and the hundreds of thousands of workers whom they 

142 Early Years of American Communism 

represent and typify, have certain things in common: they are not 
a part of the Gompers machine, they are not Socialists, and they 
are not Communists. 

For several years this progressive movement has been drift- 
ing comfortably along, putting itself more or less formally on 
record for progressive measures, but creating no real disturbance 
in the labor movement. Gompers, the militant reactionary, had 
little difficulty in beating it back. It was not aggressive enough to 
cause any sharp collision anywhere. It was not submitted to any 
real tests and, for that reason, it was not easy to discover its real 

Their Uncomfortable Position 

But the rapid rise of the Workers Party, and the organization 
around it of the militant left wing, have introduced a new 7 and 
most dynamic factor into the situation. The progressives, who are 
disposed to move ahead slowly and peacefully, find themselves in 
a most uncomfortable position. Between the militant left wing, 
which tries to hurry them forward at a faster rate of speed, and 
the militant reactionaries, who launch fierce counterattacks in 
order to drive them back, the progressives have no more peace. 
Under this pressure from the left and right the progressive move- 
ment is revealing its true character quite clearly. 

The recent startling actions of different sections of this pro- 
gressive movement — the big step forward here, the panicky retreat 
there; the open support of the Michigan Communist cases at first, 
and the denunciation of them a few months later; the joint 
campaign with the Communists for the labor party before the 
Chicago conference, and the sudden, unprovoked break at the 
conference — all these inconsistent actions are nothing more nor 
less than the first reactions of the progressive movement to the 
war between the left and right wings in the labor movement, and 
the propaganda and pressure each side exerts upon it. That is the 
real meaning of these recent events. 

The progressives do not constitute a homogeneous body, and 
its lack of consciousness and organization robs it of militancy 
and certitude, rendering it very susceptible to propaganda and 
pressure from the right as well as from the left. Under pressure 
from the left it supports the amalgamation movement. Under 

The Party Today and Tomorrow 143 

counterpressure from the right it abandons even the labor party. 
It oscillates between the right and the left, and whenever it has a 
minute's peace it stops at its own position — mild support of the 
labor party and recognition of Soviet Russia, and still milder sup- 
port of amalgamation. 

Chicago Break No Accident 

What took place at Chicago was not an isolated, unexplain- 
able accident. The happenings at Chicago merely dramatized and 
gave prominence to a ferment in the ranks of the progressives 
which, prior to the Chicago conference, had unmistakably mani- 
fested itself in several localities where the struggle between the 
right and the left brought matters to an issue. 

If any of us were greatly surprised at what occurred at Chi- 
cago and elsewhere it was because we had overestimated the poli- 
tical consciousness and stability of the progressives, and expected 
too much of them. Such shakeups will serve a good purpose in 
the long run if they prompt us to make a more thorough exami- 
nation of the whole question and bring us to a better and clearer 
understanding of our own task in regard to it. These events will 
be worth whatever they cost if we do not deceive ourselves as to 
what really happened and what it signifies. 

At Chicago, when the crisis came, our program made the 
stronger appeal to the great majority of the convention delegates, 
including a big section even of the Farmer-Labor Party, and they 
came along with us. But that did not make them Communists. 
With others, the secret pressure of the Gompers machine and the 
fear of an open struggle with it were the dominating factors, and 
at the crucial moment they broke with us. But that single act does 
not make them reactionaries, even if, in stress of the occasion, for 
want of an argument to justify their acts, they turned on us with 
the stale accusations of Gompers, which, in turn, are only a varia- 
tion of the capitalists' indictments of those who challenge their 

An individual amongst them, here and there, may have 
already consciously decided to go back to Gompers. Even in these 
cases, however, we can well afford to wait for a consistent series of 
actions to remove all doubt, before we classify them as reaction- 
aries. Likewise there is a strong probability that some of them 

144 Early Years of American Communism 

have made up their minds to go all the way to the left. This also 
will have to wait for proof. There has been a shuffling of indivi- 
duals to the right and to the left, but the progressive movement, 
as a whole, remains practically the same as before the recent 
shakeups. Only the onward-driving class struggle, and the greater 
intensification of the war between the right and the left, will be 
able to substantially change its character. 

Our Attitude Toward Progressives 

The progressive movement remains practically the same as 
before, and our attitude toward it prior to Chicago, which was 
essentially correct, still holds good. But two points have to be 
especially emphasized now. First, we must continue to approach 
the progressives in a friendly and patient manner, and, second, 
we must exert all our energy to build the Communist left wing as 
an independent power. 

The progressives have shown themselves to be a confused and 
unreliable body, and for that reason we cannot count too much 
upon any alliance with them, not even as much as we did before 
Chicago. Our real ability to influence the labor movement 
depends, first of all, not on an alliance with the progressives, but 
on our independent power as a party. Not only that, but our 
ability to affect the course of the progressives, to give any mean- 
ing to an alliance with them, also depends upon it. 

Only where we have a strong party organization does the 
coalition with the progressives represent a real force. 

In such localities as Minneapolis we have had experience to 
show that the unity of the left wing and the progressives, where 
the left wing is not organized as an independent power, is a 
house of cards that collapses under the first volley from Gompers' 

The confusion and instability the progressive movement has 
revealed, which makes it doubly necessary for us to build our own 
party as an independent power, is also the reason why we cannot 
adopt a sharp or hostile attitude toward it. It cannot be put into 
the same category with the Socialist Party, which carries on a 
systematic ideological war against us. The progressive movement, 
in spite of its glaring defects, represents a sound, healthy, honest 
impulse of hundreds of thousands of workers. It offers great 

The Party Today and Tomorrow 145 

possibilities for us, and it must be our aim to effect an alliance 
between it and the left wing whenever it is possible, and by care- 
ful, patient and friendly work to lead the progressive workers to 
the platform of Communism. 

Part V. The Workers Party and Its Rivals 

In my recent trip across the country I made inquiries in every 
locality as to the strength and influence of the various radical 
parties which are rivals to the Workers Party. The information I 
obtained in this way, supplementing the knowledge we already 
have as to their national influence in comparison with that of our 
party, enabled me to get a clear view of the actual situation. It can 
be summed up by this statement, which, in my opinion, is unques- 
tionably true: the Workers Party is rapidly outstripping the whole 
field; it is going forward and its rivals are declining; in many 
places the other parties have become practically liquidated by the 
assimilation of their best elements into the Workers Party. The 
Workers Party is the only one that is showing any aggressiveness 
or driving power in the class struggle. It has already put itself at 
the head of militant rank and file movements locally as well as 
nationally. And these, of course, are the fundamental reasons why 
it is pushing its rivals to the wall. 

There are not many consciously radical workers in America 
but there are very many radical organizations. The whole radical 
labor movement of America looks pitifully small in comparison 
with most of the European countries, but we can challenge any 
country in the world to show a greater number of radical and 
revolutionary organizations, factions, sects and cliques. Except for 
the Proletarian Party, which is a sectarian split-off from the Com- 
munist movement, our party is the youngest in the field. We are 
only four years old as a party. The Socialist Party is 23, the Indus- 
trial Workers of the World is 18, and the Socialist Labor Party is a 
middle-aged lady who doesn't speak of her age anymore. The 
Proletarian Party, if we remember rightly, is three years old, but it 
is manifestly an abnormal child which sits listlessly in the library 
reading books which it doesn't understand, and suffers from lack 
of exercise. It doesn't seem to run and play enough to get the 
proper development. 

146 Early Years of American Communism 

These bodies are not much given to agreeing with anybody 
about anything, but they all agree with each other that the Work- 
ers Party is no good. They have a united front on that issue. 
Those who used to spend most of their energy fighting each 
other now center their main fire on us, and, strangely enough, 
they all use pretty much the same arguments and accusations. 

As a revolutionary party which aims to represent the entire 
class interests of the proletariat, our real fight is against the capi- 
talists and the capitalist government first, and next against the 
agents of the capitalists in the labor movement — the Gompers 
machine. But in marshaling the revolutionary workers for this 
fight against the class enemies of the proletariat we have to insist 
on sound revolutionary policies and principles; otherwise the fight 
would not be successful. These rival radical parties who espouse 
false doctrines have only a harmful effect on the movement. To 
the extent that they have influence they create divisions in the 
ranks of the class-conscious workers and introduce confusion into 
the struggle. This brings us into collision with them. Our fight 
against them is a fight against division and confusion. 

The Collapse of the Socialist Party 

I was especially struck by the obvious moral and organiza- 
tional collapse of the Socialist Party. The fight with it in New York 
City, where it is still entrenched in the needle trades unions and 
buttressed on a number of property institutions in its control, has 
a tendency to give us an astigmatic view of its real status. In the 
country at large it has practically ceased to exist as a vigorous 
rank and file movement. The young blood has left it and joined 
the Communists, many thousands have quit the movement, and 
only a handful of tired old men hold the fort here and there for 
the Socialist Party, talking about the past but doing very little 

The Socialist Party of America could be more accurately 
called the Socialist Party of New York and Milwaukee. In these 
cities it represents a real power and it is a real stumbling block to 
the revolutionary movement. In these places we find it necessary 
to wage a direct fight against it not only because of its false philos- 
ophy, but also because of the treasonable conduct that springs 
logically from that philosophy. But in other localities, where it 

The Party Today and Tomorrow 147 

has no property institutions, no newspapers and no established 
professional officialdom, the tendency of our party is to sweep 
past it completely. The constructive work of our party, its united 
front tactics, give it the leadership of the radical workers. The 
necessity for direct struggle with the Socialist Party does not arise 
for the simple reason that the Socialists are not in the field. 

The Socialist Labor Party 

We have skirmishes now and then with the Socialist Labor 
Party, but they are never of a very serious nature because the SLP 
is not a serious factor in the fight. The official organ attacks us 
very heatedly and excitedly nearly every week, but we could not 
afford to spend much time in answering them. We fight them, 
nevertheless, and the difference between their method of fighting 
and ours reveals very clearly the difference between a dogmatic 
clique and a realistic political party. 

We proceed on the theory that a party which has a false theo- 
retical foundation, and which takes the wrong position regarding 
the revolutionary goal of the movement and the way to realize it, 
will not follow a revolutionary policy in the daily struggle. We 
have no objection to theoretical arguments now and then, but the 
average worker does not take much interest in such combats. So, 
as a rule, whenever the SLP meets us in the field with a challenge 
to debate the merits of the late Daniel De Leon, we answer with a 
proposal that they make a united front with us against the com- 
mon enemy, against the capitalists, the capitalist government and 
the reactionary labor leaders. The SLP is a sterile sect that does 
not understand any life except abstract controversy. Marxism to it 
is only a collection of dogmas. It is not a party of the class strug- 
gle, and against proposals to really fight in the class struggle it is 
absolutely helpless. 

A few months ago I was speaking to a crowd of miners in 
southern Illinois. There is a little nest of chronic SLP fanatics in 
that section, and after I finished speaking they offered to start an 
argument with me about the dictatorship of the proletariat. I 
answered them in this way: 

I would be glad to discuss this question with you, but it is quite pos- 
sible that most of these miners here have not made a sufficient study 
of revolutionary theory to be able to conclude from our debate 

14S Early Years of American Communism 

which party they want to support. Suppose we put the question in 
another way that will make the case simpler. Right now these miners 
are suffering a great oppression at the hands of Farrington and 
Lewis, who are nothing but the agents of the mine owners in the 
miners union. I will invite you to make a united front with us against 
Farrington and Lewis, and for a program that will improve and 
strengthen the miners union and make it a revolutionarv instrument 
in the hands of its members. We can still have debates once in a 
while over theories, but in the meantime let us make a common 
fight against the common enemies of the working class. 

When the SLP members refused this proposition the miners 
would not let them talk anvmore. Thev came to the natural and 
logical conclusion that a partv which will not fight todav is onlv 
bluffing when it talks abotit fighting in the future. 

The Proletarian Party 

The Proletarian Partv is not a political partv in the true sense 
of the word because it does not have a national character, takes 
no part in the general political struggle and has never undertaken 
any kind of a campaign on a national scale. It appears to be a 
loose collection of groups and studv classes located in about a 
half dozen cities. Its activity consists almost exclusively of conduct- 
ing and holding studv classes, street meetings and heckling Work- 
ers Partv speakers. Thev are quite militant in their fight against 
the Workers Partv but we have never been able to get much help 
from them in the fight against the labor fakers. Thev call them- 
selves Communists, and. taking them at their word, we have made 
many efforts to get them to unite with tis into one Communist 
party. But they have always refused on one pretext or another. 
Even the direct appeal of the Communist International could not 
avail with them. Thev are sore at us and thev refuse to play in our 
yard — that is about all we can make otit of their childish behavior. 

We cannot sav what the real object of the Proletarian Partv is. 
But if they thought they could seriously injure the Workers Party 
bv their bitter and senseless attacks on it they have failed most 
miserably. The Workers Party has stood the test of action far bet- 
ter than the Proletarian Partv. and it has already succeeded, bv 
the constructive nature of its activity and its energetic campaigns 
for the labor party, amalgamation, etc.. in bringing into its ranks 
qtiite a number of former members of the Proletarian Partv who 

The Party Today and Tomorrow 149 

could not accept a Communist program as a substitute for Com- 
munist work. 

They are amongst the most valuable members of our party at 
the present time and the fact that they have come over to us is 
the best proof that our attitude toward the Proletarian Party has 
been correct. We have refused to engage in a mud-slinging cam- 
paign with them. We simply have set up our actions against their 
words, and let all those who call themselves Communists take 
their choice. 

Amalgamation — The Burning Question 

Published 20 September 1923 

The following article by Cannon in favor of industrial unionism 
appeared in the Chicago weekly, Voice of Labor, one of whose editors 
was William Z. Foster. 

One of the biggest questions on the agenda of all labor con- 
ventions these days is amalgamation. The demand for it is steadily 
growing, despite all official opposition. It is a powerful movement 
from below, born of the actual need of the hour, and nothing can 
stop it. 

The amalgamation proposition is very simple, and has been 
stated in classic form by the Chicago Federation of Labor in the 
resolution adopted on March 19, 1922. After pointing out that 
under the present conditions of craft divisions, "the unions are 
unable to make united resistance against their employers, con- 
stantly suffer defeat after defeat, with heavy losses in membership 
and serious lowering of the workers' standards of living and work- 
ing conditions," the resolution says: 

The rnly solution for the situation is the development of a united 
front by the workers through the amalgamation of the various trade 
unions so that there will remain only one union for each industry. 

A Bad Year for Labor 

Despite the optimistic talk of officials, the open shop move- 
ment of the bosses is still smashing forward, wrecking one union 
after another and depriving ever-larger numbers of workers of 
hard-won conditions. The year between the Cincinnati convention 
of the American Federation of Labor and the one about to be 
held at Portland has been a disastrous one for the workers. This is 
the bitter truth, and even Gompers will not be able to juggle 
figures enough to hide it. 

Since the Cincinnati convention we have had the opportunity 
to see the full effect of the open shop war on the railroad shop 


Amalgamation 151 

crafts, once the stronghold of American unionism. On many 
roads the seven shop craft unions have been completely wiped 
out, and in their place has come the "Company Union." Even on 
those roads where settlements were secured, the old-time power 
of the unions is gone. The "settlements" were really surrenders 
on the part of the strikers in practically every case. This crushing 
defeat, the manifest inability of the shop crafts alone to cope with 
the consolidated power of the railroad companies, has robbed all 
the railroad unions of militancy and aggressiveness. They take 
what they can get, because they have not the power to take what 
they want. 

The defeat of the railroad shopmen had a widespread effect 
outside the railroads; it dealt a heavy moral blow to the entire 
labor movement. So depressed and paralyzed have the trade 
unions become under the crushing effect of the open shop cam- 
paign that they were not able to show a noticeable recuperation 
during the industrial revival. In previous periods of "prosperity" 
the trade unions have greatly increased their membership and 
pressed home their advantage; big and successful organization 
campaigns have been the rule in every trade. But in the period 
just closing the trade unions have not been able to hold their 
own, to say nothing of making headway. What will happen when 
the coming depression gets under way and millions of unem- 
ployed workers flood the labor market? 

Bosses Wage Real War 

The employers are waging a real war against the unions. By 
new mergers and consolidations they are eliminating all competi- 
tion amongst themselves and presenting a solid front against 
labor. They have the government, the police, the army and the 
courts all on their side absolutely. The great daily papers are just 
so many organs of lying propaganda for them. They are assem- 
bling every conceivable weapon for the attack against unionism. 
The trade unions, with their present antiquated craft form of 
organization, cannot defend themselves against this attack. It is a 
matter of life and death for them to be amalgamated into indus- 
trial unions without delay. 

Gompers and the whole officialdom of the American Federa- 
tion of Labor are united against amalgamation. They fight it by 
all unfair means of falsehood and misrepresentation. They cover 

152 Early Years of American Communism 

its advocates with slander and abuse. They resort to every form 
of trickery and deception and intimidation in order to "kill" 
amalgamation. But all to no avail. Amalgamation rises up ever 
stronger. Where they suppress it temporarily in one place it 
springs up in another. While they were concentrating all their 
forces to defeat it at the convention of the Illinois Federation, it 
was being passed at Utah and West Virginia. They defeated it at 
the American Federation of Labor convention a year ago, but 
when they meet this year at Portland it will confront them again. 
They cannot kill amalgamation, but amalgamation will kill them if 
they continue to fight against it. 

A Rank and File Movement 

The leadership of the trade union movement today is the 
enemy of all progress, and every proposal to strengthen and 
regenerate the trade unions and make them a mighty power for 
the interests of the workers has to be advanced in the face of 
their opposition. Every forward movement is a movement from 
below, from the rank and file. This is particularly true of the 
amalgamation movement. 

Despite the opposition of the Gompers officialdom, the rank 
and file has pressed the issue so hard that several International 
unions, 15 state federations, scores of city central bodies and 
thousands of local unions have already declared for it. Some idea 
of the tremendous sweep of the movement may be gained from 
the report of O.H. Wangerin, secretary of the International Com- 
mittee for Amalgamation in the Railroad Industry, that 3,377 local 
lodges, including all the 16 standard railroad unions, have 
endorsed the program of amalgamation for the railroad industry. 

It is no exaggeration to say that the majority of rank and file 
trade unionists already favor amalgamation. The officials are the 
big obstacle. They will only move in response to tremendous pres- 
sure from below. Rank and file workers everywhere must make 
their voices heard on this burning issue. Put your local union on 
record for it. Raise the question in every central body and conven- 
tion, and develop a mighty wave of sentiment that will sweep all 
obstacles aside and bring about the complete amalgamation of 
the trade unions before they are annihilated by the bosses. Amal- 
gamation or annihilation is the issue. Fight for amalgamation. 

Statement on Our Labor Party Policy 

November 1923 

The folloiving statement was written by Cannon and William Z. Foster 
for Workers Party internal discussion. It argues against a set of theses 
written by John Pepper and C.E. Ruthenberg for the Central Executive 
Committee majority — the "August Theses" — which hailed the July 3 
formation of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party as a great victory, despite 
the fact that the Fitzpatrick forces had refused to go along. The statement 
is from the Theodore Draper Papers in the Special Collections Depart- 
ment, Robert W Woodruff Library, Emory University. 

Soon after Cannon and Foster submitted this statement, Ruthenberg 
and Pepper submitted a new, conciliatory set of theses which emphasized 
the necessity of maintaining a bloc with the "progressives" in the trade 
unions. This prompted Cannon and Foster to withdraw their statement. 
However, the Foster-Cannon opposition continued their fight against the 
Ruthenberg-Pepper leadership, and they went on to win the majority of 
delegates to the Third Convention of the Workers Party, December 1923. 
For the next year and a half the Foster-Cannon group held the majority 
on the CEC. 

1. The outstanding feature of the present political situation in 
America is that the great masses of industrial workers and ex- 
ploited farmers are beginning to take their first determined steps 
in independent political action. The industrial workers are being 
driven to this course by the ever-growing oppression of the 
employers and the increased use of the centralized governmental 
powers against them in their struggles, while the farmers are 
forced into political action in their own behalf by the complete 
bankruptcy of agriculture. The two great groups of producers are 
being united in their fight against the common oppressor. This 
uprising of the workers and exploited farmers, and their combina- 
tion for a joint struggle, is of tremendous significance in the 
development of the class struggle in America. 


154 Early Years of American Communism 

2. The participation of the industrial workers in this movement is 
an instinctive, elementary expression of their awakening class con- 
sciousness. The growing labor party is not an artificial creation 
but on the contrary it is the natural, healthy reaction of the work- 
ers to the pressure of their environment. It is a profound rank 
and file movement, steadily gaining in scope despite the opposi- 
tion of the labor bureaucracy. Gompers and all his reactionaries 
are unable to block the expanding movement. Likewise, reaction- 
ary leaders of the farmers are being swept aside. 

3. Many labor unions, representing a large section of the organ- 
ized workers, have already declared in favor of the labor party. 
Two of the most important additions to the list recently are the 
Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers' Union, and the Iron Molders' 
Union, both of which have long been noted as among the most 
conservative unions in America. The West Virginia State Federa- 
tion of Labor, within the past couple of months, has decided by 
unanimous vote to organize a state labor party. The farmers and 
workers of Minnesota are the backbone of the Farmer-Labor Party 
which has already elected two United States senators. Similar par- 
ties are now being organized in a series of states, such as Califor- 
nia, Montana, Utah, etc. All signs lead to the conclusion that a 
mass labor party, based on the trade unions and farmers organiza- 
tions, is in process of formation. 

4. The fate of the Workers Party is bound up with this mass 
movement of the rank and file workers and farmers towards a 
labor party. Our policy on this question is of supreme impor- 
tance. With the right policy, especially while the mass movement 
is just taking shape, our party can drive forward rapidly to a posi- 
tion of leadership over wide masses of awakening workers. On the 
other hand, a wrong policy will isolate our party from this mass 
movement and condemn it to sterility. 

5. We see three tasks for the Workers Party in this situation: 
(1) To develop and unify the labor party sentiment, and help it 
to take organized form, locally and nationally; (2) To defeat the 
efforts of liberal bourgeois politicians and their labor and 
farmer henchmen to divert the genuine labor party sentiment 
into a nondescript third party; (3) To permeate the labor party 

Our Labor Party Policy 155 

movement with Communist ideas and to strengthen the Work- 
ers Party, morally and organizationally. 

Our Labor Party Campaign 

6. Before the organization of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party, 
on July 3-4-5, 1923, our labor party policy, as we declared many 
times, was simply the application of the united front policy of the 
Communist International. This policy was absolutely correct, and 
so long as we held to it we made great headway. Our campaign 
for a united front labor party met with a wide response. We drove 
the labor party movement forward and our party advanced along 
with it, gaining great prestige. The united front policy enabled us 
to penetrate deeper into the labor movement than ever before 
and to establish our comrades in many strategic positions. The 
united front labor party, along with amalgamation, was the most 
dynamic issue in our hands, and the most powerful weapon 
against the reactionaries. Under this slogan the left wing was on 
the offensive and advancing all along the line. 

7. The united front labor party policy was the basis of an effec- 
tive alliance between the Communists and the progressive trade 
unionists, with the Communists everywhere furnishing the driving 
force of the powerful combination. The alliance was of the great- 
est advantage to us, yet to maintain it we did not have to give up 
anything in principle. It yielded the maximum that any united 
front arrangement can ever yield to our party. We were able to 
broaden the mass movement of the rank and file, strengthen the 
position of the Workers Party, and throw an ever-increasing force 
against the Gompers machine. The program of the alliance was 
our own program. We were turning the whole fire against the 
reactionaries and widening the breach between them and the 
progressives, and we had complete freedom of independent party 

8. This united front policy, which proved so successful, not only 
to the labor party movement as such, but especially to the Work- 
ers Party, practically came to an end with the formation of the 
Federated Farmer-Labor Party. The July conference was called 
upon the initiative of the Farmer-Labor Party, of which the 

156 Early Years of American Communism 

Chicago Federation of Labor was the controlling group. The 
policy of the majority of the WP Central Executive Committee 
towards this conference was entirely wrong and inevitably led to 
the split which there took place. The situation was a very delicate 
one. Many factors contributed to make this so. The growing activi- 
ties of the Communists prompted the Gompers machine to bring 
strong pressure to bear upon the progressive elements in Chica- 
go, and the latter showed unmistakable signs of weakening. But 
the contention that this attack of Gompers would have brought 
about the split anyway between the Communists and progressives 
is unjustified. Gompers' opposition to the passage of the amalga- 
mation resolution by the Chicago Federation a year earlier was far 
more intense and determined than his attack upon the labor 
party move, and he came to Chicago to lead the fight against it 
personally, but the Communist-progressive bloc stood unbroken 
against him. In fact the attack of the Gompers machine has not 
yet succeeded in splitting the alliance of the Communists with 
the progressives in other centers, such as Minneapolis, Buffalo, 
Detroit, etc., where the Federated Farmer-Labor Party issue has 
not been pressed by us. 

The False Policy of the CEC 

9. Nevertheless, the situation in Chicago was critical. The danger 
of a split was manifest weeks before the July 3 conference. This 
should have prompted the CEC to use extreme care to prevent 
such an eventuality. They were given adequate warning that the 
Farmer-Labor Party was weakening under the attacks of Gompers 
and the refusal of the Socialist Party and the large International 
unions to participate in the conference, and that a careful and 
conciliatory attitude would be necessary to hold the alliance 
together. But the majority of the CEC turned a deaf ear to all 
appeals for caution. It was animated by a false policy which was a 
deciding factor in causing the split of July 3. This policy, which is 
endangering our whole movement, was based upon two miscon- 
ceptions: first, an overestimation of the tempo of revolutionary 
development; second, a greatly exaggerated idea of the present 
strength of the Communist forces. 

10. Guided by this policy, the majority of the CEC drove head- 
long toward the split of July 3. Its attitude towards the FLP was 

Our Labor Party Policy 157 

hostile and intransigent; the discussions in the CEC at this time 
were so belligerent towards the FLP that one would believe that 
this organization was our bitterest enemy. In the critical days 
before the conference, the CEC's negotiations with the FLP were 
casual, inadequate, and most unsatisfactory. It went into the con- 
ference without any real understanding with the progressive lead- 
ers as to what was to be done, and thus left the door wide open 
for a split. The CEC, which was located in New York 1,000 miles 
away, had no confidence in the comrades located in Chicago, the 
headquarters city of the FLP, and refused to appoint a single one 
of them on the negotiations committee, notwithstanding their 
intimate knowledge of the situation. Proceeding upon the 
assumption that either the FLP had to go along with the immedi- 
ate formation of the Federated Party, or that it would not matter 
if they did not, the CEC practically forced the issue and burned 
its bridges behind it. It rejected the compromise proposal of the 
FLP, made weeks before the conference, that the organization of 
the Federated Party be deferred until the movement could take 
on more volume, and that for this purpose the conference organ- 
ize an affiliation committee to which the Workers Party could be 
affiliated. Acceptance of this proposal would have meant that the 
Workers Party could have continued to pursue the policy that had 
proved so successful in the preceding months pending the time 
when the Federated Party could have been launched under more 
favorable conditions. The statement of the majority in their 
August Theses that the break with the FLP could have been 
avoided only by sacrificing the role of leadership of the Workers 
Party in the fight for the idea of the labor party, and by the 
betrayal of the confidence of the rank and file, was a gratuitous 
assumption and not borne out by the actual situation. The fact is 
that the Political Committee of the CEC voted unanimously on 
October 30, 1923, almost four months after the July 3 conference, 
to accept a practically identical affiliation committee arrangement 
in connection with the proposed national labor party movement 
initiated by Minnesota. The trouble was that the CEC had com- 
mitted itself completely to the slogan of "Organize the Federated 
Farmer-Labor Party on July 3, or betray the working class." The 
inevitable result of this intransigent attitude, in view of the deli- 
cate situation, was the split at the conference. 

158 Early Years of American Communism 

11. To condemn the CEC for the split on July 3, it is not neces- 
sary to defend the Farmer-Laborites. Their actions throughout 
were weak, hesitating and inconsistent, and, at the crucial mo- 
ment, treacherous. But such qualities are characteristic of centrist 
elements, especially such weak centrists as the American "progres- 
sives," and must be taken into account in all our dealings with 
them. This does not change the fact that alliance with them is of 
the greatest value to us at the present time. The combination of 
the Communists with the progressives is a historic necessity in the 
struggle to overthrow the Gompers machine and build the labor 
party. To split with them on the grounds that they are not good 
revolutionary militants is to reject the idea of alliance of the Com- 
munists with other elements in the labor movement, and to repu- 
diate entirely the principle of the united front. 

Results of the July 3 Split 

12. Since the formation of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party the 
situation has been radically changed. We have departed from the 
principle of the united front and have gotten onto a sectarian 
basis in the national labor party movement. Our former offensive 
fight for the labor party, consequently, has been turned into a 
defensive struggle wherever the Federated Farmer-Labor Party has 
been made the issue of the fight. Wherever we raise the issue of 
the Federated Farmer-Labor Party we are immediately confronted 
with a split. The drastic effects of this are shown, for example, in 
Chicago and the state of Illinois, which was the center of the 
Farmer-Labor Party movement and where the split is definitely 
accomplished. In this district, which was once our chief strong- 
hold, our alliance with the progressives has been broken. We have 
lost the issue of the united front labor party and are fighting now 
for our own labor party, the Federated. As a consequence our 
comrades are largely isolated, and face a united front of all other 
elements against them. In the Chicago Federation of Labor and, 
to a great extent in the Illinois Federation of Labor, the control- 
ling element was a bloc of Communists and progressives against 
the reactionaries in support of many immediate slogans of the 
Communists. Today, however, these bodies present the spectacle 
of a united front against the Communists and against the entire 

Our Labor Party Policy 159 

program of the Communists. Our position has been weakened 
and that of the reactionaries immeasurably strengthened. The 
progressive program, industrial as well as political, is defeated, 
and the progressives are forced into the arms of the reactionaries 
and subordinated to them. Since the July 3 split the leadership of 
Fitzpatrick has been practically destroyed through his retreat to 
the right. His position as leader is being taken, not by a stronger 
progressive or by a Communist, but by Oscar Nelson, an agent of 
Gompers. The Chicago Federation of Labor, once the leader of 
the opposition movement in the AFL, is again fast becoming a 
stronghold of the Gompers machine. The body which refused by 
unanimous vote to criticize the Soviet government for the prose- 
cution of the Social Revolutionaries (a criticism in which even 
Debs joined) is no longer a friend of Soviet Russia. For the first 
time in many years its sessions are marked by hysterical attacks 
upon revolutionaries, customary in other AFL organizations. The 
policy of the majority of the CEC in dealing with the FLP has 
entrenched the reactionaries and isolated the Communists. A 
similar policy in dealing with the progressives in other labor party 
centers will produce similar results. 

13. The sweeping advance that the Communists were making 
under the united front policy in the Chicago unions, and the 
heavy losses that followed the abandonment of it, are graphically 
illustrated in the following table, given in the report of the Chi- 
cago District Executive Committee. The delegates referred to in 
the table as "non-party" are not the Fitzpatrick group but are left 
wing delegates that went the whole way with the Communists, [see 
table next page] 

14. The harmful effects of the July 3 split have been manifested 
in many ways. Despite the fact that, due to the primarily local 
character of the FLP, the split did not spread organizationally 
throughout the country, nevertheless the apparent break of the 
Communists with the progressive wing of the labor movement 
emboldened the reactionaries for a great counteroffensive against 
the Communists, which continues to be one of the most pro- 
nounced features of the present labor situation. The adminis- 
tration of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union 
commenced their drive to break up the TUEL immediately after 


Early Years of American Communism 


Delegates Number 

from Unions of Local , 

TT . Membership 

Party Non-Party Unions 

WP United Front 
Conference, May 1, 1922 

FLP Cook County 
Convention, Oct. 1922 

FLP Cook County 
Convention, Jan. 1923 

WP United Front 
Conference, May 1, 1923 

FLP Cook County 
Convention, June 10, 1923 

July 3-4-5, 1923 
Conference, Chicago 

Affiliated to Federated 
Farmer-Labor Party 
since July 3, to Oct. 30 
























the July 3 split. They centered their fight in Chicago and found 
their ablest assistants in the Fitzpatrick group, our erstwhile allies. 
The opposition to the League and its policies has greatly intensi- 
fied since that time. A striking illustration of this was the Decatur 
convention of the Illinois Federation of Labor. The AFL bureauc- 
racy rallied all its forces to beat the Communists there. The strug- 
gle was of national significance. Had there been no July 3 split, 
the Gompers machine would have had to confront a Communist- 
progressive bloc strong enough to have defeated or checked it. 
But as it was, the Communists were almost completely isolated 
and the Gompers machine, in conjunction with the progressives, 
rode roughshod over the Communists and turned what should 
have been a progressive convention into one of the most reac- 
tionary conventions in recent years. The climax of the "anti- 
red" drive came in the spectacular attacks upon the Communists 
and the expulsion of Wm. F. Dunne at the Portland convention 
of the AFL. 

Our Labor Party Policy 161 

The Failure of the Federated 

15. Since the July 3 conference the Federated Farmer-Labor 
Party has proved itself a failure and has discredited the CEC 
theory which brought it into being. Immediately after the confer- 
ence, and proceeding upon the assumption that the FFLP was a 
real mass labor party, the CEC ordered all its connections to 
secure immediate affiliations to the FFLP. This policy resulted in 
so many defeats for our militants in the unions that the CEC was 
compelled to abandon it as a mandatory policy and to adopt, two 
or three weeks later, the following alternative policies: (1) affilia- 
tion with the FFLP, (2) endorsement of the FFLP, (3) sending of 
delegates to the coming January convention of the FFLP. This 
second elastic policy has fared little better than the first. In prac- 
tice it has been proved virtually impossible to even raise the ques- 
tion of the FFLP. 

16. The record of our activities in the main labor party centers 
shows that we have been compelled to abandon the whole FFLP 
program, although it is still retained in the theory of the majority. 
The complete domination and control of the FFLP by the Com- 
munists could not remain a secret of our own. It gave an excellent 
weapon into the hands of our enemies and they were not slow to 
take advantage of it. The combined attack launched against the 
FFLP by the capitalist press, the labor bureaucracy, the Socialists 
and the Farmer-Laborites, has succeeded in branding it before the 
labor movement as merely another name for the Workers Party. 
When we fight for it, therefore, our enemies are able to take the 
issue of the labor party out of our hands and fight the FFLP on 
the issue of the Communist International. The result is that labor 
organizations which are ready for the labor party, but which are 
not ready openly to join a party definitely labeled "Communist," 
do not join it. The great bulk of the rank and file delegates who 
attended the July 3 conference have not been able to affiliate 
their organizations to the FFLP, or even to endorse or to send 
delegates to its coming convention. We are told that the organiza- 
tion of anything short of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party on 
July 3 would have meant a betrayal of the rank and file. But we 
have seen how, in actual practice, one of the two following results 
of its formation almost invariably occurred: either the delegates 

162 Early Years of American Communism 

themselves, frightened by the terrific attack and the united front 
against them, changed their minds about the question, or they 
were repudiated by their organizations. We captured the delegates 
for three days, but we did not capture their organizations for the 
FFLP. The claim that the FFLP is a mass party with approximately 
600,000 members has absolutely no foundation in fact. 

17. The campaign to affiliate the important organizations repre- 
sented at the conference met with decisive defeat all along the 
line. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers withdrew during the 
conference; likewise large sections of miners. The West Virginia 
Federation of Labor has since formed a state labor party, but it 
would not entertain the question of affiliation to or endorsement 
of the FFLP. In the friendly Detroit Federation of Labor — with the 
administration supporting us — we were defeated by a vote of 2 to 1. 
In Buffalo, where our comrades hold leading positions in the 
local labor party, they cannot afford to even raise the issue of the 
FFLP, because the issue would certainly split that body. Practically 
all of the Farmer-Labor Party delegates who came over to us at 
the conference have been repudiated by their own organizations: 
this is the case in Ohio, Kentucky, and other places; even the FLP 
of the state of Washington has not been affiliated to the FFLP. 
Practically the only organizations to join the FFLP are unions 
directly under Communist leadership. Vague endorsements and 
promises to send delegates to the next convention of the FFLP 
are the best we have been able to do even in the places where we 
are strongest. None of the important organizations represented at 
the July 3 conference has joined the FFLP with the single excep- 
tion of the Los Angeles Labor Party, and the affiliation there 
represents a real danger to us. It exposes our comrades to the 
next onslaught of the Gompers machine, in such a way that they 
will not be able to fight upon the issue of the labor party which 
would unite the rank and file behind them, but on the issue of 
the FFLP, which will divide the rank and file. Our single victory 
thus paves the way to a future defeat. 

18. The places where the labor party sentiment is most devel- 
oped and has taken organized form are precisely the places where 
the FFLP has the least possibility to gain affiliations. This is strik- 
ingly illustrated by the case of Minnesota. In the Farmer-Labor 

Our Labor Party Policy 163 

Federation convention there, our comrades, notwithstanding their 
strong position, won by their careful and systematic work, could 
not even mention the question of affiliation to or endorsement of 
the FFLP, and the mild proposal to send delegates to the January 
convention had to be withdrawn without being put to a vote, so 
strong was the prejudice against the FFLP. Farmer-Labor parties 
are now being formed in California, Utah and Montana, but the 
non-Communist elements participating in their organization will 
not go along with the FFLP and an attempt to force affiliation 
means a split. The CEC does not dare now to propose a fight to 
affiliate any of these local or state mass labor parties to the Feder- 
ated unless it is ready to say openly that it wants to split these 
parties. The splitting of the labor party forces throughout the 
country and the isolation of the Communists, as in Chicago, is 
prevented only because the majority, while stubbornly clinging to 
its exploded theory of organizing the FFLP as a mass labor party, 
does not attempt to apply it concretely in the real centers of the 
labor party movement. The "elastic tactics" of the CEC majority 
have meant the practical abandonment of their theory in every 
case of real importance. In the face of this record of failure with 
the FFLP, the August Theses of the CEC majority appear ridicu- 
lous and show complete inability to estimate the situation when it 
says: "In a whole series of cities and states we can immediately 
organize the FFLP." Equally absurd is the attempt to establish an 
"alibi" with the charge of sabotage within the party. 

19. Driven out of the main centers of the labor party movement, 
the majority theory is now trying to find a footing for the FFLP as 
a mass party by organizing branches in "unoccupied territory"; 
and it claims a victory for the theory for a special Communist 
labor party in New York City, where we have organized a group of 
Communist-controlled unions as a branch of the FFLP in opposi- 
tion to the American Labor Party. But this tactic will not stand 
analysis. The FFLP is a positive handicap to our work even in this 
restricted field. In New York City there is not a natural labor party 
movement springing up from the trade unions. The American 
Labor Party of New York City was merely an attempt of the Social- 
ist Party to appropriate the labor party idea and to adapt it to its 
own special interests; it is based upon the conception of a special 

164 Early Years of American Communism 

labor party organized around a particular group, being a collec- 
tion of SP-controlled unions and SP branches, with the latter 
dominating absolutely. We very properly attacked the American 
Labor Party at its conception as a caricature of the bona fide 
labor party movement. The organization of the FFLP in New York 
City is merely an imitation of the Socialist Party tactic, but it is 
not the best way to fight the SP in New York City. As a fighting 
measure against the Socialists to force the admission of the WP 
into the Labor Party, it is proper in the case of New York City to 
organize our trade union forces into a local labor party. The 
slogan by which we fight the SP in New York City should be: 
"Unity of both labor parties into one organization." This fight 
can be more effective if our labor party there is not a branch of 
the FFLP, but a separate unaffiliated local party. If we lay aside 
the issue of national affiliation entirely for the time being, the 
slogan of unity will be a powerful weapon in our hands and we 
can eventually succeed with it. The SP theory of special labor 
parties controlled by the various political groups is a theory which 
is incorporated in the August Theses of the CEC majority. 

20. As for the "unoccupied territory," here too the FFLP is a 
source of weakness rather than of strength. In such places as 
Washington County, Pennsylvania, where we have organized a 
branch of the FFLP, we are laying the young movement open to 
attacks from the reactionaries on grounds most favorable to them. 
They will be able to attack the newly formed party, not on the 
broad issue of the labor party, where we can well afford to meet 
them, but on the narrow issue of the FFLP being a Communist 
party. It can be put down for a certainty, on the basis of abundant 
experience already accumulated, that many unions, which join 
the party before the fight develops because they really stand for 
a labor party, will weaken under this attack and either withdraw 
or develop a split. Where it is possible to organize a branch of 
the FFLP, it is possible in almost every case to organize a much 
larger body of workers into an unaffiliated local or state party in 
which our influence and control would be strong and of much 
more value to us. The same forces that drove the FFLP from the 
organized centers of the labor party movement will also inevita- 
bly drive it from the unorganized fields which the majority of 

Our Labor Party Policy 165 

the CEC now want it to invade. The place for the FFLP is neither 
here nor there. 

FFLP as Liability to the WP 

21. Besides being a failure as a mass party, the FFLP is a positive 
handicap, as at present conceived, to all phases of the WP work 
for the labor party. For one thing it is a heavy drain on the funds 
and energies of the WP and exercises a distinct liquidation ten- 
dency upon the latter. Practically all the work done for it has to 
be done by our members at the expense of the WP. Our trained 
workers are very few, and our financial resources are already 
strained to the breaking point. They should both be conserved for 
the most vital propaganda and agitational activity of the WP, and 
we should aim to put upon the broader movement the task of 
finding most of the administrative forces and their upkeep. Every 
man taken from party work for the FFLP diminishes the forces of 
the WP. The funds we have been already obliged to contribute 
necessitate the neglect of party undertakings. We cannot go ahead 
on this basis. With our small party and limited resources, such 
small items as the foregoing become very important. We can do 
some of the work to make the labor party, but we cannot do all of 
it. We can donate our share of the funds, but we cannot subsidize 
the whole enterprise. In most of its present functions, the FFLP is 
a rival of the WP. The identity of the WP in the labor party move- 
ment is submerged in the FFLP, and to the extent that the FFLP 
is pushed into the foreground, the WP has to be pushed into the 
background. The sending of a trained party worker into Okla- 
homa, for example, to organize the FFLP before the WP is organ- 
ized there, means that all our potential forces there will be 
diverted from our proper task of first founding the WP. We hold 
that our most important revolutionary task is the building of a 
mass Communist party, based upon individual membership, which 
is the WP. The building of a labor party not only must not inter- 
fere with, but must directly assist, this process. The August Theses 
of the majority point out that a Communist party based on indi- 
vidual membership is far superior to a party based on the loose 
affiliation of trade unions, yet this same thesis and the practice 
of the CEC contradictorily tends to sabotage the WP, the real 

166 Early Years of American Communism 

Communist party based upon individual membership, for the sake 
of their proposed mass Communist party based upon loosely affili- 
ated trade unions. 

22. A further disadvantage of the FFLP to the WP is that the 
former prevents the latter from getting proper credit for our work 
in the establishment of the labor party movement. In almost all 
the local and state parties springing up throughout the country, 
the Communists are actually doing the bulk of the organization 
work and acting as the driving force. But our party is getting little 
or no credit for it with the masses, and it does not stand out as 
the leader. The result is a great loss of prestige for us, which is an 
essential element for the building of our party. The reason for 
this failure to get credit for the work we are doing is that nation- 
ally we stand committed to the FFLP, whereas the local and state 
parties that we are organizing are unaffiliated to the FFLP and 
their failure to affiliate gives all the appearance of being a defeat 
for us. In the eyes of the masses the FFLP stands for the split idea. 
Its existence as a separate party brings upon us all the hostile 
criticism that naturally is directed against the split policy in a 
situation that so clearly demands the united front policy. Thus we 
are in the anomalous position of actually building the labor party 
throughout the country, while our enemies are able to point to 
the FFLP which is our special charge, and accuse us of being a 
stumbling block in the way of the formation of the labor party. 

23. The August Theses make the argument that the FFLP can be 
developed into a mass Communist party. There is no foundation 
for such an assertion. The conditions for the building of a mass 
Communist party are the existence of a closely knit Communist 
nucleus operating within the broadest mass organizations of the 
workers, permeating them with its doctrines and sweeping the 
most advanced of them into its ranks. The WP is such a Commu- 
nist nucleus, and the naturally developing labor party movement 
is such a mass organization. By working within this mass organiza- 
tion and pushing it forward, the WP is bound to expand and 
extend its influence. The organization of the FFLP does not facili- 
tate this development, but interferes with it. Wherever it takes 
organizational form it separates the Communists and their closest 
sympathizers from the main body of the movement and creates 

Our Labor Party Policy 167 

the conditions for a sectarian Communist party controlling a 
sectarian labor party. The argument that the FFLP will become 
a mass Communist party is an abandonment of the theory ex- 
pounded in the same theses, that it will become a mass labor 
party. It can be neither the one nor the other. 

Conflict Between Theory and Practice 

24. In addition to the conflicting theories within the August 
Theses of the CEC majority, there is a flat contradiction between 
the labor party theory and practice followed since July 3. The 
theory of the majority that the Communists alone, in the present 
stage of the class struggle in America, can and should organize 
and control a mass labor party of their own — the theory that is 
crystallized in the FFLP — is the theory of splitting with the pro- 
gressives in the labor party movement, a split which would inevita- 
bly spread to all phases of our activities in the labor movement. 
But this splitting theory runs so counter to the crying needs of the 
present situation that the CEC does not dare apply it in practice. 
Due, however, to its theoretical confusion, the whole time and 
effort of the CEC has to be devoted from week to week in the 
various labor party developments to the effort to twist the prevail- 
ing splitting theory into realistic practical applications of the 
united front principle. The whole committee is thus paralyzed 
between the tendency, inherent in the theory of the majority, to 
extend the split in the labor party movement, and the conscious 
struggle of the opposition to prevent it. The outcome is that the 
splitting theory is not being put into practice in spite of the theo- 
ry to the contrary. This basic conflict between the practice and 
theory of the CEC is destroying the morale of the party and its 
capacity for straight thinking. The comrades in Minnesota, for 
example, are told that they are following the theory behind the 
organization of the FFLP, when it is obvious that the instructions 
given to them by the CEC amount to a complete repudiation of 
that theory insofar as the Minnesota situation is concerned. The 
adaption of the CEC theory, which is fundamentally a theory of 
splitting, to the requirements of the concrete situations, where we 
do not dare to put it into practice for fear of outlawing our 
comrades in the labor movement and destroying their influence — 

168 Early Years of American Communism 

and where, therefore, the majority is compelled to accept the 
program of the opposition — necessitates so much sophistry and 
self-deception that a general state of confusion prevails through- 
out the party. An even worse feature of this confusion between 
theory and practice is that the CEC is constantly confronted with 
practical situations which it must conform to in spite of its con- 
trary theory, and to adopt makeshift solutions. The effect of this is 
to entirely deprive the party of the initiative which comes from a 
correct theoretical grasp of the problems and which would pro- 
vide a uniform policy in regard to them. A correct theory must 
give us the initiative and leadership in the labor party movement, 
while the present confusion compels us to follow after and fit into 
the developing movement. The sum and substance of the practice 
of the CEC since the July 3 conference is a retreat from the split 
policy set up by its theory, to a begrudging and ill-understood 
practice of the united front principle. The only remedy is the 
complete rejection of the disastrous split theory, and the unifica- 
tion of our theory and practice by the adoption of a clear-cut 
united front policy. 

Preventing the Spread of the Split 

25. The CEC majority claims that the split between the Commu- 
nists and progressives has already taken place throughout the 
country and that we proceed upon that basis. But this is not the 
case. It is true that the split of July 3 has taken full effect in Chi- 
cago and the state of Illinois, but it has not yet spread to other 
important centers. The reason for this is that the Farmer-Labor 
Party, as a tightly knit organization, was restricted pretty much to 
the state of Illinois, and for the split to take place elsewhere it was 
necessary that the issue of the FFLP should be pressed in those 
centers. This the CEC has not ventured to do. Had the FLP been 
a really national party the Communists would have been isolated 
all over the country as they now are in Chicago. The splendid 
position we have gained in Minnesota is clearly the result of the 
united front policy we have followed there of working within the 
broad labor party movement and not as a separate party. This 
policy in Minnesota produced three good results: (1) It has the 
effect of uniting and strengthening the labor party against its ene- 

Our Labor Party Policy 169 

mies; it was demonstrated that even a small group of Communists 
can play a very important role in steering the labor party along 
the right course and protecting it against disintegration. (2) Our 
policy enabled the Communists to penetrate deeply into the 
movement and entrench themselves in strategic positions from 
which it will be difficult to dislodge them; the prestige of the WP 
rose greatly and many valuable new members were added to our 
ranks. The third result of our tactic in Minnesota was to bind the 
progressive elements closer to us, and to bring them nearer to the 
left position; Mahoney and Cramer, for example, who stood far 
apart from us only a few months ago, are working hand in hand 
with us today. The Minneapolis Labor Review and the Minnesota 
Labor Advocate are outspokenly defending the Communists against 
the attacks of the Gompers machine. The wavering of Cramer a 
few months ago was sufficient for the theses of the majority of the 
CEC to say he had gone to the right and united with Gompers 
and to accept this as a working basis. There is no doubt that we 
could have made a complete split with him and other progressives 
there, just as we did in Chicago, if we had not used the most 
careful tactics to avoid it. The results in Minnesota strengthened 
our position while the results in Chicago weakened it, because in 
the former case we used the united front tactic and in the latter 
the splitting theory of the majority of the CEC. 

26. It was possible to avoid the split in Minnesota only because 
we did not raise the issue of the FFLP. The same thing is true of 
practically every other labor party center. We have had to choose 
in each case between the unity of the labor party forces on the 
one hand, and the organization of the sectarian FFLP, carrying 
with it our isolation, on the other. Fortunately in most cases, so 
far, the CEC has been constrained to violate its theory and sacri- 
fice the FFLP. But this has put us in the anomalous position of 
claiming to have a national labor party without trying to give it an 
organizational base in the main labor party centers where the 
movement is best developed. Such a position is untenable. The 
FFLP cannot be a real party unless it gains the affiliation of 
local and state parties, and it cannot fight for this affiliation 
without breaking our alliance with the progressive elements and 
thus splitting the labor party movement. The continuance of 

170 Early Years of American Communism 

our efforts to organize the FFLP as a separate labor party renders 
our whole position unstable. It holds the constant menace of a 
needless and disastrous split between the Communists and the 
progressives in their fight against the Gompers machine. This 
standing threat of a split weakens the influence of our militants 
everywhere in the labor party movement and demoralizes the 
movement itself. 

27. To spread the Chicago split throughout the country would 
be the greatest disaster to our party. The class struggle in America 
has not developed to the point, and the issues are not of such a 
nature, that the Communists must fight alone against the entire 
field. We can profitably leave that conception to the SLR Gom- 
pers' tactic is to isolate the Communists, to have them standing 
alone, in order that he may expel them from the labor movement 
before they get a strong footing there. Our Communist forces are 
as yet but few and scattered. The period of "collecting the Com- 
munist forces" is not finished in America; it is only beginning. 
Our members in the trade unions have had but little experience 
in realistic trade union work, and they are only now beginning to 
establish themselves in the labor movement. In the face of the 
tremendous offensive of Gompers against us, and with our forces 
so weak and inexperienced, it would be little less than criminal 
folly for us deliberately to break the alliance with the progressive 
trade unionists who are inclined to stand with us in the immedi- 
ate fight for the issues which we ourselves proclaim. Under the 
very best conditions we are in a position where the most careful 
strategy is necessary. The split with the progressives would play 
right into the hands of Gompers. Not only would it compromise 
the labor party fight, but it would lead to the wholesale expulsion 
of the Communists from the trade unions, and shatter the left 
wing movement in the trade unions which only now, for the first 
time in the history of America, is taking an organized and con- 
scious form. For us it is a life and death question to organize as 
wide a bloc as possible in the trade unions for the fight against 
the Gompers machine. The CEC opposition will fight against the 
needless split with the progressives and against any policy that 
leads to it at this time, with all its power. The FFLP as now con- 
ceived represents a theory that makes for this split, and that is 

Our Labor Party Policy 171 

one of the many reasons why we must give up the idea of attempt- 
ing to organize it as a separate labor party. 

The Labor Party Movement in America 

28. The attempt to transfer European labor party analogies to 
America is bound to lead us astray for the simple reason that 
there is no real analogy. The labor party movement in America, 
rising out of conditions that have no counterpart anywhere else in 
the world, is developing along lines marked out for it by the 
peculiar American situation. The course of its own natural devel- 
opment is indicted by the experience so far. This experience com- 
pletely blasts the Socialist Party theory that the labor party will be 
organized from the top by the labor bureaucracy. And it likewise 
disposes of the made-to-order theory that it can be artificially 
imposed from the top by a prematurely formed national organiza- 
tion under the control of the Communists. The existence at the 
present time of "our own" labor party — the FFLP — does not arise 
out of the normal course of events; it is the result of our own 
misconceptions and foolish maneuverings. 

29. The basic labor party movement in America as it has devel- 
oped thus far reveals the following characteristics: (1) it is organ- 
izing from the bottom on a local and state basis; (2) it is a real 
mass movement of the rank and file and not simply the artificial 
creation of politicians; (3) it is almost uniformly a combination of 
city workers and farmers, with a sprinkling of the middle class 
elements who invariably attach themselves to all such movements. 

30. The labor party movement in America is a united front 
movement and we must return to that platform. We dispute the 
contention of the CEC majority that the normal development of 
the labor party movement is the growth of a number of compet- 
ing labor parties under the control of rival political groups. We 
must abandon the idea of trying to maintain a labor party of our 
own which is definitely labeled as a Communist organization, and 
become again the champions of the mass labor party, the united 
front labor party. The genuine labor party, as we see it developing 
in the various centers, is based on the trade unions, workers' 
political parties, and farmers' organizations. It is essentially a 
mass party, and a strong class sentiment among the rank and file 

172 Early Years of American Communism 

workers in the given city or state is a necessary condition prece- 
dent to its formation. The attempt to mechanically measure the 
possibilities of local organization by an arbitrary ratio of ten work- 
ers to one member of the WT puts the whole question of the 
labor party upon an artificial basis and disregards entirely the 
essentially united front character of the labor party. The organiza- 
tion of premature and artificial labor parties, as the theses of the 
majority virtually propose, makes a caricature out of the very idea 
of the labor party and runs the danger of discrediting it. The 
Workers Party cannot assume the responsibility for such undertak- 
ings without injuring its standing in the eyes of the workers. As 
against the theory of conflicting labor parties controlled by the 
rival political groups, we advocate the mass labor party organized 
on a united front basis. 

31. One of the fundamental errors of the CEC majority is their 
confusion in the use of the term "left wing," which occurs all 
through their conception. On the one hand, they state that only 
the "left wing" elements will comprise the labor party at its incep- 
tion, which is correct if we bear in mind that these elements 
represent a broad "left wing" from the standpoint of the labor 
movement as a whole. On the other hand, they consider the FFLP 
as synonymous with this broad "left wing," which is incorrect, as 
the FFLP is only the revolutionary section of that left wing. In 
other words, the organizational basis of the "left wing" which 
goes to make up the labor party is much wider than the "left 
wing" which is found in the FFLP. The former is composed of 
workingmen and farmers from the mildest progressives to the 
most advanced revolutionaries, while the latter consists almost 
entirely of revolutionary elements. The one is a united front 
organization and the other is a revolutionary group. A striking 
illustration of the fact that the "left wing" which naturally makes 
up the labor party movement is much broader than the "left 
wing" which comprises the FFLP is to be found in Minnesota. 
There the Farmer-Labor Federation is so much more conservative 
than the FFLP that it will not even affiliate with the latter. The 
same condition prevails in West Virginia and other centers. The 
policy of trying to build the labor party on the basis of the narrow 
"left wing," which is found in the FFLP, instead of the broad 

Our Labor Party Policy 173 

"left wing" which is always found in the labor party movement 
wherever it has taken an organized mass character, is a sectarian 
policy that leads directly to the isolation of the Communists. To 
speak of the broad movement of workers and exploited farmers 
which stands for the class party as the "left wing" and then to use 
the same term interchangeably, as the CEC majority constantly 
does, to describe the forces of the FFLP, is to presuppose an iden- 
tity between the two which does not exist. 

32. Our position is not based on the assumption that the entire 
labor movement must join the labor party at once, or that even a 
majority is necessary. But we hold that wherever it is formed, it 
must unite the labor party forces and have a genuine mass charac- 
ter. We want it to be organized upon as broad a base as possible 
with as large a mass of workers as can be gotten together upon 
the issue of a labor party, and not merely those who can be organ- 
ized on the issue of Communism which is raised by the FFLP. Our 
militants should endeavor to take a leading part in all these mass 
parties, entrench themselves in strategic positions and lead the 
workers by degrees to the platform of Communism. 

33. Neither do we expect the reactionary leaders to form the 
labor party. It has to be done by a bloc of the radical and progres- 
sive workers in which the Communists are the driving force. It is 
essentially a rank and file movement and our aim should be to 
gradually extend the Communist influence and leadership in it, 
and at the same time to preserve its mass character. Communists 
in America, at this stage of development, thrive best within a 
broader mass movement and especially within a mass labor party. 
It is foolish for us to form a little labor party of our own in order 
to be the leaders of it. 

34. Important as the revolt of the bankrupt farmers is in the 
present political situation, and necessary as it is that a close alli- 
ance be cemented between the exploited farmers and the indus- 
trial workers, there is a great danger in the tendency, displayed by 
the CEC majority, to base their labor party policy upon the farm- 
ers' revolt, and to relegate the role of the industrial workers to 
second place. In Oklahoma, for example, it disregarded the 
organized workers and based its decision to organize the FFLP 
there upon fragmentary information of the farmers' unrest; 

174 Early Years of American Communism 

whereas further investigation, urged by the opposition, has shown 
that even in this agricultural state the organized workers in the 
State Federation of Labor are now making the most significant 
move for independent working class political action, by taking the 
initiative in a statewide conference of all labor party forces. A 
similar tendency is manifested in the consideration of the labor 
party problem in other states. It is a fundamental of a sound labor 
party policy that the organized industrial workers, particularly in 
our present historical stage, shall occupy the leading position and 
be the organizational and ideological basis for the labor party. We 
must keep our eye on Pittsburgh as well as Fargo. 

35. It is incorrect to raise the question of a conflict of interest 
between the Workers Party and the labor party as such, as the 
CEC majority does. At the present stage of class development in 
America the formation of a mass labor party represents a revolu- 
tionary advance on the part of the working class. The breaking 
away from the capitalist parties and the entrance into politics 
under their own standard signifies nothing less than the awaken- 
ing of class consciousness on the part of the workers. It represents 
their conscious entry into political life and consequently increases 
their receptivity to Communist propaganda and agitation. Above 
all it offers to the Communists a tremendous opportunity to 
entrench themselves among the masses and to seize positions of 
leadership. The experiences in Buffalo, Los Angeles, Minnesota 
and elsewhere demonstrate that the mass labor party provides the 
very best field for the operations of the Communists. In Minne- 
sota the organization of the Farmer-Labor Federation gave the 
Workers Party the opportunity for the greatest advances in its 
history in that section, despite the fact that it has not yet been 
admitted to the Federation as an organization. The formation of 
the labor party means political activity for the workers. In Minne- 
sota we have seen that this political activity gave the Communists 
the opportunity to penetrate deeply into the labor movement in a 
very short time, and there cannot be a doubt that if the comrades 
in Minnesota continue their present realistic work and are guided 
by a sound united front policy, they will in good time succeed in 
permeating the entire movement with the ideas of Communism. 
The Workers Party will not only gain admittance to the Farmer- 

Our Labor Party Policy 175 

Labor Federation, but it will become the leader of it. The labor 
party movement is not a danger in itself to the Communist move- 
ment, but a tremendous opportunity for it. The danger lies only 
in our adopting a wrong policy towards it. 

36. The labor party sentiment is at once the most healthy cur- 
rent in the American labor movement, and the most dynamic 
issue in the hands of the Communists. It is the issue by which the 
Gompers machine can be smashed and the ground broken for 
the leadership of the Communists. It is the greatest folly for us to 
caricature this basic issue and reduce it to a sectarian or factional 
basis. When we set up our own labor party we lose the main issue 
entirely. Our enemies are able to wave the red flag and scare 
the mass of immature rank and file workers away from us. The 
working masses are not yet ready to rally to the standard of Com- 
munism openly displayed in definitely labeled Communist organi- 
zations, but ample experience proves that they will accept 
Communist leadership in mass labor parties. Under the slogan of 
the labor party we can organize them and lead them into conflicts 
which will inevitably sharpen their understanding and draw them 
closer to a consciously revolutionary attitude. 

37. The CEC majority falsely put the question this way, "Shall we 
assume leadership?", and try to make it appear that the opposi- 
tion is based upon defeatism and lack of confidence in the party. 
This is nonsense. The real question is, "How shall we assume 
leadership?" There is only one way to gain the leadership of the 
masses, and that is to push ourselves and our doctrines deeply 
into their ranks. We can lead large masses now, but we cannot do 
it by setting up our own organization and calling them into it. 
Such a procedure presupposes a highly developed consciousness 
among the masses that does not yet exist. The setting up of a 
separate labor party organization, such as the FFLP, known to all 
the world as the special party of the Communists, breaks our 
connections with the half-awakened masses and defeats our efforts 
for leadership. What the CEC opposition wants is not simply lead- 
ership of our own organizations, but leadership of the masses. 
And since the masses will not come to us and join our labor party, 
our policy is to go to them and join forces with them in a broad 
labor party and gain leadership of it. The question of Communist 

176 Early Years of American Communism 

contact with the masses of workers is inseparable from the ques- 
tion of Communist leadership. The road to leadership does not 
lead through the swamp of isolation. 

38. The probable organization of a "third party" by such bour- 
geois politicians as La Follette or Henry Ford presents a danger 
to the immature labor party movement; it is obvious that an 
effort would be made, with the assistance of labor politicians, to 
sweep large sections of the Farmer-Labor Party movement into 
the "third party." We must fight resolutely against this all-class 
third party tendency and insist upon a genuine class party of 
workers and exploited farmers. While we are bound to favor the 
formation of a "third party" as the result of a split in the ranks of 
the capitalist parties, our main task is to prevent the stultification 
of the Farmer-Labor movement to such an end. This fight can be 
made successfully only on the condition that we and our closest 
sympathizers are not isolated in a separate party of our own, but 
that we have attached ourselves inseparably to the mass move- 
ment. The separate existence of a small labor party under the 
direct control of the Communists jeopardizes the main labor 
party movement by separating it from the one element, the Com- 
munists, that can safeguard it from the machinations of traitorous 

39. The healthy impulse behind the labor party movement is 
manifested by the large number of local and state labor parties 
springing up on every side. We should foster this development in 
every way. Wherever there is a genuine sentiment for the labor 
party idea the Communists must attempt to give it an organized 
form. While always propagandizing the necessity of a national 
labor party, the formation of local and state parties should not 
wait for the unification of existing organized movements on a 
national scale. They should be organized at once wherever pos- 
sible. The opposition repudiates as ridiculous the charge of the 
CEC majority that we advocate mere propaganda "for the labor 
party, and not its actual organization." 

40. The next necessary great step in the development of the 
labor party is the unification of the movement into a genuine 
national organization on a mass basis. All efforts must be put 
forward for the establishment of this national organization for the 

Our Labor Party Policy 177 

next presidential campaign. The participation of the main body 
of the existing state and local parties is a necessary condition for 
the building of a real mass organization. Because of its known 
control by the Communists, the FFLP cannot serve for this pur- 
pose. It must be our policy to support and foster bona fide plans 
for national crystallization, as, for example, the one proposed by 
the Minnesota party. We should participate wholeheartedly in this 
effort of the Minnesota party, or in any others of a similar charac- 
ter if this one is a failure. As soon as the national labor party 
movement takes organized form of a genuine mass character, we 
should merge all our labor party forces in it, and, if necessary, 
accept minority representation in its directing bodies for the time 
being. When such national conferences are held, our policy 
should be to fight for: (a) the establishment of a closely knit na- 
tional labor party to include the WP and the FFLP, and (b) that 
the newly established united front national labor party should set 
up united front party branches in all states and cities, to which the 
WP should be affiliated. Our aim should be to get the practical 
control in building these united front parties, national and local. 

Immediate Program 

Our conception of the FFLP is that of a means to organize 
the labor party and to unite the left wing forces within that party. 
To carry out this policy the following shall be its function and 
method of operation: 

(a) The FFLP should not be a separate labor party, rival to 
other labor parties, but an organizing and propaganda 
instrument for the building of a united front labor party. 
It is not necessary to liquidate the FFLP but to transform 
its functions. 

(b) The FFLP, to unite the left wing forces, shall carry on a 
campaign for the direct affiliation to itself of all trade 
unions, farmers' associations, workers' political parties, 
and other organizations except mass labor parties, in 
harmony with its program of organizing the labor party 

(c) The FFLP shall carry on a militant campaign everywhere 
for the organization of local and state mass labor parties. 

178 Early Years of American Communism 

While not accepting the affiliation of these labor parties 
officially, the FFLP shall maintain the closest possible 
connection with and control of them, thus uniting the 
whole into a coordinated national movement under its 

(d) The FFLP shall agitate and move for the organization of 
an official national mass labor party at the earliest pos- 
sible opportunity. When such a national movement devel- 
ops upon a genuine basis the FFLP shall merge into it all 
its official and unofficial connections and groups. 

(e) In the national mass labor party the FFLP shall serve as a 
left-bloc medium to unite all the left wing forces against 
the reformists and reactionaries in order to revolutionize 
the mass movement. 

(f ) Our aim shall be to gradually transform, as quickly as pos- 
sible, this control and leadership of the left wing forces in 
the national mass movement by the FFLP into direct and 
acknowledged leadership and control of these forces by 
the Workers Partv itself. 

What Happened at Portland? 

Published 24 November 1923 

The following article by Cannon concerns the refusal of the American 
Federation of Labor convention in Portland to seat Montana delegate 
and Workers Party leader William E Dunne. It was published in The 

Only six delegates, representing a voting strength of 130, 
voted against the expulsion of "Bill" Dunne, the Communist, at 
Portland, while 27,888 votes were cast for it. On the face of this 
showing, two conclusions are being drawn from the convention. 
The labor officialdom sees the labor movement again made safe 
for capitalism by this holy war against the Communists; while 
some elements in the radical labor movement, like the IWW and 
the OBU, 1 claim it proves their contention that the Communist 
policy of working within the conservative trade unions is a failure. 
They point to the shamelessly reactionary character of the entire 
convention, its open and cynical declaration of partnership with 
the masters against the revolutionary workers, its expulsion of the 
lone Communist, and say: "There is no hope here, no sign of 
progress." Both of these conclusions are false. 

The triumph of reaction at Portland appears only on the 
surface. The real victor was the Communist movement. 

Communism was the victor because it was raised there into a 
living issue of the labor movement. It was the victor because it has 

1 Evidently a reference to the syndicalist organization, One Big Union, formed in 
Western Canada in early 1919. OBU members were active in the May-June 1919 
Winnipeg general strike, and the organization claimed over 41,000 members by 
the end of 1919. A small American offshoot was formed in June 1920. But by 1923 
the entire North American organization was probably down to a few thousand 
members. In contrast to the IWW, the OBU eschewed all talk of direct action and 
violence; it organized its membership on a territorial, rather than industrial, basis. 


180 Early Years of American Communism 

penetrated in so short a time into the very citadel of the reaction- 
ary officialdom and made them recognize it as their most deadly 
enemy. It was the victor because the message of Communism was 
called to the attention of millions of workers by the tremendous 
amount of publicity given to the expulsion of Dunne. The Port- 
land convention did not prove the falsity of the Communist tactics 
in the trade union movement. On the contrary, it proved that 
they are already beginning to register decided results. 

Anyone who paid attention to the convention could see that 
these labor leaders are hand in glove with the bosses. Never 
before was the complete identity of their interest and viewpoint 
with those of the capitalists so clearly and dramatically revealed 
as it was at Portland. Major George Berry comes there directly 
after breaking the strike of the members of his own union in New 
York City. He is given a warm reception and Gompers calls on 
him for a speech. He boasts of his dastardly work in siding with 
the employers, and the convention votes approval of his actions. 
John L. Lewis gets up and tells how many district organizations of 
mine workers he has disrupted in his war against the militant 
rank and file, and the convention agrees that it was a good thing. 
The convention adopts a set of "principles" enunciated by strike- 
breaker Berry, the central point of which is the "recognition of 
the right of property in industry." Amalgamation, the labor party, 
the recognition of Soviet Russia and every other proposal calcu- 
lated to strengthen and regenerate the pitifully weak labor move- 
ment are defeated. Finally, Wm. F. Dunne, the Communist, the 
most hated enemy of the Anaconda Mining Company, the well- 
tried, intelligent and courageous fighter for the cause of labor, is 
expelled from the convention amid the plaudits of the open shop 
press. Many thousands of workers will look at this record and say 
that there is no difference between the men who made it and the 
employers. Many of them will look a little further and see that 
Communism, personified by comrade Dunne, stood there as the 
champion of everything these men were against. 

Some workers are able to see only one side of the Portland 
convention. They say: "It is easy to see that these men are not 
workers at all and have nothing in common with the workers. 
What is the use to bother with them? You can't expect to convert 

What Happened at Portland ? 181 

them to Communism, and as soon as you begin to carry on your 
work they will expel you from the unions. Why not leave them 
now and start new unions without them?" That looks like a sim- 
ple and easy way out of the difficulty, but it does not solve the 
problem. These men dominate and control the official machinery 
of the trade unions which embrace the overwhelming mass of the 
organized workers in America. The problem is how to free the 
great mass of the rank and file from their influence. This cannot 
be done by leaving the old unions, because the rank and file 
workers do not follow. It can only be done by working amongst 
them in the old unions, and winning them over, by degrees, to a 
revolutionary position. Intelligent and systematic work, combined 
with the historical developments, which are all in our favor, will 
eventually do it. It is a process, and the events at Portland are a 
part of that process. 

We have to expect that the reactionaries will go to extreme 
lengths before they will give up the control of the labor move- 
ment. The history of the world movement shows that they will not 
hesitate to split and disrupt the unions when their treacherous 
leadership is challenged. But these tactics avail nothing in the 
end. They can expel Communists but they cannot expel Commu- 
nism. The Communists are destined to win because their platform 
corresponds to the actual needs of the working class. Splits and 
expulsions did not save the yellow leaders of the Russian unions 
and it is not saving the yellow leaders of the German unions. It 
will not save them in America if the revolutionary workers keep 
their heads and follow the right tactics. 

Comrade Dunne's service to our cause at Portland was a 
double one. He not only raised the issue of Communism there 
and forced it to be discussed, but he gave a splendid example to 
the whole working class of America of how a Communist conducts 
himself in the fight. He stood there in that den of business men 
and told the truth about them to their teeth. Even the capitalist 
reporters had to pay tribute to his brave and manly attitude. They 
said he was "bold and audacious"; that is to say, he was a Com- 
munist. He indicted the traitor leaders in burning words, pouring 
out the scorn that honest workers feel for them. He made the 
issue clean and sharp, standing proudly by his own good record 

182 Early Years of American Communism 

and the principles of his party. One labor writer said about his 
speech: "It was a splendid, fearless answer, retracting nothing, 
apologizing for nothing." 

Is anyone so foolish as to think they killed comrade Dunne by 
expelling him from the convention? Even the capitalist press has 
some uneasiness on that score. The New York Times said: "The 
Federation action makes a new hero among the Communists and 
may give that propaganda a new impetus among the workers." 
We can say that comrade Dunne is no new hero to us, but an old 
fighter in the ranks. The stupid reactionaries have now made him 
known to a much wider circle. By expelling him they have only 
given more life to the party they sought to kill. They have cen- 
tered attention of thousands of workers on him, and the Workers 
Party, which he personified there, in such a way that the Workers 
Party in their minds will be identified with the picture of a work- 
ing man standing there in that vast gang of agents of the capitalist 
class, fighting for the rank and file of labor and denouncing the 
traitors to their faces, putting forward all constructive proposals to 
better the trade unions and yielding not an inch in the camp of 
the enemy. There can be no doubt that the event will give the 
Communist propaganda a "new impetus among the workers." 
Communism, after Portland, will have a stronger propaganda. It 
will not be eliminated from the trade union movement but will 
penetrate deeper into it. And comrade Dunne will play a bigger 
part in this work than ever before. The expulsion at Portland did 
not signify the end of Communism in the trade unions but the 
real beginning of it. 

The IWW and the 
Red International of Labor Unions 

Published 1 December 1923 

The following article by Cannon was published in The Worker. The 
IWW had decided against affiliating with the Comintern in 1920; its 
fourteenth convention in 1922 had decided against affiliation to the 
RILU. Nonetheless, some elements in the organization remained sympa- 
thetic to the Communists through 1924. 

The Fifteenth General Convention of the Industrial Workers 
of the World, which is scheduled to remain in session for three 
weeks, devoted 30 minutes of its time to hearing representatives 
of the Red International of Labor Unions appeal to them to send 
delegates to the forthcoming World Congress in order to discuss 
there the basis of a working program upon which all the revolu- 
tionary elements in the American labor movement may unite 
their forces for the common struggle. Without exaggerating the 
immediate results accomplished, I venture to say that this act of 
the convention was the most significant one in all its delibera- 
tions. The Red International appeared there as the advocate of 
unity in the struggle of all revolutionary labor unionists of Amer- 
ica and the world. There is no bigger question before the working 
class than this, and the mere discussion of it, even though it leads 
to no immediate result, is an event of major importance. 

The friendly approach of the Red International toward the 
convention of the IWW does not signify any change of policy on 
its part. It simply represented another step in its efforts to unify 
all the militant elements in the labor movement on a common 
platform of revolutionary struggle. It has already accomplished 
much toward this end. The Red International has been the lead- 
ing and inspiring force in the organization, for the first time 
in history, of the left wing of the American trade unions into a 


184 Early Years of American Communism 

compact, unified body. It has gained a decisive influence in many 
of the radical independent unions, and has been the greatest 
power making for the harmonious cooperation of the members of 
these unions with the revolutionary workers in the conservative 
trade unions. The next necessary task is to bring about a unity 
of purpose between these elements and the IWW. It must be 
acknowledged that this will be a tremendous task. Thick walls of 
prejudice and misunderstanding stand in the way. But the Red 
International turns to it with such a record of real achievements 
to its credit as to give the promise that it will find the way to over- 
come all difficulties and achieve its purposes in good time. 

It would be foolish to think this will be a simple or easy thing 
to accomplish. Real and serious differences stand in the way, and 
they will not disappear merely because we might wish them to. 
But it is worthwhile now to begin a serious discussion of the 
whole question. The Red International does not cover up real 
differences, it brings them out into the open and talks about 
them frankly. This is what we must do. 

There are two main conflicts, one theoretical and the other 
practical, which have so far not only prevented unity between the 
IWW and the revolutionary trade unionists and the Communists, 
but which have charged the whole atmosphere with hostility and 
led to the most bitter controversies. All sorts of controversies have 
complicated the situation, but they are all subordinate to the 
main questions and spring from them. The main points of contro- 
versy are these two: first, the conflict in philosophy between Com- 
munism and syndicalism, or industrialism which is its American 
variant, over the role of the state, the necessity for a proletarian 
party and the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat; 
second, the conflict between the Red International program of 
working within the conservative unions, wherever they exist as 
mass organizations, in order to revolutionize them from within, 
and the IWW program of organizing branches as rivals to the 
other unions. These conflicts are of such a deep-seated nature as 
to absolutely preclude the possibility of an immediate complete 
agreement and organized unity between the IWW and the Com- 
munists on the one hand and between the IWW and the trade 
unions on the other. But it does not follow from this that a state 
of war must exist between them along the entire front, with no 

The IWW and RILU 185 

cooperation anywhere. On the contrary, an examination of the 
concrete situation will show that a working agreement and co- 
operation in action is immediately possible in most places and on 
many questions of great importance. 

For example, there is no valid reason to prevent a joint fight 
of the IWW and the Communists and adherents of the Red Inter- 
national for the release of class war prisoners, against criminal 
syndicalism laws and injunctions, in support of Workers Germany, 
etc. 1 Each organization could join in such a united front without 
sacrificing any principle or jeopardizing its organizational integ- 
rity in any way. All that is required to bring it about is an alliance 
for the specific purpose, not a unity of the organizations. Such a 
joint fight would be of the greatest agitational value; it would 
multiply the power behind the drive and make for its success. The 
movement generally, and the IWW in particular, has much to 
gain from it. A campaign of this nature can be carried out with- 
out regard to the points in dispute between us. Its effect would be 
to strengthen and stimulate the movement as a whole and to 
promote a feeling of friendship and solidarity which would make 
it much easier to work for a basis of united effort on other ques- 
tions. To say that because we do not all agree on the question of 
the state, we cannot make a joint fight for the class war prisoners, 
is tantamount to saying that we can never work together as long 
as there is one point at issue between us. Such a view is dogmatic 
and unreasonable. The united front on the questions mentioned 
above is an immediate practical possibility. If we are serious 
revolutionists who put the interests of the working class above 
everything, we have to say this united front is a necessity. 

Turning to the field of organization, it can be shown that 
the differences between the IWW and the adherents of the Red 
International are not nearly so great as to prevent cooperation in 
most cases of real importance. The story has been persistently 

1 Despite the decisive nature of the defeat in Germany earlier in 1923, when the 
Communist Party of Germany (KPD) let slip a promising revolutionary situation, 
the Executive Committee of the Communist International continued to insist into 
early 1924 that "The basic appraisal of the German situation given by the Comin- 
tern Executive last September remains in essentials unchanged.... The KPD must 
not strike from the agenda the question of the insurrection and seizure of power" 
(ECCI "Statement on the Events in Germany in October 1923," 19 January 1924). 

186 Early Years of American Communism 

circulated, and is believed by many members of the IWW, that the 
Red International wants to "liquidate" the IWW, and that it 
makes a fetish of the AFL. There is no truth in this story. The Red 
International does lay it down as a cardinal point that the revolu- 
tionary workers must not isolate themselves from the masses, that 
they must join the unions to which the masses belong, no matter 
what their affiliation may be, and work there in good faith to 
build them up, to strengthen them in every way and to inspire 
them with the spirit of militant struggle. But this does not mean 
that the Red International has a special love for the unions affili- 
ated to the AFL, as such, and is opposed on principle to the IWW 
and independent unions. The Red International works according 
to the concrete facts as it finds them, not according to a cut and 
dried formula. It surveys each industry separately, and in each 
case asks the question: "Where are the masses of the workers?" 
The answer to that question determines its program for that 
industry. In the coal mining industry it naturally supports the 
United Mine Workers, an AFL organization, because the organ- 
ized workers are there. For the same reason, in the men's cloth- 
ing industry it supports the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, 
an independent union, and in such industries as lumber and 
agriculture it supports the IWW. In an industry having two or 
more rival unions it works for the unification of all of them into a 
single industrial union for the entire industry. Its approach to the 
question in each case is practical, not simply theoretical. 

This realistic attitude of the Red International does not suit 
those who take a dogmatic view of the labor movement, who want 
to move always along a straight line and meet all its complex 
problems by the simple process of saying yes or no. They point to 
this flexible program as proof of their contention that it is impos- 
sible for the IWW to even speak to the Red International, to say 
nothing of affiliating with it. But a sober consideration of the 
question for five minutes is sufficient to completely explode this 
theory. It is true that this policy of the Red International conflicts 
with the IWW program of universal organization in such fields as 
the coal mining industry, the needle trades, building trades, etc., 
where the workers are already organized in large numbers into 
other unions. In these fields there is a real conflict, but it is a 
conflict more of theory than of practice. In the daily struggle the 

The IWW and RILU 187 

question hardly ever arises for the simple reason that the IWW 
does not exist there as a functioning labor organization. And 
the conflict there does not preclude the possibility of unity in 
other fields where the practical situation is different. If we will 
turn to those fields where the IWW functions as a labor union we 
will find that there is no real conflict between it and the Red 

The financial report of the general office of the IWW for the 
fiscal year ending October 1, 1923, shows the average number of 
dues-paying members for the year to be approximately 38,000. 
This report also shows conclusively that, in spite of all theories of 
universality, the IWW is predominantly an organization of migra- 
tory workers. The great bulk of its membership consists of lumber 
workers, agricultural workers and general construction workers. 
In these three industries it has about 21,000 members. In these 
industries, as in practically the whole field of migratory labor, the 
IWW is the only real labor union. The question of a conflict 
between the IWW and other unions does not arise here, and 
consequently there is no conflict between the IWW and the pro- 
gram of the Red International. The Red International can come 
to a complete agreement with the IWW in this field on the basis 
of all of its supporters joining and supporting the existing unions 
of the IWW. At the very beginning we see that complete unity 
between the Red International and the IWW can be realized 
immediately in the main fields of IWW organization. The very first 
discussion of the problem will dispose of the charge that the Red 
International wants to "liquidate" the IWW and it will also elimi- 
nate at least 75 percent of the organizational conflicts. 

In the metal mining industry and the marine transport indus- 
try the IWW also has some organization. The problem is not quite 
so simple in these industries because rival unions exist and the 
great majority of the workers are unorganized. The total number 
of dues stamps issued to the Metal Mine Workers' Union of the 
IWW (which also includes a small number of coal miners) by the 
general office during the past year was 2,680, while the total num- 
ber of dues stamps issued to the marine transport workers was 
6,426. The real problem in these industries is the problem of 
organizing the workers. A necessary preliminary to this is the 
cooperation of all the militant elements. It cannot be said offhand 

188 Early Years of American Communism 

what precise form this cooperation would take; that could only be 
arrived at after the most thorough discussion and consideration of 
the whole situation on the part of all concerned. One thing is 
certain: friction between the militant elements could be reduced 
or eliminated entirely, and their whole energy concentrated on 
the fight against the bosses. In any event the question of "liquida- 
tion" does not enter. 

It may be argued that this article deals only with a part of the 
differences which have caused the bitter controversy in the past, 
and that it leaves many points of conflict untouched. This is true 
enough. We have no patent prescription by which complete unity 
with the IWW can be achieved at one stroke. Argument alone is 
not sufficient to erase the longstanding antagonisms. The struggle 
itself is the great unifier that welds all truly militant elements in 
the working class into one body and hammers all their theories 
into a unified system. My purpose here has been to bring to the 
front those questions upon which agreement can be reached, 
and to throw some light on the great possibilities for future co- 
operation opened by the proposal of the Red International that 
the IWW send delegates to the next World Congress in order to 
discuss the whole question there. It is my contention that the 
differences of theory and doctrine between the IWW and the 
Communists, real and serious though they be, do not justify a 
continuous state of war along the whole front. This war is all the 
more harmful to both because it is unnecessary, and, more than 
that, it is harmful to the interests of the working class as a whole. 
The conflict in the camp of militant labor, which goes to the 
point of preventing solidarity and unity in the class struggle, 
serves the capitalists and them alone. A thorough discussion at 
the World Congress may not succeed in settling all matters in 
dispute. But it will lay the basis for unity of action in the struggle. 
That is the important thing now. The rest will follow. 

The militant labor movement of America is nearer to unity 
than ever before, and the greatest power making for this unity 
is the Red International of Labor Unions. Here in America, as 
everywhere else in the capitalist world, the Red International is 
fulfilling its great historic role. It is uniting the militant workers 
into a mighty army and marshaling them for the struggle. It has 
already won the devoted allegiance of the revolutionary workers 

The IWW and RILU 189 

in all the American labor organizations except the IWW. The 
members of the IWW still stand aside from the Red International 
only because the flood of misrepresentation has prejudiced them 
against it. But the Red International will not accept this attitude 
as final. It is a fighting body, but it is willing to fight only 
against the capitalist class and its agents. To the IWW, as to all 
organizations of rank and file workers, it holds out the hand of 
brotherhood. Its answer to the narrow dogmatists who have mis- 
represented and slandered it, and to those members of the IWW 
who have been deceived thereby, is to turn again to the IWW with 
an appeal for a friendly discussion of all differences in order to 
find a basis for unity. The time is surely coming when the rank 
and file of the IWW will hear that appeal and act upon it. And 
the result of their action will be to bring about a greater solidarity 
than the American movement has ever known, a tremendous 
stride forward of the movement as a whole and its unity under 
one banner, the banner of the Red International. 

The IWW Convention 

Published January 1924 

The following article by Cannon was published in Labor Herald, jour- 
nal of the Trade Union Educational League. 

The IWW has just finished its Fifteenth General Convention. 
It lasted for 18 days and was attended by 26 delegates represent- 
ing a membership of approximately 38,000. The great bulk of the 
members represented are migratory workers, nearly two-thirds 
being engaged in three industries — lumber, agriculture and gen- 
eral construction. All the delegates were from the rank and file, 
coming directly from the job. It can be pretty safely assumed, 
therefore, that the convention was a fairly accurate reflection of 
the present state of mind of the IWW. It will be of interest to 
consider some of the outstanding decisions of the convention and 
see what that state of mind is. 

The question of international relations has been "settled" 
several times alreadv bv the officials of the IWW, but, in spite of 
all, it came up again at this convention and was the biggest issue 
before it. This is natural and inevitable. There was a plainly mani- 
fested desire on the part of most of the delegates to have done 
with this troublesome question which has vexed them so much 
since the formation of the Red International of Labor Unions. 
But such an issue cannot be put aside today by any body of mili- 
tant workers. It came before the convention in three separate 
proposals: 1) To send delegates to the forthcoming World Con- 
gress of the Red International; 2) To affiliate with the so-called 
Syndicalist International; 3) To regard the IWW itself as the only 
International. All three propositions were defeated. The present 
position of the IWW on the question of the International is no 

Nevertheless the convention marked a distinct step forward 
on the road that cannot but lead the IWW to the Red Interna- 


The I WW Convention 191 

tional. It advanced from an attitude of open hostility to an atti- 
tude of neutrality. And, for the first time in the long controversy, 
a representative body of the IWW listened to an argument for 
the Red International made by its accredited representatives. In 
response to a cablegram from the Executive Bureau at Moscow 
the convention, after a sharp struggle, granted the floor to Robert 
Minor and the writer to speak for the acceptance of the invitation 
to send delegates to the World Congress. Although the invitation 
was rejected, the action of the convention in consenting to hear 
the question discussed cannot represent anything else than a step 
forward from its past attitude of opposition and hostility and a step 
closer to the Red International. Several of the delegates made the 
statement on the floor that they had never heard before the side 
of the Red International. This is the real explanation of the bitter 
antagonism of the past. The members of the IWW have been prej- 
udiced against the Red International by misrepresentation of its 
program and purpose. 

Other actions of the convention showed a commendable 
moderation of attitude and give the hope that the black night of 
dogmatism and intolerance is passing in the IWW, and that its 
rank and file membership is drawing closer to an appreciation of 
the need of friendly cooperation with other revolutionary groups 
and tolerant consideration of the rights of minority elements in 
its own ranks. One of these was the decision of the convention in 
the case of Ralph Chaplin, Forrest Edwards, Richard Brazier, and 
a number of others who accepted President Harding's conditional 
commutation from Leavenworth, and the other was the case of 
Harrison George who was put on trial for "Communism." This 
"trial" was conducted by a Chicago branch during the sessions of 
the convention and the spirit of the convention undoubtedly had 
a determining effect on its outcome. 

A majority of 15 out of 26 IWW prisoners at Leavenworth, 
including Ralph Chaplin, Forrest Edwards and other old and 
tested militants, accepted the commutation last June, while a 
minority of 11 rejected it. A sharp factional controversy then 
arose within the IWW over the demand of some of those who 
rejected the commutation that those who accepted it be excluded 
from the right to take part in any of the work of the IWW General 
Defense Committee in behalf of class war prisoners. This demand 

192 Early Years of American Communism 

was pressed at the convention by H.F. Kane and F.A. Blossom 
who, with others, had even gone to the point of issuing circulars 
against Ralph Chaplin and attempting, by this and other means, 
to disrupt meetings addressed by him. This controversy raised a 
question of no little importance. The excellent standing and long- 
proven revolutionary integrity of the men involved made their 
case of concern to the entire radical labor movement. Any official 
action to discredit them and to exclude them from activity would 
have been a decidedly reactionary step and would have produced 
a most unfavorable impression. 

The convention, fortunately, took the right viewpoint. After 
thoroughly going into the whole matter, it exonerated those who 
had accepted the commutation and declared them to be eligible 
to any responsible post assigned to them by the General Defense 
Committee or the General Executive Board. More than that, it 
condemned those who had resorted to public agitation against 

Harrison George is an outspoken Communist, a member of 
the Workers Party, and the charges against him involved directly 
the right of a member of the IWW to hold Communist opinions 
and to openly express them. He had written an article in The 
Worker against the censorship of the IWW press. For this he was 
put on trial by the branch to which he belonged. A number of 
points were included in the charges against him, including 
charges of "dishonesty" and "insubordination"; but everybody 
knew that his only crime was the self-confessed one of being a 
Communist. Harrison George acted like a real Communist. He 
did not run away, but resisted the attempt to expel him and con- 
ducted a militant defense, turning it into an offensive attack 
against the whole policy of censorship and heresy-hunting in the 
IWW. His long record as a fighter in the class struggle and his 
years of imprisonment for the IWW, bravely borne, were in his 
favor. He was able to prove beyond question that his activity 
had not been of a disruptive character and that the charges of 
dishonesty had no foundation. The sessions of the trial were 
attended by many delegates to the convention and became a 
forum for the discussion of the great questions involved in it. 

This historic trial ended in a complete vindication of Harri- 
son George on every point of the indictment against him. He was 

The IWW Convention 193 

acquitted by the unanimous vote of the trial committee and by 
the unanimous vote of the branch members attending the meet- 
ing. Of course, the vote for him was not a vote for Communism, 
but a vote for the right of a member of the IWW to be a Commu- 
nist. And, since many well-known anti-Communists participated in 
the decision, the outcome gives every indication of the beginning 
of an end to the policy of suppressing and persecuting Commu- 
nists in the IWW, and that henceforth they will enjoy the same 
rights of opinion and political activity that are enjoyed by other 
members. The IWW will never have cause to regret the adoption 
of this attitude toward the Communists. It will go a long way to 
overcome the bitter conflicts of the past, and it will very soon be 
demonstrated that Communists work constructively in all labor 
organizations and that their destructive activities are aimed only 
at the capitalist class and its institutions. 

Two communications from the Workers Party were read to 
the convention. One of these was a proposal that the IWW make 
a united front with the Workers Party and all other working class 
organizations for the defense and support of the impending Ger- 
man Revolution. The other was an invitation to the IWW to make 
joint campaign with the Workers Party for the release of class war 
prisoners and the repeal of criminal syndicalist laws. The need for 
joint action on these questions is quite manifest and was freely 
admitted by a number of individual delegates. But the convention 
took no official action on the matter. This is to be regretted, but 
the reason for it is quite clear. The IWW has an unholy fear of 
"politicians," and is very apprehensive about any dealings with 
them, even though the "politicians" in this case happen to be 
revolutionary workers who have nothing in mind except the 
organization of the working class for the struggle against capital- 
ism. The IWW has not yet come to the point where it makes a 
distinction between capitalist politics which are aimed against the 
working class and Communist politics which are aimed against the 
capitalists. This prejudice is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in 
the way of cooperation between the IWW and the other revolu- 
tionary workers in America, and one of the foremost tasks of the 
Communists in relation to the IWW is to overcome it. 

Paradoxical as it may seem, the IWW is an intensely political 
organization. This is what complicates the problem of unifying its 

194 Early Years of American Communism 

activities with those of the other revolutionary workers. The I WW 
is not simply a labor union. In the real sense of the word it is 
also a political party, and the fact that it decries politics and has 
nothing to do with elections does not alter the fact. Its very 
creed of "anti-politics" stamps it as a political body, that is, a 
body dominated by ideas and conceptions and not simply by 
immediate economic interests like an ordinary union. The IWW 
functions as a labor union in the real sense of the word only in a 
very restricted field. The convention representation, as well as the 
annual financial statement, revealed the fact that the unions of 
the IWW are almost exclusively unions of migratory workers. Its 
membership in the main fields of conservative labor organization 
is so negligible as to present no real organizational problem in 
relation to the other unions, but only a theoretical problem, a 
conflict of theory between the IWW and the Communists as to 
how the revolution will be made in the future, and a conflict of 
ideas about immediate work as to whether it is better to work 
within the established conservative unions in order to revolution- 
ize them or to undertake at once to build new unions of the 
IWW. The conflict is thus a conflict of ideas and not a conflict 
between rival labor unions. In these industries, the record shows, 
the IWW does not exist as a labor union, but only as a small 
nucleus bound together by certain ideas. 

In the field of migratory labor, however, the situation is some- 
what different. Such organization of the workers as there is here 
is in the IWW. The great mass of migratory workers, like the 
majority of workers in all industries of America, are unorganized. 
But the fact that the IWW is the principal or exclusive labor 
organization amongst the migratory workers greatly simplifies the 
problem there. The adherents of the Red International take all 
labor unions as they find them and adapt their program accord- 
ingly. Their aim is not to arbitrarily favor one organization and 
oppose another, but to build the existing unions, to unify the 
militant workers, to bring rival organizations together and to 
organize the masses of unorganized workers. The practical basis 
of work in every case, in every industry, is and must be the already 
existing labor unions in the given industry. 

The beginning of a more tolerant and friendly attitude of the 

The IWW Convention 195 

IWW toward the Communists, as it was manifested by the recent 
convention and the trial of Harrison George, ought to pave the 
way for a better understanding and, eventually, for real coopera- 
tion between the IWW and the Communists, at least in the field 
of migratory labor which, as we have seen, is the field where the 
IWW is functioning as a labor union. 

Reply to the Thesis of 
Comrades Lore and Olgin 

Published 12 April 1924 

The following article was written by Cannon and Alexander Bittelman 
for the CEC majority and published in the Daily Worker magazine sup- 
plement. It ansiuers a thesis published by Ludwig Lore and Moissaye 
Olgin in the same magazine. Lore and Olgin opposed the developing 
"alliance" of the Workers Party and its Federated Farmer-Labor Party 
with forces supporting a new third party, insisting that "It is absurd to 
assume that we can have common campaigns with the third bourgeois 
party for its bourgeois candidates and at the same time conduct an inde- 
pendent campaign for our program. " 

Cannon and Bittelman project the possibility of the Workers Party 
supporting the candidates of the new third party, but they do not mention 
that this party was being built around support to the presidential candi- 
dacy of Republican Senator Robert M. La Follette. 

The thesis of comrades Lore and Olgin on the Workers Party 
policy in the elections for 1924 is based upon two fundamental 

1. A misconception of the strategy and tactics of the Commu- 
nist International. 

2. A wrong analysis of the economic and political forces oper- 
ating within the framework of present-day America. 

Strategy and Tactics of the Communist International 

The strategy of the Communist International consists of the 
mobilization of the working class and all other oppressed groups 
that can be allied with it for an aggressive struggle against capital- 
ist exploitation, for the destruction of the capitalist state, and the 
establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. 

From this it follows that a Communist party, which is the one 
to carry on this strategy, must itself be a fighting organization 


Reply to Lore and Olgin 197 

linked up with every phase of the class struggle and moving along 
consciously and persistently in the direction of the final proletar- 
ian struggle for power. 

The class struggle does not develop along straight lines. Its 
ways are devious and complicated. As Trotsky said, "In politics the 
shortest distance between two points is a zigzag." The thesis does 
not follow the method of Lenin when it attempts to speak of a 
"straight," and "direct" and "unyielding" policy as opposed to a 
policy of devious ways, political machinations or obscure paths. 

A policy is correct, Communist and revolutionary if it pro- 
motes, deepens and intensifies the class struggle, if it accentuates 
class divisions and solidifies the working class as against the capi- 
talist class and if it strengthens the Communist Party and broad- 
ens its influence over the laboring masses. 

A policy which satisfies the above requirements is a good 
Communist policy, irrespective of whether the line of its path is 
straight, broken or circular. The shape of the line of our tactics is 
determined, not by our free will but by the prevailing conditions 
of the class struggle. 

The thesis is wrong and non-Marxian, and manifests a failure 
to understand the fundamentals of Communist strategy, when it 
attempts to dump all non-proletarian groupings into one reac- 
tionary heap which is to be condemned and fought against always 
in the same measure and with the same tactics. The established 
strategy of the Communist International, which is based on a 
Marxian conception of capitalist society, always differentiates be- 
tween the immediate interests of the various groups and strata of 
the non-proletarian classes for the double purpose of (1) mobiliz- 
ing at a given moment the greatest possible force of anti-capitalist 
opposition, and (2) winning over all the exploited and oppressed 
elements to the proletarian cause, thereby bringing about the 
isolation of the capitalist class. The thesis sins heavily against this 
principle of strategy and also against the actual facts involved in 
the third party movement when it proposes to treat this move- 
ment, which is a revolt against big capital, precisely as we treat the 
Republican and Democratic parties, which are the parties of big 

And, lastly, the whole thesis is pervaded with a spirit of pessi- 
mism, passivity and fear of tackling a complicated situation, which 

198 Early Years of American Communism 

is altogether out of proportion to and unjustified by the known 
facts of the present situation and the established policies of the 
CI. This spirit is peculiarly reminiscent of an attitude formerly 
shared by certain sections of our movement that the beginning 
and end of all Communist activities is propaganda of Commu- 
nism, straightforward, unyielding preaching of Communist prin- 
ciples. It is this attitude that prevented for a time some of our 
members from accepting the labor party policy of the Workers 

The Present Situation 

The thesis of comrades Lore and Olgin does not disprove the 
fact that we are witnessing now in the United States a growing 
revolt of the working masses on the one hand and of the petty- 
bourgeois elements on the other hand against the domination of 
the two old parties. The thesis is very careful to avoid the use 
of the term revolt. It says instead: "growing tendency, growing 
influence, marked dissatisfaction," etc. But this difference in 
terminology, which is important, of course, does not, however, 
alter the fact that there is afoot a growing movement invoking 
large masses of workers, farmers, and petty-bourgeois elements 
tending to split away from the two old parties. This is the most 
important cardinal fact in present-day American politics. There- 
fore, no strategy can be correct which fails to put this fact in its 
proper light and to analyze its basic factors. The thesis of com- 
rades Lore and Olgin is deficient in both. It fails to probe down 
to the real economic basis of the insurgent movement, inside and 
outside of the two old parties, and therefore misses its true vol- 
ume, scope and significance. 

The Economic Situation 

The thesis admits "the economic situation is gradually 
approaching a crisis" and that "the economic depression has 
been on the increase throughout the latter part of 1923." This is 
correct but the present crisis is not of the type of the periodic, 
pre-war capitalist crises and herein lies its significance. It is not a 
temporary or passing affair. It is a manifestation here in the 
United States of the general critical state of world capitalism. This 

Reply to Lore and Olgin 199 

crisis may have its ups and downs but its lasting and permanent 
nature cannot be disputed. 

It is this lasting and permanent nature of the present eco- 
nomic depression, plus the recent political developments, which 
have unmasked the American government as the tool and ser- 
geant of big capital, that is responsible for the acuteness of the 
class relations prevailing at present in the United States. 

The Political Situation 

The thesis of the CEC which is to be submitted to the Com- 
munist International speaks of the mass revolt in the United 
States against the domination of the two old parties as a revolt 
against the economic and political rule of big capital And that is what 
it is, but this fact the thesis of comrades Lore and Olgin fails to 
take note of. It speaks of a "growing dissatisfaction," "bitter rest- 
lessness" of the workers, farmers and petty-bourgeois elements 
without realizing that what we are confronted with now is a move- 
ment and not merely a state of mind. A movement of large masses 
against the present rule of the bankers and big industrialists, and 
that this movement is tending unmistakably in the direction of a 
third petty-bourgeois liberal party. Whether this party materializes 
— if it does — as a petty-bourgeois liberal party or as a regular 
capitalist party similar to one of the old parties is still somewhat 
problematical. It may eventually turn either way, which does not 
in the least change the present nature and significance of the 
movement. As to our tactics and attitude towards a third party, 
the thesis of the CEC provides for either case. The thesis of the 
Central Executive Committee lays down clearly and definitely the 
conditions and terms for a possible election alliance between the 
Farmer-Labor Party and the third party. 

Our Attitude Toward the Third Party Movement 

The thesis of the Central Executive Committee bases its 
attitude toward the third party movement on three sets of 

1. The third party movement accelerates the development of 
the class struggle, produces a clearer crystallization of 
political groupings on the basis of real economic interests, 

200 Early Years of American Communism 

and weakens the united capitalist front against the working 

2. The third party movement involves and is followed by large 
masses of workers and exploited farmers who are revolting 
and struggling against the domination of big capital. For 
these masses the third party movement is objectively a transitory 
stage to the class farmer-labor party. The successful develop- 
ment of the third party movement will seriouslv affect if not 
shatter the domination of the Gompers machine in the 
AFL, thereby opening the way for favorable changes in the 
labor movement. 

3. The movement toward and the formation of a third petty- 
bourgeois party creates a favorable situation for the devel- 
opment of a class farmer-labor partv which is the main 
objective of our present strategy. 

The thesis of comrades Lore and Olgin fails to take cogni- 
zance of any of these considerations. It admits that this movement 
"is important for the working class mainly through the general 
political agitation it creates in the country and particularly 
through the attacks it levels at the old capitalist parties." But it 
fails to understand the far-reaching implication even of this state- 
ment. What it does see is the probable coming into existence of 
"a third bourgeois party, which would be no more than a united 
front of the big bourgeoisie and the mass of the middle and pettv 
bourgeoisie which would become an obstacle for the creation of a 
proletarian party and mav subsequently be much more difficult to 
combat than an open and avowed enemy of the working people." 

What this third party movement may eventually materialize 
into, nobody knows as yet. For the present, however, it is not a 
united front of the big bourgeoisie with the middle and petty 
bourgeoisie but a movement of revolt of the workers, exploited 
and well-to-do farmers and various elements of the petty bourgeoi- 
sie against the rule of big capital. 

That the third party movement carries with it serious dangers 
for the success of the Farmer-Labor Party movement goes without 
saying. The thesis of the Central Executive Committee clearly 
points out these dangers, and proposes definite measures to meet 

Reply to Lore and Olgin 201 

After setting forth the conditions under which it is possible 
for the Farmer-Labor Party to support the candidates of the 
third party in the 1924 elections, the thesis of the CEC says the 

If under the conditions set forth above an election alliance, either 
national or local, is made the Farmer-Labor Party must maintain a 
distinct organization and carry on an independent campaign for its 
own program and utilize the situation to the utmost to crystallize in 
the definite form of an organized Farmer- Labor Party all those work- 
ers and exploited farmers who can be brought to the support of a 
class party. 

Throughout any campaign in which we maintain an alliance with the 
third party, we must constantly criticize and expose it and its candi- 
dates, show up the futility of its program, and make it clear to the 
workers who are reached by our own campaign that the third party 
will bring them no salvation and no relief. We must make it clear 
that the whole campaign is simply a starting point in the struggle for 
the establishment of a workers and farmers government, which in 
turn is a step towards the proletarian dictatorship, the one and only 
instrument for their liberation. 

All the elements of the classes which are participating in the revolt 
against and split from the old capitalist parties will be represented in 
the St. Paul convention on June 17th. But the probability of the class 
farmer-labor elements — the rank and file workers and poor farmers 
— predominating will be greatly increased by the aggressive role of 
the Workers Party in the campaign for the convention and the ten- 
dency of the third party elements (including the labor bureaucrats, 
who are ideologically a part of the petty bourgeoisie) to turn to the 
Cleveland conference of the CPPA or to some other center which 
may be created by the La Follette group to serve as the nucleus of 
the third party. 

Our task at the June 17th convention will be to strengthen and clar- 
ify its class character, fight for the adoption of a class program, 
organize it into a class party separate and distinct from the Cleve- 
land conference or any other third party conference which may be 
held. The party formed there shall negotiate, through committees, 
with other conferences on the question of common campaigns or 
common candidates only as an organized body. 

At the St. Paul conference we shall nominate and fight for proletar- 
ian candidates as against any other candidates at the conference. We 
shall utilize the conference to lay the basis for the organization of 
the Farmer-Labor Party throughout the country and also advance 

202 Early Years of American Communism 

there the proposal and plans for an economic organization of farm- 
ers to serve as the foundation for their political organization. 

This step of supporting the candidates of a petty-bourgeois 
liberal third party, under the conditions laid down in the thesis of 
the Central Executive Committee, is a correct one; not only 
because it is in accord with the general strategy of the CI (as 
manifested in its attitude to the British Labour Party and the 
Mexican presidential elections), but also because it offers the best 
tactical move of eventually separating the masses of workers and 
exploited farmers from the leadership of petty-bourgeois liberal- 
ism and bringing them into the ranks of the class farmer-labor 
party, which is a step along the road to Communism. On the 
other hand the position toward the third party movement taken 
by the thesis of comrades Lore and Olgin offers the best means of 
perpetuating petty-bourgeois influence over the masses of workers 
and exploited farmers that are now following this movement. 

The thesis of comrades Lore and Olgin takes the position of 
no support for the candidates of the third party under any cir- 
cumstances, and this for five reasons: 

1. Our support would be futile because we do not command 
large numbers of voters who actually influence the out- 
come of the election. 

And suppose we did command large numbers of voters? 
Would we then be justified in supporting candidates of the third 
party? Obviously not, according to the general strategy of the 
thesis of comrades Lore and Olgin. Then where is the point of 
this argument? 

2. It would "perturb the class vision of our membership and 
cause among them great consternation, appearing to them 
as an obvious deviation from the straight line of class 

This argument figures very prominently in the thesis that the 
working class in America as a whole, being disgusted with the 
political game, will not follow, let alone approve, the tactical move 
involved in the support of a third party candidate. 

If this argument has any validity at all, then the only con- 
clusion to be drawn is: Total abstention from politics! Boycott 
all capitalist institutions! No compromise! No dealings with the 

Reply to Lore and Olgin 203 

enemy until we come to the final direct struggle for power and 
until then — preach Communism! 

This is the straightest possible line of the class struggle. The 
only trouble with it is that it is wholly imaginary. 

3. Support of third party candidates would make it impossible 
for us to explain our refusal to support a "Friend of 
Labor" on the ticket of the Democratic Party. 

By this argument the thesis shows that it is dealing not with 
social forces, classes, and parties, but with individuals. 

The conception of "labor friends," which underlies the non- 
partisan policies of Gompers and the CPPA, can be exploded only 
on the basis of class relations and the social analysis of political 
parties. It is our duty to teach the workers to think in terms of 
classes and parties and not individuals. Until we have succeeded 
in this, nothing will help much, not even a policy of straight lines. 

We analyze before the workers the social make-up of the two 
old parties and thereby show that they are controlled and domi- 
nated by big capital — the master and enemy of the working class. 
Candidates on the tickets of the two old parties will either do the 
biddings of the capitalists or fail. In either case, the workers are 
the losers. Therefore, don't support candidates of the old parties. 

We then analyze the social make-up of the third party and if 
we find that it is controlled by a petty-bourgeois liberalism, we say 
so. And we explain what it means in terms of the economic inter- 
ests of the workers, poor farmers, wealthy farmers, other petty- 
bourgeois elements, and big capital. In other words, we explain 
the political aspirations of the third party by means of its social- 
economic basis. 

In doing this, we will find that the "friendliness" to labor 
of a third petty-bourgeois party rests on an economic basis. The 
middle classes revolting against big capital need the assistance of 
labor and are, therefore, compelled to offer some concessions to 
labor. And it is here that we point out the limitations of these 
concessions and the general unreliability of the election promises. 

We proceed further to explain that the workers and exploited 
farmers can best utilize this division in the ranks of the bour- 
geoisie by organizing their own party and fighting their own 
battles, at the same time giving their organized support, as an 

204 Early Years of American Communism 

independent class farmer-labor party, to candidates of the third 
party where such support will assure the defeat of the old parties 
or increase the divisions in the ranks of the bourgeoisie, or assist 
in splitting away large masses of workers and farmers from the two 
old parties. 

4. The sense of the fourth argument is that it is impossible to 
support and criticize third party candidates at one and the 
same time, which is the same as saying that the Farmer- 
Labor Party cannot support a third party candidate and 
at the same time carry on an independent Farmer-Labor 

If this were true, then how could a Communist party support 
candidates of a farmer-labor party and at the same time carry on 
an independent Communist campaign? And again, how could the 
Communists of Mexico, on the advice of the Comintern, support 
Calles (petty-bourgeois candidate) and carry on an independent 
campaign? 1 And finally, how could the Comintern support the 
colonial struggles of the oppressed nationalities (petty-bourgeois 
in character) against European and American imperialism and at 
the same time carry on among the proletarian elements of the 
same nationalities a class campaign along Communist lines? 

The answer is that of course it can be done, as we have shown 
above. That it is difficult and even dangerous no one can deny, 
but this is no reason for not doing it. 

5. Support of third party candidates "would make it appear to 
our members that we put all our hopes in parliamentary re- 

1 In a letter to the Communist Party of Mexico (PCM) of 21 August 1923, the 
Executive Committee of the Comintern wrote that "the Communist Party must 
participate in the elections on behalf of Calles." In the maneuvering leading up to 
the 1924 vote, former Mexican treasury minister Adolfo de la Huerta opposed the 
appointment of General Plutarco Elfas Calles as designated successor to General 
Alvaro Obregon, then in power. Despite the lack of a clear left-right, let alone 
class, polarization between the contending forces, the ECCI argued that "the over- 
whelming majority of the workers and peasants will support the candidature of 

During 1923-24, the PCM was increasingly under the sway of Jay Lovestone's 
chief crony, Bertram Wolfe, who had fled to Mexico to avoid arrest in the United 
States. In December 1923, De la Huerta led an abortive military uprising against 
Obregon. While Mexican party leaders had previously been aligned with De la 


Reply to Lore and Olgin 205 

forms and that all our propaganda of mass action is no 
more than a phrase." 

The direct opposite is true. It is those who cannot appreciate 
the real mass nature of the present revolt against the two old 
parties and who refuse, by adopting elastic tactics, to divert the 
class elements of this mass movement into the channels of a class 
farmer-labor party, that are making a mockery and empty sound 
of the Communist conception of mass action. Mass action is not 
something static, immovable and unchangeable. It is a process 
and a development which has its beginning in such mild occur- 
rences as the present movement of large masses of workers and 
exploited farmers away from the old parties and in the direction 
of independent political action and culminating, through various 
changes and developments (not always running in a straight line) 
in a direct struggle for power. 

This is the Communist conception of mass action and it is 
such mass action that we will assist in developing by adopting the 
tactics of the Central Executive Committee. 

Restating Our Objective 

Our immediate objective is the unification and consolidation 
of all politically mature farmer-labor forces in the United States 
for an independent campaign along class lines in the coming 
presidential election. Our aim is the formation of a mass party of 
workers and farmers, and the advancement of Communist influ- 
ence within it. 

Huerta, at Wolfe's insistence the PCM backed the Obregon government. Soon 
after, the party offered to support Calles in the elections if he accepted certain 
minimum "worker and peasant" demands (presented to him on its behalf by the 
radical painter Diego Rivera). Calles "accepted" the demands and Communist 

The call for support to Calles reflected the general confusion on the question 
of two-class "worker-peasant" parties then current in the Communist Interna- 
tional. The ECCI letter was published in English by the Workers Party as a pam- 
phlet under the title Strategy of the Communists, and the American Daily Worker gave 
prominent coverage to the Mexican party's support to Calles. After Calles won the 
election but before he took office, the Obregon government gave diplomatic rec- 
ognition to Soviet Russia. When the Comintern swerved to the left later in 1924, 
the PCM began denouncing Calles' bonapartist, pro-imperialist regime. Wolfe was 
expelled from the country by the Calles government in 1925. 

206 Early Years of American Communism 

The convention of June 17th is the next point of concen- 

In striving toward this objective we find ourselves confronted 
with a petty-bourgeois third party movement which is neither of 
our making nor under our control. It is clearly a revolt of large 
masses of workers, farmers and petty-bourgeois elements against 
big capital and thus runs somewhat in the same general direction 
as the Farmer-Labor Party movement. This third party movement 
contains in its ranks large masses of workers and exploited farm- 
ers. Hence, the bigger the volume of this movement, the better 
the chances for a class farmer-labor party, provided we meet the 
situation as it is and do not run away from it. 

This situation creates a problem for us. The problem is to 
develop our labor party policy in such a manner as to increase 
the volume and scope of the split-away movement from the two 
old parties, at the same time carefully and after proper prepara- 
tion diverting the class elements into the channels of the class 
farmer-labor party. The thesis of comrades Lore and Olgin misses 
completely this central problem of our whole labor party policy. 
The thesis of the Central Executive Committee states the prob- 
lem, analyzes its factors, and gives the best solution of it. 

St. Paul-June 17th 

Published May 1924 

The following article by Cannon was published in the Trade Union 
Educational League journal, Labor Herald. Though the Workers Party 
was willing to enter into an "alliance" with the third party forces of 
Republican Senator Robert M. La Toilette, it sought to maintain a modi- 
cum of "independence." The St. Paul Tarmer-Labor convention was 
called in competition with a Conference for Progressive Political Action 
convention set for Cleveland on July 4 — after the finish of both the 
Democratic and Republican conventions — where it was projected that 
La Toilette would be nominated for U. S. president on the Progressive 
Party ticket. In May the Communist International directed the Workers 
Party not to support La Toilette. When the St. Paul convention met in 
June it therefore nominated an independent Tarmer-Labor Party ticket: 
mine union official Duncan MacDonald for U.S. president and William 
Bouck of the Washington state Tederated Tarmer-Labor Party for vice 

A city and a date — St. Paul, June 17th — represent at the 
present time the central point around which all the forces of the 
awakening industrial workers and poor farmers are organizing. 
The great national farmer-labor convention called by the joint 
action of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party, the Federated 
Farmer-Labor Party and practically all other existing bona fide 
farmer-labor organizations, will meet in St. Paul on June 17. 
Neither the city nor the date is accidental. They, as well as all the 
other facts about this convention, which distinguish it from the 
July 4th convention of the CPPA at Cleveland, have reasons for 
their being which arise from class relations and the present stage 
of development of the class struggle. 

The Northwest Politically Awake 

It is in the Northwest, especially in Minnesota, that the masses 
of workers and farmers have made the greatest advancement in 


208 Early Years of American Communism 

political life. Their political development has already reached the 
point of definite organization and a degree of success, even, in 
the elections. Practically the whole labor movement of Minnesota 
is participating in the affairs of the Farmer-Labor Party. More 
than that, the bulk of the trade unions have advanced to the 
point of leading in the organization of the Farmer-Labor Federa- 
tion, an organization within the Farmer-Labor Party which aims to 
put it on a definite foundation of workers' and farmers' economic 
organizations, and control it in this way. It is natural, therefore — 
one might almost say inevitable — that the other sections of the 
American labor movement which are striving towards an inde- 
pendent party should turn towards St. Paul and look upon it as 
the logical center for the crystallization of the national movement. 
The date of the convention, before the Republican convention 
will be adjourned and before the Democratic convention will 
be convened, illustrates the determination to act there without 
regard to the decisions of these two conventions of the capitalist 

Those officials and leaders in the ranks of the labor and 
farmer movements who are trying to head off the sentiment 
among the rank and file workers for an independent party of 
their own, and steer it back into the old parties of the big capital- 
ists, or, failing that, into a third party of the petty bourgeoisie, lost 
no time in opening fire on the St. Paul convention. They turned 
against it just as naturally and automatically as the conscious and 
awakened workers and poor farmers turned towards it. The St. 
Paul convention and all its surroundings — the city, the date, the 
participants, the program and the determined spirit of it — stamp 
it unmistakably as a real and genuine convention of workers and 
farmers bent on organizing an independent political party on 
class lines. The $10,000-a-year labor leaders do not want such a 
party. That is why they are fighting the St. Paul convention. 

The widespread revolt of the masses of workers and farmers 
against the Teapot Dome 1 government is taking a number of 

1 A reference to the financial scandals that rocked the Harding administration, 
generally known under the rubric of "Teapot Dome," which was the name of the 
Wyoming naval oil reserve leased in 1922 to Harry F. Sinclair by Harding's 


St. Paul-June 17th 209 

forms and showing various manifestations which can only be 
understood if they are analyzed from the standpoint of class rela- 
tions and the class struggle. One question especially arises in the 
minds of many workers. It goes something like this: What is the 
difference between these two gatherings and what is the reason 
for the split between them? Why the devil don't they all get 
together into one convention? And why do I have to be in favor 
of one and not of both? 

The answer to this question is that between the two conven- 
tions there are basic differences of composition, purpose, and 
viewpoint. The two conventions are not striving towards the same 
goal. That is the reason why they exist separately. An analysis of 
the make-up and actions of the two bodies makes this very clear. 

CPPA Against Rank and File 

The Conference for Progressive Political Action only talks 
vaguely about independent political action but, in practice, partic- 
ipates in and supports the capitalist parties. It is true that among 
many of the workers who have been following the CPPA there is a 
decided sentiment for a labor party but this sentiment does not 
exist among the leaders of the CPPA. They play the part of "light- 
ning rods." They pose as favoring independent action only as a 
concession to the sentiment of their followers, in order to catch it 
and direct it into the ground. Their "sympathy" for the idea of a 
labor party is a disguise to hide their actual allegiance to the 
capitalist parties. These "leaders" of labor cannot lead a fight to 
form a working class party because they do not have a working 
class point of view. They do not live like the workers and they do 
not think like the workers. 

Moreover there will be no chance for the rank and file work- 
ers who want a labor party in spite of the officials to make a fight 
for it at the Cleveland convention. It is a convention of leaders 
and officials. The rank and file is not welcome there. Local 
unions are not admitted. City central bodies have only one vote. 

Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall. It was later revealed that Sinclair had given 
Fall a herd of cattle, $85,000 in cash and $223,000 in bonds to clinch the deal. In 
1929 Fall was convicted of bribery, fined $100,000 and sentenced to a year in 
jail — the first U.S. Cabinet officer to serve time in prison. 

210 Early Years of American Communism 

Local organizations of farmers are not invited. The International 
unions, which will be represented by their bureaucratic and reac- 
tionary officials, together with some national organizations of 
farmers, businessmen, liberals, and the traitor Socialist Party, have 
drawn up a set of rules and apportioned the voting in the conven- 
tion in such a way as to make it absolutely proof against rank and 
file interference with their plans. It is needless to add that the 
Workers Party is not invited to Cleveland. The Workers Party has 
been leading the fight for a real class party of workers and 
farmers, and it could not be expected that those who oppose this 
idea would invite it to their gathering. If the Workers Party were 
admitted to the Cleveland convention, the game of the treacher- 
ous leaders would be brought out into the open and exposed. If 
Communists were in the convention they would press the labor 
traitors to the wall, and organize a fight against their treachery in 
the convention itself. 

St. Paul of and for Real Workers 

The St. Paul convention, on the other hand, is a convention 
of the rank and file. It is committed in advance to the program of 
putting up independent farmer-labor candidates in the coming 
election regardless of the decisions of either the Republican or 
Democratic parties. The bodies which constituted the preliminary 
conferences and issued the call for the convention consisted of 
seven already existing farmer-labor parties including the Feder- 
ated Farmer-Labor Party, to which last the Communists of the 
Workers Party are affiliated. The class idea was the dominant idea 
in the conference and the sentiment for welding the whole move- 
ment into one national farmer-labor party on June 17th is strong 
and growing among the participants in the arrangements for the 
convention. That both these factors will grow stronger there can 
be no doubt. The presence in the convention of the Communists, 
who stand squarely and fight aggressively for the organization of a 
national party and the domination in it of the class idea, is the 
best guarantee of this. 

This St. Paul convention holds out tremendous possibilities. If 
we succeed in our aims there and crystallize in one body the re- 
volting elements of the workers and tenant and mortgaged farm- 

St. Paul-June 17th 211 

ers, formulating a class program and establishing an aggressive 
leadership, the political revolt of the oppressed masses will move 
forward with giant strides. A successful convention at St. Paul on 
June 17th will mean that the workers as a distinct class, in alliance 
with the poor farmers, have stepped onto the political stage in 
America for the first time. Such an event will have a profound 
influence, not only upon America but upon the entire world. 

We are not alone in this appraisal of the significance of 
June 17. The enemies of the independent working class political 
movement are alive to the dynamic possibilities of this convention 
in St. Paul. They have commenced to fire a tremendous volley 
of denunciation and misrepresentation against it. The capitalist 
press, and that part of the labor press which serves the capitalists, 
are fighting the St. Paul convention with all their power. Their 
aim is to defeat the rank and file movement for an independent 
class party, to steer the workers back into the capitalist parties, or 
into a third party dominated by the petty bourgeoisie. There is no 
mystery in the fact that they single out participation by the Com- 
munists in the June 17th convention for particular attack. The 
presence of the Communists — the driving force in the genuine 
labor party movement — assures that a real fight will be made for 
the formation of a national party on a class basis, dominated by 
the workers and poor farmers. This is what the capitalists and 
their labor agents fear the most. This is why they are making 
such a fight against the Communists in connection with this 

St. Paul Means Class Struggle 

For the conscious and militant workers and tenant and mort- 
gaged farmers, the fight for the St. Paul convention is the most 
important question on the order of the day. This convention, and 
the struggle for it, concentrates on one point, for the time being, 
the whole struggle of the rank and file of exploited labor against 
the capitalists, the capitalist government and the agents of the 
capitalists in the labor movement. It represents the beginning of 
the union between the workers of the cities and the farms — which 
is an indispensable prerequisite to the final victory. The size and 
strength of the St. Paul convention, and the extent to which the 

212 Early Years of American Communism 

conscious class elements dominate and shape it, will be the best 
and most reliable measure of the political development of the 
exploited workers and farmers of America. The militant trade 
unionists have to realize all these facts and make the fight for the 
June 17th convention the biggest issue in the labor movement. 

Our Aims and Tactics in the Trade Unions 

27 July 1924 

Cannon delivered the following speech to a conference of Workers Party 
coal miners in St. Louis, Missouri. It was first published in the Daily 
Worker magazine supplement, 2 August 1924. 


These conferences of party members in the important trade 
unions in which representatives of the Central Executive Commit- 
tee take part are becoming frequent occurrences. We must regard 
this as a healthy sign. It indicates that we are maturing as a party 
of theoretical and practical revolutionists, and getting a firm grip 
on our basic tasks. The close collaboration between the active 
comrades in the field and the leading organ of the party has a 
beneficial result all the way around. 

The close and intimate contact with the practical problems of 
the daily struggle, and with the comrades who directly face them, 
serves as an unerring corrective to any tendency there might be in 
the party to deal with these problems in an abstract or purely 
doctrinaire fashion. On the other hand, the participation of the 
party representatives insures that the fundamental political aspect 
of the trade union struggle will be brought to the front in these 
trade union conferences. The importance of this cannot be over- 
estimated. Otherwise there is constant danger of the work of our 
trade union comrades being influenced too much by expediency 
and so-called practicality. One-sided conceptions, purely trade 
union points of view, take the upper hand and the general class 
issues of the struggle are pushed into the background. Such a 
state of affairs must be guarded against. We know too well that it 
leads to reformism and futility. 

We are meeting here today to consider the problems of the 
particular trade union you belong to, from the standpoint of the 
party, which is the standpoint of all Communists. And I think I 


214 Early Years of American Communism 

will be proceeding in the proper order if I put forward as a prem- 
ise the revolutionary aims of our party and propose that we weigh 
and judge every trade union question that comes before us, no 
matter how small or practical it may appear to be, in the light of 
our final aims. 

A Revolutionary Party 

Our party is a party of the proletarian revolution and the 
dictatorship of the proletariat. The proletarian revolution is the 
only solution of the labor problem and all our work must lead to 
this goal. This is our starting point in the trade unions, as in every 
field of activity in the class struggle. It is this fundamental concep- 
tion that distinguishes us from all other parties and groups in the 
labor movement. It is the band of steel that binds us together into 
one party. 

Our revolutionary goal shapes our policy in the daily struggle. 
The revolutionary aspirations of our party comrades generate the 
enthusiasm and self-sacrifice that give the party its driving power. 
Woe to us if we become so "practical" as to forget this for one 
moment. All our work must lead toward the proletarian revolu- 
tion. If we keep this always in mind and measure all our daily 
work by this standard we will keep on the right road. The revo- 
lutionary principles to which we are committed put upon us 
responsibilities and duties which cannot be shifted or evaded if we 
are to live up to our conception of the party as the vanguard of 
the workers. We have to stand up and fight for the true interests 
of the working class as a whole, at every turn of the road. 

With the Masses, But Leading Them 

We want to be with the masses, but we must also be ahead 
of the masses, and not be afraid to take an unpopular stand, 
when it is necessary in order to combat their prejudices. Take 
for example the Ku Klux Klan. Here is an organization that is 
anti-labor in its very character — yet large numbers of coal miners 
are misled into supporting it. To fight the Ku Klux Klan, to 
expose its reactionary nature and win the workers away from it, 
is a difficult and somewhat hazardous task in certain sections of 
the country, but it is our duty to the working class to make such 
a fight. We would not be worthy of the proud name our party 

Aims and ladies in Trade Unions 215 

bears if we evaded such a fight on any pretext. 

Our work in the trade unions is developing. Evidence of this 
can be seen on every side. Such conferences as this are proof of 
the rapid strides we are making. We have already accumulated 
rich experience, and this experience is bringing to light both 
positive and negative sides in our work. One of our main duties 
is to review the whole activity from time to time, to strengthen 
and improve what is good, and discover what is bad in order to 
reject it. 

It goes without saying that we Communists esteem each other 
very highly, but when we meet together in conferences such as 
this, it is not for the purpose of extending bouquets and empty 
compliments, but to speak out openly and frankly; to subject all 
our work to thoroughgoing examination and criticism in order 
that errors may be discovered and overcome. You have the right 
to expect plain speaking from the Central Executive Committee. 
I feel quite confident that if some errors in your work are men- 
tioned here in this discussion, if some of the mistakes that individ- 
ual comrades made are pointed out in a friendly and brotherly, 
but nevertheless frank manner, as is the custom among Commu- 
nists, that none of you will feel offended. The discussion is only 
for the purpose of improving our effectiveness and strengthening 
the party for the fight. 

Our Valuable Experiences 

The power of a disciplined party, founded on revolutionary 
principles, and concerning itself in a businesslike fashion with all 
aspects of the trade union struggle, has already begun to manifest 
itself. At the last convention of the Illinois miners, for example, 
everybody could see that the party is beginning to grow up, to 
stretch its shoulders, and take its place on the stage of events. 1 

1 The Daily Worker gave prominent coverage to this weeklong convention of Dis- 
trict 12 of the United Mine Workers (see DW from 20-29 May 1924). Though the 
Daily Worker correspondent was expelled from the convention by a vote of 234 to 
169, the convention was portrayed as a big victory for "progressive" forces since 
district leader Frank Farrington was stripped of his appointive powers and the 
expelled militant Alex Howat received a much warmer reception than John L. 

216 Early Years of American Communism 

Our party appeared there as the leader of the fight for the inter- 
ests of the men in the mines. It was in the forefront, dealing the 
heaviest blows against the agents of the bourgeoisie, who have 
usurped the official positions in the miners union. The work of 
our comrades in this convention added greatly toward making the 
miners union a better union for the class struggle, thereby in- 
creasing the prestige of our party. That must be acknowledged at 
the very beginning. 

In a whole series of trade union conventions held in recent 
months the same phenomenon was to be observed. Our small 
party, which only yesterday emerged from underground and 
began to collect the scattered forces of the revolutionary workers, 
was the storm center of the fight against reaction in the labor 
movement. We have not yet become the leader of the masses in 
the trade unions, but we have become the leader in the fight for 
their interests. The rest will follow in good time. Of this we can be 

It is no accident that our party is pushing forward everywhere 
and putting itself at the head of the struggle. The reason for this 
is that ours is the only party willing to fight for the immediate 
interests of the workers, and the only party standing for the solu- 
tion of the labor problem by means of the revolutionary over- 
throw of capitalism. All of the interests of the working class, 
immediately and ultimately, are indissolubly bound up with the 
revolution. And if we make mistakes here and there, if we fail to 
take the fullest advantage of opportunities which arise in the 
course of the struggle, it is because our comrades in the unions, 
due mainly to inexperience, have not fully mastered the art of 
taking a practical stand on every question that arises, and relating 
it skillfully to the final aims of the movement. 

Correcting Our Mistakes 

To do practical work, and at the same time to deepen and 
extend the class consciousness of the workers, and lead them 
toward the struggle for power — this is the heart of our task in the 
trade unions. From this point of view an examination of events 
that transpired at the last convention of the Illinois miners will 
bring forth fruitful results. Our power will be multiplied at the 
next convention, if we frankly recognize the negative as well as 

Aims and Tactics in Trade Unions 217 

the positive sides of our activity at the last one. 

One of the main errors made by our comrades there was the 
failure to realize fully that the brazen scheme of class collab- 
oration, presented to the convention in the report of Frank 
Farrington, revealed the political and ideological basis of all the 
corruption and betrayal of the whole bureaucracy of the United 
Mine Workers of America, from Lewis to Farrington. Our com- 
rades should have attacked this report in the most militant 
fashion. They should have shot it to shreds on the ground that it 
represented the theory of the mutual interests of the coal diggers 
and the parasites who exploit them and fatten on their toil and 
misery. Against it they should have set up the principle of the 
class struggle, the theory of the salvation of the workers through 
uncompromising struggle against their exploiters. 

Such a fight would have been a dagger aimed at the very 
heart of the corrupt and treacherous trade union bureaucracy, 
because it would have been aimed at the false system of ideas with 
which they poison the labor movement. Such a fight should have 
been seized upon as the best means of opening the eyes of the 
miners, and making them see their real problem. All the other 
fights in the convention, the fight over the appointive power, the 
fight for better legislation in union affairs, for the reinstatement 
of Howat, etc., should have been regarded by our comrades, and 
explained to the delegates, as related to the basic fight for the 
principle of the class struggle, and subordinate to it. This would 
have been the best means of awakening the honest rank and file 
delegates, and of binding them more closely to us. 

Another error at the convention occurred in the handling of 
the resolution on the recognition of Soviet Russia. Here again 
the principle of the class struggle was involved. The Farrington 
machine played a clever game with the delegates on this resolu- 
tion, by calling for the recognition of Soviet Russia in one para- 
graph, and then nullifying the whole effect of the resolution by 
adding the qualification that Soviet Russia should recognize cer- 
tain obligations — the very obligations which the capitalist govern- 
ments of the world have been vainly trying for six years to impose 
upon her. Our comrades made the mistake of thinking that the 
question of formal recognition of Soviet Russia was the real issue, 
and of considering such a resolution a victory for us. 

218 Early Years of American Communism 

This was entirely too "statesmanlike." We are for the recogni- 
tion of Soviet Russia, because it is a working class state, and 
because we recognize that the interests of the working class all 
over the world are bound up with it. The recognition of Soviet 
Russia is for us an issue of the class struggle, and we should have 
made the fight purely on that basis, and hammered home again 
to the delegates the idea that the solidarity of labor, the world- 
wide union of the working class in the fight for the overthrow of 
capitalism, must be accepted as the guiding principle of the labor 
movement. We might have failed to get a majority of the conven- 
tion if we had put the fight on this basis, just as we might have 
failed to get a majority in a clear-cut class struggle fight against 
Farrington's scheme of class collaboration, but that is a secondary 
matter. We would have brought the principle to the front. We 
would have clarified the minds of many of the delegates, and tied 
them more closely to us. It is not the formal victory but the fight 
that is important. 

Inadequate Organization 

From the same point of view the inadequate development of 
the left wing caucus at the convention should be pointed out. 
Some comrades objected to these caucuses on the ground that 
Farrington's spies might be present and learn something in 
advance about the fights we intended to make in the convention. 
This attitude is erroneous. It is the result of overcaution and too 
much concern for immediate legislative and technical victories. 
Moreover, it represents, to a certain extent, an unconscious yield- 
ing to the position of the reactionary officials who naturally resent 
any attempt to organize the rank and file against them. This ques- 
tion goes much deeper than appears at first glance. The failure to 
organize the left wing delegates at the convention into a fighting 
body, if carried to its logical conclusion, would lead to the failure 
to organize the left wing forces throughout the union. It means 
giving up, under pressure of the officialdom, the right to organize 
the Trade Union Educational League. "Don't make a molehill 
into a mountain," is a good maxim; but it is just as good if we 
turn it around and say to the comrades who are willing to 
concede this small point: "Don't make a mountain into a mole- 
hill." If we are making a serious fight to break the control of the 

Aims and Tactics in Trade Unions 219 

trade union bureaucracy we must not neglect to organize our 

Our fight for the conquest of the union is at bottom a fight to 
organize the rank and file workers together with us on the basis 
of the class struggle. Therefore, they must be enlightened as to 
our aims and plans. 

Conventions should be regarded as the best occasions to 
advance this process. The conventions afford us the opportunity 
of coming into close contact with rank and file delegates, of com- 
batting by discussion and argument their prejudices and miscon- 
ceptions, and of uniting them with us into an organized body to 
fight for the regeneration of the labor movement. The left wing 
caucus is necessary for this work. 

It is far more important to us if we get acquainted with ten 
new workers and make them a part of the organized fight, than if 
we pass a dozen resolutions in the convention by an accidental 

The conscious support of the workers is what we want. We are 
fighting for their minds and hearts. Do not forget that, comrades. 
The officialdom can turn our best resolutions into scraps of 
paper. They can retain office by stealing elections, but they can- 
not take away from us the workers we have won over to our way of 
thinking and fighting. The officials can maintain themselves in 
power, for a time, by a thousand tricks and fraudulent practices. 
But once we have won the masses over to our side, we can snap 
our fingers at them. The control of the unions means for us the 
control of the masses. This, and this alone, will insure our final 

Communists and Union Offices 

I want to pass over now to another question which will 
become more and more important as our strength develops in 
the trade unions. It has confronted us already a number of times. 
That is the question of comrades holding office in the unions and 
becoming candidates for office. This may become one of our 
greatest dangers, and one of the greatest sources of corruption of 
party members, if we do not properly estimate this question and 
take a resolute stand on it at the very beginning. 

In the discussions which took place here today, we heard the 

220 Early Years of American Communism 

remark made by one of the comrades that our struggle in the 
unions is a struggle for strategic positions. This is a one-sided view 
and if we allow it to stand alone, we will fall into a serious error. 
We must adopt the point of view that our struggle is a struggle to 
develop the class consciousness of the rank and file workers and 
to win them over to the principle of the revolutionary struggle 
against capitalism under the leadership of our party. 

If we will connect the fight for strategic positions with this 
broad political aim and subordinate it to this aim, we will be on 
safe ground. Otherwise, we will be confronted with the spectacle 
of party members regarding the fight for office as an end in itself; 
of evading or putting aside questions of principle with which the 
masses are not familiar; of scheming and calculating too closely in 
order to get into office. Of course the comrades will justify all this 
on the ground that once they get into office they will be able to 
do big things for the party. But quite often we will be apt to find 
the very comrades who adopt this method of getting into office 
falling into the habit of continuing it in order to hold the office. 
They will thereby degenerate into mere office-holders and office- 
hunters. They will lose the confidence and respect of the militant 
rank and file workers, and our party, which stands responsible for 
them, will have its prestige greatly injured. 

Strategic positions, however, are very important and we must 
not take a doctrinaire view in regard to them. The opinion ex- 
pressed here by one comrade that men become petty-bourgeois in 
their interests and outlook as soon as they are elected to office 
and that, therefore, we should have nothing to do with office, is 
not correct. It is true that official position, especially in the Ameri- 
can trade union movement, has led many men in the past to cor- 
ruption and betrayal of the workers, but that does not say that 
Communists must be corrupted. We have to hold the conception 
that a true Communist can go anywhere the party sends him and 
do anything, and still remain a Communist — still remain true to 
the working class. Comrade Lenin was an official. He had more 
power than Frank Farrington, but he did not become like Frank 
Farrington. The guarantee against corruption of party members 
who become officials is that they remain close to the party and 
that they base their fight for office on the support of the rank and 
file for the policy of the class struggle, and do not become too 
expedient and too "clever" — do not try to "sneak" into office by 

Aims and Tactics in Trade Unions 221 

soft-pedaling and pussy-footing on questions of principle which 
may be unpopular, but which Communists, nevertheless, are duty 
bound to stand for. 

A Party of Struggle 

Our party is a party of rank and file revolutionary workers, a 
party of revolutionary struggle against capitalism and all its works, 
and we expect comrades who are put into official positions to 
retain that fundamental conception and carry it out in all their 
official work. They must not allow themselves to be influenced by 
their positions into an attitude of overcaution. Above all, they 
must not acquire an "official" psychology, and fail to do their 
duty by the party for fear of jeopardizing their positions. We do 
not put Communists into office in order that they may do less for 
the party, but more. 

The atmosphere of American trade union officialdom is a 
fetid one. It is permeated through and through with customs and 
traditions of a non-proletarian character. Take care, you comrades 
who become officials, that you do not sink into this swamp. Re- 
member always that you are Communists and hold on to your 
rebel Communist spirit. Do not succumb to the customs and tra- 
ditions of office developed by the agents of the bourgeoisie, who 
have fastened themselves upon the labor movement in official 
positions, but take your own revolutionary ethics and customs 
with you. 

Party Discipline 

The question of party discipline becomes especially important 
in connection with comrades in official positions. Comrades so 
situated must tie themselves closely to the party, make themselves 
one with it, and regard the party always as their best friend. The 
close union of a Communist official with the party will be the best 
guarantee that he will be able to retain his revolutionary point of 
view and do his duty by the working class. The party expects even 
more discipline to be shown by comrades who become officials 
and leaders than by other members of the party. It does not fear 
even the biggest officials who go against the decisions of the party 
and follow a policy in conflict with it. Comrades who hold offices, 
no matter how important they may be, cannot act as independent 
individuals without being called to order by the party. 

222 Early Years of American Communism 

The Test of Our Work 

We can sum up the whole question in a few words. We are 
not progressives, but revolutionists. Our role in the trade union 
movement is to organize the masses for the proletarian revolution 
and to lead them in the struggle for it. All of our daily work must 
be related to this, and subordinated to it. The test of our work 
can never be made by formal victories on paper, but by the devel- 
opment of class consciousness in the ranks of the workers, the 
degree of their organization on that basis and the increasing 
influence and leadership of our party. Strategic positions in the 
labor movement are of importance chiefly from the standpoint of 
enabling the party to advance and develop its work of revolution- 
izing the masses. 

Let us be shrewd and practical by all means. Let us learn how 
to meet every question that arises in the union, in a realistic and 
businesslike manner. Let us become experts in the daily work of 
the unions, and in maneuvering for strategic positions, but let us 
also remember always the danger of degenerating into mere pro- 
fessional office seekers. 

Active unionists, especially those who hold office, are beset by 
a thousand temptations to turn aside from the road of the class 
struggle. Only their close union with the party will enable them 
to overcome these temptations. With the assistance of the party 
they will learn how to serve the workers in the daily struggle and 
to connect all their activity with the task of leading the masses 
toward the final revolution. They will learn how to measure their 
progress at every step, not by formal victories on paper, but by the 
development of the class consciousness of the workers and the 
influence of the party, by the extent to which their activity 
inspires the workers with that spirit of determined struggle, which 
is the spirit of Communism. 

Many difficulties will confront us in the task we have under- 
taken, but, with the assistance of the party and the International, 
we will solve them all. We will win over the masses to the side of 
Communism; we will wrest the labor movement from the hands 
of the agents of the bourgeoisie and convert them into mighty 
instruments for the proletarian revolution. 

Communist Candidates and 
the Farmer-Labor Party 

Published 29 July 1924 

The following article was published in the Daily Worker. In it Cannon 
justifies the Workers Party 's sudden decision on July 8 to withdraw sup- 
port from the Farmer-Labor Party candidates nominated at the St. Paul 
convention and instead run an election campaign in the name of the 
Workers Party. The Communist candidates were William Z. Foster for 
president and Benjamin Gitlow for vice president. The National Execu- 
tive Committee of the Farmer-Labor Party, which was dominated by WP 
members, withdrew their candidates in favor of the Workers Party slate. 

Why should any Communist be surprised or shocked if the 
Communist Party decides to take part in elections under its own 
name? This is the natural thing to do, and is being done con- 
stantly by Communist parties in all parts of the world. To follow 
another course there must be a series of special circumstances 
which offer decided advantages to the party in making a joint 
campaign with other groups of workers. 

The decision of our party to enter its own candidates in the 
elections this year has met with general approval throughout the 
party ranks. The judgment of the Central Executive Committee 
and the special party conference in taking this decisive step has 
been confirmed by the great majority of the comrades with whom 
we have had the opportunity to discuss the present situation and 
explain in detail the reasons for our action. 

Some questions, however, are arising in certain sections of the 
party. A number of comrades have come forward with objections 
and criticism, and it is necessary to answer them. 

Some comrades fear we have abandoned the united front. 
They consider that our action represents the victory of the two 
extreme wings in our party, who, strangely enough, have been 
meeting on common ground in opposition to our participation in 


224 Early Years of American Communism 

the Farmer-Labor Party, although for quite different reasons. 
Other comrades, who have yet a somewhat unclear conception of 
the purposes of the united front and who have been uncon- 
sciously falling into the habit of regarding the Farmer-Labor Party 
as an end in itself, have written to the National Office in recent 
days, requesting further explanation of our action. The bold deci- 
sion of our party to stand on its own feet in the present campaign 
and enter its own candidates has taken their breath away. 

It is necessary to answer both of these criticisms fully and 
adequately. In this article we will take up some questions raised by 
a party branch in the West, from the latter standpoint, leaving a 
discussion of the tactical significance of our recent decision for a 
later article. 

We have said a thousand times, and we repeat it again, that 
our labor party policy is based on the united front tactics laid 
down by the Communist International. In order for us to take 
part in the labor party instead of conducting an election cam- 
paign under our own name, we must be able to see decided 
advantages in it from the standpoint of Communism and the 
Communist Party. A first and necessary condition must be the 
participation in the movement of large bodies of other workers 
who are willing to make a common fight with us on the basis of 
the class struggle. In such circumstances, we have the advantage 
of coming into contact with a workers' mass movement, and if we 
have taken care to maintain the autonomy and independence of 
our party, we can do fruitful work therein for the principles of 
Communism. We can draw the masses of workers nearer to the 
Communist position, win them away from the false leadership of 
opportunist and progressive politicians and toward the leadership 
of our party. Only when all these conditions are present is it per- 
missible to sacrifice even temporarily the tremendous advantage 
of putting up our own ticket, as is done in nearly every country in 
the world. 

So much for the general theory underlying the labor party 
policy we have followed up to now. 

Taking this theory as our basis, we were and are obliged to 
consider the concrete facts confronting us at every stage in the 
development of events. The statement of our party, printed in the 
Daily Worker on the day the candidacy of Foster and Gitlow was 

Communist Candidates and FLP 225 

announced, correctly set forth the actual situation in the present 
campaign. Despite all our efforts to create a united front political 
movement under the banner of the Farmer-Labor Party on a 
national scale, we were not successful. The reasons for this failure 
are not far to seek. The basic reason, of course, is the almost 
complete domination of the organized labor movement by reac- 
tionary labor leaders and the labor aristocracy, which are opposed 
to independent political action by labor and to the class struggle 
in general. But besides this basic reason there were contributing 
factors which played an important part in killing the labor party 
in the present campaign. The treachery and cowardice of Fitz- 
patrick and his group in Chicago dealt the movement a heavy 
blow. The betrayal of the labor party movement by the Socialist 
Party played a part. On top of these, the tremendous sweep of 
the La Follette movement throughout the labor party generally 
had the effect of so neutralizing its class character as to make it 
impossible for us to hold any considerable section of it in line for 
a class fight on a national scale. 

After the Cleveland convention of the CPPA we were con- 
fronted with the following facts: 

1. There was not even one voice raised in the Cleveland 
convention against La Follette and for the Farmer-Labor Party. 
R.D. Cramer, who fought valiantly in the first Cleveland con- 
vention of the CPPA, sat mute in the convention of July 4th; Fitz- 
patrick had already gone back to the Gompers policy. William 
Mahoney, one of the outstanding pioneers in the labor party 
movement of the Northwest, swore allegiance to La Follette and 
to the movement that would not admit him as a delegate. Sidney 
Hillman was on the La Follette bandwagon. Even the Socialist 
Party, with Eugene V. Debs, surrendered unconditionally to La 
Follette, the petty-bourgeois politician, and cravenly gave up the 
fight for a labor party. Our hopes for a left wing at Cleveland 
which would fight for a labor party and join hands with the St. 
Paul Convention Committee on that issue did not materialize. 

2. A large section even of the elements which took part in the 
St. Paul convention were unable to stand up against the tremen- 
dous pressure of the La Follette forces and capitulated to them. 
Even such pronounced Farmer-Laborites as William Mahoney of 
Minnesota, Kidwell of California, and many others who could be 

226 Early Years of American Communism 

mentioned, found it easier to betray the interests of the working 
class and the principles of the labor party than to fight against the 
permeation of the poisonous doctrine of La Folletteism into the 
class movement. They were afraid to take an unpopular stand, 
although the interests of the working class clearly demanded it. 

We discussed the situation for many days and considered it 
from all angles. We took up the state of affairs in every single 
state and discussed them in detail. 

Taking the principle of the united front, as briefly outlined 
above, as our basis, we put the question to ourselves this way: If 
we can see a substantial united front mass movement that can be 
organized on a national scale under the banner of the Farmer- 
Labor Party, we will participate in it and go through the cam- 
paign as a part of the united front, maintaining, of course, the 
right of independent criticism and agitation. On the other hand, 
if there is no united front and no mass movement, if the Farmer- 
Labor Party represents in reality nothing but the Communists and 
a circle of close sympathizers, then the very foundation for our 
participation in the movement on a united front basis is taken 
away. Under such circumstances, we are duty bound to raise our 
own revolutionary standard and fight in our own name in order 
that we may not be hampered in making the most out of the cam- 
paign for the Communist Party and the Communist principles, 
which, in the final analysis, is the objective of all our work. Our 
fight is a fight for Communism. All our activity must lead to this. 

The conclusion we finally arrived at, on the basis of the facts 
staring us in the face, was that the Farmer-Labor united front in 
the present campaign does not exist. With the possible exception 
of a few states such as Minnesota, Montana and Washington, 
there is no appearance of a Farmer-Labor mass movement, able 
to stand up against the La Follette wave. And even in these places 
the movement is gravely endangered by enemies from within. 

This judgment of the Central Executive Committee was con- 
firmed by a special party conference of district organizers, federa- 
tion secretaries, party editors, and a number of other leading 
comrades from various sections of the country. Events which have 
transpired since this decision only pile up the evidence mountain 
high, to prove the accuracy of our estimate of the situation. 

Communist Candidates and FLP 227 

In view of these facts, to have conducted the campaign under 
the banner of the Farmer-Labor Party would not have been to the 
best interests of our party, which are one and the same thing as 
the interests of the working class. It would have meant that the 
whole burden of the campaign on a national scale would have 
fallen on the shoulders of our party. We would have been obliged 
to do practically all the work for the Farmer-Labor Party and 
pay most of the expenses. With the exception of a circle of 
close sympathizers, who will support the Communist candidates 
just as readily as Farmer-Labor candidates in most cases, there 
would have been no one to help us, no united front, no mass 

Moreover, to conduct such a campaign under the name of 
the Farmer-Labor Party would have meant to moderate the propa- 
ganda and tone down the whole campaign. We would not have 
been able to utilize the campaign meetings to the best advantage 
to promote our party and its press. We would have been operat- 
ing under a form of camouflage when the political situation cries 
aloud for a direct and open fight, for a frontal attack from a 
revolutionary class standpoint against La Folletteism, and all the 
traitors to the labor movement who are following in its wake. 

In a word, we would have been making all the immediate 
sacrifices from the standpoint of our party that a united front 
movement entails, without having a united front in reality, with- 
out having a mass movement. 

Under these conditions the Workers Party had no alternative 
but to raise its own revolutionary standard and make the fight 
alone. All the others go over to La Follette, but the Workers Party 
stands and fights. It is proven in this campaign, at the very begin- 
ning of the workers' independent political movement in America, 
as it will be proven in their final struggle, and at each decisive 
stage between then and now, that the Communist Party alone 
understands and defends the interests of the working class as a 

However, the principle of the united front, and the condi- 
tions under which we can and will take part in it, hold good now 
as before. The Workers Party has not retreated one inch from the 
ground which it has stood upon up till now in the labor party 

228 Early Years of American Communism 

movement. It still stands for the creation of a broad labor party 
and will fight for it in the future as in the past. It will be the only 
party keeping the idea alive in the present campaign. Wherever 
there is a united front political movement embracing wider 
masses of the workers than we are able to draw around us for 
direct support of the Workers Party, we will take part in such a 
movement. We are ready and willing to do this now on a state 
scale, even though the conditions for such a movement do not 
exist on a national scale. In the state of Washington, for example, 
where we are of the opinion that the Farmer-Labor Party has 
some of the proportions of a mass movement, our policy will be 
to support the state ticket of the Farmer-Labor Party in the com- 
ing elections, providing it maintains its stand on a class basis and 
makes no alliances which will bring it under the leadership of 
petty-bourgeois politicians. 

The Farmer- Labor Party of Washington is in no way jeopard- 
ized by the actions which we have taken on a national scale. If the 
leaders of the Farmer-Labor Party of Washington will stand their 
ground, the Workers Party will stand and fight with them. The 
same holds true in a few other states where there is a substantial 
state Farmer-Labor Party which will go through the campaign with 
its own candidates. The only condition we set up is that the Farmer- 
Labor Party must have some of the proportions of a mass move- 
ment, broader than the Workers Party and its close sympathizers. 

We can understand how our decision to put Foster and Gitlow 
in the field may have taken some of the Labor Party leaders in the 
West by surprise. We were obliged to move quickly. Events were 
developing at a very rapid rate, and it was not possible for us to 
have lengthy and delayed consultations with Farmer-Labor people 
all over the country, much as we would have liked to do this, in 
order to come to a complete agreement with them before taking 

The Workers Party has not betrayed the confidence of any 
sincere supporters of the Farmer-Labor movement. We stand now, 
as before, ready to go together with them in a common fight 
wherever it is possible to make a substantial showing. There is 
nothing in our recent decision to interfere with this. 

There is another aspect to the question which it is necessary 

Communist Candidates and FLP 229 

to speak about here. Their letter 1 seems to approach the ques- 
tion in all of its phases from the standpoint of the Farmer-Labor 
Party and from the standpoint of those Farmer-Labor leaders with 
whom we have been cooperating to a certain extent. We are sure 
that this attitude is an unconscious one and is the result merely of 
their far removal from the party center and of incomplete assimi- 
lation of the whole content of the united front tactic of the 
Communist International. But such an attitude puts the whole 
question on a false basis. Communists have to approach all these 
problems first of all from the standpoint of the Communist Party 
because it is the only party standing for the immediate and ulti- 
mate interests of the working class. Any activities we engage in 
that do not result in strengthening and building the Communist 
Party, in increasing its influence over the laboring masses and 
winning them away from the influence of all other groups and 
parties, does not serve the real interests of the working class as a 
whole. If we fail to do this, we fail to develop the instrument 
which is indispensable, not only for the final revolutionary victory 
of the workers, but also for all their immediate struggles which 
lead towards it — that is, an independent revolutionary party which 
stands up at all times for the interests of the working class as a 
whole and which leads the way at every stage of the fight. 

If the united front fails in this, the united front is a failure 
and all our work is a failure. 

The comrades of the western branch, lacking the complete 
information which determined our recent actions, found fault 
with what they considered a lack of frankness on the part of our 
party, and apparently have been influenced somewhat by the 
charges of our enemies that we have played some kind of a clever 
game with other groups in the Farmer-Labor movement. 

There is no foundation for such an opinion. The Communist 
Party always draws up its policy independently of all other 
groups and parties, in accordance with what it considers to be 
for the best interests of the working class and the advancement of 
the revolutionary struggle. Of course this does not preclude an 

1 Cannon is answering a letter from a Western Workers Party branch critical of the 
party's new policy. No such letter accompanies this article in the Daily Worker. 

230 Early Years of American Communism 

agreement on a given line of action with other groups willing to 
make a sincere fight together with us. But we cannot put aside 
our own judgment when questions arise which so vitally affect the 
welfare of the working class as the present election campaign. 
There is no secret about what we have done or why we have done 
it. It is no breach of faith with any honest elements in the labor 
movement, but a proof of loyalty towards the movement as a 

The comrades seem to be somewhat concerned as to whether 
we have not done "grave injustice" to some of the leaders in the 
Farmer-Labor Party who have not completely understood and 
agreed with our action at first. Communists need not be so sensi- 
tive. It is incorrect to come to the conclusion that the subordina- 
tion of our own party is always the correct thing to do. We have 
had to ask ourselves quite seriously a number of times if the many 
concessions and compromises we have been making in order to 
maintain the unity in the Farmer-Labor movement have not led a 
number of our own comrades to consider that the Communist 
Party is in its proper place only when it is sitting in the back seat. 
The true function of the Communist Party is not to "go along" 
but to go ahead. 

The Communist International never tires of dinning into our 
ears that our first reaction to all political maneuvers must be this: 
How does it increase and extend the influence of the Communist 
Party over the laboring masses? 

Comrade Zinoviev told us once at a session of the Enlarged 
Executive: "Do not forget that we are not merely a workers party; 
we have to be a shrewd workers party." Communists must never 
forget that we are dealing with all kinds of enemies in the labor 
movement, with all kinds of agents of the bourgeoisie, and with 
muddle-headed people who will lead the workers into the ditch if 
we allow their false conceptions to prevail. 

We have to see to it that the Communist Party knows how to 
take advantage of every situation to strengthen the Communist 
influence over the masses and to strengthen the Communist 
Party. Only when we are doing this can we say that we are leading 
towards the real revolutionary struggle. 

The proletarian revolution is the only solution of the labor 
problem and the Communist Party is the only party aiming at this 

Communist Candidates and FLP 231 

goal. The Farmer-Labor Party, as such, does not do this and it 
cannot, under any circumstances, be regarded as an end in itself. 
Our work in the Farmer-Labor Party, in the united front in all its 
aspects, in fact, must be regarded by Communists as the Commu- 
nist International regards it: a means of revolutionary agitation 
and mobilization. The German events and the verdict of the 
Communist International on them has settled this question for 
all time. 

The Bolshevization of the Party 

5 October 1924 

Cannon delivered the following speech, in support of the "Bolshevization" 
campaign initiated by Zinoviev at the Comintern's Fifth Congress, to the 
New York Workers School. It was first published in the Workers Party 
theoretical journal, Workers Monthly, November 1924. 

The founding of the Workers Party school in New York City 
has a great significance for the party and must be regarded as a 
real achievement. It is one of many signs that the American Com- 
munist movement, which already has five years of struggle behind 
it, is hammering itself into shape, overcoming its weaknesses, striv- 
ing in real earnestness to throw off the encumbrances which it 
inherited from the past and to transform itself into a genuine 
party of Leninism. 

We are well aware that our party is not yet a Bolshevik party 
in the complete sense of the term. But we can say that after five 
years we have succeeded in crystallizing at least a strong nucleus 
within the party which endeavors to adopt a real Leninist stand- 
point on every question which confronts the party. It is character- 
istic of such comrades that they regard the adherence of our 
party to the Communist International not as a formal affair, but 
as an inseparable part of its being, which shapes and colors all of 
its activities, something that penetrates into the very marrow of its 
bones. For them, the word of the Communist International is 
decisive in all party questions. It is as one of such comrades that I 
wish to speak here tonight. 

The Fifth Congress of the Communist International has com- 
pleted its work. It has examined and appraised the world situa- 
tion. It has gone deeply into the experiences of all of the most 
important parties during the period since the Fourth Congress, as 
well as into the work of the International as a whole. The judg- 
ment finally arrived at has been compressed into a series of 


Bolshevization of the Party 233 

resolutions and theses which are now available for the Communist 
parties of the entire world. They constitute a clear guide for our 
future activities. 

The Slogan of the Fifth Congress 

The congress found that all of the parties of the Interna- 
tional, with the exception of the Russian party, are still far short 
of the requirements of a Bolshevik party. The traditions, customs 
and habits of the past are like leaden weights on their feet. They 
lack the Bolshevik discipline, the iron hardness, the capacity for 
decisive action, the mobile form of organization and the strong 
theoretical foundation which a party of Leninism must have. 

The congress demanded an energetic struggle against all these 
weaknesses and defects and the slogan of this struggle is "The 
Bolshevization of the party! " 

Our educational work, as well as all other phases of our party 
life, must be carefully scrutinized and examined in the light of 
this slogan. When we come to speak of theory and theoretical 
work, we put our finger at once on one of the weakest spots in 
the American movement. This has always been the case. The 
American labor movement, in common with the labor movements 
of practically all the Anglo-Saxon countries, has a traditional 
indifference to theory. There is a widespread tendency to draw a 
line between theory and practice. The typical labor leader boasts 
of being a practical man who "has no time for theory." We en- 
counter the same point of view quite often even in the ranks of 
our party. 

Such a tendency is bound to lead the party into a blind alley. 
We must fight against it in a determined and organized manner. 
The party educational work must be organized in a systematic way 
and pushed forward with tenfold energy. Our educational work 
up to now has been practically negligible and that is all the more 
reason for making haste now. 

Fundamental Importance of Theory 

In connection with this work it is necessary continually to 
stress the fundamental importance of revolutionary theory. Com- 
rade Lenin said, "Without a revolutionary theory, a revolutionary 
movement is impossible." These words must become a part of the 

234 Early Years of American Communism 

consciousness of every member of the party. It must become obvi- 
ous to all that the working class will be able to come into open 
collision with the capitalist order, to dismantle it and to set up in 
its place the Communist form of society — to accomplish the task 
which history has set for it — only if at every turn of the road, in 
every phase of the struggle, it is guided by a correct revolutionary 

The spectacle is familiar to all of us, of militant workers start- 
ing out with a great hatred of capitalist oppression and a will to 
fight against it, but drifting along, because of lack of knowledge 
of the capitalist system and of the means by which it may be over- 
thrown, into a policy which leads them to actual support of the 
capitalist system. The participation of many thousands of discon- 
tented workers in the La Follette movement is an instance of this. 
We know that the typical labor leaders of America, who say they 
have no theory, carry out in actual practice the theory of the 
bourgeoisie and constitute strong pillars of support for the bour- 
geois system. There is no such thing as "no theory" in the labor 
movement. Two social systems are in conflict with each other, the 
capitalist system and the Communist. One must be guided either 
by the theory of revolution which leads to the Communist order 
of society or he will follow a line of action which leads to support 
of the present order. That is to say that, in effect, he adapts him- 
self to the theory of the present order. "No theory" in the labor 
movement is the theory of the bourgeoisie. 

Without revolutionary theory, the workers, even with the best 
will in the world, cannot fight the capitalist system successfully. 
This statement holds good, not merely in the question of the final 
revolutionary struggle for power, it applies equally in every aspect 
of the daily struggle. Workers who have no understanding of the 
theory of revolution cannot follow a consistent line of action that 
leads toward it. Behind every action aimed at the bourgeoisie, 
there must be the theory of the revolutionary overthrow of the 
bourgeoisie. False policies in the ranks of the workers, whereby 
even their own good will and energy is transformed into a force 
operating against their own interests, spring in the first place 
from false theory. Only by an understanding of the revolutionary 
nature of their struggle, and of the necessity of shaping their 
actions in the light of this theory and adapting them to the execu- 
tion of it, can the workers follow a systematic policy of opposition 

Bolshevization of the Party 235 

to the bourgeoisie and of defense of their own interests. Revolu- 
tionary theory is not something separate from action, but is the 
guiding principle of all revolutionary action. 

What "Bolshevization" Means 

The Fifth Congress of the Communist International dealt with 
the mistakes made by various sections during the period between 
the Fourth and Fifth Congresses which, in the case of the German 
party, led to most disastrous results, and laid these mistakes at the 
door of incorrect theory, of deviation from the line of Marxism 
and Leninism. It declared that both the opportunistic errors of 
the right and the sectarian errors of the left represent deviations 
from the line of the Communist International, which is the 
embodiment of the theory of Marx and Lenin. The crisis in the 
German Communist Party, which became evident at the time of 
the October 1923 retreat, was declared by the Fifth Congress to 
be the result of the influence of the remnants of the old social- 
democratic ideology which still existed within the Communist 
Party of Germany. This also applies to our party and the remedy 
for this state of affairs, in the language of the propaganda thesis 
of the Fifth Congress, is to "Bolshevize the party!" 

The propaganda thesis says: The Bolshevization of the party 
in this sense means the final ideological victory of Marxism and 
Leninism, or in other words, of Marxism in the period of imperi- 
alism and the epoch of the proletarian revolution, and to reject 
the Marxism of the Second International and the remnants of the 
elements of syndicalism. 

The Bolshevization of the party, therefore, like all slogans of 
the Communist International, means not a mechanical formula, 
but a struggle. In this case it is a struggle against false ideology in 
the party. The Bolshevization of the party, for us, means the strug- 
gle for the conquest of the party for the ideology of Marxism and 

To quote again from the thesis: "The complete and rapid 
Bolshevizing of the Communist parties can be obtained in the 
process of the deliberate revolutionary activity of the sections 
of the Communist International, by more deeply hammering 
Marxism and Leninism into the consciousness of the Communist 
parties and the party members." 

The Bolshevization of the party is a process and the means 

236 Early Years of American Communism 

towards the end is an ideological struggle. The Workers School, 
in common with all educational institutions set up by the party, 
must be a weapon for this struggle. Under no circumstances can 
we conceive of it as a neutral academy standing between the vari- 
ous tendencies and currents of the party, but as a fighting instru- 
ment against all deviations both to the right and to the left, and 
for the overcoming of the confusion of the party members and 
for the "hammering into the consciousness of the party and the 
party members, Marxism and Leninism." 

Take Comintern Slogan Seriously 

This conception imposes giant tasks upon the Workers 
School. There is much confusion in our ranks. This we must all 
admit frankly. Such a state of affairs is to be expected in a party 
which up to now has devoted little attention to theoretical work 
and which has had little revolutionary experience, but we must 
begin now in a determined fashion to cope with this condition 
and to overcome it. 

A particularly dangerous form of confusion and irresponsi- 
bility, which we must conquer by frontal attack without delay, is 
the formal and even frivolous attitude which is sometimes mani- 
fested in regard to the relations of our party and our party mem- 
bers to the Communist International. We hear the Bolshevization 
of the party spoken of here and there as though it were a joke, 
not to be taken seriously. The very utterance of such a sentiment 
is in itself an evidence of theoretical weakness. Communists can- 
not take such a lighthearted attitude towards the Communist 
International. Let us say at the very beginning, and let everybody 
understand once and for all: The international organization of 
the revolutionary proletariat and the leadership of the World 
Congress is, in itself, an inseparable part of our theory. The very 
fact that any party members are able to regard the slogan of the 
Fifth Congress as a joke is a great proof of the need for this 
slogan in our party. 

The Cause of Factionalism 

If we examine closely the state of affairs within our party now, 
and for the five years that it has been in existence, we are bound 
to come to the conclusion, as did the Fifth Congress in regard to 

Bolshevization of the Party 237 

the International as a whole, that the internal conflicts and crises, 
as well as the mistakes made by the party in the field of its exter- 
nal activities, can be traced directly to ideological weakness, to the 
incomplete assimilation by the party of Marxism and Leninism. In 
other words it still carries with it the dead weight of the past and 
has not yet become a Bolshevik party. 

The thesis on tactics of the Fifth Congress lays down five 
separate specifications which are the special features of a really 
Bolshevik party. One of them is the following: 

"It (a Bolshevik party) must be a centralized party prohibiting 
factions, tendencies and groups. It must be a monolithic party 
hewn of one piece." 

What shall we say of our party if we measure by this standard? 
From the very beginning, and even up to the present day, our 
party has been plagued with factions, tendencies and groups. At 
least one-half of the energy of the party has been expended in 
factional struggles, one after another. We have even grown into 
the habit of accepting this state of affairs as a normal condition. 
We have gone to the extent of putting a premium upon factional- 
ism by giving factional representation in the important commit- 
tees of the party. 

Of course, this condition cannot be eliminated by formal 
decree. We cannot eliminate factions and factional struggles by 
declaring them undesirable. No, we shall make the first step 
toward eliminating factions, tendencies and groups, toward creat- 
ing a monolithic party in the sense of the Fifth Congress declara- 
tion, only if at the beginning we recognize the basic cause of the 
condition, if we recognize that the existence in our party of fac- 
tions, tendencies and groups runs directly counter to Leninism, to 
the Leninist conception of what a revolutionary proletarian party 
should be. 

Then we will proceed, in true Leninist fashion, to overcome 
the difficulty. Not mechanically, not by organizational measures 
alone, but by an ideological and political struggle which has for 
its object the creation of a uniform and consistent proletarian 
class ideology in the party ranks. The problem of factions, tenden- 
cies and groups is not an organizational problem merely, it is a 
political problem and for political problems there are no mechan- 
ical solutions. 

238 Early Years of American Communism 

We must conceive of the Workers School as one of the best 
weapons in our hands for the fight to develop a uniform proletar- 
ian ideology in the party ranks and to overcome all deviations 
from it. 

False Conceptions of Education 

The American revolutionary movement has had in the past, 
and still has in many sections, even in a section of the party, 
queer and false conceptions of the nature of revolutionary educa- 
tion. W T e are all acquainted with that class of "educators" who 
reduce education to the study of books and separate the study of 
books from the conduct of the daily struggle. We know of that old 
school of "educators" whom we used to call the "surplus value" 
school, who imagined that if a worker learned something of the 
nature of the capitalist system of society, the process by which it 
exploits him and by which it expropriates the major product of 
his labor, that his education is complete. 

We have no place for such a static and one-sided conception 
of revolutionary education. In all our work, the analysis of capital- 
ist society and the study of the mechanics of capitalist exploitation 
must be directly and originally connected with the Marxian theory 
of the state and the process by which the proletariat will over- 
throw it and set up their own order of society. We must give short 
shrift to those pseudo-Marxists who convert Marxism into a 
"theory" separate from struggle. According to our conceptions, 
Marxism and Leninism constitute both the theory and practice of 
the proletarian revolution, and it is in this sense that the Workers 
School must teach Marxism, and must impart it to the students of 
the school. 

Genuine Leninist education cannot by any means be sepa- 
rated from the daily activities and the daily struggles of the party. 
It must be organically connected with these struggles. No one can 
become a real Leninist if he studies in a glass case. We must dis- 
courage, and the Workers School must fight with all its means 
against, any such conception. 

Education Must Be Partisan 

Correct revolutionary education is partisan education. It must 
bear the stamp of Marx and Lenin, and no other stamp. Only the 

Bolshevization of the Party 239 

theory and teachings of Marxism and Leninism are revolutionary. 
They cannot be harmonized with any other theory, for no other 
theory is revolutionary. The Workers School cannot be natural or 
tolerant. It must scrutinize, ten times over, every item in its curric- 
ulum, and every utterance of its instructors from the standpoint 
of their adherence to the teachings of Marx and Lenin. 

There is a phrase entitled "labor education" which is current 
in the labor movement. There is no such thing as "labor educa- 
tion." "Education" is given from the revolutionary standpoint of 
Marx and Lenin or it is "education" which leads to a conformity 
and an adaptation to the bourgeois order. This fact must never be 
lost sight of in any of our educational work. We must be intransi- 
gent in this conception of education and so must the Workers 
School. We must be "narrow-minded" and intolerant on this 
score, imparting knowledge or culture not from any "general" 
standpoint, which in the last analysis becomes the standpoint of 
the bourgeoisie, but from the standpoint only of Marxism and 
Leninism. There is a conception of this so-called labor education, 
in my opinion utterly false, which has become widespread. Scott 
Nearing recently expressed the opinion that the "united front" 
tactic should be applied in workers' schools. 

Our answer to this point of view is that if there is one place 
where the united front should not be applied it is the field of 
education. According to our point of view, the only theory which 
correctly analyzes capitalist society and correctly maps out the 
road of the struggle for its overthrow is the theory of Marxism 
and Leninism. We cannot find a common meeting ground with 
any other theory or any other brand of education. The Workers 
School does not represent a united front in the field of educa- 
tion. The Workers School must be a partisan school, a weapon in 
the hands of the party for implanting the party ideology in the 
minds of the students who attend its classes. 

Theory in Our Trade Union Work 

I should like to deal now with the question of education in 
connection with our trade union activities. I speak with particular 
reference to the trade union activities because at the present time 
it is our main field of work, although the points made apply to all 
fields of activity in the daily struggle. Our party members in the 

240 Early Years of American Communism 

trade unions are obliged to carry out widespread and many-sided 
activities, the sum total of which comprises a very large percent- 
age of our party work. This is rightly so, because the trade unions 
are the basic and elementary organizations of the proletariat, and 
the success of our party, in its efforts to become a party of the 
masses, depends to a very large extent upon its ability to work in 
the trade unions and to follow out a correct policy in all of its 
work there. 

To arrive at the correct policy in dealing with the complex 
problems which constantly come up in the trade unions, a firm 
grasp on theory is absolutely indispensable. However, theory is 
badly lacking in this field amongst the comrades in the ranks, 
who have to carry out the work. 

The reason for this is obvious. The members who join our 
party directly from the trade unions come to it as a rule because 
they are drawn to the party in the daily struggle over immediate 
questions. They become convinced, by seeing our party in action 
and working with it, that it is a real party of the workers which 
fights for the immediate interests of the workers, and on that 
basis the workers come to the party. As a rule they do not go 
through a course of study before admission and do not inquire 
very deeply into the fundamental theory upon which the party's 
whole life and activity is founded. 

Consequently, for our comrades in the trade unions to 
attempt to work out a line of tactics in relation to the employers, 
in relation to the reactionary labor leaders, progressive labor 
leaders and various other currents and tendencies in the trade 
union movement, and to coordinate everything with our general 
political aims, their own empiric experience is not a sufficient 
foundation. They are bound to become overp radical if they have 
no other guide, and to drift into tactics which lead them inevita- 
bly away from the revolutionary struggle. The Communists in the 
trade unions can be successful only if they approach all of their 
tasks from the standpoint of correct revolutionary theory and 
have all of their activities imbued with this theory. 

Two serious errors manifest themselves in the party in con- 
nection with theory and practical work in the trade unions. On 
the one hand we are confronted, every now and then, with a 
prejudice on the part of the rank and file workers in the trade 

Bolshevization of the Party 241 

unions against theory and theoreticians and a resentment against 
any interference of this kind in their work. All the party leaders, 
especially the comrades leading our trade union work, have 
encountered this prejudice. On the other hand we frequently see 
comrades who have gained all their knowledge from books and 
who have had no experience in the actual struggle of the workers, 
especially comrades who can be classified under the general head- 
ing of "intellectuals," adopting a condescending and superior 
attitude towards the comrades who do the practical work of the 
party in the daily struggles in the unions. They take a pedagogical 
and supervisory attitude towards the trade union comrades and 
thus antagonize them and lose the possibility of influencing them 
and learning from them. 

Both these attitudes are false, and in my opinion the Workers 
School must help the party to overcome them by systematic, per- 
sistent, and determined opposition to both. We must oppose the 
prejudice of some of the practical trade union comrades, who are 
new in the party and who have not yet assimilated its main theo- 
ries, against theory and party workers theoretically trained. We 
must oppose and resist in the most determined fashion any ten- 
dency on their part to separate their work from the political and 
theoretical work of the party and to resent the introduction of 
theoretical and political questions into their discussion of the 
daily work in the unions. And likewise, to the comrades who have 
book knowledge only, we must make it clear that the theory of 
the party gets its life only when it is related to the practical daily 
struggle and becomes a part of the equipment of the comrades 
who carry on the struggle. They must learn how to approach the 
practical workers and collaborate with them in the most fraternal 
and comradely manner, and they must not under any circum- 
stance adopt a superior and pedagogical attitude towards them. 
This very attitude in itself manifests an ideological defect. A Com- 
munist intellectual who cannot identify himself with the trade 
unionists in the party and make himself one with them is not 
worth his salt. 

Organic Connection of Theory and Practice 

The separation of theory and practice, the arbitrary line 
between theoretical work and practical work, the arbitrary division 

242 Early Years of American Communism 

of activity into theoretical activity and practical activity, must be 
combatted and overcome. We must set up against it the concep- 
tion of the organic connection between theoretical and practical 
work, and of fraternal collaboration between theoretically trained 
comrades and comrades carrying out the practical work in the 
daily struggle, especially in the trade union movement. 

Our party, in common with the other parties of the Inter- 
national, is confronted by two dangers which militate against its 
effectiveness in the class struggle. One of the dangers is left sec- 
tarianism, which is a deviation from the line of Marxism and 
Leninism in the direction of syndicalism, and the other is right 
opportunism, which is defined in the Fifth Congress resolution as 
a deviation from Leninism in the direction of the emasculated 
Marxism of the Second International. These dangers can be over- 
come and the party remain on the right road only if it succeeds 
in carrying on a successful struggle against these deviations. Edu- 
cational work is an important means to this end. 

Educational work therefore is not a mere academic activity. In 
a certain sense it is a fight. It is a fight to overcome these dangers 
by building in the party ranks a true and firm and uniform prole- 
tarian ideology. It must help the party in the fight against right 
deviations without falling back into the error of deviations to the 
left. The Workers School must be for the party one of the most 
important means by which we impress in the minds of the party 
members a knowledge of Marxian and Leninist theory, of devel- 
oping a respect for theory and an understanding of its fundamen- 
tal importance, without falling into the error of teaching theory 
in an abstract manner and separating it from the daily activities of 
the party. 

Our party must be at the same time a party of theory and a 
party of struggle, with theory and struggle closely interlocked and 
inseparable. Without allowing the party members to develop into 
mere fault-finders, the school must help them to acquire the 
faculty of criticism, of subjecting every action and every utterance 
of the party to criticism from the standpoint of its conformity to 
the basic theory of the movement. We do not want a party consist- 
ing half of critics and half of practical workers, but every party 
member must be at the same time a critic and a constructive 

Bolshevization of the Party 243 

The party must be a party of study and struggle. All the party 
members must be trained to become thinkers and doers. These 
conceptions carried out in actual practice will be the means 
whereby we can rapidly transform our party into a Communist 
Party in the true sense of the word. 

Party Support for Educational Work 

We have every reason to be proud of the response the Work- 
ers School has met in the ranks of the party membership of New 
York. The enthusiastic support it has already gained gives us the 
hope that our educational work, which we have so long neglected, 
can now be developed extensively and that all who are most active 
and alive in the party will join in the task of making it move 

The party members in New York should look upon the Work- 
ers School as their own institution, as their own party educational 
center which, by fraternal collaboration of all the comrades, can 
be built and maintained as a real leader in the fight for Leninist 
ideology in the party, in the fight to shake off the paralyzing 
inheritance of the past and to merge in the shortest possible time, 
through the process of careful study and vigorous struggle, into a 
party complying with the specifications of a Bolshevik party which 
were laid down by the Fifth Congress. 

That is: "A central monolithic party hewn of one piece." 

That is: "Essentially a revolutionary and Marxist party, undevi- 
ating, in spite of all circumstances proceeding towards the goal 
and making every effort to bring nearer the hour of the victory of 
the proletariat over the bourgeoisie." 

The Minority Attitude Toward 

Our Election Campaign — 
A Warning Signal for the Party 

Published 3 December 1924 

The following article by Cannon attacks the views of the minority of the 
Central Executive Committee led by C.E. Ruthenberg. It iu as published in 
the Daily Worker. 

Every Communist who can see straight knows that our elec- 
tion campaign this year, under our own banner, was one of the 
greatest and most significant achievements in the history of the 
party. And every Communist who has the right attitude toward his 
party is proud of that achievement; he wants every worker to 
know about it and to understand its great significance, and he will 
not try to minimize it. 

The party did right to enter the elections under its own 
name. Our election campaign was a victory for the party. It 
strengthened the revolutionary morale of our membership and 
established our party as the only working class political party in 
America. This is our position, clearly stated in our theses. 

The theses of the minority do not speak in such clear and 
emphatic terms about our election campaign. 1 They evade the 
issue. They completely evade one of the most important questions 

1 Differences in evaluation of the 1924 U.S. election results between the Foster- 
Cannon majority and the Ruthenberg minority emerged almost as soon as the 
polls closed. A Central Executive Committee plenum was called for November 21- 
22. Both the majority and the minority wrote documents for the meeting entitled 
"Thesis on the Political Situation and the Immediate Tasks of the Workers Party." 
The plenum authorized the publication of the counterposed theses and decreed 



Warning Signal 245 

which must be answered before we can decide our line for the 
immediate future. 

That question is: 

Was the Central Executive Committee correct when it decided 
last July, against the opposition of comrades Lovestone, Engdahl 
and Browder, to withdraw support from the Farmer-Labor Party 
and to enter the elections under its own banner with its own 

Why the Minority Theses Fail to 
Endorse Our Election Policy 

The evasion of these questions by the Lovestone-Ruthenberg 
theses is no accident. The question was repeatedly discussed in 
the meetings of the Political Committee prior to the consider- 
ation of theses and the minority is fully aware of its importance 
and of its indissoluble connection with our future policy. The 
omission is conscious and deliberate. "There's a reason" for it. 

That reason is as follows: At least a part of the minority group 
represented by comrade Lovestone, which has become the domi- 
nant part of the minority group — the part which determines the 
policy of the whole group — still maintains that the CEC was 
wrong and that we should have conducted the campaign under 
the banner of the Farmer-Labor Party. Comrade Browder has 
long since admitted his error, but in the meeting of the Executive 
Council of November 14, both comrades Lovestone and Engdahl voted 
against the following resolution: 

In view of the discussion that has arisen in the CEC over the results 
of the election and the results gained by the Workers Party partici- 
pating in the election under its own name, the CEC considers it nec- 
essary to reaffirm its opinion that the decision of the CEC in its July 
meeting to withdraw its support of the national Farmer-Labor Party 
ticket and to enter its own candidates in the campaign was correct 

the opening of internal discussion leading to a projected Workers Party confer- 
ence in December (the conference was later postponed due to Comintern inter- 
vention). The theses of the minority, which Cannon refers to here, were signed by 
Ruthenberg, Lovestone, Bedacht, Engdahl and Gitlow and were published in the 
Daily Worker, 28 November 1924. The majority theses, signed by Foster, Cannon, 
Bittelman, Browder, Dunne, Burman and Abern, were published in the Daily 
Worker, 26 November 1924. The majority theses are not included in this book. 

246 Early Years of American Communism 

and the proposal of comrades Lovestone, Engdahl and Browder to 
continue the campaign under the banner of the Farmer-Labor Party 
was wrong. 

The Minority Ridicules and Minimizes 
Our Election Campaign 

Comrades Ruthenberg and Bedacht voted for the motion, but 
they must have done so with their tongues in their cheeks, for 
their whole attitude on the question of our election campaign is 
the same as comrade Lovestone's. That is, to persistently and 
systematically deride and belittle the achievements of the cam- 
paign in order to bolster up their theory that the Workers Party 
cannot do anything under its own name, but must find a substi- 
tute organization whenever there is practical agitational work to 
be carried on. 

The arguments they now bring forward against the Workers 
Party attempting to lead united front struggles in its own name 
and in favor of assigning that role to a mythical "class farmer- 
labor party" are the same arguments used by comrade Lovestone 
in the meeting on July 8, against the Workers Party raising its own 
banner in the election campaign. Their theses are one long argu- 
ment against our election policy. The attitude of the minority 
toward our election achievements and their attempt to belittle 
them is symptomatic of the falsity of their whole theory. It is a 
warning signal to the party. 

The CEC theses do not overstate the case when they say 
bluntly that the policy of the minority leads to the liquidation of 
the Workers Party. Of course, no one will say that this is the con- 
scious purpose of the minority. We are sure that the comrades of 
the minority have no other object than to advance the cause of 
Communism. But in their over-zeal to find a shortcut to the goal 
of a popular mass Communist party, they have already put their 
feet on a path that leads backward and not forward. "In dealing 
with questions of policy," said comrade Zinoviev at the Fifth Con- 
gress, "we have to consider objective effects and not subjective 
intentions." It is by this standard that we measure the policy of 
the minority and condemn it, and declare openly our firm inten- 
tion to fight it to the death. 

We do not need to wait for the comrades of the minority to 

Warning Signal 247 

get control of the party and put their policy into effect in order to 
prove that it is a false policy. The minority has already proven it, not 
only in words, but in deeds. 

Seven Facts Which Prove the Liquidation Tendency 
of the Minority Policy 

On this point facts can speak for themselves. In order to bol- 
ster up their false and dangerous policy of demanding a farmer- 
labor party at all costs, right or wrong, "dead or alive," whether 
the workers are interested in it or not, the minority is forced to 
minimize and deprecate even the modest achievements of the 
Workers Party and to invest the "class farmer-labor party" with 
virtues it does not and cannot possess — unless it is a genuine 
Communist party. The minority has already started out on this 
course, as the following facts bear witness: 

1. In order to minimize before the CI the showing made by 
the party in the election campaign, the minority proposed in the 
CEC meeting of November 14 to answer the Communist Inter- 
national's inquiry about our vote in the following words: "Work- 
ers Party vote very small; will not exceed 20,000." They took this 
stand at a time when we already knew that over 10,000 votes had 
been counted for us in New York City and the state of Minnesota 
alone, and when we already had evidence of wholesale fraud 
against us. 

2. In order to minimize our election achievements before the 
party, the minority opposed and ridiculed the CEC estimate of 
100,000 votes (including the votes stolen from us) and voted 
against our motion "That we issue a statement claiming 100,000 
votes and citing incidents in which votes were stolen from us." 

3. Comrade Ruthenberg had such lukewarm interest in get- 
ting the facts about the size of our vote that it took two meetings 
of the Political Committee and more than a week's delay before 
we could get a letter sent to all party units asking for reports of 
votes counted for us and evidence of fraud against us in order 
that we could prove the contentions of our official statement. 
Ordinary office routine work was given the right of way over this 
important matter. 

4. Comrades Minor and Kruse, chief spokesmen of the minor- 
ity in the recent Chicago membership meeting, ridiculed the 

248 Early Years of American Communism 

showing made by the party in the elections, comrade Minor sar- 
castically comparing it to the SLR 

5. Comrade Bedacht, at the same meeting, said, "Our party 
was less before the masses during the election campaign than at 
any time during the past two years." 

6. Writing in the November Workers Monthly, comrade Ruthen- 
berg attributes qualities to a "labor" party that only a Communist 
party can possess. He says: "A labor party speaks in the name of 
labor. It calls upon the workers for action. Or if it is a farmer- 
labor party it calls upon the workers and farmers and speaks in 
their name." 

7. Writing in the December Workers Monthly, comrade Ruthen- 
berg associates "class political action" exclusively with the farmer- 
labor party. We, who believe the Workers Party represents "class 
political action," are disdainfully swept aside in the following 
words: "A group in our party, under the leadership of comrade 
Foster, is of the opinion that the movement towards class political 
action by labor is dead and that, therefore, the Workers Party 
must abandon the slogan 'For a class farmer-labor party'." 

The Struggle Against "Farmer-Laborism" 
Is Only Beginning 

The struggle between the Central Executive Committee and 
the minority over the question of future policy is only beginning. 
The party has not yet had time to study the two theses. But 
already the comrades of the minority have given us seven con- 
crete examples of the objective effects of their good intentions to 
build a mass Communist party "quickly" by means of the magic 
formula of a "class farmer-labor party." And this is only the 

So false is their policy and so far afield will they be compelled 
to go to defend it, that before the discussion period has come to 
a close, the whole party will be able to understand, on the basis of 
evidence which the comrades of the minority will supplv, that their 
policy would lead the party into the swamp. 

The minority thesis fails to say the party did right to raise its 
own banner in the election campaign because the comrades of 
the minority have no enthusiasm over the great historical signifi- 
cance of the banner of Communism having been raised for the 

Warning Signal 249 

first time in a national election in America, and because it must 
belittle and deride the great achievements of our party in the 
campaign in order to convince the party and the Communist 
International that the Workers Party is a failure, that it cannot 
speak to the masses in its own name, and must, therefore, hide 
itself behind another organization and another name. 

The comrades of the minority have started out on a false 
path, but the party will not follow them. When the party has stud- 
ied and discussed the question and considered the objective 
effects of the false policy of the minority it will give such a deci- 
sive answer that "Farmer-Labor Communism" will never raise its 
head again in the Workers Party. 

Lovestone Quotes Mahoney 

Published 8 December 1924 

The following article by Cannon was published in the Daily Worker. 

The more the party controversy is brought out into the open, 
and the more the minority is compelled to defend its position, 
the more does the shallow opportunism of both the minority 
position and its advocates become revealed. In my previous arti- 
cle, I showed how the false policy of the minority had already led 
them, in seven concrete instances, to a non-Communist attitude 
toward our election campaign. 

I can now add another example, more clear, more obvious, 
and more damning than the others. The latest and worst example 
is given to the party by comrade Lovestone in his article in the 
Daily Worker of December 3. This is only natural, since the policy 
of the minority is the policy of Lovestone and is the logical out- 
come of his opposition to the Workers Party entering the election 
campaign under its own name in the July meeting of the CEC. 

"If you give a finger to opportunism," said Zinoviev, in speak- 
ing of Serrati, "you will soon have to give your whole hand." 
Comrade Lovestone has not given his whole hand as yet. But, in 
his article in the Daily Worker of December 3, he adds another 
finger to the one he gave last July. At the rate he is traveling to 
the right, and if the more stable elements of the minority do not 
call him to order, we may expect that he will soon give his whole 
hand — and his head, too. 

From the very beginning of the discussion, the CEC, placing 
itself on the ground of reality, has put one insistent question to 
the advocates of "an intensified campaign for a class farmer-labor 
party." That question is: Where is the sentiment amongst the 
working masses for this so-called "class" party? Time and again 
we have begged them to tell us in what trade unions, in what 
cities, states or localities this sentiment exists and how it is mani- 
festing itself. 


Lovestone Quotes Mahoney 251 

Up till December 3, the minority made no answer. Oh, yes, 
comrade Ruthenberg answered. His answer was a formula. He 
told us, in effect: "The contradictions of capitalism will intensify 
the class antagonisms. The capitalist state power will be used 
against the workers and the latter will be driven to independent 
political action. Therefore, we must build a 'class farmer-labor 
party.' This is a fundamental of Marxism. Please do not press the 
question any further." 

But it soon became evident that the sophomoric essays of 
comrade Ruthenberg were not satisfying the party. The party 
wanted facts, and not merely formulas. In the ranks of the minor- 
ity itself voices began to be raised: "Give us some facts about the 
actual sentiment for a 'class farmer-labor party' so that we can at 
least answer the merciless attacks of those comrades who say there 
is no mass sentiment for it." 

Comrade Lovestone Takes the Stand and 
Introduces Mahoney's Editorial as "Exhibit A" 

At this juncture comrade Lovestone stepped into the breach. 
The question of facts was no problem for him, for is he not an 
expert "research worker" and "fact-finder" as well as an expert 
and experienced witness? 1 He took the witness stand, so to speak, 
in his article of December 3, to "give evidence." He had "run 
down" the elusive sentiment for a "class farmer-labor party," 

1 Cannon is here alluding to the fact that Lovestone served as a witness in the 
trial of Harry M. Winitsky in March 1920. Winitsky, executive secretary of the 
CPA, was one of the first Communists prosecuted in New York in the aftermath of 
the Palmer Raids. Lovestone, under threat of prosecution himself, testified after 
being granted immunity by the state. Many Communists strongly disapproved of 
Lovestone's actions and a cloud formed over his head; for a time he was barred 
from party leadership. Ruthenberg asserted that he had ordered Lovestone to 
testify as a matter of party policy, and Lovestone was evidently cleared of wrong- 
doing by an internal UCP investigation in December 1920. Nonetheless, his testi- 
mony was raised during the Goose Caucus/Liquidators faction fight in early 1922, 
and Foster raised it again during the faction fight in 1924-25. 

After Cannon wrote this article, around the time of the Fifth ECCI plenum in 
the spring of 1925, the Control Commission of the Comintern investigated the 
matter and evidently cleared Lovestone again of any wrongdoing. Ruthenberg, 
Lovestone and Pepper requested that the Control Commission's decision not be 
publicized at the time since Lovestone was still under indictment in Michigan and 

252 Early Years of American Communism 

captured it, and brought it into court with him. 

What is this evidence? First and foremost, it is a quotation 
from the Minnesota Trade Union Advocate, edited by William 

Think of it! 

After all our experience with this renegade and faker, after 
his treacherous performances at the St. Paul convention and 
since, comrade Lovestone still wants us to put faith in him and 
rely on him as an ally in the fight for a "class" movement. 

Basing his conclusions solely on the quotations from Maho- 
ney, comrade Lovestone says: "It is only natural that the first 
tangible crystallization of disillusionment with La Folletteism 
should manifest itself in Minnesota.... It is only a matter of time 
when similar manifestations will be displayed in other sections of 
the farmer-labor movement." 

Let us examine the black record of this "ally" whom comrade 
Lovestone has found. Let us see how much the party can depend 
on this "first tangible disillusionment with La Folletteism." 

The whole story cannot be told here. Mahoney's treachery 
multiplies daily and only a resident of St. Paul can keep track of it. 
But we all — including comrade Lovestone — know enough facts to 
take his measure and estimate him properly. Let me set down here 
a few outstanding facts about Mahoney which are known to us: 

1. On the very day that comrade Lovestone's article appeared 
in the Daily Worker, and on the day following, a news story from 
Minneapolis also appeared containing the information that the 
Hennepin County Central Committee of the Farmer-Labor Fed- 
eration, with the full support of Mahoney, had expelled the 
delegates of the Workers Party. 

The news story in the Daily Worker of December 4, signed by 
comrade C.A. Hathaway, our district organizer, says: 

Mahoney, in his speech after the motion was carried, stated that the 
Farmer-Labor Federation of Minnesota was essentially a non-partisan 
organization having no goal aside from its immediate aims for social 

In conversation after the meeting he repudiated all the progressive 
ideas previously held and even went so far as to condemn the work- 
ers and peasants government of Russia. He further stated that at 
the state convention to be held in the near future that the Federa- 
tion would have to take steps to rid itself of the "troublesome" 
left wing. 

Loves tone Quotes Mahoney 253 

Lovestone's Quotation From Mahoney Throws a 
Searchlight on His Opportunistic Policy 

2. This present attitude of Mahoney is no temporary aberra- 
tion. It is the logical outcome of a long and consistent series of 
betrayals which are known to us, and known to comrade Lovestone. 
Here are a few of them: 

(a) Mahoney fought for La Follette before, during, and after 
the St. Paul convention. 

(b) Mahoney fought in the arrangements committee which 
met on the eve of the St. Paul convention for a resolution 
excluding the delegates of the Workers Party. 

(c) At the Cleveland conference of the CPPA Mahoney swore 
allegiance to La Follette and repudiated the St. Paul 

(d) Mahoney supported Oscar Keller, the Republican candi- 
date for Congress in St. Paul, and fought against comrade 
Emme, the candidate of the Farmer-Labor Party. 2 

More evidence can be cited by our Minnesota comrades to 
prove the systematic treachery of this faker and renegade. But the 
facts set forth above are more than enough to show that he is no 
friend of a "class farmer-labor party," no friend of the Commu- 
nists, and no ally for us. 

Mahoney serves one good purpose, however. His introduction 
into the party controversy as "Exhibit A" for comrade Lovestone's 
policy is sufficient to prove that comrade Lovestone's policy is 
no good, that it is built in quicksand, that it is opportunistic in 
the worst and most dangerous sense of the term, and that it 

2 While the Workers Party ran Foster for U.S. president and Gitlow for vice presi- 
dent, it ran candidates for state and local office in only a few states (e.g., New 
York, where Cannon was the party candidate for governor). In Minnesota, Wash- 
ington and South Dakota, the Workers Party supported local candidates of the 
state Farmer- Labor parties. Julius F. Emme, a member of the machinists union and 
an open Workers Party supporter, was the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party candi- 
date for U.S. Congress in the Fourth Congressional District of St. Paul. According 
to the 6 November 1924 Daily Worker, Emme polled over 13,000 votes though he 
lost the election; Emil Voungdahl, a Communist who was FLP candidate for the 
Minnesota legislature, won his seat with 4,483 votes. Youngdahl served in the legis- 
lature until 1933 and he remained active in Minnesota Farmer-Labor politics. The 
Daily Worker (21 January 1927) referred to him as a "former Communist." Emme 
quit the Workers Party around 1925. In the early 1930s he was the organizer of the 
Minnesota State Employees Association and a supporter of the Trotskyists. 

254 Early Years of American Communism 

would lead the party to the "united front from the top only," to 
"maneuvers" around the conference table with "farmer-labor" 
fakers, and, consequently, to the degeneration of the Workers 

Lovestone Finds Sentiment for the "Class Farmer-Labor Party" 
Even in the Camp of Coolidge 

Another word about Minnesota before we pass over to 
"Exhibit B" — the Farmer-Labor leaders of Washington. 

Comrade Lovestone found sentiment for his "class farmer- 
labor party" in the most strange and unexpected places. First he 
found it in the camp of La Follette embodied in the person of 
William Mahoney. Next he found it in the camp of Coolidge! 

The fact that the Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota jumped 
down La Follette's throat and insisted upon being swallowed, 
digested, and excremented does not mean, according to comrade 
Lovestone, that it suffered any serious injury. It was a "mere elec- 
tion union" and it emerged from the bowels of La Follette in 
better shape than ever, strong enough to go to Coolidge and 
repeat the process. Read this piece of evidence for the "class 
farmer-labor party" submitted by comrade Lovestone: 

Least of all does it follow that such a campaign alliance (comrade 
Lovestone still has that "election alliance" in his head, as I shall 
prove in another article — JPC) means the uprooting of the idea and 
sentiment for a farmer-labor party.... For instance, in Minnesota, 
Magnus Johnson and Olson, running on the Farmer-Labor Party 
ticket, polled a higher vote than La Follette. The majority by which 
La Follette, running on an independent ticket, was beaten by Coo- 
lidge was much larger than the majority by which those running on 
the Farmer-Labor Party ticket were beaten. 

This is telling evidence indeed! 

Do you comprehend the situation? There were, it appears, 
some tens of thousands of workers in Minnesota who were hot- 
foot for a "class" party. Therefore, they couldn't bring themselves 
to vote for La Follette. Comrade Foster, the candidate of the 
Workers Party, was on the ballot, but he wouldn't do for them. 
They, like the minority, wanted "independent class political 
action." They, like the minority, wanted a "class party that would 
fight the battles of the workers and farmers." This, of course, 
eliminated the Workers Party. 

What were these desperate supporters of the "class party" to 

Loves tone Quotes Mahoney 255 

do? They couldn't vote for La Follette since he represented no 
class party. Foster was out of the question since the Workers Party 
has no class at all when it appears under its own name. Then 
something truly remarkable happened. These workers and farm- 
ers of Minnesota executed a stroke of grand strategy. They 
showed such proficiency in the difficult art of going north by 
running south that they deserve to have their names appended as 
honorary signatories to the minority theses. 

These dauntless proletarians of the plains voted for Coolidge! 
By this master stroke they accomplished three things: first, they 
proved that "the La Follette movement is disintegrating"; second, 
they got their "class" party; and third, they provided the minority 
with an argument in favor of their theses. It is as good as any 
argument the minority has. 

Lovestone Condones the Treachery of the 
Farmer-Labor Leaders of Washington 

One more quotation from comrade Lovestone's article will 
complete the proof that his conception of "an intensified cam- 
paign for a class farmer-labor party" is an opportunistic con- 
ception of the "united front from the top only" by means of 
negotiations and conferences with reformist leaders of reformist 
organizations. Moreover, it will show that he condemns our 
Communist action in entering the Workers Party in the election 
campaign under its own banner because it alienated some of 
these reformist leaders. 

Comrade Lovestone's "Exhibit B" is the Farmer-Labor Party 
of Washington, a reformist party, predominantly agrarian and 
based on individual membership. Comrade Lovestone is very 
indulgent towards this so-called party. He says it "merely 
endorsed La Follette and Wheeler." 

The leaders of this party attacked and denounced the Work- 
ers Party throughout the campaign, but comrade Lovestone does 
not seem to hold that against them. It was all our fault! 

Read what he says in his article in the Daily Worker, the 
official organ of the Workers (Communist) Party of America, on 
December 3: 

More than that. There is good reason to believe that the leaders of 
this Farmer-Labor Party would likely never have sought to secure the 
endorsement of their organization for La Follette or be tempted to 

256 Early Years of American Communism 

drive their followers into the La Follette election camp if the Work- 
ers Party had not cut itself loose from the national Farmer-Labor 
Party on July 10. The bungling manner in which we handled our 
change in policy then was especially harmful. 

Here in plain words we have the real policy of comrade Love- 
stone, which is the policy of the minority. The evasive, double- 
meaning language of the minority theses is put aside. The mask 
of Marxian phraseology is torn off and the party has an oppor- 
tunity to see the ugly face of opportunism that hid behind it. 

The minority theses speak very vaguely and evasively about 
the means to be employed to form the "political united front" 
by organizing a "class farmer-labor party." Comrade Lovestone 
makes the matter clear. 

We will "handle" the reformist leaders of reformist organiza- 
tions more carefully. We will not make again the stupid blunder 
of raising our own party's banner in the elections. We will see 
what the "leaders" want us to do and do it. Then these leaders 
will not "be tempted to drive their followers into the La Follette 
election camp." 

These leaders, who according to comrade Lovestone are, after 
all, not so bad, delivered their organization to La Follette, they 
"drove their followers into the La Follette election camp," and 
they maligned and denounced our party and its candidates. But 
why did they make these trifling errors? Because "the Workers 
Party cut itself loose from the Farmer-Labor Party on July 10." 

Comrade Ruthenberg complains because we are not observ- 
ing the amenities of parliamentary debate, and he raises a special 
"point of order" against the term "Farmer-Labor Communism." 
But he is criticizing us from the wrong side. We believe that when 
the party considers all the implications of comrade Lovestone's 
article, it will say that the word "Communism" should be elimi- 
nated entirely from the definition of his policy. 

The party and the CI will say this policy is "farmer-laborism." 
And they will kill it, too! 

The CEC, the Minority and Comrade Lore: 

How the Minority "Fought" Lore 

When They Controlled the Party 

Published 11 December 1924 

The folloiuing article by Cannon was published in the Daily Worker. // 
attacks the record of the Central Executive Committee minority led by 
C.E. Ruthenberg in combatting the ideas of Ludzvig Lore. The question 
had become an issue in the faction struggle because the Comintern had 
directed the Workers Party leadership to wage an ideological campaign 
against Lore's views. Lore was a supporter of the Foster-Cannon CEC 
majority at this time. 

The outstanding characteristic of the right wing always and 
everywhere is its political cowardice. This has been demonstrated 
so often in the international Communist movement that it can be 
laid down as an axiom. Opportunism is so foreign to Communism 
that it instinctively feels itself to be an intruder and tries to con- 
ceal its identity. The right wing never has the courage to stand up 
and fight directly for its policy, but tries by devious ways, by in- 
direction, and by shifting issues, to advance its influence and 
smuggle in its policy. 

At least a tendency in this direction is manifested in the arti- 
cle of comrade Ruthenberg in the Daily Worker of December 6. In 
this article comrade Ruthenberg runs away from the central and 
immediate issue of the "class farmer-labor party," which has 
already been so badly shattered in the party discussion. He 
attempts to divert the discussion from the real issue of our pres- 
ent and future policy in regard to the labor party question to the 
question of who was right and who was wrong in the past on a 
number of questions. By raising the issue of the opportunistic 
errors of comrade Lore he evidently hopes to avoid further dis- 
cussion of the opportunistic policy the minority sponsors now. 


258 Early Years of American Communism 

We welcome the occasion to discuss this issue of "Loreism" 
openly before the party. But we will not oblige comrade Ruthen- 
berg by separating it from the present issue of the opportunistic 
policy of the minority on the "class farmer-labor party." On the 
contrary, we will link them up together and show that the attitude 
of the minority toward the opportunistic errors of Lore has been 
itself, from first to last, an example of opportunism. 

The Lore question has a history and to deal with it adequately 
and get the true perspective we must go back a little. Comrade 
Lore's mistakes did not begin since the present Central Executive 
Committee took office. As comrade Olgin points out in the Daily 
Worker of December 6, they began in the early days of the Comin- 
tern. 1 They arose from a faulty conception of some of the essen- 
tial elements of Leninism and for that reason they have been 
repeated in a quite systematic manner. 

The Lore of this year is no more out of harmony with the 
main line of the Communist International than the Lore of last 
year, when the Pepper-Lovestone-Ruthenberg group were in con- 
trol of the party. In fact, as I shall prove in these articles, comrade 
Lore is today closer to the Comintern than ever before. As a 
result of the CI decision, and the ideological struggle of the CEC, 
he has publicly admitted a number of his past errors, which is the 
first necessary step towards correcting them. This does not please 
the minority, but we are sure it pleases the Comintern. 

Therefore, let us have a real and thorough discussion of the 
Lore question. Let us review it at least for the past two years. Such 
a retrospect will reveal some very interesting facts. 

1 Moissaye Olgin wrote a three-part series entitled "Lore and the Comintern" 
which was published in successive issues of the Saturday Daily Worker magazine 
supplement, beginning 6 December and ending 20 December 1924. In this series 
Olgin quoted from Lore's Volkszeitung articles to prove that Lore had (1) sup- 
ported Serrati against the Comintern; (2) defended Paul Levi even after he had 
been expelled from the German party; (3) opposed trying to organize a workers 
revolution in Germany in 1923; (4) defended Trotsky's right to criticize the Stalin 
majority of the Russian party; (5) criticized the offensive policy of the Italian Com- 
munist Party as having led to the victory of fascism; (6) written sympathetically of 
the MacDonald Labour Party government in England; (7) been openly critical of 
what he saw as the frequent tactical zigzags by Zinoviev's Comintern. This evi- 
dence, concluded Olgin, was more than enough to brand Lore an opportunist and 
a centrist. 

The CEC, the Minority and Lore 259 

The theses of the minority say: 

"Contrary to the decision of the Communist International, 
the Foster-Cannon group, in place of carrying on a struggle 
against the tendency, has maintained an organizational alliance 
with it." 

Comrade Ruthenberg repeats these accusations in practically 
the same words. 

In these articles I will not only show the falsity of both these 
accusations, but I will prove the following: 

1. The Pepper-Ruthenberg group itself had both an organiza- 
tional and political alliance with comrade Lore. 

2. The Pepper-Ruthenberg group never once uttered a word 
of criticism of comrade Lore, to say nothing of making a fight 
against his ideas, during the whole year in which they controlled 
the party, although some of his greatest mistakes were made dur- 
ing that time. 

3. The Pepper-Ruthenberg group did not utter a word of 
criticism of comrade Lore during the last party convention, but, 
on the contrary, sought his help in their fight against us. 

4. Their "fight" against Lore began only after the last party 
convention, not as an honest ideological struggle, but as a fac- 
tional maneuver against the CEC. 

The Minority Attitude Toward Lore 
When They Controlled the Party 

In the hectic days of 1923, the year of the boom, when the 
party was buying gold bricks right and left, comrade Lore was in 
high favor with the CEC. He was handled with the greatest tact 
and consideration, and his advice and support were always sought 
whenever a question of policy was to be considered. Comrade 
Lore was carried around — so to speak — like a basket of eggshells. 
I never saw a grown man handled with more tender concern. 

If I may be pardoned a few personal allusions, which are 
introduced not in any sense as a complaint but merely by way of 
illustration, I might cite the fact — to show the high favor enjoyed 
by comrade Lore — that he was drawn into the Political Committee 
when I was excluded from it, and that he was appointed a 
member of the CEC steering committee at the July 3 convention 
in Chicago which I was denied the right to attend, being 

260 Early Years of American Communism 

assigned to speak at a picnic in Portland, Oregon on that his- 
toric occasion. 

After July Third 

After "July 3" the CEC returned to New York with the "Fed- 
erated Farmer-Labor Party" in its briefcase. The letter of the 
Young Communist International to the Young Workers League of 
America quotes Karl Radek, who wrote the last CI thesis on Amer- 
ica, as having said in the American Commission: "The Federated 
Farmer-Labor Party is seven-eighths a fantasy." What the other 
one-eighth consisted of, the letter does not say. 

In the August meeting of the CEC, comrades Foster, Bittel- 
man and myself began to ask a few questions about this "fantasy"; 
but comrade Lore supported it. Perhaps I do him an injustice. 
Comrade Lore's attitude, as I recall it, was about as follows: 
"We've got it, so we have to keep it." 

At this meeting the "August Theses," the most curious 
melange of opportunism and confusion ever pressed into one 
document, was adopted. Foster, Bittelman and myself voted 
against it. Comrade Lore voted for it and his support was most 
gratefully accepted. Comrade Lore was one of comrade Pepper's 
famous "majority." I mention this merely as a matter of history. 

Up till the time of this meeting comrade Foster had also been 
generally supporting the original experiments of comrade Pepper 
in the political laboratory and had consequently enjoyed a certain 
respect in the CEC. In fact, comrade Foster was highly regarded. 
He was immune from all criticism, and, as long as he did not 
attempt to assert himself in the CEC, was given the title, not only 
of "leader of the party," but "leader of the whole American work- 
ing class." 

When the attempt on his life was made in Chicago, The Worker 
carried a two-line streamer head, written by comrade Pepper, 
running across the entire first page. "The capitalists want to kill 
Foster! Workers! We Must Defend Our Leader!" 2 

2 This was the front-page headline of The Worker of 8 September 1923. The lead 
article, written by John Pepper, reported: "A small group of gunmen burst into 
the Carmen's Auditorium in Chicago and fired three shots at William Z. Foster. 
He was speaking to thousands of members of the International Ladies' Garment 


The CEC, the Minority and Lore 261 

The Attempt to Destroy Foster 

But when it became apparent that comrade Foster was not 
becoming reconciled to the FFLP "fantasy," and that he was 
beginning to assert his right and duty to participate actively in the 
party leadership, the leading group in the CEC, which had for- 
merly been heaping such fulsome flattery upon him, turned on 
him in fury. They set out to destroy him, to "kill" him, to rob 
him of his great prestige and undermine his authority in the 

The leading group in the CEC suddenly discovered that com- 
rade Foster was a "syndicalist," a "trade unionist," that is to say, 
no good. A subtle campaign in the party press against "non- 
Communist and syndicalist tendencies" held by unnamed com- 
rades was accomplished by a systematic whispering campaign of 
slander and character assassination in the party ranks against 
Foster and the Chicago trade union comrades generally. Some 
of comrade Lore's greatest errors were made during this period — 
his estimation of events in Germany and the party crisis there 
— but the CEC took no notice. It was too busy fighting the "trade 

This campaign to destroy Foster and the group closely associ- 
ated with him continued right up to the last party convention and 
was the one big issue there. 

The convention divided into two camps over the resolution 
introduced by Pepper and Ruthenberg, which had for its object 
the putting of the whole blame for the July 3 debacle upon Foster 
and the Chicago trade union comrades, who were standing up in 
the Chicago unions under the heaviest blows of the reactionaries 
and bearing the whole brunt of the fight for the party. 

Workers' Union who had gathered to protest against the splitting tactics of the 
reactionary union officials in expelling from the union seven members of the 
Trade Union Educational League." 

According to subsequent issues of The Worker, the gunmen were never caught or 
identified; the bourgeois press belittled the attempted assassination by claiming 
that the Workers Party had hired the gunmen as a publicity stunt. Foster does not 
mention the incident in his History of the Communist Party of the United States, 
though he does mention being kidnapped by Colorado Rangers and held for sev- 
eral days during the 1922 railway shopmen's strike. The Worker (19 August 1922) 
also ran a front-page headline on the kidnapping incident. 

262 Early Years of American Communism 

In the CEC meeting held on the eve of the convention, and 
in the convention itself, comrade Lore voted for the resolution of Pepper 
and Ruthenberg. 

The overwhelming majority of the convention delegates, how- 
ever, revolted against this monstrous piece of political crooked- 
ness and swept those who sponsored it out of power in the party. 

What Happened in the Last Party Convention? 

The minority have been making the statement, and still 
repeat it, that the present CEC gained the majority at the last 
party convention by making "an alliance" with the Lore group, 
and that this alliance is still maintained. 

Here are the facts: 

1. The majority of the present CEC appeared at the last 
party convention as a distinct and independent group, having its 
own policy on every disputed question that came before the 

2. On all questions we had a clear majority of the delegates 
from the beginning of the convention to the end. 

3. We made no compromise on any question of policy with 
any group or individual in any way, shape or form. We specifically 
refused all proposals of the Lore group to change or modify our 
attitude toward the "third party alliance." (In this we were wrong, 
but we fought honestly for our wrong position.) 

4. The Pepper-Ruthenberg group, in its desperate efforts to 
get the support of the Lore group for their fight against Foster 
and the Chicago trade union group, went to unheard-of lengths. 
They luithdreiu the entire section of their thesis dealing with the "third 
party alliance" in order to avoid a collision with the Lore group. In 
addition to this they centered their whole fight, during the entire 
convention, on the Chicago "trade union group" and had not a 
single word of criticism for comrade Lore. 

5. Our group received from the convention a clear majority 
of the CEC members, independent of both other groups. That 
majority has stood unshaken until the present day, firmly united, 
on the rock bottom foundation of common policy, constantly 
drawing a line between itself and the Lore group, as well as the 
Lovestone-Ruthenberg group, on questions of policy. 

The present majority of the CEC has a policy of its own and 

The CEC, the Minority and Lore 263 

fights for that policy. It had no alliance with any other group, 
organizational or otherwise, at the party convention and has no 
such alliance now. 

The above constitutes a record of facts which no one can 
deny. It shows that comrade Lore was politically and organization- 
ally united with the Pepper-Ruthenberg group at the time this 
group was leading the CEC. The record shows that comrade Lore 
was highly honored by the former CEC, being drawn into the 
Political Committee and appointed to the Steering Committee at 
the July 3 convention in Chicago. It shows that the former CEC 
sought the support of comrade Lore at the convention, that it received this 
support on the main issue of the convention and that it made no criti- 
cism of Lore there. And it shows that some of comrade Lore's great- 
est errors, which the CI has pointed out, were made during the 
administration of the former CEC and passed over in silence. 

During the entire year that the present minority controlled 
the party, up to and throughout the party convention, their 
"ideological struggle" against comrade Lore's ideas was — not a 
word of criticism, not one single article, nor speech, nor motion. 
Their "fight" against comrade Lore, which comrade Ruthenberg 
now demands so virtuously, was — an organizational and political 
alliance with him against the "trade unionist Communists." 

In my next article I will prove that the great fight of the 
minority on "Loreism" since the last convention is not now and 
never has been primarily directed against the wrong tendency of 
comrade Lore. 3 On the contrary, it has been directed against the 
CEC. This indirect means of attacking the CEC under cover of a 
fight against "Loreism," is merely a continuation of the last year's 
direct attempt to destroy comrade Foster and the group around 
him, and is organically connected with it. The raising of the Lore 
issue by the minority, after the convention, was merely a shift in 
tactics to serve the purposes of unscrupulous factionalism. The 
real target was not the wrong tendencies of Lore, but the Commu- 
nist CEC which has nothing in common with these tendencies. 

3 Cannon did not publish a second article on this subject. 

How to Organize and Conduct a Study Class 

Published 13 December 1924 

Cannon was the educational director of the Workers Party when he 
published this article in the Daily Worker magazine supplement. 

The problem of educational work is many-sided. Enthusiasm 
for this work among the party members must be aroused and 
maintained. A general recognition of its fundamental importance 
must be established. It must be organically connected with the life 
and struggles of the party, and must not become academic and 
sterile. And it must be conducted in a systematic manner, becom- 
ing an established part of the life of the party throughout the 
year. This last will not just "happen." It will take much work and 
the introduction of correct organizational and technical princi- 
ples. All our theories will come to nothing if our educational 
apparatus does not function properly. 

Many classes have landed on the rocks because they were not 
conducted properly. One of the most frequent inquiries we have 
received from comrades who are undertaking party educational 
work is: "What is the best way to conduct a study class?" It is the 
purpose of this article to give an answer to this question based on 
the collective experience in the field of educational work from 
which a few general principles can be extracted. 

Let us begin at the beginning and proceed step by step. 
WTien the responsible party committee in the given localities has 
decided to establish a class, let us say, for example, in the "ABC 
of Communism," the next move must be to appoint a leader for 
the class. This leader must understand that the class will not move 
of itself, but must be organized and directed from beginning to 
end, otherwise it will fall to pieces. The comrade in charge of the 
class must then proceed to enroll students, having them register 
for the class and making sure he has a sufficient number who 
agree in advance to attend the classes before he sets the time for 


How to Conduct a Study Class 265 

calling it. As soon as a sufficient number of students have been 
enrolled, a date is set for the first class and all the students are 

At this point we should speak a word about the danger of 
haphazardness in the attendance at the classes on the part of any 
of the students. The party committee must decide that the atten- 
dance at class once a week, or more frequently, as the case may 
be, is a part of the member's party duty and should excuse him 
from party obligations for those nights. The systematic and regu- 
lar attendance at class by all students must be constantly stressed, 
and the party committee and the leader of the class must con- 
stantly fight against the tendency, which always grows up, to 
regard the study class as a series of lectures at which one can 
"drop in" whenever he feels like it. Good results can only be 
obtained when the class is an organized body and is regularly 
attended by the same students. 

Methods of Conducting Classes 

The methods of conducting the classes which have proved 
most successful from past experience can be roughly divided into 
two general methods. These methods may be modified and varied 
in many ways, according to local circumstances, experience and 
qualifications of the teacher, etc. 

These two methods are: 

1. The lecture-question method. 

2. The method of reading from and discussing the text in the 

The Lecture-Question Method. This is the method most fre- 
quently employed by experienced teachers, and one which yields 
the most satisfactory results if qualified comrades can be found to 
conduct the class along this line. The use of this method presup- 
poses that the teacher, who is himself thoroughly familiar with the 
subject matter of the text, possesses some ability and experience 
as a lecturer. It is not necessary, however, for him to be a profes- 
sional. The average Communist who has a firm grasp of his sub- 
ject will find that with a little practice he can succeed in holding 
the attention of a class. 

Under this method the teacher delivers a lecture for the 

266 Early Years of American Communism 

period of about one hour on some phase of the general subjects 
dealt with in the text. In addition he requires the students to 
read, outside the class, in connection with his lecture, certain 
portions of the text and sometimes portions of other books which 
deal with the same subject. When the class comes together for the 
second time it is opened with a question period of about thirty 
minutes during which the lecturer quizzes the students on the 
subject matter of the previous week's lecture and the reading in 
connection with it. It is best to have a short recess at the end of 
the question period in order to get a fresh start for the lecture. A 
lecture of about an hour then completes the evening's work. 
Again the students are referred to sections of the text for reading 
in connection with the lecture. The same procedure is then fol- 
lowed at each successive meeting of the class until the end of the 

When this method is employed it is not advisable to have 
indiscriminate discussion in the class, as this will almost invariably 
divert the attention of the class from the immediate subject in 
hand and destroy the possibility of consecutive instruction. For a 
teacher to conduct a class according to this method he must take 
it firmly in hand, establish his authority at the very beginning, and 
maintain it throughout the course. Nothing is more fatal to the 
success of such a class than for the opinion to grow up amongst 
some of the students that the teacher knows less then they do 
about the subject. For he will then be unable to maintain the 
proper discipline in the class and hold it to its course. Whenever 
a study class, organized for the purpose of consecutive study of a 
certain aspect of Communist theory or tactics, begins to resolve 
itself into a group for general discussion or a debating society, its 
early demise can be confidently expected. 

Reading and Discussing the Text. This method also works out very 
well, especially in elementary classes. In this method, as in all 
others, however, the first prerequisite is a class leader who takes 
a responsible attitude towards the work and who takes it upon 
himself to organize and lead the class and hold it down to the 
matter in hand. This class leader should by all means thoroughly 
study the text before the class commences and make himself 
master of it. 

The class conducted according to this method proceeds by 

How to Conduct a Study Class 267 

the class leader calling upon the students, one after another, to 
read a few sentences or a paragraph from the text. After each 
student finishes reading the part assigned to him, the leader asks 
the student who has read the passage to explain it in his own 
words. If he fails to bring out the meaning clearly or interprets 
the passage incorrectly, the question is directed to other students, 
the leader himself finally intervening to clarify the matter if 

Proceeding along this line the class will cover a chapter or so 
of the text each evening. Before the reading commences each 
time, the leader should conduct a brief quiz of the class on the 
part of the text dealt with on the preceding evening in order to 
bring out the points clearly for the second time, refresh the mem- 
ory of the students, and connect the preceding class with the one 
about to begin. 

In the course of a few months, proceeding along this line, the 
class will get through the "ABC of Communism" and will have 
acquired a grasp of the fundamental theories of the movement. 
Moreover, if the class has been conducted successfully, if it has 
had the good fortune to have a leader that can inspire confidence 
and enthusiasm and who can hold it together as an organized 
body in spite of all difficulties, the students of the class, or at least 
a large part of them, will emerge from their first course of train- 
ing with a strong will and spirit to acquire more knowledge and 
thereby equip themselves better to become worthy fighters in the 
cause of Communism. 

The success of the study class work is to a very large extent 
dependent upon organization, leadership and class discipline. It 
should start on time and stop on time each evening. It must not 
accommodate itself to casual students or chronic late-comers. It 
should not degenerate into a mere discussion group over the 
general problems of the movement but must confine itself in a 
disciplined manner to the specific subjects dealt with in the 
course. It should be conducted in a businesslike fashion from 
start to finish, students being enrolled and the roll called each 
evening. Above all it should have a leader who, notwithstanding 
lack of previous experience, will take his task so seriously as to 
thoroughly master the subject himself. Then he will be able to 
establish sufficient authority in the class to lead it step by step to 
the end of the course. 

A Year of Party Progress 

Being a Record of Difficulties Overcome, 

of Party Achievements, and the Part Played 

Therein by the CEC and by the Minority 

Published 27 December 1924 

The following article defends the record of the Central Executive Com- 
mittee majority against the criticisms of the minority led by party executive 
secretary C.E. Ruthenberg. It was signed by Cannon, William Z. Foster 
and Alexander Bittelman, and published in the Daily Worker magazine 

The minority in their articles have challenged the leadership 
of the CEC majority. The minority charged us with lack of initia- 
tive and aggressiveness. The farmer-labor opportunists of the 
minority are attempting to make a case against the CEC majority 
for its alleged failure to foresee events and precipitate develop- 
ments in the class struggle. This compels us to make a reply 
which will show the membership the real achievements of the 
party under the leadership of the present CEC. 

In making our reply, we will be guided by the following con- 
siderations. First, truthfulness to facts and reality. Second, proper 
regard for the history of our party and for the objective condi- 
tions that were confronting our work during the past year. And, 
third, Leninist objectivity and mercilessness in the estimation of 
past performances, in admitting our own mistakes and in drawing 
lessons therefore for our future work. 

Dangerous Inflation 

This article deals with the term of office of the present Cen- 
tral Executive Committee, i.e., the period between January and 
December of 1924. It was a year full of difficulties for our party 


Year of Party Progress 269 

and its leadership. To mention only a few of these difficulties: the 
collapse of the third party alliance, the big sweep to La Follette, 
the breakdown of the arrangements perfected by the St. Paul 
convention, the change in our election policy, the bitter war of 
the reactionaries against our membership and sympathizers in 
trade unions, and, last but not least, the remnants of the inter- 
nal factional struggle with an organized caucus of the minority 
functioning throughout the country and with the main executive 
office of the party, the office of executive secretary, in the hands 
of the minority opposition. 

It was a difficult year for our party. The split of July 3 placed 
us in a state of isolation which threatened for a while to cut off 
most of our connections in the labor movement. Then came the 
La Follette sweep which shattered badly the basis of our farmer- 
labor operations. On top of this, we had to change our major 
policy, the third party alliance, and adjust ourselves quickly to the 
changed situation. 

In addition to all these very serious obstacles to progress in 
our work, we had to be constantly on guard and at war against a 
peculiar state of mind of our organization which, for lack of a 
better name, we shall call the spirit of inflation. By this we mean 
disregard for objective facts and reality, dangerous self-conceit as 
to the strength and abilities of our party, the worship of empty 
phrases, and a grave lack of realism, practicability and Leninist 
objectivity. This inflationist spirit is the spirit of the minority. 

Our party was dangerously inflated with this spirit of empti- 
ness and fictitiousness. Conscious of this danger for quite a long 
time, we knew that no greater service could be rendered to our 
party than to deflate the party from the non-realistic, non-critical 
and non-Communist notions cultivated by the minority, to bring 
the party back to earth, making it a real, effective instrument in 
the class struggle. To this vital task the Central Executive Commit- 
tee devoted itself in all earnestness, and today, we claim, our party 
is much more realistic, much more practical and, consequently, 
much more effective in its work than it has ever been before. The 
period of wild maneuvers based exclusively upon a policy of bluff, 
the practice of initiating campaigns and movements having no 
other result than an increased production of party circulars, the 
theory of measuring the effectiveness of Communist policy by the 

270 Early Years of American Communism 

amount of publicity space and by the size of headlines appearing 
in the capitalist press, which was so typical of the former CEC, the 
days of such leadership, we hope, are gone forever. 

The Workers Party in the Elections 

As a legacy of the day of "grand maneuvers," the present 
Central Executive majority, immediately upon assuming office, 
found itself inextricably involved in the pursuit of an immediate 
political objective, which was totally beyond the power of our 
party to achieve under the prevailing circumstances. We mean the 
objective of creating a united farmer-labor party in the presi- 
dential elections and thereby defeating the La Follette influence 
upon the so-called class farmer-labor movement. 

The present CEC did everything that was possible to achieve 
that objective. In doing so we were continually hampered by the 
minority in the CEC which was bent upon putting into effect the 
August Theses, that is, the creation of a farmer-labor party on the 
basis of the united front from above, instead of a real united front 
from the bottom with the broad farmer-labor movement upon the 
basis of an immediate program of partial demands. Beginning 
with the first meeting of the present CEC in January and up until 
May, our principal political efforts were directed towards one end, 
a national farmer-labor ticket and party as against the third party 
La Follette ticket. In this effort we were defeated through no fault 
of our own. 

Why? Our answer is because La Folletteism was stronger 
among the masses than Communism, because petty bourgeois 
illusions (which mean La Folletteism) were and still are domi- 
nating the minds of the farmer-labor movement. When the old 
CEC, in its opportunistic rush for leadership, decided that we 
must set up a farmer-labor party as against a third party, it set for 
our party an impossible task. The present CEC majority did not 
realize the impossibility of this task until the June 17 convention. 
The situation became quite clear after the July 4 conference of 
the CPPA. Then grasping the situation with initiative, we cut loose 
from the fiction of a farmer-labor ticket and entered the elections 
as the Workers Party. 

This represented a profound change in tactics. The party 

Year of Party Progress 271 

should realize that it required courage, quick Communist think- 
ing and much determination to make the decision and to carry it 
out successfully. The decision of July 8 placed the Workers Party 
in the elections under its own name and with its own program 
and candidates, thereby extricating our party from the intolerable 
position of compromise and opportunism involved in supporting 
a fictitious farmer-labor ticket. This decision we consider one of 
the major accomplishments of the present CEC. It was carried 
through in the face of bitter opposition by comrade Lovestone, 
minority leader, whose policy would have sacrificed the interests 
of the Workers Party for the fake farmer-labor party. 

Were we right or wrong in putting the Workers Party in the 
elections under its own name? Did we or did we not manifest 
initiative, firmness and correct Communist understanding when 
we changed our policy on July 8? The party has already given the 
answer. Everyone in our ranks, except the incorrigible farmer- 
laborites, are convinced that our party made an excellent showing 
in the election campaign and greatly increased its prestige among 
the toiling masses. 

Popularizing Our Program on Unemployment 

It was through the second national conference of the TUEL 
and upon the initiative of our industrial department that our 
party made known for the first time its program and tactics for 
the organization of the unemployed. Sometime later the old CEC 
(now the minority), in line with its lack of sense for reality and 
understanding of concrete situations, proposed to immediately 
begin the actual organization of councils of unemployed, thereby 
through premature organizational steps endangering the success 
of what is bound to become a great movement. 

Luckily for our party and for its unemployment program 
these premature organizational steps were not taken. The present 
CEC, after adopting a complete policy on unemployment at its 
March meeting, proceeded to popularize the issue, our unemploy- 
ment program and proposed methods of organization. By instruc- 
tion of the CEC majority the question of unemployment was 
made one of the major issues in every campaign carried on by 
our party on the economic and political field. In spite of all 

272 Early Years of American Communism 

provocations of the minority, the CEC refused to begin prema- 
turely the actual organization of councils of unemployed which 
because the situation was not ripe, would have resulted in 
complete failure, thereby wasting the efforts of the WP and dis- 
crediting a powerful organizational slogan for future use. 

Our struggle against unemployment is still in its propaganda 
stage. During the election campaign alone the party distributed a 
quarter of a million leaflets on unemployment and sold 20,000 
copies of a pamphlet written by comrade Browder. We are effec- 
tively propagating our demands for the unemployed and slogan 
of organization, thereby preparing the ground for organization 
work which we propose to start the moment conditions become 
ripe for it. 

Teaching Our Party Methods of Organization 

The present CEC has devoted a great deal of its attention to 
problems of organization, which were neglected by the former 
CEC. We realize that policies, programs and resolutions alone, 
even when correct, do not themselves build a party. When we 
assumed office we found that the party was totally out of balance 
as regards the various phases of its activities, and that systematic 
recruiting of new members was a matter not appreciated by the 
minority. The conception that the old CEC had of organization 
was mainly that of writing articles once in a while in the press. 

We set to work to infiltrate into our party a few of the basic 
principles of Communist organization. At the March meeting of 
the CEC we adopted a statement on party activities by comrade 
Foster. It was an attempt to give our party a clear picture of a 
balanced program of party work, which proved very successful in 
educating our party to a better understanding of the principles of 
Communist organization. 

This was followed up with the program of action finally 
adopted by the CEC at its full meeting in July. The party is well 
acquainted with the contents of this program. It was outlined 
and submitted to the CEC by the majority — the minority contrib- 
uted nothing to its make-up — and was thereupon brought to our 
membership in a number of joint membership meetings in every 
large center. This program of action, with all that it stood for, 

Year of Party Progress 273 

was a real achievement of our party under the leadership of the 
present CEC. 1 

The comrades will recall the nature of the program. It in- 
cluded our election policy and the means of organizing the cam- 
paign in every one of its phases, political, organizational and 
financial. It provided for a systematic campaign to build the 
Workers Party through campaigns for new members. It outlined a 
program for the building and strengthening of the Daily Worker. It 
covered in a most thorough manner our immediate tasks on the 
industrial field, and also the question of shop nuclei. It laid par- 
ticular stress on the unemployment situation and our program for 
it. It contained a special section on educational work. 

It was a program not only of what to do but also of how to do 
it. It called for the most thorough departmentalization, from the 
bottom up, of every unit of the party in accord with the various 
specialized activities contained in the program. It also provided 
for an effective system of checkup and control to secure the sys- 
tematic carrying out of the program of action. This program is 
progressively being put into operation. Insofar as our party is 
functioning and moving forward, it is doing so under the direc- 
tion of and in line with the program of action of the CEC. 

Establishing a Real Industrial Department 

Another major accomplishment of the party during the past 
year was the establishment and perfection by the present CEC of 
a real Industrial Department. This department is a vital organ of 
our party. Through its policies, connections and machinery, our 
party is reaching out into the depths of the American labor 
movement and is establishing contact with the most elementary 
struggles of the organized workers. It is a real department, with 
subdivisions being established in every unit of the party, function- 
ing under the direct supervision of a national committee and a 
national director, which in their turn are supervised and directed 
by the Central Executive Committee. For the first time the district 

1 This program of action was published in the Daily Worker magazine supplement 
of 19 July 1924. The DW reported that it had been adopted unanimously by the 
CEC at its meeting of July 8-9. 

274 Early Years of American Communism 

executive committees and other party units are taking serious 
hold of the industrial work as regular work of our party. 

The department is carrying on its work in accord with a defi- 
nite program, the program of the Trade Union Educational 
League, which is the industrial program of our party. This new 
program of the TUEL was submitted some six months ago by 
comrade Foster to the RILU and was accepted unanimously with 
a few additions by comrades Lozovsky, Johnson [Carl Johnson, 
also known as Charles E. Scott] and Dunne. On the basis of this 
industrial program of the party, which in many respects is a 
model program for the development of militant left wings in 
reactionary trade unions, the militants in the American unions 
are carrying on their work. 

During the past year our comrades and sympathizers in the 
unions had to withstand and resist the most terrific onslaughts of 
the bureaucracy. In nearly every industry the left wing was com- 
pelled to carry on a bitter struggle for life, and in these struggles 
the industrial department of the party played a leading part. In 
the recent elections in the miners union and in the carpenters 
union the left wing was exceptionally well organized and carried 
on an intensive propaganda for the policies of the TUEL. The 
Communist strength within these unions is constantly growing. 
The result of these efforts shows that the left wing in such indus- 
tries as mining, garments, building, transportation, metal and 
food is at present more definitely crystallized, more conscious of 
its aims and better organized now than ever before for continuing 
the struggle to revolutionize the trade unions. 

In preparation for the El Paso convention of the AFL the 
Industrial Department submitted to the CEC a thorough and well- 
considered program. It dealt with every important issue in the 
labor movement, such as a general labor congress to consist of 
representatives of trade unions, workers' political parties, shop 
committees, the unemployed, etc., for the purpose of consolidat- 
ing the ranks of labor politically and industrially and to launch a 
militant attack on the capitalist system; the recognition of Soviet 
Russia; abolition of racial discrimination against the Negroes; 
nationalization of the mines and railroads; amalgamation of the 
trade unions; organization of and relief for the unemployed; 

Year of Party Progress 275 

demand that all the forces in the Pan-American Federation of 
Labor be mobilized for a struggle against American imperialism; 
condemnation of imperialist schemes against China; demand that 
the RILU plan for international unity be endorsed and the soli- 
darity of labor be achieved; protest against criminal syndicalism 
laws, against the deportation of Oates, Mahler, Moran and 
Nigra; 2 the organization of the youth; release of Mooney, Billings, 
Ford, Suhr, Rangel, Cline, Sacco, Vanzetti and other political 
prisoners; condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan and American 

This program was designed to serve as a basis of action in the 
trade unions to rally the masses to the left wing. Special mention 
should be made of the resolution "For a Labor Congress," which 
contains a practical program of partial demands, all of which 
respond to immediate burning needs of the masses, and which 
provides for united front action by the organized labor movement 
in alliance with the Workers Party. It is highly significant that all 
the minority contributed to making up a program for the AFL 
convention was a motion to add the opportunist slogan "For a 
'class' farmer-labor party." They violently objected to fighting in 
the convention for the Workers Party. 

In connection with this we must mention the convention of 
the Pan-American Federation of Labor held in Mexico City, Mex- 
ico. The party had its representative, comrade Johnstone, in the 
field with a definite program of policy and organization designed 
to achieve two aims. One, to promote and unify the left wing 
movement in the trade unions of North, Central and South Amer- 
ica under the leadership of the RILU. Two, to coordinate the 
activities of the Communist parties of the United States and 
Mexico for common struggle against American imperialism in 
Latin America. The only improvement the minority could sug- 
gest to our Pan-American program was to insert some additional 

2 Joseph Oates, Herbert Mahler, William Moran and Pietro Nigra were all IWW 
men who had been tried and convicted with Big Bill Haywood in the infamous 
1918 Chicago Trial. They were released as part of a general amnesty for IWW 
prisoners in 1923, but since they were all non-citizens their cases were turned over 
to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, who threatened to deport them. 

276 Early Years of American Communism 

commas, semicolons and incidentally an additional word. 

It must be stated in passing that the minority exhibited a 
woeful lack of consistency and imagination when they failed to 
propose a Pan-American farmer-labor party as an amendment to 
our program. But that may come yet. It is also noteworthy that 
although the CEC adopted a Pan-American program upon the 
report of comrade Lovestone sometime in May, the executive 
secretary could find no better use for it than to put it in his 
files. Now, however, the CEC has taken the matter into its 
hands and is determined to see that its program is carried into 

Educational Activities 

This was a field sadly neglected by the former CEC, who could 
see nothing but the Farmer- Labor Party campaign. We realized 
the burning need for systematic Bolshevist education in the party 
and at the first opportunity established a special educational de- 
partment with a responsible national director, comrade Cannon, 
and a committee under the supervision of the CEC. 

Already the party is realizing the beneficial results of the 
activities of the Educational Department. There have been estab- 
lished party schools and classes in New York, Chicago, Phila- 
delphia and Boston, also a large network of elementary study 
classes in the ABC of Communism throughout the country. 
There are also in operation circuit study classes in the districts 
of Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Provisions have been made 
by the Educational Department for the publication of a library of 
Communism to contain theoretical books on the fundamentals of 

We realize that this is only a beginning, but a beginning in 
the right direction and with proper regard for the immediate 
needs of the party. The present CEC intends to remain true to its 
conception of a balanced program of party activities in which 
Bolshevist education occupies an important place. 

Thesis and Work on Shop Nuclei 

It was the present CEC that made the first earnest attempt to 
place the shop nuclei proposition as an immediate organizational 

Year of Party Progress 277 

task of the party. 3 Thanks to our efforts, a practical way has been 
found for the application of the principle of shop nuclei to the 
specific conditions of our own party. This practical program is 
embodied in a special thesis recently adopted by the CEC. This 
shop nuclei thesis on the most complicated and difficult organ- 
izational question confronting our party was worked out by the 

Months ago we set out to begin to educate our party mem- 
bership to the necessity of starting the reorganization on the shop 
nuclei basis. Soon afterwards the first organizational steps were 
actually taken by our Chicago district. At present the situation is 
ripe enough for similar steps in a number of other districts where 
there is enough concentration of our members in industry to 
permit such action. 

Strengthening the Communist Morale and 
Understanding of our Membership 

Another major achievement of our party during the past year 
was the general strengthening of the morale and Communist 
understanding of our membership. This was no easy task to 
accomplish in the face of an organized minority caucus function- 
ing throughout the country in flagrant violation of Comintern 
decisions, ever since the 1923 party convention and until this very 

The CEC majority has been working on the theory of disci- 
pline advocated by Lenin and practiced by the CI. This theory is 
that the basis of Communist discipline is confidence of the 
membership in the leading men and committees of the party and 
that this confidence can be won only in one way, namely, by the 
ability of the party to develop and apply correct political strategy 
and tactics. To win the confidence of the membership in our 
ability to give the party correct Communist leadership — this was 
the great ambition of the present CEC. It was for this reason that 
representatives of the CEC frequently addressed joint membership 

3 The Comintern's Bolshevization campaign, inaugurated in 1924, decreed that 
the basic unit of organization of all Communist parties was to be the shop or 
factory cell (nucleus). 

278 Early Years of American Communism 

meetings to familiarize the party with the plans and objectives of 
the CEC. And in every such instance the CEC received the almost 
unanimous approval of the rank and file of the party. 

We attempted on numerous occasions to liquidate the organ- 
ized illegal opposition of the minority. It was comrade Foster who 
immediately upon his return from Russia made a motion in the 
CEC providing for a special committee, consisting of an equal 
number of representatives of the CEC and of the minority, to 
remove the factional basis of our disagreements and to liquidate 
the organized opposition of the minority. We met the minority 
more than halfway. We conceded them a number of important 
organization appointments as an indication of our willingness to 
work with them on the basis of mutual confidence; we submitted 
our program of action, a major achievement of our party, not 
directly to the CEC, but first to the minority group in order that 
they might identify themselves with it and thus share in the credit 
of initiating the program. We regret to say that the minority, 
although always willing to accept our concessions, never for a 
moment relinquished its caucus organization and systematic 
opposition. This fact, together with the additional fact that the 
executive secretary of the party belonged to the minority opposi- 
tion, made it very difficult for the CEC to put into effect more 
fully all its policies and decisions. The latest attempt to pacify the 
opposition was initiated by comrade Cannon on the eve of the 
party discussion, with the idea of removing if possible the purely 
factional sting from differences of opinion on policy. We pro- 
posed informal discussions with the minority of the immediate 
political tasks of the party in order to ascertain whether or not a 
common basis of policy could be found, but the minority was 
more intent upon discussing the make-up of the next CEC and 
similar questions of party control than problems of policy. This 
made it impossible for us to proceed, because we held to the 
Bolshevist principle that the basis of unity in a Communist party is 
agreement on policy and not the arbitrary division of organiza- 
tional control. The minority, however, thought otherwise; conse- 
quently our latest attempt to liquidate the organized minority 
opposition came to naught. A further reason is now clear: the 
minority is one of the right wing tendencies in the party. 

But the party as a whole, if not the minority, responded 

Year of Party Progress 279 

splendidly to every effort of the CEC to improve the morale and 
understanding of the organization. The membership particularly 
appreciated the readiness of the CEC to admit mistakes and to 
correct them quickly, something that the minority never dares to 
do, even in the case of their pet third party alliance which was 
rejected by the Communist International. Till this very day the 
minority cannot muster the courage to say whether the Comin- 
tern was right or wrong. 

In our ideological struggle against the remnants of the Two 
and a Half International we have been making steady progress, 
despite the numerous tactless provocations of the minority, which 
went as far as supplying misinformation to the CEC. We adhered 
strictly to the tactics of the CI, applied to Serrati, Smeral and 
many others, which was to defeat these Two and a Half Inter- 
national tendencies ideologically, to prove them wrong and politi- 
cally bankrupt in the eyes of the membership, to win all the 
proletarian elements of the party to the point of view of the CI, 
and to compel the carrying out of the policies of the CI when 
necessary even by means of disciplinary measures. Together with 
the CI we realized that the Bolshevization of our party is not a 
one-act affair, to be accomplished overnight by means of senseless 
persecutions, but a process of education and merciless ideological 
struggle against Menshevism, opportunism and centrism. This was 
the policy of the CEC majority carried out daily in every phase of 
its activities. We fought to the best of our abilities every deviation 
from the CI policies, such as the remnants of the ideology of the 
Two and a Half International, the right wing farmer-laborist ten- 
dency, as well as those temporary deviations of which we ourselves 
have been guilty. We strained all our efforts to draw into party 
leadership, to bring to the fore, all the proletarian elements of 
the party, the active workers from the shops. And in contradistinc- 
tion from the pseudo-intellectuals of the minority, we believe that 
our movement is essentially a proletarian movement and that its 
ideology and psychology must be permeated with that of the class- 
conscious revolutionary proletariat. 

As a result of these efforts our party is now ideologically more 
homogeneous than ever before in its history. The attendance at 
branch meetings is now better, the internal life of our branches is 
richer and more intensive. The dues payments have never been so 

280 Early Years of American Communism 

high as they are at present. Our party is continually growing in 
numbers. We are getting better organized and more closely knit 
together. All this makes us feel confident that our party is now on 
the right road to become an important factor in the everyday 
struggles of the American workers. 

The Daily Worker 

A major achievement of the CEC has been the management 
and operation of the Daily Worker. Instead of founding only our 
daily paper with the fund raised last year, as was planned by the 
former CEC, we have purchased a building to house the Daily 
Worker and the national office of the party as well, and have estab- 
lished a modern and complete printing plant to take care of all 
the party's printing. The management of the mechanical depart- 
ment of this plant as well as the office end has been economical 
and efficient in the extreme, to the end that the deficit of the 
Daily Worker for 1924 is much lower than we had dared to hope 
(only $20,000). 

But it was not this phase of the work which brought the party 
its greatest gains. Nor have the education and propaganda values 
of the Daily Worker been its chief advantages. It has been in the 
field of organization that the Daily Worker has brought us the 
greatest benefits. For due to the planful organizational methods 
used in the Daily Worker, the organizing of the army of agents, we 
have developed a rich field for making new mass contacts. Instead 
of a haphazard attempt at building circulation, an organized army 
of subscription agents is being developed who are not simply sub 
hustlers, but actually rapidly developing, capable organizers for 
the party. The formalizing of this organization into the Daily 
Worker builders is another step in advance which is already yield- 
ing further results. 

Centralizing the Party Press 

The decentralized state of our party press, which the CEC 
inherited from its preceding administration, was an outrage and a 
nuisance. The Weekly Worker was printed in one place and edited 
and managed in another. The Liberator, Labor Herald, and Soviet 
Russia Pictorial all had separate editorial staffs and administration. 

Year of Party Progress 281 

The party Literature Department had another. As long ago as last 
January the CEC decided to eliminate this waste and inefficiency. 

The first step was the amalgamation of the three monthly 
magazines into the Workers Monthly. Thus the party has one 
monthly official organ instead of three, and instead of three edi- 
tors and two assistants, there is only one editor. The Daily Worker 
has taken charge of the management of the Workers Monthly, 
and with the addition of one office girl to its staff, it does the 
work formerly done by the three business administrations which 
employed from four to five persons. The resultant saving to our 
party in wages alone amounts to over $12,000 a year. 

But the monetary saving is not the only nor by any means the 
greatest achievement. The centralizing of the production of our 
monthly with the Daily Worker makes it possible to produce both a 
better daily and a better monthly. The centralizing of the distribu- 
tion makes it easier to increase the circulation of both the Daily 
Worker and the Workers Monthly. 

The CEC has now decided to centralize in a similar manner 
the party's Literature Department, so that beginning the first of 
the year, the Daily Worker will be charged with the administration 
and distribution of this important arm of our party. This will not 
only make new savings for the party, but also because of centraliz- 
ing of the selling machinery the party will for the first time begin 
really to permeate the working class with Communist books and 

Shortcomings to Be Overcome 

We should not close our eyes to a number of shortcomings in 
our activities. Some of our language sections are not as yet suffi- 
ciently close to the party organization. Communist work among 
women employed in industry, among the Negro masses, and 
among the agricultural workers and poor farmers has hardly 
begun. This much, however, must be placed on record, that the 
present CEC majority succeeded in relieving the party of several 
very harmful notions of the minority regarding the policies and 
forms of organization to be applied by our party in its work 
among women, the Negroes, and the agricultural proletariat, at 
the same time formulating correct policies for our future work. 

282 Early Years of American Communism 

The party is now fully equipped to proceed successfully in these 
comparatively new fields of activity. 

United Front Activities 

One of the signs that our party is finally beginning to get the 
proper perspective in the estimation of events and in formulating 
its policies is the recent decision of the CEC to establish a perma- 
nent commission on the united front. The duty of this commis- 
sion, which is a subcommittee of the CEC, is to continually survey 
the field of class struggle and to formulate for the CEC policies 
and plans of organization for united front campaigns on the basis 
of immediate burning issues in the life of the toiling masses. 

At present we are beginning to develop such united front 
campaigns against child labor, and for the release of Sacco and 
Vanzetti. The subcommittee is preparing the outlines of policy 
and organization for a campaign against the so-called criminal 
syndicalism laws and for the release of class war prisoners. It is 
our intention, in accord with the decisions of the Fifth Congress 
of the CI, to seize upon every burning issue in the life of the 
masses, for united front action against the capitalists and against 
their agents in the labor movement. This plan to systematize the 
united front campaign was entirely the work of the CEC majority. 

The Party Discussion 

We want the party to remember that it was the present CEC 
that created the opportunity for our membership to discuss thor- 
oughly and express itself on our immediate tasks. The whole plan 
for conducting the party discussion was presented by the CEC 
majority. We took the greatest care to so organize the discussion 
as to secure the maximum freedom of expression for the minority 
and to crystallize opinion for all views and tendencies in the party. 
Last year, on the contrary, when we were in the minority, we were 
denied by the Pepper group even the right to defend our policies 
in the various district conventions. 

To us the party is the party membership. The success of the 
party depends upon the consciousness, initiative, and activity of 
every party member. The present CEC fully realizes that the 
strength of a Communist party rests mainly on the Bolshevist 
quality of its rank and file and leadership and upon the bonds of 

Year of Party Progress 283 

mutual confidence that exist between the two. We are therefore 
determined to do all in our power to deepen the Bolshevist qual- 
ity of our party as a whole, and to strengthen the existing bonds 
of mutual confidence between the party membership and the 
party leadership. 

The minority has challenged the leadership of the CEC 
majority. In reply we say, let the record speak. We do not propose 
to follow in the footsteps of the minority and to bluff the party 
into the belief that under our leadership the party has already 
conquered the world. Instead, we will ask the party membership 
to examine our actual achievements. The party will then see that 
it has been making continual progress despite all difficulties, 
that we have extended our influence and strengthened our organ- 
ization, and that now we are making an effort to rid the party 
completely of the old spirit of inflation and farmer-laboristic 
opportunism. We are on the right road to building the Workers 
Party into a mass Communist party. 

A Statement on 
Two and a Half Internationalism 

Published 27 December 1924 

The following article attacks the Central Executive Committee minority 
led by C.E. Ruthenberg for hampering the struggle against Ludwig Lore, 
who was at the time the editor of the party 's German-language paper, the 
Volkszeitung, and leader of an important group of trade unionists in the 
New York Workers Party. The article was published in the Daily Worker 
magazine supplement and was signed by Cannon, William Z. Foster, 
Alexander Bittelman, Earl Browder, Fahle Burman, William E Dunne 
and Martin Abern — the entire CEC majority minus Lore. 

In view of the present situation in the party, we find it neces- 
sary to make a statement regarding our struggle to eradicate the 
Two and a Half International tendencies in our party. 

In its recent decision on the Farmer-Labor Party, the Comin- 
tern pointed out the existence in our party of remnants of the 
ideology of the Two and a Half International, as exemplified by 
some of the writings of comrade Lore. The CI called upon us to 
wage a sharp ideological struggle against these tendencies. This 
the CEC has done and will continue to do until the entire party is 
completely won over to the point of view of Leninism and the CI. 
These efforts of the CEC to defeat ideologically the Two and a 
Half International tendencies were hampered and weakened by 
the tactics of the minority opposition. 

Our tactics for combatting the remnants of the ideology of 
the Two and a Half International in our party were the same as 
the tactics applied by the CI in other Communist parties, notably 
in the cases of Serrati in Italy and Smeral in Czechoslovakia. 
These tactics can be grouped under the following three heads: 

(1) to defeat ideologically and politically these tendencies, to 
prove them wrong in the eyes of our membership and followers; 

(2) to strengthen in our party the ideology and prestige of Lenin- 


Two and a Half Internationalism 285 

ism and of the CI; (3) to compel under all circumstances full 
execution of every party member and every party unit of all deci- 
sions of the CI and of the CEC even by means of disciplinary 
measures. These principles have been successfully applied by the 

In pursuit of these aims the present CEC took sharp issue 
with the remnants of the ideology of the Two and a Half Inter- 
national when these manifested themselves in the activities of 
some of our comrades in the industrial field in the printers 
union, in the needle trades, in the miners union, and in several 
other labor organizations. In all instances the CEC immediately 
sent its representatives to instruct and direct these comrades to 
the Leninist point of view. The CEC took prompt action in every 
single instance when the Volkszeitung or any other party organ 
manifested deviations from the CI line of policy. 

Through its educational department the CEC laid the basis 
for spreading Leninist ideology among our membership. Our 
party schools, study classes, and our press have been utilized in 
every possible way, through articles by comrades Zinoviev, Stalin, 
Kamenev and others to strengthen the Bolshevist ideology of our 
party. By a recent decision of the CEC the powerful speeches by 
comrades Kamenev and Stalin against Trotskyism were ordered 
printed in pamphlet form. 

It was also by a decision of the CEC that comrade Olgin 
wrote his series of three articles explaining the decision of the 
CI regarding the deviations of comrade Lore. All these efforts 
have contributed greatly towards the Bolshevization of our party. 

In this ideological campaign we have been persistently ham- 
pered by the minority opposition. The tactics proposed by the 
minority always tended to crystallize the tendency of the Two and a Half 
International and not to dissolve it or break it up. Every move of the 
minority strengthened the position of this tendency. The minority car- 
ried on a senseless campaign of petty personal persecution, going 
to the extent of furnishing misinformation to the CEC on two 
important occasions, whose only effect was to create sympathy for 
and strengthen the prestige of those who have been charged by 
the CI as manifesting remnants of the ideology of the Two and a 
Half International. 

Not in a single instance did the leaders of the minority under 

286 Early Years of American Communism 

their own names take issue publicly in the party press with any 
individual of this tendency inside or outside of our party. This was 
done, however, by members of the majority, as witness the above 
mentioned articles by Olgin, the debate of Foster against Nearing, 
Cannon's speech in the Workers School in New York on the Bol- 
shevization of our party which was ordered published in the 
Workers Monthly, and the articles by Bittelman against Salutsky and 

The minority felt no responsibility for the welfare of the 
party. For this reason they were continually trying to provoke the 
CEC to such action as would create a crisis in the party, if not an 
actual split, and thereby strengthen the very tendencies which it is 
our duty to combat. All through the year the minority by their 
foolish tactics have been building up the Two and a Half Inter- 
national tendency. Now they are strengthening the right wing of 
the party generally by their advocacy of an opportunistic farmer- 
labor party policy. 

The minority showed its utter disregard for the CI decisions 
by maintaining a permanent caucus throughout the country at 
the very time when the CI was fighting militantly against such 
manifestations of Trotskyism in the Russian and other parties. 

The inevitable result of such a reckless policy as the minority 
proposes would be a disastrous split, which would cost the party 
large numbers of valuable proletarian elements, and which would 
strengthen the Two and a Half International tendencies. On the 
other hand, the policy of the CEC, which is the policy of the 
Comintern, will Bolshevize these proletarian elements and stamp 
out anti-Leninist deviations. 

Ours is a young party, it has many unripe elements within it, 
and the task of Bolshevizing them is a difficult one. It can only be 
accomplished along the lines now being followed by the CEC, 
that is by a patient, persistent, intelligent, strategical, determined, 
relentless application of the principles of Leninism. 

Controversial Questions in the 
Workers Party of America 

ca. February-March 1925 

The following article by Cannon and William Z. Foster is evidently an 
early draft of an article published under the title "The American Ques- 
tion" in both the German- and Russian-language editions of the Com- 
munist International No. 3 (1925), which appeared around the time of 
the Fifth Plenum of the Comintern Executive Committee in March-April 
1925. The plenum was to rule on the disputed questions in the Workers 
Party, and an article by American minority leader C.E. Ruthenberg was 
also published in the same journal. This unpublished English-language 
draft manuscript of the Foster-Cannon article is from the Max Shacht- 
man Collection in the Tamiment Institute Library, New York University, 
and appears here by permission of the Institute. 

While the published German/ Russian version and the English draft 
of this article are for the most part similar, there are a few substantive 
differences. The published version eliminates some of the direct attacks 
on John Pepper, and also omits the direct statement: "The split at the 
Chicago July 3rd, 1923 convention was disastrous." Moreover, in the 
German/ Russian version the final three sections of the article, which deal 
with the internal factional situation in the Workers Party, are missing. 
Instead, a much shorter section on the Workers Party 's internal situation 
is incorporated in the middle of the article. This section notes that the 
Foster-Cannon group *s "tactics consist of carrying out active ideological 
struggle against Two and a Half Internationalist tendencies in the Work- 
ers Party. The group has published many articles condemning and reject- 
ing these right-wing deviations. It has consistently taken a position 
against every manifestation of Trotskyism." Such a bald statement of 
anti-Trotskyism is missing from the English draft. 

Economic and Political Situation 

In the United States the capitalists have succeeded, since the 
Civil War, in keeping control over the various social classes, petty 


288 Early Years of American Communism 

bourgeoisie, farmers, workers, etc., through the two big parties, 
Republican and Democratic. These parties are completely domi- 
nated by the big capitalists and are used to further their interests 
at the expense of the other classes following their lead. In the 
past 50 years sections of the petty bourgeoisie, farmers and work- 
ers have made various attempts to break the domination of the 
two capitalist parties and to establish a third party. Such break- 
away movements have been most intense during industrial and 
agricultural crises. The most important of them were the Green- 
back Movement of the 1870s, the People's Party of the 1890s, and 
the Roosevelt Progressive Party of 1912. But all these movements 
failed to establish a third party. The economic driving power 
behind them was insufficient. 

The outstanding feature of the present political situation in 
the United States is the development of another movement of the 
petty bourgeoisie, farmers and workers against the two old parties. 
This is the La Follette third party movement. It originates in the 
agricultural and industrial crisis, and in the continued intensifica- 
tion of capitalist exploitation. The petty bourgeoisie find them- 
selves confronted by ruthless combinations of capital which are 
rooting out competition in every field of production and distribu- 
tion. The farmers are faced by powerful capitalist monopolies, 
which on the one hand rob them of their products, and on the 
other charge them exorbitant prices for all manufactured com- 
modities. They are being progressively impoverished and expro- 
priated. In 1920, 38 percent of all American farmers were tenants, 
and 37 percent of those who technically owned their farms were 
encumbered by mortgages amounting to $3,356 on an average. 
Tenancy and the mortgage system are developing rapidly, espe- 
cially during the past few years. In 1910 the mortgage debts of the 
United States amounted to $1,727,172,983, and by 1920 it had 
increased to $4,003,767,192. During 1922 about 1,200,000 persons 
left the farms and went to the cities. 

The workers are under still greater pressure from capitalism. 
The bulk of them lack the elemental necessities of life. It is only 
the small fringe of well-organized skilled workers in the building 
trades, the printing industry, and on the railroads, etc., who re- 
ceive the high wages that have been so widely advertised. In 1922 
the railroad union leaders maintained that full-time wages of the 

Controversial Questions 289 

organized skilled shop mechanics could not purchase the vital 
necessities necessary to maintain their families at even the lowest 
level of safety. The shop mechanics' wages, which have since been 
heavily cut, amounted to only $1,884.90 per year as against 
$2,303.99 per year called for in the budget of living issued by the 
United States Department of Labor. In 1924 the average wage 
throughout the United States was only $25 per week, or $1,300 
per year. The unskilled workers in the industries live in real pov- 
erty, and as for the millions of agricultural workers, they are the 
most bitterly exploited and have the lowest standard of living. 
Unemployment is a constant scourge of the workers. In 1922 
there were 6,000,000 out of work. It is estimated that there are at 
least 1,500,000 constantly unemployed. There are no state doles. 
The workers are denied practically all say in the control of 
industry and in the establishment of their own working condi- 
tions. Of the approximately 30,000,000 wage workers, only 
3,500,000 are organized, and the existence of even their weak 
organizations is constantly threatened by the open shop drive of 
the employers. 

The Republican and Democratic parties are the instruments 
of big capital and are devoted to its service. The government, 
whether controlled by either party, discriminates against the petty 
bourgeoisie by favoring concentrated industry and by choking out 
competition everywhere. It harasses the farmers by high tariffs 
and by general support of the farmers' immediate enemies, the 
meatpackers, bankers, railroad owners, etc. It crushes the workers 
strikes with injunctions, police and troops, and it openly assists 
the employers in their constant "open shop" drives. In 1920 it 
was the Democratic Attorney General, Palmer, who secured a 
federal injunction against the 600,000 coal miners, denying them 
the right to strike, and in 1922, it was the Republican Attorney 
General, Daugherty, who got an injunction against the 400,000 
striking railroad mechanics. The government, whether Republican 
or Democrat, shifts the burden of the World War debt from the 
shoulders of the capitalists to those of the workers. Consequent 
upon this inevitable failure to represent the interests of these 
classes, the two old parties are seething with discontent. Masses 
of petty bourgeoisie, farmers and workers are becoming disillu- 
sioned with them and are tending to break away and to form a 

290 Early Years of American Communism 

new party. This mass movement is the so-called La Follette third 
party movement. 

The present third party movement, under the pressure of the 
agricultural and industrial crisis, has been definitely crystallizing 
for the past several years. Its organization point, loose and vague, 
was the La Follette group of the so-called progressives in Con- 
gress. Most of these came from the western agricultural states, as 
a result of the work of the Non-Partisan League and other farmer 
organizations, and the trade unions. In 1918 the trade unions 
began to become active in the third party movement, expressing 
themselves for a "labor party," although conceiving it in the 
sense of a petty bourgeois third party. The Chicago Federation of 
Labor and other bodies declared for a "labor party." In the next 
couple of years the federations in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, 
Pennsylvania, etc., together with several national unions, also 
favored the movement. In 1920 the labor party group, headed by 
John Fitzpatrick of Chicago, held a national convention. Many 
farmers also came. The convention launched the Farmer-Labor 
Party of the United States, an alliance of workers and farmers, 
and put up as its candidate for president Parley Parker Christen- 
sen. At this convention the "Committee of 48," a loose grouping 
of petty bourgeois elements, participated. Third parties, calling 
themselves Farmer-Labor Parties, sprang up in Minnesota, Wash- 
ington, South Dakota, Colorado, etc. The Gompers bureaucracy 
bitterly opposed the whole movement, being firmly attached to 
the policy of supporting "friends" on the tickets of the two old 

In February 1922, at Chicago, a fresh development took place 
by the organization of the Conference for Progressive Political 
Action. The basis of this organization was the 16 railroad unions. 
Around them rallied practically all the labor unions, farmers 
organizations and Farmer-Labor Parties that favored breaking 
from the two old parties. The Socialist Party also participated. 
Many expected that the CPPA would definitely launch the looked- 
for third party, but its leaders were too weak. In December 1922, 
the CPPA went on record for a modified form of the old Gom- 
pers non-partisan policy. The Farmer-Labor Party of the U. S. then 
split from it and many other organizations dropped away. The 

Controversial Questions 291 

CPPA became a skeleton. The whole third party movement was 

With the approach of the presidential elections in 1924, the 
demand for a third party flared up afresh. It was given impetus by 
the agricultural crisis which through 1922 and 1923 was intense, 
and by the slowing down of industry and the discharge of hun- 
dreds of thousands of workers in the winter of 1923-24. The 
Conference for Progressive Political Action called a convention 
for July 4th in Cleveland. La Follette assumed active leadership of 
the whole movement. At the July 4th convention he announced 
himself as candidate for president of the United States on an 
independent ticket without actually forming a party. Immediately 
after the July 4th convention, practically every organization in 
the country, except the Workers Party, that favored independent 
political action rallied to his support. Gompers gave La Follette 
the endorsement of the American Federation of Labor, and Debs 
hailed him as a champion of the workers. The petty bourgeois 
united front was quite complete, from La Follette to Gompers and 

The election campaign was one of the most sharply contested 
in the history of the United States. The capitalist press attacked 
La Follette viciously. Although merely demanding government 
ownership of the railroads and water power and government 
regulation of other key industries, his program was bitterly 
denounced as Bolshevistic and destructive of all organized govern- 
ment. The capitalists told the workers that if they voted for La 
Follette factories would be immediately closed. A lessening of the 
agricultural and industrial crisis also adversely effected the La 
Follette movement. About September 1924, an improvement set 
in in the conditions of agriculture and industry. Due to world 
shortage of wheat the prices of that and other grains went to 
record figures, and the spirit of revolt amongst the farmers began 
to evaporate. The industries also began to pick up somewhat with 
increased production, which is continuing up to the present, and 
which has partially reduced the unemployment of the workers. 

Consequent upon this terrorization of the workers and the 
lessening of the agricultural and industrial crisis, Coolidge won 
a sweeping victory at the polls. Whereas the supporters of La 

292 Early Years of American Communism 

Follette had expected the latter to carry enough states to prevent 
either Coolidge or Davis from getting a majority of the electoral 
votes and thus to throw the election into Congress, he succeeded 
in carrying only Wisconsin. This came as a big defeat to many of 
the labor bureaucrats and their followers in the La Follette move- 
ment. They lost their enthusiasm for a third party. Gompers and 
the AFL declared emphatically for the old non-partisan policy, 
and the railroad unions, backbone of the CPPA, did the same. 
The crystallization of the third party received a setback. 

The Farmer-Labor Policy of the Workers Party 

In the development of this mass movement the Workers Party 
took a most active part. For two and a half years, beginning early 
in 1922 with the slogan of "For a Farmer-Labor Party," it carried 
on a vigorous campaign to tear loose the masses of workers and 
poor farmers from the petty bourgeois leadership of La Follette 
and to organize them into a separate party. But these efforts were 
futile so far as creating a party was concerned. The first attempt 
to launch the so-called "class" farmer-labor party took place on 
July 3rd, 1923. This convention was held on a united front basis 
with the Workers Party and the Farmer-Labor Party of the United 
States, headed by John Fitzpatrick. Many organizations, trade 
unions, cooperatives, fraternal societies, which in the previous 
campaign had endorsed the farmer-labor party slogan as in some 
degree expressing their demand for a third party, sent delegates. 
About half a million workers and a scattering of farmers were 
represented. The Workers Party demanded the immediate for- 
mation of a new Federated Farmer-Labor Party. The Farmer- 
Labor Party of the United States was opposed and a split took 
place. The control of the convention fell into the hands of the 
Workers Party which then launched the Federated Farmer-Labor 
Party, based upon trade unions, cooperatives and other prole- 
tarian bodies. 

The FFLP was stillborn. The masses immediately fell away 
from it. They wanted a petty bourgeois third party movement, 
not a semi-Communist "class" party of only workers and poor 
farmers. The Workers Party made a desperate effort to breathe 
the breath of life into the FFLP, expending great energy and 
resources upon it, but this effort failed completely. The masses 

Controversial Questions 293 

would have nothing to do with the FFLP. It did not become a 
mass organization which could be used as a feeder for the WP. 
On the contrary, it became a rival tending to liquidate the Work- 
ers Party. It consisted of only the Workers Party and its closest 
sympathizing organizations. It was merely a "united front with 
ourselves," a distortion of the united front tactics peculiar to 
America. Thus we had practically two Communist parties, that is, 
the Workers Party and the Federated Farmer-Labor Party. The 
situation became so intolerable that the FFLP, which the Pepper- 
Ruthenberg group hailed as one of the greatest achievements of 
the world Communist movement, had to be abandoned. 

Somewhat staggered by the failure of the Federated Farmer- 
Labor Party, the Workers Party nevertheless launched a fresh 
attempt to found the so-called "class" farmer-labor party. This 
culminated in the convention in St. Paul on June 17th, 1924. By 
this time the La Follette leaders were rapidly organizing their 
forces for the national elections in November. Foreseeing the 
danger of the absorption of the Farmer-Labor elements by the La 
Follette movement for a third party, the Workers Party proposed 
then an alliance be made between the two movements. This was 
the so-called "third party alliance." The outcome of it would have 
been that both movements, or rather the two sections of the one 
movement, as it later proved, would have endorsed La Follette. 
But the Comintern correctly forbade the "third party alliance," 
declaring that it would make of the Workers Party a tail for the 
petty bourgeois kite. 

The La Follette leaders sharply attacked the St. Paul conven- 
tion as being dominated by the Communists. They called upon 
the masses to rally to their convention on July 4th. Their call 
found a ready response. Practically all the trade unions, farmers 
organizations and other bodies which had supported the slogan, 
"For a 'class' farmer-labor party," joined the mass movement 
towards them. Consequently the June 17th convention was practi- 
cally cut to pieces. It consisted merely of Communists, their close 
sympathizers, and a scattering of lukewarm trade unionists and 
farmers. Nevertheless, in a determined effort to give life to the 
slogan they had propagated for over two years, the WP delegates, 
who controlled the convention, launched a new party, the Na- 
tional Farmer-Labor Party, and placed in the field its candidates 

294 Early Years of American Communism 

for president and vice president, MacDonald and Bouck. 

But this party collapsed even more quickly than did the Fed- 
erated Farmer-Labor Party. With the AFL, the railroad unions, the 
Socialist Party, and the state Farmer-Labor Parties all over the 
country gone to La Follette, the National Farmer-Labor Party was 
isolated. Comprising only Communists and close sympathizers, it 
was another case of a "united front with ourselves." This placed 
the Workers Party in a most difficult situation. To have gone 
through the campaign supporting MacDonald and Bouck would 
have been to gravely sacrifice the interests of the Workers Party by 
shoving it into the background and bringing the skeleton Com- 
munistic National Farmer-Labor Party to the fore. The Workers 
Party would have furnished all the resources and done all of the 
work, but got none of the credit. And in return the National 
Farmer-Labor Party could not have brought greater masses under 
its influence than the Workers Party could by campaigning 
directly under its own name. It was only another Communist 
Party. Hence the Central Executive Committee threw overboard 
the make-believe mass National Farmer-Labor Party and placed in 
the field its own candidates, Foster and Gitlow. Thus, after a two 
and a half year campaign for the farmer-labor party in the midst 
of the developing third party movement, the Workers Party was 
unable to get together enough of a "class" farmer-labor party to 
make it possible to run it in the election campaign. The move- 
ment had no mass support. The action of the CEC was received 
with enthusiasm all through the Workers Party. 

These experiences made several facts stand forth, clear and 
indisputable, which must be taken into consideration in the work- 
ing out of the united front policies of the Workers Party. The first 
is that the Workers Party greatly overestimated the degree of class 
consciousness of the workers in its campaign for a "class" farmer- 
labor party. Their support of the La Follette movement showed 
that the masses are still intensely petty bourgeois in their ideol- 
ogy. In fact, in order to get the support of the AFL and the trade 
unions generally, La Follette had to go to the right by dropping 
his demands for the recognition of Soviet Russia. These masses 
are not ripe for a "class" farmer-labor party such as the Workers 
Party advocated. Their wholesale flocking to the standard of La 
Follette proved this. Another important factor is that our every 

Controversial Questions 295 

attempt to build a middle-of-the-road farmer-labor party between 
the Workers Party and the La Follette movement resulted merely 
in the creation of a new Communist labor party, only Communists 
and sympathizers joining it. Such a party must be a rival and liqui- 
dator of the Workers Party. The elements that become disillu- 
sioned with La Folletteism at the present stage of development 
are advanced enough either to be brought directly into the Work- 
ers Party as members or to come under its influence through the 
united front maneuvers upon the basis of concrete issues of the 
everyday struggles. 

In the early phases of its farmer-labor party campaign, the 
Workers Party gained much valuable publicity and experience, 
but attempts to form farmer-labor parties prematurely led to very 
costly splits and isolation. The split at the Chicago July 3rd, 1923 
convention was disastrous. The Trade Union Educational League 
had developed many valuable rank and file connections in the 
trade unions. These were used as the basis for the farmer-labor 
party campaign. When the split took place and the FFLP was 
formed, these sympathizers, who were not ready for such a step, 
broke away from the Communists not only on the farmer-labor 
question, but also for the amalgamation, unemployment and 
other campaigns being carried on by the party in the unions. This 
split practically broke the connections of the Workers Party in the 
trade unions and threw the center of gravity of the farmer-labor 
party movement among the farmers. The Pepper-Ruthenberg 
group (then the majority) practically abandoned work in the 
trade unions and concentrated their efforts on the farmers. The 
present majority, comprising principally the trade union elements 
in the Workers Party, objected to this shifting of gravity from the 
industrial workers to the farmers. A bitter controversy developed, 
which will be outlined further along. 

The ill-fated National Farmer-Labor Party, formed at the St. 
Paul June 17th, 1924 convention, cut off more valuable connec- 
tions of the party in the mass organizations. The present isolation 
of the Workers Party and the crippling of the Trade Union 
Educational League are due to the ill-advised attempts to found 
the "class" farmer-labor party of industrial workers and poor 
farmers in the absence of mass sentiment for such a party. This 
policy is a policy of "putschism," which, under the formula of 

296 Early Years of American Communism 

"contact with the masses," leads in actual practice to isolation 
and sectarianism. 

The Present Controversy Over the Farmer-Labor Party Policy 

Just before the November elections a sharp division devel- 
oped in the Central Executive Committee of the Workers Party on 
the question of the farmer-labor party policy. The majority group 
took a determined stand against any further attempts to form 
caricature farmer-labor parties and declared for a true united 
front policy of putting forward concrete and understandable slo- 
gans based on the everyday struggles of the workers. The minority 
group took the position that now more than ever the campaign 
for the "class" farmer-labor party had to be pushed. 

The controversy was then laid before the membership for 
discussion. Mass membership meetings were held in all the impor- 
tant party centers. These gave a substantial majority vote for the 
theses of the CEC majority. 1 New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadel- 
phia, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and other large party centers voted 
for the majority theses. The reports in the Daily Worker show that 
in the 50 cities voting, the majority theses received 2,400 votes 
and the minority 1,590. All the important cities that had been 
active in the farmer-labor party campaign voted without exception 
for the majority theses. The Young Workers League also strongly 
supported the majority theses. 

The central question in the present controversy is whether or 
not we shall organize the Workers Party forces in the trade unions 
and other proletarian organizations into a Communistic labor 
party. The minority champions such a program. The majority 
opposes it, insisting that wherever the labor party movement takes 
shape it must have a broad mass character. The controversy over 
this central issue has gone on with varying degrees of intensity 
since the organization of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party in 
July 1923. This has brought about a sharp factional situation, in 
which the minority has seized upon practically every party policy 
to utilize for factional purposes. But all the issues in the present 

1 Both the Foster-Cannon majority and the Ruthenberg-Lovestone minority had 
written theses on the tasks of the Workers Party. See note, pp. 244-245. 

Controversial Questions 297 

dispute revolve around the central question of whether or not the 
Workers Party shall organize a left wing farmer-labor party. 

The theoretical expression of the minority policy of organiz- 
ing a Communistic labor party was first given in the August 
(1923) Theses, which still remain the guiding principle of the 
minority in their farmer-labor policy. These theses were written in 
support of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party. The formation of 
this party was a tactical mistake. But instead of admitting it and 
realigning the Workers Party policies accordingly, comrades 
Pepper and Ruthenberg wrote theses to justify its existence. These 
were the so-called August Theses, in which they developed the 
theory of several competing labor parties in the United States. 
According to this theory the minority proposes to break off such 
sections of the labor movement as respond to the "class" farmer- 
labor party slogan and to combine them into a farmer-labor party, 
a party under the leadership of the Communists, with the object 
of transforming this hodgepodge into a "mass Communist party." 
The August Theses say: 

In America we have a number of political groups which fight for 
influence within the trade union movement. The attempt to gain 
influence upon the workers assumes the organizational expression of 
forming various labor parties. The Socialist Party tries to form a 
labor party. The old Farmer-Labor Party tries to form another labor 
party. The Workers Party has helped in the formation of the Feder- 
ated Farmer-Labor Party. It is simply a dogmatic statement to decree 
that it is against the rules of the game for several labor parties to 
attempt to exist in one country. 

And again: 

It is our duty to attempt through very careful, cautious propaganda 
and systematic campaigns to transform the Fedeiated into a mass 
Communist party. 

The CEC minority (now the majority) opposed the policy of 
organizing the Communists and sympathizers into a left wing 
Communist labor party which was bound to be a rival party and a 
liquidating influence for the Workers Party. We stated our general 
position in our thesis of November 1923, as follows: 

The organization of premature and artificial labor parties, as the 
theses of the majority (Pepper-Ruthenberg group) virtually propose, 
makes a caricature out of the very idea of the labor party and runs 

298 Early Years of American Communism 

the danger of discrediting it. The Workers Party cannot assume the 
responsibility of such undertakings without injuring its standing in 
the eyes of the workers. 

And further: 

Our position is not based on the assumption that the entire labor 
movement must join the labor party at once or that even a majority 
is necessary. But we hold that wherever it is formed, it must unite 
the labor party forces and have a genuine mass character. 

Regarding the theory of transforming the Federated into a 
mass Communist party, our November 1923 thesis said: 

The August Theses make the argument that the Federated Farmer- 
Labor Party can be developed into a mass Communist party. There 
is no foundation for such an assertion. The conditions for the build- 
ing of a mass Communist party are the existence of a closely knit 
Communist nucleus operating within the broadest mass organiza- 
tions of the workers, permeating them with its doctrines and sweep- 
ing the most advanced of them into its ranks. The Workers Party is 
such a Communist nucleus and the naturally developing labor party 
movement is such a mass organization. By working within this mass 
organization and pushing it forward, the Workers Party is bound to 
expand and extend its influence. The organization of the FFLP does 
not facilitate this development, but interferes with it. Wherever it 
takes organizational form it separates the Communists and their 
closest sympathizers from the main body of the movement and cre- 
ates the conditions for a sectarian Communist party controlling a 
sectarian labor party. 

In the present phase of the 18-months-long controversy over 
the organization of a Communist farmer-labor party, the CEC 
minority reiterates its determination to form such a party by the 
following typical statement of policy in its latest theses: 

We shall mobilize all the "class" farmer-labor elements with which 
we have contact and which are now affiliated to the La Follette Pro- 
gressive organization for the campaign against this as a liberal third 
capitalist party and not a labor party and to have them raise the 
slogan of a class farmer-labor party and split away from the La Fol- 
lette movement. 

As against this conception of organizing a "left class farmer- 
labor party," the CEC majority reaffirms its previous position that 
the labor party can be formed only if it is based on the broad 
organizations of the masses. The experience of the past two and a 
half years conclusively shows that no sentiment exists among the 

Controversial Questions 299 

workers for the formation of such a "class" farmer-labor party, as 
against the La Follette third party movement. Hence, under exist- 
ing conditions, a campaign for the formation of the farmer-labor 
party is out of the realm of practical politics. In this regard our 
latest theses say: 

The fundamental conditions determining the attitude of our party 
toward the farmer-labor movement are the same now as at the begin- 
ning of our experience in this field on the basis of united front 
tactics of the Communist International. At the time when the 
farmer-labor movement was developing a mass character, moving in 
the direction of an independent party, it was correct for our party 
itself to raise the slogan of "a farmer-labor party" and participate 
actively in the movement for it. When, as became apparent in July 
1924, and as it is apparent now, the idea of a farmer-labor party 
lacks mass support and appeal among industrial workers and poor 
farmers, the basic reasons for our support of this movement are not 
in existence. The Workers Party, therefore, cannot advantageously 
promulgate the slogan of "a farmer-labor party" at the present time. 
The further development of the class struggle may eventually again 
create a mass sentiment for the formation of a farmer-labor party. In 
such case the Workers Party may find it advantageous to again raise 
the slogan for such a party and actively participate in the movement 
for it. Our attitude towards it will depend on the advantages it offers 
to the Workers Party from the standpoint of promoting independent 
political action on a mass scale and of building the Workers Party 
into a mass Communist party. 

The CEC majority position is against the organization of a left 
wing farmer-labor party, a rival of the Workers Party, and is in 
favor of concrete, united front struggle around living issues in the 
workers' lives. This policy is based upon the realistic appreciation 
of the present situation in America. Our experience during the 
past two and a half years, and especially during the recent elec- 
tions, demonstrates that the political development of the Ameri- 
can workers is much more elementary than we had calculated in 
our farmer-labor party campaign. They are still bound ideologi- 
cally to the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. Even those workers 
prepared to break with the two parties of big capital are merely 
transferring their allegiance to the petty bourgeoisie. Their class 
consciousness is only faintly dawning. Their conception of inde- 
pendent political action is that of a petty bourgeois third party 
movement, as is evidenced by the fact that practically all those 

300 Early Years of American Communism 

labor organizations which had endorsed resolutions for a farmer- 
labor party supported La Follette in the elections without consid- 
ering it any retrogression from their previous stand. In fact, many 
of the state sections of the La Follette movement, ideologically 
and organizationally bound to it, call themselves Farmer-Labor 
Parties: for example, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Wash- 
ington, etc. There is no considerable body of workers anywhere, 
outside of the Workers Party itself, who stand clearly for the 
organization of a "class" farmer-labor party, or who would 
respond to such a slogan and join such a party. 

United front slogans must be of such a nature as to appeal to 
wide masses of the workers. They must be concrete and under- 
standable, and capable of enabling the party to set a mass move- 
ment into motion. Under present conditions in America the main 
campaign of the party must be the effort to lead the workers and 
poor farmers into action and struggle on the basis of concrete 
burning questions affecting their daily lives. The Workers Party, 
while concentrating its main energies on its efforts to draw the 
unions as organizations into economic and political united front 
struggles over concrete issues, should advocate the idea of the 
trade unions entering into political action independently as 
organizations, and of their forming an alliance with the tenant 
and mortgage farmers under the leadership of the workers. But 
the slogan of the labor party should be put forth in an organiza- 
tional sense only in those circumstances where it has or is capable 
of developing mass support. It should not be used in such a sense 
as to exaggerate the role and possibilities of a labor party or to 
obscure the identity and leading role of the Workers Party. The 
labor party should be formed only under conditions where it 
secures genuine mass support from the unions. The creation of 
so-called "left wing" labor parties, which amount in practice to 
little more than the Workers Party and its closely sympathizing 
unions, is a caricature of the labor party idea and is inadmissible. 

In order to start the backward American masses towards the 
political struggle along class lines, it is necessary to begin with 
concrete and understandable slogans which propose united front 
struggles with the Workers Party over the most burning and press- 
ing issues in their daily life. The basis of the CEC majority policy 
is to develop a series of campaigns along this line. The object of 
these campaigns is first to get the masses in motion, and second 

Controversial Questions 301 

to formulate the questions in such a way as will bring the masses 
into collision with the petty bourgeois political leaders, and thus 
accelerate the process of disillusionment with these politicians 
and draw the workers nearer to the Workers Party as the practical 
leader in the daily fight as well as the herald of the Communist 
revolution. The present slackening in the industrial and agricul- 
tural crisis in the United States cannot prevent the development 
of such united front struggles on concrete issues. The ever- 
increasing exploitation of the workers by the capitalist system with 
its recurring and deepening crises furnishes the fertile soil for 
such movements. 

One of the chief problems of the Workers Party is to find 
organizational bases broad enough to set the masses into motion 
behind the united front slogans. One means is for the Workers 
Party, as such, to initiate united front movements directly with the 
workers organizations. In the United States, the Workers Party has 
had much success with this direct method. Under the slogan of 
"protection for foreign-born workers," it set up united front 
movements directly with many trade unions, fraternal societies, 
etc., and carried on an extensive and effective campaign against 
the proposed laws limiting the rights of these workers, thereby 
greatly enhancing the prestige and influence of the Workers Party 
and winning for it many valuable proletarian elements. Similarly, 
in defending the Communists arrested at the Bridgman, Michigan 
underground convention, the Workers Party made a highly suc- 
cessful united front campaign. Also the Friends of Soviet Russia, 
a united front movement for Russian famine relief and recogni- 
tion, extended the influence of the Workers Party widely amongst 
diverse proletarian organizations. The TUEL campaign for amal- 
gamation of the trade unions, which was endorsed by fully half of 
the American labor movement, was a fertile field for the exten- 
sion of Communist influence and organization. And during the 
recent campaign for the adoption of an amendment to the 
United States Constitution opening the way for legislation to 
restrict child labor, the Workers Party carried on wide agitation 
on a united front basis. In Omaha, for example, the effectiveness 
of such tactics was manifested. Under the direct leadership of the 
Workers Party many of the most important trade unions were 
rallied to fight for the child labor amendment. These unions were 
all active participants in the La Follette movement and they could 

302 Early Years of American Communism 

not have been rallied by a movement to unite them into a "class" 
farmer-labor party. 

The Workers Party must utilize every opportunity to develop 
such united front movements directly with the trade unions and 
other proletarian organizations. For this purpose, every living 
issue in the class struggle must be seized upon, including fights 
against unemployment, wage cuts, syndicalism laws, injunctions in 
labor disputes, use of troops and police in strikes, imperialism, 
the Dawes Plan, for defense of political prisoners, international 
trade union unity, amalgamation, defense of Negro workers, dur- 
ing election campaigns, etc. All these issues furnish the opportu- 
nity to mobilize the masses and to throw them into the political 
struggle under the leadership of the Communists. They enable 
the Workers Party to appear in fact as well as in theory the real 
leader of the working class in its struggles. 

But the Workers Party cannot rely entirely upon such move- 
ments started upon its own initiative and under its own leadership. 
The Communists must also penetrate all the mass organizations of 
the workers, participate in all their struggles, and there fight for 
the WP slogans. Communist delegates from trade unions must 
work within the Conference for Progressive Political Action and 
the other so-called non-partisan political committees of the trade 
unions for the program of the party. These committees are taking 
on more importance as the trade unions go deeper into politics. 
They have always furnished the backbone of the labor section of 
the La Follette movement. Often they have considerable rank and 
file character, as in the case of the CPPA and the Workingmen's 
Non-Partisan Political League of Minnesota. At the recent conven- 
tion of the AFL it was decided to make the non-partisan commit- 
tees permanent and to extend their functions. 

At the convention of the CPPA recently held in Chicago, the 
trade unions again demonstrated their stubborn allegiance to the 
non-partisan committee system. Two plans were before the con- 
vention to form parties, the La Follette group proposing a third 
party based on individual membership, and the Socialists propos- 
ing a labor party after the British model. The railroad unions 
rejected both plans and left the convention, declaring categori- 
cally in favor of their non-partisan method. The La Follette group 
arranged to call a convention to found a third party, and the 
Socialists, receiving practically no support for their labor party 

Controversial Questions 303 

proposal, abandoned their fight for it on a national scale and 
decided to resume their former independent policy. The refusal 
of the railroad unions, however, to commit themselves definitely 
to the organization of a third party does not signify their break 
with the La Follette movement. Through their so-called non- 
partisan committees, the bulk of them will in the future, as in the 
past, support the La Follette movement, whether it expresses 
itself in the new party or as the left wing of the two old parties. 
The trade unions have persistently refused to affiliate themselves 
either to "class" labor parties or third parties. The Farmer- 
Labor Party of the United States (Fitzpatrick), the Federated 
Farmer-Labor Party and the National Farmer-Labor Party (both 
Communist), and the American Labor Party (Socialist) all failed 
to develop mass trade union support and have all passed out of 

During the recent national election campaign and immedi- 
ately afterwards, the Workers Party did not participate on a large 
scale in the CPPA. This was because it was the very heart of the La 
Follette movement, and effective participation in it was impossible 
without endorsing its petty bourgeois candidates. But with the 
CPPA organizationally independent of the La Follette movement 
(even if dominated by La Follette sentiment), the effective pene- 
tration of it by Communist delegates from trade unions becomes 
much more feasible. These committees will be a battleground for 
the various tendencies in the labor movement. In this struggle the 
aim of the Workers Party must be to win the support of the masses 
represented in these committees for its various united front cam- 
paigns, during elections, during strikes, and for every burning 
issue in the labor movement. 

It is only by work deep among the masses along united front 
lines, by movements launched upon its own initiative and by 
penetration of movements outside of its direct control, that the 
Workers Party will come to be recognized as the real leader of the 
working class and will build itself into a mass Communist party. 
The minority policy of organizing a left wing "class" farmer-labor 
party is full of danger to the Workers Party, and the overwhelm- 
ing majority of our party is irreconcilably opposed to it. It is an 
opportunistic policy tending to isolate and liquidate the Workers 

As the basis for its drive to organize a left wing farmer-labor 

304 Early Years of American Communism 

party, the CEC minority enormously overestimates the degree and 
tempo of revolutionary development in the United States. In his 
article in the October 1923 Liberator comrade Pepper wrote: 

I came to the conclusion that we are facing a deepgoing revolution, 
not a proletarian revolution, but a La Follette revolution. I stated 
that in this revolution the working class will free itself from the rule 
of the Gompers bureaucracy, will acquire a class consciousness on a 
national scale. I can add that this period will produce the mass Com- 
munist party. We should not forget for a moment this general revo- 
lutionary situation. 

And in the September 1923 Liberator, in an article entitled 
"Facing the Third American Revolution," he said: 

Politics today has become a mass occupation. The basis of American 
conservative democracy was the inert mass of the farmers. This basis 
is now collapsing. The last reserve of capitalism in America was the 
8,000,000 Negroes in the South. This last reserve is in the act of 
deserting.... The Negroes in the South are making an unarmed Spar- 
tacus uprising. 

In line with this extravagant estimate of the political situation 
in general goes an equally extravagant estimate of the role and 
extent of the movement for a farmer-labor party. They look upon 
such a party as the one means of bringing the masses into politi- 
cal struggle on a united front basis. They hold it to be practically 
fundamental to Communist strategy to build such a party. They 
also overestimate the influence of the Communists amongst the 
masses, in their eagerness to discover mass sentiment behind their 
slogan for a "class" farmer-labor party. Says comrade Pepper in 
the Inprecorr of September 27, 1923: "The laboring masses consid- 
ered the Communists as their leaders, and they expect us to show 
them the best ways and means of fighting against the capitalists 
and the capitalist government." 

As a result of their general overestimation of the revolution- 
ary development in the United States, the Pepper-Ruthenberg 
minority, when in control of the Workers Party, led it into a 
whole series of opportunistic adventures. One of these was the 
August Theses theory of tearing away a section of the labor move- 
ment in the shape of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party, and then 
turning it into a mass Communist party. Another was the famous 
third party alliance with the La Follette movement, which pro- 

Controversial Questions 305 

jected an opportunistic spirit into our party. Still another was the 
wild chase after the farmer. 

In the question of the farmers we come upon the second of 
the fundamental points of dispute between the CEC majority and 
minority. The first relates to the matter of mass support for the 
labor party. The majority takes the position that before the labor 
party can be organized, there must be a mass demand for it 
amongst the workers, and it must be primarily based upon the 
trade unions. The minority, on the other hand, holds the theory 
that the left wing forces in the labor movement should be com- 
bined into a labor party, a theory which translated into actual 
practice means the formation of a second Communist Party. In 
the second question, that of the farmers, the position of the 
majority is that in the labor party, the industrial workers just play 
the leading role, with the farmers occupying a minor position. 
The Pepper-Ruthenberg minority, while paying lip service to this 
second conception, in actual practice base their farmer-labor 
party principally upon the farmers. 

This tendency of the minority became particularly pro- 
nounced after the split at the July 1923 convention, where the 
Federated Farmer-Labor Party was formed. This split broke the 
connections of the Workers Party with the masses of industrial 
workers apparently favoring a labor party. Then, largely forgetting 
that the industrial workers must of necessity be the base of our 
party activity, the minority, at that time controlling the party, 
shifted the center of gravity to the farmers. Work among the trade 
unions was neglected and all efforts were concentrated upon the 
farmers. In order to theoretically justify this policy, the trade 
unions were systematically minimized as mere organizations of 
labor aristocrats. In his thesis presented to the American Commis- 
sion in Moscow, in May 1924, comrade Pepper stated the problem 
as follows: 

Shall we make an alliance with the labor aristocracy, which today 
socially and politically is the closest ally of imperialism, or shall we, 
in the name of the proletarian workers, make an alliance with the 
farmers, who today are beginning to fight against imperialism, 
although in a confused and hesitating manner? 

He describes his group as the section of the party which 
"stresses the necessity of the alliance with the farmers," as against 

306 Early Years of American Communism 

the Foster-Cannon group, "which emphasizes the necessity of an 
alliance with the labor aristocracy." By "labor aristocracy," com- 
rade Pepper means the present trade union movement of Amer- 
ica. The same tendency to base the farmer-labor party movement 
upon the farmers is manifested in the latest theses of the Pepper- 
Ruthenberg group, in which there is cited, as mass support for 
the "class" farmer-labor party, the Farmer-Labor Parties in the 
agricultural states of Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Colo- 
rado, South Dakota and Washington. All these parties are made 
up overwhelmingly of farmers, and they are all part of the La 
Follette movement. The minority theses cited only one party of 
industrial workers, a skeleton Farmer-Labor Party in Washington 
County, Pennsylvania. 

In the midst of the opportunistic adventures of the Pepper- 
Ruthenberg group amongst the farmers, the present majority of 
the CEC sounded a note of warning against this shifting of the 
base of the party activities from the workers to the farmers, and 
fought against this tendency. We stated our general position in 
the November 1923 thesis as follows: 

Important as the revolt of the bankrupt farmers is in the present 
political situation, and necessary as it is that a close alliance be ce- 
mented between the exploited farmers and the industrial workers, 
there is a great danger in the tendency, displayed by the CEC major- 
ity ( Pepper- Ruthenberg group), to base their labor party policy upon 
the farmers' revolt, and to relegate the role of the industrial workers 
to second place. 

In the American Commission in Moscow, in May 1924, the 
CEC majority reiterated its position on the question of the farm- 
ers as follows: 

It shall be sharply called to the attention of the Workers Party that 
the importance of the farmers as a revolutionary factor must not be 
overestimated. The backbone of the Communist movement must be 
the industrial workers. The party shall be instructed to turn its atten- 
tion more to work in the big industrial centers, rather than so much 
in the agricultural districts. 

The minority conception embraces two political parties: one, 
the near-Communist farmer-labor party, to carry on an opportun- 
istic struggle amongst the masses over their everyday burning 
questions, and the other, the Workers Party, to appear before the 

Controversial Questions 307 

masses primarily in the role of advocate of Communist principles 
in the abstract and the ultimate proletarian revolution. In order 
to justify the campaign for the "class" farmer-labor party, the 
minority constantly exaggerates the extent of that movement. On 
October 3, 1923, when it was definitely known to the Central Ex- 
ecutive Committee that the Federated Farmer-Labor Party was 
little more than an organization on paper, comrades Pepper and 
Ruthenberg submitted to the Comintern and Profintern the fol- 
lowing inexcusably exaggerated report of the strength of that 

The figures show that comrade Foster's statement, that the Feder- 
ated Farmer-Labor Party is simply the Workers Party under another 
name, is untrue. The Federated Farmer-Labor Party is everywhere at 
least 20 times as strong as the Workers Party. In New York, 60,000 
and only 3,000 party members; in Buffalo, 60,000 and only 200 party 
members; in Minnesota 120,000 and only 2,000 party members; in 
Washington County, Pennsylvania 20,000 and only 100 party mem- 
bers; in Los Angeles 11,000 and only 100 party members. The Feder- 
ated Farmer-Labor Party is the most important organ of the united 
front of our party. It plays the same role as the industrial councils 
(Betriebsrdte) movement in Germany. 

The minority comrades have an opportunistic conception of 
the role of the farmer-labor party. They speak of it as a party 
which will "fight the battles of the working class," and associate 
"independent class political action" in their theses exclusively 
with the farmer-labor party. In his booklet, "For a Labor Party," 
comrade Pepper goes so far as to raise the slogan, "The Labor 
Party or the Capitalist Dictatorship." 

As a complement to this policy of grossly exaggerating the 
role and extent of the farmer-labor party movement, the minority 
also follows a policy of minimizing the influence of the Workers 
Party as such. The reverse of the campaign for the farmer-labor 
party policy in the Workers Party is a constant propaganda to 
show how little the Workers Party can accomplish in its own 
name. A characteristic statement of this defeatist attitude occurs 
in the article by comrade Amter in the Inprecorr of January 27, 
1925: "To contend that the Workers Party can become a mass 
Communist party in a country like the United States where the 
workers and poor farmers have little consciousness, is Utopian." 

308 Early Years of American Communism 

During the recent election campaign, this tendency to mini- 
mize the Workers Party and to shove it into the background came 
sharply into evidence. The minority followers, still mourning over 
the demise of the stillborn National Farmer-Labor Party, whose 
candidates MacDonald and Bouck had to be withdrawn, took but 
little interest in the election campaign under the banner of the 
Workers Party. When the election returns began to come in, the 
minority leaders, apparently eager to show that the Workers Party 
could not make any show directly under its own flag, and thereby 
to stress the necessity for a farmer-labor party, proposed to cable 
the Comintern an estimate of the vote which was only half as 
large as that which the official counters, after a wholesale stealing 
of votes, conceded to our party. This deliberate minimizing of the 
showing made by the Workers Party under its own name, as com- 
pared with the widely exaggerated reports sent to the Comintern 
regarding the Federated Farmer-Labor Party, give a real indica- 
tion of the comparative importance attached to these organiza- 
tions by the CEC minority. This attitude shows quite clearly that 
the policy of the minority leads to liquidation. 

The American party is confronted with the most serious and 
complicated problems. In order for it to find its way along the 
right path, it is necessary that the whole political situation be 
re-examined in the light of developments and the experiences of 
the party. The party cannot live and grow until it clearly recog- 
nizes the opportunistic and liquidationist tendencies inherent in 
the farmer-labor party conceptions of the minority and rejects 
them resolutely. A halt must be called to the tendency to mini- 
mize and subordinate the Workers Party, to hide its name and to 
create a substitute and rival party by the propagation of the cure- 
all slogan of a "class" farmer-labor party. The party must over- 
come opportunism without falling back into the sterile rigidity 
which characterized the first year of its existence. This requires a 
sober analysis of the objective situation, and the elaboration of 
the tactics which take into account the present stage of develop- 
ment of the workers and the relative strength of the party. A first 
condition for healthy development of the party is the manifold 
extension of activities within the trade unions and other mass 
organizations of the workers. The party must penetrate deeply 
into the labor movement and draw the workers around it. This 
cannot be done by means of the magic "class" farmer-labor party 

Controversial Questions 309 

slogan, but by means of concrete struggles around living issues on 
the basis of the united front. There are no short cuts to a popular 
mass Communist party in America. Realistic work and struggle 
over a period of years is the only road to that goal. The majority 
of the CEC and the overwhelming majority of the Workers Party 
stand on this position. 

Factionalism in the Workers Party 

At the present time there is a factional situation in the Work- 
ers Party which seriously hampers the functioning and develop- 
ment of the party. The worst feature of this is the struggle 
between two groups, majority and minority, which should consti- 
tute a single leading group of the party. This fight originated in 
1923 in the dispute over the role to be played by the Federated 
Farmer-Labor Party. In November of that year the present major- 
ity of the party, then the minority, agreed with the Pepper- 
Ruthenberg group on interpretation of their theses which would 
prevent the FFLP from being developed into a left wing Commu- 
nist labor party by splitting the labor party forces. Believing that 
the difficulty was properly adjusted, we exacted no organizational 
guarantees whatever from the then majority. Almost immediately 
afterwards, comrade Pepper, in violation of the agreement, 
launched into a bitter factional attack against our group, to which 
we had no opportunity in the party press to reply before the con- 
vention was held. 2 In the convention the overwhelming majority 
of the delegates revolted against the Pepper-Ruthenberg group, 
largely because of their factional activities and their attempts to 

2 This is evidently a reference to Pepper's article "How Not to Make the United 
Front," which was published in The Worker, 22 December 1923. Pepper attacked 
the Chicago District Committee, which included prominent Foster-Cannon sup- 
porters like Swabeck, Johnstone and Browder, for making a united front "only 
with the Fitzpatrick-Nockels group of leaders" and refusing to challenge 
Fitzpatrick's leadership of the Chicago AFL — both before and after the July 3 

The Third Convention of the Workers Party, held 30 December 1923 to 1 Janu- 
ary 1924, issued a statement on the Chicago united front (published in The Worker, 
12 January 1924) which exonerated the Chicago leadership: "The majority resolu- 
tion declares that the District Committee in its practice did not direct any criticism 
against the Fitzpatrick group. This was largely true. But in so doing the District 
Committee merely followed the policy which the CEC is following in Minnesota, 
Detroit and everywhere else where we have some semblance of a united front. If 
this policy was wrong, the CEC was entirely responsible...." 

310 Early Years of American Communism 

justify their errors by putting the blame for them on others who 
were not responsible. 

At the sessions of the American Commission in Moscow in 
1924, we urged that efforts be made to amalgamate the two 
groups, and our proposition was accepted by the commission 
and embodied in its decision. Immediately upon our delegates' 
return to America we proposed amalgamation with the Pepper- 
Ruthenberg group. Agreement was reached over the immediate 
tasks confronting the party, and in the reorganization of the party 
personnel made at the time, involving seven positions, the four 
most important were given to the minority, and every assurance 
was also given to the minority of our desire to consolidate with 
them and work harmoniously together. 

We believed that the party was about to achieve unity and the 
elimination of the factional fight when there arrived a letter 
from comrade Pepper. This letter, which was broadcast in the 
party and the Young Workers League through underground 
methods, grossly misrepresented the decisions of the American 
Commission and incited the minority to a continuation of the 
factional fight. The result was to deepen and intensify the fac- 
tional situation. The minority was stimulated to continue its illegal 
factional organization, based primarily on a number of language 
federations, and to extend it throughout the party. Every party 
problem was seized upon and exploited from a factional stand- 
point. A typical example of this was the question of unemploy- 
ment. At the very moment when the minority were demanding 
the formation of unemployment councils and making a big issue 
of it throughout the party because the majority refused to form 
such councils until such a time as unemployment had developed 
to sufficient mass character to give these councils real meaning, 
comrade Ruthenberg, secretary of the party and a leader of the 
minority, had in his possession letters, from a number of district 
organizers who were supporting the minority, which declared it 
would be impossible to organize unemployment councils in their 
districts under the prevailing conditions, and urging that the 
attempt should not be made. 

Despite repeated demonstrations that the minority is opposed 
by the overwhelming majority of the membership, they are 
obsessed with the ambition to secure complete control of the 

Controversial Questions 311 

party organization, to the exclusion of the present majority group. 
This is the rock upon which our attempts to amalgamate with 
them have been wrecked. Their attitude was characteristically 
expressed by comrade Ruthenberg in his demand to the present 
American Commission that the control of the party be handed 
over to his group. Our proposals for the liquidation of the fac- 
tional fight, which is doing so much injury to our party, are con- 
tained in our recommendations to the American Commission, 
which are appended to this document. 3 

Two and a Half International Tendencies 
in the Party 

One of the worst features of the factional fight in the Workers 
Party is the reckless and irresponsible manner in which the 
minority has approached the question of the liquidation of Two 
and a Half International tendencies in the Workers Party. The 
decision of the American Commission of last year correctly called 
attention to the existence of a tendency toward Two and a Half 
Internationalism in the Workers Party, especially as exemplified 
by the writings of comrade Lore, and called upon the CEC to 
make an ideological campaign against it. The CEC majority fully 
agreed with this standpoint and proceeded along the lines laid 
down by the letter of the Comintern. 

The CEC majority has written and spoken openly and contin- 
ually against this group and tendency. The following examples 
can be cited: 

1. The CEC theses declare against it and call for its 

2. Foster's polemics against Nearing {Daily Worker magazine, 
10 and 17 May 1924). 

3. Bittelman's articles against Salutsky (DW magazine, 15 
April 1924) and Boudin (DWmagazine, 9 August 1924). 

4. Cannon's speech at New York Workers School (Workers 
Monthly, November 1924). 

3 The Cannon-Foster recommendations are not published here, as for the most 
part they are repetitive of other material. The recommendations end with a final 
section entitled "Liquidation of the Factional Fight," which is appended to the 
end of this article. 

312 Early Years of American Communism 

5. Cannon's speech at party conference of coal miners (DW 
magazine, 2 August 1924). 

6. CEC resolution on role of New York Workers School 
(introduced by Cannon and printed in the DW). 4 

7. Olgin's articles on "Lore and the Comintern" (written by 
direction of CEC and printed in DW magazine). 

8. Bittelman's speech at convention of German Federation 
(DW, 4 December 1924). 

9. CEC resolution against Wicks, minority leader, who sup- 
ported the arch-reactionary Lynch for president of Typo- 
graphical Union (printed in DW, 21 August 1924). 

10. CEC decisions and resolutions against right wing fractions 
in South Slavic and Czecho-Slovak federations (printed in 
DW). 6 

The minority completely overlooked the political and ideolog- 
ical problems involved in this question and took it up from a 
purely factional standpoint. They hampered the ideological cam- 
paign of the CEC against this tendency and only succeeded in 
strengthening and consolidating the Lore group by stupid and 
obviously factional organizational proposals and petty persecu- 
tions. During the time the minority had control of the party they 
worked hand in hand with Lore against the bona fide proletarian 
Communist elements represented by the present majority. They 
drew Lore into the Political Committee of the CEC and at the 
same time excluded Cannon and Bittelman. They appointed Lore 
to the Steering Committee (in charge of the Communist fraction) 
of the July 3rd convention which formed the FFLP while refusing 
to allow Cannon to attend it even as a delegate. They never once 
so much as criticized Lore during the entire year, and during the 
last party convention they never once raised the issue of the 
opportunist errors of Lore, but concentrated their whole fight 

4 We could not find this resolution in the Daily Worker. 

5 See note, page 258. 

6 The CEC statement condemning the Board of Directors of the Czecho-Slovak 
Federation's official paper, Spravedlnost, for splitting from the Workers Party, was 
published in the 28 July 1924 DW. The CEC decision on the South Slavic Federa- 
tion, published in the DW magazine supplement on 29 March 1924, upheld the 
Federation Bureau in its struggle against the former editors of the Federation's 
journal, who had quit the party charging the Bureau with financial malfeasance. 

Controversial Questions 313 

with the support of Lore against the present majority. During the 
days of the German October and the party crisis attendant upon 
it, Lore in the Volkszeitung supported Brandler against the left 
wing. The Pepper-Ruthenberg CEC did not object to this for the 
very good reason that comrade Pepper, who was the leader of the 
CEC, was himself a supporter of Brandler. 

Lore has made the statement a hundred times that Pepper 
expressed his approval of the attitude of Lore on the Brandler 
question. In The Liberator for November 1923, comrade Pepper 
wrote the following, in his article entitled "The New Wave of 
World Revolution": 

In the past year we have seen the three most outstanding mass suc- 
cesses of the united front tactic: an international united front of the 
transport workers; the united front of the German Communists and 
Social Democratic workers in Saxony; the formation of the Feder- 
ated Farmer-Labor Party in the United States. 


The left Socialist-Communist government in Saxony is the nucleus of 
the future Soviet Government of Germany. 


In Germany the deciding battle of the class struggle of workers and 
capitalists will assume the form of a struggle and war between two 
state powers — between counter-revolutionary Bavaria and revolution- 
ary Saxony. 7 

In addition to this, comrade Lore's article "analyzing the 
German events" was featured and given the most prominent 

7 Both the ECCI and the German party leadership only belatedly took note of the 
revolutionary situation in Germany in 1923. The plan worked out in Moscow in 
September called for the insurrection to begin in Saxony, where the German 
Communist Party (KPD) would enter into the Social Democratic (SPD) govern- 
ment which already depended on KPD support. It was hoped that entry into the 
Saxon government would give the KPD access to arms. 

Party chairman Heinrich Brandler was one of three KPD ministers who joined 
the Saxon government on October 10; a few days later the KPD also entered into 
a coalition government with the SPD in Thuringia. On October 20 the KPD lead- 
ership decided to organize a general strike and insurrection. However the SPD 
refused to go along with the plan. When an SPD-dominated conference of factory 
delegates at Chemnitz, whose endorsement of the KPD strike call was supposed to 
signal the beginning of the insurrection, also refused to go along, Brandler called 
off the insurrection. The ECCI representatives in Germany backed his decision. 


314 Early Years of American Communism 

position on the front page of The Worker at that time. One can 
easily see in all these incidents that the Pepper-Ruthenberg 
group, which today makes Loreism its main issue, had nothing to 
say against Lore at that time. 

The question of the Two and a Half International tendencies 
constitutes a serious problem for the party. It can be solved by 
the Comintern laying down the correct tactics for the liquida- 
tion of this group and tendency, and by the repudiation of the 
adventurous and reckless policy of the minority which merely 
exploits the question for factional purposes. The CEC majority 
is carrying out a systematic struggle against this tendency and it 
demands that the minority cooperate in the campaign and not 
sabotage it. 

For us it is a problem not simply of Lore but of the workers 
who sympathize with him and his policy to a certain extent. Valu- 
able proletarian elements, among them some of the most active 
and influential party members in the New York trade unions, are, 
to a certain extent, under the influence of the Lore group. This is 
very largely the result of their reaction to the destructive faction- 
alism and anti-trade-union practices of the minority. The aim 
must be to win these valuable proletarian elements over to com- 
plete support of the CEC and the Comintern by a careful and 
intelligent and systematic struggle against the opportunist tenden- 
cies of the Lore group, which will separate the workers from it 
and isolate the leaders who persist in their errors. It would be the 

The German army marched into Saxony and deposed the SPD-KPD government 
on October 23; the Thuringian government was also deposed. In November the 
KPD was declared illegal (the prohibition lasted until March 1924). 

In a letter to the German party written soon after these events, the ECCI noted: 
"We here in Moscow, as you must be well aware, regarded the entry of the 
Communists into the Saxon government only as a military-strategic maneuver. 
You turned it into a political bloc with the 'left' Social Democrats, which tied 
your hands. We thought of your entry into the Saxon government as a way of 
winning a jumping-off ground from which to deploy the forces of our armies. 
You turned participation in the Saxon cabinet into a banal parliamentary coali- 
tion with the Social Democrats. The result was our political defeat." 
The ECCI later made Brandler the scapegoat for the defeat and endorsed a 
new "left" KPD leadership led by Ruth Fischer and Arkadi Maslow. Lore had not 
only supported Brandler in this affair, but denied that a revolution was possible in 
Germany in 1923. 

Controversial Questions 315 

greatest folly to precipitate a premature split which would lose 
them for the party. 

The Question of Party Work in the Trade Unions 

Another angle to the factional situation which is particularly 
harmful to the Workers Party is the manner in which the Pepper- 
Ruthenberg minority is hampering the work of the party within 
the trade unions. The trade unionist members of the party have 
made particularly strong opposition to the formation of a "left 
wing" Communist farmer-labor party, realizing that among other 
evil effects it would isolate the Workers Party in the trade unions. 
The minority have therefore directed the brunt of their attack 
against the trade unionists and the Trade Union Educational 
League. This attack was begun in the August Theses when com- 
rades Pepper and Ruthenberg launched a long and bitter polemic 
against the comrades most active in the trade unions. This has 
been followed up by systematic, if disguised, opposition to the 
work in the trade unions. Charges of Gompersism and syndicalism 
are set afloat in the party, the tendency of which is to weaken the 
trade union work. An effort is made to set aside the trade union- 
ists as a special group in the party and to play off against them 
the large percentage of the party membership who do not belong 
to the trade unions. 

The party is now carrying on its trade union work under great 
difficulties. The trade unions have just suffered the most tremen- 
dous defeat in their history, in the period from 1919 to 1924. 
Whole sections of them have been wiped out. The officialdom, 
refusing to reorganize the unions and to adopt a policy of class 
struggle, have introduced elaborate plans of class collaboration, 
and have declared ruthless war against the left wing as part of this 
plan of betraying the workers to the capitalists. The Trade Union 
Educational League has been driven underground in practically 
every trade union in the United States. In addition to these handi- 
caps many valuable connections were lost in the trade unions 
through the Federated Farmer-Labor Party split and the sweep of 
the La Follette movement. In the face of this difficult situation the 
factional fight of the minority against the trade unionists in the 
party is especially disastrous to the trade union work of the party. 

The irresponsible attitude of the minority towards the trade 

316 Early Years of American Communism 

union work arises primarily out of the non-proletarian past and 
lack of trade union experience of the minority leaders. They have 
no real appreciation of the importance of trade union work. 
Before the present factional fight developed and when they were 
in control of the party, their policy was to leave the mapping out 
and execution of policies in the trade unions to the men making 
up the present majority of the CEC. They were uncritical and 
indifferent. When the split took place after the July 1923 conven- 
tion of the FFLP, the Pepper-Ruthenberg lack of appreciation for 
an understanding of the work in the trade unions took a new 
turn. The tacit support of the Trade Union Educational League 
came to an end and a campaign of carping criticism and passion- 
ate opposition developed. The Pepper-Ruthenberg group submit- 
ted an industrial program to the convention of the Workers Party 
in January 1924. This "program" indicates their complete lack of 
understanding of trade union work. Its principal features were 
proposals to drop the TUEL slogans for amalgamation and the 
organization of the unorganized. 

The minority plan said about amalgamation of the trade 
unions, "Neither the workers of the unorganized industries nor 
the hundreds of thousands of organized workers are interested in 
any organizational improvement of the existing craft unions. Our 
vigorous campaign for amalgamation was in place for the period 
of prosperity and it helped to stir up great sections of organized 
labor." As for the organization of the unorganized, the minority 
program said, "Our slogan, 'Organize the Unorganized,' was a 
proper slogan during a period of complete employment, in- 
creasing wages and decreasing hours." For hours the minority 
members urged the dropping of these important slogans. They 
ignored completely that the campaigns to organize the unorgan- 
ized and to consolidate the trade unions must be continued 
constantly, especially during industrial depressions, which was 
exactly when the minority proposed to drop them. In such trade 
union work as they take part in, the minority displayed strong 
right wing tendencies, a case in point being the endorsement by 
H.M. Wicks, a prominent member, of James Lynch for president 
of the Typographical Union. Lynch is one of the most notorious 
reactionaries in the trade unions, and Wicks' action, for which he 
was publicly censured in the party press, demoralized the left 

Controversial Questions 317 

wing in the printing trades. 

The majority of the CEC has a keen appreciation of the basic 
importance of trade union work. Without the deep permeation of 
the trade union movement and the widespread organization of 
Communist fractions, the party cannot exercise real influence 
over the masses. The fundamental condition for the solution of 
the recent factional situation and for the health and growth of 
the party is a clear statement from the Comintern on the necessity 
of trade union work and the liquidation of anti-trade-union ten- 
dencies in the Workers Party. 


From Recommendations to the American Commission 

by Cannon and William Z. Foster 

The factional controversies in the Workers Party, which arose 
out of the complicated situation in America, have been exagger- 
ated and intensified to such a degree by the minority under the 
stimulation and direction of comrade Pepper, that they now con- 
stitute a major problem of the party. The reckless and irre- 
sponsible factional conduct of the minority not only paralyzes the 
activity of the party, but actually threatens its unity. The Comin- 
tern decision will facilitate the liquidation of the factional fights 
by embodying the following points: 

a) A clear statement on the question of united front tactics in 
general, as applied to the United States. 

b) A specific condemnation of the theory of organizing a left 
wing Communist labor party and of transforming it into a 
mass Communist party, also a rejection of the general 
forming of "paper" organizations under the guise of the 
united front. 

c) Renewed efforts to amalgamate the leading groups of the 
CEC on the basis of the decision of the Comintern. 

d) A substantial number of new proletarian elements, workers 
actually employed in the shops and who are active mem- 
bers of trade unions, shall be drawn into the CEC and 

318 Early Years of American Communism 

systematic efforts be made to train and develop proletarian 

e) Caucuses and factions shall be dissolved and prohibited, 
and the practice of circulating underground "documents" 
in the party shall be condemned. 

f) Energetic work with regard to the concrete aspects of 
Bolshevizing the party referred to above, liquidation of the 
Two and a Half International tendencies, reorganization 
of the party on the basis of shop nuclei, centralization of 
the party, proletarianizing the CEC and party educational 

g) The trade union work must be developed and intensified 
on a manifold scale. All party members must join the trade 
unions and start faction fights against the bureaucrats. The 
anti-trade-union tendency in the party must be categori- 
cally condemned. 

h) Point out the necessity for party leaders to frankly admit 
mistakes in policy. There is a danger to the party in the 
tendency to cover up past mistakes by posturing present 
theories to fit them, which hinders the party from turning 
back from a wrong path once it has entered it. 

Pepper: Menace to Party Unity 

13 February 1925 

The following is an unpublished transcript of Cannon *s remarks to a 
session of the American Commission which convened in Moscow before 
the Fifth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist Inter- 
national. The American party had appointed a delegation of four to the 
plenum — two from each faction. But in Moscow the Ruthenberg minority 
attempted to have Pepper, who was then resident in Moscow, recognized 
as an additional American delegate. The dispute was eventually resolved 
by adding two new delegates — Pepper for the minority and John William- 
son of the Young Workers League for the majority. 

I think the question is not so much a formal question, it is a 
question of representation here in Moscow and of the Commis- 
sion determining who represents the party here. I agree with 
comrade Kuusinen that the Pepper question is a part of the trou- 
ble in our party. What we object to is this typical example of com- 
rade Pepper's maneuvers, of trying to get in three delegates for 
the minority against two for the majority. When comrade Pepper 
was in America he wanted to appear as representative of the CI. 
In Moscow he wants to appear as representative of our party. 
Comrade Pepper seems to have created the impression in Moscow 
that he represents our party. We want to establish the fact that 
our party has nothing to do with Pepper as a representative in 
Moscow, and anything he has to say here in no way speaks for our 

The motion proposed by comrade Lozovsky would be accept- 
able to us — that there should be two reporters from each side. 
We object that the minority send Ruthenberg and Lovestone and 
we send Foster and myself, and then they try to get Pepper in 
because he is here already, and say it is not fair to put him out. 


320 Early Years of American Communism 

We can settle the question by letting the minority have two repre- 
sentatives and we will have two representatives. 

At the last Commission to consider the American question, 
the CEC majority made an official request for the removal of 
Pepper from America. If this is not complete, if Pepper still has 
some strings on the American party, we here today make a further 
demand for the severance of those strings from the American 
party, because he is a constant menace to the unity of the party. 
The speech comrade Pepper made here just a minute ago gives a 
key to the work he has done in our party. What does he say about 
Foster? He compares him to Gompers. He has tried to stir up the 
most remote sections of the party against Foster on the ground 
that he is another Gompers. In this way he has created an 
extremely bitter situation. He comes here and says, I am not a 
hundred percent American, I am a poor immigrant. This may not 
mean very much here, but in America it is a good way to stir up a 
large portion of our foreign-born members and set them against 
the American leaders of the party. This creates strong nationalistic 
tendencies. I tell you here that if the CI does not remove Pepper 
from our party you will never have peace in it. He is a menace to 
the unity of our party. He incites the foreign workers in the party 
against us. We want the Commission to understand clearly that 
Pepper does not represent the American party, cannot, and never 
will by our consent. 

The Situation Is Different in America 

30 March 1925 

The following remarks by Cannon to the third session of the Fifth Plenum 
of the Communist International were published in International Press 
Correspondence, 16 April 1925. 

The problem of Bolshevization in America has certain con- 
crete aspects: The problem is concurrent with the problem of 
organizing the party, for we are at the beginning of the task of form- 
ing a Communist party in America, and the situation is different 
from the countries of Europe. We never had a revolutionary mass 
movement in America and have few traditions and experiences to 
draw upon. We have a large proletariat in America, but the party 
has only 20,000 members of which only 2,000 are in the English- 
speaking organizations. The American proletariat is politically 
very backward and the most elementary tasks are necessary in the 
attempt to set it in motion. 

We must develop the propaganda of Marxist-Leninist theory. In this 
sense I agree with comrade Bela Kun's report. The party devel- 
oped from two sources — the Socialist Party, which never had any 
Marxian theory, and the syndicalist organizations, which also 
neglected theoretical questions. But in training a cadre of func- 
tionaries we must be careful not to train functionaries separate 
from the masses. We must be careful with the term professional 
revolutionaries — they must be workshop revolutionaries primarily. 
From the Central Committee to the lowest organization the party 
must attain a more working class character. The tendency toward 
dilettantism and careerism must be combatted. 

We have two fundamental problems: (1) trade union work and 
(2) shop nuclei organization. Trade union work has been more or 
less neglected because the weakness of the trade unions made the 
work very difficult. We must combat the tendency to neglect this 
work, and instead must actually help to build up the trade unions 


322 Early Years of American Communism 

themselves. The second problem, that of organizing shop nuclei, 
is very important although its solution does not alone solve the 
problem of Bolshevization. 

Our main difficulties are: (1) we are a small party in a big 
industrial country; (2) the trade union movement is very weak, (3) our 
party is divided into foreign-language groups, each with its own 
national apparatus, and each tending toward specializing in the 
problems peculiar to the group. The language federation form of 
organization is absolutely incompatible with a Bolshevist organiza- 
tion. We must have a centralized form of organization or we will 
never be a Bolshevist party. 

Now as to the question of the labor party. It is not quite correct 
to compare our situation with that of England. The British Labour 
Party is an old party, and is supported by the entire trade union 
movement. The British trade union movement is much stronger 
than the American movement. There is no labor party in Amer- 
ica. All attempts to create one in the past two years have been 
disastrous failures. The organized American workers are not yet 
class-conscious enough to develop a labor party on a mass basis, 
founded on the trade unions, and we want no other kind. We 
want no Communist labor party, for such a party will become a 
small group separated from the masses. A real mass labor party 
based on the trade unions, and not restricted to Communists, will 
be a great step forward, and in forming such a party we can learn 
from the experiences of the past two years. Such a labor party 
must be (1) a mass organization; (2) based on the trade unions; 
(3) a general labor movement in which the Communists can 
work, but in which they will not lose their identity. Under present 
conditions there can be no question of organizing such a labor 
party. The thing for us to do now is to conduct agitation and 
propaganda based on the concrete immediate problems of the 
workers and to raise the issue of independent political action and 
an independent party in connection with them. We must bring 
the workers into conflict with the petty-bourgeois ideas. It would 
be premature to form a labor party now, and even dangerous, for 
we would quickly become isolated from this growing mass labor 
movement. We know this from our own experience of the past two 
years, and especially in connection with the Federated Farmer- 
Labor Party and the St. Paul convention. We hope for the assis- 

Situation Different in America 323 

tance of our Russian comrades, so that our movement will not be 
derailed and sidetracked and will not become the victim of exper- 
imental theories. Concrete issues are in the foreground of our 
problems. The American workers still follow the parties of big 
capital or the petty-bourgeois movement of La Follette. We must 
reach the masses and set them into motion in the class struggle. 
Our means for doing this is united front struggles on the basis of 
the concrete immediate problems of the workers. 

We Must Acknowledge Our Mistake, 
But We Want No Fake Labor Party 

5 April 1925 

The following is an uncorrected and unpublished transcript of Cannon's 
remarks to the sixth session of the American Commission which convened 
around the Fifth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist 
International. The Commission 's decision favored the Ruthenberg minor- 
ity in insisting on the necessity of continued agitation for a labor party 
in America. 

I will try to be brief and just touch a couple of the main 
points. First, I want to state also with comrade Foster that the 
general line of the resolution is acceptable to the majority, that 
we could work on the basis of it with those remarks that he made. 
In making this statement, I think the majority is duly bound to 
state, as comrade Foster stated, that we must acknowledge our 
mistakes in our abandonment of the labor party and discarding 
the slogan altogether. We mean to take up the spirit of the resolu- 
tion and make a real campaign for the labor party. However, we 
think it is incorrect to make the premise of the resolution depend 
so much upon the happenings of the CPPA convention because 
the facts are not quite as stated here, and it might have a ten- 
dency to cause a confusion in the minds of our membership in 
America if the impression is made that the conclusions are drawn 
from this statement of facts. 1 For example, it must be borne in 
mind first that the railroad unions which were the backbone of 
the CPPA left the conference not in protest against a third party, 
in favor of the labor party, but in protest against a third party in 

1 Cannon is here referring to events at the CPPA's February 1925 convention 
held in Chicago. See "Controversial Questions in the Workers Party of America," 
pp. 302-303. 


We Acknowledge Mistake 325 

favor of non-partisan action. When the vote which comrade 
Ruthenberg stated of 93 to 64 occurred over the resolution of 
admitting affiliated organizations it was directed primarily at the 
exclusion of the Socialist Party as an autonomous party. I want to 
quote here a report of the Daily Worker of the composition of the 
CPPA after the departure of the railroad unions, that is the rail- 
road organizations: 

The credentials committee report showed that labor representation 
to the convention was practically nonexistent. A half dozen local 
labor bodies, three state federations had sent credentials, but the 
delegates were not present. The rest were from the Socialist Party, 
state committees of the CPPA and an array of "progressive" groups 
of doubtful standing with the officialdom of the Amalgamated, 
ILGWU, and Furriers' Union. 

We must bear in mind the great practice in America in which 
we communists also have become quite expert of late of packing 
all kinds of delegates in a convention and it is a great mistake to 
think that the 63 votes cast there represented a real labor senti- 
ment. It represented the Socialist Party and the Socialist Party 
influence only. Now, in proof of my statement that the resolution 
was carried against the affiliated organizations, and aimed against 
the Socialist Party, I wish to quote this report of the Daily Worker: 

Hillquit was asked a direct question by one of the delegates as to the 
willingness of the Socialist Party to lose its identity in the new 
party... The "progressives" were plain spoken. McKaig of Idaho said, 
"The socialists have got to forget their party if they want a progres- 
sive party." 

We must not conclude, and it would be very erroneous if we 
should let the Comintern make a decision based upon a state- 
ment of facts which are not correct. 

To pass over to one more point about the question of whether 
we shall state in the resolution the formation of a party of 
500,000. 2 Comrade Ruthenberg said that Foster is afraid of the 

2 The final text of the Comintern resolution as published in the Daily Worker, 
19 May 1925, included the following passage: "It may be that the mass support 
for the idea of the labor party will reveal itself so strongly in some cities and even 
in some states, that organizational measures can be taken without further hesita- 
tion. The formation of the national labor party should be advised against until at 
least 500,000 organized workers are definitely won over to it." 

326 Early Years of American Communism 

500,000 figure. We are not afraid of a labor party of 500,000. We 
will be enthusiastically in support of a labor party of 500,000. 
What we are afraid of is another Federated Farmer-Labor Party. 
We are afraid of a fictitious membership in the organization and 
we want to safeguard ourselves against it. WTiy is it necessary, 
comrades? The comrades of the minority representing the point 
of view for the federated organization have never been able to 
bring themselves to admit that this was not a real labor party. The 
figures of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party were 500,000 or even 
600,000 at the July 1923 convention. And, comrades, we must 
decide here now — we are starting off on a new leaf — we must 
have a clear understanding, and it must be put in the decision 
that it will be a real labor party, and not a fake caricature 

Comrade Ruthenberg said that they never stood for this kind 
of a federated party. Let me quote from the August Theses, which 
say the following: 

We should create such local labor parties whenever they will have a 
size in the ratio of 10 to 1 to the membership of the Workers Party. 

When we objected to this, when we did not want such a caricature 
party, they said to us, you want the whole labor movement before 
you are willing to form a labor party. But this is not so, I want to 
quote from our thesis of November 1923, which is as follows: 

Our position is not based on the assumption that the entire labor 
movement must join the labor party at once, or that even a majority 
is necessary. But we hold that wherever it is formed, it must unite 
the labor party forces and have a genuine mass character. 

We stand on this platform today and in my conversations with 
comrades of the Commission I think this is the meaning and 
intention of the Commission, and I think it should be stated very 
clearly in the resolution, and our amendment which clarifies and 
implies this point should be accepted. Comrade Ruthenberg says 
that the test of our attitude towards the resolution of a labor party 
campaign is the acceptance of the 500,000 statement. No, I think 
it is better to say our test, as mentioned by comrade Foster, is that 
we shall consult the Comintern when the time comes for the 
actual formation of a party, and it shall be done only by the con- 
sent and cooperation of the Comintern. On the one hand it is a 

We Acknowledge Mistake 327 

guarantee that there will be no fake caricature party formed, and 
on the other hand it is a guarantee that there will be a party 
formed when there will be a substantial mass basis for it, regard- 
less of the attitude of the bureaucracy of the trade unions. 

One point more, comrade Ruthenberg stated it. I think in 
the main it is correct. And we can get together with comrade 
Piatnitsky's Organization Department, and set up special organi- 
zational measures which we can agree upon. 

Proposal on Comrade Pepper 

6 April 1925 

The following is an uncorrected and unpublished transcript of some of 
Cannons remarks at the seventh session of the American Commission 
which convened around the Fifth Plenum of the Executive Committee of 
the Communist International. 

I want to suggest an amendment to the organizational propos- 
als. This deals with the section relating to comrade Pepper, which 
is as follows: 

In particular the Executive Committee wishes to state that it consid- 
ers a personal campaign carried on between and against comrade 
Pepper and other leading comrades, is uncalled for, firstly because 
comrade Pepper is needed for other work in the Comintern, and 
has no intention to return to the United States, and secondly, be- 
cause it needlessly injures the standing and effectiveness of these 
comrades. The Executive Committee knows that comrade Pepper 
during his brief stay in America performed political services for the 
Workers Party, for which he deserves praise. 1 

I bring this here before the whole commission and propose it 
for the consideration of the small commission. 

1 Cannon's proposal was adopted with minor amendment. The wording of the 
final resolution as published in the Daily Worker, 19 May 1925, was as follows: "In 
particular, the Executive Committee must point out that it regards a campaign 
conducted against comrade Pepper as absolutely uncalled for, all the more since, 
firstly, comrade Pepper himself has no intention of returning to work in the Work- 
ers Party, and secondly, the Executive Committee desires to use his energies for 
other important tasks. The Executive Committee knows that comrade Pepper 
during his brief stay in America performed services for the Workers Party for 
which he deserves praise. The Executive Committee demands that all personal 
polemics between the two sides should cease." 


Struggle Over Leadership of the ILD 

26 June 1925 

The following is an excerpt from the minutes of the Executive Council 
(Political Committee), the leading committee of the Workers Party. At this 
time, the Cannon-Foster faction controlled the Council and was able to 
prevail over the Ruthenberg-Lovestone minority in the struggle for leader- 
ship of the International Labor Defense. 

Present: Abern, Bittelman, Burman, Cannon, Bedacht, Lovestone, 
Ruthenberg. Later: Engdahl and Dunne. 

International Labor Defense 

Comrade Cannon submitted copies of the resolutions to be 
introduced at the International Labor Defense conference which 
were approved together with the reporters of the various resolu- 

Copy of the constitution as approved by the subcommittee 
was also submitted. The minority report of comrade Ruthenberg 
to strike out the section of the constitution providing for the 
organization of branches as part of the basic organization of the 
International Labor Defense. 

After discussion the vote was taken resulting as follows: 

For the Ruthenberg motion to strike out: 

Ruthenberg, Lovestone and Bedacht. 
Against: Bittelman, Cannon, Abern, Burman. 

The steering committee as decided upon by the subcommit- 
tee consisting of Dunne, Gitlow and Cannon was approved. 

The Executive Committee recommended that comrade Can- 
non be chairman of the conference. 


330 Early Years of American Communism 

Comrade Ruthenberg submitted the report that a non-party 
member be designated as chairman. 

Voting in favor of the minority report: 

Ruthenberg, Lovestone, Bedacht. 
Voting against: Bittelman, Abern, Burman, Cannon. 

The subcommittee recommended that the steering committee 
be given full power to act for the CEC in the conference. The 
recommendation was approved unanimously. 

The committee recommended that comrade Cannon be 
elected secretary of the Labor Defense. Comrade Ruthenberg 
submitted a minority report that comrade Bedacht be the 

Voting in favor of the recommendation 
of the committee: 

Abern, Burman, Bittelman, Cannon. 
Voting for comrade Bedacht: 

Lovestone, Ruthenberg, Bedacht. 

Comrade Cannon submitted the following recommendations: 

1. That the National Committee consist of a clear majority 
of party members. 

2. That the Executive Committee consist of all or nearly all 
party members. 

3. That the CEC decide definitely on the National Commit- 
tee and Executive Committee at the meeting tomorrow. 

After discussion comrade Cannon submitted the motion: 
That the Executive Committee consist of 3/4 party members 
which was adopted unanimously. 

ILD WiU Grow Quickly 

15 July 1925 

Cannon addressed the following letter, written on the stationery of the 
newly founded International Labor Defense, to Eugene V Debs in Terre 
Haute, Indiana. 

Dear Comrade Debs: 

I was very much gratified indeed to receive your letter of July 
10th confirming your previous endorsement of the ILD. 

The launching of such a movement as this has been in my 
mind for many years and the response it is getting from all sec- 
tions of the working class, especially from men like yourself who 
have been in prison or who are confined there now, gives me 
confidence that the movement will grow quickly and will become 
a real power for the defense of persecuted workers and for the 
support of their dependents. The need for such a movement as 
the ILD is even greater than we had at first anticipated. Since the 
holding of the National Conference on June 28th and its atten- 
dant publicity we have been receiving letters almost every day 
from unknown and neglected prisoners and their families, and 
heavy obligations are piling upon us. That only means that we 
must work harder and broaden the scope of our activities to 
arouse the labor movement to unity and action in behalf of its 
persecuted fighters. 

The main problem as I see it is to construct the ILD on the 
broadest possible basis. To conduct the work in a non-partisan 
and non-sectarian manner and finally establish the impression by 
our deeds that the ILD is the defender of every worker perse- 
cuted for his activities in the class struggle, without any excep- 
tions and without regard to his affiliations. It is my aim to 
direct the work along this line. The whole National Conference 
was animated by this spirit and I am sure it is yours too. 


332 Early Years of American Communism 

I appreciate the fact that your time is fully occupied for the 
remaining months of the year. But in spite of this I trust that you 
will find the way to assist us by a certain minimum of active partic- 
ipation in the work of the ILD. 

I will keep in touch with you and inform you regularly of the 
developments and problems of the organization and will greatly 
appreciate your advice and suggestions. It would be especially 
valuable if you could find time to write us a short article which we 
could send out in our press service. And if you happen to be in 
Chicago in the near future I would like very much to have a talk 
with you about the work. 

Our main energy is concentrated at present on the building 
of the organization. Our plan is to launch it on a big scale by 
holding local conferences in all the main cities of the country 
simultaneously on Sunday September 13th, at which time local 
units will be established. Mass meetings are to be held in all these 
cities in the evening following the conference. If we carry out this 
project successfully it ought to have an electrical effect upon the 

Copies of our press service will be sent to you regularly. Will 
keep you informed about the progress of our organizational cam- 
paigns as well as of the other activities which we are developing. 

Best wishes to you, 

Fraternally yours, 
International Labor Defense 
J. P. Cannon 
Executive Secretary 

Cannon Replies to Henry Askeli 

Published 8 August 1925 

The following article by Cannon was published in the Daily Worker 
magazine supplement. It replies to "Are the Finns Social Democrats?", an 
article by Finnish-Language Federation leader Henry Askeli published in 
the same journal. Askeli's article took issue with "rumors" within the 
Workers Party that the Finns supported Lore's "Two and a Half Inter- 
national tendency"; he wrote particularly bitterly against the "slanders" 
and "character assassins" of the Ruthenberg-led Central Executive Com- 
mittee minority. 

In the preceding period the Superior branch of the Finnish Federa- 
tion, which numbered among its members many Federation leaders, had 
published two articles critical of the Central Executive Committee in the 
party 's Finnish-language press. These statements protested the levying of 
an assessment on party members to pay for the upcoming party conven- 
tion, questioned the wisdom of the recent Comintern decision on the 
American question, and demanded further discussion on the issues in 
dispute in the party. A CEC condemnation of the Finnish statements was 
published in the Daily Worker, I August 1925. 

The Workers Party Fourth Convention instructed the Finnish Fede- 
ration to remove Askeli from the editorial staff of the Federation's paper. 

Comrade Askeli's article follows the two statements published 
by the Finnish branch of Superior and is directly related to them. 
The Central Executive Committee has declared that these state- 
ments contained a non-Communist tendency and represented the 
beginning of an ideological preparation for a split in the party. 
Comrade Askeli's article is another manifestation of this senti- 
ment. It shows the same tendency in a clearer form and forces 
us to draw the conclusion that it amounts to an attempt to 
substitute a program of his own for the program of the party 
and the Communist International. At the moment when the seri- 
ous Communist workers are striving to unify their ranks on the 


334 Early Years of American Communism 

platform of the Communist International, comrade Askeli comes 
forward with an attack on the Communist International. Such 
propaganda tends to discredit the Communist International 
before the membership. 

Comrade Askeli has presented a platform without one sound 
Communist plank in it. No one can accept this platform without 
first throwing awav the platform of the partv and the Communist 
International. The loyal followers of the Communist International 
in the party, and especially those in the Finnish Federation, have 
no choice but to take up at once the most resolute struggle 
against the political platform of comrade Askeli. The unity and 
integrity of the party demand such a struggle. 

Incitement Against the CI 

The Communist International is the most priceless acquisition 
of the revolutionary proletariat of the world. The authority of the 
Communist International is the surest guarantee that the unity of 
our party will be preserved and strengthened, that disintegrating 
opportunism will not be allowed to get a strong foothold, that 
mistakes will be corrected and that faltering leadership will be 
assisted, strengthened and equipped for its tasks. To make a 
breach between the partv and the Comintern is the aim of those 
elements in all countries who shrink from the implications of a 
policy of determined revolutionary struggle. Comrade Askeli is 
following a policv which leads in this direction. His attack is 
directed first of all and above all at the authority of the Commu- 
nist International. He opposes in a more or less direct way all the 
propositions put before the party by the Communist International 
in its recent decisions. He then unites his opposition to the vari- 
ous specific proposals of the Communist International into a 
complete and systematic opposition with the declaration that he 
wants a Central Executive Committee with sufficient "nerve" and 
"responsibility" to "settle questions without foolishly appealing to 
higher bodies on every litde question." The practice of the 
Central Executive Committee in turning to the Communist Inter- 
national for advice and guidance and for the solution of disputed 
questions apparently does not commend itself to comrade Askeli. 
He regards it as "hesitation, indecision and a vacillating policy"' 
which, he says, is "destructive and must be done away with." 

Reply to Askeli 335 

What is such talk but incitement against the Communist 
International? And what could be its effect but to lead to a 
break between the party and the Communist International? To 
let the party become the prey of disintegrating tendencies and 
render it powerless? 


With such an attitude of general opposition to the Commu- 
nist International, it is quite logical for comrade Askeli to find 
himself out of line with its specific decisions on the situation in 
our party. The Comintern has put before the party as one of its 
most important tasks the liquidation of the opportunist ideology 
of Loreism. Comrade Askeli has nothing to say on this question, 
except to deny the accusations of sympathy with Loreism. The 
open statement and direct attack on Loreism which all leading 
comrades should make without hesitation or evasion is lacking. 
On the contrary the article makes many concessions to Loreism. 

Comrade Askeli says the Finnish Federation got rid of the 
right wing elements and the ideology of the Two and a Half Inter- 
national at the time of the split with the Socialist Party. We are 
confident that the overwhelming majority of the membership of 
the Finnish Federation will demonstrate that they have broken so 
decisively with this ideology that no one will be able to lead them 
back to it. But in the light of this article we cannot be so confi- 
dent of comrade Askeli. A remnant of this ideology has found its 
way into his article. 

The Labor Party 

Our most important political question is the question of the 
labor party. The future growth and development of our party is 
indissolubly bound up with the solution of this problem. The first 
decisive steps of the American workers in constituting themselves 
as a class, and entering the political arena as such, will be taken 
through the medium of a labor party. The solution of the labor 
party problem is therefore of incalculable importance. It is in fact 
the key to the American labor movement. Every member of the 
party must understand this. 

The Enlarged Executive Committee of the Communist Inter- 
national has solved the labor party problem, correcting the past 

336 Early Years of American Communism 

mistakes of all groups in the party and laying down a clear politi- 
cal line for the immediate future. It is of the utmost importance 
that every leading comrade take a clear and unequivocal stand on 
this question. Mistaken conceptions of the past must be openly 
acknowledged and resolutely put aside. The whole party, as one 
man, must consciously swing its energy into the labor party move- 
ment according to the policy of the Communist International. In 
order to make this possible all leading comrades in the party and 
in the federations must have a unified point of view. A negative or 
halfhearted attitude is not permissible. 

Comrade Askeli confines his remarks on this question to a 
couple of sentences that only serve to confuse the issue. He 
speaks of the questions of the third party alliance, the farmer- 
labor party and the present labor party policy of the party, 
making no distinction between them. He throws them all into one 
pot, labels them all "maneuvers" to be avoided and then con- 
cludes with the assertion that "99 percent of our membership is 
against that kind of policy." Such a method of presenting the 
question can only confuse the comrades. 


Political adventurism, maneuvers that are not based on a true 
analysis of all the factors in the given situation, are very dangerous 
for a party. But to proceed from this premise to a rejection of all 
maneuvers is to falsify and distort the Leninist standpoint. One of 
the most incorrect and harmful aspects of Loreism is its opposi- 
tion to maneuvers and its undialectic conception which arbitrarily 
separates organization and propaganda from action and maneu- 
vers. Askeli makes this error when he says, "We are strong for 
organization and education. Maneuvers do not, in our opinion, 
make the Workers Party." This conception is wrong. A fighting 
Communist party cannot be built upon it. 

Organization and propaganda, actions and maneuvers, must 
be united in an organic whole. Without ability to maneuver there 
is no capacity for action and no real Communist party. The para- 
lyzing dogma of "no maneuvers" must be eliminated from our 
conception at all costs. The great leaders and teachers of Lenin- 
ism are constantly pressing this idea as a life and death struggle to 
the Communist parties. Only recently, the Executive Committee 

I _ 


2. From left to right: Bill Dunne, Tom (X Flaherty, Bill Haywood 
and Jim Cannon. Probably in Moscow, spring 1925. 


'»} J3/M a 


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4/ %' ■»• 

3. English-speaking delegates at Comintern s Fourth Cong) ess, 1922. 

On floor: Otto Huiswoud, Rose Pastor Stokes. Second row: Arne Swabeck (far left), 

Anna Louise Strong (second from right), Alexander Trachtenberg (far right). 

Back row: Martin Abern (second from left), James P. Cannon (fourth from left). 

C.E. Ruthenberg (left) 

and Isaac E. Ferguson 

before their imprisonment 

in New York for 

sedition, 1920. 

\ \ illiam Weinstone 

(left) and 

Bertram Wolfe, 1919. 

6. Jay Lovestone, 1920s. 

7. Jack Johnstone, 1 922. 

8. Clarence Hathaway, 1925. 

9. Alexander Bill elm an, 1927. 


Founding conference of 

the ILD, June 1925: 

Jim Cannon (left) with 

George Maurer, 

secretary of the Labor 

Defense Council, 

which merged 

into ILD. 


Support the Revolutionary Class Struggle 

By Working and Voting for 

The Workers (Communist) Party Ticket 


For Independent Political 

For Vice -President 

tion Through a Mass Party el Wo 
he Government and Industry Pay the Unen.oloyi 
For Recognition of Soviet Russia 

Make Your Contribution to tha Communis) Campaign F 

fur Um fl ■ I 


Wfofiftm Party 

campaign flyer for 

1924 presidential 


WW •' ■ : ■■■■ * 

12. Founding congress of Prof intern, July 1921. 

13. Executive Bureau of Profintem, 1924. 

Left to right: C.E.Johnson (U.S.); Josef Hais (Czech.); A. Kalnin (USSR); Tom 

Mann (Britain); A. Lozoi>sky (USSR); W.Z. Foster (U.S.); Andres Nin (Spain); 

A. Herclet (France). M. Hammer (Germany) and G. Germanetto (Italy) are absent. 


At Comintern's Fifth 

World Congress, 1924: 

Leon Trotsky (left) 

with delegate from 

French colonies and 

Vietnamese delegate 

Nguyen Ai Quoc 

(Ho Chi Minh). 


Leon Trotsky (left) 

with Arne Siva beck, in 

Prinkipo, Turkey, 1933. 


M ^ N 

, L A L L ; \ • * ? - - 

I M A R I N i S | w T^fr R |/A LL 

i < /A 

Beginning of the march to the White House, Washington, D. C. in a 
protest demonstration against American military invasion of Nicaragua, 
arranged by the All-America Anti-Imperialist League. In the demon- 
stration 104 were arrested, 87 later fined $5.00 apiece. The defense of 
those involved was conducted by the International Labor Defense. In 
the picture above, front row left to right, Manuel Gomez, secretary of 
the League with offices at 39 Union Square, New York, Max Shachtman, 
editor of the "Labor Defender" and Sylvan A. Pollack of the "Daily 

16. Spring 1927. 

17. Martin Ahem 

18. Rose Karsner, 1925. 

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79. Antoinette Konikow (right). First issue of Bulletin of the 
Independent Communist League of Boston, December 1928. 

20. March 1925: Protest against white terror in Poland and threatened execution 

of Stanislav Lanzutsky, Communist member of Polish parliament. Demonstration 

in front of Polish einbassy in Washington was part of national campaign. 

21. Spring 1928: Workers Party picket in Washington, D.C., against 
U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. 


garment workers leaders, 

New York, 1929. 

From left to right: 

Philip Goodman, 

Ch a ries Zim merma n, 

Ben Gold, Louis Hyman. 

23. Militant pickets during Communist-led New York 
garment workers strike, 1926. 

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Reply to Askeli 337 

of the Communist International was obliged to adopt a special 
resolution against the doctrine of "no maneuvers" which was 
threatening to paralyze the Communist Party of Germany and 
which had already led it to the most serious errors in connection 
with the question of the monarchy. "The Communist Party of 
Germany must learn how to maneuver," said the resolution of the 
Communist International. 1 Our party must also learn and in 
order to do so it must reject the standpoint which is presented by 
the article of comrade Askeli. 

Shop Nuclei 

The Bolshevization of the party implies reorganization on the 
basis of shop nuclei. Our party is confronted with colossal diffi- 
culties in this respect on account of its small membership and 
many national divisions. The success of our campaign to construct 
the party on the shop nuclei basis requires the active, conscious 
and wholehearted support of the leading comrades of the various 
federations. Comrade Askeli does not give such support. He gives 
the shop nuclei form of organization only a negative endorsement 
and attempts to discredit it in advance with the statement that he 
favors it, "not so much that it is practical, tried and true, but 
because theoretically it appears practical and true and this must 
be shown." The transformation of our party from the social- 
democratic form of organization to the Communist form of 
organization, built in the workshops, will never be accomplished 
by such a skeptical attitude. The position of comrade Askeli 

1 In the presidential elections in Germany at the end of March 1925 the Commu- 
nist International, fearful that the right-wing monarchist, Prussian Field Marshal 
Paul von Hindenburg, would be elected if the working-class vote was split, had 
advocated that the German Communist Party withdraw its candidate after the first 
round and support that of the Social Democrats. But the German Central Com- 
mittee opposed the tactic. The Social Democrats withdrew their candidate in any 
case, in favor of the candidate of the bourgeois Center Party. Hindenburg won the 

In July Zinoviev had sent a letter to the Tenth Congress of the German Com- 
munist Party, urging the party to reject the "ultraleft fever" and recognize the 
temporary stabilization of capitalism in Germany. But the German leadership 
under Ruth Fischer and Arkadi Maslow remained recalcitrant. On 29 July 1925 the 
ECCI Presidium decided to begin its campaign to remove the Fischer-Maslow 

338 Early Years of American Communism 

amounts to opposition to shop nuclei, under the flag of lip service 
to it. The party must oppose and reject this standpoint. 

The Federation Question 

The Communist International and the Central Executive 
Committee of our party have come to the definite conclusion that 
the existence of separate language federations must be done away 
with. The language federations must be fused into a single cen- 
tralized party. The organization letter of the Communist Interna- 
tional gives detailed and specific instructions on this question; 
and the resolution of the Parity Commission takes a clear and 
definite stand for the complete centralization of the party and the 
complete abolition of the present federation form of the organiza- 
tion. The energetic carrying out of these resolutions is an indis- 
pensable part of the process of Bolshevizing the party. 

On this vital question as well as on all the others raised in his 
article, comrade Askeli takes a wrong stand. The letter of the 
Communist International and the resolution of the Parity Com- 
mission provide for the reconstruction of the present language 
branches as non-partisan workers' clubs. The proposal of comrade 
Askeli to maintain the federations on a national scale, "working 
independently under the ideological leadership of the Workers 
Party," would tend, in our opinion, to separate still more the 
federations from the party and reduce the control of the party 
over them to a fiction. 


There exists in the party a sentiment against factionalism and 
factional groupings. Comrade Askeli appears to be attempting to 
play upon this sentiment and to exploit it for his own factional 
purpose. The decision of the Comintern demands the liquidation 
of factionalism and calls for the unity of the party on the basis of 
the political platform of the Communist International. Comrade 
Askeli would make it impossible to accomplish this result. Under 
cover of acceptance of the first half of this provision, his article 
reads like an attempt to prevent the unification of the party and 
to create a new faction of his own on a non-Communist platform. 
The members of the Finnish Federation who are against factional- 

Reply to Askeli 339 

ism must be on their guard and not allow anyone to maneuver 
them into a faction against the party and the Comintern. 


We would like to find some part of comrade Askeli's platform 
on which we could agree, but this is impossible. The platform is 
wrong from start to finish. Even the "history" which comrade 
Askeli recites is presented in a false light. He attempts to throw 
aspersions upon the glorious past of our party and to take credit 
to himself for remaining in the Socialist Party after the split. 2 It is 
quite true that the left wing made a tactical error in allowing the 
reactionary leaders of the Socialist Party to force the split too 
quickly. And it can also be admitted that the first programs of our 
party contained some leftist mistakes. But in spite of all, the fun- 
damental line of division at the time of the split, which com- 
pletely overshadowed all minor, tactical questions, was between 
revolutionary Communists and reformist social democrats; and it 
is no credit to anyone who, at the decisive moment, remained in 
the ranks of the Socialist Party. In such a situation, one who has 
a clear Communist position always unites with the Communists, 
even though he disagrees with their tactics. This is a fundamental 

We do not mean by these remarks to bring up the past in 
such a way as to cast any reflection on the comrades now in 
our ranks who took the wrong position in the historical days 
when the revolutionary vanguard in America was first organiz- 
ing itself into a party. We know very well that many who 
remained in the Socialist Party at the time of the split and who 
later joined our ranks have done and are doing good work for 
Communism. The error of the past has been made good many 
times over and now has only historical significance. It is quite 
unnecessary to refer to it again, and we would be among the last 
to do so. But when the history of the party is considered, one 

2 The Finnish Federation had remained in the Socialist Party after the bulk of the 
Communist forces split in 1919. The Finns did not unite with the Communists 
until 1921, when they joined the Workers Party as part of the Workers' Council 

340 Early Years of American Communism 

should relate the past events in their true perspective. Comrade 
Askeli fails to do this. 

The Federation Split of 1914 

We take issue with another part of comrade Askeli's "history" 
— the part dealing with the split in the Finnish Federation in 
1914. Moreover, we are of the opinion that the narrow attitude 
manifested by comrade Askeli may explain, to a certain degree, 
the reason we have not had greater success in healing the 
effects of that split and in winning over to Communism the 
Finnish workers who have fallen under the influence of anarcho- 
syndicalism. 3 

The platform of the syndicalist group in 1914 was politically 
incorrect, but so was the platform of the Socialists. A true expla- 
nation of the emergence of syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism 
as a phenomenon in the labor movement is impossible unless one 
understands and clearly states that pre-war syndicalism repre- 
sented an extreme reaction against reformist, parliamentary 
socialism. Reformist socialism is the father of syndicalism. This is 
the way to explain the split of 1914 and to show to the syndicalist 
workers that the Communist Party and the Communist concep- 
tion of political action have nothing in common with the Socialist 
Party and the Socialist conception of political action against which 
they made a justifiable revolt, which led them to extreme and 
unsound doctrines. 

The Communist Partv and its Finnish section ought to repre- 
sent, at least to a certain extent, a union of the best proletarian 
elements from the Socialist Party and the syndicalist movement. 
The Communist International was of this opinion when it invited 
the IWW as well as the left wing of the Socialist Party to send 
delegates to its First Congress. The Communist International 
declared many times that the progress of the Communist parties 

3 The Finnish Federation was not immune to the anarcho-syndicalism which 
swept the Socialist Party left wing from 1911 to 1914. During a strike bv Michigan 
copper miners in 1914, pro-IWW sentiment grew rapidly among the Finns. The 
syndicalist wing actually took over a number of Finnish branches and, briefly, the 
Federation's paper, Tyomies (The Worker), before being expelled by the reformist 
Federation leadership. 

Reply to Askeli 341 

would be measured in a large degree by their success in winning 
over the syndicalist workers to the platform of Communism. 

Many of the best revolutionary syndicalists responded to the 
Communist International and are in its ranks today. They are fully 
entitled to be placed on an equal footing with the revolutionary 
workers who came from the Socialist Party, without recriminations 
with regard to the past being brought up against them. Comrade 
Askeli has no right to give such a one-sided account of the old 
fight and to ridicule and attack them in such a bureaucratic and 
intolerant manner. 

Anarcho-syndicalism still finds too much support among the 
Finnish workers in America. It is one of the most urgent tasks of 
the Finnish section of our party to win over the Finnish syndicalist 
workers to the platform of Communism and to draw the best of 
them into the party. This task can be carried out successfully only 
on the condition that we adopt the correct Communist policy on 
this question and reject the policy of comrade Askeli. 

Fight for the Party 

The great constructive work performed by the comrades in 
the Finnish Federation is known and appreciated by the party. 
The organizing genius of the Finnish comrades is responsible for 
many achievements from which the party has much to learn. We 
know that many of the greatest undertakings of the party, such as, 
for example, the establishment and maintenance of the Daily 
Worker, would hardly have been possible without the loyal sup- 
port and generous sacrifice of the Finnish comrades. These facts 
are so well known as to need no special mention. 

Comrade Askeli allows himself to present even these facts in 
the wrong way. In some of his language he creates the impression 
of an attempt to arouse among the Finnish comrades a federation 
patriotism as against a party patriotism, and to set them against 
the party on nationalistic grounds. The sharp criticism which the 
party directs against such non-Communistic policies as those put 
up by comrade Askeli are twisted around by him and made to 
appear as attacks against the Finnish Federation and against the 
Finnish comrades as such. The Finnish Communists are bound to 
repulse such methods. 

Any attempt to make a breach between the party and the 

342 Early Years of American Communism 

Communist International and to lay the basis for a split must 
be fought against by every Communist. The whole party must 
mobilize itself for quick and resolute action to defeat such 
designs, which, if allowed to gain headway, would endanger all 
the achievements of the past six years. 

The efforts of comrade Askeli to put himself up as the spokes- 
man of the Finnish members of the party and to identify them 
with his program does not by any means signify that this is really 
the case. We are absolutely confident that the overwhelming 
majority of the members of the Finnish Federation will reject 
the program of Askeli without hesitation and in such a decisive 
manner that Askeli and those disposed to support him will be 
compelled to abandon their plans. The Bureau of the Finnish 
Federation has set an example to the whole membership by its 
resolute and determined stand in support of the party. The inter- 
ests of Communism demand that the Finnish branches of the 
party follow the example of the Bureau and repudiate the policies 
of comrade Askeli and those who share his views. We are confi- 
dent this will be done. 

The Achievements of the Parity Commission 

Published 11 August 1925 

The following article by Cannon appeared in the Daily Worker. The 
Comintern Executive Committee's Fifth Plenum decision on the American 
question had mandated an early party convention to settle the question of 
party leadership. In the meantime a Parity Commission was established to 
decide all disputed questions. The Parity Commission included Foster, 
Cannon and Bittelman for the majority and Ruthenberg, Lovestone and 
Bedacht for the minority. Comintern representative S.I. Gusev was the 
nominally "neutral" commission chairman. 

The Parity Commission commenced its work at a moment 
when the party was facing a most serious crisis. The majority and 
minority groups had crystallized themselves into the most rigid 
formation throughout the party. The positive aspects of the fac- 
tional fight had exhausted themselves and disintegration was 
setting in. Party activity was paralyzed. The authority of party 
leadership was becoming undermined and was being replaced by 
factional leadership. In this favorable soil the right wing danger 
was growing, and the struggle against it was being subordinated to 
the struggle between the majority and minority. The situation in 
Cleveland was warning the party like an alarm bell of the danger 
of a split. 1 

In this desperate crisis the Parity Commission was constituted 
and commenced its sessions. The party members, wearied of the 

1 The Cleveland party organization was at the time fairly evenly divided between 
the Foster-Cannon majority and the Ruthenberg minority. Beginning in March, 
when the Workers Party leadership was still in Moscow at the ECCI plenum, the 
majority and minority members of the Cleveland Executive Committee and Cleve- 
land Yiddish-language branch had engaged in a series of mutual suspensions and 
expulsions, resulting in a virtual split in the Cleveland party. See "Declaration of 
the Parity Commission," DW, 28 July 1925. 


344 Early Years of American Communism 

factional fight and fearful of its possible consequences, turned 
their attention toward the Parity Commission. Six years of party 
experience had taught the most responsible comrades in the 
party to fear splits and to guard the unity of the party at all costs. 
They looked with hope to the Parity Commission to find a solu- 
tion which would turn the party back from the danger of a split, 
consolidate the Communist forces in the fight against Loreism 
and put the party on the road to unity. 

The most urgent tasks of the Parity Commission were to save 
the party from the danger of a split, to unite all Communist ele- 
ments in the fight against Loreism, to lay the foundation for the 
liquidation of factionalism, and to prepare the party to direct its 
energy, which is now being consumed by factionalism, into con- 
structive work in all fields. 

How did the Parity Commission deal with these tasks and to 
what extent did it accomplish them? The best way to answer this 
question is to review its proceedings and their results. 

It was to be expected, in view of the general situation in the 
party, that a somewhat factional atmosphere should characterize 
the first sessions. This was accentuated by the fact that disputes 
over organizational and factional questions were taken up for 
consideration first. These conflicts brought many sharp clashes 
which made mutual agreement impossible. It was impossible for 
the two groups which had been engaged in the struggle for such 
a long period to see organizational and factional questions from 
the same standpoint. The factional situation made a solution of 
these problems very difficult. 

However, consciousness of the seriousness in the party and of 
the grave responsibility resting upon us finally made concessions 
possible. Unanimity on the disputed factional and organizational 
questions was finally reached by means of compromises and con- 
cessions when mutual agreement was lacking. We believe this was 
the best course to follow under the circumstances. Factional inter- 
ests were injured by some of these decisions, but the advantage to 
the party of a settlement of all disputes with the authority of 
unanimous decisions outweighed these considerations. The stabi- 
lizing effect on the party of the organizational decisions of the 
commission is proof of the correctness of this view. 

While the settlement of the organizational questions marked 

The Parity Commission 345 

a certain progress in the work of the Parity Commission, the cru- 
cial test came when the political resolutions were to be consid- 
ered. Serious differences on these resolutions would have made 
unanimity impossible and would have canceled much of the prac- 
tical value of the other decisions. Since political platforms are the 
only basis on which factional groupings can stand for any length 
of time, the consideration of the political resolutions of the two 
groups in the Central Executive Committee had to determine the 
question whether the foundation could be laid for the liquidation 
of the factional fight between the majority and minority and their 
unification on a common platform in the fight against Loreism. 
The political resolutions, which were all unanimously adopted, 
are the answer to this question. 

The discussion over the political resolutions was conducted in 
an atmosphere considerably moderated. Each group brought 
forward its own resolutions on all the questions. A study of the 
resolutions showed differences only in construction and phrasing, 
but no serious differences in policy. Therefore it became possible 
in each case, either by taking one resolution as the basis and 
amending it, or by combining the two resolutions, to reach unani- 
mous agreement. Serious controversy did not arise over a single 
point of principle or tactics. It became obvious that the two 
groups in the Central Executive Committee, which have been 
fighting over political questions with more or less intensity for the 
past two years, would be able to go to the convention with a com- 
mon platform. 

After the long factional fight, which had virtually developed 
to the point of two parties within the party, and, consequently, to 
the danger of a split, the two groups, with the assistance of the 
Comintern, were finally able to adopt a common political plat- 
form dealing with all party questions, external and internal. This 
common platform is not the product of compromise, but of 
agreement on all fundamental points. In the face of this political 
agreement, the unification of the two groups becomes possible 
and necessary. Anyone who would now attempt to continue or to 
aggravate the factional fight would take upon himself a grave 
responsibility indeed. 

The unanimous resolutions of the Parity Commission have 
laid the foundations for unity but they have not liquidated the 

346 Early Years of American Communism 

struggle between the two groups. It would be Utopian to expect 
that the groupings could be dissolved on the eve of the party 
convention or that a preconvention struggle could be entirely 
eliminated, since the question of leadership is not yet decided. 
Besides, the complete liquidation of the factional fight is beyond 
the power of the Parity Commission. That can be accomplished 
only by the party members of both groups, especially the leading 
members, cooperating in good faith with the Parity Commission 
and striving to put its resolutions into life. 

The Parity Commission has enabled the two groups to take 
the first real step toward unity. They must take the next step 
themselves by basing themselves on its resolutions and by con- 
sciously striving for unity. The way to do this is to put the main 
energy into the fight against Loreism; to subordinate factional 
interests to party interests; to emphasize the fundamental points 
of agreement more than the minor points of disagreement; to lay 
more stress on plans for future work than on recriminations over 
past disputes. 

The party must concentrate its energies upon the big tasks 
confronting it. Loreism must be fought against and liquidated 
politically and organizationally. The party must be reorganized on 
a shop and street nuclei basis, its apparatus must be centralized 
and federations merged into the party. The party must extend its 
political horizon, broaden its base of activities and plunge into 
constructive work. The theoretical level of the party must be 
raised by systematic Leninist education. 

These tasks can be accomplished if the resolutions of the 
Parity Commission are sincerely accepted and carried out and the 
Communist forces become unified. Enormous achievements are 
possible for the party when it unites its ranks and throws its 
energy into constructive work. The Parity Commission has laid the 
foundation for this unity. Now we must build upon it. 

Our Party and the Communist International 

4 October 1925 

The following speech by Cannon was delivered to the national convention 
of the Communist Party !$ youth group, the Young Workers League, and 
published in the Daily Worker on 8 October 1925. 

The Foster-Cannon faction had won the majority of delegates to the 
Workers Party's Fourth Convention in late August 1925. However, a 
cable from the Communist International arrived in the middle of the 
convention: it declared that the Ruthenberg group was more "loyal" to 
the Comintern and "closer to its vieios. " It also demanded that the 
Ruthenberg group be given at least 40 percent of the seats on the new 
Central Executive Committee. 

Foster and Cannon disagreed over how to respond to this cable, as 
Cannon describes in this speech. Cannons views carried the day within 
the Foster-Cannon faction. The CEC which was selected contained an 
equal number of Ruthenberg-Lovestone and Cannon-Foster supporters, as 
well as a representative of the Comintern. After the convention, the 
Comintern representative, S.I. Gusev, announced his intention of voting 
with Ruthenberg-Lovestone, thus giving the former minority the majority 
of the CEC. 

Foster sought to appeal the Comintern decision after the convention. 
Cannon disagreed with Foster's course, and this speech marks the final 
split between the two. Foster's speech to the YWL convention, which de- 
fended his appeal of the CI decision, was published in the Daily Worker 
along with Cannon 's. 

Comrade Chairman and Comrades: 

The youth league is meeting in this national convention just 
at a time of a particularly serious crisis in the party, and I am 
speaking here as one of the party representatives under circum- 
stances which I think must be known to you comrades. 

As a result of the decision of the last convention, and the 
decision of the Communist International, the Central Executive 


348 Early Years of American Communism 

Committee leadership is represented by the group which, prior to 
the party convention, was the minority, and which, as you know, I 
do not belong to. So in speaking here tonight I am doing so after 
consultation with the delegation of the Central Executive Com- 
mittee, not as a direct representative of the Central Executive 
Committee, but I am speaking by permission of the Central Exec- 
utive Committee in my own name, and in the name of a large 
number of comrades whose views coincide with mine. 

The situation of the party requires very clear statements from 
us, and I propose here to make these statements. I propose to 
give the party and the Comintern an answer to every question, 
which they have a right to ask us in this situation. 

I said the party is in a crisis, and we all know this. In my opin- 
ion, it is a crisis of Bolshevization. Our party is going through the 
travail of accelerated development towards a real Bolshevist party. 
It is the process of "The Birth of a Communist Party" of which 
comrade Zinoviev once wrote. The party appears to be torn into 
all kinds of groups, factions and subfactions as a result of this 

The problem before the party, above all others, or rather 
embracing all others, is the problem of Bolshevization. And it is 
clear that the central question in the problem of Bolshevization is 
now the question of the relations of the party to the Communist 

Bolshevization, without a correct estimate of the relations of 
the party and the party leaders to the Communist International, is 
merely an empty phrase. Bolshevization program or Bolsheviza- 
tion resolutions that do not take into account the full significance 
of the fact that we are members of the world Communist party, 
with international leadership, do not contain the real essence of 

Because of the peculiar nature of the present situation, and 
because of the rapid changes which have taken place in the party 
leadership, it is manifestly the duty of those comrades who prior 
to the convention composed the majority group to make known 
their attitude towards the party crisis, and their proposals for its 

I think it is known to nearly all comrades in the party, as it 

Our Party and the CI 349 

has been known for some time to the members of the former 
majority, that the former majority group is itself in the process of 
the deepest crisis. This crisis within the group of the former 
majority is a part of the crisis in the party. For that reason it is the 
concern of the party, and should be made known to it. Factions 
can have no interests of their own in a Communist party. They 
have to be related to the interests of the party. 

Within the group of the former majority there has been in 
recent times a very thoroughgoing discussion. Very strong pres- 
sure has been put upon one section by another section. This 
pressure has had certain effects. But these effects have not been 
sufficiently decisive. Therefore it is necessary for the group of the 
former majority to have more pressure put upon it, from the 
outside, directly before the whole party. My speech here tonight 
has this purpose. 

So I am going to discuss the question before the Young Work- 
ers League convention, not merely for the YWL, but for the party, 
since this convention is a forum before the whole party. I am 
going to speak about the situation which has developed within the 
ranks of the former majority. When I say this, I want to inform 
you in advance that if any comrade expects to hear me relate any 
private conversations, "secrets," scandals, or petty gossip, or any- 
thing of this sort, he will be disappointed. I will confine my 
remarks entirely to the questions which have political significance 
and a political content, which are known to all the leading com- 
rades of the group and which are of concern to the party. 

Comrade Green [Gusev] in his article in the Daily Worker the 
other day made the statement that the differences within the 
group of the former majority are not less serious than the differ- 
ences between the former majority and the former minority. I 
want to testify here to the accuracy of this estimate. 

The differences within the former majority are as serious as 
were those between the two former factions. Differences arose at 
the convention and have been intensifying since the convention. 
But these differences which came to the surface in the convention 
crisis, and which have intensified since then, were themselves the 
outgrowth of old differences, and were foreshadowed by the old 
differences. And all of these differences have become synthesized 

350 Early Years of American Communism 

and concentrated now into one, big predominant question. 

That question is this: the role of the Communist International and 
the relations of our party and our party leaders to the Communist 

In the controversy in the group over this question, a conflict 
has developed between comrade Foster and myself. And in con- 
nection with the remarks I make on this I want to remind the 
comrades of my long collaboration with comrade Foster. 

Some of the greatest forward steps of the party have been 
brought about as the result of this collaboration, together with 
some other comrades. As far back as 1921 and 1922, this collabo- 
ration made it possible simultaneously to develop the trade union 
work on a broad scale and to organize the legal party. These 
achievements laid the basis for the party to become a factor in the 
labor movement. Comrade Foster played a tremendous role in all 
of this, and I collaborated with him and with other comrades. 
And if we now come to the point where our differences are so 
sharp that there appears to be no possibility to reconcile them — 
and we are at such a point — it is not without great pain to those 
who were part of the collaboration. 

On receipt of the Communist International telegram, a pro- 
found crisis was immediately precipitated in the group of the 
former majority at the party convention. The immediate differ- 
ence appeared to arise over two separate propositions put before 
the caucus: one by comrade Foster and one by comrade Dunne 
and myself. Comrade Foster's original proposition was that we 
should accept only a minority of the Central Executive Commit- 
tee, and that he should not participate, and that the organization 
of the new Central Executive Committee in fact should be carried 
out by the representative of the Communist International, and 
not by us who were the majority at the convention. Our counter- 
proposition was that we, the majority, should organize the Central 
Executive Committee. At first I proposed an even division, half 
and half, and later it was modified to include the representative 
of the Communist International, on his suggestion. The differ- 
ence was not technical but political. It was a difference in attitude 
towards the decision and towards the situation created by it. I 
considered that comrade Foster's proposition had serious objec- 

Our Party and the CI 351 

tive consequences. I considered that if we, as a majority of the 
convention, should refuse to organize the new Central Executive 
Committee, or that in any event comrade Foster should not go 
into the new Central Executive Committee, it could not be inter- 
preted in any other way than that we were rejecting responsibility 
for the Central Executive Committee. This would mean that the 
party would be thrown into a crisis in which the Central Executive 
Committee would be deprived of the assistance and support 
which it would require from us to pull the party through the 

Our proposition was based on the opinion that the situation 
was such in the party, precipitated by the decision, that we were 
obliged, if we wish to save the party from demoralization, to take 
responsibility to the full limit of the possibilities under the provi- 
sions of the decision. 

We held a discussion in the caucus for two days, and in this 
discussion I pointed out, together with other comrades, the objec- 
tive consequences of the attitude shown by comrade Foster. 

We stated there that comrade Foster's proposition would 
create a condition making it impossible for the party to work, or 
for the Central Executive Committee to lead it or control it; and 
that this would bring us inevitably not only into conflict with the 
Central Executive Committee, but into conflict with the Commu- 
nist International, since the decision of the Communist Inter- 
national was the main factor; that consequently, regardless of the 
intention of the comrades, the whole objective tendency would be 
for all elements in the party who are in any degree actively or 
passively in opposition to the Communist International to rally 
around our standpoint, and enmesh us more and more into a 
position of opposition, which would inevitably develop into oppo- 
sition to the Communist International. 

And it was because we had such a deep conviction that this 
line would lead in this direction that we spoke ultimatively with 
great determination in the caucus. The tendency represented by 
comrade Foster met the most powerful opposition; it met opposi- 
tion from the very backbone of the former majority group. 

Comrades from all sections of the country, the leading, most 
responsible and most influential comrades, took a decided stand 

352 Early Years of American Communism 

against it, and the final result was that a majority voted in favor of 
our proposal. We were then willing to consider the difference 
which arose over the Communist International decision as liqui- 
dated on the basis of the adoption of our policy, which was a 
decisive policy of responsibility for the party. 

But this policy of responsibility for the party did not develop 
as the policy of comrade Foster after the convention. We were no 
sooner out of this crisis than we immediately plunged into a new 
crisis in the group, that is, amongst the comrades who belonged 
to the former group. This conflict was organically connected 
with the conflict at the convention. It was over the appeal to the 
Communist International. 

It has been stated here by comrade Bedacht, and I think it is 
known to every Communist, that it is not only the right of a Com- 
munist who disagrees with a decision of the Communist Inter- 
national to appeal for a reconsideration, but it is his duty to do 
so. It is the duty of any Communist who thinks the Communist 
International needs more information on any question to furnish 
this information. 

I disagree totally with the implications of comrade Stachel's 
statements here that an appeal to the Communist International is 
in itself in any sense a violation of Communist rights. However, 
there are two sides to this question of appealing to the Commu- 
nist International. 

On the one hand it is the duty, not merely the right, of com- 
rades to appeal to the Communist International. On the other 
hand it is impermissible for them, when they are appealing to the 
Communist International, to appeal at the same time to the party, 
because that negates the whole principle involved in the appeal to 
the Communist International. An appeal to the party on the basis 
of an appeal to the Communist International is nothing less than 
an attempt to put the party in a position of opposition to the 
decision of the Communist International. No matter what is one's 
intention, this is the objective effect. Therefore we opposed the 
tendency that developed within our group to present resolutions 
to the party organizations endorsing the appeal of the former 
majority to the Communist International. 

What was this conditioned upon? To us it was very clear, after 

Our Party and the CI 353 

a little consideration, that if the group of the former majority 
would present such a motion to a meeting of the party, it could 
only be adopted on the condition that the comrades present 
would be convinced that the appeal was justified and valid. In 
other words, they would have to be convinced that the decision 
was an error. In order to accomplish this it would be necessary, 
and would follow, in spite of all intentions, that propaganda and 
agitation would be made to convince party comrades that the 
decision of the Communist International is wrong. This is not 
permissible, because this is appealing in the party to the opinion 
and viewpoint that the Communist International decision was 
made with snap judgment, or made without due consideration. 
This in itself has an inevitable tendency to discredit the Commu- 
nist International before the party comrades, to break down faith 
in the Communist International decisions. It is a step away from 
the Communist International. This was the position we took. 

It is significant, in confirmation of my statements that this 
conflict over the question of the appeal had an organic connec- 
tion with the convention conflict, that the alignment of comrades 
on this question was identically the same as the one in the con- 
vention caucus, with only a change here and there by comrades 
who had not understood the real question involved. 

A very severe crisis developed which made it impossible to 
agree to a unified policy. I am sorry to say that comrades in sev- 
eral parts of the country, under influence of the policy which was 
sponsored and given support by comrade Foster, were misled into 
taking what I consider some false steps. These comrades who had 
a certain resentment against the Communist International deci- 
sion began to speak quite openly against it. 

Efforts within the group to compel the comrades to abandon 
this policy were not successful. In the New York membership 
meeting, as was reported in the Daily Worker, and as I have been 
informed by personal letters, some comrades of the former major- 
ity, who have been members of the party for many years, and 
who surely know the fundamental basis of our relations to the 
Communist International, allowed themselves to be placed in an 
impossible position. Before a membership meeting of the rank 
and file of the party they criticized the decision of the Communist 

354 Early Years of American Communism 

International. Also I read in the Daily Worker that similar occur- 
rences took place in Boston. 1 The reports of the New York mem- 
bership meeting greatly sharpened the crisis. It showed clearly the 
dangerous line that was being followed. We did not react so much 
in antagonism to the comrades in New York and Boston (we are 
confident they will quickly correct their error) as we did to the 
leading comrades of our former group, especially comrade Foster, 
because we held them to be responsible for having allowed such a 
situation to prevail. 

We held it to be a result of the policy which they sponsored, 
and we decided to take drastic action to check the tendency 
developing amongst our comrades, as a result of the policy, to get 
themselves into contradiction with the decision of the Communist 
International. That policy proved itself to be completely wrong, 
completely bankrupt, and very dangerous for the party and for 
the movement. 

We held a discussion with the comrades and presented to 
them in an ultimative fashion the demand that the appeal should 
not be made an issue in the party in any way. The comrades 
finally agreed to this. 

But in spite of the agreement, the discussions we had with the 
YWL delegates seemed to center entirely around the question of 
the appeal. The whole discussion of the activities and the future 
line of the comrades seemed to hinge around this question, and 
proposals were made that the comrades of the YWL should come 
into the convention of the YWL and make a motion to endorse 
the appeal to the Communist International. 

It was clearly demonstrated in these discussions that the 
acceptance of our policy was only a formal acceptance. Comrade 
Foster and those who supported him continued the attempt to 
have the essence of their policy prevail. This made further col- 

1 The October 4 Daily Worker published a report of the New York membership 
meeting held on September 25. William Z. Foster had called the CI decision 
"unexpected and unwarranted" but he advocated that it be carried out, pending 
appeal. Joseph Zack, Philip Aronberg and Charles Krumbein openly attacked the 
decision and refused to vote for it. In the Boston membership meeting George 
Kraska openly attacked both Zinoviev and the CI decision, according to the Daily 
Worker of October 6. Cannon was the only one to vote against condemning Kraska 
in the Political Committee meeting on October 9. 

Our Party and the CI 355 

laboration with them impossible for us. 

Further collaboration is impossible between those having our 
standpoint towards the relations of the party and its leaders to the 
Communist International, and comrades who persist in this other 

After this, during the few days we have been here, we have 
had many discussions with the youth. I personally attach tremen- 
dous importance to the convention of the YWL and to the com- 
rades who are delegates here. So much importance that I have 
devoted my time almost entirely since the comrades arrived in 
town to discussions with them and to attempts to see to it that 
these comrades should not, under any circumstances, be placed 
in a position where they would be forming a political platform on 
the basis of opposition to the decision of the Communist Interna- 
tional. The comrades representing the viewpoint of comrade 
Foster persisted day after day in their efforts to convince the com- 
rades of the YWL of their position; and so persistent have these 
comrades been, that we were obliged to spend this entire day and 
all last night discussing the question with these young comrades 
to beat down this propaganda and this attempt to get comrades 
agitated on this fundamentally false basis. It was only at five 
o'clock this evening that we finally confirmed our victory in the 
YWL delegation. These comrades took their position, definitely 
and categorically, for our policy. 

We came to the decision finally that in view of the violation of 
the prior agreement, these comrades who are delegates should 
not only take a position in the caucus against this policy, but that 
they should take a position openly in the convention condemning 
any attempts to agitate the party or the league on the question 
of the appeal, to discredit the decision of the Communist Interna- 
tional, or to put up the appeal as a political platform of opposi- 
tion in the party. And thanks to comrades Williamson and Shacht- 
man, who fought side by side with me from start to finish, the 
YWL comrades have been led away from this false path and have 
unanimously adopted what I think is the correct position on 
the question of the relations of the party to the Communist 

For us the question has come to the point where we could 
not be satisfied any longer, in view of our duties to the party and 

356 Early Years of American Communism 

to the Communist International, with having a private under- 
standing within a private conference. The question has come to 
the point for us now where we feel obliged and duty bound to 
take an open stand before the party in repudiation of the policy 
of comrade Foster, and to call openly on all comrades in the party 
who are willing to be influenced by us to follow our policy and 
not allow themselves to be maneuvered or pushed or led into any- 
other policy on the question of the appeal to the Communist 

This naturally brings about a very serious situation in the 
party on the question of our relations to comrade Foster. I per- 
sonally hope that comrade Foster will be convinced and that he 
will turn back from the path he has drifted into. 

Comrade Foster has played an important role in the party, 
and he has given much to the party, as we all know, and I am sure 
that now if comrade Foster will turn back from this course he can 
lay the basis for still greater work in the future. But on the other 
hand, if comrade Foster persists in the line that he followed even 
up to today, in my opinion, he will lose his influence in the party. 
Comrade Foster will find that he is more and more in conflict 
with all the best Communist elements in the party who have col- 
laborated with him up till now. 

At the convention caucus our policy was called a policy of 
responsibility. Now what do we mean by responsibility? We do not 
mean merely, comrades, that we shall accept party positions and 
discharge the functions of these positions, although this is impor- 
tant. What we mean by responsibility which must be taken by the 
comrades of the former majority is that we must take political 
responsibility to help in the solution of the crisis in the party. We 
must take responsibility to try to pull the party out of the crisis, to 
unify it, to complete the liquidation of the right wing within the 
party and to set it firmly on the path to Bolshevization. This is 
what responsibility means. Responsibility for us includes the criti- 
cism of the party in the proper time and place, and within limits 
of party discipline, as the conditions may make it necessary. 

We do not believe the situation in the party is of such a super- 
ficial nature that it can be solved easily and quickly. Comrade 
Bedacht, as we know, is a very violent comrade. He spoke here 

Our Party and the CI 357 

tonight very violently. But I am afraid comrade Bedacht underesti- 
mates, at least in a slight degree, the deep seriousness of the 
problem in the party. In my opinion it is necessary for us to 
understand that mechanical measures have definite limitations. 
Mechanical methods of solving political problems have always to 
me appeared defective. I have learned this by experience in the 
party as well as by study. I do not believe that the crisis can be 
liquidated by persecution and terrorism of comrades. 

We all know there is a certain dissatisfaction amongst some 
comrades. But I say it is impermissible for leaders of the party — 
whether they belong to the present official leadership or whether 
their leadership accrues from their influence within the party as 
the result of their past party work — it is impermissible for them to 
allow this sentiment to drift in the party, because it can drift only 
in one direction. We cannot permit ourselves to enter into propa- 
ganda, either openly in a party meeting or privately in discussion 
with the rank and file comrades, which continually questions the 
Communist International decision, and represents it as the result 
of false information. 

I don't think it is necessary to argue so much here as we did 
in the private discussions, since the problem has been liquidated 
for our comrades who are delegates. We have been fighting com- 
rades adopting these tactics (and there were some comrades, I am 
sorry to say, with whom I have long been associated, some of 
them even before the organization of the party, in the revolution- 
ary labor movement, and in constant collaboration), and it is no 
pleasure to be in such sharp conflict with them. But we have 
reminded these comrades, and we want to remind them now 
before the party, that everyone in the Comintern who wound up 
in the camp of the social democrats began his opposition to the 
Communist International with statements such as we have been 
hearing lately. Comrades, regardless of intentions, in politics every 
action has its own logic; every action has an objective result, and it 
leads in a certain direction. 

The policy adopted in the convention caucus by comrade 
Foster, which was adhered to even after it was formally defeated, 
led to making the Communist International appeal an issue. And 
this in turn led some comrades in the membership meeting 

358 Early Years of American Communism 

openly to criticize the decision of the Communist International. 
Each step led in the same direction and that direction is the 
wrong one. 

I think it is our duty now to come out and say openly before 
the party that we are going to strive with all our power, and with 
all our energy, to see to it that not a single Communist is led any 
longer in that direction; that he shall turn back if he has already 
taken such steps. 

We have some opinions in regard to the solution of the pres- 
ent crisis in the party. We believe it requires a united front of 
all the Communist elements against the right wing, and against 
the right wing tendencies. When I say a united front against the 
right wing, I say it in the sense of the decision of the Communist 
International plenum of last April, and which has not been fully 
carried out up till now. 

We think the crisis requires that comrades, especially leading 
comrades, do not forget what the CI called attention to in Ger- 
many: the necessity for a real Bolshevist self-criticism, which has 
not been practiced up to now. We think it requires a liquidation 
of the policy of refusing to admit mistakes or of admitting mis- 
takes in such a way as to justify them. The party leaders have to 
begin to speak openly to the party and to the CI about everything 
that has been done wrongly, in order that the party and the CI 
can enable us to get straight. 

And, finally, our opinion of the thing that is necessary for the 
liquidation of the party crisis is the firm establishment of real 
Communist relations between the party and the CI, a complete 
break with the whole tradition of diplomatizing with the CI; a 
complete break with the whole tendency to regard the CI as 
something outside the party putting pressure on the party or the 
party leadership. We must develop the understanding that the 
party and the CI are one inseparable whole. We must have frank 
and open dealing with the executive of the CI and with the party; 
comrades must say the same thing in the party as they say in 
Moscow, and vice versa. 

I, for one, and the comrades associated with me, and they are 
a considerable number, intend to follow this policy. 

On Trade-Union Policy 

10 October 1925 

These motions by Cannon, as well as the statement by Cannon and Wil- 
liam E Dunne which follows, are taken from the minutes of the Workers 
Party Political Committee meeting of 10 October 1925. 

In the period immediately following his break with Foster, Cannon 
generally blocked with the Ruthenberg-Lovestone group, especially on 
trade-union policy. At issue here was the policy the TUEL-led left wing 
was to follow at the upcoming convention of the International Ladies' 
Garment Workers' Union in Philadelphia. 

The ILGWU was an important union, claiming over 91, 000 mem- 
bers in 1924, most of them in the New York area. Earlier in 1925 the 
social-democratic Sigman leadership had suspended the three large New 
York locals which were led by TUEL members. The locals had banded 
together into a Joint Action Committee which continued to function as a 
union and collect dues, retaining the allegiance of the overwhelming 
majority of Nezv York ILGWU members. Sigman had been forced to rein- 
state the suspended locals and call a special convention of the union for 
November in Philadelphia. In the period preceding the convention, Sig- 
man forced out some of the more anti-Communist officials of his bureauc- 
racy, in the hope of making a deal with the left wing, which had entered 
into negotiations with him. 

The TUEL was being run at the time by Foster's lieutenant Jack 
Johnstone, since Foster had left for Moscow to appeal the Comintern's 
cable to the party 's Fourth Convention. In collaboration with the leaders 
of the party 's needle trades fraction, Johnstone exaggerated the signifi- 
cance of the division in the Sigman machine, advocating that the left 
wing make a deal with Sigman. Johnstone's written proposal insisted that 
if the left wing failed to win a majority of delegates to the convention, 
''attempts must be made to continue the split among the reactionaries, 
through carefully considered tactics. If that split continues, under these 
conditions, making it impossible for anyone to form an administration 


360 Early Years of American Communism 

for the union with a solid majority of the delegates behind it, the left 
wing shall negotiate for organizational guarantees, which will completely 
protect it in the control of its present positions. . .under which conditions 
it will give conditional support to a mixed administration for the union 
until the next convention. " (emphasis in original) 

Cannon and Dunne vigorously opposed this policy, as well as the 
idea that the left wing should seek a deal with Sigman's vice president, 
David Dubinsky. But they also submitted the statement which follows, 
protesting the attempts of the Ruthenberg majority to undercut Foster's 
Trade Union Department. 


1. That we establish, now, definitely, as is our policy, that we will 
have no united front, direct or indirect, with the Sigman forces — 
either before the convention or during the convention. 

2. If the comrades in New York consider it necessary to give par- 
tial or indirect support to Dubinsky they shall furnish the CEC 
with more complete and explicit information as to the reasons 
for it. 

3. In the event of such a course being decided upon, support 
must be given openly and with complete explanation to the work- 
ers as to the reasons for it. 

4. The CEC does not support the policy of giving indirect sup- 
port to Dubinsky by, on the one hand, not nominating left wing 
candidates and, on the other hand, telling the workers to vote for 
Dubinsky's slate. 

5. If it is established that Local 89 takes a semi-progressive stand, 
the CEC is in favor of a united front minimum program with 
them against the reactionaries. 1 

1 The Political Committee did not act on Cannon's motions at this meeting. 
Instead, it adopted Ruthenberg's proposal that action on the issue be deferred 
pending receipt of more information. At a meeting of the Political Committee on 
October 12, at which Cannon was not present, a report by Gitlow was read, indi- 
cating that negotiations with Sigman were continuing. Motions by Ruthenberg and 
Dunne demanding that this policy cease were passed unanimously. A motion by 
Dunne rejecting any kind of deal with Dubinsky in Local 10 also passed unani- 
mously. However, this latter motion was reversed at a Political Committee meeting 
on October 24, after Gitlow objected that the left wing would lose control of the 
New York Joint Board if they did not make the deal. Cannon and Dunne were the 
only Political Committee members to vote against the agreement with Dubinsky. 

On Trade-Union Policy 361 


We wish to again remind the Political Committee of the 
wrong path into which we are drifting in handling trade union 
work. The Trade Union Department is not given sufficient initia- 
tive and is not functioning properly. Trade union questions are 
constantly being taken up in the Political Committee before the 
Trade Union Department has had the opportunity to consider 
them and formulate recommendations. As a corollary to this prac- 
tice the comrades in charge of our work in the field are failing 
to supply the Trade Union Department with copies of their 
reports and proposals. A continuation of these practices will have 
the inevitable result of practically liquidating the Trade Union 
Department. Since the CEC has already clearly established the 
necessity of an active and functioning Trade Union Department 
we are of the opinion that it should take definite steps to ensure 
it. To this end we propose the following motions, some of which 
have been previously adopted, but not fully carried out. 

1. The Trade Union Department shall meet regularly and 
formulate recommendations on all important questions of 
policy for the Political Committee. 

2. All material on current trade union problems (or copies of 
same) shall be supplied to the Trade Union Department. 

3. All comrades in charge of party trade union work in the 
field shall be again instructed to report regularly to the 
secretary of the Trade Union Department, and to send 
him copies of all reports on their work which are sent 
direct to the CEC. 

4. The Political Committee should have the recommenda- 
tions of the Trade Union Department on all trade union 
questions before taking final action on them, except in 
cases of emergency where immediate political decisions 
are necessary. 

Unify the Party! 

Published 16 November 1925 

The following resolution was adopted by the Political Committee and 
published in the Daily Worker, which also announced that Ruthenberg 
and Cannon would address party membership meetings around the coun- 
try in order to secure support for it. The resolution was signed by Max 
Bedacht, Cannon, William E Dunne, Jay Lovestone, C.E. Ruthenberg 
and the National Executive Committee of the Young Workers League. 
William Z. Foster was the only Political Committee member who did not 
sign it. The Foster faction retained control of the party 's Chicago District 
Committee, which voted down the resolution by a vote of nine to eight on 
November 28. According to a Foster faction circular dated 3 December 
1925, the Political Committee majority was forced to postpone voting on 
the resolution in Chicago membership meetings while it sought support in 
other districts. 

1. The beginning of the process of Bolshevizing our party has 
created a very critical situation for the party. Certain right wing 
elements are opposing the reorganization of the party and this 
attitude finds encouragement in the attack made by Lore and his 
followers against the Communist International and the party. 1 
Elements outside of the party, counting on this situation, are 
encouraging those opposing the Bolshevization to leave the party 
and to make a stand against the Communist International. The 
party for more than a year has been engaged in an inner factional 
struggle over the question of the correct line of policy and leader- 
ship of the party. The remnants of factionalism carried over from 
the preconvention period have not yet been liquidated. This fac- 

1 Lore had been expelled from the Workers Party at the August convention for 
opposition to Bolshevization and "open opposition and hostility to the party and 
the Communist International." 


Unify the Party! 363 

tional struggle, while an expression of the growth of Communist 
understanding within the party, has seriously affected the party 
work among the broad masses of industrial workers and exploited 
farmers, so that there has been an actual falling off of the effec- 
tiveness of the party in mobilizing these masses for the class strug- 
gle against the capitalists. The policy followed by a section of the 
former majority under the leadership of comrade Foster objec- 
tively leads away from the Communist International and thus pro- 
vides a rallying point for the right wing of the party. This policy, if 
not changed, will do great harm to the party. 

2. That section of the former majority which supported the pol- 
icy of comrades Cannon, Dunne and others was right in making 
an energetic and determined struggle against the policies of com- 
rade Foster. In openly combatting the policy of comrade Foster 
they gave a warning to the party as to the direction in which this 
policy was leading. The struggle within the former majority group 
over the question of the relation of the party and the party lead- 
ers to the Communist International has resulted in a definite and 
open split in the former majority group. This process is not, how- 
ever, completed. Many comrades who at first followed the policy 
sponsored by comrade Foster since the convention are beginning 
to change their course. Continuous efforts must be made to clar- 
ify the situation in order to assist these comrades to completely 
adopt the platform of the Communist International and Central 
Executive Committee. 

The Basis of Unified Leadership 

3. The former differences on political questions have been set- 
tled by the decisions of the Parity Commission and the national 
convention of the party. There is therefore no longer any reason 
for political groupings in the party on the basis of former differ- 
ences. The decision of the party convention, the decision of the 
Communist International delivered to the convention, and the 
events since the convention have broken down the old divisions 
and created new ones. The party leadership must reflect all these 
decisions and events and must be based upon them. It must rep- 
resent a unification of all those who follow and fight for the polit- 
ical line of the Communist International. The party situation 

364 Early Years of American Communism 

requires the unification of all groups within the party which stand 
for the line of the Communist International and for the unity of 
the party. The remnants of the factional struggle within the 
party must be quickly liquidated and the whole party drawn into 
the work among the masses. At the present time, when the oppo- 
sition to Bolshevization and reorganization is developing, when 
Lore and Salutsky are renewing and intensifying their attacks on 
the Communist International, when the Socialists are gleefully 
speaking of the "disintegration" of the Communist movement in 
America, it becomes obligatory to effect the unification of the 
party. It would be an error to maintain old factional groupings 
or to form new ones. This would weaken the struggle for unity 
and Bolshevization and would objectively strengthen the tenden- 
cies which are mobilizing to resist it. Under these conditions 
the interests of the party imperatively demand the unification of 
all members of the party who are for the Communist Interna- 
tional, and their united struggle for the party and the Communist 

The Party's Immediate Tasks 

The basis for the unification of the party is a common ener- 
getic struggle to carry out the following main tasks of the party: 

A. Energetic support of the Bolshevization of the party through 
(1) carrying through the reorganization of the party on the basis 
of shop nuclei and street nuclei (international branches) in the 
shortest possible time; (2) the organization and mobilization of 
the membership for work in the trade unions through a cam- 
paign to have all the members of the party become members of 
the trade unions and the systematic organization of active trade 
union fractions; (3) an energetic struggle against the right wing 
and opportunistic deviations and, as part of this struggle, the 
development of a systematic Marxist-Leninist education to raise 
the theoretical level of the party; (4) the Central Executive Com- 
mittee will subject its policies and actions in all fields to constant 
review and criticism. This prerequisite to Bolshevization has not 
been practiced by the party up till now. 

Our Trade Union Activities 

B. The trade union policy of the party must be fundamentally 
revised and our work in this field reoriented according to the line 

Unify the Party! 365 

laid down by the Communist International and the Profintern. 
Vacillating tactics which oscillate between opportunism and left- 
ism must be replaced by sure and confident Leninist tactics which 
combine firm principle with the greatest flexibility and adaptabil- 
ity to concrete problems. The trade union work of the party must 
be unified with the general political work of the party. We must 
make the aim of our trade union work the revolutionizing of the 
trade unions and the drawing of the organized workers into the 
struggle against the capitalists as a class. The building of a firm 
and centralized structure of party trade union fractions must be 
carried on with greater energy and a clear distinction must be 
made between the party fractions and the general left wing move- 
ment. The party must assist the organization of the left wing in 
the trade unions on a broad basis and aim to combine all the 
progressive and opposition elements into a bloc. The official 
name of such a bloc is of secondary importance. The party must 
not hesitate at the measures necessary to prevent the narrowing 
down of the organized left wing movement to the Communists 
and their close sympathizers. 

The Labor Party Campaign 

C. The struggle for a labor party must be again brought to the 
forefront of the party work and for this purpose the party must 
develop a program for the 1926 election which will again mobilize 
the whole party for a systematic campaign to achieve this purpose. 
The campaign for the defense of the Soviet Union against imperi- 
alism, work among the Negro workers, work among the women, 
must be connected with the campaign for a labor party and must 
serve to create the sentiment for and aid in the actual establish- 
ment of a labor party. 

Work Among the Masses 

D. The great task before the Workers (Communist) Party at the 
present time is to unite the party and mobilize all its forces for 
work in the class struggle. The energy of the party members must 
be thrown into mass work in all fields. Activity among the masses 
as a prerequisite to Bolshevization must be drilled into the con- 
sciousness of every party member. The party must fight with all its 
power and with every necessary strategy against the attempt to 

366 Early Years of American Communism 

isolate it and throw its energy back upon itself. The party must 
also conduct a resolute struggle against the tendency to construe 
"party work" only in the sense of inner party work as well as 
against the tendency to make an artificial separation between 
mass work and inner party work. 

Unite in Support of This Program 

4. The policy of the Central Executive Committee is to draw the 
entire party into the work of carrying out the decisions of the 
national convention and to give every member of the party the 
opportunity to work for the party, make it a real force among the 
masses, draw the whole party into constructive work for the build- 
ing up of the party and wipe out all factional lines. All comrades 
who accept this platform must be given full and complete oppor- 
tunity to participate in party work and responsibility, according to 
their ability and without any discrimination. 

5. The Central Executive Committee welcomes the stand in favor 
of unity and the progress already made by the Young Workers 
(Communist) League towards the liquidation of factionalism and 
the unification of forces. The National Executive Committee of 
the league now joins in the adoption of the resolution of the 
Central Executive Committee of the party as the basis for the 
continued work and for the complete unification of the league. 

6. The Central Executive Committee calls upon all units of the 
party and the Young Workers League to seriously study and con- 
sider this resolution and to adopt it as their platform. The 
adoption of this resolution on the party situation by the Central 
Executive Committee, the District Executive Committee, City 
Central Committee, and in the shop nuclei and branches should 
be the signal for the wiping out of all factional lines and united 
work of all supporters of the Communist International for the 
building up of the party. 

Broaden the TUEL 

18 March 1926 

The following summary of remarks by Cannon is taken from an unpub- 
lished document entitled "Minutes of the Discussion on the American 
Question. " The discussion evidently took place in Moscow after the con- 
clusion of the Sixth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist 
International, held 17 February -15 March 1926. An American Commis- 
sion had been convened in Moscow in connection with the plenum. The 
commission decreed that the Foster group should retain control of the 
Workers Party's trade-union work even though the Ruthenberg faction 
had the majority on the party's Central Executive Committee, and it also 
insisted that the Trade Union Educational League be broadened into a 
united-front organization. This "Discussion on the American Question" 
was evidently called to discuss implementing the commission decision. 
Present were A. Lozovsky, head of the Red International of Labor 
Unions, William Z. Foster, William F. Dunne, Cannon, Earl Browder, 
Max Bedacht and John Williamson of the Young Workers League. 

We must approach the problem from the new situation as laid 
down in the CI resolution. Everything decided here must be 
based on this resolution and not on any interpretation of it by 
one or the other side. No decision made here should reflect pre- 
vious party conflicts. The program of the TUEL should not be a 
political program; it shall bear no party characteristics. The TUEL 
is a united front organ; its program must therefore be broad 
enough for all the left wing elements. The program should have 
the following characteristics: it should be short and concise; it 
must contain such concrete points as the policy of the class strug- 
gle, the labor party, the organization of the unorganized, trade 
union democracy. The company unions shall be dealt with in 
connection with the organization of the unorganized. 

There seems to be no conflict of concepts on the question of 
the progressives. As many of the progressive elements as possible 


368 Early Years of American Communism 

should be drawn into the league on the basis of the minimum 
program. Those of the progressives who are not yet prepared to 
follow the minimum program can be won over and worked with 
on the basis of definite concrete measures. 

The next period is a transition period, for the league is now 
in comparative isolation. The new development can be realized 
only gradually. If we don't realize it in a short time it should not 
be construed as a failure. It is clear that the TUEL must have an 
organ of its own, which shall reflect the minimum program of the 
TUEL and not that of the party. The process of broadening the 
league must be a gradual one; from the top it will be reflected in 
the organ, from the bottom in our work in the various industries 
and localities. Of course, we cannot separate this from the pro- 
gram of the party. If we take the CI resolution as a basis we shall 
achieve our aim. 

As to the party situation. The first necessity is peace in the party: 
the party must do more serious trade union work; the Foster 
majority in the Trade Union Commission is to be construed as a 
real leadership; the functionaries selected for trade union work 
are to be chosen according to their capabilities. The only possible 
victory will be the broadening of the TUEL. All points of dispute 
must be subordinated to this central aim. 

Our World Party at Work 

A Summary of the Proceedings of the Enlarged 
Executive of the Communist International 

Published 27 May 1926 

The following article by Cannon about the work of the Comintern Execu- 
tive Committee's Sixth Plenum was published in the Daily Worker. 

The material of the sessions of the Enlarged Executive Com- 
mittee of the Communist International, including the resolutions 
and speeches, are now available in the English language. It is one 
of the foremost duties of all active party members to study these 
documents most attentively and to draw from them the necessary 
conclusions for the correct orientation of our party. 

The material is so voluminous, and the subjects dealt with are 
so many and varied, that an adequate survey of the work of the 
plenum cannot be given in a single article. The most that can be 
done is to give an outline and to indicate the main points. Such 
an outline would be of some value if it would stimulate party 
comrades to an earnest study of the resolutions and discussions 
entire. Such is the purpose of this article. 

The main points dealt with in the document of the plenum 
are as follows: 

1. The plenum confirmed the judgment pronounced a year ago 
in regard to the partial and relative stabilization of capitalism in 
Europe, which brought with it a retardation of the development 
of the proletarian revolution. The Comintern estimate of the so- 
called stabilization of course has nothing in common with that 
of the social democrats, who imagine that capitalism has been 
reconstituted for another hundred years. On the contrary, the 


370 Early Years of American Communism 

Comintern maintains its premise that the capitalist system has 
not recovered from the effects of the World War and the sharp- 
ening of its inner contradictions and will not recover. Inter- 
national proletarian revolution remains the perspective of the 

2. The tactics of the Comintern, based upon the estimate of the 
economic and political situation, have their center of gravity in 
the fight for winning other social democratic and non-party 
workers to the side of Communism through the tactics of the 
united front. All attempts of certain left elements to reject or 
stultify the united front tactics have been completely repudiated. 
It was clearly established that the united front tactic is the indis- 
putable weapon of the Communist parties in carrying out their 
historic task of mobilizing the masses for the struggle against 
capitalism, and of leading them by degrees to the platform of 

3. The main slogans of the plenum were: "To the masses!" "Go 
deeper into the unions." "Establish connections with workers 
everywhere, in all fields of activity and struggle!" "Identify the 
Communist Party with all the life and activity of the working 
class!" "Guard against isolation as well as against lack of 

4. The necessity of establishing connections and influence 
amongst the working masses, especially in this period of retarded 
revolutionary development, puts before the Communist parties as 
a life and death question the necessity to struggle against and 
completely annihilate the ultraleftist and sectarian tendencies 
which would lead the party to isolation. The main struggle of the 
plenum was conducted against the ultraleftist tendencies. This 
does not signify, by any means, however, that the Comintern "is 
going to the right," as some people have attempted to maintain. 
It was pointed out in all the discussions that this would be a 
completely false estimate of the policy of the Comintern. It is 
not a question of substituting left digressions with right devia- 
tions, but of putting the fight against deviations concretely in 
each case and of maintaining the clear Leninist line, which does 
not recognize the legitimacy of either right or left tendencies in 

World Party at Work 371 

The right danger still exists and will be fought against by the 
Comintern. In the French party, for example, the right danger is 
the greatest danger now, although the plenum was obliged also to 
combat "left" tendencies there. 

But for most of the parties under the present conditions 
(and this applies also for America, where the connection with the 
workers is still weak), the greatest danger is sectarianism, which 
would deprive the party of the possibility of gaining influence 
amongst the masses. The thinly disguised attempt to form an 
international left fraction only emphasizes the danger. The main 
emphasis in most cases at present must be placed on the struggle 
against this ultraleft tendency, but this can only be carried on 
successfully if the parties at the same time repulse the right 

5. The struggle for influence over the masses, through the tactics 
of the united front, naturally finds its most important field in the 
trade union movement, since the trade unions are the elementary 
and principal mass organizations of the workers. The fight for 
world trade union unity, in which substantial successes have 
already been gained by the Comintern and Profintern, remains as 
before in the very foreground of the struggle. The necessity of 
increasing manyfold the activities and the practical work of the 
Communists in the trade unions was strongly emphasized. 

6. Following along the same general line of the united front 
tactic to win influence for the parties among the working masses, 
the plenum raised one of its most important questions, the ques- 
tion of Communist work in non-party mass organizations of all 
kinds. This question occupied a special place on the agenda and 
much time and attention was devoted to discussion of the ways of 
working in this field. The narrow conception of party work, in the 
sense of only internal party work, was isolated in this plenum like 
a complete stranger. It was made very clear that party work is also, 
and even principally, work outside of the party, amongst non- 
party masses. Great stress was laid upon the necessity of giving 
concrete organizational forms to the sympathetic sentiment 
towards Communism and towards the Russian Revolution, which 
has been developed through propagandistic work. Of all the exist- 
ing non-party mass organizations, the International Red Aid was 

372 Early Years of American Communism 

declared to be the one having first claim upon the members of 
the Communist Party. 1 

In connection with this question of non-party mass organiza- 
tions it is worthwhile to quote the following paragraph from the 
resolution adopted by the plenum: 

Party executives should not overlook the fact that a considerable 
number of our party members in all the capitalist countries have not 
yet fully understood the obligations as emphasized by the Third 
World Congress, under which every Communist is to do his share of 
work, and also that they consider as party work only work which is 
within the Communist Party organization. Therefore it is essential to 
impress on every member of a party nucleus, of a Communist frac- 
tion, that his work among non-party social democrats, syndicalist 
workers — in factories, trade unions, cooperatives, workers' sports 
organizations, working women's organizations, sympathizing mass 
organizations, and also among the peasantry — is also party work, and 
that for the majority of party members it must even be considered as 
the most important part of party work. They should be careful not to 
lose their identity among the masses, but should deport themselves 
as revolutionary organizers of mass activity. 

7. Considerable attention was given at this plenum to the ques- 
tion of internal policies and tasks of the Comintern and of the 
national sections. The Comintern remains as before the central- 
ized world organization with international leadership. 

But on the initiative of the Russian delegation a resolution 
was adopted declaring for more independence and self-activity of 
the national parties. The parties have to stand on their own feet 
more — select their own leaders, etc. The leadership of the Com- 
munist International must assume a more collective character 
through the real and actual participation in the work of the ECCI 
to a much greater extent than before by the foremost representa- 
tives of the important national parties. 

1 The International Red Aid, also widely known by its Russian acronym MOPR, was 
founded in 1922 out of a successful international campaign to aid the victims of 
white terror in Poland. Its aim was to aid "the imprisoned and persecuted fighters 
for the revolution," and it gready expanded its international scope in 1924-25. 
Rose Karsner was the American delegate to MOPR's second international confer- 
ence, held in connection with the ECCI's Fifth Plenum in March-April 1925. It was 
in Moscow at that time that Cannon and Bill Haywood first discussed founding an 
American section of the organization, the International Labor Defense. 

World Party at Work 373 

Above all, the central committees of the parties must master 
the task of maintaining their leadership by virtue of their own 
abilities and influence, and must not rely too much on the sup- 
port of the Executive Committee of the Comintern. Comrade 
Zinoviev said: 

Moscow has broad shoulders.... Now is the time to say to all our 
parties: "More independence." Nearly every party has had its 
own experience, its achievements, and errors. Now is the time 
for more independence and not simply for waiting to hear from 
Moscow. When I say this, my words have nothing in common 
with the anti-Moscow and right elements, for such an attitude is 
tantamount to a denial of proletarian dictatorship. Such moods 
among the ultraleft and right are enthusiastically welcomed by 
the bourgeoisie and social democracy. I realize that sometimes 
these moods have their origin in a strong nationalist feeling, 
and comrade Lenin has always warned us of this danger. 

Hand in hand with the policy of greater independence for 
the national sections goes the policy of greater responsibility by 
them for the leadership of the Comintern as a whole. The resolu- 
tion of the plenum on this question makes it incumbent upon the 
larger sections of the Communist International, the German, 
French, Czech and Italian sections, to appoint two representatives 
each, and of other larger parties (including the Oriental and 
American parties) one representative each, who will participate 
in the work of the Executive Committee of the Communist Inter- 
national for a period of at least six months after the enlarged 

8. After the lessons drawn by the plenum from the experiences 
of the various parties in dealing with internal party questions, 
there cannot be any doubt that in all the parties (and especially 
in America where the party is as yet comparatively small and 
weak) a real genuine party democracy must be established uncon- 
ditionally and without delay. The practice of controlling parties by 
mechanical means, of setting up military factional regimes, of 
excluding qualified comrades from participation in party work 
and leadership — all these practices have ended in complete bank- 
ruptcy everywhere and have brought a number of parties to the 
danger of disintegration and smash-up. The classic illustration of 
this was in the German party. But in the French party, and in a 

374 Early Years of American Communism 

number of others, the same mechanical methods brought the 
same evil results. These practices have everywhere led towards 
isolation of the leadership from the party membership, and conse- 
quently to the isolation of the party from the masses. Control of 
the party apparatus alone is not leadership. Only those who are 
able to lead the parties politically and ideologically and morally 
have any legitimate claim to leadership in the future. 

9. A striking feature of the plenum was the prominence of the 
Oriental questions and of much greater participation than ever 
before of representatives of Oriental parties and revolutionary 
movements. In contradistinction to the Second International, 
which bases itself upon the upper strata of the working class in 
"civilized" countries, the Communist International had represen- 
tatives at its sessions of all the oppressed and exploited people 
from all parts of the world. The presence at the session of the 
delegates from the so-called backward countries and the exploited 
colonies of the world imperialists, working hand in hand with the 
representatives of the revolutionary workers in the highly devel- 
oped capitalist countries, was a living and most convincing proof 
that the Communist International is in reality a world party of all 
the oppressed and exploited people of the earth, fighting as an 
international army for the international proletarian revolution. 

The United Front at Passaic 

Published June 1926 

The following article by Cannon was published in the Labor Defender, 
monthly journal of the International Labor Defense. The strike of textile 
workers in Passaic, New Jersey had begun in January 1926. It was led by 
the United Front Committee of Textile Workers, organized by a young 
Workers Party member named Albert Weisbord. In August the official 
AFL union, the United Textile Workers, agreed to take over leadership of 
the strike, but only on condition that Weisbord withdraw from the strike 
leadership. The Workers Party agreed to these terms. The strike was settled 
four months later on terms that amounted to a defeat. 

The Passaic strike started out as a local dispute between tex- 
tile workers and the mill owners over a cut in wages, but it devel- 
oped into a historic battle in the class struggle. Other issues of 
fundamental importance for all the workers of America came into 
the foreground and dominated the struggle, along with the issue 
of wages. Other forces besides those directly involved at the begin- 
ning were brought into play. Passaic became a battleground with 
the whole country looking on or taking part, according to their 

The 16,000 textile workers would have had the bosses licked 
long ago if it had been a simple fight between the two. But the 
mill bosses had powerful friends who came to their aid. They used 
the public authority on their side as though it were something 
they carried around in their pocket. This was an eye-opener for 
the workers, most of whom had been under the impression that 
America is a free country where a working man has got a chance 
and where the government belongs to the people. 

The bosses, with the help of the public officials and the 
courts, would have crushed the strike by this time if the thing had 
stopped there. But something happened that the bosses and per- 
haps the bulk of the workers never figured on. The strikers also 


376 Early Years of American Communism 

had found powerful friends who put protecting arms around 
them. Everything that is alive in the labor movement is taking a 
hand in Passaic. They can't starve out the strikers at Passaic 
because the workers throughout the country won't let them. 
Money and food flows into the strikers' relief committee in a 
steady stream. They can't suppress the rights of the strikers and 
railroad the leaders either; at least, not without a fight of such 
proportions as they never dreamed of when they started their 
reign of terror. 

Passaic used to be a drab mill town, with workers unorganized 
and fearfully exploited. It is something infinitely bigger and better 

When you say Passaic nowadays, everybody knows what you 
mean. Passaic means monstrous exploitation. Passaic means the 
public officials, the courts, the police and the governor of the 
state all lined up on the side of the bosses and giving everybody a 
blunt and simple answer to the question: Who owns the govern- 
ment? Passaic means armored cars, police clubs, gas bombs and 
injunctions. Passaic means the solidarity of the capitalists and 
control of the government by them. 

But now there is another side to Passaic. Passaic also means 
heroic and determined struggle. It means the inexhaustible 
resources of courage and endurance that lie deep in the working 
class. It means admiration, sympathy and support from workers 
far and near. Passaic means the united front. It means union. It 
means leadership of integrity and skill. Passaic means Weisbord. 
It means the awakening solidarity of labor. 

At the time this article is being written, the Passaic strike is 
entering its 17th week with ranks unbroken. It is no longer an 
isolated local affair. Large sections of the labor movement 
throughout the country have already taken a hand in it. The 
heroic struggle of the Passaic textile workers against heavy odds 
has impressed itself so strongly on the rank and file of the labor 
movement that it has become very difficult for anyone to oppose 
them. Even those who tried to do so at first — those who tried to 
disown it as an "outlaw" strike — had to change front. The Passaic 
strikers have fought so well and have been led so skillfully as to 
compel the admiration and support of the labor movement. 

They have received help of a substantial kind already. But 

United Front at Passaic 377 

from the looks of things more and greater help will be needed, 
especially after the strike is settled and its dramatic incidents are 
no longer news items for the first page. For the bosses, through 
their political hirelings, are plotting to take revenge on the work- 
ers who have dealt them such a heavy blow. They are especially 
determined to "get" Albert Weisbord, the organizer of the strike 
and the soul of the movement. Three indictments have been 
brought against him, and they aim to railroad him to the peniten- 
tiary for a long term if they can put it over quiedy. 

But we confidently believe they will fail in this conspiracy just 
as they have failed to break the strike by means of terrorism and 
suppression. All their brutalities in the strike have reacted against 
them and produced a contrary effect to the one they counted on. 
The police terrorism did not break the spirit of the strikers; it only 
made them more stubborn and determined. It educated them as 
to the actual role of the government. Moreover, it aroused ever 
wider and deeper strata of other workers and brought them into 
active solidarity with the strikers of Passaic and with all that their 
struggle stands for. 

If we realize the issues involved, the frame-up against the 
strike leaders will have the same result. It must be our aim to 
accomplish this result and frustrate the conspiracy. Our ILD, 
which has already played its part in the strike, will have the main 
responsibility of organizing the protest movement. 

The Passaic strike marks a milestone in the development of 
the American working class. It is a mighty and inspiring spectacle. 
This is the verdict of all who have seen it in action. It incorporates 
all the best traditions of the militant movement. It embodies all 
the old and tried methods of industrial struggle welded together 
with many ideas that are new and great. The mass picketing, the 
singing, the militancy and the industrial form of organization 
which characterized the great strikes led by the IWW in the tex- 
tile industry are used in Passaic. Together with these go the new 
ideas of the united front, the flexible tactics, the establishment 
of connections with all labor and sympathizing elements, and the 
constant effort to broaden the base of support and to make room 
for all who really want to help. 

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn is there, representing in her person 
the experience and militancy of the old fights and pouring it all 

378 Early Years of American Communism 

freely into the strike. Bob Dunn, one of the leaders of the great 
organization attempt of 1919, Norman Thomas helping in the 
fight to maintain free speech and assemblage for the strikers, 
Esther Lowell of the Federated Press, and many others of various 
political views are part of the united front at Passaic. 

Weisbord and a group of others like him, Jack Rubenstein, 
Lena Chernenko, Nancy Sandowsky, the new and young ones, 
knit the whole body together and dominate it with their spirit. 
America has never before seen a strike like Passaic. The best of 
the old and the new are fused together there. 

Courage and militancy of the rank and file; flexibility, skill 
and integrity of the leadership — that is Passaic. The bosses have 
been outmaneuvered at every turn. 

The Passaic strike teaches over again in a most impressive 
manner an old lesson well known to experienced militants. That 
lesson is the part played by the state authority in conflicts between 
workers and bosses. The experiences at Passaic are also demon- 
strating the absolute necessity for a permanently organized and 
always ready non-partisan labor defense organization which we 
had in mind when we founded the ILD last June. The ILD has 
played its part in Passaic and will play a yet bigger one before the 
fight is over. 

Any worker who has learned the ABC of the class struggle can 
tell you that the state authorities — the courts, police, etc. — side 
with the bosses in time of struggle. This is a settled and correct 
theory which has been confirmed a thousand times in practice. 
But it is not often that they do it so brazenly and ferociously and 
in such open defiance of their own laws as they have done it in 

The picket line, the living symbol of the power of the strike 
and its greatest weapon, was the first target of the "impartial 
servants of the people." Streams of ice cold water were turned on 
the picketers one bitter winter day. Men, women and children 
were knocked down by policemen's clubs without even a pretext 
of legal justification. Tear gas bombs were thrown into crowds 
of strikers, and in the confusion and panic that followed they 
were ridden down by mounted police. Oh, some great lessons in 
"democratic government" were taught at Passaic! 

Two hundred sixty-four strikers were arrested on various 

United Front at Passaic 379 

charges, most of them for peaceful picketing, in cynical disregard 
of a state law recently passed which expressly legalizes it. Lena 
Chernenko and Nancy Sandowsky, two of the moving spirits of 
the picket line, together with a number of others were arrested 
and rearrested as fast as bail could be provided. Jack Rubenstein, 
one of the most active militants, was arrested, beaten up, indicted 
and held on $10,000 bail. One striker died as a result of a police 

The police terrorists made no political discrimination. It 
didn't matter what one's political or other opinions might be, if 
he was in the strike or for the strike, he fell afoul of the "law" at 
Passaic. Norman Thomas was arrested and indicted for attempting 
to speak at a meeting in a free speech test. Robert W. Dunn of 
the Civil Liberties Union got the same treatment for walking on 
the picket line after an ignorant sheriff had read the "riot act" 
and proclaimed what he called "martial law." Esther Lowell of 
the Federated Press helped a woman to her feet after she had 
been knocked down by a policeman's club. She went to jail for it. 
Injunctions were issued forbidding practically everything. 

To cap the climax of the reign of terror, Weisbord was 
arrested. Three indictments were quickly brought against him 
and it took $30,000 and a great deal of outside pressure to get 
him out on bail pending trial. 

Our ILD is on the job at Passaic. Not a single striker went 
into court without our lawyer to defend him. There was not a 
single conviction that was not appealed. Nobody had to remain in 
jail more than a few days for lack of bail. The New York Emer- 
gency Strike Relief Committee, with Mrs. Michaelson as secretary, 
took charge of this end of the work and collected bail to the 
amount of $83,150. The American Civil Liberties Union harassed 
the power-drunk authorities with "free speech" tests and tried 
hard to blow the breath of life into the half-dead body of "civil 
liberty." A great wave of protest spread through the labor move- 
ment and even the most conservative labor leaders were com- 
pelled to give expression to it. This powerful and many-sided 
support of the embattled strikers had its effect and the authorities 
were compelled to beat a retreat, at least for the time being. 

But there cannot be the least doubt that they are determining 
at all costs to get revenge on comrade Weisbord, "the outside 

380 Early Years of American Communism 

agitator" who is "responsible for all the trouble," and put him 
safely away for a long term in prison. Nothing short of a powerful, 
nationwide and united defense and protest movement will be able 
to save him for the great and necessary work he is doing and has 
yet to do. 

We realized from the first moment the tremendous impor- 
tance for the militant labor movement of the Weisbord case. And 
we understood fully that a narrow, limited or partisan defense 
would not avail against the powerful forces that are determined to 
get him out of the way. Therefore, the International Labor 
Defense in its first manifesto called for a united front of all 
sections of the labor movement for the defense of Weisbord, 
Thomas, Dunn, Lowell, Rubenstein and all the others arrested 
in the strike. 

The most gratifying success has already been achieved in this 
project. Unity of action and coordination of effort of all forces 
directly involved in the Passaic fight was accomplished at a con- 
ference held in New York City on April 22, of representatives of 
the United Front Committee of Textile Workers, the International 
Labor Defense, the American Civil Liberties Union, the League 
for Industrial Democracy, the Emergency Strike Relief Commit- 
tee of New York, the Passaic Strikers' Relief Committee and the 
Federated Press. 

At this conference a Joint Committee was formed to coordi- 
nate the work of the various participating organizations and to 
ensure complete unity of action. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was 
elected secretary of the Joint Committee and the other members 
are Albert Weisbord, Forrest Bailley, Norman Thomas, James P. 
Cannon, Mrs. Michaelson, Alfred Wagenknecht, Art Shields and 
Robert W. Dunn. 

By decision of the conference the International Labor 
Defense will conduct the defense of all the arrested strikers, strike 
leaders and pickets, while the American Civil Liberties Union will 
have charge of all cases direcdy involving the issues of free speech 
and civil liberties. The International Labor Defense will collect a 
defense fund by authority of the Joint Committee and will be 
responsible for all expenses involved in the defense. Each organi- 
zation represented at the conference agreed to give moral and 

United Front at Passaic 381 

financial support to the tasks undertaken by both the ILD and the 
American Civil Liberties Union. 

As a demonstration of the unification of forces in the com- 
mon fight, a mass meeting under the auspices of the Joint Com- 
mittee was held in the New Star Casino, New York, on April 28, 
with Albert Weisbord, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Robert W. Dunn, 
Norman Thomas and James P. Cannon as the speakers. It was an 
enthusiastic but deeply serious demonstration, a united front in 
the real sense of the word, and a most promising beginning of 
what must and will be developed into a broad and powerful pro- 
test movement in behalf of comrade Weisbord and those who 
stand in jeopardy with him. 

The Passaic fighters are worthy of such a movement. They are 
the representatives of the new life and spirit which are beginning 
to manifest themselves in the labor movement of America. They 
will stand up in the court as the symbols of the right of the work- 
ers to organize and fight for better and freer lives. They signify 
the mighty idea of the united front not merely in theory, but in 
practice. "They crammed the doctrine into deed." Let us do 
likewise in our fight for them. 

For Industrial Groups on a 
Broader Basis Than the TUEL 

29 October 1926 

The following motions were presented by Cannon to a Political Committee 
meeting on 29 October 1926. They were counterposed to a plan for the 
reorganization of the party 's trade-union work which William Z. Foster 
submitted to the same meeting. Foster's plan called for new, industrywide, 
united-front organizations with "progressive" trade unionists in three 
cities: Kansas City, Buffalo and Minneapolis. Elsewhere Foster advocated 
maintaining the Trade Union Educational League as a centralized trade- 
union opposition organized across industrial and craft union lines. 

Cannon and William F. Dunne united with the C.E. Ruthenberg-led 
majority to defeat Foster's plan. Cannon's motions were adopted unani- 
mously — Foster even voted in favor, insisting that Cannon's motions 
were not in conflict with his original plan. The Political Committee also 
adopted a motion by Ruthenberg which insisted that 'further investiga- 
tion and effort should be made to organize progressive blocs. " 

1. That we proceed in all cases with the organization of the indus- 
trial groups on a broader basis than the TUEL wherever possible. 

2. That in cases where it is not possible at present to organize 
broader general left wing groups than the TUEL, the TUEL shall 
be maintained as the local center. 

3. That we shall strive to develop local industrial groups towards 
centralization on a local scale. 

4. That where the TUEL is maintained in the meantime as the 
centralized organization, it shall be conceived as an instrument to 
hasten the development of the industrial groups towards local 
centralization on a broader scale than the TUEL. 

5. When the conditions mature for the centralization of the in- 
dustrial groups locally, that the TUEL shall be merged into the 
newly formed group. 


Conference on Moderating Factionalism 

7 February 1927 

The following is an unpublished and unsigned summary by someone in 
the Ruthenberg camp of a conversation between Cannon, C.E. Ruthen- 
berg and Ruthenberg s key factional lieutenants, Max Bedacht and Jay 
Lovestone. Since his return from Moscow in the spring of 1926 Cannon 
had been operating separately from both the Ruthenberg CEC majority 
and the minority led by William Z. Foster. Cannon was campaigning for 
an end to factionalism in the party and he had won William Weinstone, 
New York district secretary and a former Ruthenberg supporter, over to 
his group on that basis. 

Ruthenberg did not have the chance to act on the desire to moderate 
factionalism which he expressed in this conversation. He died suddenly 
on 2 March 1927. Ruthenberg s death triggered an explosion of factional 
maneuvering for control of the leading party committees, with Lovestone 
assuming leadership of the Ruthenberg faction. 

Ruthenberg: "The Political Committee meeting of Friday shows a 
drift and a marked tendency toward a sharp factional situation in 
the party. If such meetings continue we will have a sharp fight. If 
this goes further it means an open fight. In our opinion an open 
fight will endanger very seriously the party and all its work. For 

1. It will hurt us in our ability to meet the offensive launched 
against us by the reactionary trade union leaders. 

2. It will weaken our connection with progressives. 

3. It would undermine our work with the progressives. 

4. It would destroy our campaign in the mining union and 
other organizations. 

We must find a way of avoiding a fight. We want to know what is 
your attitude and what steps you think are necessary to avoid this 


Cannon: "I feel the same way about it as you do. My opinion is 
nothing new. My position has not changed since I have come 


384 Early Years of American Communism 

back from the Sixth Plenum. I stand on the same platform — 
genuine unity. The section elections in Chicago (five out of the 
six largest sections elected majorities on the executive committees 
giving full support to the CEC) are a contributing immediate 
cause for the sharpening of the factional situation. 1 At least this is 
so for the Fosterites but not for us." Says he has been disturbed 
about the proceedings of the Committee in recent weeks particu- 
larly as to the question of the control of the party apparatus. The 
present majority is factional. In the last Polcom meeting he may 
have spoken a little too sharply about this matter but his speech 
was substantially an attack on this factional control only. Person- 
ally not in favor of a fight now. 

Ruthenberg: Recites a number of facts indicating that we are not 
following a policy of elimination of Fosterites or Cannonites and 
mentions Baker, Johnstone, Dunne, Abern and others as being 
given and offered responsible party work. He says he is getting a 
feeling that some are developing an attitude of pure opposition to 
the appointment of any party member who was associated with 
the former Ruthenberg group. The question before us is what can 
be done. 

Cannon: Emphasizes that he feels that the Committee is working 
on the basis of a definite hard bloc within it limiting the work of 
others. The situation in the Polcom must be corrected — that is 
the basic thing. Says we made an error in the procedure of elect- 
ing Gitlow while Foster was absent and not waiting for Foster. 2 

1 The party had been reorganized under the Bolshevization campaign. Party cells 
(nuclei) in each city were grouped into sub-sections and sections for the purposes 
of membership meetings and elections. 

2 On January 20 the Ruthenberg majority on the Polcom had pushed through the 
appointment of Benjamin Gitlow as head of the New York Needle Trades Commit- 
tee of the TUEL, replacing Joseph Zack. Foster was not present at the meeting, 
but his lieutenant, Johnstone, had proposed that a secretariat of Gitlow, Zack and 
Aronberg be appointed instead. Cannon supported Johnstone's proposal. 

The leadership of the party's needle trades work was a particularly sensitive 
issue since the TUEL fraction had been leading the New York local International 
Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. A bitter, militant six-month strike had just gone 
down in defeat. In December the national union leadership under Morris Sigman 
had stepped in, suspended the New York union leadership, and settled the strike 
on unfavorable terms. 

Cannon-Ruthenberg Conference 385 

He supports in principle the policy that the Trade Union Com- 
mittee should handle trade union appointments. We made an 
error in working otherwise since this gives Foster similar ground 
of complaint. 

Ruthenberg: "In retrospect," he said, "we can concede that we 
made an error as to procedure in handling the Gitlow case. It 
would have been better had we worked otherwise." He recites the 
fact that Zack sent a letter insisting on immediate action before a 
certain date. 

Cannon: "It was a big mistake to give Foster such grounds for a 
fight. It was bad for us, speaking for myself and those working 
with me, that we have to be put in the position where we must 
support Foster in such a fight. He might interpret our support as 
meaning something else. We have heard that the New York Dis- 
trict Executive Committee is against Gitlow." He doesn't know the 
reasons for the change of Zack to Gitlow. He is surprised to see a 
fight develop over this. 

Lovestone: Recites the facts as to the developments at the plenum 
and the conduct of the Fosterites being extremely factional. The 
chief aim of the opposition at the plenum was to discredit the 
American CEC. "The elections in Chicago are not a cause of the 
factional attitude of the Fosterites but an answer of the members 
to the factional practices against the CEC. Foster's real reason for 
opposition to Gitlow was given to me by himself in Indianapolis 
when he said 'Do you think I am going to surrender a hundred 
thousand workers to Gitlow'." Examines facts of campaign 
launched against Pepper by the Fosterite opposition. Declares that 
he is hopeful of a party settlement. Examines Foster's analysis of 
the objective conditions showing the danger in the points he 
emphasizes as leading him either to hopeless pessimism for the 
existence of a party or to a conclusion which would afford a theo- 
retical basis for narrow sectarianism. Insists that we have frank 
discussions in these meetings. 

Ruthenberg: Answers the hinted united front differences as indi- 
cated by Cannon in his previous remarks. Cites the danger of an 
anti-party attitude as indicated in the refusal of some comrades in 

386 Early Years of American Communism 

Minneapolis to permit the party to issue a statement to the work- 
ers on the farmer-labor development. 3 

Cannon: Feels isolation for the party on the basis of some of the 
errors made in executing united front policy. Cites such errors as 
the selection of Weisbord for the tour, the insistence on the party 
being in the Foreign Born Council, the question of the All Ameri- 
can Anti-Imperialist League, etc. Says a whole wrong tendency in 
these united front policies. 4 

Bedacht: Admits the existence of groupings in the party but he says 
there is no fundamental or basic differences. He is convinced that 
we may have potential differences but these potential differences 
should not be confused with immediate existing real differences. 
"Why do we have groupings in the party? As Jay said, very often it 
is due to a tendency to go into a struggle for power over every 
difference of opinion. As long as you have such groupings as we 
have today existing there will also be the other effect of making a 
power question out of every difference. There is a tendency to 
exaggerate differences under such conditions. Cannon speaks of 
right and left dangers. He cannot cite typical examples of such 
dangers. Today we do not have in the American party a crystal- 
lized right or left tendency. There is no outstanding individual 
leader for such tendencies. It is true, there may be individual 
inclinations. Some of us tend to make errors of a right character, 
others of a left character. (Interruption by Lovestone: "As Bittel- 
man would say, I tend to make errors of a right character.") But 
we have no definite conscious forces driving the party to the right 

3 A conference of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Association on January 17 had 
approved a Workers Party-initiated motion calling for a national conference to 
found a labor party to run in the 1928 U.S. elections. At a Political Committee 
meeting on January 20 Ruthenberg had been particularly concerned to push this 
development as a big gain for the Communists. 

4 The controversial Passaic strike leader Albert Weisbord was sent on national tour 
for the Workers Party in 1927. Foster had wanted him to tour under the auspices 
of a "National Committee for Organizing Textile Workers," according to the 
minutes of the Political Committee meeting of 21 September 1926. Early in 1926 
the party had been active in creating a national Council for the Protection of the 
Foreign Born, while in 1925 it had formed the All American Anti-Imperialist 
League. The AAAIL had headquarters in Chicago and was led by Cannon faction 
supporter Manuel Gomez. Max Shachtman was acting secretary of the AAAIL in 
Gomez's absence. It claimed sections in 11 countries and published a monthly 
Spanish organ, El Libertador, in Mexico. 

Cannon-Ruthenberg Conference 387 

or the left. The use of such expressions as ultraleftists in so care- 
less a manner is only a result of existence of groupings which 
have no basis for existence. If Gitlow is ultraleft then it is a sin of 
our whole Central Executive Committee. Every one of us. What is 
the picture of the party today? A number of groups fighting for 
leadership. In analyzing the real significance of the 14-point docu- 
ment presented by Bittelman — Bittelman may now try to deny but 
the central point is — was the letter proposed by Bittelman sent to 
the party or not? 5 All right, it was not sent, that is the answer. 
When we discuss leadership we must discuss the question of the 
hegemony in any collective leadership. Who will have the hegem- 
ony in any collective leadership in the party? Will it be those com- 
rades whose line is generally symbolized by Foster or will it be 
those generally symbolized by Ruthenberg? We ought to have an 
agreement as to this question. We should have a frank discussion 
in the CEC and Polcom. This is the question." 

Cannon: "These questions we have been having are all right. They 
have their value. But we should not think that unanimity is neces- 
sary for having unity. I do not like to see the same majority all the 
time in the Polcom. We cannot continue a closed group and at 
the same time dissolve other groups." He had the same problem 
when he was a member of the old majority. It isn't so easy to deal 
with Foster on the question of groupings. Says if we had dealt 
with the group problem in the way he suggested it would have 
been possible for us to dissolve the Foster group. We being the 
majority must take certain advances. We must depend more on 
certain agreements as to the main line in order to maintain our 
leadership. Believes that factionalism is played out and the party 
will not stand for anyone starting a factional fight. 

Ruthenberg: Weisbord reported the same reaction of the party to 
factionalism as you mention. 

5 While in Moscow attending the Seventh Plenum of the ECCI in November- 
December 1926, Bittelman had written a document entitled "Points to Be Dealt 
with in Letter by Presidium to American Party." The document detailed 14 points, 
including a critique of the party's handling of the Passaic strike. Evidently Earl 
Browder, who was resident in Moscow at the time, helped to draft the document. 
There was no American Commission convened in connection with the Seventh 
Plenum, and the ECCI apparently rejected Bittelman's critique. 

388 Early Years of American Communism 

Cannon: Generally these are true but it depends who will start the 
factional fight. Categorically declares he rejects the theory of he- 
reditary leadership in the party. Claims that Foster and we have 
this conception of leadership. 

Ruthenberg: Declares he was the only one to be against this group 
method of working but today he has changed his mind as a mat- 
ter of self-defense. 

Cannon: Declares that if we had dropped our closed organization 
then Foster would not have been able to maintain his opposition. 
Foster himself is a practical fellow and would then have to come 
along since he would lose support and would see that he has no 
possibility of getting anything out of maintaining an opposition. 

Ruthenberg: Such a hope is the basis of Foster's present attack. 

Cannon: Declares that the dominating viewpoint in the Ruthen- 
berg group is the factional control of the party. Emphasizes that 
he has been very peaceful. 

Ruthenberg: Tells Cannon that we are planning a conference with 
Foster to discuss the same problems. "Foster's fight or anybody 
else's fight today would not be a fight to correct the errors of the 
CEC but to replace the CEC on the basis of factional issues. We 
will face such methods frankly and use our power if necessary." 

Cannon: Doesn't agree that party is facing the alternative of 
Ruthenberg group or the Foster group. Believes in collective 
leadership. All comrades having ability should contribute. Doesn't 
agree to the theory of four comrades in the Polcom constituting 
the leadership in the party. Feels he has ideas but is discouraged 
by the fact that he feels that he must always convince four or 
lose. 6 We are operating on a group basis, therefore we have been 
narrowing the apparatus. Fights the Shklar appointment and bit- 
terly criticizes the method of getting him elected district organ- 
izer in Boston. 

Ruthenberg: There are two roads before the party. One is the test 
of power, two is the group working together. The last Polcom 

6 The Political Committee at the time consisted of seven members: Ruthenberg, 
Lovestone, Bedacht, Gitlow, Foster, Bittelman and Cannon. 

Cannon-Ruthenberg Conference 389 

meeting was road number one. Such a situation would mean an 
early convention. It would mean a fight for power. If it becomes a 
fight for power we would fight. The second road would mean that 
we work out matters beforehand before coming to a Polcom 
meeting. Maybe it would be a good idea to have you, Foster and 
myself get together before a Polcom and lay a basis for agree- 
ment. The question is, will we have a convention without a fac- 
tional fight? A convention is necessary this year, within the next 
six months say. Can we come to an agreement beforehand? Can 
we work out in advance the organizational and political ques- 
tions? Perhaps it would be best if we had a general discussion in 
the CEC without new motions dealing with the whole situation. 

Cannon: Suggests that we first arrive at an agreement on the 
united front line. Criticizes our inner party line. Complains as to 
persecution of Fisher in the South Slavic case. 7 

Ruthenberg: This involves difficulties in removing other comrades 
who now have party work. If there would be an opening I have no 
objection to Fisher being placed. 

Lovestone: Emphasizes that all those opposed to the Central Exec- 
utive Committee or its policies should not be entrusted with seri- 
ous responsible party work. Opposition to CEC no qualification 
for work in our party. Fisher works overtime to destroy CEC. This 
means to create factionalism in the party. Such comrades should 
not be given work until they change their behavior. 

Cannon: "We have the question of the Finnish secretary. Your 
tactics in the Finnish Federation will bring about a break between 
the center and left bloc. This will strengthen the right." 

Ruthenberg: Declares the same Finnish Bureau as elected at last 
Finnish conference stands. No new majority was created. CEC 
does not actually have the majority of the Bureau. 

7 According to a report by the 1925 Parity Commission there were two warring 
groups in the South Slavic Federation, the Fisher group and the Novak group. 
The Fisher group supported the Foster-Cannon faction while the Novak group, 
which had a majority on the Federation Bureau, supported the Ruthenberg fac- 
tion. The Bureau majority removed Fisher as editor of the Federation paper, 
Radnik, and tried to drum him out of the organization. For more details see the 
Cannon-Weinstone "Theses on the Party Factional Situation," pp. 437-438. 

390 Early Years of American Communism 

Bedacht: Cannot see any difference between what Cannon calls a 
left and a center in the Finnish Federation. Says Cannon works 
mechanically on the center idea. Our experiences and the CI's 
attitude show that it is a correct policy at the outset in establishing 
these big workers clubs to have the same secretary handle the 
work of the fraction and the clubs. We must control through the 

Cannon: Criticizes the procedure through which the Finnish 
Workers Club secretary choice was arrived at. We cannot measure 
the Finnish Federation with the same standards that we measure 
other federations of the party. They are not so well developed. We 
cannot lead the Finnish Federation with Goose Caucus elements. 
You will not isolate the right wing in that way. 

Bedacht: "What do you mean by your collective leadership con- 
cept?" Examines the theory of taking chances. Is not correct 
position. It is not for the leading group to take chances. If they 
make a mistake no one can rectify it. It means the whole party 
makes a mistake. That is a mechanical viewpoint. Theoretically 
the minority has nothing to lose. It should be the one to take 
chances. (Cannon interrupts: "I disagree with your idea that you 
have the responsibility of the party.") "Yes, we have. We have 
shown that we can avoid factionalism. Let us discuss the whole 
question of leaders thoroughly. Is your formless collective leader- 
ship possible or desirable? This is wrong. It is an anti-Leninist 
concept. In such a collective leadership there must be an out- 
standing general line." Declares he is convinced by objections of 
Foster's at the last plenum, also by many of his writings, that he is 
not a Leninist, that he is not a Marxist. "Do you want his line to 
be outstanding in the collective leadership?" Declares that he is 
convinced that a collective leadership with Foster's hegemony 
would be bad for the party. It is an undesirable condition for the 
party leadership, therefore the collective leadership slogan you 
raise does not meet the case. Agrees that a closed group is not 
good. Reminds Cannon of conference he held with him in 1922 
returning from Moscow for the need of a real group leadership. 
Group leadership is not necessarily exclusive. That is the kind of 
group leadership we want. 

Cannon: Don't let us discuss this too abstractly. 

Cannon-Ruthenberg Conference 391 

Bedacht: No, I am discussing very concretely. The issue is Foster 
vs. Ruthenberg. The name is not a question. The question is 

Cannon: What is the difference but your practice always works out 
factional. The Ruthenberg group in my opinion is not a finished 
product. It has contradictory elements within it. It has some indis- 
pensable elements in it. I cannot conceive a party leadership 
without you three comrades. Some are useful only negatively. You 
have negative elements in your group. The useful tendency 
should be towards a fusion of all those qualified for leadership in 
the party. Only in such a situation can we avoid factionalism. He 
does not consider Puro, Minor or Engdahl seriously for leader- 
ship. As long as we maintain a rigid line such amalgamation is 
impossible. Believes the Committee has gone backwards since the 
Sixth Plenum. Does not believe in factional fight as a solution. 
Dynastic struggles for power of the kind we have had is no road 
for the party to travel. Suppose Foster gets a majority — this is no 
solution. In New York we have had progress towards real unity. 
New forces are developing in the party for leadership. The real 
task for the party leadership is consciously to foster this process of 
merger and fusion of the best elements. Until recently we have 
had no differences except as to inner line but recently we have 
been developing differences with you on the united front policy. 
This is due to the fact that you yield to pressure from your nega- 
tive elements. Believes that our strength in the party is based on 
many language blocs that have a leftist outlook such as the South 
Slavic fraction. One of the great weaknesses of the Ruthenberg 
group is that it is based too much on these elements. It is true 
that the leftists have no leadership. You comrades are no ultraleft- 
ists but the leftists tend to throw their support to you. Your unity 
with us was a forward step because it tended to counterbalance 
these elements in your lines. Your disunity with us was bad, that is 
why the federation blocs could not stand for your unity with us. 
The ultraleftists may have no leadership, but by attaching them- 
selves to other groups they can exercise pressure on these groups 
and question their policies. 

Lovestone: We will continue this discussion later. 
Meeting adjourned. 

For the Liquidation of Factionalism 

6 May 1927 

The following is an unpublished transcript of a speech by Cannon to a 
plenum of the Workers Party's Central Executive Committee. As part of 
the factional maneuvering following C.E. Ruthenbergs death, jay Love- 
stone delayed the convening of this plenum as long as he could, knowing 
that Cannon and William Weinstone had won William Z. Foster's agree- 
ment to vote for Weinstone as party secretary. Rather than submit to the 
new Cannon-Weinstone-Foster CEC majority, Lovestone and his factional 
lieutenant Benjamin Gitlow fled the plenum early in order to hurry to 
Moscow to seek support for Lovestone 's own bid for party leadership. The 
Comintern had requested that the party send a delegation to Moscow to 
discuss the party factional situation and to participate in the upcoming 
Eighth Plenum of the ECCI. 

Comrade Chairman and Comrades: 

I think it should be agreed by everybody that the plenum of 
the Central Committee, which was so long deferred, has already 
proven to be of great value for the party, particularly in this 
respect — and this is the most important thing of all — that it has 
established more clearly the political attitude of the various 
groups and comrades in the Central Committee and their per- 
spectives on the future work, and it is possible now for us to 
approach the problem of unity and leadership with more knowl- 
edge of how we are to proceed. 

I wish to say on behalf of those comrades with whom I am 
associated, and who hold the same views, comrades Weinstone, 
Dunne, Ballam, Abern, Swabeck, Reynolds and Gomez, that on 
our part, we have a clearer perception of the party situation and 
of the attitude of the various groups than we had before and we 
are in a better position now to determine our attitude towards 
them. This applies with particular reference to the majority of the 


Speech to End Factionalism 393 

Polcom, which has been going through a process of reorientation 
in the period of recent weeks and months, and which has estab- 
lished at the plenum its new line more clearly. 

Our attitude towards the question of party leadership and 
towards party unity is naturally regulated and determined by the 
things which have been established in this plenum and about 
which I will speak in the course of my remarks. 

Our attitude expressed previously remains fundamentally the 
same, modified and adapted to the developments of the plenum. 

I would like to take up first of all, in order to make our own 
position clear on the various points, the question of the "offen- 
sive against the party and our tasks," and try to establish some 
perspectives on the future development. I believe both the other 
groups have been somewhat deficient in this respect. 

What is this drive against the party and the left wing, and 
what is its relation to the general struggle between the workers 
and the capitalists? What is the meaning of the united front 
between the government, the employers, the labor bureaucracy 
and the Socialist Party? 

On the part of the bureaucrats I think we can all agree that it 
is on the one hand an attempt to divert the attention from their 
own bankruptcy as leaders of the workers and that they are acting 
in this whole situation as agents of the capitalists. It is essential for 
us to see the situation, not as a static affair, but to see it as a pro- 
cess, and look in this very process for the perspective of new 
struggles and new alignments which will create new bases of oper- 
ation for the party. 

It is a part of the "worker-employer cooperation" policy by 
means of which the bureaucracy aim first of all to maintain their 
own positions; secondly, to remove those elements who fight to main- 
tain the unions and maintain the position gained by the workers in the 
previous period from 1919 and the war; thirdly, it is a move to evade 
the implications and consequences of the attack of the capitalists 
on the unions. Likewise, it is undeniable that the successes of the 
party in the organization of the unorganized, in conducting 
strikes, in Passaic, in United Mine Workers, needle trades, etc., 
have given impetus to this drive against the party. 

We do not see the bureaucrats as a homogenous body 
engaged in direct and permanent contractual relations with the 

394 Early Years of American Communism 

bosses. We see them also under the pressure of a process in which 
they are confronted with certain alternatives. Under the pressure 
of the general drive of the capitalists against the unions, the 
bureaucrats are confronted with the alternative of surrendering 
entirely all struggles against the capitalists and of entrenching 
themselves more securely in the various business enterprises of 
the unions, or of preparing and organizing the resistance against 
the open shop campaign of the bosses. 

They are confronted with a contradiction in this sense, that 
regardless of their desire to come to an agreement with the 
bosses, the bosses are not always ready to come to an agreement 
with them to establish "stable" class collaboration relations 
between the unions and the bosses. The bosses are much more 
"unreasonable" than the bureaucrats and are not willing to stop 
at the point of "class collaboration." Their drive against the 
unions goes ahead, and in this process, under pressure of the 
masses, even the blackest reactionaries are compelled to make 
certain gestures of struggle. 

For example, the situation in the United Mine Workers of 
America. The open fight of the operators against the miners 
union is a part of this whole campaign. It is impossible to get a 
clear picture of the drive against the party and the left wing with- 
out taking into account this fact, that despite the willingness of 
Lewis to come to "class collaboration" agreement with the opera- 
tors, the latter have launched an offensive directly against the 
union. The fight against the party and left wing is an inextricable 
part of the fight against the unions. 

Take the automobile campaign, decided upon by the AFL 
convention, even though it was a mere gesture. Consider the fact 
that the AFL Executive Council rejected the affiliation of the 
Passaic strikers, and then was compelled to reverse this decision at 
the convention of the AFL under the pressure of the masses. 
These things show, comrades, that the bureaucrats are not able to 
act as a homogenous body with a clear and definite orientation 
and policy, but that they themselves are in the midst of a demoral- 
ization and disorganization as a general result of the attack of the 
bosses which began against the unions in 1922. The offensive 
against the Communists and the left wing by the bureaucrats 
serves as a smokescreen, behind which they intend to carry out 
their retreat before capital. It is further designed to break the 

Speech to End Factionalism 395 

morale of the rank and file and thus make it easier to consum- 
mate their program of surrender and impose it on the unions. It 
also serves, in this stage of American imperialism, as the basis of 
the united front between the capitalists, the government and the 
reactionary bureaucrats against all fighting elements in the trade 
union movement. 

This confronts the party, as all must agree, with the necessity 
of increasing the trade union work and organizing a broad left 
wing. Everyone who speaks will say that. The problem is not 
merely that the party has the will to do this and adopts or pro- 
poses certain things more or less obviously necessary, such as 
organization of the unorganized and so on. The important thing 
for us here in the plenum is to establish, insofar as we can, what 
features of this fight against the party and the left wing in them- 
selves create a contradiction which will assist the work of the party 
in organizing the unorganized and creating a broad left wing. 

It is necessary to understand that within the camp of the 
bureaucrats there is not a unanimous policy. There is a certain 
lack of enthusiasm for the fight in certain sections of the "upper 
strata" of the labor movement and its officialdom. We know, and 
it is reported here by comrade Lovestone, correctly I think, that 
Green has shown a somewhat more wavering policy than that of 
Woll. We know such people as Maurer, Brophy, etc., are in no 
way enthusiastic supporters of this policy and that the general 
weakness of the fight, the lack of funds, etc., shows that it has not 
yet been possible to mobilize the complete united strength of the 
labor officialdom in this fight against us. What we maintain is that 
the dialectics of this struggle are opening new possibilities for the 
party and it is from this standpoint that we make special criticism 
against the resolution of the Polcom, which, we think, has not 
sufficiently established this. First of all, the misgivings, lack of 
enthusiasm, wavering and even opposition in certain sections of 
the bureaucracy in itself creates possibilities for the party to 
maneuver. But more important is the fact that the developing 
offensive against the unions and the resultant struggles will create 
new bases for the broadening of the left wing. They will bring 
new masses of workers into the struggle and will therefore be 
the means, if properly exploited, by which this attack against the 
party and the left wing will be defeated and a broader left wing 

396 Early Years of American Communism 

Let us consider for a moment the effects of this drive on the 
bureaucrats. The blackest section of the bureaucracy, which is 
collaborating so openly with the bosses and the government, is 
giving up all possibilities of leading any struggles of the workers 
against the employers, but this is not by any means stopping the 
struggle. The direct struggle of the employers against the workers 
proceeds, as we see, for example, in the United Mine Workers. 
We see Lewis on the one hand, and Brophy on the other hand. 
We see new alignments and struggles looming up inevitably in 
America on a broader scale than ever before. 

We do not see this merely in fantasy, but in facts which have 
been reported. The facts, for example, that in the United Mine 
Workers convention in Illinois the left wing and the progressive 
delegates have shown an unexpected strength, in the fact that the 
possibility has arisen in recent days of creating a new movement 
in the miners union on the basis of a fight against the fraudulent 
election practices of Lewis and on the basis of a claim that the 
presidency belongs to Brophy. The Political Committee had suffi- 
cient facts to adopt a policy calling for a reconstitution of the left 
and progressive committee around Brophy on the issue of claim- 
ing the election in the United Mine Workers was stolen by Lewis, 
and of connecting this claim for presidency by Brophy with the 
bringing forward in an aggressive way of the strike policy of the 
progressive bloc. One must be dull indeed, and pessimistic be- 
sides, not to see the dynamic possibilities in the present situation 
in the UMW. 

Here we come to sharp issue with the majority of the Polcom 
from the standpoint of their lack of perspective on this situation. 
I want to refer now to the differences which arose on this ques- 
tion in the Polcom. In this union which is engaged in a life and 
death struggle against the bosses, in which the bosses are driving 
to destroy the union, wherein there is a movement growing in 
the rank and file, where possibilities exist to recreate the leader- 
ship of the progressive bloc on a broader basis than before, we 
brought forward the idea, rather comrade Foster brought forward 
the proposition, that we should get this movement under way at 
once, with the objective of a conference of the left wing. 

Now, is there anything Utopian about the idea that we should 
aim for a conference of the left wing in the miners union? I say 
that in a union engaged in such a life and death struggle, in a 

Speech to End Factionalism 397 

union where we claim a majority voted for the opposition, and 
with the new ferment now going on, a conference of the progres- 
sive bloc should be regarded as an elementary aim to strive for. 
The Polcom could not see this. 1 

I will refer to the discussion as I recall it. We spoke of a con- 
ference of the left wing as an objective. The Polcom, with its new 
orientation, which I do not hesitate to say is a right orientation, 
rose up in alarm at the proposition. Despite the fact that the 
proposal did not provide for the calling of a conference but mere- 
ly for the perspective of a conference, despite the fact that it was 
qualified by several motions, two by Foster and another one by 
me, that the actual calling of the conference was to be decided 
upon later, we met with a tremendous barrage of resistance from 
the majority of the Polcom. 

We think this attitude is directly connected with their lack of 
perspective in the development of the process of this fight. We 
believe this attitude shows a lack of a grasp of the dynamics of this 
fight against the left wing as part of the fight against the unions. 
We were treated there by comrade Wolfe to an analogy between 
calling a conference of the left wing — and I repeat that the call- 
ing of a conference of the left wing only marks the elementary 
stage of the real fight against the bureaucrats — comrade Wolfe 
drew an analogy between our proposal and talk of developing a 

1 Throughout 1923-26 John L. Lewis had engaged in a concerted campaign to 
destroy the substantial TUEL influence in the United Mine Workers. Communists 
and their supporters had been expelled from the union in droves. In April 1926 
the UMW Executive Board declared the Workers Party a "dual" organization. 
Any participation in party activities, including distribution of the Daily Worker, 
was grounds for expulsion. Lewis was afraid of losing control of the union: the 
annual UMW convention was postponed until after union elections called for 
December 1926. 

With most leading party members purged from the union, Jay Lovestone had 
approached dissident District 2 leader John Brophy through his assistant, Powers 
Hapgood. The Communists agreed to support Brophy's candidacy for union presi- 
dent on a "Save the Union" ticket, while keeping the Workers Party and its poli- 
tics in the background. Nonetheless, Lewis waged a vicious redbaiting campaign 
against Brophy and declared himself the victor in the election by a substantial 

Johnstone, Lovestone and Dunne constituted the "Committee of 3" which led 
the Workers Party intervention at the UMW convention in early 1927. Thirty-seven 
party members were convention delegates, most of them from District 5. The in- 
tervention was discussed at the Political Committee meeting of 27 January 1927, 


398 Early Years of American Communism 

demonstration into an armed insurrection. They seem to see the 
idea of a conference of the left wing in a union engaged in a life 
and death struggle, where we have a majority voting for the oppo- 
sition, and where the rank and file is in ferment — they see that as 
a Utopia. For my part, I do not characterize that reaction as a part 
of the leftism of the past year. On the contrary, I think it shows 
on one hand not only lack of perspective on the processes at 
work, but it shows fundamentally something even more danger- 
ous, a lack of faith in the masses, a lack of faith that the miners, 
under pressure of a life and death fight, will find ways and means 
to break through the iron ring of the reactionaries and hold an 
elementary conference of their own forces. 

While we have always opposed premature conferences, fake 
conferences and things of that sort, we do not consider the idea 
of a conference of the left wing in the UMW as a remote or Uto- 
pian idea, by any means. It is the duty of a Communist leadership, 
surveying the conditions as they really are, to see this perspective 
and drive towards it. 

We see the starting of a process of differentiation in the 
bureaucracy. We do not see this differentiation so clearly now as 
we will see it later. Some of the bureaucrats, under the pressure 
of the masses, will be compelled to take part in the fight against 
the bosses to maintain the unions and even to help us to organize 

where Johnstone complained that "instead of us criticizing the progressives, they 
criticized us in a progressive meeting for not fighting hard enough. And our frac- 
tion didn't." Johnstone also complained that Brophy, while "close to us," also did 
not fight hard enough against Lewis. 

Despite this, the Polcom generally agreed with Lovestone that this had been 
"the most important trade union convention that has been held in years," and 
they resolved to continue the campaign against the Lewis leadership. While the 
Communists claimed massive vote fraud in the UMW elections, Brophy was still 
loath to confront Lewis in the convention's aftermath. Lovestone wanted to main- 
tain the alliance with Brophy at any cost, but Foster argued in the Political 
Committee meeting of 8 April 1927 that "our entire orientation in the mining 
situation must be changed towards Howat's type rather than towards Brophy." 

Eventually Brophy agreed to a campaign to challenge the UMW election results. 
Foster's motions establishing the campaign, submitted to the Political Committee 
meeting on 5 May 1927, included one that "we proceed to develop sentiment 
against Lewis with the end of eventually calling an open conference of the UMW 
provided the course of the movement would indicate that such a conference 
would be justified." The Lovestone majority voted down this motion. They also 
voted down Cannon's amendment stipulating that the decision to call the confer- 
ence be made later. 

Speech to End Factionalism 399 

the unorganized. Others will go still further the other way and 
this will create new alignments, new problems for our work, and 
new possibilities. Basing ourselves always fundamentally upon the 
masses, we can, at the same time, to a certain extent, find allies in 
the bureaucracy, and make use of them. 

We maintain that if anyone stands here in this plenum and 
says that he can give a complete, precise, correct line for our 
party in this situation, he is deceiving himself. We have no real 
orientation on these problems of our trade union work. We have 
not sufficiently studied the means and methods of penetrating the 
entrenched unions under the new conditions. 

We do not yet know enough about the different policies of 
the bureaucrats, as we have learned in the debate here. There are 
differences between them. We have Lovestone on the one hand 
speaking on the differences of orientation in the Executive Coun- 
cil of the AFL. We do not see anything about this in the resolu- 
tion. We have heard other comrades express views about it. So we 
are really only beginning to get an approach to this problem. 

We do not know enough about the whole situation, and one 
of the reasons is that this is the first time in six months that we 
have had a plenum of the party. There is another reason why we 
were not sufficiently oriented, that is the faction situation in the 
party, which hampers objective inquiry and discussion. 

I maintain that the situation in the labor movement — the 
changes that take place, the growth of class collaboration, the 
drive of the bosses against the workers' unions directly, as well as 
the drive against the left wing and Communists — this represents a 
turning point in the American labor movement, and consequently a turn- 
ing point in our party work in the unions. 

We do not have sufficient orientation on these new tasks. 
What are the reasons for that? First of all, the unstable situation 
in the party and the unstable leadership which cannot provide 
normal processes of discussion. Second, the factional situation in 
the party, which is evident in spite of the optimistic assurance 
given by the majority of the Polcom, and for which the majority of 
the Polcom is primarily responsible. We have a situation in the 
party where the real political discussions take place in caucuses 
instead of in the regular party organs. This is the first time in 
six months that we have aired the problems before the party 

400 Early Years of American Communism 

We are only now beginning. We have no material, no discus- 
sion. Can you imagine, comrades, in the circumstances of the 
party's great strike experiences of the past year, we have had no 
real survey of our shortcomings in the needle trades situation? 
There we have the most serious, complicated and difficult prob- 
lem, not only in regard to the attack on the party as a whole, but 
also in regard to the internal situation of the party in the needle 
trades work. Our position has been weakened in this tremendous 
fight by reason of the fact that many of the leading comrades of 
the party in the needle trades have a clear and definite opportun- 
ist deviation and they are sheltered in it by the majority of the 

That is one of the most serious phases of the offensive against 
us in the needle trades. Our leading staff in the needle trades has 
rightist tendencies, yet there is not sufficient discussion and criti- 
cism, not sufficient struggle against it. And for this the majority 
of the Polcom is directly responsible. Let me take up for you a 
series of incidents in this connection which I think the plenum 
should know about and which the comrades of the majority of the 
Polcom ought to explain: 

First of all, we had, out of a clear sky, a short time ago a 
change in the administration of our committee in the needle 
trades. 2 I want to give a picture of four stages of development 
which have helped undermine our position in the fight against 
the bureaucrats in the needle trades. 

First stage: the removal of comrade Zack as secretary of the 
Needle Trades Committee. When I cite this I don't want to asso- 
ciate myself entirely with the point of view of comrade Zack. I do 
not agree with him on some questions of tactics and I think the 
whole party knows this; but I recognize in Zack a comrade who 
wants to fight for the party against those who want to undermine 
the party and weaken it for their own purposes in the needle 
trades. He was removed on the ground that he could not get the 
cooperation of the opportunistically inclined leading comrades in 
the needle trades. 

Second, against the alternative proposal to create a secretariat 
of three, which I supported, we were confronted with the appoint- 

2 See note 2, page 384. 

Speech to End Factionalism 401 

ment of comrade Gitlow, who apparently was acceptable to the 
opportunistic comrades in the needle trades, at least he was nomi- 
nated by them. 

The third development was that this whole group of oppor- 
tunistic comrades in a body joined the Lovestone caucus in the 
party in recent weeks and have become enthusiastic promoters of 
comrade Lovestone's candidacy for general secretary of the party. 

Fourth, there is no discussion or criticism against these com- 
rades in the needle trades, neither in the Polcom report nor 
resolutions. Instead they go back to August last year and pick 
out an isolated sentence, or rather half-sentence, of comrade 
Swabeck's report to a district meeting and serve it up in distorted 
form as the basis of the political discussion of the Polcom. I hope 
the Polcom reporters will take the time to answer and explain 
these quotations. 

We have had no discussion or evaluation of the Passaic strike. 
No examination of experiences, no conclusions drawn, no per- 
spective laid out, nothing except a foolish pamphlet by Weisbord, 
and still more foolish speeches by Weisbord. All this is part of our 
lack of orientation. And when we take into account our position 
as the leaders and guiding spirits of the left wing, the critical 
situation of the labor movement as a whole, when we realize that 
what we do and what we decide and the tactics that we pursue 
may determine to a large extent the course of the labor move- 
ment itself, we must realize that it is time for us to begin serious 
work of orientation on trade union problems. 

I said that the capitalists are not ready to accept class collabo- 
ration. The capitalists want the open shop and the elimination of 
the unions, and it is the greatest error to regard class collabo- 
ration as a fixed and final stage in this development. You want 
evidence of that? Take the miners union, the garment workers 
union, the lockout of the plumbers union in Brooklyn; take the 
fact that here in Chicago one of the largest printing plants 
employing 300 printers went to an open shop basis in recent 

The fact of the matter is that the logic of the class struggle is 
entirely against any stable relations between capital and labor, and 
when the unions surrender a fighting policy in favor of class col- 
laboration, they only give the bosses ground for new encroach- 
ments. This has already begun and is to be seen in the instance I 

402 Early Years of American Communism 

have pointed out. But the Polcom evidently does not see it 
because in their resolution they point out no such perspective or 
possibilities of this development. 

All we have from the Polcom is a black picture of pessimism. 
Our work is more difficult than ever! Not a ray of light ahead! 
The Polcom shows a tremendous weakness in this resolution from 
that standpoint. 

They do not see the whole picture. They mention the drive of 
Lewis against the party and left wing in the UMW, but evidently 
they do not see as part of the same process the drive of the bosses 
against the UMW which in itself is creating the base for the broadening 
of the organization of the left xving. Lewis tried in every way to come 
to an agreement with the bosses for class collaboration agree- 
ments. He has made eleven different and important concessions 
in the past four years in order to establish "stable relations" with 
the bosses. For example, he began the war on the Communists in 
1923. He took all class struggle phraseology out of the union's 
constitution, he abolished the checkoff in Anthracite and smug- 
gled a form of arbitration into the agreement. In the last negotia- 
tions he offered district agreements. The open attack against the 
union and the lockout is the answer of the bosses to all of these 
overtures of Lewis. 

I deny that class collaboration represents a fixed stage in the 
struggle. It represents only a stage in a process. Now the bureauc- 
racy, in our opinion, is before the alternative of giving up the 
position of the unions entirely or taking up the defensive and 
even an offensive struggle. And herein we want to state the point 
of view that the tactics of the bureaucracy and reactionary workers 
will not be uniform by any means. 

Some of the bureaucrats will unquestionably be compelled 
under pressure of the masses to take a stand which will be a ges- 
ture of struggle. And this in itself will create new possibilities 
which we can exploit in our work for the organization of the 
unorganized and the broadening of the left wing. These processes 
will work somewhat like that attitude of Brophy in the United 
Mine Workers union. The attitude of Brophy is an illustration 
of it. 

And we also are of the opinion, on the basis of the fact that 
the capitalists will not stop with the class collaboration agree- 

Speech to End Factionalism 403 

ments, but will proceed from there to direct attacks on many of 
the unions, besides other factors making for movement in the 
masses, we are of the opinion that a new period of strike activity 
will begin. 

A whole new situation will open up and prospects will appear 
which the resolution of the Polcom does not deal with at all. It 
leaves only a pessimistic and negative outlook. 

On the trade union work of the party, I want to make a few 
remarks. Factionalism in the party and the lack of criticism has 
greatly affected this work. As a result of the general lack of orien- 
tation we are quite often a step behind and do not see clearly the 
implications of the fights we undertake. 

We do not see clearly the implications of the needle trades 
situation, the general offensive, the miners conference, etc. 
There has been a lack of examination and revision of the steps we 
have taken. We work too much on the basis of formulae instead 
of dialectic processes of struggle. We have been confining our- 
selves to mere dogmatic denunciations of the class collaboration 
schemes and do not occupy ourselves sufficiently with the positive 
methods of struggle against it. 

I want to make certain criticisms of the TUEL, and in making 
them I want to emphasize the fact that I make them from no 
factional attitude. First of all we reject absolutely the position that 
the situation we are in, the attitude of the bureaucracy and disap- 
pearance of radical unions, the trend of the labor movement to 
the right, dictates a TUEL comprising merely Communists and 

On the contrary, our analysis of the symptoms and perspec- 
tives point in the opposite direction. We see forces at work in 
addition to our own wishes, making for new alignments and new 
struggles, creating bases for a broader TUEL. We have to prepare 
ourselves for that. We must understand the dialectic processes at 
work in the labor movement and base our plans upon them. We 
must work for a broader left wing to include all elements who will 
fight to preserve and modernize the unions as fighting organs 
against capital. 

The dividing line between lefts and progressives must not be 
dogmatic and schematic. The real test is action more than formal 
program. The whole distinguishing characteristic of the entire 

404 Early Years of American Communism 

movement of opposition outside of the Communist Party is the 
lack of clearness and consistency. The test is struggle and action. 
Furthermore, in recruiting the left wing and in establishing the 
line of demarcation between the left and progressive elements, we 
must distinguish between leaders and on the basis of their actions 
more than on the basis of their formal programs. And by all 
means we have to distinguish between leaders and workers in 
recruiting our left wing in the trade union movement and apply a 
different criterion to them. Here also the real test is action. 

Again I emphasize the fact that the criticism I make is from a 
general party viewpoint, and not from a factional viewpoint. I 
believe that the TUEL is too narrow from the standpoint of the 
labor movement at present. I believe we put too much emphasis 
on schematic formulations, not enough on the dynamics of the 
struggle. I believe there is too strong a tendency to seek the divid- 
ing line which excludes workers from the left wing and not 
enough in the opposite direction, that is, to find the workers 
whom we can make qualified for the left wing. We must work out 
tactics for the fight against class collaboration, within the frame- 
work of class collaboration, in those industries where it is in 

Finally, I am going to make still more serious criticism. The 
TUEL is not only too narrow from the standpoint of the labor 
movement, but the TUEL is too narrow from the standpoint of 
the party. The party as a whole is not in the TUEL enough, and 
you may apply the blame and the criticism for this wherever you 
will. You may say that on the one hand there is a coolness or lack 
of enthusiasm for the TUEL in some sections of the party. On the 
other hand there is a certain monopolistic attitude on the part of 
some other comrades in regard to the TUEL work. I believe this 
is fatal to the TUEL. I believe that no program, however correct, 
will be able to make the TUEL the organ which it must and can 
become until the party as a party, much more than now, is inside 
of the TUEL and functioning in its apparatus. Factional passivity 
is equally fatal. A monopolistic attitude on the part of some com- 
rades and passivity of other sections of the party — each of these 
spell death to the TUEL and any difference of attitude in the 
party towards the TUEL, regardless of who is correct from a 
formal standpoint, means isolation of the TUEL from the party 

Speech to End Factionalism 405 

membership, means the stagnation of the TUEL. 

I think that the TUEL and its apparatus, as well as the trade 
union apparatus of the party, must become much more the con- 
cern of the party as a whole. In that, a certain decision of the CI 
on the division of labor has laid down a correct line. The basis is 
correct from an immediate standpoint, but from the standpoint of 
a permanent situation it is wrong. It should be the conscious aim 
of the party in its development to completely pass over this period 
of any division between political work and trade union work. 

We are opposed to all theories and practices of a special trade 
union group in the party as well as all the implications of such a 

I want to go over the report of the Polcom and the resolution 
of the Polcom and to make the remark that I made before, that 
comrade Lovestone, in his analysis on the question of the united 
front, has not only abandoned the entire leadership of comrade 
Ruthenberg. He has not only thrown overboard the somewhat 
leftist orientation of the Polcom but has bent the stick backward. 
I agree with those comrades who have drawn the conclusion that 
the Polcom today in its orientation has a different line from the 
Polcom of the past year. This is established both in the meetings 
of the Polcom and in this plenum discussion and resolution. 

I believe this resolution, when compared with comrade Love- 
stone's speech, represents a contradiction. I believe that this reso- 
lution, when compared with comrade Lovestone's speech, is an 
illustration of the conflicting lines within the majority of the 
Polcom. I believe that in this resolution we do not see the same 
tendency as in the Lovestone line. I think that the majority of the 
Polcom has conflicting tendencies within it. If any comrade thinks 
I am in error, I hope he will explain and prove it. In the present 
majority of the Polcom there is a conflict of tendencies, which will 
grow more and more apparent as the work develops, between the 
old line of a year ago led by comrade Ruthenberg and comrade 
Bedacht, and the new line represented by comrades Lovestone 
and Wolfe. I make the statement here that the Polcom in the 
past year, on the question of the united front and a number of 
other questions, under the leadership of comrade Ruthenberg 
expressed theoretically most of all by comrade Bedacht, repre- 
sented a somewhat leftist orientation, and I maintain that since 

406 Early Years of American Communism 

the death of comrade Ruthenberg, under the leadership of com- 
rades Lovestone and Wolfe there is a bending of the stick back- 
ward. This is a most serious political statement, and nobody but a 
fool or a cynic can take this as a jest. Answer it politically and 
refute it if you can. 

We have other contradictions in the line of Bedacht and 
Lovestone. The conflict between the line of Bedacht and the line 
of Lovestone reminds us of the advice once given to a man in the 
Bible: "Don't let your right hand know what your left hand is 

We say there are errors in the resolution of the Polcom, basic 
errors. First of all, we say this resolution is pessimistic, in this 
sense — that it gives no outlook, no perspective of new develop- 
ments and new struggles creating a basis for a broadening of the 
left wing of the organization. It says that our work is more diffi- 
cult than ever before under the drive against us. Speaking from a 
general standpoint, we say that is not correct. On the contrary, we 
say that the dialectics of the fight against the unions, of the drive 
against the Communists as a part of the drive against the unions, 
is in itself creating conditions and contradictions making more 
favorable the developments and the broadening of our left wing 
in the struggle. The resolution sees a static bureaucracy. We see a 
process of differentiation within the bureaucracy, in which are 
already indications of new alignments in the unions. You see 
growing difficulties in the work; we see growing possibilities. 

The contradiction between the report of Lovestone and the 
resolution of Bedacht is especially interesting on the question of 
differentiation within the bureaucracy. It is quite characteristic of 
comrade Lovestone that he should see these things and point out 
that they have already been shown to a certain extent in the 
Executive Council of the AFL, and it is likewise characteristic of 
comrade Bedacht that he did not see them. On this question, 
Lovestone is apt to see too much and Bedacht to see nothing. 

Comrade Bedacht makes a statement here in his resolutions 
about the bureaucracy. He says the trade union bureaucracy is the 
most powerful base of the capitalists in the labor movement. I 
want to know what this statement means. Do you mean to say that 
the trade union bureaucracy is a homogeneous static body which 
consciously serves as a basis of the capitalists? We say that this very 

Speech to End Factionalism 407 

bureaucracy will become instruments of the left wing against the 
capitalists in the fight to preserve the unions and for the organiza- 
tion of the unorganized. We point to the instances of Brophy and 
Maurer — and there are more Brophys and Maurers — who by our 
tactics and strategy have become instruments to fight in certain 
instances against the capitalists. 

The resolution does not see this. It is very characteristic that it 
is made by comrade Bedacht and not by comrade Lovestone. In 
the question of the left wing, this resolution of our Political Com- 
mittee says we must build a left wing. Well, I think we can take a 
vote and be unanimous on that point. We are all for the left wing 
and for the organization of the unorganized. But how are we 
going to build it and what forces are going to work on our side? 
On this the resolution is silent. Therefore the whole talk of the 
resolution dealing with the left wing is a hollow phrase. It does 
not show from where and in what dynamic process the left wing 
will be recruited and built on a broader basis. 

We do, and we reiterate our position that out of the very 
drive against the party and the left wing in the unions, there will 
be developed new bases for building the left wing, new align- 
ments, in which part of the very bureaucrats under the pressure 
of the masses will become instruments of the left wing. The reso- 
lution of the Polcom presented by comrade Bedacht paints only a 
picture of hardship, of difficulty, the blackest pessimism with no 
perspective, no analytical approach, while we on the contrary do 
see perspectives and draw conclusions from them. 

I want to go over to the speech of comrade Wolfe, and to 
preface my remarks on this point by saying that I was one of those 
here who listened with the greatest attention to the remarks of 
comrade Wolfe. I believe that comrade Wolfe, jointly with com- 
rade Lovestone if subordinate, is a bearer of the new orientation 
of our majority of the Polcom. And I listened very seriously and 
very attentively. I want to say, comrade Wolfe — and I wish the 
remarks I make here will be taken seriously with the understand- 
ing that I say them with a real feeling of responsibility. I am not 
here to make irresponsible charges or accusations. 

I say the speech of comrade Wolfe was one of the worst 
speeches I have listened to since the foundation of our party. I say 
that the foremost duty of a leader of the party is to be a teacher 

408 Early Years of American Communism 

of the party, that anyone, particularly an influential or able com- 
rade, who resorts to misrepresentation, who confuses issues, and 
who above all evades the serious political charges, such as those 
made by comrade Weinstone, and covers them up, as comrade 
Wolfe did, is misleading and confusing the party. 

Lenin said: "A demagogue is the greatest enemy of the work- 
ing class." And I say doubly, demagogy is the greatest danger to 
our party. 

I am going to answer the speech of comrade Wolfe point by 
point, and I will establish the thesis that it was not the speech of a 
political leader trying to clarify and explain and teach the com- 
rades, but it was the speech of a comrade trying to confuse and 
cover the issues, with evasions and demagogy. For this purpose I 
will take up the speech of comrade Wolfe point by point. 

First of all, comrade Wolfe said that comrade Foster does not 
want an alliance with comrade Weinstone, but the other way 
around, that Weinstone wants an alliance with comrade Foster. 
Comrade Wolfe knows that is not true. If it were true, there would 
be no reason to deny it. It is merely a clever attempt to transpose 
words and to confuse the real question of the relationship of the 
Foster group and the group of comrade Weinstone and myself. 
Comrade Wolfe knows that up to now the policy of our group has 
not been to seek an alliance with Foster. He knows on the other 
hand that Foster has made more or less open propositions for 
such an alliance. I do not say this as a criticism of comrade Foster. 
I am not one of those to put the Foster group in an outlaw cate- 
gory. I say the single consideration for a political relationship 
between our group and the Foster group, for closer cooperation, 
or even a combination of forces, is the question of the line of the 
party. That is the consideration. There is nothing personal about 
it. The political line is the deciding thing. I say, however, we 
will not trade off any principles for the sake of an alliance with 
comrade Foster. We will not say that we were "misled" into the 
old fight against Foster, as Lovestone said yesterday. We will take 
full political responsibility for our past attitude towards comrade 
Foster, and, furthermore, say that if the conditions arise for a 
principled fight with the Foster group in the future, as they did in 
the past, we will not evade it. Our attitude will be determined by 
their line. 

Speech to End Factionalism 409 

I maintain, comrade Wolfe, that you evaded and confused the 
real question presented by comrade Weinstone on the 1924 and 
1928 elections. On the one hand, Weinstone made the statement 
that if there is to be no mass labor party in 1928 and we all agree 
that chances for this are small, our party, while continuing natu- 
rally the fight for the labor party, must begin to orient to the idea 
that it must present its own candidates in the 1928 elections. 
Upon what does he base this proposition? On the theory that we 
will not put up a labor party ticket unless we have a mass basis for 
it. And then he made the serious accusation that the reason per- 
haps that Lovestone was silent on the question of our own candi- 
dates in 1928 was that, although he says that there are slight 
chances for a mass labor party, he would be willing to take a nar- 
row labor party, a MacDonald-Bouck labor party which he stood 
for in 1924. 

If you are performing your duty as a teacher of the party, you 
would explain whether this is so or not so. You would answer the 
serious accusation which you know, if it is true, will provoke a 
more serious, more determined struggle in the party. We fought 
with Lovestone on this question in the party and in Moscow, and 
he has never yet admitted he was wrong in wanting to support the 
Bouck-MacDonald "labor party" in 1924 instead of putting up 
our own candidates. We want to know whether you acknowledge 
it now or retreat from that position. When you say that it is too 
trivial to answer, you are evading a most serious question. If we 
cannot have a mass labor party in 1928, will you form a narrow 
labor party? You are duty bound to explain this thing. It is never 
too late to put forward our own ticket, but nevertheless it is never 
too early to foresee the probabilities and orient and prepare the 
party accordingly. 

I want to cite another illustration. The position presented by 
comrade Weinstone, as Wolfe knows, merely meant to prepare the 
party for an eventual actuality that we will have no mass labor 
party in 1928, which we all see now. You distort that into a prop- 
osition on the part of Weinstone to abandon the idea of a labor 
party. You know that if the prospects and possibilities exist for a 
labor party, Weinstone said we can orient ourselves and organize 
that sentiment. We are for that. When you compare Weinstone's 
statement, that if the prospects are against the formation of a 

410 Early Years of American Communism 

mass labor party in 1928 we must orient our party to put up its 
own ticket, with the Socialist Party's "day of mourning" for 
Sacco and Vanzetti, you are deliberately distorting and misrep- 
resenting the position of Weinstone. Such methods are responsi- 
ble for the fact that the party members do not get a clear 
teaching from the leaders of the party. They get only demagogy 
and misrepresentation. 

Weinstone said the majority of the Polcom is characterized by 
a lack of principle in its relations to the party. A most serious 
accusation indeed! I agree with him and I do not make this as a 
blank charge. I will give reasons, point by point. 

Why was "bourgeoisification" left out of the resolution? You 
must explain this. You have been going up and down the party 
since the death of comrade Ruthenberg with one of the most 
highly organized and venomous campaigns in the history of the 
party against Foster and "Fosterism" on the grounds that he 
advocates the idea that the American working class is becoming 
"bourgeoisified." This is a most serious political accusation and, 
if that is the case, you have to make it the center for discussion at 
the plenum and have the Foster group establish whether it is so 
or not. But when you came to the plenum apparently you were 
not quite sure what the situation would be between the groups, 
and consequently you were not quite sure what stand to take. 

You were not quite sure, although a very short while ago you 
had established as your principal line that the Lovestone group 
must unite with the so-called Cannon group to save the party 
from Foster and Fosterism. When this proposal failed to work out, 
you began to orient to the idea of uniting with Foster to save the 
party from Cannon. And that is why when you came to the ple- 
num you were not sure where to deal your blows and you forgot 
another principle and left out of your resolution the question of 
"bourgeoisification" about which you were so agitated in recent 
weeks. What is this but lack of principle? On the first day after the 
death of comrade Ruthenberg, Lovestone told me that we must 
unite against Foster because "we have not changed our attitude a 
bit about him." Yet in his speech yesterday, he threw away the 
fight against Fosterism and blamed it on Cannon. He said he was 
"misled" by Cannon. Why, to use some of the phraseology and 
terminology introduced in the plenum by comrade Gitlow, I 

Speech to End Factionalism 411 

would say the speech of comrade Lovestone was not flirtation with 
Foster. This was solicitation of Foster. And it is very unfortunate 
for comrade Lovestone that comrade Foster, if not in words, at 
least in attitude, repulsed these ardent advances so coldly and 

This is a serious charge that the Lovestone group is an un- 
principled group which changes from day to day in its attitude to 
the groups in the party. One day he denounces Foster and the 
next day he denounces Cannon and asks for unity with Foster 
against him. Explain that, if you can, and show us what principle 
is involved in these gyrations. 

Now I go on further, comrade Wolfe, and say that you resort- 
ed to misrepresentation and demagogy on the question of the 
united front. Comrade Weinstone said that we had many criti- 
cisms of the old Political Committee, before the death of comrade 
Ruthenberg, on the question of the united front. I say it here. I 
say that the tactics of the party in the past year established by the 
Polcom on the question of the united front showed a tendency 
towards the left, a tendency of putting the party forward as an 
organization with interests of its own, a tendency to demand that 
the party must be represented in its own name directly in all 
united fronts. 

We see Lovestone come here as representative of this Polcom 
and present an entirely different tactical line on the united front. 
We say that the line presented by comrade Lovestone cannot be 
criticized fundamentally. We say it is a change of line, a correc- 
tion of line. Comrade Weinstone made that charge and you, 
Wolfe, know that it is true. And you, Stachel, know that it is true, 
that it is a change of line. That our old criticisms on the united 
front of the past year do not apply to this line and we cannot 
honestly attack the line on the united front presented by Love- 
stone on the same basis that we did during the last year. But how 
do you educate the party? There is only one way of educating the 
party, and that is when you change a position, especially a posi- 
tion of the leadership of the party, you explain that change to the 
party and give the reasons, so that the party will understand it and 
not make the old errors again. Comrade Wolfe, you in your 
speech covered up this change. You did not acknowledge it or 
explain it, and you shifted the whole question to a discussion of 

412 Early Years of American Communism 

alleged personal errors of Weinstone. I say if everything you said 
against Weinstone were true, and if you brought in 20 more 
errors of Weinstone, you do not answer the fundamental charge 
which we ask you again to answer: that the Polcom has changed 
its line on the united front, that it has not given any reasons for 
it, that it has not explained it to the party and is covering it up 
and maintaining that there is no change. That is not Leninist 
leadership. That is lack of principle. 

Comrade Wolfe spoke about the "Nine Points" and men- 
tioned one of them and said that they had been abandoned. I can 
assure you, comrade Wolfe, that you have been too optimistic on 
this question. Later I will speak upon it. I just want to mention 
one point in passing, that Wolfe centered his attack upon the 
proposal to create in the Polcom an advisory committee of three, 
one from each group, to consider matters before decisions of the 
Polcom, to facilitate mutual agreements and modify the factional 
intensity. You attack this as though this were a crime against the 
party. I tell you, comrade Wolfe, that this point of the "Nine 
Points" you will yet adopt. In fact you have already adopted it, but 
not officially. Every time there is anything serious in the party you 
have to talk to a representative of the Foster group and a repre- 
sentative of our group. When you try to represent our proposal 
for an informal body, without powers, as setting up an instrument 
against the Polcom, you are distorting the question. And when 
you reject the idea of one of the Lovestone group, one of the 
Foster group, and one of our group meeting informally to discuss 
disputed questions, you are rejecting the idea of any attempt to 
find a common political line in the party. You are rejecting the 
idea of unity, no matter how much you speak about it. 

Something with respect to the party bulletin. You know that 
no one proposed a board to censor articles but merely to agree 
on the tone and character of them. You misrepresented that. You 
call that criminal hypocrisy. Our idea was to prevent the possi- 
bility of the discussion in the bulletin taking the form of 1924. 

In comrade Wolfe's speech, last night, we had a shocking 
spectacle of a party leader making the charge, before a roomful 
of comrades, many of them rank and file workers, that we are 
keeping you here so that you can't go out and do anti-war work! 
Such a speech as that would call forth a unanimous protest from 

Speech to End Factionalism 413 

the meeting in any Communist party that established the necessity 
of principled conduct of leaders. It is only because the party, as a 
result of so many months of factional fights, heterogeneous 
groupings, and corrupt factional practices, is so saturated with 
cynicism and lack of Communist approach to these questions that 
we could tolerate such a remark as that in a party meeting. Every- 
body in the party is for anti-war work and when you try to put us 
in such a position you resort to the lowest form of demagogy. 
Comrades, the task of the party leaders is to pull the party out of 
this morass and unify it and set it to its revolutionary task. One of 
the foremost tasks of the party is to establish the necessity of prin- 
cipled conduct of party leaders. That they do not corrupt the 
party, resort to demagogy, and confuse and misrepresent ques- 
tions to the party. That they have a principled line for which they 
work and when they change or correct it they explain it to the 
party. That is what is necessary in the party. 

I want to take up some of the criticisms made by the Foster 
group, particularly the Sacco-Vanzetti campaign. 3 On this ques- 
tion, in my opinion, the Foster group made a very, very serious 
error, the failure to take into account the concrete realities of the 
problems of the Sacco-Vanzetti movement. I believe that if we had 
agreed to the line of the Foster group on this question, the 
destruction of the ILD in the labor movement might easily have 
resulted. Here is the situation. It is not an ordinary issue which 
you can fight to your heart's content. It requires the most delicate 
and tactful approach. First of all, two men are in danger of death. 
They are not Communists, but anarchists. Their committee is 
composed of anarchists bitterly hostile to us and to a certain 

3 Within the Political Committee Bittelman and Foster were vocal opponents of 
the ILD's conduct in the Sacco and Vanzetti campaign in early 1927. After the 
Massachusetts Supreme Court rejected Sacco and Vanzetti's appeal in April, Bittel- 
man insisted that the party issue a national strike call. Cannon counterposed an 
ILD propaganda campaign, leading to a national Sacco and Vanzetti conference, 
and his proposal passed in the Political Committee meeting of April 7. But the 
anarchist-led Boston Sacco and Vanzetti defense committee refused to go along 
with a national conference. In the Political Committee meeting of 21 April 1927, 
Cannon deflected Foster and Bittelman's demands that there be a national confer- 
ence in any case, and more trade-union involvement in the campaign, by referring 
the issue to a subcommittee of Wolfe, Cannon and Foster. 

414 Early Years of American Communism 

extent under the influence of the worst enemies in the labor 

This committee is composed of elements politically hostile to 
the party and looking for the opportunity to destroy and discredit 
the party. And yet you propose that the ILD go over the head of 
this committee, giving this committee the slightest basis for the 
charge that we disrupt the movement. The whole reactionary 
labor press and the fakers would take up the hue and cry that the 
Communists are disrupting the movement. I believe the proposal 
of the Foster group would have led to the most serious conse- 
quences. If your proposition meant anything, it meant to go over 
the head of the Boston committee and organize a national confer- 
ence with or without their consent. This we cannot do under the 
present circumstances if we have any regard for realities. And 
when you finally qualified your motion by saying we should go as 
far as possible without an open break with the Boston committee, 
you abandoned the whole position, because that is the line we 
have been following. 

Now some of the criticisms made by the Foster group against 
the Polcom I agree with and some I disagree with. And I believe it 
is my duty to state those I do agree with as well as those that I 
disagree with, since we are aiming for clarification. We must have 
the perspective of unifying the leadership, for there is no point in 
concealing agreements or disagreements. If we are aiming toward 
unity on policy we must not overlook real difficulties or set up 
false ones. Our conception of the party is not a schematic combi- 
nation of two or more groups against others. It is the establish- 
ment, with the help of the CI, of a common line for collaboration 
of all leading and able comrades on the basis of the line. That is 
my idea and I am by no means one of those people who are com- 
pelled to change their attitude from day to day because I am 
looking for different combinations. 

I believe that when Foster stated that the majority of the 
Polcom opposed building the TUEL he was wrong. It is my hon- 
est opinion that since the return from Moscow a year ago, such a 
charge is unfounded. I think it is wrong for you to drag up issues 
which were considered before the last decision of the CI, because 
there will never be any way of finding a common ground if you 
do that. At the last session of the CI all the propositions were 

Speech to End Factionalism 415 

presented there. I say the right thing is to take that decision as a 
starting, because if you go back in the history of the party you 
will find differences on every issue, not only between groups but 
within groups. 

I do not believe that the Polcom has sabotaged the trade 
union work. I believe there was a real disposition on the part of 
the Polcom as a whole to support this work and I believe the 
party has been showing progress in trade union work because of 
that fact. 

I believe when he says we failed to build the left wing he 
makes a criticism that applies to all equally. Comrade Foster states 
that the Polcom is sabotaging Labor Unity. I believe that there was 
indifference and passivity. On the other hand, that Labor Unity is 
organized on a very narrow basis. And I believe that the decision 
to have Labor Unity up for discussion in the Polcom with the pros- 
pect of revamping and remodeling it, with the idea of mobilizing 
the party behind it, will be successful. Our attitude on the ques- 
tion of "bourgeoisification" — we have never made this the issue 
against Foster, because we have no documents or concrete proof 
of such an attitude of comrade Foster. If Foster stands for this, if 
it is established in a document, then you have something concrete 
to base your attack upon. But in the absence of presentation of 
any such point of view of "bourgeoisification" in a clear and 
definite form, we see no possibility to educate the party on the 
basis of rumors and gossip. Our discussions must proceed from 
the basis of established facts. The same rule should apply on the 
question of the famous "head-on collision" which comrade Foster 
raises as a counter-bogey to "bourgeoisification," and in much 
the same way. 

My recollection of this question, borne out by the records of 
the Polcom, is the following: At the first consideration of this 
question a wrong line was adopted but the decision was unani- 
mous. At the second meeting, Foster raised the question of 
reversing the position and I supported him. Comrade Ruthen- 
berg retreated from the former position and a new course was 

Do we have to fight over errors that are openly rejected and 
acknowledged? The fight over errors is only if somebody persists 
in them and develops a systematic line from them. We have got to 

416 Early Years of American Communism 

quit fighting in the party over errors which are corrected and 
done with. I would like to have here the speech of comrade Stalin 
against Zinoviev and Trotsky on this point. He said everybody 
makes errors. The errors you fight upon are those which are 
persisted in and developed into a line. When errors are made and 
dropped, then it is useless to continue to fight against the com- 
rades responsible. Otherwise you have a permanent factional 
fight. The fact that comrade Ruthenberg changed his position 
and that no one now defends the original motions is a sufficient 
reason to discontinue the controversy over them. 

I would like to say a few remarks about Akron. Akron was a 
case where errors were multiplied at a rate and speed of which 
comrade Amter alone would be capable. He showed such incom- 
petency for practical mass work that comrade Amter, in a nor- 
mally functioning party, would be relieved of that post and 
assigned to another one. If our Polcom majority were free from 
its own factional contradictions, they would support that point of 
view. Unfortunately, it is not free and the party, particularly the 
Akron section, must suffer. 

A few remarks on the criticism of our group. For a year and a 
half comrade Foster has been confronting us with a false accusa- 
tion. Ever since the "big split" in the old majority group, which 
in my opinion was a good split, which helped serve the cause of 
the unification of the party, and which comrade Lovestone objec- 
tively repudiated yesterday and which I will never repudiate — we 
have been confronted with the charge that we were against taking 
power in the unions. If there were no factionalism in the party 
such a ridiculous charge would never be made. I do not believe 
that Foster believes it. I want to say that I don't believe it. I don't 
believe that there is anybody in this room or in this party who is 
more in favor of taking power in the unions than we are. 

We are opposed to the fight for office for the sake of office, 
and particularly opposed to certain corrupt practices in the 
needle trades on the part of some elements of our left wing, and 
we say, Foster, that when you attack us on the ground of being 
opposed to taking office in the unions, you are objectively 
supporting those elements and tendencies in the needle trades 
which the party has fought in the past and must fight in the 

Speech to End Factionalism 417 

future. The factional misrepresentation of the Foster group 
against us on this question is a blow at the party. 

Our group, in common with every group in the party, is pre- 
pared to resort to every strategy and method in line with the 
methods of Communists to conquer power in the unions. On the 
question of the Philadelphia convention, I believe the formula- 
tion made by the Polcom was subject to misrepresentation and 
was misrepresented. And, by the way, it is very interesting to see 
such an attitude towards party responsibility that although I have 
only one vote in the Polcom and was not the author of the resolu- 
tion in question, yet I am credited with the trade union policy of 
the CEC at that time, and the personal responsibility for the 
resolution. 4 

Yesterday Lovestone accused me of misleading the Polcom 
majority on the fight with Foster, and today the Foster group 
accuses me of misleading the Polcom majority on the trade union 
question. They make out a case of "undue influence" which 
appears to be slightly exaggerated. 

The basic line of the Polcom resolution, drafted by Ruthen- 
berg, was correct. Its formulation was not wrong but faulty. It was 
subject to misrepresentation and the Foster group, for factional 
reasons, has misrepresented it. 

The resolution was primarily aimed against those corrupt 
practices which would undermine our left wing in the needle 
trades, and I will never let anybody swerve me away from that 
principal question to the question of one incidental or tactical 

4 The policy of the Workers Party fraction at the International Ladies' Garment 
Workers' Union special convention which began in Philadelphia on 30 Novem- 
ber 1925 was the source of significant controversy. See Cannon's motions on the 
subject, pp. 359-360. We have not been able to locate minutes of the Political 
Committee meetings which discussed policy during the convention. 

At the convention, the social-democratic Sigman leadership retained a narrow 
majority of 154 to 110, but only because the voting procedure favored the small 
locals controlled by the right wing. At first Sigman tried to woo the left-wing New 
York locals, demanding and obtaining from the New York governor the release of 
union member and WP leader Benjamin Gitlow, who had been jailed again on an 
old state criminal syndicalism charge. However, in mid-convention Sigman 
changed his tune and refused to abide by a previous agreement which committed 
him to a union referendum on the issue of proportional representation for 


418 Early Years of American Communism 

decision. The fundamental thing that we were and are driving 
against is the tendency to substitute maneuvers and deals with 
the blackest fakers for mobilization of the masses on the basis of 
the class struggle. At that time we were confronted with the bril- 
liant idea of a combination with Sigman, and we said to them that 
you must at all costs keep up your criticism and attack against 
Sigman or you will demoralize and destroy the left wing. They 
entered into secret negotiations with Sigman and discontinued 
the attack and criticism against him. We said we were not going 
to allow it. That is the fundamental principle involved and the 
Polcom resolution struck against it. You are doing a wrong serv- 
ice to the party, Foster, when you distort the meaning of our 
fight even though we made errors in formulation. The party will 
not be educated and corruption will not be overcome by such 

Comrade Wolfe yesterday referred to the document of "Nine 
Points," which represents a point of view on the internal line of 
the party arrived at by a number of comrades coming from differ- 
ent groups in the party, having for their purpose the unification 
of the party. I might say, in prefacing my remarks on this point, 
that they were not formally presented to the party before, because 
we did not have the opportunity. The plenum was delayed, and I 
want to say in further explanation that since the time of the draft- 
ing of these "Nine Points," especially since the discussion in the 

locals at future union conventions. In response, the left wing walked out of the 

Workers Party members comprised 52 out of the total of 110 left-wing dele- 
gates, but Louis Hyman, who had led the walkout, was not a party member. Dunne 
and Gitlow were the party steering committee on the spot, and they demanded 
that the left wing go back, with Dunne insisting that, if necessary, "You will crawl 
back on your belly!" The left wing went back. See Irving Howe and Lewis Coser, 
The American Communist Party (New York: Frederick A. Prager, 1962), 245-251. 

In a report on the convention in Workers Monthly (February 1926), Dunne eval- 
uated the behavior of the Workers Party's fraction as follows: 

"Its convention actions were a weird mixture of leftism and opportunism — 
leftism in that it followed an objectively splitting policy until the last day of the 
convention, opportunism in that this splitting policy was based on the naive 
belief that the Sigman machine was sincere enough in its unity maneuvers to 
make substantial concessions to the left wing in order to avoid a split in the 

Speech to End Factionalism 419 

plenum, we have to make a certain amplification and modifica- 
tion of the point of view outlined in the document. 

We have to underscore more the question of political differ- 
ences between the groups which were not so clearly established 
then as now. The question of the internal policy is to a certain 
extent even overshadowed by the question of external policy at 
the plenum, and the question of arriving at the unification of the 
party here as a prerequisite, the liquidation of these differences 
manifested here. With the help of the CI, this can be done, we 
hope. Then it should be possible to achieve unity. 

If the comrades will indulge me, since this question has been 
brought up, I am prepared to introduce the "Nine Points" in the 
name of our group, with the explanation which I spoke of before, 
and take full responsibility for them. 

First of all, I want to explain they are an outline, by no means 
a program, but a preparatory outline which we thought would lay 
the basis for beginning the process of unifying the leadership. 
Some comrades have said we are looking for a "Mulligan unity," 
a general scramble of all the groups regardless of the differences 
existing. They don't know what they are talking about. We want 
unity on the basis of a clearly established political line and 
those who have tried unity with us in the past ought to know that. 
For us, policy is the determining factor and everything proceeds 
from that. 

We have a situation in the party of permanently organized 
factions existing in times of struggle over differences as well as in 
time of unanimous resolutions, and we are trying to find a way to 
break the party out of it. 

I will read the nine points with these words of explanation: 

1. In order that the party may effectively cope with its problems 
in the class struggle, the party leadership must accomplish the 
liquidation of factionalism and the unification of the party on the 
basis of correct policy without factions. 

2. Each group contains qualities and elements necessary for the 
party. The problem of party unity therefore cannot be solved by 
the elimination from effective participation in the party leader- 
ship of any of the groups. Neither can it be solved, with the 
present relation of forces and composition of the groups, by the 

420 Early Years of American Communism 

control of the party by any one of the existing groups operating 
on factional lines, or bv anv combination of two groups and not a 

3. The control of the party by the former majority group repre- 
sented a factional deadlock: the former majority was unable to 
unifv the partv. The present majority of the Political Committee 
likewise failed to unify the party, notwithstanding its greater 

4. Neither of the factions was able to defeat the other decisively 
and establish a sufficiently stable majority. They were not able to 
work together harmoniously or to unite. They presented the partv 
with the prospect of permanent factional struggle, continually 
hampering the development of the party work. 

5. The experience shows that neither one of the factions as now- 
constituted is able to lead the party alone and overcome the fac- 
tional impasse. This arises out of the whole inner party situation. 
It is anomalous for a Bolshevik party to have factional groupings 
within which there are political di\isions on issues of prime 
importance, while the groups cross each other in support of 
major political questions, and yet these groups retain their sepa- 
rate factional identity, cohesion and discipline. This rapidly 
degenerates into a condition of factional bankruptcy. The hetero- 
geneous composition of the factions and the stubborn mainte- 
nance of permanent factional organization leads to factional 
corruption and unprincipledness. 

6. The factional slogans that one or the other faction as now 
constituted must exercise "'hegemony" or "form the basic ele- 
ment" of the leadership in the present circumstances are untena- 
ble. The party must now recognize the necessity for collective 
leadership. All the groups can contribute to this collective leader- 
ship and all the leading forces must come together and work con- 
sciously to establish it. The stable, collective leadership of the 
partv will be further evolved in the process of the partv unifica- 
tion and consolidation and the development of the party's leader- 
ship of the masses in the class struggle. 

7. The dissolution of the existing factions is a necessary prerequi- 
site for the unification of the partv. The disintegration of the 

Speech to End Factionalism 421 

factions is directly connected with the process of integration and 
growth of the party. The idea of party must take precedence over 
the idea of factions. Party leadership must replace faction leader- 
ship. Loyalty to the party must prevail over loyalty to the factions. 
Not the mechanical combination or "amalgamation" of factions, 
but their liquidation, is the path to genuine party unity. 

8. As first steps towards this end, we believe it is necessary to 
devise measures which by their nature would tend to liquidate 
within a reasonable period the factional groupings and practices, 
as well as such general party practices as are a hindrance to the 
unification and centralization of the party. As a beginning, we 
submit the following proposals: 

a. It is proposed to establish as an informal and unofficial body 
an advisory committee to be composed of three members, one 
from each group as presently constituted. Its duty and task 
would be constantly to consult upon policies and measures with 
a view of forming a harmonious line of action and avoiding 
factional friction. The advisory committee should hold regular 
meetings twice a week as a minimum, which meetings should 
be considered as preparatory to the meetings of the Polcom. In 
case of failure to hold any such regular meeting, it may be 
convoked by any one of the three members. 

b. The practice of the groups holding separate caucus meet- 
ings, where party questions are discussed and binding decisions 
arrived at, is a matter of general party knowledge. As a means 
of changing the irrational forms of the present factional prac- 
tices and of leading towards the ultimate liquidation of the 
factions, it is proposed that the existing groups agree upon the 
following procedure. 

1. For the next immediate period of approximately two 
months to permit representatives of the other two groups 
to come to every general caucus meeting of the third 
group for the purpose of presenting their position on the 
question under consideration. 

2. Should this practice work satisfactorily, to extend it for 
the next period so as to permit such representatives not 
only to present their position, but also to remain and 
take part in the discussion in the caucus meeting. 

422 Early Years of American Communism 

c. As steps preparatory to a truly representative convention of 
the party the following proposals are made: 

1. The establishment of a party bulletin to be devoted en- 
tirely to information and discussion on party matters. An 
editorial board to be formed on a parity basis whose duty 
it will be to pass unanimously on the discussion articles. 
All articles must be signed and can be accepted only as 
the position of the individual comrade signing the article. 
No article to be accepted that is either the presentation 
of the position of a faction or directed against the pre- 
sumable position of another faction. 

2. The organization of a truly representative and construc- 
tive party convention. To this end, the convention should 
be called only after all possibilities have been exhausted 
for the reaching of at least a tentative agreement on the 
main political line of the party. 

3. As a safeguard against factional manipulations and me- 
chanical suppression, the party convention should be 
organized on the basis of proportional representation 
and the creation of national, district and local convention 
committees on a parity basis. 

9. The foregoing propositions are submitted to the Polcom as 
initial steps for the accomplishment of the aim set forth in Para- 
graph 1. They are submitted at the same time to each individual 
member of the CEC for consideration. Each member of the CEC 
is herewith requested to express his position in writing with re- 
gard to all these propositions. Acceptance or rejection may refer 
to the document as a whole or to single proposals. In either case, 
each CEC member is invited to express his reasons in writing for 
the rejection of any or all of the proposals and to offer 

Those who reject our proposals must point to another way. 
Can you unify the party on the basis of a monopoly of leadership 
by the comrades in the Lovestone group? To put that question 
here at the plenum is to answer it in the negative. 

If there is one thing fatally doomed in the party, it is the idea 
that any one existing faction can maintain a monopoly of the 
leadership of the party. Is it not a fact that when the former 

Speech to End Factionalism 423 

majority controlled the party, we had a factional deadlock? Do we 
want to return to that? We say: no, we do not want to go back to 

On the other hand, we say the present majority of the Polcom 
likewise failed to unify the party. 

Do you maintain that the party is unified? One who wants to 
speak this way is refuted by this very plenum where such strong 
forces are represented in opposition to the Polcom. When you say 
that the party is unified you are either deceiving yourself or the 

The party is in a dangerous factional situation, so much so 
that the Communist International has found it necessary to call a 
delegation consisting of representatives of all these groups in the 
party to Moscow. We have to recognize conditions as they exist 
and find a way out. 

We should recognize that neither of the factions was able to 
defeat the other decisively. They were not able to work together 
harmoniously or to unite. That is a fact. They offer a perspective 
of permanent factional fight. One year the Ruthenberg group is 
getting a majority. Next the Ruthenberg group is the opposition 
and regaining the majority. Then the Foster group is the opposi- 
tion and fighting for the majority. 

There is a consistent "two-party system" in the party, so well 
established that neither group denies the right of the other group 
to exist. I have never yet heard the Foster group complain that 
the Ruthenberg group is maintaining a faction or the Ruthenberg 
group complain that the Foster group maintains a faction. It is 
only since comrades have revolted against both and try to break 
up the condition of permanent factions and form a group to fight 
for this idea that the comrades of the other "established" groups 
complain of factional organization. By some secret method of 
reasoning known only to themselves they have arrived at the con- 
clusion that it is entirely right to have two groups in the party but 
entirely wrong to have a third group appear. 

Why must we have factions in the Communist Party? Why 
must we always have two groups in the party? Upon what prin- 
ciple of Leninism is this theory founded? If there is no such 
principle, if on the contrary the permanent maintenance of two 
separate factions is against Leninist principles, we ask the other 

424 Early Years of American Communism 

groups to show the party a solution for the deadlock. 

In connection with this document, comrades, we also submit- 
ted some practical propositions to facilitate the unification pro- 
cess. We have caucuses and faction meetings going on all the time, 
as everybody knows, and participated in by all active comrades. 
We know that in these caucuses things are said and accusations 
are made to prejudice and poison comrades against others that 
would never be said if the other comrades of the other faction 
were there to answer. The tone of the plenum here is very differ- 
ent from that of faction meetings because if one makes irresponsi- 
ble charges or accusations the comrade is here to answer them. 

We propose that when the groups call the faction meetings 
that they permit a leading comrade of the other groups to come 
and state his point of view. It is easy to see that such a proceeding 
would change the character of the caucuses and break down the 
rigid group lines and lead toward the substitution of general party 
meetings for one-sided caucus discussions. We stand by these 
proposals and state that the proposals will yet be carried out. We 
will not solve the problem of unity by the combination of factions, 
but by the liquidation of factions. 

Since the remark was made about unity between myself and 
Weinstone, I want to say a few words about it. In my opinion, it 
should be regarded as a natural and correct development. It is 
based upon the fact that we each, independently and under dif- 
ferent circumstances and in different factions, came to a common 
standpoint on political grounds. 

I believe we have arrived at a common attitude towards the 
problems of the party, and particularly about the necessity for 
party unity as a prerequisite for the further development of the 

Now, a good deal was made here about the "Ballam" ques- 
tion. The fact that Cannon and Ballam are together is regarded 
by some people as a violation of the established factional code. I 
want to say here, for myself at least, that I stand by this step we 
have taken. If, after eight years, during which we were never 
together, always in opposite factions, with the sharpest personal 
feelings — if after eight years, Ballam and Cannon can find a com- 
mon standpoint and unite, it should not be regarded as some- 
thing foolish but as a matter of the greatest significance. It shows 

Speech to End Factionalism 425 

that the development of the unification of the party is drawing 
together Communists who have had longstanding fights. It is not 
enough to be able to fight over principled differences. Commu- 
nists must also be able to unite when the differences are settled. 

I believe it is the right thing for Communists to do, when they 
have no more serious differences, to quit fighting. And if I have 
been fighting Ballam, and he me, for eight years, and we have no 
differences now on serious questions, why should we not get 
together? Do we have to fight for the next eight years in order to 
prove that we are not pacifists? 

My opinion is that this idea will grow in the ranks of the party, 
the idea that permanent, personal factional fights and factional feuds 
can be replaced by a higher order of struggle, in other words, 
that the faction fights based on outworn issues, on questions of 
two or three years ago, on prejudices, traditions and factional 
interests, can be replaced by political struggles in which comrades 
take their positions objectively on the question as it arises, and 
then when the issue is decided, abandon the fight and work unit- 
edly together. 

That is what we are standing for. We put before this body 
here our point of view and we ask you comrades to give serious 
consideration to our opinion. Our opinion is this: that while we 
have differences between the three groups, while these differ- 
ences have to be discussed before the CI and settled, yet we must 
go to the CI with this idea, that we are not going to try to find a 
basis for further fights but a basis for coming together of all the 
leading elements in the party. 

We say with real conviction that if there is good will and good 
faith the three groups can, with the help of the CI, find a com- 
mon platform. The CI can correct us all on every field where we 
are wrong and we can come back and lead the party unitedly. 

You cannot lead the party on any other basis. You cannot 
develop the party without unity. Certainly you cannot develop 
the party by unity of Cannon, Weinstone and Foster against the 
Lovestone group, and by all means you cannot unify the party 
with Lovestone and Wolfe against Foster, Bittelman, Johnstone, 
Krumbein, Aronberg, Cannon, Weinstone, Dunne, Ballam, Abern, 
Reynolds, Swabeck. Not a combination of factions but the unifica- 
tion of the party and collective leadership — this is our aim. 

426 Early Years of American Communism 

We must aim for unity. We must have a will for unity. Laugh 
at our proposals if you want to. Say they are "infantile." Say that 
the expressions and plans for unity are Utopian. We answer you, 
only because the party is mired in factionalism, only because it is 
not yet oriented towards the real need for unity, is it possible to 
find anything strange or ridiculous in the demand for unity. We 
fight for the idea of unity on a common political line. We fight 
for the idea that factions are to be replaced by party, that faction 
loyalty is to be replaced by party loyalty, that political fights are to 
be carried to conclusions and settled, and not resolved into per- 
manent groups and cliques. 

That is what we stand for here and that is what we will fight 
for before the Comintern. 

Theses on the Party Factional Situation 

ca. May 1927 

The following are three sections excerpted from lengthy, unpublished, 
undated and unsigned theses, apparently written by Cannon and Wil- 
liam Weinstone for submission to the American Commission which was 
convened in Moscow to resolve the question of the American party leader- 
ship in the aftermath of the sudden death of general secretary C.E. 
Ruthenberg. The commission was appointed toward the end of the Eighth 
Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, held 
18-30 May 1927. Cannon and Weinstone were included among the 
American plenum delegates only after the Comintern overruled Love- 
stone's attempt to exclude them. They arrived in Moscow on the last day 
of the plenum. 

Party Reorganization and General Party Work 

The following statement is an amplification of the resolution 
of the CI on the reorganization, a brief examination of the short- 
comings in the general party work politically and organizationally. 

It must be stated at the very outset that the entire party work 
has been influenced and affected by the factional struggle within 
the party that has put an obnoxious impression upon every phase 
of party work, blurring and obliterating the necessary political 
crystallization of party thought by means of exchange of opinions 
and hampering as well the thorough reorganization of the party 
along the lines pointed out in the resolution of the CI. 

For a correct situation of the state of our party organization- 
ally there must be stressed the necessity of examining our present 
party cadres taking into consideration all the losses sustained 
after the reorganization on the one hand and the net results 
gained from the new membership drive (Ruthenberg Drive) on 
the other. This examination must include the following points: 

a) The district distribution of the party membership. 


428 Early Years of American Communism 

b) The distribution of party membership with regard to 
industry (heavy industry, light industry, which light indus- 
try, proportions, etc.). 

c) The distribution of the party membership along language 
lines and a special occupational investigation in each of 

d) A new statistical investigation of the trade union affiliation 
of the party membership. 

e) An examination into the circulation of the entire party 
press with its language divisions. 

f ) The utilization and distribution of party functionaries. 

There must also be examined the question of how far the 
party has advanced towards centralization and integration into 
one ideological and organizational unit responding to all actual 
party problems and participating in the carrying through of all 
directions of the party. 

The practice observed in the life of the smaller party units 
clearly shows that a good number of them stand altogether aloof 
from party problems and activities. There is the noteworthy defi- 
ciency in our general political and agitprop work which brings 
with it the absolutely insufficient manner in which the party 
membership participates in the political and other experiences of 
the party which, until now, have been reflected only at the very 
top of the party organization. The main fault of the situation lies 
in the fact that this very top of the party itself has not taken the 
trouble of evaluating in a halfway sufficient manner its political 

As a proof of this statement we must underline the absolutely 
important fact that the party has done practically nothing in 
order to clarify the question of the character and possibilities of a 
third party movement nor has it attempted to analyze how far the 
organization of the labor party is related to this third party prob- 
lem. No analysis has been made of the La Follette movement and 
its failure. 

Similarly the party has not endeavored to evaluate its political 
experience in such cases where it has presented its own candi- 
dates independently. Despite the fact that the results of elections 
show a remarkable disproportion between the mass influence that 
we are able to obtain and count upon in various cases when we 

Cannon-Weinstone Theses 429 

call upon the masses for support (protest meetings, etc.), and the 
net numerical election results that are obviously much smaller, we 
have not tried to find the reason for such disproportion. The 
usual explanation that our sympathizers are not eligible to vote is 
superficial and, besides, untrue. Moreover, we have yet the facts of 
rather remarkable local attainments in such cases as in Massachu- 
setts, California, and North Dakota, but we have not paid political 
attention to these phenomena. 

Further proof of our deficiencies in the political work is the 
manner in which we have dealt with the question of the farm 
crisis and its political implications in general, with respect to our 
possibilities in particular. In this connection the fact must be 
underlined that the party has not indicated in any manner what 
course it has taken toward a member of the party in the legisla- 
ture of North Dakota. 1 This incident has passed without the 
slightest response from the party that apparently has not only 
failed to broaden its basis in North Dakota in consequence of this 
fact, but has apparently failed even to keep up a necessary and 
sufficient political connection with this isolated party post. 

There has been in the past too frequent presentation of new 
slogans without sufficient attempt at their realization. Happily 
this practice is slowly disappearing now, without, however, being 
substituted by any systematic plan of the activization and politi- 
calization of the party. The tendency of individual manifestos and 
individual directions instead of manifestos and directions of the 
party must be eliminated. 

1 An article entitled "North Dakota's Communist Legislator" in the Workers 
Monthly (April 1925) described one A.C. Miller as the "first Communist farmer to 
be elected to a legislative body in the U.S." Miller, the son of a refugee from 
the German Revolution of 1848, had been a member of the Socialist Party. He 
joined the Workers Party in 1923. The article did not mention what party slate 
he ran on. 

The Workers Party did not run candidates in the North Dakota state elections 
in either 1924 or 1926. It supported the slate of the North Dakota Farmer-Labor 
Party in the 1926 local elections (it also supported the candidates of state Farmer- 
Labor parties in Montana, Minnesota, Washington and South Dakota). The North 
Dakota Farmer-Labor Party was founded in December 1925 in Bismarck, where the 
Workers Party agricultural organizer, Alfred Knutson, lived. Knutson was editor of 
the United Farmer, journal of the American Farmers Educational League, American 
affiliate of the Comintern's Peasant International. He was a supporter of the Love- 
stone faction. 

430 Early Years of American Communism 

A part of the fault in the political work of the party lies in the 
deficiencies of its agitprop department. It has been fully realized 
by the party circles that this department has not fulfilled its tasks. 
There has not been any central activity that would place the vari- 
ous organizations of the party in contact with the political line of 
the party. Moreover, the issuance of party literature was con- 
ducted in an incidental and at times absolutely factional manner. 

The recent moving of the party organ [Daily Worker] to New 
York while the party leadership remains in Chicago has created a 
situation where there exists decentralization and dislocation of 
the political work of the party that in the long run must create 
very obnoxious results for the further political work of the party. 
In this connection must be undertaken a general reorganization 
of the entire party press that would be in line with the program of 
Americanization presented in the later points. 

The theoretical organ of the party has to be reorganized in 
order to serve truly the ideological needs of the party. As it is at 
present, it presents a picture of a casual and superficial character. 

The Americanization of the party in the Bolshevist sense. A 
clear-cut program of Americanization has to be put through. This 
is necessitated by the fact that for reasons growing out of its ori- 
gin and composition, the party during its entire history has been 
influenced by a tendency to adopt tactics, methods of work and 
general practices which were not sufficiently grounded in a real- 
istic survey of the objective circumstances in which the party 
must carry on its work, and the stage and tempo of the class de- 
velopment of the American workers. A whole series and system of 
errors which have hampered the development of the party can be 
traced to this source. The "Americanization" of the party in the 
Bolshevist sense of the word is a task which must now be taken 
up in earnest and progressively accomplished. This slogan must 
pass from the stage of formal resolutions and be more concretely 
defined and applied. 

The party must be oriented upon the facts and realities of the 
class struggle in America. The party tasks and slogans must be 
formulated more concretely on the basis of the American eco- 
nomic and political situation internally and externally. 

The tactic of the united front must be conceived not as an 
abstraction but as an approach to the masses in accordance with 

Cannon-Weinstone Theses 431 

all the possibilities and peculiarities of the present stage of work- 
ing class development in America. 

The party leadership must develop the logical implications of 
the reorganization of the party to the end that all party members 
become active and conscious participants in the general party 
activities and tasks. The fusion of the various nationalities in the 
party with the native and English-speaking members in common 
activities must be accelerated. 

The language sections of the party, in their daily activities, 
their propaganda and press, must, to a much greater degree than 
heretofore, react to the class struggle in America. The tendencies 
towards isolation of the members of the language sections of the 
party from the general party work and the limitation of their 
activity to workers and organizations of their own nationality 
alone must be overcome by systematic educational efforts of the 
leading organs of the party, particularly of the language bureaus. 
The "home country" ideology must be replaced by planful work- 
ing out of American revolutionary class consciousness penetrating 
into all sections of the American working class. 

The party press of all languages must become politically and 
ideologically centralized under the leadership of the central 
party organs and bear a uniform general character. They must 
devote themselves primarily to the living issues of the class strug- 
gle in America and become real organizers of the workers in the 

The party must study and take into account the traditions 
and psychology of the American workers. It must learn how to 
approach the workers and speak a language in its propaganda 
which is comprehensible to them. The party terminology must be 
simplified and revised from this standpoint. 

More attention must be devoted to the native American work- 
ers and much greate