(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The struggle for a proletarian party"

JAMES P. CANNON 



THE STRUGGLE 

FOR A 

PROLETARIAN 
PARTY 



PIONEER PUBLISHERS 

116 UNIVERSITY PLACE-NEW YORK 3 



$2.00 



^ ^ 

J. P. CANNON 

The 
STRUGGLE 

far a 

PROLETARIAN 
PARTY 



THIS is a companion 
volume to In Defense of 
Marxism by Leon Trot- 
sky. 

Cannon's work and 
contribution in the field 
of organization were eval- 
uated most highly by 
Leon Trotsky. Of the 
pamphlet which appears 
as the first section of 
this book, Trotsky gave 
the following appraisal: 

"It is the writing of a 
genuine workers 9 leader. 
If the discussion had not 
produced more than this 
document, it would be 
justified." 



PIONEER 




LI HK 





From the collection of the 



T- r m 
Prelinger 

v Jjibrary 



San Francisco, California 
2006 






THE STRUGGLE FOR A 
PROLETARIAN PARTY 



JAMES P. CANNON 



THE STRUGGLE FOR A 
PROLETARIAN PARTY 



1943 



PIONEER PUBLISHERS 
NEW YORK 






Printed in the United States of America, July, 1943 



JOHN G. WRIGHT, Editor 



SET UP PRINTED AND BOUND BT UNION LABOR 

<*&*> 214 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 



INTRODUCTION. 



I 
THE STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

1 What the Discussion Has Revealed 1 

2 A New Stage in the Development of American Trotskyism 5 

3 Their Method and Ours 9 

4 The Organization Question 13 

5 The Intellectuals and the Workers 18 

6 The Case of Burnham 22 

7 The Evil of Combinationism 31 

8 Abernism : The Case History of a Disease. ~ 35 

9 The Question of the Party Regime. 50 

10 "Conservatism" 57 

11 "Bureaucratism" 60 

12 The "Clique" and the "Leader Cult" 70 

13 The Proletarian Orientation 77 



II 
LETTERS TO COMRADES 

A Letter to All Members of the National Committee 85 

A Letter to Joseph Hansen 89 

A Letter to Vincent R. Dunne 92 

A Letter to Joseph Hansen 96 

A Letter to Leon Trotsky 98 

A Letter to Leon Trotsky 100 

A Letter to Leon Trotsky 103 

vii 



viii STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A Letter to All Majority Groups 106 

A Letter to C. Charles 107 

A Letter to Joseph Hansen 114 

A Letter to Bill Morgan 116 

A Letter to Farrell Dobbs ~ 119 

A Letter to Leon Trotsky. 122 

A Letter to a Seattle Comrade 124 

A Letter to the Party Membership -125 

A Letter to the Party Membership 128 

A Letter to All Majority Groups 130 

A Letter to Farrell Dobbs 132 

A Letter to a Seattle Comrade 133 

A Letter to a New Haven Comrade 134 

A Graduate Burnhamite (An Internal Circular) 135 

A Letter to Leon Trotsky : + 136 

A Letter to Leon Trotsky 138 

A Letter to Farrell Dobbs 140 

A Letter to All Majority Groups 141 

A Letter to a Rochester Comrade 147 

A Letter to Oscar Coover 150 

A Letter to C. Thomas 151 

A Letter to All Majority Groups 153 

A Letter to Bill Morgan 155 

A Letter to C. Thomas 156 

A Letter to All Majority Groups 157 

A Letter to Murry Weiss .. 159 

A Letter to C. Charles 160 

A Letter to All Majority Groups 162 

A Letter to the Party Membership 163 

A Letter to All Majority Groups 165 

A Letter to a St. Louis Comrade 167 

A Letter to a Fresno Comrade 168 

A Letter to Murry Weiss.... 169 

A Letter to Grace Carlson 172 

A Letter to Leon Trotsky . 173 

A Letter to Leon Trotsky 181 

A Letter to Oscar Coover 182 

A Telegram to the Minority Conference 183 

A Letter to Leon Trotsky. 184 

A Circular Letter to the Party Membership 187 

A Letter to C. Charles 193 

A Letter to Leon Trotsky 195 

A Letter to Murry Weiss. _ 198 



CONTENTS ix 

A Letter to All Majority Groups 199 

A Letter to Murry Weiss . 202 

A Letter to C. Charles . _ 204 

A Letter to All Majority Groups 205 

A Letter to Leon Trotsky. 206 



III 
DOCUMENTS OF THE STRUGGLE 

Speech on the Russian Question 211 

Resolution on Party Unity 226 

Convention Resolutions 227 

The Organizational Principles upon Which the Party 

Was Founded 227 

The Organizational Conclusions of the Present Discussion 232 

Resolution on Discipline .. 239 

Supplementary Resolution on the Organization Question.... 240 
The Suspension of the Burnham-Shachtman-Abern Group... 241 

The Convention of the Socialist Workers Party. 242 

Why We Publish Fourth International.. 248 

Fourth International Conference Resolution on 

S.W.P. Internal Struggle 251 

The Expulsion of the Shachtman-Abern Group 253 



IV 

APPENDIX 

The War and Bureaucratic Conservatism ,. 255 



Index . ,. 294 



INTRODUCTION 



The Struggle For a Proletarian Party by James P. Cannon is 
the companion volume to In Defense of Marxism by Leon Trot- 
sky. These two books comprise the basic documentation of the 
struggle against the petty-bourgeois revisionists led by Burnham- 
Shachtman-Abern which took place in the Socialist Workers Party 
three years ago. 

In the second section of Comrade Cannon's book, "Letters to 
Comrades," the reader will find recorded the day to day, week to 
week, and month to month chronology of this struggle. What ren- 
ders these letters especially valuable is their complete freedom 
from the subjective, the incidental and the episodic. Although com- 
posed in the very heat of the struggle, they were not written for 
the moment. The reader can judge for himself how well they 
stand up after a lapse of three years. 

The third section of the book, "Documents of the Struggle," 
records the action taken by the party at each stage of the struggle 
up to its very end with the expulsion of the petty-bourgeois op- 
position. 

Contained in the first section is the pamphlet, "The Struggle 
For a Proletarian Party," which was originally written almost at 
the termination of the struggle. It sums up the whole struggle, 
after all the conflicting ideas had fully unfolded and each camp 
had fully disclosed its true nature. For the convenience of the 
reader this pamphlet is placed at the beginning inasmuch as a 
careful study of it will enable him to follow and understand the 
other sections all the more easily. 

The Appendix gives the organizational principles of the revi- 
sionists in their own words and enables the reader to contrast 
these views with those of the Trotskyists. 

The ideas and method advanced and defended throughout by 
Comrade Cannon are those of an orthodox Leninist. Especially 
noteworthy are the party's resolutions which present the prin- 

xi 



xii STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

ciples of Leninist party organization in their classic form. (See 
"Documents of the Struggle.") In point of fact, Comrade Can- 
non's book sets forth the Leninist principles of party organiza- 
tion more comprehensively than this subject has ever been treated 
before. 

It ought to be borne in mind that Bolshevism (Leninism) as a 
system of organizational ideas and principles is a genuine product 
of the twentieth century. It is something quite new. In fact, the cur- 
rent year, 1943, marks only its fortieth anniversary. For it was in 
1903 that Lenin first began to promulgate systematically the theory 
and practice of building the proletarian party, the principal instru- 
ment for achieving the transition from capitalism to socialism. 

The great progressive role of Bolshevism still remains to a 
great many a secret sealed with seven seals. In this book they will 
find this precious secret unlocked. Contained in it is the key to 
the Leninist concept of organization which may be summed up in 
the single formula: democratic centralism. 

How is it possible for centralism to be democratized? Or, on 
the other hand, for democracy to be centralized, without thereby 
automatically ceasing to be democratic? To scholastics, empiricists 
and formal thinkers of all varieties, the Leninist concept of demo- 
cratic centralism appears self -contradictory, paradoxical, irrational. 
The whole point, however, is that democratic centralism is not sim- 
ply a mechanical combination or sum of democracy and centralism. 
It is something new. It is a dialectical synthesis of the two, con- 
taining both and at the same time differing profoundly from both. 

In this organizational system the centralist or democratic fea- 
tures predominate and combine not in accordance with a blueprint 
made in advance and good for all times and under all conditions, 
but depending on the circumstances in each given situation. This is 
not to say that the system is an arbitrary one. Far from it. The inter- 
play of democracy and centralism in the Leninist system of organi- 
zation is rigorously designed to serve the end of maintaining the 
party as the vanguard of the working class. This means above all to : 
1) safeguard the party's character as a combat organization by pre- 
serving unity in action; 2) safeguard at all times and under all con- 
ditions its firmness of line; 3) maintain its principles unadulterated. 
In the pages of this book, the reader will find a lucid and brilliant 
application and demonstration of the principle of democratic cen- 
tralism. 

In Lenin's system, as expounded in this book, the party is con- 
ceived as a whole with the minority always subordinate to the major- 
ity, just as a part remains subordinate to the whole. In this system 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

every member is rendered responsible for the party; and, converse- 
ly, the party responsible for every member. 

Anti-Leninism or opportunism in organizational questions is un- 
failingly marked by a constitutional antipathy toward democratic 
centralism and reflected in the attempts to render the party amor- 
phous; to water down its class composition and revise its principles; 
to undermine its discipline and unity in action; to debase the call- 
ing and meaning of party membership. (For a graphic illustration 
of this, see the Appendix to this volume.) 

The invaluable experiences, lessons and traditions of Lenin's 
original party which functioned for the most part under Czarist il- 
legality are available primarily to those who have access to the 
original literature of Bolshevism. The archives of the Russian 
Trotskyists functioning under Stalinist illegality are even less ac- 
cessible. 

The programmatic importance of Cannon's book lies precisely 
in the fact that generalized and summed up in it is the entire forty 
years' experience of the Leninist system of organization, the only 
one that has withstood the test of history. 

This is a manual of party organization. It is of utmost impor- 
tance and value not only to the American Trotskyists but to our 
co-thinkers throughout the world because it is not only a restate- 
ment of tested principles and correct method but an application 
of them in life. It is a manual of party organization enriched by 
a decade and a half of building the party in the United States 
under conditions in many respects far more adverse than those 
which obtain in other advanced countries. 

We recommend it above all to the revolutionary youth. Those 
who assimilate its ideas and lessons will find the major obstacles 
removed which stand in the way of a young worker militant groping 
toward political life and action. 

Leon Trotsky valued most highly Cannon's work and contribu- 
tion in the field of organization. Of the pamphlet which constitutes 
the first section of this book, Trotsky gave the following appraisal : 

"It is the writing of a genuine worker's leader. If the discussion 
had not produced more than this document, it would be justified." 
(In Defense of Marxism, p. 165.) 
June 27, 1943 JOHN G. WRIGHT 



TBE STRUGGLE FOR A 
PROLETARIAN PARTY 



THE STRUGGLE FOR A 
PROLETARIAN PARTY 

1_WHAT THE DISCUSSION HAS REVEALED 



POLITICAL STRUGGLES in general, including serious factional 
struggles in a party, do not take place in a vacuum. They are 
carried on under the pressure of social forces and reflect the class 
struggle to one degree or another. This law is demonstrated in the 
most striking manner in the development of the present discussion 
within our party. 

At the present time the pressure of alien class forces upon the 
proletarian vanguard is exceptionally heavy. We must understand 
this first of all. Only then can we approach an understanding of 
the present crisis in the party. It is the most severe and profound 
crisis our movement has ever known on an international scale. The 
unprecedented tension in the ranks signalizes a conflict of principled 
positions which is obviously irreconcilable. Two camps in the party 
fight for different programs, different methods and different tradi- 
tions. 

What has brought the party to this situation in such a short 
space of time? Obviously it is not a suddenly discovered personal 
incompatibility of the individual leaders involved; such trifles are 
symptoms of the conflict, not causes. Nor can a conflict of this 
depth and scope be plausibly explained by the flaring up of old 
differences of opinion on the organization question. In order to 
understand the real significance of the crisis it is necessary to look 
for profounder causes. 

For those who understand politics as an expression of the class 
struggle and that is the way we Marxists understand it the basic 
cause of the crisis in the party is not hard to find. The crisis sig- 
nifies the reaction in our ranks to external social pressure. That is 

[1] 



2 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

the way we have defined it from the outset of the crisis last Sep- 
tember, immediately following the signing of the Soviet-Nazi pact 
and the beginning of the German invasion of Poland. More precise- 
ly, we say the crisis is the result of the pressure of bourgeois-demo- 
cratic public opinion upon a section of the party leadership. That 
is our class analysis of the unrestrained struggle between the pro- 
letarian and the petty-bourgeois tendencies in our party. 

We define the contending factions not by such abstract general 
terms as "conservative" and "progressive." We judge the factions 
not by the psychologic traits of individuals, but by the programs 
they defend. The discussion has revealed not a difference of opinion 
about the application of the program such differences frequently 
occur and usually have a transitory significance but an attempt 
to counterpose one program to another. This is what has divided the 
party into two camps. Naturally, these terms, which we have used 
from the beginning of the discussion to characterize the two ten- 
dencies in the party, are meant as definitions and not epithets. It is 
necessary to repeat this in every debate between Marxists and petty- 
bourgeois politicians of all types ; the one thing they cannot tolerate 
is to be called by their right name. 

The leaders of the opposition consider it outrageous, a malicious 
faction invention, for us to place this class signboard above their 
faction, when their only offense consists in the simple fact that they 
turn their backs on the Soviet Union and deny it defense in the 
struggle against world imperialism. But our definition and descrip- 
tion of such an attitude is not new. Back in the days when Shacht- 
man was paraphrasing Trotsky and not Burnham, he himself wrote: 

At bottom, the ultra-leftists' position on the Soviet Union, 
which denies it any claim whatsoever to being a workers' state, 
reflects the vacillations of the petty bourgeois, their inability to 
make a firm choice between the camps of the proletariat and 
the bourgeoisie, of revolution and imperialism. 

This quotation, from an article written in the New International 
by Shachtman two years ago, can be accepted as a scientific defini- 
tion of the opposition combination and its present position, with 
only one small amendment. It is hardly correct to describe their 
position as "ultra-leftist." 

The leaders of the opposition in the past have written and spoken 
a great deal along the lines of the above quotation. Year in and 
year out in innumerable articles, documents, theses and speeches 
the leaders of the opposition have been promising and even threat- 
ening to defend the Soviet Union "In the hour of danger we will 
be at our posts!" but when the hour drew near, when the Soviet 



WHAT THE DISCUSSION HAS REVEALED 3 

Union almost began to need this defense, they welched on their 
promise. 

So with the program in general, with the doctrine, the methods 
and the tradition of Marxism. When all this ceased to be the sub- 
ject for literary exercises in times of tranquillity and had to be 
taken as a guide to action in time of war, they forgot everything 
that had been said and written and started a frantic search for 
"new and fresh ideas." In the first half -serious test they revealed 
themselves as "peace-time Trotskyists." 

And this shameful performance, this betrayal of Marxism, has 
taken place in the American section of the Fourth International even 
before the formal entry of American imperialism into the war. In 
the bible of the opposition, their document on "The War and 
Bureaucratic Conservatism,"* we are assured that the party crisis 
"was provoked by the war." That is not precisely accurate. America 
has not yet formally entered into the war, and thus far we have only 
a faint intimation of the moral and material pressure which will be 
brought to bear against the proletarian vanguard under war con- 
ditions. Not the war, but merely the shadow of the approaching 
war was enough to send Burnham, Shachtman and Abern on their 
mad stampede. 

Gratuitously attributing to the party their own panic, these 
philosophers of retreat and capitulation express the opinion that 
comrades who read their document on the party regime "will draw 
from it cynical or discouraged or defeatist conclusions." They add: 
"The future is dark." And Burnham, who bared his petty-bourgeois 
soul in a special document entitled, "Science and Style,"** proclaims 
with malicious satisfaction the wish is father to the thought the 
downfall of the Fourth International. The reality is diametrically 
opposite to these lugubrious observations. 

In the proletarian majority of the party there is not a trace of 
pessimism. On the contrary, there is universal satisfaction that the 
defection of a section of the party leadership revealed itself in time, 
before the war, and under conditions where it could be combatted 
openly and in free discussion and beaten down. The virtual una- 
nimity with which the proletarian cadres have rallied to the defense 
of the party and the Fourth International, the militancy and irre- 
concilability with which they have met the attack of Burnham, 
Abern and Shachtman is living proof of the vitality and indestructi- 



*See the Appendix to this volume. Ed. 

**See the Appendix to In Defense of Marxism, by Leon. Trotsky, 
p. 187. Ed. 



4 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

bility of our movement. That is a good omen for the future. It 
gives us confidence that it will stand up against the real test of war 
when it comes. It gives grounds for the most optimistic calculation 
that the Fourth International will not only "survive," but conquer 
in struggle. 

As for the "hard future" the Bolshevik-Marxists never expected 
that the period of the death agony of capitalism could produce 
anything but crises and war with their inevitable repercussions in 
workers' organizations, including the party of the workers' van- 
guard. From these "hard" circumstances, the Fourth Internationalists 
only drew the conclusion that the grandiose social convulsions, 
which we foresaw and analyzed in advance, create the conditions out 
of which the oppressed masses, impelled by iron necessity, must 
carry through the social revolution and the reorganization of the 
world on a socialist basis. Only one thing is needed: a genuine Bol- 
shevik party of the vanguard. Only Marxism can be the program 
of such a party. Burnham and his sorry disciples, the ex-Marxists, 
ex-Trotskyists, offer a program that has nothing in common with 
Marxism or the proletarian revolution. From this arises the funda- 
mental conflict between the majority and the opposition, a conflict 
which is manifestly irreconcilable and to which all other questions, 
however important, are nevertheless subordinate. 

In the course of a few months' discussion the differences between 
the majority and the opposition have reached such depth and scope 
as to completely overshadow all questions of party regime. If all 
the alleged faults of the regime were true, and then multiplied ten 
times over, the whole question would pale into insignificance beside 
the principled differences which now clearly separate the two con- 
tending factions. The struggle of the opposition ostensibly began as 
a struggle against the "Cannon regime," and as a defense, or at 
any rate as an anticipation, of the "changing" position of Trotsky. 
But in a short time it unfolded as a fundamental conflict with the 
Fourth International over all the questions of our program, our 
method and our tradition. 

Abern, who voted at the plenum [October 1939] for the princi- 
pled resolution of the majority on the Russian question and accuses 
us of inventing and exaggerating differences, ended up, by the logic 
of his unprincipled combination, in the revisionist camp of Burnham. 
Shachtman, who at the plenum could only be accused of building a 
bridge to Burnham, became his attorney, writing "open letters" to 
comrade Trotsky in his behalf, and directing the most venomous at- 
tacks against the proletarian majority of the party who remind him 
of his yesterday. Burnham, in his latest document on "Science and 



NEW STAGE IN AMERICAN TROTSKYISM 5 

Style," speaks the language of a hate-inspired enemy of the pro- 
letarian revolutionary movement and of all those who remain faith- 
ful to it. 

This is what has been revealed in a few months of political dis- 
cussion. 

2 A NEW STAGE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF 
AMERICAN TROTSKYISM 

The body of doctrine and methods known as "Trotskyism" is 
indubitably the genuine Marxism of our time, the heir and con- 
tinuator of the Bolshevism of Lenin and the Russian revolution and 
the early Comintern. It is the movement known as Trotskyism and 
no other that has developed Bolshevism in analyzing and interpreting 
all the great events of the post-Lenin period and in formulating the 
program for the proletarian struggle and victory. There is no other 
movement, there is no other school that has answered anything. 
There is no other school that is worthy of a moment's consideration 
by the proletarian revolutionists. Trotskyism, embodied in the Fourth 
International, is the only revolutionary movement. 

But the road from the elaboration of the program to the organ- 
ization of firm cadres, and from that to the building of mass par- 
ties of the Fourth International, is difficult and complicated. It 
proceeds through various stages of evolution and development as 
a continuous process of selection, attracting new forces and discard- 
ing others who fail to keep step. The American section of the Fourth 
International is right now in the midst of a crisis in this evolution- 
ary process. If, as all signs indicate, we are moving toward a radical 
solution of the crisis, it is to be accounted for by the speed at which 
world events are marching and the immensity of their scope and 
the sensitivity of our party to their impact. 

The Second World War, no less than the First, strikes all organ- 
izations and tendencies in the labor movement with cataclysmic 
force. Our own organization is no exception. Like all others, it is 
being shaken to its foundations and compelled to reveal its real 
nature. Weaknesses which remained undisclosed in time of peace are 
rapidly laid bare with the approach of war. Numerous individuals 
and whole groupings, whether formally members of the Fourth 
International or sympathizers, are being submitted to the same tests. 
There will be casualties, which may seem to indicate a weakening 
of the movement. But that is rather the appearance of things than 
the reality. Trotskyism is the veritable doctrine and method of pro- 
letarian revolution; it reveals its true substance most unfailingly in 
times of crisis, war and revolutionary struggle. Those who have 



6 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

assimilated the program, the doctrine, the method and the tradition 
into their flesh and blood, as the guiding line of struggle, cling all 
the more firmly to the movement under the pressure of the crisis. 

It is only those who took Bolshevism as a set of literary formu- 
las, espousal of which gave one a certain distinction in radical cir- 
cles without incurring any serious responsibilities ; those who adopted 
Trotskyism as a form of "extreme radicalism" which never went 
beyond the bounds of sophisticated debate it is such people who 
are most inclined to falter and to lose their heads under the pres- 
sure of the crisis, and even to blame their panic on that same "Trot- 
skyism" which simply remains true to itself. 

Everybody knows the crisis has dealt heavy blows to the impos- 
ing movement of Stalinism. With the signing of the Soviet-Nazi pact 
the flight of the Stalinist fellow-travellers began. They could stomach 
the Moscow Trials but not the prospect of coming into collision 
with the democratic government of U.S. imperialism. After the 
Soviet invasion of Poland and then of Finland, the flight of the 
fellow-travellers became a rout. This wild migration attracted wide 
attention and comment. We ourselves contributed our observations 
and witticisms on this ludicrous spectacle. Up to now, however, we 
have remained silent on an analogous phenomenon in our own 
"periphery." The flight of the more sophisticated, but hardly more 
courageous, intellectual fellow-travellers of American Trotskyism 
has been scarcely less precipitate and catastrophic. 

With the approach of the war Trotskyism as a doctrine and as 
a movement began to lose its "respectability." Many of the intel- 
lectuals, sniffing danger, arranged a somewhat hasty and undigni- 
fied departure. In truth, there is not much left of that considerable 
army of drawing room heroes who used to admire Trotsky's literary 
style and confound the less intelligent periphery of Stalinism with 
nuggets of wisdom mined from Trotsky's writings. The collapse of 
the Trotskyist "cultural front" was taken by some people, especially 
the ex-fronters themselves, to signify a collapse of our movement. 
In the journals of the class enemy to which they promptly attached 
themselves some of them have already worked up courage to write 
about Trotskyism as an "outmoded sectarian tendency." However, 
it is they who are "outmoded," not the movement of the proletarian 
vanguard, Trotskyism. 

The petty-bourgeois intellectuals are introspective by nature. 
They mistake their own emotions, their uncertainties, their fears 
and their own egoistic concern about their personal fate for the senti- 
ments and movements of the great masses. They measure the world's 
agony by their own inconsequential aches and pains. Insofar a* 





NEW STAGE IN AMERICAN TROTSKYISM 7 

our party membership consists in part of petty-bourgeois elements 
completely disconnected from the proletarian class struggle, the 
crisis which overtook the periphery of our movement is transferred, 
or rather, extended, into the party. 

It is noteworthy that the crisis struck the New York organization 
of the party, thanks to its unfavorable social composition, with 
exceptional force and virulence, while the proletarian centers of 
the party remained virtually unaffected. The tendency of the petty- 
bourgeois elements to flee from our program and to repudiate our 
tradition is counterposed to a remarkable demonstration of loyalty 
to the program and to the party on the part of the proletarian mem- 
bership. One must indeed be blind not to understand the meaning 
of this differentiation. The more our party revealed itself as a 
genuine proletarian party, the more it stood firmly by principle and 
penetrated into the workers' mass movement, the better it has with- 
stood the shock of the crisis. To the 'extent that our party has sunk 
its roots in proletarian soil it has gained, not lost, during this recent 
period. The noise we hear around and about our movement is sim- 
ply the rustling of the leaves at the top of the tree. The! roots are 
not shaking. 

The evolution and development of American Trotskyism did not 
proceed according to a preconceived plan. It was conditioned by a 
number of exceptional historical circumstances beyond our control. 
After the initial cadres had accustomed themselves to withstand 
the attacks and pressure of the Stalinists, the movement began to 
take shape as an isolated propaganda society. Of necessity it de- 
voted an inordinate amount of its energy to the literary struggle 
against Stalinism. World events, one after another, confirmed our 
criticisms and prognoses. After the collapse of the Comintern in 
Germany, the failure of the successive 5-year plans to bring "so- 
cialism" in Russia, the monstrous excesses of the forced collectivi- 
zation and the man-made famine, the murderous purges and the 
trials after all this, which Trotsky alone had explained and analyzed 
in advance, Trotskyism became more popular in petty-bourgeois 
intellectual and half-intellectual circles. For a time it even became 
the fashion. Party membership conferred a certain distinction and 
imposed no serious hardships. Internal democracy was exaggerated 
to the point of looseness. Centralism and discipline existed only 
in the program, not in practice. The party in New York was more 
like a sophisticated discussion club than a combat party of the 
proletariat. 

The fusion with the Muste organization, and later the entry into 
the Socialist Party, were carried out with the deliberate aim of 



8 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

breaking out of propagandistic isolation and stagnation and finding 
a road to wider circles. These actions brought hundreds of new re- 
cruits to the party, and gave us the possibility of expanding our 
activities. But the successes also brought their own contradictions. 
The membership of the Socialist Party in New York, including its 
left wing and its youth organization, was primarily petty-bourgeois 
in composition, and, despite their good will, were not easy to assimi- 
late. If our party organization in New York had been much larger, 
and predominantly proletarian in composition, the task would have 
been much easier. As it was, some of the new forces from the S.P. 
complicated the problem of proletarianizing the party and con- 
tributed fresh recruits to the petty-bourgeois clique of Abern. 

At the same time, thanks to our deliberate orientation toward 
trade union work, the party in other centers of the country was 
developing in a proletarian direction. Penetration into the trade 
unions was bringing into the party fresh elements of proletarian 
fighters; and the contrast between the proletarian centers and the 
New York organization flared up in numerous skirmishes before 
it finally exploded in the present party crisis. 

The approach of the war, with its forewarning of heavy diffi- 
culties and sacrifices for members of the party , t brought with it a 
restlessness and dissatisfaction among many of the petty-bourgeois 
elements. These sentiments found authentic expression in a section 
of the leadership. They began to translate their own nervousness 
into exaggerated criticism of the party and demands upon it which 
could not be fulfilled in the circumstances. After the signing of the 
Stalin-Hitler pact, the opposition became more articulate. It began 
to express itself in the form of a fight against our program and, 
eventually, in a revolt against the whole doctrine, tradition and 
method of Marxism and Bolshevism. 

It would be utterly absurd, however, to characterize the party 
crisis as the result merely of political differences of opinion. We 
would not touch the core of the problem if we confined ourselves 
to a "political" characterization of the fantastic proposals and flip- 
flops of the opposition. Serious political struggles, such as these, 
are an expression of the struggle of classes; that is the only way to 
understand them. The leaders of the opposition, and a very large 
percentage of their followers, have shown that they are capable of 
changing their opinions on all fundamental questions of theory and 
politics over night. This only demonstrates quite forcibly that their 
opinions in general are not to be taken too seriously. 

The driving impulses behind the opposition as a whole are petty- 
bourgeois nervousness at the prospect of impending struggles, diffi- 



NEW STAGE IN AMERICAN TROTSKYISM 9 

culties and sacrifices, and the unconscious desire to avoid them at 
all costs. For some, no doubt, the frenzied struggle against our pro- 
gram and our tradition is simply a device to mask a capitulatory 
desertion of the revolutionary movement in a cloud of dust and 
controversy. For others, their newly discovered "political position," 
and their endless talk about it and around it are an unconscious 
rationalization of the same inner compulsion. In such cases it is not 
sufficient to stop at a political characterization of the outlandish 
propositions of the oppositionists. It is necessary to expose their 
class basis. 

The present crisis in the party is no mere episode. It is not to 
be explained by simple differences of opinion such as have occurred 
at times in the past, and will always occur in a free and democratic 
party. The crisis is the direct reflection of alien class pressure upon 
the party. Under this pressure the bulk of the petty-bourgeois ele- 
ments, and the petty-bourgeois leaders, lost their heads completely, 
while the proletarian sections of the party stand firm and rally 
around the program with a virtual unanimity. 

From this we can and must draw certain conclusions: 

(1) It is not sufficient for the party to have a proletarian pro- 
gram; it also requires a proletarian composition. Otherwise the 
program can be turned into a scrap of paper over night. 

(2) This crisis cannot be resolved simply by taking a vote at 
the convention and reaffirming the program by majority vote. The 
party must proceed from there to a real proletarianization of its 
ranks. It must become obligatory for the petty-bourgeois members 
of the party to connect themselves in one way or another/ with the 
workers' movement, and to reshape their activities and even their 
lives accordingly. Those who are incapable of doing this in a defi- 
nite and limited period of time must be transferred to the rank of 
sympathizers. 

We stand at a decisive stage in the evolution of American 
Trotskyism from a loosely organized propaganda circle and discus- 
sion club to a centralized and disciplined proletarian party rooted 
in the workers' mass movement. This transformation is being forced 
rapidly under pressure of the approaching war. This is the real 
meaning of the present party struggle. 

3 THEIR METHOD AND OURS 

In the light of these facts, which show the contending factions 
already drawn up into two camps defending antagonistic and irrec- 
oncilable programs and methods, what possible interest can a sup- 
porter of the program of the Fourth International and of Marxism 



10 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

in general have in a ."regime" of the petty-bourgeois opposition, or 
vice versa? The whole approach to the question of the "regime" 
must be fundamentally different in each case, depending on the posi- 
tion taken on the question of the program. The aim of those who 
stand by our program can be only to correct the shortcomings of 
the regime, and to improve its functioning, in order to make it a 
more effective instrument of the program. The critics from the 
camp of the opposition, on the other hand, insofar as there is any 
sense or logic in their position, cannot have any real interest in our 
regime as such. Their fundamental aim is to substitute the present 
program by another program. For that they require not an im- 
provement of the present regime, but its removal and replacement 
by another which will realize the revisionist program. 

Thus it is clear that the question stands not organizationally 
in the first place, but politically. The political line is and must be 
the determining factor. It is and must be placed in the center of 
discussion. We held to this method in spite of everything, even at 
the cost of losing the votes of comrades who are interested primarily 
in secondary questions, because only in that way is it possible to 
educate the party and consolidate a reliable base of support for the 
program. 

What is the significance of the organization question as such in 
a political party? Does it have an independent significance of its 
own on the same plane with political differences, or even standing 
above them? Very rarely. And then only transiently, for the political 
line breaks through and dominates the organization question every 
time. This is one of the first ABC lessons of party politics, con- 
firmed by all experience. 

In his notorious document entitled "Science and Style," Burn- 
ham writes: "The second central issue is the question of the regime 
in the Socialist Workers Party." In reality the opposition tried from 
the beginning of the dispute to make the question of the "regime" the 
first issue; the basic cadres of the opposition were recruited pre- 
cisely on this issue before the fundamental theoretical and political 
differences were fully revealed and developed. 

This method of struggle is not new. The history of the revolution- 
ary labor movement since the days of the First International is an 
uninterrupted chronicle of the attempts of petty-bourgeois group- 
ings and tendencies of all kinds to recompense themselves for their 
theoretical and political weakness by furious attacks against the 
"organizational methods" of the Marxists. And under the heading 
of organizational methods, they included everything from the con- 
cept of revolutionary centralism up to routine matters of adminis- 



THEIR METHOD AND OURS 11 

tration ; and beyond that to the personal manners and methods of 
their principled opponents, which they invariably describe as "bad," 
"harsh," "tyrannical," and of course, of course, of course "bu- 
reaucratic." To this day any little group of anarchists will explain 
to you how the "authoritarian" Marx mistreated Bakunin. 

The eleven year history of the Trotskyist movement in the 
United States is extremely rich in such experiences. The internal 
struggles and faction fights, in which the basic cadres of our move- 
ment were consolidated and educated, were, in part, always strug- 
gles against attempts to replace principled issues by organizational 
quarrels. The politically weak opponents resorted to this subterfuge 
every time. 

This was the case from the first days. In the early years of our 
movement, from 1929 almost uninterruptedly up until 1933, Abern- 
Shachtman conducted a furious war of words against the "bureau- 
cratic apparatus" of Cannon-Swabeck, which consisted at the time 
of one typewriter and no stenographer and no regularly paid func- 
tionary. The same hue and cry was raised by the faction of Abern- 
Muste against the Cannon-Shachtman "regime." Then Shachtman, 
who writes with equal facility on either side of any question, de- 
fended the "regime" the same regime in an eloquently written 
and needless to say lengthy document. 

In our battle with the centrist faction of Symes-Clement in the 
Socialist Party of California, the latter controlled the state com- 
mittee and cheated and persecuted us by every possible bureau- 
cratic trick, resorting finally to our expulsion; this did not stop 
them from protesting all the time against the "organizational meth- 
ods" of Cannon. In the dispute over the Russian question, after our 
expulsion from the Socialist Party and preceding the formal con- 
stitution of the S.W.P., Burnham and Carter raised the organization 
question against us in a special resolution inspired by the con- 
ception of Menshevism. Shachtman, who was on the Bolshevik side 
that season, collaborated with me in the drafting of a counter- 
resolution on the organization question and defended the "regime." 

In the present party conflict, the most fundamental of all, the 
question of the regime is again represented as a "central issue." 
This time Shachtman is on the side of Burnham, attacking the regime 
which he defended yesterday and attacked the day before. The 
times changed, the attorney changed clients, but the war against 
"bureaucratism" in the most democratic party in the world is con- 
ducted in the same way and for the same ends as before. These 
"internal problems," says Abern in his letter to Trotsky of February 
6th [1940], "have never been resolved satisfactorily." He should 



12 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

know. He has been conducting the war without cessation for ten years 
in the open when he could find prominent allies, by secret intrigues 
and sniping from ambush when he and his group stood alone. But 
he never yet got "satisfaction." His numerous organizational combina- 
tions, for the sake of which he was always ready to sacrifice any 
principle, always collapsed at the critical moment. In each case, a 
new stratum of party members who had mistakenly followed him, 
learned an instructive if painful lesson in the superiority of prin- 
cipled Marxist politics over organizational combinationism. 

All the experience of our rich past has shown that no matter 
what temporary successes an organizational combination may have in 
the beginning, in recruiting inexperienced comrades by fairy tales 
about the regime, the political line always breaks through in the 
end and conquers and subordinates the organization question to its 
proper place. It is this absolute law of the political struggle that 
has frustrated and defeated Abern every time and left him and his 
clique isolated and discredited at the end of every struggle. 

Abern and his intimate circle of petty-bourgeois gossip-mongers 
never learned. But conscientious comrades whose inexperience and 
ignorance he exploited, who had no axe to grind, and who took his 
expositions of the organization question for good coin, have learned. 
That is the great gain from the past struggles. Those comrades of 
our younger generation who have had bad experiences with the 
attempt, under the tutelage of Abern, to substitute the organization 
question for the political line, and even to raise it to first place above 
the political line it is precisely these comrades who are most im- 
mune to this kind of factional trickery in the present dispute. From 
their unfortunate experiences, and supplementary study, they have 
learned to brush aside the clap-trap about the regime at the beginning 
of every dispute; they have learned to probe to the bottom of the 
political differences, and to take their positions accordingly. 

The lengthy document of the opposition on the organization 
question was not written for the informed and educated cadres of 
the party. It was written for the inexperienced and uninitiated. It 
was designed to catch them unawares and disorient them ; to poison 
them with personal and factional animosity, and thus render them 
incapable of making an objective evaluation of the big political 
and theoretical disputes that underlie the conflict. 

We, from the beginning of the present conflict, steadfastly re- 
fused to conduct the battle on this ground. We were determined at 
all costs to bring out the political and theoretical essence of the 
dispute. Many comrades objected to this strategy. They complained 
that inexperienced comrades were being disoriented by this story 



THEIR METHOD AND OURS 13 

and that story, by one alleged grievance and another, and lined up 
in caucus formation before they had begun to seriously consider 
the political questions. In spite of that, instructed by the experience 
of the past, we stuck to our method. The subsequent development of 
the party discussion confirmed its correctness. The issues are pretty 
clear now. That is a great gain. 

There is no doubt that quite a few comrades have been disor- 
iented and won over to the opposition because, in the early stages 
of the discussion, we refused to be diverted from the fundamental 
political and theoretical struggle and allowed most of the gossip 
and chit-chat about the "regime" to go unanswered. The opposition 
is welcome to the supporters gained by these means; this must be 
said in all seriousness and frankness. 

We are living; in serious times. We stand on the eve of grave 
events and great tests for our movement. People who can be dis- 
oriented and swept off their feet by rumors and gossip and unsup- 
ported accusations will not be very reliable soldiers in the hard 
days coming. The petty bourgeoisie, after all, do everything on a 
small scale. The gossip and slander campaign of our opposition is 
not a drop in the bucket compared to the torrents of lies, misin- 
formation and slander that will be poured over the heads of the 
revolutionary fighters in the coming days of the war crisis through 
the mighty propaganda mediums of the class enemy. And it is to be 
expected that for long periods of time we will be gagged and bound 
hand and foot and have no means of communication with each 
other. Only those who have thought out their principles and know 
how to hold to them firmly will be able to sustain themselves in 
such times. It is not difficult to foresee that those who succumbed 
already at the feeble anticipation of this campaign inside our own 
party can be engulfed by the first wave of the real campaign. Such 
comrades need not simply a reassurance about this or that fairy 
tale. They need a re-education in the principles and methods of 
Marxist politics. Only then will it be possible to rely upon them 
for the future battles. 

4 THE ORGANIZATION QUESTION 

As long as the real scope of the political and theoretical 
disputes remained undetermined the talk about the organization 
question contributed, and could contribute, nothing but confusion. 
But, now that the fundamental political issues are fully clarified, 
now that the two camps have taken their position along fundamental 
lines, it is possible and perhaps feasible to take up the organization 
question for discussion in its proper setting and in its proper place 



14 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

as an important but subordinate issue; as an expression in organ- 
izational terms of the political differences, but not. as a substitute 
for them. 

The fundamental conflict between the proletarian and the petty- 
bourgeois tendencies expresses itself at every turn in questions of 
the party organization. But involved in this secondary conflict arc 
not little incidents, grievances, personal friction and similar small 
change which are a common feature in the life of every organiza- 
tion. The dispute goes deeper. We are at war with Burnham and 
the Burnhamites over the fundamental question of the character of 
the party. Burnham, who is completely alien to the program and 
traditions of Bolshevism, is no less hostile to its "organizational 
methods." He is much nearer in spirit to Souvarine and all the 
decadents, skeptics and renegades of Bolshevism than to the spirit 
of Lenin and his terrible "regime." 

Burnham is concerned first of all with "democratic guarantees" 
against degeneration of the party after the revolution. We are con- 
cerned first of all with building a party that will be capable of 
leading the revolution. Burnham's conception of party democracy 
is that of a perpetual talking shop in which discussions go on for- 
ever and nothing is ever firmly decided. (See the resolution of the 
Cleveland Conference!)* Consider his "new" invention a party 
with two different public organs defending two different and antago- 
nistic programs! Like all the rest of Burnham's independent ideas, 
that is simply a plagiarism from alien sources. It is not difficult 
to recognize in this brilliant scheme of party organization a rehabil- 
itation of Norman Thomas' ill-fated "all-inclusive party." 

Our conception of the party is radically different. For us the 
party must be a combat organization which leads a determined 
struggle for power. The Bolshevik party which leads the struggle 
for power needs not only internal democracy. It also requires an 
imperious centralism and an iron discipline in action. It requires 
a proletarian composition conforming to its proletarian program. 
The Bolshevik party cannot be led by dilettantes whose real inter- 
ests and real lives are in another and alien world. It requires an 



*This refers to a national conference of the minority convoked 
February 24-25, 1940. This conference resolved that there existed two 
politically irreconcilable tendencies in the party and that "the party 
must extend to whichever group is in the minority at the convention 
the right to publish a public political journal of its own defending 
the general program of the Fourth International [and which] would 
at the same time present in an objective manner the special position 
of its tendency on the disputed Russian question." The majority re- 
jectad the demands of the minority. Ed. 



THE ORGANIZATION QUESTION 15 

active professional leadership, composed of individuals democrat- 
ically selected and democratically controlled, who devote their en- 
tire lives to the party, and who find in the party and in its multi- 
form activities in a proletarian environment, complete personal 
satisfaction. 

For the proletarian revolutionist the party is the concentrated 
expression of his life purpose, and he is bound to it for life and 
death. He preaches and practices party patriotism, because he knows 
that his socialist ideal cannot be realized without the party. In his 
eyes the crime of crimes is disloyalty or irresponsibility toward 
the party. The proletarian revolutionist is proud of his party. He 
defends it before the world on all occasions. The proletarian revolu- 
tionist is a disciplined man, since the party cannot exist as a combat 
organization without discipline. When he finds himself in the mi- 
nority, he loyally submits to the decision of the party and carries 
out its decisions, while he awaits new events to verify the disputes 
or new opportunities to discuss them again. 

The petty-bourgeois attitude toward the party, which Burnham 
represents, is the opposite of all this. The petty-bourgeois character 
of the opposition is shown in their attitude toward the party, their 
conception of the party, even in their method of complaining and 
whining about the "grievances," as unfailingly as in their light- 
minded attitude toward our program, our doctrine and our tradition. 

The petty-bourgeois intellectual, who wants to teach and guide 
the labor movement without participating in it, feels only loose ties 
to the party and is always full of "grievances" against it. The 
moment his toes are stepped on, or he is rebuffed, he forgets all 
about the interests of the movement and remembers only that his 
feelings have been hurt; the revolution may be important, but the 
wounded vanity of a petty-bourgeois intellectual is more impor- 
tant. He is all for discipline when he is laying down the law to 
others, but as soon as he finds himself in a minority, he begins to 
deliver ultimatums and threats of split to the party majority. 

The leaders of the opposition are running true to type. Having 
recited the whole dolorous catalogue of their petty and inconse- 
quential and mostly imaginary grievances; having been repulsed 
by the proletarian majority in their attempt to revise the program; 
having been called in sociological and political terms by their right 
names having "suffered" all these indignitiesthe leaders of the 
opposition are now attempting to revenge themselves upon the party 
majority by threats of split. That will not help them. It will not 
prevent us from characterizing their revisionist improvisations, and 
showing that their attitude on the organization question is not dis- 



16 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

connected from their petty-bourgeois conceptions in general, but 
simply a secondary expression of them. 

Organization questions and organizational methods are not inde- 
pendent of political lines, but subordinate to them. As a rule, the 
organizational methods flow from the political line. Indeed, the 
whole significance of organization is to realize a political program. 
In the final analysis there are no exceptions to this rule. It is not 
the organization the party or group which creates the program; 
rather it is the program that creates the organization, or conquers 
and utilizes an existing one. Even those unprincipled groups and 
cliques which have no program or banner of their own, cannot 
fail to have a political program imposed upon them in the course 
of a struggle. We are now witnessing an illustration of the operation 
of this law in the case of those people in our party who entered 
into a combination to fight against the "regime" without having any 
clearly defined political program of differences with it. 

In this they are only reproducing the invariable experience of 
their predecessors who put the cart before the horse, and formed 
factions to struggle for "power," before they had any clear idea of 
what they would do with the power after they got it. 

In the terminology of the Marxist movement, unprincipled 
cliques or groups which begin a struggle without a definite pro- 
gram have been characterized as political bandits. A classic example 
of such a group, from its beginning to its miserable end in the 
backwaters of American radicalism, is the group known as "Love- 
stoneites." This group, which took its name from the characterless 
adventurer who has been its leader, poisoned and corrupted the 
American Communist movement for many years by its unprincipled 
and unscrupulous factional struggles, which were carried on to serve 
personal aims and personal ambitions, or to satisfy personal griev- 
ances. The Lovestoneites were able and talented people, but they 
had no definite principles. They knew only that they wanted to 
control the party "regime." As with Abern, this question always oc- 
cupied first place in their calculations; the "political" program of 
the moment was always adapted to their primary aim of "solving 
the organization question satisfactorily," that is, in their favor. 

They were wild-eyed radicals and ultra-leftists when Zinoviev 
was at the head of the Comintern. With the downfall of Zinoviev 
and the violent right swing of the Comintern under Bukharin, they 
became ardent Bukharinites as quickly and calmly as one changes 
his shirt. Due to an error in calculation, or a delay in information, 
they were behindhand in making the switch from Bukharin to 
Stalin and the frenzied leftism of the Third Period. To be sure, they 



THE ORGANIZATION QUESTION J 17 

tried to make up for their oversight by proposing the expulsion of 
Bukharin at the party convention they controlled in 1929. But this 
last demonstration of political flexibility in the service of rigid 
organizational aims came too late. Their tardiness cost them their 
heads. 

Their politics was always determined for them by external 
pressure. At the time of their membership in the Communist Party 
it was the pressure of Moscow. With their formal expulsion from the 
Comintern a still weightier pressure began to bear down upon them, 
and they gradually adapted themselves to it. Today this miserable 
and isolated clique, petty-bourgeois to the core, is tossed about by 
bourgeois-democratic public opinion like a feather in the breeze. 
The Lovestoneites never had any independent program of their 
own. They were never able to develop one in the years since their 
separation from the official Communist Party. Today their paper, 
the Workers' Age, is hardly distinguishable from a journal of left 
liberalism. A horrible example of the end result of unprincipled 
"organizational" politics.* 

The most horrible case of all, with the most immeasurably tragic 
final consequences, is that of the "Anti-Trotskyist" faction in the 
Russian Communist Party. It is unquestionable that the Stalin- 
Zinoviev-Kamenev combination began its factional struggle against 
Trotsky without any clearly defined programmatic aim. And pre- 
cisely because it had no program, it became the expression of alien 
class influences. The ultimate degeneration of the Stalinist faction 
into a helpless tool of imperialism and a murderous opponent of 
the true representatives of the Russian revolution is not, as our 
enemies say, the logical development of Bolshevism. It is rather the 
ultimate outcome of a departure from the Bolshevik-Marxist method 
of principled politics. 

All proportions guarded, the degeneration of the Abern clique, 
from formal adherents to the program and doctrine of Marxism 
into factional supporters of revisionism, has followed the same 
pattern as the other examples cited. The present ideological and 
political hegemony of Burnham in the opposition bloc is the most 
striking proof of the political law that groups and cliques which have 
no program of their own become the instruments of the program of 
others. Burnham has a program of a sort. It is the program of 



*Early in 1941, before the entry of the United States into the 
war, the Lovestoneite group held a meeting and adopted a resolution 
to this effect: that the best thing we can do in the interest of socialism 
is to dissolve. Ed. 



18 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

struggle against the doctrine, the methods and the tradition of our 
movement. It was only natural, indeed it was inevitable, that those 
who combined with Burnham to fight against the "regime" should 
fall under the sway of his program. The speed with which Abern 
accomplished this transformation can be explained in part by the 
fact that he has had previous experience in ideological betrayal in 
the service of picayune organizational ends, and in part by the fact 
that the social pressure upon our party is much heavier today than 
ever before. This pressure accelerates all developments. 

5 THE INTELLECTUALS AND THE WORKERS 

The outspoken proletarian orientation of the majority is repre- 
sented by Burnham as an expression of antagonism to "intellectuals" 
as such, and as an ignorant backwoods prejudice against education 
in general. In his major document, "The War and Bureaucratic 
Conservatism," he writes: "Above all, an 'anti-intellectual' and 'anti- 
intellectuals' attitude is drummed into the minds of party members. 
The faction associates are taught, quite literally, to despise and 
scorn 'intellectuals' and 'intellectualism'." For reasons best known 
to themselves, Shachtman and Abern sign their names to this pro- 
test and take sides in a conflict where they have every right to pro- 
claim neutrality. 

The Workers 9 Age, organ of the Lovestoneites, which is following 
our internal discussion with unconcealed sympathy for the oppo- 
sition, enters the scuffle as an interested partisan. Commenting on 
a remark in my published speech, to the effect that worker elements 
engaged in the class struggle understand the Russian question better 
than the more educated scholastics, the Workers 9 Age of March 9th 
says : "This is obviously aimed at Burnham, who has the 'misfortune' 
of being educated. What is this kind of slur but the old Stalinist 
demagogy contrasting the virtuous, clear-sighted 'proletarian' ele- 
ment to the wicked, confused 'intellectual'? It is the same kind of 
rotten, unprincipled demagogy, make no mistake about it!" 

Let us see. The question at issue is the attitude of proletarian 
revolutionists to educated members of the petty-bourgeois class who 
come over to the proletarian movement. This is an important ques- 
tion and deserves clarification. Burnham is indubitably an intellec- 
tual, as his academic training, profession and attainments testify. 
There is nothing wrong in that, as such, and we cannot have the 
slightest reason to reproach him for it. We are quite well aware, as 
Marx said, that "ignorance never did anybody any good," and we 
have nothing in common with vulgar prejudices against "educated 
people" which are cultivated by rascally demagogues to serve their 



THE INTELLECTUALS AND THE WORKERS 19 

own ends. Lenin wrote to Gorky on this point: "Of course I was 
not dreaming of 'persecuting the intelligentsia' as the stupid little 
Syndicalists do, or deny its necessity for the workers' movement." 
It is a slander on the Marxist wing of the party to attribute such 
sentiments to us. On the other hand, we are not unduly impressed 
by mere "learning" and still less by pretensions to it. We approach 
this question, as all questions, critically. 

Our movement, the movement of scientific socialism, judges 
things and people from a class point of view. Our aim is the organ- 
ization of a vanguard party to lead the proletarian struggle for 
power and the reconstitution of society on socialist foundations. 
That is our "science." We judge all people coming to us from 
another class by the extent of their real identification with our 
class, and the contributions they can make which aid the proletariat 
in its struggle against the capitalist class. That is the framework 
within which we objectively consider the problem of the intellectuals 
in the movement. If at least 99 out of every 100 intellectuals to 
speak with the utmost "conservatism" who approach the revolu- 
tionary labor movement turn out to be more of a problem than an 
asset it is not at all because of our prejudices against them, or be- 
cause we do not treat them with the proper consideration, but be- 
cause they do not comply with the requirements which alone can 
make them useful to us in our struggle. 

In the Communist Manifesto, in which the theory and program 
of scientific socialism was first formally promulgated, it was al- 
ready pointed out that the disintegration of the ruling capitalist 
class precipitates sections of that class into the proletariat; and 
that others a smaller section to be sure, and mainly individuals 
cut themselves adrift from the decaying capitalist class and supply 
the proletariat with fresh elements of enlightenment and progress. 
Marx and Engels themselves, the founders of the movement of scien- 
tific socialism, came to the proletariat from another class. The same 
thing is true of all the other great teachers of our movement, without 
exception. 

Lenin, Trotsky, Plekhanov, Luxemburg none of them were 
proletarians in their social origin, but they came over to the pro- 
letariat and became the greatest of proletarian leaders. In order to 
do that, however, they had to desert their own class and join "the 
revolutionary class, the class that holds the future in its hands." 
They made this transfer of class allegiance unconditionally and 
without any reservations. Only so could they become genuine repre- 
sentatives of their adopted class, and merge themselves completely 
with it, and eliminate every shadow of conflict between them and 



20 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

revolutionists of proletarian origin. There was and could be no 
"problem" in their case. 

The conflict between the proletarian revolutionists and the petty- 
bourgeois intellectuals in our party, as in the labor movement gen- 
erally in the whole world for generation after generation, does not 
at all arise from ignorant prejudices of the workers against them. 
It arises from the fact that they neither "cut themselves adrift" 
from the alien classes, as the Communist Manifesto specified, nor 
do they "join the revolutionary class," in the full sense of the word. 
Unlike the great leaders mentioned above, who came over to the 
proletariat unconditionally and all the way, they hesitate half-way 
between the class alternatives. Their intelligence, and to a certain 
extent also their knowledge, impels them to revolt against the intel- 
lectual and spiritual stagnation of the parasitic ruling class whose 
system reeks with decay. On the other hand, their petty-bourgeois 
spirit holds them back from completely identifying themselves with 
the proletarian class and its vanguard party, and reshaping their 
entire lives in a new proletarian environment. Herein is the source 
of the "problem" of the intellectuals. 

The revolutionary workers' movement, conscious that it "holds 
the future in its hands," is self-assured, imperious, exacting in the 
highest degree. It repels all flirtations and half-allegiances. It de- 
mands from everyone, especially from leaders, "all or nothing." 
Not their "education," as the Lovestoneite sympathizers of our 
party opposition maintain, brings the intellectuals into conflict 
with the proletarian cadres of the party, but their petty-bourgeois 
spirit, the miserable halfness, their absurd ambition to lead the 
revolutionary labor movement in their spare time. 

It is not true that the advanced militant workers are hostile to 
education and prejudiced against educated people. Just the con- 
trary. They have an exaggerated respect for every intellectual who 
approaches the movement and an exaggerated appreciation of every 
little service he renders. This was never demonstrated more con- 
vincingly than in the reception accorded to Burnham when he formal- 
ly entered our movement, and in the extraordinary consideration that 
has been given to him all this time. He became a member of the 
National Committee without having served any apprenticeship in 
the class struggle. He was appointed one of the editors of our the- 
oretical journal. All the recognition and the "honors" of a promi- 
nent leader of the party were freely accorded to him. 

His scandalous attitude toward the responsibilities of leadership ; 
his consistent refusal to devote himself to party work as a profes- 
sion, not as an avocation; his haughty and contemptuous attitude 



THE INTELLECTUALS AND THE WORKERS 21 

toward his party co-workers; his disrespect for our tradition, and 
even for our international organization and its leadership all this 
and more was passed over in silence by the worker elements in the 
party, if by no means with approval. It was not until Burnham 
came out into the open in an attempt to overthrow our program that 
the worker elements of the party rose up against him and called 
him to order. His attempt now to represent this revolutionary action 
as an expression of ignorant prejudice against him because of his 
"learning" is only another, and most revealing, exhibition of his 
own petty-bourgeois spirit and petty-bourgeois contempt for the 
workers. 

A proletarian party that is theoretically schooled in the scien- 
tific doctrines of Marxism cannot be intimidated by anybody, nor 
disoriented by a few unfortunate experiences. The fact that the 
learned Professor Burnham revealed himself as just another petty 
bourgeois may possibly engender a little more caution in regard to 
similar types in the future. But it will not change anything in the 
fundamental attitude of the workers' vanguard toward the intel- 
lectuals from the bourgeois world who approach the movement in 
the future. Instructed by this experience it is possible that the next 
one who comes along will have to meet stiffer conditions. It is 
hardly likely that in the future anyone will be permitted to make 
pretensions to leadership unless he makes a clean break with his 
alien class environment and comes over to live in the labor move- 
ment. Mere visiting will not be encouraged. 

The American movement has had very bad experience with in- 
tellectuals. Those who have appeared on its horizon up to date have 
been a pretty shabby crew. Adventurers, careerists, self-seekers, 
dilettantes, quitters-under-fire that is the wretched picture of the 
parade of intellectuals through the American labor movement as 
painted by themselves. Daniel De Leon stands out as the great ex- 
ception. He was not merely an intellectual. He was a man and a 
fighter, a partisan incapable of any divided allegiance. Once he had 
decided to come over to the proletarian class, the stale atmosphere 
of the bourgeois academic world became intolerable for him. He 
departed from the university, slamming the door behind him, and 
never once looked back. Thereafter, to the end of his life, he iden- 
tified himself completely with the socialist movement and the strug- 
gle of the workers. Revolutionary workers of the present generation 
remember him with gratitude for that, without thereby overlooking 
his political errors. Other, and we hope, greater De Leons, will 
come to us in the future, and they will receive a whole-hearted wel- 
come from the party of the proletarian vanguard. They will not 



22 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

feel sensitive if we scrutinize their credentials and submit them to a 
certain apprenticeship. They will not be offended if we insist on 
an explicit understanding that their task is to interpret and apply 
the proletarian science of Marxism, not to palm off a bourgeois 
substitute for it. The new De Leons will readily understand that 
this preliminary examination is simply a precaution against the 
infiltration of intellectual phonies and does not signify, in any way 
whatever, a prejudice against intellectuals who really come to serve 
the proletarian cause. 

The genuine Marxist intellectuals who come to us will under- 
stand the cardinal point of our doctrine, that socialism is not simply 
a "moral ideal," as Burnham tries to instruct us in the year 1940 
92 years after the Communist Manifesto but the necessary out- 
come of an irreconcilable class struggle conducted by the proletariat 
against the bourgeoisie. It is the workers who must make the revo- 
lution and it is workers who must compose the proletarian vanguard 
party. The function of the Marxist intellectual is to aid the workers 
in their struggle. He can do it constructively only by turning his 
back on the bourgeois world and joining the proletarian revolu- 
tionary camp, that is, by ceasing to be a petty bourgeois. On that 
basis the worker Bolsheviks and the Marxist intellectuals will get 
along very well together. 

6-THE CASE OF BURNHAM 

In the manner of all unreconstructed petty bourgeois, for whom 
personal considerations, and especially personal grievances, real 
or imaginary, weigh heavier than the problems of the party and 
the class, our oppositionists industriously circulate the accusation 
that we have been "persecuting" Burnham. It is told around that 
Cannon especially, who is the "embodiment" of all things evil in 
the party, cannot tolerate any smart people in the leadership and 
wanted to "drive Burnham out of the party." There is no doubt that 
this cry gained some sympathy from the humanitarians in the party 
and netted some votes for the opposition. Others, unappreciated as- 
pirants for leadership, saw in the "persecuted" Burnham a symbol 
of their own heartbreaking tragedy. All the insulted and injured ral- 
lied to his defense with instinctive solidarity. 

Nevertheless, this grievance is entirely imaginary. Burnham 
never encountered any personal hostility from the proletarian wing 
of the party. On the contrary, as the record amply demonstrates, he 
has always been handled with silk gloves and given all kinds of 
liberties that were denied to others. His qualities and abilities were 
appreciated in the highest degree and every step that he made in our 



THE CASE OF BURNHAM 23 

direction, that is, toward Bolshevism and complete integration into 
the party, was welcomed and encouraged. Far from trying to "drive 
Burnham out," extraordinary efforts were made to draw him more 
completely into the party life. At the same time, the more exper- 
ienced and discerning comrades understood very well that he was 
standing in an untenable position; that sooner or later he would 
have to make up his mind to come all the way with us or go back 
to the bourgeois world. The unavoidable decision, when it finally 
came, was of his own making. 

In looking through my personal files the other day I ran across 
a letter from comrade Dunne, addressed to me in California, Novem- 
ber 21st, 1936. This letter is convincing evidence of good will toward 
Burnham. Vincent wrote: "I have received from Comrade Burnham 
quite a long letter of very good criticism about The Organizer and 
the election campaign. I think that Jim does a very good job and 
it is especially gratifying to know that he follows so closely and 
is able to speak in terms that indicate he is developing very swiftly. 
I will send you a copy of his remarks, most of which I believe are 
quite valid. I think that his estimation of the effects of my candidacy 
and its relation to the tasks of the union in the election is not very 
well thought out, but one could not expect this of him, having had 
little or no experience in the mass movement." 

This letter strikingly illustrates the friendly attitude of the pro- 
letarian elements toward Burnham and the hopes entertained for 
his future development. At the same time it puts the finger very 
deftly on his weak spot "no experience in the mass movement" 
which, unfortunately, Burnham made no effort to remedy and which 
undoubtedly contributed very heavily toward his failure to assimi- 
late himself into our movement. This letter shows that Dunne was 
willing to learn from the intellectual. Too bad it never occurred 
to Burnham that he might learn something from the leader of 
workers. Had he but known it, there was much he might have 
learned. 

Comrade Dunne might have added another and even equally 
serious weakness in Burnham's position: his lack of experience in 
the party. One cannot learn all that needs to be known about a 
party and its inner life and functioning on weekly visits to the 
meetings of the Political Committee; and one cannot be a serious 
leader of the party in his spare time. The pre-war Social Democracy 
was a sprawling, slow-moving reformist organization which pro- 
ceeded on the theory that it had unlimited time to advance to social- 
ism at a snail's pace in a completely normal evolutionary process, 
uninterrupted by wars and revolutions. The leadership in the main 



24 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

corresponded to the character of the party. Lawyers, doctors, teach- 
ers, preachers, writers, professors people of this kind who lived 
their real lives in another world and gave an evening, or at most two 
evenings, a week of their time to the socialist movement for the 
good of their souls they were the outstanding leaders of the pre- 
war Socialist Party. 

They decided things. They laid down the law. They were the 
speakers on ceremonial occasions; they posed for their photographs 
and gave interviews to the newspapers. Between them and the pro- 
letarian Jimmy Higginses in the ranks, there was an enormous gulf. 
As for the party functionaries, the people who devoted all their time 
to the daily work and routine of the party, they were simply re- 
garded as flunkeys to be loaded with the disagreeable tasks, poorly 
paid and blamed if anything went wrong. A prejudice was cultivated 
against the professional party workers. The real honors and the 
decisive influence went to the leaders who had professional occupa- 
tions outside the party and who, for the most part, lived typical 
petty-bourgeois lives which were far removed from the lives of 
the workers they were presumably "leading." 

When we organized the Communist Party in this country in 1919, 
under the inspiration of the Russian revolution, we put a stop to 
all this nonsense. We had the opinion that leadership of the revo- 
lutionary movement was a serious matter, a profession in itself, 
and the highest and most honorable of all professions. We deemed 
it unworthy of the dignity of a revolutionary leader to waste his time 
on some piddling occupation in the bourgeois world and wrong 
for the party to permit it. We decreed that no one could be a mem- 
ber of the Central Committee of the party unless he was a full time 
professional party worker, or willing to become such at the call of 
the party. I think we had the right idea in 1919. It is all the more 
right at the present hour of the historic clock when the organization 
of the proletarian party on the highest possible basis of efficiency 
is the supreme problem of the revolution. 

By and large there is no excuse for any exception to this rule 
unless the party itself, for reasons of its own, finds it advisable to 
have a prominent leader in this or that position outside the party 
to serve party ends. Naturally there are and have been and will be 
cases where the personal responsibilities of the individual cannot 
be provided for by the party, and he may have to seek an external 
occupation for economic reasons. That is the case right now with 
a great many party comrades who ought by right to be devoting 
their entire time to the party. But such situations have to be regarded 



THE CASE OF BURNHAM 25 

as temporary expedients, to be cut short when the financial resources 
of the party improve. 

It is only natural that a man of the outstanding talents and 
equipment of Burnham should play a leading role in the party. 
This was universally recognized. At the same time, it seems to me, 
it placed upon Burnham the obligation to put himself completely 
at the service of the party and make party work his profession. In 
the early days of our acquaintance with him I took it for granted 
that he had this end in view. Far from barring this road to him, I 
personally made numerous attempts to open it. I first broached the 
question to him in the summer of 1935. Even then he was highly 
critical of the administrative inefficiency of the Trotskyists; he even 
propounded the theory that this was an inherent weakness of Trot- 
skyism. He was inclined to the opinion that our "regime" which 
was then "embodied" by Shachtman and Cannon was so pre- 
occupied with political ideas and with the conviction that they would 
prevail in spite of everything, that the organizational and adminis- 
trative machinery for realizing the ideas was not given sufficient 
attention. (That was before Burnham discovered that Cannon has 
no political ideas and no interest in them.) 

I proposed to him at that time, in the most friendly spirit, that 
he help us remedy the undoubted weakness. I proposed concretely 
that he make an end of the two-for-a-nickel business of instructing 
college students who have no intention of connecting themselves 
with the labor movement, and devote his energies and talents en- 
tirely to the party. After "thinking it over" for a day or so he 
rejected the proposal. The reason he gave was somewhat astounding: 
he said he was not fully convinced of the wisdom of devoting his 
life entirely to a cause which might not be victorious in his life- 
time! Naturally, I could not give him any guarantees. . . . 

After my return from California in the summer of 1937, when 
we were proceeding to form our party again after our expulsion 
from the S.P., I again raised with Burnham the question of his 
taking the post of national secretary. Again I received a negative 
reply. In the pre-convention discussion which preceded our founda- 
tion convention in Chicago a little more than two years ago, Burn- 
ham began to develop his revisionist theory on the Russian question. 
In addition he began to raise the "organization question" in a man- 
ner that suggested a difference with us that was something far more 
profound than disagreement over this or that detail of our current 
work. In reality, his criticisms were directed not so much at the 
party regime as at the organization conceptions and traditions of 
Bolshevism. 



26 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

633 He began to express a great deal of concern over "democracy" 
after the revolution, somewhat in the manner of those democrats 
^ho identify Stalinism with Bolshevism. We were greatly disturbed 
by these manifestations. They seemed to indicate quite clearly that 
Buwnham was moving not toward us, but in an opposite direction. 
^totdajie^hachtman and I, who were working very closely together 
jot s that time, had jointly elaborated the organizational resolution 
against the resolution of Burnham. He and I had several personal 
Conversations about these alarming symptoms of Burnham's defec- 
tion /frtba the line of our movement. We had followed a deliberate 
course ef '-minimizing personal friction. This was not so easy in 
tfcew ol thfcibaughty and provocative attitude of Burnham, but we 
did succeed in keeping personal antagonisms down to a minimum. 
fo tcfae tjomrersation which we had with Burnham during this period, 
to-made it '-quite clear that his apprehensions were directed at our 
&ttaxdo$DfBotbifeTOsm on the organization question, or at any rate at 
eur interpretation of it. He expressed the opinion that we, as lead- 
of r afutur^. Soviet^ would be too ruthless in our suppression of 



However, he was byt no means sure of himself on these points. 
ing through a difficult period of skepticism 
Macri was undoubtedly aggravated, if not in- 
'Icoutradiction between his personal life and 
leader. However, it appeared to us that his 
^iewsoabraitoBdlshevism and Stalinism were not by any 
filfeanS folly* formed) His /revisionist views on the Russian! question 
^/totocoanter^rcvolutionary conclusions with regard 
\$r defeatism!; We i hoped that he would survive his 
OfisMord)fwid^!hi8>iivaj^)to Bolshevism. To facilitate that, 
as I said befdW^rwendyyoweiythiBg to maintain friendly personal 
ltottfriiiB&^^ whatever in principle, 

Russian question or the, organization question. 

iuBifkedc]hahd/i*^and in this period, jointly 
e/Fioa*Ttk4n(ternational on the Russian 
At that time, with the 
I wrote a letter about 
^ consider it necessary 

detteRif J>^hink)/it grfJU f nvince any objective 
pcrintsi I)i vthatfTthl$flnf lict with Burnham, 

was clearly 
leJ (personally wanted 
aisg^ 5fAafens with him and 



THE CASE OF BURNHAM 27 

to preserve him for the revolutionary movement. Here I quote my 
letter to comrade Crux in full: 

100 Fifth Avenue 

Room 1609 
New York City 

December 16, 1937 
Dear Comrade Crux [Trotsky], 

The trip to Minneapolis took two weeks out of my sched- 
ule at a very awkward time the eve of the convention. Neverthe- 
less, I think it was worthwhile. From all indications we suc- 
ceeded, not only in frustrating the frame-up game of the Stalin- 
ists, but in dealing them a very heavy blow in the trade union 
movement, especially. In this case they counterposed themselves, 
not merely to the "Trotskyites" as a group, but to the organized 
labor movement of Minneapolis. The results were devastating for 
them. And I must admit we helped the natural process along. 

Our comrades in Minneapolis were on the offensive all 
along the line. And it appears to me their position in the trade 
union movement is stronger than ever. Nationally, also, I think 
we came out of this skirmish victorious. The fact that Professor 
Dewey, in his radio speech, referred to the Minneapolis frame- 
up, is somewhat of an indication that our campaign recorded it- 
eelf in the minds of a fairly wide circle of people who follow the 
developments in the labor movement. 

I now hope to be able to concentrate all my time and atten- 
tion on the preparations for the convention. I am. completely op- 
timistic about it. I know that the active membership throughout 
the country, especially those engaged in mass work, and they are 
by no means few in number, are looking to the convention with 
great expectations and enthusiasm. 

We plan to orient the convention along the lines of our gen- 
eral perspectives and tasks, and our concrete work in the trade 
unions, putting the dispute over the Russian question in its proper 
proportions. The comrades in the field are up in arms at the 
perspective, indicated by the internal discussion bulletins, that 
the convention might resolve itself merely into a discussion of the 
Russian question. 

It has been decided that I should make the trade union 
report with the objective of raising this question to first place in 
the convention deliberations. Our comrades engaged in trade 
union work are securing modest successes in an unexpected num- 
ber of places. And it is in precisely these places where the party 
is going forward, drawing in new members, and where the spirit 
of revolutionary optimism prevails. 

The general pessimism and spirit of defeatism, so strong now 
in the circles of intellectualistic and de-classed radicals, affects 
our organization primarily in New York. Here, it must be ad- 
mitted, the social composition is not of the best, and that explains 
many things. As for the real workers, the harsh exigencies of the 



28 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

daily struggle do not permit them to speculate too much on the sad 
state of the world, and they have no place whither to retire. 

I feel reasonably sure that the convention will be a success 
from the point of view of organizing and stimulating our mass 
work, and pointing the whole activity of the party in this direc- 
tion. At the same time, of course, we will not slur over the prin- 
cipled disputes. I have had several talks with Comrade Shacht- 
man on this matter. We are fully agreed, and firmly resolved, to 
fight for a clear and unambiguous Bolshevik answer to every 
question. We hope at the same time to conduct this uncompromis- 
ing fight in such a manner, and in such a tone, as to avoid any 
serious disruption of personal comradely relations. We can re- 
strain ourselves in this respect to the utmost because we are as- 
sured of the firm support of the overwhelming majority of the 
party, and in particular of the worker Bolsheviks. 

Regarding the suggestion that Comrade B. should be invited 
to visit you, both Max and I are of the opinion that this is totally 
excluded before the convention. In truth, I am very doubtful 
whether it will be feasible after the convention. We must wait 
and see the outcome of the convention. 

I feel it my duty to write you in complete frankness about 
this matter, and I do so with full confidence that my remarks will 
remain with you and your immediate co-workers. 

We do not want to do or say anything that would tend to 
sharpen personal relations. Both Max and I are going as far as 
possible to conciliate and smooth over everything, as long as it is 
not a matter of blurring principled lines. But that is just the nub 
of the matter. It appears to us that Comrade B. is undertaking 
to revolt from fundamental principles in general, and not only on 
the Russian question. 

As the convention approaches, we come more and more 
into conflict over the conception of the party. The questions of de- 
mocracy, centralism, irreconcilability, stubborn resistance against 
the infiltration of alien moods and theories, the necessity of a 
brutal offensive against the intellectualistic calamity howlers, 
defeatists, and belly-achers in general on all these questions, 
which, in the present situation spell the meaning of Bolshevism, 
we come more and more into profound, if politely conducted dis- 
pute. In such a time as this, when we must take arms against the 
world of enemies and disintegrating factors, Comrade B. is greatly 
handicapped by his background, his environment, and his training. 
He has a strong character, and of his ability, I need not speak, 
but it seems to me, that the disputes arising from the Russian 
question, and now from other questions, are not primarily or, 
better, not fundamentally intellectual or theoretical. 

Now, I must tell you, dear friend, that I think he is suffering 
from the intellectual soul sickness. Who can cure that? If he were 
completely identified with a group of worker Bolsheviks, and 
could be brought under the influence of their spirit in day to day 
struggle, one could have more hope. But there's the rub. He does 
not really feel himself to be one of us. Party work, for him, is not a 



THE CASE OF BURNHAM 29 

vocation but an avocation. He is not in a position to travel the coun- 
try, to take (part in the action of our comrades in the field, to live 
with them, and learn from them, and come under their influence in 
his personal life. His social environment is entirely different. You 
know very well that the academic world of the real, as well as the 
pseudo intellectuals, is weighted down now with the heavy pessi- 
mism in general, and with a new skepticism about everything. 
Without his really comrehending it, Comrade B. himself is affected 
iby this pressure of his daily environment. Combine this with a great 
tendency on his part to deprecate his party co-workers, and to resist 
the idea of being influenced or taught anything, even by our inter- 
national comrades, and you can see the problem doesn't promise 
any easy solution. 

I must say that I sensed for a long time the coming of this 
personal crisis that is what it really is of Comrade B. I know, 
as we all do, that the Revolutionary Party devours men. Demands 
everything and repels flirtations. By all rights, now, Comrade B., 
having established himself as one, of the most prominent leaders 
of the party, and bearing in mind the (party's indispensable need 
of a more active professional staff, should be preparing himself, 
at least, to 'become a functionary,! with all that it implies. When 
I returned from California last spring, I had the hope that he 
would be ready for such a drastic decision. Indirectly, I suggested 
to him that with our break from the S.P., he should take over the 
office of national secretary. His failure to react to this suggestion 
at that time, although there was then no trace of serious differ- 
ences, filled me with misgivings for the future. 

I have written you this extremely frank opinion because I 
think it is necessary for you to know the nature of the problem* 
as I see it. Perhaps on that basis you can make suggestions or 
proposals which will help both us and Comrade B. in finding a 
common language and a common path. 

Comradely, 

(signed) J. P. Cannon 

From this letter it is evident that my opinion of the petty-hour- 
geois attitude of Burnham was not suddenly formulated at the out- 
break of the present factional struggle. The "intellectual soul sick- 
ness" that is the petty-bourgeois sickness. 

But that is not yet the whole story. Shortly prior to the writing 
of the above letter I had occasion to be in Minneapolis (at the 
time of the Corcoran murder) as mentioned in the letter to Crux. 
There I had a discussion with a group of leading comrades about 
the disputes in the party and about the situation in the leading com- 
mittee in New York. These comrades, whom the oppositionists now 
depict as ignorant intellectual-haters, emphasized very strongly to 
me in this discussion their desire that the dispute with Burnham be 
conducted in such a way as not to antagonize him unnecessarily, or 
to weaken unduly his position in the party. They made it clear that 



30 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

they valued his abilities very highly and wished assurances of com- 
radely treatment for him that would facilitate his continued func- 
tioning as a party leader after the convention. 

I assured them of my readiness to comply with their wishes in 
this respect. I expressed the opinion, however, that the real trouble 
with Burnham was not so much his mistaken political position as the 
more fundamental conflict between his bourgeois personal life and 
the increasingly exacting demands the party must make upon a 
leader. In such cases, I told them, I had frequently observed that 
people unconsciously seek to rationalize their personal difficulties 
and contradictions in the form of hastily arrived at "political dif- 
ferences" with the party. I said that if we could feel sure that Burn- 
ham was really one of us, if he would show some sign of determina- 
tion on his part to resolve his personal contradictions and come 
to work in the revolutionary movement in earnest in that case we 
could have much more ground to hope that the political differences 
between us would eventually be overcome in the course of comradely 
discussion and common work. 

Shortly after the convention Burnham requested that Shachtman 
and I meet him at lunch away from the office to discuss a very im- 
portant matter. At this meeting he told us that a comrade, who had 
attended the Minneapolis discussion, had reported my remarks to 
him. He emphasized, however, that it had been done in good faith 
and with the best of intentions. I expressed my regret that the 
question had been put to him in such a point-blank fashion before 
he might be ready to give an answer. However, the fat was in the 
fire, and there was nothing to do but face the issue. 

Burnham stated frankly that he wasn't sure but that I might be 
right in my assumption that in his political disputes with us he was 
simply rationalizing his personal contradictions. He said it was a 
real contradiction, that he recognized it, and that he was not yet 
ready to solve it definitively. Instead of plunging deeper into party 
work, he wanted more time to consider the matter, and wanted to be 
released for the next period from all party duties except his regular 
literary work. We discussed the matter in a friendly way; we didn't 
give him any bureaucratic orders; we acceded to his demands. 

The minutes of the Political Committee meeting for January 20, 
1938 record the official disposition of the matter as follows: 

Cannon: Reports that Comrade Burnham, in the next period, 
wants to concentrate his work for the party on writing for the 
magazine and paper. 



THE CASE OF BURNHAM 31 

Motion by Cannon: For the next period we consider Comrade 
Burnham's work to be specifically literary and editorial and that 
lie be exempted from routine sub-committee work. Carried. 

If some worker in the party, who is denied exemption from dis- 
tasteful duties, reads this extract from the minutes of the Political 
Committee he may indeed draw certain conclusions about the exis- 
tence of "second class citizens" in the party. But he will not find any 
evidence that our foremost party intellectual was placed in this 
category. (Incidentally, it can be learned from this account that 
the famous "New Year's meeting" on the auto campaign was not 
the only occasion when formal decisions of the P.C. were prepared 
beforehand in informal discussions. There were many such occa- 
sions and there will be many more in the future. It is the normal 
method of any serious "collective leadership.") 

What changed since then? What happened to break off all per- 
sonal and political collaboration and eventually bring us to the 
present situation? On my part, nothing changed; my course today is 
the same as it was then. Burnham moved steadily in an opposite di- 
rection. And Shachtman, soon after the conversation recorded above, 
began to shift over into the orbit of Burnham. We drifted apart 
and now stand in opposite camps. Burnham, as his article "Science 
and Style" testifies, has broken completely with Marxism and Bol- 
shevism and the proletarian revolution. Shachtman, who yesterday 
defended Bolshevism against Burnham, today defends Burnham 
against Bolshevism. Let them try to explain these developments by 
references to the "bureaucratism" of Cannon and the machinations 
of a "clique." These are simply excuses invented after the fact. All 
my efforts, as I believe I have demonstrated, were exerte4 toward 
a different end. 

7 THE EVIL OF COMBINATIONS 

The opposition is the worst and most disloyal of all types of 
factional formations in a revolutionary workers' party: an unprin- 
cipled combination. Combinationism is the worst offense against 
the party because it cuts across the lines of political principle; it 
aims at an organizational decision which leaves the political and 
principled disputes unclarified and undecided. Thus, insofar as the 
combinationist struggle is successful, it hampers the education of 
the party and prevents a solution of the dispute on a principled 
basis. Unprincipled combinationism is in every case the denotation 
of petty-bourgeois politics. It is the antithesis to the Marxist method 
of political struggle. 

Marxists always begin with the program. They rally supporters 



32 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

around the program and educate them in its meaning in the process 
of the struggle. The political victories of the Marxists are always 
in the first place victories for their program. The organizational 
phase of the victory in every case, from the election of a definite 
slate of candidates in a party faction fight up to and including the 
seizure of power in an armed struggle, always has one and the 
same significance: to provide the means and the instrument for 
carrying out the political program. Marxist politics is principled 
politics. This explains, among other things, the homogeneity of 
the Marxist formation, regardless of whether it is a faction in a 
party on a small scale, or a full-fledged and fully developed 
party directly facing the parties of the class enemy. It is this 
homogeneity of the Marxist organization which makes possible 
its firm discipline, its centralization and its striking power. 

Petty-bourgeois politics is always a hodge-podge. It never at- 
tains to a fully developed and consistent program. Every petty- 
bourgeois formation, whether faction or independent party, has 
this characteristic feature. It fights at best for partial aims, and 
slurs over contradictions and differences within its ranks in order 
to preserve a formal unity. Petty-bourgeois groupings struggle, not 
in the name of great principles, but for organizational objectives. 
To this end, they almost invariably unite people of different views 
and tendencies, and subordinate the clarification of their differ- 
ences to success in the organizational struggle. This explains their 
lack of internal discipline, and their aversion to centralism which 
is incompatible with a heterogeneous political composition. This de- 
termines their tendency to fall apart in the course of a severe strug- 
gle, or soon after it, even though they may have gained a momentary 
organizational victory. 

Petty-bourgeois politics is the politics of futility, of the debase- 
ment of theory, of the miseducation of the rank and file, of diver- 
sion from the primary and decisive questions the questions of 
principle to all sorts of considerations of a secondary order, in- 
cluding the struggle for organizational control. The present strug- 
gle between the proletarian and the petty-bourgeois tendencies in 
our party is a classic illustration of the contrast between principled 
political methods and unprincipled combinationism. 

It was clearly established early in the discussion that the op- 
position represented a combination of at least three different po- 
litical tendencies on the Russian question, with only one thing in 
common upon which they had agreement, namely, opposition to 
the "party regime." The present factional struggle formally began 
at the party plenum last October over the Russian question; more 



THE EVIL OF COMB1NA TION1SM 33 

precisely, over two aspects of one and the same question: the na- 
ture of the Soviet state and its defense. The "defensist," Abern, 
yoted for our motion, characterizing the Soviet Union as a degen- 
erated workers' state, and declaring for its unconditional defense 
against imperialism. The "defeatist," Burnham, had already intro- 
duced a document into the political committee declaring: "It is 
impossible to regard the Soviet Union as a workers' state in any 
sense whatsoever," and denying it any defense whatever "in the 
present war." As for the "doubtist," Shachtman, he "abstained" 
from "raising at this time the problem of the class nature of the 
Soviet State," and left the question of its defense to future develop- 
ments. 

To the basic theoretical question of the class nature of the Soviet 
Union, the criterion by which all Marxists determine their attitude 
toward a given state, and to the basic political question of its de- 
fense, the three leaders of the opposition each gave a different 
answer. That did not prevent them from forming a faction. Their 
inability to give a common answer as to the character of the Stalin 
regime in the Soviet Union did not prevent them from forming 
a common faction to fight against the "regime" in our party. In 
their eyes all questions are subordinate to this. 

Combinationism violates the Marxist tradition so crudely that 
its practitioners always feel obliged to cover their operations by 
deceptions and denials. Our present combinationists follow this 
familiar routine. They quote the "statement" made by Abern at 
the plenum to explain his vote both for our precise motion and 
the ambiguous resolution of Shachtman: 

With this basic evaluation I find no contradiction in the reso- 
lution of Shachtman which I accept in its essentials as an inter- 
pretation or analysis of specific current issues therein cited, not 
invalidating the "basic party position. I am ready to leave to the 
next period the unfoldment or otherwise of the interpretations or 
implications asserted by some comrades here as to the "bridge" 
character of the Shachtman resolution, or whether it stands epi- 
sodically by itself; and to make my judgments accordingly on the 
merits of any issue. 

Thus they say, they "dispose in passing of the Cannonite con- 
tention that the minority is an 'unprincipled bloc'." "In passing," the 
statement proves the opposite. The sections of the statement which 
I have underlined make this clear. Shachtman's ambiguous resolu- 
tion was under fire from the majority at the plenum as a "bridge" 
to the defeatist position of Burnham. Abern's statement was a reply 
to this criticism, an explanation that he understood Shachtman's 
resolution as "not invalidating the basic party position" of "un- 



34 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

conditional defense" for which he had voted, and a declaration 
that he would "leave to the next period" the "unfoldment or 
otherwise" of what? The majority's assertions "as to the 'bridge 
character of the Shachtman resolution"! It so "unfolded," and not 
otherwise. Shachtman soon turned up, bag and baggage, in the 
defeatist camp of Burnham. And Abern who was going to wait 
and see if Shachtman's position was a "bridge"? He, the "uncon- 
ditional defensist" of the October plenum, nonchalantly crossed 
the "bridge" to "unconditional defeatism." And then he blandly 
asks, in his open letter to Trotsky, "What is wrong with that?" 

To hold one political position and unite organizationally with 
people who hold a diametrically opposite position against others 
with whom one has declared fundamental agreement; and then, in 
a few months' time, to reverse one's original position; and then 
to maintain that nothing has happened of course, there is nothing 
"wrong with that." Nothing wrong, that is, if one is a cynical com- 
binationist who has no respect for the party, and its Marxist tradi- 
tion, and the intelligence of its members. But in the eyes of a Marx- 
ist it is a betrayal of principle an unpardonable crime against 
the party. 

There was a time when Shachtman knew how to characterize 
such conduct and to set forth, as he explained, "The established 
Marxian view on this question." In the Internal Bulletin of the 
Workers Party, No. 3, Feb. 1936, in an article entitled "Marxist 
Politics or Unprincipled Combinationism?" Shachtman wrote: 

Finally, writing about the case of Mill, who had also made a 
"little organizational bloc" just a temporary one! with a group 
in the French Left Opposition which he had defined as non-Marx- 
ist, against another group which, although he called it Marxist, 
was charged by him with having bad "organizational methods"; 
Mill, who logically concluded this political practice by passing 
over to the Stalinists Trotsky summarized the situation in a let- 
ter written October 13, 1932: "For Mill, principles are in general 
clearly of no importance; personal considerations, sympathies and 
antipathies determine his political conduct to a greater degree 
than principles and ideas. The fact that Mill could propose a bloc 
with a man whom he had defined as non-Marxist against comrades 
whom he had held to be Marxists, showed clearly that Mill was 
politically and morally unreliable and that he was incapable of 
keeping his loyalty to the flag. If he betrayed on that day on a 
small scale, he was capable of betraying tomorrow on a larger 
scale. That was the conclusion which every revolutionist should 
have drawn then. . . ." 

Nothing need be added to that devastating paragraph. The 
lawyer's arguments Shachtman is now employing to defend the 



ABERN1SM: HISTORY OF A DISEASE 35 

methods he condemned in 1936 do not change the quality of the 
methods, or the Marxist appraisal of them, in any respect what- 
ever. We will teach the party members to despise such methods 
and raise a political and moral barricade against them. 

8 ABERNISM: THE CASE HISTORY OF A DISEASE 

Almost since the beginning of the Trotskyist movement in this 
country, more than eleven years ago, its normal development and 
functioning has been impeded by an internal disease which poisoned 
the blood-stream of the party organism. The name of this disease 
is Abernism. The characteristics of Abernism, as they have been 
consistently and uninterruptedly manifested for more than ten years, 
are: clique politics; ceaseless dissemination of gossip and com- 
plaints about the party regime; subordination of principled ques- 
tions to organizational and personal considerations; unprincipled 
combinationism in every faction fight; and ideological treachery. 

This internal malady has been always present and always harm- 
ful. In "normal" times when there were no open factional strug- 
gles, it lay dormant, sapping the vitality of the party. At every 
sharp turn, whenever serious political differences flared up in fac- 
tion fights, the malady always immediately assumed an extremely 
virulent form, complicating the ideological struggles in the highest 
degree and pushing them to the brink of split. 

The Abern group is a permanent family clique whose unin- 
terrupted existence and perfidious practices are known to all the 
older members of the party. For more than ten years it has waged 
a now open, now concealed, but never interrupted factional strug- 
gle against the party leadership. At one time or another in the 
past, most of the leading comrades have differed and formed tem- 
porary factional groupings in the struggle for conflicting political 
views. Upon the settlement of the disputes, peace was made and 
good collaboration resumed; the opponents quite often became 
the best of friends, bearing no grudges. But Abern, without a plat- 
form, without once bringing forward any independent political 
position, never became reconciled, never ceased his inexplicably 
consistent factional struggle. 

In the present dispute Abern is only repeating his time-worn 
practices. He enters into an organizational combination; he trades 
off his position on the Russian question for a bloc against the re- 
gime; he poisons the atmosphere of the discussion; and now, as 
always before at every critical stage, he works deliberately in the 
direction of a split. In his letter to comrade Trotsky, dated January 
29th, he announces his intention to "carry on this fight to the end." 



36 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

And by the end, he obviously means now what he has always 
meant in similar situations in the past, not a democratic decision 
by a majority of the party at a convention but a destructive split 
of the party ranks. 

The indefensible record of Abern is written in the history of 
our party. The young comrades must know this history and not 
permit it to be slurred over. This knowledge will help them to 
avoid the treacherous pitfalls of clique politics and combinationism. 
Shachtman is very busy these days with the attempt to pass off 
the rich history of our past as a series of quarrels from which no 
lessons are to be derived. That is not true. We did not fight over 
trifles. Shachtman objects to references to the record of the past 
only because it speaks so damningly against his present course. 
He invents for the present factional struggle the myth of a "Can- 
non clique" as a super-clever ruse to ward off an examination of 
the record of a real clique whose indictment he himself wrote in 
documents which today retain their validity. If some comrades 
have been shocked and astounded by the nonchalance with which 
Abern, the "orthodox Marxist," entered into a combination with 
the revisionist, Burnham, a review of the history of the party will 
show them that such actions on the part of Abern are nothing new. 
In his past struggles against the party leadership, Abern did not 
hesitate to combine with the sectarian, Oehler; with the non-Marxist, 
Muste; and even with Stalinist agents in the party. Abern in the 
present fight is only continuing a singularly consistent course. 

The attempt of the opposition penmen to revise our history as 
well as our program is, so to speak, a "concession" to Abern, whose 
record as a clique-fighter and combinationist taints any faction he 
supports. But Shachtman and Burnham write too much and forget 
too soon what they have written. They themselves have character- 
ized the Abern group as an unprincipled and disloyal clique; they 
have exposed and condemned its unprincipled combinationism; 
they have recorded its history. They want now to rule out all refer- 
ences to this history, especially to the documents which they them- 
selves wrote, as of no pertinence to the present discussion. That is 
because they have not yet found anything in the "history" of Abern 
in our movement which is worthy of their defense. 

We say, and we prove, that Abern is resorting in the present 
critical situation to the same practices and methods that he has 
always employed in previous party crises. They try to switch the 
issue by accusing us of raking up out-lived political differences 
which have no bearing on the present dispute. No, that is not the 
case. We are not talking about the past political errors of Abern, 



ABERNISM: HISTORY OF A DISEASE 37 

although every time he ventured to give his "organizational strug- 
gle" against the party regime a political expression he committed 
nothing but errors. We are not talking about his opposition to 
the entry into the Socialist Party; or, further back, his attempt to 
obstruct the fusion with the Musteites; or, still further back, his 
ill-fated and hastily-ended ventures on the trade union question. 
We are not trying to connect these outlived struggles with the 
present life-and-death struggle on the Russian question. 

Our specific references are to those features of Abern's past 
conduct which have a direct relation to the present his methods; 
his clique politics; his unprincipled combinationism ; his betrayals 
of principle to serve factional ends. These are the practices he re- 
sorts to in the present struggle ; these have been his invariable prac- 
tices in the past. Consequently a review of the past in this respect 
is absolutely pertinent to the present struggle. That section of party 
membership which has gone through the past experiences knows 
this record very well. That is why Abernism is abhorred by the 
basic cadres of the party. The newer party members and the youth 
need to know this record, they need to understand its indissoluble 
connection with the present, in order that they may settle accounts 
definitively with this corrupting tendency at the forthcoming con- 
vention. 

Since the very beginning of the present factional struggle 
Shachtman and Burnham have suffered from the most embarrassing 
contradiction, as a result of their combination with Abern. They 
could not defend the past record of the Abern group. On the other 
hand, they could not dispense with Abern since his group is the 
organizational backbone of the combination. They tried to solve 
the problem by denying the existence of the Abern clique alto- 
gether. The "Abern question," says Shachtman, waving his wand 
that is "spurious" "that does not exist." "Cannon knows what 
every informed party leader, and many members, know, namely, 
that for the past several years at least there has been no such thing 
as an 'Abern group'." 

That is good news, only it isn't true, and nobody "knows" it 
better than Shachtman and Burnham. We shall prove it out of their 
own mouths. The existence of this clique, its nature and method 
of functioning, were established and recorded with deadly accuracy 
by none other than Burnham, not "several years" ago, but a bare 
three months before the beginning of the present faction fight. In 
a document submitted to the Political Committee of the party on 
June 13, 1939, Burnham wrote: 



38 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

Some years ago Abern built up a following on , primarily per- 
sonal rather than political grounds. This has been kept alive and 
still lives, nourished by extensive personal and correspondence con- 
tact, mutual aid and protection in matters of party tasks and 
posts, by joint distribution of gossip and information including con- 
fidential information, and by enmity to Cannon. Whatever party 
posts Abern fills are always ably administered, but at the same 
time administered in such a way as to help the maintenance of 
his clique. ("Toward Brass Tacks." My emphasis.) 

What prompted Burnham to put in writing in an official docu- 
ment this devastating characterization? What prompted him to 
establish with such precision the origin, methods, motivations and 
present existence of the Abern clique? He was simply recording as 
a matter of course a circumstance which "every informed party 
leader," including Shachtman, "knows." The fact that he did not 
look ahead a few months to the time when the opposition bloc 
would need the collaboration of Abern and find it necessary to 
deny the existence of his clique, and to denounce the very mention 
of it as "spurious" that only testifies to the short-sightedness of 
Burnham. It does not in any way alter the facts he recorded. 

* * * 

Shachtman practices deliberate fraud on the party when he 
tries now to deny these facts which none of us have ever been able 
to forget. They were always a constant source of irritation and dis- 
turbance in the party leadership, even in "normal" times, and a 
threat to its unity in every serious faction fight. The non-existent 
clique of Abern was the subject of repeated conversations in the 
leadership, particularly between this same Shachtman and Burnham 
and Cannon. Burnham, more than once, characterized Abern as 
an incipient "American Stalin," referring thereby to his unceasing 
intrigues, his disloyalty, his factionalism devoid of principled con- 
siderations, and his petty motivations, alien to the spirit of commu- 
nism, of spite and "revenge." 

None of us who really knew Abern placed a very high estimation 
on his contributions to the leadership of the party. If we agreed to 
accept him as a member of the Political Committee, it was not for 
his political contributions; he never made a single one. Assuredly 
it was not because there was "no such thing" as an Abern group. On 
the contrary, it was precisely because we knew he represented a 
group that we accepted him into the Political Committee as a con- 
cession to this group, in an attempt to satisfy it and at the same 
time to disarm it by showing that we did not discriminate against 
defeated opponents. We accepted him in the Political Committee for 
another reason, not because we trusted him but because we wanted 



ABERNISM: HISTORY OF A DISEASE 39 

to have him in a place where we could watch him most carefully. 
Such are the facts of the matter, and nobody knows them better than 
Shachtman. 

When we had matters of an extremely confidential nature to con- 
sider, not once and not twice, but repeatedly, we disposed of these 
matters informally without taking them before the official P.C. 
Reason? We did not rely on Abern to respect the confidences of the 
P.C. On more than one occasion when we slipped up on this precau- 
tion we had reason to regret our carelessness. Time and again con- 
fidential information was transmitted by Abern to the members of 
his clique that is one of the privileges enjoyed by these persecuted 
"second class citizens" and then passed on to wider circles, some- 
times into the hands of our enemies. 

Equally fraudulent is Shachtman's attempt to prove the non- 
existence of the Abern group by reference to the fact that the Political 
Committee elected after the Chicago convention "had on it four 'ex- 
Abernites 9 out of a total of seven members, i.e., a majority!" The 
four "ex-Abernites" were Abern, Widick, McKinney and Gould. In 
the first place, there was no design to give them a majority; Widick 
was elected not as a member of the P.C. but as al candidate, nomi- 
nated by Shachtman, as the minutes state, "for the reason, that he 
would be able to serve as labor secretary until Farrell Dobbs could 
take up his duties." Dobbs was elected as the regular member of 
the P.C. but was not able to serve for other reasons which prevented 
his coming to the center. Goldman, proposed as first candidate, was 
likewise unable to come to New York at that time. In the second 
place, the selections for this P.C. were made on a functional rather 
than on a political basis. McKinney, at that time District Organizer 
of New York, was considered necessary on the P.C. because of his 
functions. As for Gould, his selection was made by the National 
Committee of the Y.P.S.L. These facts from the record, omitted by 
Shachtman, are sufficient to show that there was no design to put a 
majority of ex-Abernites on the committee. 

The circumstance that four Abernites eventually found their 
way onto the committee, because of a selection by function and be- 
cause of the inability of Dobbs or Goldman to come to the center, 
and the fact that we raised no objection to this result, does not in any 
way prove the "non-existence" of the Abern clique. It only proves 
that they were not deprived of functions because of their past of- 
fenses. Moreover, this somewhat accidental composition of the P.C. 
was deliberately accepted as a test of the individuals concerned; as 
an effort to break them away from their clique formations and as- 
sociations by integrating them into the directing body of the party. 



40 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

For example, in the case of Widick, we felt by assigning him to 
trade union work, a field completely alien to the petty-bourgeois 
gossip circles of the Abern clique, the activity in this broader field 
could operate to cure him of his clique sickness and make a party 
man out of him. 

Gould, as stated, came to the committee as a representative of the 
National Committee of the Y.P.S.L. But when Gould, during the Chi- 
cago convention, inquired as to our attitude toward him as National 
Secretary of the Y.P.S.L., we gave him certain explicit conditions, 
laid down by Shachtman. At a meeting between the three of us 
Shachtman told Gould bluntly: "We are willing to support you if 
you are going to be a party man in the Y.P.S.L., but not if you are 
going to be an Abernite. We don't want the Y.P.S.L. to become a 
plaything of Abernite clique politics. We don't want your work as 
leader of the Y.P.S.L. to be regulated by the moods and subjective 
politics of Abern." That is how much Shachtman really believed at 
the time of the Chicago convention that "there has been no such thing 
as an 'Abern group'." Shachtman's attempt to give a contrary im- 
pression in his "Open Letter to Trotsky" represents simply a delib- 
erate perversion of the facts in order to deceive the party. Shacht- 
man declared the Abern clique "dissolved" only when he needed it in 
its undissolved reality for purposes of a combination against the 

party regime. 

* * * 

Shachtman writes on many subjects he doesn't fully understand, 
but on the question of the Abern clique, its origin, its methods, its 
disloyalty and its standing threat to the unity of the party on this 
subject he long ago qualified as an authority. And what he wrote yes- 
terday on this subject, when he had no factional necessity to conceal 
the truth, is fully applicable today, for the Abern group has not 
changed in any respect whatever. 

In February 1936, near the end of the protracted factional 
struggle over entry into the Socialist Party, when the opposition com- 
bination of Muste-Abern was threatening us with a split, Shachtman 
summed up the history of the struggle, and the history of the Trot- 
skyist movement in America, in a mimeographed document of 70 
single-spaced pages which occupied the space of two whole internal 
bulletins of the party. The burden of its contents is indicated by the 
title, "Marxist Politics or Unprincipled Combinationism?" From be- 
ginning to end it is a sustained polemic against the Abern clique. 
The purpose of the document, as stated in the introduction, was to 
educate the youth in the struggle against clique politics and unprin- 
cipled combinationism. 



n 

' 



ABERNISM: HISTORY OF A DISEASE 41 

It is meant [wrote Shachtman] above all for the militant 
knowledge-hungry youth of our movement. In a sense it is dedi- 
cated to them. . . . The youth must be trained in the spirit of 
revolutionary Marxism, of 'principled politics. Through its blood 
stream must run a powerful resistance to the poison of clique 
politics, or subjectivism, of personal combinationism, of intrigue, 
of gossip. It must learn to cut through all the superficialities and 
reach down to the essence of every problem. It must learn to think 
politically, to be guided exclusively by political considerations, to 
argue out problems with themselves and with others on the basis 
of principles and to act always from motives of principle." (Inter- 
nal Bulletin of the Workers Party, No. 3, Feb. 1936, page 2.) 

And when Shachtman wrote about clique politics then he was 
not referring to an imaginary clique of Cannon. He was fighting 
shoulder to shoulder with Cannon against a clique that existed in 
reality then as it exists now. Shachtman has never enlightened us as 
to the precise origin of the so-called "Cannon clique." On the origin 
of the Abern clique he gave much more definite information. He 
promised to prove and did prove that "it was formed in the dark 
of night without a political platform and without ever, in the 
two whole years of its existence, having drawn up a clear political 
platform; that its basis of existence is that of an unprincipled per- 
sonal combination, of a clique that refuses to live down ancient and 
completely outlived personal and factional animosities ; that its prin- 
cipal aim is to 'smash Cannon' (and Shachtman, because of his as- 
sociation with the latter)." (Idem, page 22.) 

In reality, the clique he is speaking of was "formed in the dark 
of night" in the first days of the Left Opposition, not "two years," 
but seven years before the above-quoted article of Shachtman was 
written. Shachtman post-dates the origin of the Abern group to the 
time of his break with it. The Abern group is always being "broken 
up" by the defections of people who learn something from an unfor- 
tunate experience, and then immediately reconstituted with the basic 
core intact. Then it begins to draw in new recruits from the ranks 
of the inexperienced and the uninformed, who mistake gossip, per- 
sonal grievances, and "organization questions" for revolutionary 
politics. 

What, according to Shachtman, were the recruiting methods of 
this clique? Then as now: ". . . It has not gained a single partisan 
by the methods of open honest ideological confrontation of its oppo- 
nents. Its methods are different: It says one thing in letters, poison- 
ous 'information notes' sent out secretly by Abern but which they 
never dare put before the party publicly, and says another thing 
openly. . . ." (Page 61.) 



42 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

What did the clique represent politically? The ever-dynamic 
Shachtman, who keeps a straight face while he signs with Abern 
joint indictments of the "conservatism" of Cannon, had this to say 
about the politics of the up-and-coming Abern and his group: "It 
represents political sterility, passivity, negativeness, timidity, fear of 
bold innovations a species of conservative [Hear! Hear!] sectarian- 
ism: 9 (Page 61.) 

Again: "If we were commanded to give a summary characteriza- 
tion of the Abern- Weber faction, our formula would confine itself 
to two words that describe its political pre-disposition and its or- 
ganizational methods: a conservative clique." (Page 62.) 

What does it represent? "It represents an unhealthy and sinister 
current in our blood stream the stream of revolutionary Marxism, 
which bases itself on principled methods, which detests clique politics 
and personal combinationism. Its morals, its manners, its customs, its 
methods, make it an alien system in our movement." (Page 63.) 

In the above-cited document and in others issued in the faction 
fight at the time, Shachtman proved to the hilt that the unprincipled 
clique of Abern, blind to all goals except to "smash Cannon," com- 
bined with the ultra-left Oehlerites, with Muste, and even with thinly 
disguised Stalinist agents in the party! Each of these combinations 
had a terrible aftermath. The Oehlerites broke with the party and 
the Fourth International and became bitter enemies. Undeterred by 
that, Abern, in combination with Muste, deliberately prepared to tor- 
pedo the party with another split. Faced, then as now, with the cer- 
tain prospect of being in a minority at the convention, Abern stead- 
fastly refused, then as now, to give the party any assurance that 
he would accept the decisions of the convention under the principle 
of democratic centralism. On the contrary, he moved forward with 
a deliberate plan to split our ranks at a most crucial turning point 
in our history, when we were gathering our forces for a complicated 
maneuver to break out of our isolation by entering the Socialist 
Party. 

What was the motive of this perfidious program? What was the 
motive of his drive for split in the old fight of 1933, in the days of 
our isolation and stagnation, when a split of our meager forces 
might very well have sounded the death knell of our young move- 
ment a split that was only averted by the intervention of our in- 
ternational organization and the break of Shachtman, Lewit and 
others away from Abern? What is the motive of the threat of a split 
in the American section of the Fourth International on the eve of 
the war and the historic opportunity and test of our movement? 

These are the questions which began as unspoken thoughts in the 



ABERN1SM: HISTORY OF A DISEASE 43 

minds of the experienced comrades of our party in the course of 
this discussion. As the struggle developed, and the perfidious pro- 
gram of Abern became more clearly revealed, the thought became 
a whisper, and the whisper is today becoming a shout! On guard 
for the unity of the party! On guard against sinister designs to dis- 
rupt our ranks at the most critical moment of our history! 

* * * 

Why did not Abern carry out his plans for a split in 1936? For 
two very good reasons both outside his control: 1) The faction 
was reduced to a small minority; 2) An anti-split tendency paralyzed 
it from within. 

Weber, who had been associated with Abern in the factional 
struggle, and whose personal influence had been a cover for him, 
drew back from the prospect of a split. He made a demonstrative 
break with the split program of Abern and Muste, and came out 
firmly for the unity of the party. An example for others in the present 
critical situation! An example of party loyalty which has not yet 
received its due acknowledgment. Weber was denounced by Abern 
and his circle as a "traitor." To this day he is "socially ostracized" 
by the clique, because he demonstrated in the most critical and re- 
sponsible situation that his highest loyalty was to the party. How 
shameful and criminal it is to denigrate Weber in order to cover 
Abern in references to that fight. "Weber did not play the least 
shabby role in the dispute of those years," says the document of 
Burnham, Abern, Shachtman and Bern, entitled "The War and 
Bureaucratic Conservatism." Monstrous perversion of history ! Weber 
played the role of a party-loyal man and helped the party to frus- 
trate the designs of those who would have split it. That action alone 
far outweighed the errors Weber committed in the faction struggle. 
Shachtman and Burnham so acknowledged it at that time. Their at- 
tempt to pronounce a different judgment now discredits them, not 
Weber. 

How far one can travel on the path of betrayal by substituting 
combinationism for principled politics is not revealed for the first 
time by Abern's present bloc with the anti-Marxist, anti-Soviet Burn- 
ham against the party and the Fourth International. I have said that 
in the faction fight of 1935-36 he not only combined with the ultra- 
leftist Oehlerites and the Christian Socialist Muste against the 
"Cannon-Shachtman regime," but that he included in his combination 
some political agents of Stalinism in the ranks of the Workers Party. 
And these were not hidden provocateurs such as may penetrate into 
any honest organization or group without disclosing their political 
identity ; there is no reason to doubt that we have such agents in our 



44 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

own ranks. Abern's Stalinist allies in the Workers Party showed 
their political orientation repeatedly and consistently and over a 
long period of time. They were consistently fought by the loyal 
comrades in the Allentown branch and by the Cannon-Shachtman 
faction in the National Committee, and just as consistently covered 
and protected by the Abern-Muste caucus. They were kept in the 
caucus and even on its leading body. 

The Muste-Abern-Stalinist combination went so far as to combine 
in the elections to the local Unemployed Leagues in Allentown with 
official representatives of the Stalinists against the members of 
their own party! Here is the way the situation was described in 
Bulletin No. 5 of the Cannon-Shachtman group in the Workers 
Party, issued under date of January 28, 1936: 

The Musteite, Reich, who has been under criticism for the 
past year for his pro-Stalinist orientation, finally went so far as 
to boost a Stalinist meeting at which Mother Bloor and Budenz 
were to speak. This took place at a meeting of delegates of the Un- 
employed League of Allentown. The P.C., upon investigation of the 
matter, came to the conclusion that the Allentown Branch in merely 
censuring Reich, had taken entirely too mild an attitude toward 
such a crime. The P.O. ordered his suspension for 3 months, with 
the proviso that he should retain the right to vote on convention 
resolutions and convention delegates. . . . They decided to defy 
the decision of the P.C. . . . 

In the elections to the Lehigh County Executive Board of the 
Unemployed League, [the Muste-Abern] caucus decided to make 
a clean sweep of their party factional opponents. Three incum- 
bents in office, supporters of our tendency, were taken off the 
slate for re-election and a slate of six Musteites to fill all 6 places 
involved in the election was passed by the Musteite majority of 
the branch, a majority at the meeting of 22 to 21. On appeal 
of the minority to the P.O., it was decided to correct the slate, to 
let the three incumbents stand for re-election and to let the Muste- 
ite candidates for the other offices stand. This was a fair division 
corresponding to the actual relation of forces and also to the merits 
of the individual candidates. This decision was also flatly violated. 
The Musteites ran in the election against our comrades, and WITH 
THE AID OF THE STALINIST VOTES, defeated our comrades in 
the election. . . . 

Reich and Hallet, the Stalinist agents at Allentown, together with 
Arnold Johnson, a member of the national leading group of the 
Abern-Muste caucus, were closely connected with Budenz, the ex- 
Musteite who had joined the Stalinist party. Naturally, they were 
driving with full force to split the party and destroy the possibility 
of a successful entry into the S.P. The central aim of Stalinist pro- 
vocateurs in the ranks of the Fourth International in all countries 
has always been to provoke demoralizing splits at critical turning 



ABERNISM: HISTORY OF A DISEASE 45 

points. As we drew near the convention of the party, the Abern- 
Muste faction was reduced to a small minority and balked in its 
split program by the party-unity stand of Weber and others. There- 
upon the Stalinist agents, obviously acting under instructions, de- 
cided to show their colors. On the day our party convention opened 
the Stalinist allies of Abern Johnson, Reich and Hallet presented 
a joint letter of resignation, denouncing us as "counter-revolution- 
ists," and announcing that they were "joining" the Communist Party. 
This letter was published in the Daily Worker the next day. 

It is impossible to describe the impression this turn of events 
made on the convention. What a disastrous outcome of combination- 
ist politics! It is safe to say that never in the history of the revolu- 
tionary movement was a faction so discredited and disgraced as the 
combinationist faction of Abern-Muste at that convention. The catas- 
trophic climax made an unforgettable impression on the minds of 
young comrades who were getting their first serious lessons in revo- 
lutionary politics. Not a few young comrades who had been trapped 
in the combinationist labyrinth began their re-education at that con- 
vention. They learned a profound lesson there. When great principles 
and political positions are involved in a party dispute nobody will 
ever catch them again with monkey-chatter about the "regime." 

Frustrated and beaten, his faction reduced to a demoralized hand- 
ful, Abern "submitted" to the decisions of the convention under the 
principle of democratic centralism, not out of party loyalty but out 
of helplessness. Even in doing so, he made one final characteristic 
gesture of venomous spite. Weber, who had been one of the recog- 
nized leaders of the opposition, was denied a place on the slate 
of candidates to represent the minority in the new National Com- 
mittee. That was designed to "punish" him for putting party loyalty 
above the interests of the faction and coming out strongly for party 
unity. It goes without saying that the majority of the convention 
would not tolerate such a contemptible procedure. The majority 
withdrew one of its own candidates in Weber's favor. That is the 
way all of us, Shachtman and Burnham included, appraised the 
"role" of Weber "in the dispute of those years" when everybody's 

"role" was clear beyond any misunderstanding. 

* * * 

That party convention in the early spring of 1936 settled the 
question of entry into the S.P. The leadership and the great majority 
of the party turned their attention to the new problems and new 
tasks. Muste forsook the bloc with Abern against Cannon in order 
to make a bloc with the Lord against another devil. Abern turned to 
the task of holding his clique together at all costs by his notorious 



46 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

correspondence-school method of "keeping the comrades informed" 
of all the most confidential matters of the leading committee. 

This sordid business of unceasing intrigue and persistent dis- 
loyalty, continued after the convention, was known to all the in- 
formed comrades in leading circles and was recorded from time 
to time in correspondence between them. During an absence from 
the city a few weeks later on account of illness I received a letter 
from Burnham stating: 

A letter received last night from Meyers contains the follow- 
ing: "We learned from that you are going to the I.C.L. 

conference. We learned in the presence of non-members of our 
tendency that your trip is confidential within the Political Comm, 
She gives Abern as her authority for that information and some 
more besides." A letter received at the same time from Kerry con- 
tains the following: ". . . Last night in the presence of several 

comrades and an outsider, Comrade stated that we had 

ceased to work for the Fourth International. I took exception to 
the statement and challenged her to produce evidence. . . . She 
stated that she had received information from a member of the 
Pol. Comm., that at a recent meeting of the Pol. Comm. this very 
question was discussed and resulted in a confirmation of her amass- 
ing contention. I flatly denied the truth of the contention, and said 
that I couldn't and wouldn't believe it. Thereupon she proceeded 
to produce a letter written by Abern and read the part upon which 
she based her contention. It was to the effect that there was to be 
a conference of the I.S. and that Jim Cannon was to attend this 
conference but the entire matter was to be kept very secret and 
confidential. That Comrade Trotsky was to participate in this con- 
ference and it was preparatory to a conference to be called by the 
I.C.L., etc. . . . She stated that the fact that our participation in this 
conference VMS to le secret, we had ceased to i&ork for the Fourth 
Intern. Even to the pomt of affirming allegiance to the Sec- 
ond . . . I 

That is one incident out of dozens that are known to all the 
leading comrades. Burnham knew what he was talking about when 
he stated in the document submitted to the Political Committee 
last June that the Abern clique "has been kept alive and still lives," 
among other things, "by joint distribution of gossip and information 
including confidential information." On November 17, 1936, when 
Burnham was in sharp conflict with me over some questions of 
policy and procedure in the S.P., but long before the idea of a 
bloc with Abern had yet dawned in his mind, he wrote to me in Cali- 
fornia: "We all know Abern's perspective. As usual, he fights 
for his perspective with his clique methods, stirring up trouble, 
throwing monkey wrenches when no one is looking, fishing in the 
stirred up waters. We saw some of it in the first six weeks. The 
clamping down at our leading committee just before you left, and 



ABERNISM: HISTORY OF A DISEASE 47 

Music's defection slowed him up some. But he continues in his own 
way; reports come filtering in." 

In that same letter, before the clique of Abern had been mirac- 
ulously dissolved and the "clique" of Cannon just as miraculously 
invented, he wrote about my methods of fighting for a position 
with which he disagreed: "Naturally, you do not fight for it nor 
carry it out as Abern does. You are no cliquist; you favor in your 
rough Irish fashion 'the Bolshevik fist'." Naturally, Burnham's 
opinion at that time of my roughness was somewhat exaggerated, 
as subsequent events showed. Indeed, my methods in those disputes 
were very mild, even pacifistic. But Burnham was 100 per cent 
right when he said there was nothing "cliquist" about them. And 
that evaluation would be 100 per cent correct today, or any other 
time. 

The whole party remembers with gratitude and appreciation the 
magnificent work that was done by our comrades in the Trotsky 
Defense Committee in 1936-37. The success of the task required the 
collaboration not simply of all the members of our tendency, but 
of the Thomasite Socialists and, also, of a wide circle of unat- 
tached liberals and radicals. Tact and discretion and a broad policy 
were necessary; it would have been fatal to conduct this tremendous 
enterprise as a narrow "Trotskyist" faction affair. By and large, 
I think, these dangers were avoided without sacrificing too much 
in the political content of the Committee's work. But at one stage, 
during the absence of Novack and the illness of Morrow, Abern was 
placed temporarily in charge of the office. According to the testi- 
mony of all the comrades involved, he immediately converted the 
office into a factional headquarters, not of the Trotskyist faction 
as a whole, but of a faction of the Trotskyist faction. Morrow was 
compelled to return to the office before he had recovered from his 
illness on the demand of the conscientious office manager, comrade 
Pearl Kluger. 

Abern has always been completely blind to the interests of 
the party, and even to the larger interest of the general movement, 
when the interests of his own petty and contemptible clique were 
involved. It is such occurrences as the one which transpired in the 
Trotsky Defense Committee that Burnham had in mind when he 
said the posts that Abern fills are always "administered in such a 
way as to help in the maintenance of his clique." 

In the early summer of 1937 it became evident that our faction 
struggle in the Socialist Party was coming to a head. A highly con- 
fidential meeting of the leading committee of our faction was held 
to discuss our strategy and make our plans for the unavoidable 



48 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

and necessary split. A few days later Jack Altman had a complete 
report of this meeting, including its confidential aspects, what 
this one had said, what the other one had said, and what had finally 
been decided all our "military" secrets. Altman published this 
report broadcast in the ranks of the Socialist Party, and it caused 
us no little embarrassment and damage. The report of our con- 
fidential meeting, which Altman published, consisted of a letter 
written by Abern to a factional associate in another city who was 
not even a member of the National Committee and who had no 
right whatever to the information that was withheld from other com- 
rades for the time being, for obvious reasons. According to Abern, 
the letter went astray in the mails and fell into Altman's hands. 

Needless to say, this betrayal of confidence, on top of all the 
experience that had gone before, aroused the greatest indignation 
in the leading circles of our party. Drastic action against Abern 
was seriously contemplated. Indignation mounted still higher a 
short time later when it was discovered that a highly confidential 
letter dealing with our strategy in the split struggle with the S.P. 
bureaucrats, a letter meant only for the small directing group of our 
faction, was made known to individual members of the party and 
discussed throughout the party ranks in New York. We went so far 
on that occasion as to appoint a control commission (Cannon and 
Shachtman!) to investigate the leak. The control commission estab- 
lished by the unimpeachable testimony of comrades that Abern 
had made the contents of this letter known to them. If we did not 
take drastic disciplinary action against Abern at that time it was 
only because we were in the very thick of a desperate struggle with 
the S.P. centrists, and, whether wisely or not, deemed it best to 
pass over an act of disloyalty once again in order to concentrate 
all energy and attention on the struggle against the centrist enemy. 
Besides, our terrible "regime" never punished anybody for any- 
thing, and for some incomprehensible soft-headed reason did not 

want to spoil its record. 

* * * 

In "The War and Bureaucratic Conservatism" we are presented 
with a touching picture of a reformed and purified cliquist who, 
"during the past three years," has not only ceased to make trouble 
in the party on his own account, but has even played the part of 
a benevolent policeman settling the disputes instigated by others. 
"As a matter of fact, Abern, who with Weber led the fight against 
entry, has during the past three years up to the outbreak of the 
present dispute, gone to the most extreme lengths to avoid all dis- 
putes and to quiet them when they arose." 



ABERNISM: HISTORY OF A DISEASE 49 

The truth is simply that the Abern clique was so discredited by 
its past performances that it did not dare to conduct any struggles 
in the open. The Abern clique has never had a political platform and 
has never in its ten year history undertaken to conduct an open 
struggle without influential allies to furnish the political program 
and the "face." Originally it had Shachtman, then Muste and Spec- 
tor, and now Burnham and Shachtman again. Between times the 
clique keeps under cover, peddles its gossip, mutters grievances and 
complaints about the regime, disorients young and inexperienced 
comrades and lays in wait for the outbreak of a conflict among 
the influential leaders. Thereupon it seeks to peddle its support 
for the political program of the opposition any program in return 
.for a combination on the "organization question." 

When this opportunity is lacking, the Abern group, like a Balkan 
state, "avoids disputes," not from good will, but from helplessness 
and fear to stand on its own feet. The entire history of our move- 
ment, not merely "the past three years," has shown that the Abern 
clique, the Balkan state of the party, keeps under cover when there 
is peace in the party, but is always ready for war the moment it 
can find a powerful ally to "guarantee its borders" and even open 
up the prospect of a little extension of "territory." 

Clique politics and combinationism and the Abern group which 
represents and symbolizes these odious practices are indeed, as 
Shachtman wrote in 1936, "a sinister current in the blood stream 
of the party." They contribute not to the education but to the cor- 
ruption of the party. The party must cure itself of this disease in 
order for it to live and go forward to the accomplishment of its 
great tasks. The attempt of the opposition combination to slur over 
the record of the Abern clique has made necessary this extensive 
account of its real history, compounded from beginning to end of 
unassailable and irrefutable facts. The Abern clique, like all cliques, 
thrives in the dark. It was necessary to drag it out into the light 
of day and show the party what it is and what it has always been. 
The threat of split in the present situation, to which the perfidious 
group of Abern has contributed in the highest degree, is a final 
warning to the party: clique politics and combinationism cannot 
be tolerated any longer! In order for the party to live, clique poli- 
tics and combinationism must be destroyed. The forthcoming con- 
vention of the party is confronted by this unpostponable task. 






50 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

9 THE QUESTION OF THE PARTY REGIME 

In this section, I intend to discuss the question of the party 
"regime" and to take up the arguments and accusations contained 
in that fantastic Winchellized document called "The War and Bureau- 
cratic Conservatism." I should remark at the outset, in justice to 
Winchell, that he gained his outstanding reputation as a gossip by a 
more or less careful attitude toward the accuracy of the tidbits he 
retailed. The gossip column of the opposition lacks this distinction. 
I picked it up for a critical reading, pencil in hand, with the inten- 
tion of marking the outstanding points. I soon put the pencil aside, 
for I found myself marking almost every line of, every page. 

In the entire document of approximately 25,000 words there is 
not a single honest paragraph. Those incidents which are reported 
accurately are only half told. Those which are reported fully and 
correctly are misunderstood. Suspicions and prejudices are dished 
up as statements of fact, and spiced by not a few direct falsehoods. 
Everything that happened over the period they report is tendentious- 
ly distorted and misinterpreted. And the most important facts and 
incidents are passed over in silence. The whole concoction is dis- 
honest from beginning to end a typical product of that petty- 
bourgeois politiciandom which counterposes falsifications, petty 
complaints, personal accusations and morsels of gossip to principled 
arguments. 

Bolshevism has not been the only honest political movement of 
modern times merely because of the superior moral quality of the 
Bolsheviks their moral superiority is incontestable but because, 
as the only authentic Marxists of our time, they alone correctly 
interpret and defend the immediate and historical interests of the 
workers in their struggle for emancipation. There is no contradic- 
tion between the theories and politics of the Bolsheviks and the 
interests of the workers and of their vanguard party. They can tell 
the truth the whole truth. They have no need for the lies and fal- 
sifications, the half-truths, distortions and subterfuges which are 
the stock in trade of petty-bourgeois politicians of all kinds. 

Reversing the political method of the Marxists, who always 
put the political questions first and subordinate the organization 
questions to them, our petty-bourgeois opposition, like every other 
petty-bourgeois group, has devoted the main burden of its arguments 
to a criticism of the party regime, that is, the leadership and its 
"method" of leading the party. It was this question and not the 
Russian question which united the leadership of the bloc, and it is 
indubitable that the bulk of their supporters who are predomi- 



THE QUESTION OF THE PARTY REGIME 51 

nantly petty-bourgeois elements without much political experience 
were recruited for the faction by arguments centering around the 
questions of the regime. 

Such questions, in the best case, are secondary in importance 
to the theoretical and political issues in dispute and had to be 
subordinated to them in the discussion. It would have been ab- 
surd for us, in the early stages of the discussion, to take time out 
to answer these trivia. However, now that the fundamental ques- 
tions have been sufficiently clarified, it is timely to take up the 
secondary questions for consideration and to give to the opposi- 
tionist critics the reply they have so insistently demanded. In 
this field also, there is something to be learned; first, about the 
facts as against the fiction; second, about the important points 
of difference as against the trivial incidents that are piled moun- 
tain high; and third, about the intimate connection between the 
disagreements on these points and our conflict with the opposition 
bloc on the fundamental questions. 

If we sift out the great mass of material in the documents of 
the opposition devoted to the regime, attempt to classify the vari- 
ous complaints and grievances and criticisms and put each in its 
appropriate pile, we eventually break down the indictment of the 
party regime into the following main divisions. 

1) The regime (the leadership) is conservative in its politics. 

2) It is bureaucratic in its methods. 

3) The present leading group (the majority of the National 
Committee) is in reality dominated by a "clique" which stands 
above the Committee and rules the party in an irregular and un- 
constitutional manner. 

4) The "clique," however, has a "leader cult" and is itself 
dominated by a single person, the others being merely "hand 
raisers." 

5) The single person who stands above the "clique" and above 
the Committee, and who exercises a "one-man leadership" in the 
party, is Cannon. 

They place me in mid-air on the apex of a non-existent pyramid. 
The first necessity is to get down to earth. From that more solid point 
of vantage it is not difficult to answer all the most important points 
of the indictment and to explain the situation in the party leadership 
in terms of reality. If, in doing so, I must undertake the not very 
pleasant task of speaking a great deal about myself and the part I 
have played or failed to play in the making of party history, the 
party comrades must understand that I do so only because the ques- 
tion has been posed in this personal way. I will not evade even the 



52 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

personal accusations or leave them unanswered. We have no reason 
to evade anything because all the truth and all the right is on our 
side. Our mistakes and our shortcomings, which are plentiful enough, 
are barely touched by the criticisms of the opposition. Their attack 
is directed at our merits, not our faults. 

The main criticisms cover the whole period since the Chicago 
convention, more than two years ago. On the theory or assumption 
that all was bad they assign responsibility for everything that was 
done or not done to the present majority of the National Committee, 
or as they call it, "the Cannon regime." But nobody has been able 
to discover any great difference between the methods of the party 
regime of the past couple of years or so and all the years that pre- 
ceded them since the beginning of our movement. The oppositionists 
do not attempt to make any such distinction. It is the record as a 
whole that is under attack. The question of the regime, says Abern 
in his letter to Trotsky, "has never been resolved satisfactorily dur- 
ing all these years." And Johnson, the lyrical historian of our move- 
ment, who has seen nothing and knows everything, writes: "For ten 
years the leadership has been Cannon's." (If Johnson, as it may be 
assumed, is referring to the entire history of the Fourth Interna- 
tionalist movement in America, it should be pointed out that it began 
not ten years ago, but eleven and one-half years ago.) 

Since I am far from repudiating the record of these past eleven 
and one-half years; since I consider it on the whole good, not bad; 
since, to speak frankly, I believe that our party, modelled on the 
Russian Bolshevik Party, has been built more firmly and stands near- 
er than any other to the pattern of its great prototype "it is the 
second party in history which has built itself on Bolshevik lines," 
says the ineffable Johnson since I hold these opinions of our eleven 
and one-half years' work and achievements, I have no reason what- 
ever to disclaim any part of the responsibility that can rightfully 
be assigned to me. But it is historically inaccurate, and prejudicial 
to a real understanding of the present fight in the party leadership, 
which has its roots in the past, to assign all the credit, or, if you 
please, all the blame, to me. Many people contributed to the build- 
ing of the party. No party in history was ever more democratic, 
more exempt from apparatus compulsion or restrictions of any 
kind, than ours. In this free democratic atmosphere our movement 
developed as a social organism in which many different forces, ten- 
dencies and individuals had the fullest opportunity to reveal their 
real qualities, and to make their contributions to the development 
of the party and the shaping of its leading cadre. 



THE QUESTION OF THE PARTY REGIME 53 

But our party, no more than any other, could escape the influ- 
ence and pressure of its hostile class environment. From the begin- 
ning of our movement this pressure has been expressed to one degree 
or another in the struggle of tendencies within the party. Our party 
has not been a homogeneous Bolshevik party, as the superficial 
Johnson implies, but an organization struggling to attain to the stand- 
ard of Bolshevism, and beset all the time by internal contradictions. 
The present internal struggle is simply the climactic paroxysm of 
this long internal struggle of antipathetic tendencies. 

The leadership of the party (the regime) has never, since the 
beginning, been monopolized by a single person or even by a single 
tendency. In times of open factional struggle the majority has al- 
ways depended upon the minority to one degree or another and 
been compelled to share responsibilities with it. In times of party 
peace the central leadership rested not upon a single person but 
upon a grouping of individuals of different types with points both of 
agreement and of conflict among them. An equilibrium in this lead- 
ing group, never too stable, was continuously propped up by the 
device of mutual compromises and concessions. 

The party "regime" since the Chicago convention more cor- 
rectly, since 1935 has not been represented by a single harmonious 
and homogeneous group, but rather by an unstable coalition. This 
coalition held together, despite considerable internal friction, in 
the absence of fully matured political differences. It fell apart 
only when the inherent tendencies of its different component parts 
were compelled to reveal themselves under the pressure of the ap- 
proaching war crisis. The friction, the instability, and the disagree- 
ments and conflicts only occasionally broke out into open struggle, 
and were far more often adjusted by mutual compromises and con- 
cessions. This situation the opposition leaders now try to explain 
retroactively as the result of the machinations of a secret "clique." 
In reality, all this simply testifies, on the one hand to the lack of 
homogeneity in the leading committee; and on the other hand, to 
the fact that the fundamental differences in general orientation had 
not yet been definitively established. It required the pressure of 
the crisis engendered by the approaching war to reveal with full 
clarity the political physiognomy of the groups and the individuals 
in the coalition leadership. This is shown in the gradual, long-drawn- 
out development of the conflict before it exploded in the open in 
the present faction fight. 

It is precisely in times of crisis that the real character of a 
leader shows itself most clearly. But these inner qualities of the 
individual are often adumbrated beforehand, and are usually ob- 



54 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

served by those who are in a position to see things in a close view 
as they develop from day to day over a long period of time. This 
has been the case with the representatives of the two camps involved 
in the present struggle, and it has not taken us by surprise. The 
leaders of the two camps did not come to their present positions by 
accident. Neither did the two antagonistic tendencies in the party 
ranks the proletarian and the petty-bourgeois rally around the 
contending factions in the party leadership without a deep instinctive 
feeling that this was for them in each case the necessary alignment. 
The polarization in the leadership produced almost immediately 
a similar polarization in the party ranks. Each faction in the now 
divided leadership attracted to itself those elements whose inner 
tendencies they most truly represent. 

The leadership which has now fallen apart into factions can 
properly be said to have been consolidated in the struggle against 
the Muste-Abern combination and the sectarian Oehlerites. It took 
over the direction of the party at the convention in the spring of 
1936. During the entire period of our work in the Socialist Party, 
that is, for a whole year, I was, as is known, absent from the center, 
in California. The administration and political direction of our fac- 
tion in the S.P. was in the hands of the present minority, primarily 
of Burnham and Shachtman. True, I attempted to participate in this 
direction by correspondence, but without much success. It was dur- 
ing this period that the leaders of the present opposition first showed 
to me their abominable and intolerable bureaucratic conception 
of leadership as a function that belongs exclusively to the people 
in the office at the center. My criticisms and proposals "from the 
field" got scant consideration. 

My stay in California, my personal relations with the comrades 
there, and my collaboration with them in fruitful political and 
propagandistic work and in trade union activity, will always re- 
main a happy memory. At the same time, I must say, my futile at- 
tempts to participate by correspondence in the work of the New 
York center; my inability to get from them the slightest sign of 
understanding, or consideration or comradely aid for the heavy 
tasks we were undertaking in California; their callous and stupid 
bureaucratic disregard of our local opportunities, problems and dif- 
ficulties; their narrow-minded, suspicious, office-leaders' hostility 
to the launching of Labor Action; their mean-spirited sabotage of 
this enterprise, and their attempt even to construe it as a "maneuver" 
against them all that stands out as perhaps the most infuriating 
experience of all my activity in the revolutionary movement. I can- 
not think of it even to this day without bitter resentment. 



THE QUESTION OF THE PARTY REGIME 55 

"Go fight City Hall!" says the New York push-cart peddler 
with ironic despair when he means to say: "It is hopeless; you 
can't get justice or even a hearing from the office-proud officials 
there." The people who were running things in the New York center 
in those days taught me an unforgettable lesson in how not to lead 
the activities of field workers from the office. I understand how the 
comrades of our auto fraction felt when they encountered the same 
attitude from "the office." I know their white-hot anger, because I, 
myself, have lived it. Down with office leadership! To hell with 
office leadership ! You can never build a proletarian movement from 

an office! 

* * * 

The great bulk, though not all, of the concrete criticisms of the 
opposition are directed at the "regime" which was formally con- 
stituted at the Chicago convention [December 1937-January 1938] 
and which continued in office up till the second convention last July. 
Very well, whose regime was it? 

This not unimportant question must have occurred to the op- 
position leaders when they finished writing their indictment. After 
painting in endless pages of denigration a horrific picture of party 
weakness, sickness and failure, and assigning all the responsibility 
to the "party regime," and thereby to "Cannon," they suddenly and 
unexpectedly reminded themselves that the picture must be a bit 
one-sided. They tacked on a parenthetical remark: "In closing: We 
do not blame Cannon for all the ills of the party." Naturally, I ap- 
preciate this generous gesture "in closing." But the real picture 
will be still clearer, it will be a more accurate representation of 
reality, if a few concrete details are added. 

The Political Committee which was responsible for the direction 
of the party during that entire period consisted of six members of 
the present opposition plus Cannon. The other members were Burn- 
ham, Shachtman, Abern, Widick, McKinney, Gould. Does the his- 
tory of the international labor movement offer anywhere a more 
bizarre performance than six out of seven members of a decisive 
committee all of them "leaders" by their own admission com- 
plaining about the committee's methods of operation and blam- 
ing the seventh member? What were the noble six doing when 
the seventh member was leading the party astray? Did Cannon 
have more than one vote? Was anything ever decided, or could 
anything be decided without their agreement? Were any decisions 
made, any statements issued, any political directives given, anybody 
expelled, without their vote? Was anybody, anywhere, at any time, 
appointed or removed from the terrible "apparatus" without their 



56 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

sanction? Let them wriggle all they will, they can't get away from 
the fact that the P.C., the "regime" about which they are complaining, 
was their P.C. plus Cannon. 

Moreover, at least a good one-third of the time I was absent 
from New York, on trips to the field or abroad. Perhaps during 
those intervals, the six Trilbies, free from the influence of any 
Svengali, introduced radical improvements in the functioning of 
the Committee, substituted "progressive" politics for "conservatism" 
and eliminated bureaucratic practices? No, those were just the times 
when things really went to hell on a bicycle. 

On one of these occasions the emancipated P.C. interpreted our 
Labor Party policy in New York to mean that we could support 
candidates of the American Labor Party regardless of their endorse- 
ment by capitalist parties. The P.C. minutes of September 23, 1938 
read: "We give specific critical support to all independent candi- 
dates of the A.L.P., irrespective of whether such candidates have 
also received endorsement by any other parties or groups. Carried." 
This policy, fathered by Burnham, would have obligated us to sup- 
port LaGuardia, an enrolled member of the American Labor Party, 
justified the Thomas- Altman socialists in our big fight and split 
with them over precisely this issue, and deflected the party from 
the class line of supporting the Labor Party only as an expression 
of independent class politics. This absolutely untenable position was 
changed on my initiative, with the support of Shachtman, after our 
return from the World Congress. 

On another occasion, during my absence in Europe, they pro- 
duced the monstrosity of the auto crisis, an incident unique in the 
entire history of our movement, insofar as it combined political in- 
eptitude with bureaucratic procedure, each in the highest degree 
imaginable. 

The debacle of the auto crisis sealed the doom of the Committee. 
Burnham and Shachtman attempted to compensate themselves for 
the wounds inflicted upon their vanity by the auto fraction by work- 
ing up an intrigue against me; they began to mutter for the first 
time about a "Cannon clique" whose members had no "respect" 
for the P.C. The Committee as a whole fell into a state of perma- 
nent paralysis, lost its authority, and no longer had a justification 
or a right to existence. The coup de grace administered to it by the 
post-convention plenum was indeed a "stroke of mercy." 

The record shows that the present majority of the National 
Committee was not solely, nor even primarily, responsible for the 
party regime from the Chicago convention to the July convention 
in New York. That is true also of the interim Political Committee 



"CONSERVATISM 9 57 

which existed between the July convention and the October plenum. 
The majority of the members of this Committee also belonged to 
the present minority. It was only at the October plenum, when the 
fundamental dispute over the Russian question was brought to the 
fore, that the Political Committee was reorganized and the present 
majority of the National Committee took full responsibility for its 
composition. 

It is established that during the whole period from the Chicago 
convention to the plenum last October the present minority con- 
stituted a majority in the directing body of the party. Surely this 
little detail must be taken into account in evaluating the criticisms 
which have been directed against the party regime. To be sure, the 
members of the majority, and I personally, bear part of the respon- 
sibility. To the extent that the present minority, or a part of them, 
supported our propositions and our methods, or we theirs, we bear 
the full responsibility and do not in any way disavow it. Nobody 
led us astray. The individual members of the present minority may 
disclaim responsibility for their actions and repudiate themselves as 
much as they please. As for us, we repudiate nothing that was done 
with our participation and approval. 

10 "CONSERVATISM" 

The attempt of Burnham, the exponent of "experimental poli- 
tics," to define the party regime as conservative, and to elevate the 
question of conservatism to a political principle, contributes only 
confusion to the party discussion. Different meanings can be given 
to this word, not all of them derogatory in certain situations. The 
substitution of such general terms, devoid of class content and 
class political meaning, for the precise terminology of Marxism in 
describing groups and tendencies, and their class basis and charac- 
teristics, cannot help to clarify the disputes and educate the party. 
To be conservative, that is, to stand still when there are good op- 
portunities to go forward, is undoubtedly a fault. On the other 
hand, to stand one's ground when others are retreating is a virtue 
not to be despised. This kind of "conservatism," which we show in 
standing firmly on the basic principles of Marxism and the program 
of the Fourth International, while others are running away from 
them, has been very aptly characterized as necessary for the pres- 
ervation of the party. 

If conservatism is to be defined as meaning a tendency to routine, 
sluggishness, slowness in perceiving opportunities to move forward 
and hesitation in grasping these opportunities in this sense it can- 
not be denied that our movement as a whole, and the "regime" along 



58 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

with it, has been by no means free from sin. Such tendencies are im- 
manent in every group which has a "sectarian" origin and is com- 
pelled by circumstances to live a long time in isolation. Many sec- 
tions of the Fourth International fell victim to this sickness to such 
a degree as to bring about their disintegration. 

The tendency is very strong in all isolated groups to console them- 
selves with the monotonous repetition of adherence to great principles 
without seeking ways and means and new opportunities to apply 
them. It expressed itself in full flower in our international move- 
ment as a whole, and also in the American section, in the resistance 
of the sectarian groupings to the famous "French turn" and the 
general orientation from a propaganda circle to mass work. 

Conservatism, of a sort, expressed itself in the tendency, to which 
we all more or less succumbed in the hard years of isolation, to 
routine, lackadaisical procedure, over-caution, and an inclination 
to be satisfied with extremely modest accomplishments. There is 
no doubt that the present majority also is subject to justified criti- 
cism on this score. I personally do not believe that we could have 
changed anything fundamentally in the position of our party, and 
in the relation of forces between it and its rivals, by any amount of 
hustling and bustling in this past eleven and one-half years. I do 
believe that if we had displayed more energy, more initiative, more 
daring, we could be perhaps twice as strong numerically as we are 
today and in a better position for further advancement. We must 
frankly acknowledge these defects and strive to overcome them. I 
doubt, however, that our minority can help us. What we need is 
not so much the wisdom of precept as the inspiration of example. 
That is always their weak point. They are far better talkers than 
doers. Unlike Lenin's Bolsheviks, they do not match the word with 
the deed. 

I have said that all of us, including the majority, have shown 
insufficient energy, initiative, etc. By that we acknowledge that we 
are not Bolsheviks in our habits and practices, but only striving 
to become such; slovenliness and slackness are Menshevik traits. But 
our theory, Marxism, is the only revolutionary theory in the world; 
there is nothing conservative about it. Can we be justly indicted 
for conservatism in our politics, that is, in the application of our 
theoretical principles? I do not believe our record justifies such 
an indictment. The essence of politics is to understand the realities 
of a given situation, to know what is possible and what is excluded; 
above all, to know what to do next and to do it. 

In the first period of the Trotskyist movement of America, when 
we were an isolated handful against the world, we deliberately re- 



"CONSERVATISM 9 59 

stricted ourselves to propaganda work and avoided any kind of 
pretentious maneuvers or activities beyond our capacity. Our first 
task, as we saw it, and correctly, was to build a cadre; only then 
could we go to the masses. The old-timers can well recall how we 
were pestered in those early days by the bustling windbags of the 
Weisbord type, who promised us a short-cut to the mass movement 
if we would only abandon our "conservative" propagandistic routine, 
substitute a grandiose program of activities for the modest tasks 
we had set for ourselves, and in general take up "mass work" as 
though it were a simple matter for our decision. Some of the hysteri- 
cal agitation of our present minority is strangely reminiscent of the 
blather of this revolutionary jitterbug. By sticking to our modest 
propagandistic tasks we recruited a cadre on the basis of funda- 
mental principles. In the next period, when new opportunities opened 
up, we were prepared for a decisive turn toward more expansive 
activity in the mass movement, and made it. As for Weisbord, who 
had worn himself out with his own agitation in the meantime, he 
fell by the wayside. 

Did we overlook some opportunities for the application of the 
new orientation toward mass work? Undoubtedly we did. Except in 
a few localities, we let the great movement of the C.I.O. pass over 
our heads. But we did grasp some of the main opportunities. The 
moment the Muste movement began to take shape as a political 
organization, we approached it for fusion and successfully carried 
it out. In one operation we cleared a centrist obstacle from the path 
and enlarged our own forces. When the ferment in the Socialist 
Party offered favorable opportunities for our intervention, we steered 
a course directly toward it, smashed the resistance of the sectarians 
in our own ranks, entered the Socialist Party and effected a fusion 
with the left wing. We seized opportunities to penetrate the trade 
union movement in several localities and industries and today have 
the firmest proletarian bases of the party there. 

The main core of the present majority was in the forefront of all 
these progressive enterprises. This record cannot properly be de- 
scribed as conservative. Just the contrary. We must admit that by far 
not enough was done with the most basic task of all, the penetration 
of the trade union movement. But what was done in this field was 
done almost entirely by us. That speaks not only for our dynamically 
progressive political line but for what is still more important, our 
proletarian orientation. It is precisely the petty-bourgeois elements 
in the party, above all the clique of Abern, now shouting at the top 
of their voices against our "conservatism," who have displayed from 
beginning to end the most conservative tendencies and the greatest 



60 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

aversion to any real participation in the turbulent mass movement of 
the workers. 

The opposition, following Burnham, began to designate us as 
conservative only when we refused to accept a revision of the pro- 
gram of the Fourth International on the Russian question after the 
signing of the Soviet-Nazi pact, and instead, reaffirmed our funda- 
mental position. Their whole case rests on this. From it they con- 
strue a conservative tendency in our whole past record. They also rail 
at our stick-in-the-mud attitude toward the fundamental concepts of 
Marxism the class theory of the state, the class criterion in the 
appraisal of all political questions, the conception of politics, includ- 
ing war, as the expression of class interests, and so forth and so on. 
From all of this they conclude that we are "conservative" by nature, 
and extend that epithet to cover everything we have done in the past. 

Such "conservatism," which they consider a fault, we hold to be 
a virtue. We aim to "hold on" firmly to these principles which have 
been verified in the test of the greatest historic events, and which in 
our view constitute the only program of proletarian liberation. We 
have carefully examined the substitutes offered to us by Burnham. 
They are not the products of his own manufacture. He is not the 
inventor or originator of anything. The offerings of Burnham are 
shoddy stuff, and if you inspect them closely you will see on every 
item the trade mark of another class. Burnham is merely the broker 
of shop-worn merchandise that has been palmed off on the workers 
time and again by bourgeois ideologists and always to the detriment 
of their struggle. We will have none of it. We stick to our own 
program. We accept no substitutes. If this be conservatism, make 
the most of it. 

11_BUREAUCRATISM" 

In all the documents and speeches of the opposition, the party 
leadership is represented as bureaucratic in the most invidious sense 
of the term. More precisely, the party regime is depicted, sometimes 
by insinuation, sometimes openly and directly, as Stalinist in charac- 
ter. Burnham, who denies the inevitability of socialism, is neverthe- 
less convinced that Stalinism develops "inevitably" out of Bolshe- 
vism. From that viewpoint he indicts us in the name of supra-class 
morality as "a cynical group of small-time bureaucrats" who con- 
stitute "the rotten clique of Cannon." ("Science and Style.") And 
Johnson, who learned all about Bolshevism and Stalinism from Sou- 
varine, assures the party that, "He [Cannon] is showing more naked- 
ly the Stalinist conceptions of party struggle and party discipline 
which he brought with him from the Third International into the 



"BUREAUCRATISM' 61 

Fourth." The lengthy document on "The War and Bureaucratic Con- 
servatism" was written to sustain this fundamental thesis of the oppo- 
sition: The party regime is Stalinist in character. 

The argument is not a new one. Every opposition in our move- 
ment, since its inception more than a decade ago, has sung the same 
song and has always attracted supporters on that basis, as the present 
opposition attracts them. Why? The explanation is simple. 

Stalinism has not only disoriented its own supporters, but, to a 
considerable degree, also its opponents. Many of them see in Stalin- 
ism only bad methods. They overlook the privileged social grouping 
and the anti-proletarian policy which these bad methods are designed 
to serve. Victims of this superficial view of Stalinism never lack, at 
least up till now they have never lacked, unscrupulous demagogues 
to exploit their prejudices and to cry "Stalinism" when they run out 
of political or theoretical arguments. Shachtman, together with 
Abern, played this demagogue's role in the early years of the Left 
Opposition in this country, before our tiny movement had yet at- 
tained an "apparatus," to say nothing of a privileged stratum con- 
trolling the apparatus. By 1935, however, Shachtman found himself 
on the side of "Stalin-Cannon" in the struggle for entry into the 
Socialist Party; and the "anti-Stalinist" folderol was being directed 
against him, as a leading representative of the party "regime." There- 
upon in self-defense, Shachtman always acutely sensitive to any- 
thing that touches him personally thought better of the matter and 
submitted the charge of "Stalinism" to an analysis. This analysis is 
worth quoting here. Neither the regime nor the old arguments 
launched against it have changed in any fundamental respect since 
he argued on the other side of the question. 

In an article entitled "The Question of 'Organizational Methods'," 
signed by Shachtman under the date of July 30, 1935, and pub- 
lished in the Workers Party Internal Bulletin, No. 1, he answers the 
argument about "Stalinism" as follows : 

But then (it is now argued by some), didn't Lenin launch a 
struggle against Stalin purely because of the latter's organizational 
methods, his rudeness and disloyalty, and propose on those grounds 
to remove him from his post? To this reference is added the 
broad insinuation that we here constitute a similar bureaucracy, 
with similar methods, who must be fought as mercilessly as Lenin 
and Trotsky fought Stalin. 

The analogy does not even limp because it hasn't a leg to 
stand on. It is of the most superficial nature and betrays a failure 
to understand the problem of the Stalinist bureaucracy and Lenin's 
attitude towards its central figure. (1) It is not true that Lenin 
opposed Stalin solely on organizational grounds. The famous testa- 
ment is prefaced by the significant observation that the rule of the 



62 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

proletariat is based upon a collaboration of two classes. This cre- 
ates the whole environment for the growth of a Soviet Bureau- 
cracy. This bureaucracy, in the period of its degeneration, in the 
midst of a constantly self-reproducing capitalism, represents the 
pressure of alien classes. Because of this fact, the "bureaucracy 
tends more and more to bear down upon the proletarian kernel of 
the country; it shows an increasing contempt for it and a growing 
inclination to lean upon enemy classes. Stalin was the personifica- 
tion of this bureaucratic tendency. If the testament is read in con- 
nection with the noted articles and letters Lenin wrote shortly be- 
fore his death, the political and class connection will become ap- 
parent. If nothing is learned from the testament except that "Stal- 
in is rude remove him!" then, indeed, nothing has been learned. 
(2) The "bureaucracy in the Soviet Union is a social phenomenon. 
It has deep roots in Russia's past and present historical develop- 
ment. It has close class connections. It has tremendous material 
and intellectual power at its disposal power to corrupt, to degen- 
erate, to undermine the proletarian base of the Union. To speak of 
our pitiful little "bureaucracy" in the Workers' Party or any sec- 
tion of it in the same breath with the Stalinist bureaucracy, can 
be excused only on the grounds of political infantilism. 

That quotation deserves study by the comrades in the party 
who want to probe to the bottom of this light-minded talk about 
"Stalinism" in connection with the regime in our party. The whole 
paragraph deserves study line by line and word by word. I have 
underlined a couple of especially important sentences. "The bureau- 
cracy tends more and more to bear down upon the proletarian kernel 
of the country." That is the universal characteristic of every privi- 
leged bureaucracy. It is precisely in order to serve their own special 
privileged interests, as against the interests of the proletarian mass, 
that every labor bureaucracy ties itself up in one way or another 
with "enemy classes." As Shachtman aptly says, it "leans upon" 
enemy classes and "bears down" upon the proletariat. It is in order 
to carry through this policy, against the interests and against the 
will of the proletarian mass, that bureaucratic formations of the 
privileged groups and bureaucratic methods become necessary. That 
is true not only of the Stalinist bureaucracy; it is true also of the 
trade union bureaucracy, the bureaucracy of the parties of the Sec- 
ond International and of all reformist labor organizations. 

Now I want to put two questions to the leaders of the opposition : 
1. Where and when did the regime in our party "bear down" on 
the proletarian kernel? Name me one branch, or one trade union 
fraction, that has complained in the discussion of bureaucratic mis- 
treatment by the party leadership. The whole discussion, with its 
voluminous documentation, and its innumerable speeches, has not 



"BUREAUCRATISM 9 63 

brought to light a single such case insofar as the present majority of 
the National Committee is concerned! 

The air has been shattered with the shrieks of the individual lead- 
ers of the petty-bourgeois faction God, how they suffered! But not 
a word of complaint has come in from "the proletarian kernel" of 
the party. From all parts of the country, during the discussion, I 
received letters from rank and file comrades asking "information" 
about the bureaucratism in the party, but nobody among them volun- 
teered to give any information. A very strange animal, this bureau- 
cratism, like the purple cow; everybody hears about it, but nobody 
knows about it. Nobody, that is, except a coterie of thin-skinned 
petty-bourgeois intellectuals, half-intellectuals and would-be intel- 
lectuals who magnify a few pin-pricks suffered by their individual 
persons into a murderous bayonet charge against the rank and file 
of the party. 

I say that bureaucratism in the real sense of the word is not 
known in our party! Some of our best friends, hearing this stupid 
and venomous charge repeated over and over again, and reasoning 
that "where there is so much smoke there must be some fire," may 
be thinking: "Perhaps a little self-criticism would be in order here." 
Not on this point! The proletarian majority of the National Com- 
mittee has plenty of political faults and sins to account for; it has 
to admit a great deal of inefficiency, neglected opportunities, slack- 
ness in discipline, etc. But bureaucratic mishandling of the party 
units or the trade union fractions none whatsoever! 

Practically every proletarian branch of the party supports the 
majority! Every trade union fraction in the party from coast to 
coast, with the sole exception of a couple of white collar fractions 
in New York City, supports the majority unanimously, or almost 
unanimously! This is not by accident. Bureaucratism strikes, first 
and last, at the proletarian sections of every organization; bureau- 
cratism "bears down upon the proletarian kernel." If the proletarian 
sections of the party were instinctively drawn to the majority and 
repelled by the opposition from the first day of the discussion, it is 
because, among other reasons, they are most sensitive to every con- 
crete manifestation of bureaucratism. It is because they judge the 
"organization question" not by what they read in ponderous docu- 
ments, and still less by what somebody buzzes in their ear, but by 
what they see and know from their own experiences with the party 
leadership and its different sections. 

2. You call the apparatus of the party a bureaucracy, Messrs. 
Abern, Burnham and Shachtman? You go further and describe it as 
"Stalinist" in character? Very well, gentlemen. Tell us, please, what 



64 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

is the social basis of this "Stalinist" bureaucracy in the American 
section of the Fourth International? What are its privileges? Where 
is manifested its "inclination to lean upon enemy classes" What 
classes? What special interests does it have to serve which compel 
it to "bear down upon the proletarian kernel?" Shachtman, in 1935, 
in the document cited above, informed Oehler-Abern-Muste that "the 
bureaucracy in the Soviet Union is a social phenomenon." What kind 
of a "social phenomenon" is our "pitiful little bureaucracy" ? 

After all, what is the "apparatus" of our party? What is this 
selection of people whom the self-sacrificing Burnham disdainfully 
calls "a cynical group of small-time bureaucrats" and a "rotten 
clique"? Let's take up this question, once and for all, and have it 
out. The "apparatus," that is, the National Committee and the func- 
tioning full-time staff of party workers, is not an economically privi- 
leged group and has no special interests of its own that are different 
from the interests of the party members as a whole. The reality is 
quite different. The full-time functionaries of the party are those com- 
rades who are distinguished either by exceptional ability, which 
propels them into professional party work by the universal consent 
and approval of the party membership, or by the capacity for self- 
sacrifice, or both those comrades who are willing to undertake 
functions as party workers for less compensation than even the most 
poorly paid worker as a rule can secure in private employment. 

The rank and file of the party knows this very well and doesn't 
want to hear any more denigration of the professional party workers, 
especially from people who shrink from the sacrifices and duties of 
professional party work. Our party is not a party like the social 
democracy. We will not permit our movement to be led by spare- 
time heroes while the coolie work is done by the professional 
functionaries, who in addition have to stand the abuse of the 
"lords" who come around to visit the party once a week. The party 
honors and respects its professional staff. It considers the occupa- 
tion of a professional revolutionist to be the most honorable of all 
occupations. The highest aspiration and ambition of every young 
party member should be to qualify himself for such a profession 
in life. 

Our party "apparatus" is neither a bureaucracy, nor a faction, 
nor a clique. It is a selection of people who fulfill different functions 
according to their merits and capacities and experience and their 
readiness to serve the party at the cost of severe economic penalties. 
There has been no element of "patronage" in their selection; the 
very suggestion of such a thing is an intolerable insult, especially 
when it comes, as it usually does, from well situated dilettantes who 



"BUREAUCRATISM' 65 

never missed a dinner appointment for the revolution. Neither can 
it be justly maintained that there has been any factional discrimina- 
tion or favoritism in the selection of party functionaries. The opposi- 
tion has been represented, and well represented, especially in the 
editorial and office positions in the center. 

The oppositionists themselves testify to this: "It is true that the 
members of the minority occupy many posts. . . . Cannon has not the 
least objection to everyone in the party doing as much work, even in 
prominent posts, as he is capable of handling." Then what are they 
complaining about? What kind of a bureaucracy is it that "has not 
the least objection" to anybody having any function he can "handle" 
even in "prominent posts"? Try to discover such a situation in a 
real bureaucracy the Stalinist or Lewis-Green bureaucracies, for 
example. Their "posts" are almost invariably assigned to supporters 
of the "regime," and by no means to "anybody." If the party field 
workers are, almost without exception, supporters of the majority, it 
is not in repayment for "favors." It is rather because the petty- 
bourgeois minded type of secondary leaders, who gravitate naturally 
to the opposition, tend to shy away from field work, with its arduous 
duties and economic uncertainties. They prepare for civil war by 
first preparing for the civil service. A candidate for leadership in 
the camp of the majority, on the other hand, isn't taken very seriously 
until he has done a good stretch of field work, and shown what he 
can do and what he can learn in direct contact with workers in the 
class struggle. 

As for the prominent trade unionists, they have attained positions 
of prominence in their field, not by "appointments" from New York, 
but by their own activities and merits which have been recognized by 
the workers. If the field workers and the trade unionists of the 
party tended from the outset of the fight to "take sides" against the 
office leaders of the opposition, it is not because they are addicts 
of some preposterous fascistic "leader cult" but, rather, from con- 
siderations of an opposite nature. The nature of their work, which 
is directly and immediately affected from day to day by the actions 
and decisions of the central party leadership, gives them a more 
intimate understanding of its real qualities. This determines a more 
critical attitude on their part than is the case of those party mem- 
bers, remote from the class struggle, who judge the leaders solely 
by their articles and their speeches. The party trade unionists know 
all the party leaders too well they know people too well to be 
"slavish idolaters" of anybody, or to expect perfection from any- 
body. If the performance of the leaders of the majority at the center 
is by no means satisfactory to them and that is no doubt the case 



66 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

they are in no hurry to exchange them for others whose performance 
has been worse. They are practical people; if they have to choose 
between evils, they take the lesser evil. 

The fact that our party has no socially privileged bureaucracy, 
that its internal life is dominated by democracy rather than bureau- 
cratism, does not of course obviate the possibility of bureaucratic 
practices and bureaucratic tendencies on the part of individuals and 
even of groups. But it is just these very critics of the opposition 
who have manifested such tendencies most crassly, and more times 
than once. Indeed, the tendency of the petty-bourgeois leaders is 
toward bureaucratic practices. From the nature of the faction it 
could hardly be otherwise. There are glaring instances which show 
how they manifested this tendency when they had a free hand and 
were able to act without the counteracting influence of the majority. 
Their conduct in the auto crisis is a classic example of intolerable 
bureaucratic procedure from beginning to end. And the end is not 
yet, for they have not yet acknowledged or corrected their indefen- 
sible procedure; they still refer to the auto crisis only in an attempt 
to explain away their own actions, to justify themselves at the ex- 
pense of their critics, and to switch the issue and turn the attack 
against their critics. 

In "The War and Bureaucratic Conservatism" they have space in 
a document of approximately 25,000 words for only one paragraph 
on the auto crisis. And this single paragraph is devoted, not to a 
discussion of the crisis and their conduct in it, but to a completely 
extraneous matter so as to make it appear that "Cannon," who was 
three thousand miles away at the time of the auto crisis, was never- 
theless responsible for their debacle in this situation, as for every- 
thing else. In a remarkable article that belongs now to party history, 
"The Truth About the Auto Crisis," comrade Clarke has written the 
full account of the auto crisis, an account which is verified and 
documented at every point. That article will speak for itself, and 
will be source material for every discussion in the future over the 
concrete meaning of bureaucratic practices on the part of an office 
leadership. 

Here I wish to make only a few general observations on this 
unsavory affair. The present minority were in full charge of the 
Political Committee; the seventh member, who had been responsible 
for all of their troubles, was across the wide ocean, and in no posi- 
tion to hamper or restrict their operations in any way. The auto 
crisis was a real test of the regime their regime. It was a real test 
of their capacity to lead the party and to lead workers in a difficult 
and complicated situation. What did they do? They began by bun- 



"BUREAUCRATISM 9 67 

gling the policy. This policy, cooked up in Burnham's study, pre- 
scribed a course of action for our fraction which was contrary to 
the movement of the workers in the industry, and which, if it had 
been followed out, would have swept our comrades out of the auto 
union in the space of a few weeks' time. When the whole auto frac- 
tion, which included the ablest trade unionists in the party and 
four members of the N.C., rose up against them they "reaffirmed" 
their former position by a vote of three to two, with one abstaining, 
called that the decision of the party, and appealed to discipline and 
formal authority! 

When they finally yielded to the pressure of the auto fraction, 
supplemented by the pressure of all N.C. members who had oppor- 
tunity to express themselves, they did it in a contemptible fashion. 
They washed their hands of the affair, and placed upon the auto 
fraction the full responsibility for carrying out the new policy. Then 
they made a spiteful attack on the auto fraction in a statement sent 
to the branches which also "warned" that the auto comrades would 
have bad luck with their policy and that the "line of the party" 
that is, the line of Burnham, Widick and Abern would be proved 
to be correct. Then, in typical Lovestoneite fashion, the typical 
fashion of any group of arrogant petty-bourgeois intellectuals, they 
turned the attack against the field workers who had corrected the 
false policy and shown their independence in protesting against it, 
announcing the discovery that they were mere "hand raisers" who 
belonged to a "rotten clique" of "small-time bureaucrats." It would 
be hard to find in the history of our movement a comparable exam- 
ple of haughty, ungracious and spiteful bureaucratism in a concrete 
situation. Bureaucratism indeed "bears down" upon the "proletarian 
kernel" of the party. But this proletarian kernel proved to be hardy 
and resistant and capable of asserting itself. That is its real crime in 
the eyes of the offended petty-bourgeois leaders-from-an-office. 

Another example of unadulterated bureaucratism of the same 
type was shown in the proposals of Burnham and Shachtman in re- 
gard to the election policy of the Minneapolis branch last spring. 
Incalculable damage might have been done to the party and to the 
relations between the central leadership and the Minneapolis branch 
if these proposals had not been frustrated. The branch had originally 
nominated its own independent candidate for mayor. When a con- 
ference of trade unions nominated a labor candidate, the branch de- 
cided to withdraw its candidate and support the labor candidate. I 
was directed by the P.C. to investigate the matter while on a visit 
to the Minneapolis branch at that time. On my visit, I inquired about 
the conference which had nominated the labor candidate. I was told 



68 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

that it had been a well-attended conference of important unions and 
that the labor candidate was sponsored by them. I expressed the 
opinion that the action of the comrades in withdrawing their own 
candidate in this case, and supporting the labor candidate, was fully 
in accord with party policy and so reported to the P.C. at its meeting 
on May 2nd. Burnham promptly made a set of motions against the 
action. I quote the minutes of the Political Committee of May 2, 1939 : 

Motions by Burnham: (1) That the P.C. considers the action 
of the Minneapolis local in withdrawing its own candidate from 
the mayoralty primaries and going over to support of Eide as (a) 
an opportunist concession to the conservative trade union bureau- 
crats, and (b) with respect to the support of Eide, a practice in 
conflict with the party's position in favor of genuinely independ- 
ent working class political action, 

(2) The secretary is instructed to communicate with the Min- 
neapolis local and present a thorough analysis of the action in the 
light of the above motion. , 

(3) A carefully worded explanatory article on this situation 
and the point of view of the P.C. with reference to it shall be pub- 
lished in the Appeal. 

A truly astounding proposal! Without further parley with Min- 
neapolis, Burnham wanted to repudiate their policy publicly in the 
columns of our official organ in the midst of an election campaign. 
Shachtman expressed himself as ready to vote right then for Burn- 
ham's motion. (It was obvious that these two people, who are osten- 
sibly opposed to all informal consultations between committee 
meetings, had discussed the matter between themselves and "con- 
victed" Minneapolis in advance.) In this incident they showed the 
same traits as in the auto crisis a few months earlier, and demon- 
strated that they had learned nothing from that experience. The politi- 
cal line of Burnham's motion was absolutely incorrect ; the Minneap- 
olis comrades were right; and the proposed procedure an out-of- 
hand repudiation in the public press of the party was abominably 
bureaucratic. 

Fortunately, on this occasion there were restraining influences 
in the Political Committee. Goldman, present as an N.C. member, 
moved: "That we instruct the secretary to write the Minneapolis 
local, asking for a full explanation of their action in withdrawing 
Comrade Hudson as candidate for Mayor and in supporting Eide." 
His motion was accepted and action deferred until more detailed in- 
formation could be sent by the Minneapolis comrades. The P.C. 
minutes of May 16th, two weeks later, record further developments: 

Letter received from Minneapolis giving details as to the 
Minneapolis election situation. 



"BUREAUCRATISM' 69 

Question raised by Burnham of need for information on several 
points. 

Motion by Burnham: To ask the Minneapolis party for further 
information and that we lay over the document until that informa- 
tion is received. Carried. 

The Minneapolis question was again on the agenda briefly and 
is recorded in the P.C. minutes of May 31st. 

Letter from Minneapolis read, answering the last questions 
addressed to them on the election policy. 

Motion: That the matter be laid over to the next committee 
meeting when Comrade Burnham will be present, since he made 
the original motion on this point. Carried. 

The matter was finally disposed of at the P.C. meeting of June 
6th. The minutes of this date cover the matter as follows: 

Summary by Cannon of further information received from 
Minneapolis regarding the election situation. 
General discussion. 

Withdrawal by Burnham of his motion presented in the meet- 
ing of May 2nd, 1939, with following statement: "The further in- 
formation that we have received indicates that the opinion which 
I formerly held and formulated in motions to the effect that sup- 
port of Eide in the Minneapolis elections is incompatible with our 
labor party policy is incorrect and I, therefore, wish to withdraw 
the motion." 

Motion by Cannon: That the P.C. considers that the action of 
the Minneapolis branch in withdrawing their candidate and^ sup- 
porting the candidacy of Eide was politically correct under the 
circumstances. Carried unanimously. 

A truly illuminating chronicle of political irresponsibility and 
bureaucratism. Let every local organization of the party that is sensi- 
tive to the slightest danger of bureaucratic practices ponder over this 
incident. If Burnham-Shachtman had prevailed, the action of the 
Minneapolis comrades would have been repudiated in the Socialist 
Appeal, and they would have been publicly discredited. They would 
have had no alternative but to withdraw their support of Eide, the 
labor candidate, and re-enter their own independent candidate. Then, 
five weeks later, and about one week before the election, they would 
have been blandly informed that, after more thorough investigation, 
the P.C. motions were "withdrawn" and the Minneapolis branch free 
to make another flip-flop in public and support the candidacy of 
Eide after all. Perhaps the P.C. might even have been generous 
enough to repudiate its repudiation of the policy of the Minneapolis 
comrades. However, that is quite a speculative assumption. Even 
after Burnham had been compelled to withdraw his motion of cen- 
sure he didn't have the decency, as the record shows, to make a posi- 
tive motion of approval. 



70 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

The leaders of the petty-bourgeois faction complain a good deal 
about the way their "prestige" has been undermined in the proletarian 
sections of the party. But the most malevolent enemy could not deal 
heavier blows to their influence and authority than they dealt 
themselves by such practices and methods as they employed in 
the auto crisis and in the case of the Minneapolis local elections. 

12 THE "CLIQUE" AND THE "LEADER CULT" 

The opposition has made no effort to establish the existence of 
a party bureaucracy as a privileged group whose interests are 
antagonistic to the interests of the rank and file, and whose policy, 
designed to serve these interests, must be imposed upon the party 
by bureaucratic means. Neither have they attempted to find any 
social basis for a ruling "clique" with its "leader cult." Yet, the 
Marxists analyze every labor bureaucracy or clique and explain 
its methods by first uncovering its social basis. It was by this 
method that Trotsky and the Bolshevik-Leninists disclosed the real 
nature of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the first instance, not as an 
accidental formation created by the arbitrary will or personal traits 
of an individual, but as a social phenomenon, which did not begin 
with a "leader cult" but came to it from necessity. 

The Stalinist bureaucracy represents privileged social groupings 
which have appeared for the first time in history on the basis of a 
workers' state. The Marxists alone that is, the Trotskyists found 
the key to the real mystery of Stalinism. They first revealed its 
social base. Then they demonstrated that its privileges and special 
interests collide irreconcilably with the interests of the masses in 
their march toward socialism. In order to serve their special inter- 
ests the Stalinist bureaucracy was compelled to introduce a line of 
policy which contradicted the program and tradition of the party. 
In order to impose such policy upon the party and upon the coun- 
try, they were compelled to suppress party democracy, to force their 
line through by means of bureaucratic violence, and to concentrate 
all power in the party apparatus. 

But the conflicts of class interests in the country, and the nu- 
merous rivalries and conflicts of interest between the various privi- 
leged groups, found a distorted expression in factional struggles 
within the apparatus itself. This unsettled the regime and created 
possibilities for the intervention of the party rank and file, and 
of the working mass in general. The Left Opposition for a time 
made its way through just such fissures in the apparatus and threat- 
ened its overthrow. This demonstrated to the bureaucracy the iron 
necessity of a still narrower concentration of power. The conflicting 



THE "CLIQUE" AND THE "LEADER CULT 9 71 

privileged groups required a means for the arbitration and regu- 
lation of their conflicts without the intervention of the masses, 
and in such a way as to unite them all against the masses. Out of 
this necessity, after the revolutionary wing of the party had been 
annihilated, emerged the single, all-powerful leader, the arbitrator, 
the Soviet Bonaparte, Stalin. 

Stalin thus appears as a "leader" of an entirely different type 
from Lenin, who also enjoyed exceptional authority, and one who 
arrived at his position by an entirely different practice. Lenin, the 
Marxist, the revolutionist, truly expressed the interests of the masses 
and maintained his position by the consent and even the love of 
the most conscious section of the proletariat. Lenin consequently 
leaned upon the masses and required party democracy to mobilize 
their support against the privileged elements within the country and 
in the party. Stalin, the revisionist, the betrayer of the revolution, 
came to his position not by the voluntary will of the masses but in 
a struggle of the privileged groups against them. Stalin is not the 
"leader" because the people "love" him; it is obligatory to "love" 
him because he is the dictatorial power, the Soviet Bonaparte, whose 
prestige must be artificially inflated and promoted in order to 
strengthen his position as the arbitrator, defender and best repre- 
sentative of the privileged elements in the population. If anyone 
disagrees, there is the G.P.U. to convince him. 

All the "methods" of Stalinism grew from the necessities of an 
unstable and highly privileged bureaucracy which cannot maintain 
itself by other methods, and dares not permit democratic procedures 
that would permit the masses to intervene. As for the Stalinist bu- 
reaucracies in the parties of the Comintern, they are simply the 
extensions of the Russian social phenomenon, its foreign agents. 
The main social base of the bureaucratic gang in the American 
Communist Party is in the Soviet Union. That explains the peculiari- 
ties which distinguish it from the bureaucracies of the trade union 
movement, the reformist political parties, etc. 

When the light-minded oppositionist leaders attempt to estab- 
lish an identity, or even an analogy, between our party staff and 
the Stalinist bureaucracy, they are constructing a house of cards 
which falls to pieces at the first touch. Turning their backs on the 
sociological analysis from which Marxism construes its politics, 
these self-styled "independent thinkers" reveal themselves, on this 
question also, as nothing but slavish imitators of the philistine 
journalists and petty-bourgeois moralists who have judged Stalin- 
ism by its methods and techniques, without understanding the social 



72 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

basis and role of Stalinism which dictate the employment of these 
techniques. 

Many superficial anti-Stalinist journalists, noticing the political 
similarities of Stalinism and fascism bureaucratic violence, one- 
man dictatorship, "totalitarian" suppression of all opposition easily 
arrive at the conclusion that Stalinism and fascism are identical. 
The same people, mostly social democrats and radicals disillusioned 
in the proletarian revolution, observing that the Fourth International 
also has a leader of outstanding influence and authority, and with- 
out bothering to inquire whether this personal authority has a dif- 
ferent source and significance, hasten to equate the defenders and 
betrayers of the Russian revolution and to announce: "Stalinism 
and Trotskyism the same thing." 

The theory that the distinguishing feature of Stalinism is its 
"leader cult" was the brilliant contribution of Brandler-Lovestone 
at the time when they were defending the domestic policies of the 
Stalinist party in the Soviet Union, denouncing the Fourth Interna- 
tional's advocacy of a political revolution there as counter-revolu- 
tionary, and explaining that all the trouble was simply the result of 
a "bad regime" in the Stalinist party. It was their contention that if 
a reasonable amount of democracy was introduced into the Stalinist 
party, and the "cult of the leader" replaced by a situation in which 
Stalin could be "first among equals," everything would be all right, 
including the mass-murder of the Trotskyists. 

It was these same profound and original thinkers Brandler- 
Lovestone and the leaders of the Brandlerist off-shoot, the German 
S.A.P.* (Walcher and Co.) who first put in circulation the theory 
that the movement of the Fourth International is afflicted with the 
"cult of the leader." The fact that Trotsky had at his disposal neither 
an army nor a G.P.U. nor control of employment to terrorize, nor 
money to corrupt people into "loving" him and acknowledging him 
as the supreme leader these trifling details of difference were left 
entirely out of consideration. When one leaves the ground of Marxism 
he invariably overlooks precisely those details which are primary 
and fundamental and decisive. The centrists who had broken with 
Stalinism only after Stalinism had rejected their advances for the 
thousand and first time, were determined at all costs not to fall 
under the control of another "leader." They were hell-bent for 
"independence" from Trotsky, that is, from Trotsky's ideas which 
they could not successfully combat or refute. And they demonstrated 

*The S.A.P. the Socialist Labor Party of Germany, a centrist 
organization. Among its leaders were Walcher, Froelich, and others. 
Ed. 



THE "CLIQUE" AND THE "LEADER CULT 9 73 

their independence by uniting with the Norwegian Labor Party and 
the London Bureau on the road to the People's Front and the social- 
patriotic betrayal in the "war of democracy against fascism." 

The petty-bourgeois opposition in our party did not invent the 
theory that we have a "leader cult" and a "one-man regime" in the 
American party and in the Fourth International ; they borrowed that, 
as they borrowed everything else, from alien sources. In the first 
days of the present discussion in our party the Lovestoneites, search- 
ing for kindred spirits, issued "An Appeal to Members and Followers 
of the Socialist Workers Party." The "Appeal" invited any waifs 
and strays we might have to join the Lovestoneite organization. The 
inducement? "There you will find an organization that works out 
its own policies, independently and democratically, to . meet the 
needs and interest of the workers and not to follow a 'party line* 
laid down by the 'leader' in Moscow or in Mexico City." (Workers 9 
Age, Oct. 21, 1939.) I reprint this quotation here as a free adver- 
tisement, so that those who are really interested in the commodity 
of "independence" from the "leader cult" will know where they 
can get the original article. 

Offering grist to the mill of these shysters, Shachtman published 
a venomously falsified account of our October plenum for the pur- 
pose of showing that the majority of our party leaders, who have 
been sifted out and selected by the democratic action of the member- 
ship after more than ten years of common political work, are nothing 
but a collection of religious holy-rollers who take things on faith. 
In Internal Bulletin No. 3, Shachtman wrote: 

At the plenum, the majority presented for a vote the docu- 
ment of comrade Trotsky which had arrived only a few hours 
earlier. There could not have been an opportunity for any comrade 
to reflect on this document. Some of them had not even had a 
chance to read it. Moreover, it was physically impossible for any- 
body to have read it in full for the simple reason that one page 
of the manuscript was accidentally lost in transit. Nevertheless, 
read or unread, studied or unstudied, complete or incomplete, the 
document was presented for a vote and finally adopted by the ma- 
jority on the grounds, as one comrade expressed it, of faith in the 
correctness of comrade Trotsky's position. 

Shachtman's account is false both in fact and in interpretation. 
(1) A synopsis of Comrade Trotsky's document, "The U.S.S.R. in 
War," was known to all members of the National Committee plenum 
not "a few hours earlier" but two weeks earlier. The plenum vot- 
ing took place October 1. Under date of September 12 Trotsky 
wrote us: "I am writing now a study of the social character of the 
U.S.S.R. in connection with the war question. . . . The fundamental 



74 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

ideas are as follows: . . ."* He then stated his ideas in outline form 
nobody could misunderstand them. This outline was mimeo- 
graphed and sent to all members of the N.C. on September 14, more 
than two weeks before the plenum, under the heading: "Plenum 
Material." Thus, all concerned knew, well in advance of the plenum, 
the main line of the thesis elaborated in the finished document. 

(2) The document was not "presented for a vote and finally 
adopted by the majority," as Shachtman says. The adopted motion 
reads as follows: "The Plenum endorses the political conclusions 
of the document of Trotsky on The U.S.S.R. in War' and instructs 
the Political Committee to publish it as an evaluation and elucida- 
tion of the new events on the basis of our fundamental position! 9 
An earlier motion "to endorse the document" as a whole was 
changed, and restricted to an endorsement of "the political conclu- 
sions," precisely because some comrades, who fully agreed with 
the conclusions, wanted to study the document more thoroughly be- 
fore voting to endorse it in its entirety. The procedure of the plenum 
majority in this matter was directly opposite to Shachtman's slan- 
derous report. 

(3) "A page was missing" and therefore the line of the docu- 
ment could not be accepted without a resort to "faith." This con- 
temptible piece of petty fakery is designed for those who think one 
inspects a political document like a proof reader and accepts it 
only if every word and every comma is in place. The line of the 
document was clear to all, the political conclusions, which were en- 
dorsed, were succinctly stated. That is enough for a serious revolu- 
tionist to determine his attitude toward any political document. 
Shachtman knows this as well as we do. He quibbles about a "miss- 
ing page" only to support the alien thesis that the leaders of the 
party are not thinking revolutionists but weak-minded addicts of 
religious "faith." 

I have taken the space to cite the record in this instance and 
to expose Shachtman's falsifications at some length because it is 
out of such flimsy material that our enemies, the Lovestoneites and 
their like, construct their thesis of a "leader cult" in the Fourth 
International. They did not fail to seize upon Shachtman's tidbit. 
It was gleefully reprinted by the same Workers 9 Age it was written 
for their benefit with the sarcastic remark that they were doing 
so "merely for the purpose of illustrating how widely the atmos- 
phere in that party [the S.W.P.] differs from the uncritical, totali- 
tarian, leader worshipping spirit of Stalinism." 



*Cf. In Defense of Marxism, p. 1. 



THE "CLIQUE" AND THE "LEADER CULT" 75 

But, it may be objected, the opposition complains of a "leader 
cult" only in the Socialist Workers Party, not in the Fourth Inter- 
national. No, no, no, that is not what they mean. It is the Fourth 
International, and its "leader cult," and its "leader," that Burnham 
is shooting at. "Cannon," after all, is only a faith-stricken "leader 
cultist" himself, who "upon all occasions without exception, accepts 
the politics of Trotsky, accepts them immediately and without ques- 
tion." Cannon at best, you see, qualifies only as a "Gauleiter," not 
as the one and only "Fuehrer." 

Burnham brought this conception of the Fourth International 
from the American Workers Party. Here is what he wrote in the 
days when the fusion negotiations with the Muste organization were 
in progress in 1934: 

The A.W.P. also distrusts the dependence of the Communist 
League and the Fourth International on a single individual,. No 
organization except perhaps a fascist organization should have a 
single individual occupying the position that Trotsky does in fact 
occupy in the Communist League. And it is worth noting from 
history that Trotsky, though an incomparably brilliant political 
analyst, has never been a person able to function effectively in a 
party. After all, Trotsky has failed. (Memorandum of James 
Burnham issued by the National Office of the American Workers 
Party.) 

* * * 

Burnham, according to his highly moral custom, "withdrew" 
this thesis, that is, he kept it in reserve until such time as he would 
find the courage to proclaim it openly in our ranks. Shachtman and 
Abern, by their support, have given him this courage. But they have 
not added any merit to the thesis, nor cleansed it of its dirty trade- 
mark as the invention of the enemies of the Fourth International. 

As for the "clique" and the "leader cult" in our party, the 
theory is just as shallow as the Brandler-Lovestone theory applied 
to our international organization, and the evidence just as flimsy. 
When we speak about a real clique in our movement the Abern 
clique we give a detailed and documented account of its operations 
over a long period of time and prove that it left a trail as wide as 
a cross-country highway. Our accusers are much more sparing in 
their evidence. "Do you doubt the existence of the Cannon clique?" 
they ask "It can be confirmed by a single incident." Let us take 
this "single incident" apart and see what it really proves. 

As we came to the end of the concluding session of the July 
convention and reached the last point on the agenda, the election of 
the new National Committee, Shachtman arose to present a slate. It 
was very late, the delegates were tired and restless, and many of them 



76 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

wanted to get a few hours' sleep in preparation for their departure 
the following day. Naturally, this could not deter Shachtman from 
making a speech. Naturally, also, the speech was detailed and lengthy 
and full of pious homilies, pronounced on the assumption that the 
delegates didn't know what they wanted with regard to the com- 
position of the new N.C. and had to be told. Stripped of pretentious 
and hypocritical verbiage, Shachtman's slate amounted to a proposal 
to shift the center of gravity in the National Committee by the addi- 
tion of a number of New York professional "youth" whose experi- 
ence has been confined pretty largely to the class room and the 
office of the Y.P.S.L. 

Without making a speech the delegates had openly manifested 
their impatience by frequently interrupting Shachtman comrade 
Dunne then presented another slate weighted on the other side. 
Dunne's slate corresponded in its general tendency more to the de- 
sires of the majority of the delegates. They knew the leading people, 
they had listened to endless hours of debate on the organization 
report, and it is sheer impudence to assume that they had given no 
thought to the composition of the new National Committee in the 
light of the debate. An adjournment for consultation was requested, 
and then horror of horrors! "As at a signal, 30 or 35 delegates 
then proceeded like a man to the back of the hall, where they held 
a caucus meeting." What is wrong or abnormal about that procedure? 
The "30 or 35 delegates," that is, a majority of the convention, ob- 
viously wanted to make some amendments to the Dunne slate. 
How else could they do it except by an open consultation? 

The opposition tries to isolate the elections to the N.C. from 
everything that had preceded and led up to it in the convention. 
These proceedings, especially the debate on the organization report, 
clearly intimate a brewing struggle between the proletarian and the 
petty-bourgeois tendencies, the struggle which broke out with such 
violence a few months later. These intimations did not pass unno- 
ticed by the delegates from the proletarian centers. They didn't know 
everything, but they sensed the direction in which the conflict was 
moving and began to align themselves accordingly. So also did 
the minority of the delegates who automatically rallied around the 
Shachtman slate without the formality of a caucus consultation. 
Dunne and Shachtman each signify certain things in the party. Any 
speeches they may make at the eleventh hour of a convention change 
nothing. Shachtman will never know it, but speeches are judged 
not only by what is said but also by who says it. 

I personally took no part in the caucus on the slate, as the op- 
position's document testifies, and for definite reasons. I was anxious 



THE PROLETARIAN ORIENTATION 77 

to avoid a struggle in the party as long as the differences had not 
been clearly defined in specific resolutions. At the beginning of the 
convention I proposed that a nominating commission, consisting of 
representatives from the main delegations, be set up to sift out the 
nominees and present a slate to the convention on the basis of the 
qualifications of the individual candidates and their support in the 
ranks. I consider it best for the central leaders of the party not to 
interfere too much in the selection of the personnel of the N.C. 
Members of the N.C., in order to have real authority, should be 
pushed up from below, not lifted from the top. 

I know that comrade Dunne would not have presented a slate 
to the convention if Shachtman had not taken the initiative. Dunne's 
original slate, drawn up during Shachtman's speech, was not entirely 
satisfactory to some of the delegates as a definitive list. Conse- 
quently, they promptly moved for an adjournment in order to per- 
mit a consultation between the delegations which supported the 
general tendency of the Dunne slate. The fact that they openly 
asked for this consultation, and that they held it in the back of the 
convention hall in the sight of everybody, only demonstrated that 
they knew what they wanted in general and that they were not hid- 
ing anything from anybody. If there were any secret maneuvers 
or clique operations at the convention it was not on the side 
of the majority. On their part everything was regular, proper, and 
open and above-board. This "single incident," which was to "prove" 
the existence of a secret clique, in fact indicated the direct opposite. 
All the other "incidents" are on the same order. 

Cliques and cliquism and permanent factions are abhorrent to 
proletarian revolutionists who seek the realization of their socialist 
aims through a workers' mass movement led by a mass party. The 
only permanent formation that can claim our allegiance is the party. 
Factions are for us only temporary groupings, to be dissolved in the 
party when the immediate issues in dispute are settled. To speak of 
cliques, that is, groupings of chums and friends without a principled 
basis we did not wage an educational struggle against such abomi- 
nations since the inception of our movement to wind up with a clique 
of our own. The accusation is sheer slander without a trace of justi- 
fication in fact. 

13 THE PROLETARIAN ORIENTATION 

One of the capital crimes charged against the party majority 
was the famous "New Year's meeting," at which the plans for the 
auto campaign were worked out. Comrade Clarke has dealt with this 
incident at length in his admirable article on the auto crisis. "Can- 



78 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

non," says the document of the minority, "never repudiated it [the 
meeting] or what it symbolized." That is correct. I go further and 
say that this meeting, initiated by us and later "repudiated" by Burn- 
ham and Shachtman, does indeed "symbolize" the difference between 
their orientation and their methods and ours. We established new 
trade union connections; we conceived a plan to utilize these con- 
nections for an intensification of our work in the auto union; we 
invited the two political leaders of the present opposition to an in- 
formal discussion of the plan and the assignment of personnel 
before taking the proposals in finished form before the Political 
Committee for official action. Their role in the whole affair, includ- 
ing their criticism, was a negative one. 

The leaders of the opposition confine their remarks to only one 
aspect of the meeting, and, in my opinion, to the least important 
aspect the procedure. The meeting is cited as one of their big 
"proofs" of the existence of a secret clique which decides things 
and substitutes itself for the official leading body of the party. 
If it was a clique operation, why then were Burnham and Shacht- 
man invited to participate in it? A more reasonable interpretation 
would be that the informal meeting with them was designed to se- 
cure their collaboration in the working out of the plans before they 
took finished form. That interpretation would be entirely correct, 
as far as our motivations were concerned. Burnham and Shachtman 
raised no objection to participation in the meeting; their discovery 
that it was a bad business was made long after the fact. Such infor- 
mal meetings, prior to official meetings of the P.C., have been held 
dozens and scores, if not hundreds, of times in the past; it is the 
normal method of collaboration in a genuinely functioning "collec- 
tive leadership." Only long afterward did Burnham and Shachtman 
discover that there was something wrong in the procedure and ask, 
with an air of violated virtue: "By what authority did this body 
sit as the deciding body.} usurping the functions of both P.C. and 
N.C.?" The New Year's meeting committed no usurpations what- 
ever, either "by authority" or otherwise. The plans formulated at 
the meeting were fully reported to the regular meeting of the P.C. 
on January 3 and formally decided by that body, and by that body 
alone. The informal meeting prepared the plans the official meet- 
ing of the P.C. decided on their adoption. That is the way we have 
handled important matters hundreds of times in the past; that is, 
the way we will handle them hundreds of times in the future. There 
was nothing wrong or irregular about the procedure. 

But this simple and straight-forward explanation of a common 
method of operation among the members of any serious leading body 



THE PROLETARIAN ORIENTATION 79 

will not do for our mystery, writers. There was something sinister 
afoot; nobody is going to delude our perspicacious Hawkshaws 
with the cock and bull story that Dobbs and Dunne had travelled 
1,300 miles simply to give our trade union work an impetus in the 
auto field. They remind their readers that Cannon, forgetful about 
the interests of his "clique," "was about to leave for Europe." And 
here they pluck out the heart of the mystery: "This meeting was 
designed to sterilize the P.C. during his absence." That was undoubt- 
edly a very devilish "design." But why was the whole meeting con- 
fined to the auto situation? The P.C. and the party as a whole were 
already pretty well "sterilized" in this field; the plan was to fer- 
tilize its work and provide the means for it to expand and grow. 
The only other question discussed at the meeting was the assignment 
of Shachtman to full-time editorship of the Socialist Appeal. To 
be sure, that was a certain imposition upon him, as his stubborn 
resistance testified, but it did not infringe in the least upon the 
powers and prerogatives of the P.C. in all fields where it had been 
operating with unsterilized "authority" before Cannon "was about 
to leave for Europe." The meeting discussed, and the P.C. later 
ratified, not questions of policy but plans of organizing our trade 
union work in the auto field and the personnel of the field staff. 
And since four members of the N.C. were to be in the field, it placed 
the direction of the organizing campaign in their hands. Is that an 
abnormal procedure infringing upon the rights of the P.C.? Not at 
all. Trade union campaigns, if they are to be lifted from the pages 
of our press and realized in life, must be directed by those who spe- 
cialize in trade union work and concentrate their attention and energy 
upon it. 

If our critics are not satisfied with this explanation, and still con- 
sider that in some Machiavellian way or other they were horn- 
swoggled, and the P.C. "sterilized," when the "clique" dispatched one 
of its members to France and others to the auto field if they still 
feel this way about it, I offer them a simple proposal to even the 
score. Let them establish some contacts with workers or trade 
unionists in some trade or industry; let them work out a plan to 
utilize these contacts to extend and develop our trade union work 
in this field; let them come to the P.C., with or without prior con- 
sultation with us, and propose that the plan be approved and that 
they be put in charge of the campaign. I will promise in advance 
to vote with both hands to adopt their plans and place the whole 
campaign under their direction. They can hold me to this promise 
regardless of whether their plan contemplates the organization of 



80 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

steel workers, sailors, hod-carriers or the janitors of City College 
or New York University. 

This fair offer is not likely to be accepted. Their orientation 
toward trade union work is literary; ours is more real. That is 
the meaning of the much discussed "New Year's meeting." We re- 
garded, and still regard, the New Year's meeting as a stage in the 
development of an ambitious plan to expand our trade union work. 
They see it in retrospect only as a "maneuver" against them. They 
don't even understand that our maneuver was aimed exclusively 
at the auto bosses and their labor agents. 

The conflict between the proletarian and petty-bourgeois ten- 
dencies in the party was expressed for a long time primarily in 
this difference of orientation. In the present discussion it has 
taken programmatic form. We have been compelled to reinforce 
our fight for a proletarian party, proletarian in composition and 
rooted in the workers' mass movement, by an irreconcilable strug- 
gle for a proletarian program. It was this revelation of program- 
matic differences which caused the muffled struggle, already evi- 
dent at the last convention, to break out in the open on a wider 
front. At the last convention both sides undoubtedly sensed the 
coming storm. But we on our side hardly expected it to break out so 
soon, and with such force and irreconcilability, on what we have 
always considered the fundamental questions of our program and 
doctrine. From this point of view, the articles* which I wrote in the 
Socialist Appeal before the last party convention, in behalf of a 
proletarian orientation, require supplementation and emphasis on 
the programmatic side. 

The document of the opposition refers to these articles as "ar- 
ticles on 'organization'." That is a superficial and incorrect ap- 
praisal of their content. They further state that "many of the ideas 
. . . were a collective product even though they were printed as a 
personal contribution." That is not correct either. If the ideas I 
expounded in those articles had really been common ideas, I could 
have been well content, as in so many other cases, to leave the 
actual writing to those whose hands were free from administrative 
and other duties which occupied me quite fully at the time. The 
contention that the articles "were written essentially for the purpose 
of warding off the necessary criticism of the party leadership be- 
tween the two conventions," is wholly without foundation. I agreed 



*These articles appeared in six consecutive issues of th,e Socialist 
Appeal, June 13, 16, 20, 23, 27 and 30, 1939. #tf. 



THE PROLETARIAN ORIENTATION 81 

with most of the criticisms and the articles represented my personal 
opinion of the way to improve the situation. 

I still think those articles point the road to the future for our 
party. Our basic problem still remains, as stated there, to "turn our 
faces in the right direction. That means, first of all, to turn our 
backs on the pessimists and calamity howlers, the soul-sick intel- 
lectuals and tired radicals who whine and dawdle around the fringes 
of the movement and even, to a certain extent, infest our ranks." I 
still think that "most contemptible of all are those who seek to 
cover their desertion and retreat by hurling newly invented 'ideo- 
logical' disagreements with Marxism over their shoulders. Taken 
altogether they are an unattractive and uninspiring aggregation. It 
is nothing less than a monstrous travesty to consider them as in 
any way reflecting the movement of workers' emancipation which, 
by its very nature, is alien to all pessimism and defeatist tendencies. 
It is criminal folly to waste time or even to argue the question with 
these runaway boys and heralds of defeat before the battle." 

I wrote before the last party convention: "Our convention must 
let the dead bury the dead and turn the face of the party to the 
workers who are the real source of power and inspiration and well- 
grounded optimism. We have said this before. More than once we 
have incorporated it in resolutions. But we have not made the turn 
in forthright fashion. That is why we are lagging behind. That is 
the main reason we are suffering a certain stagnation. That is why 
we are even flirting with the danger of a degeneration of the party 
along the lines of conservative passivity, introspection and futility." 

I wrote: "The proletariat of the United States is the source of 
unlimited power, it can lift the whole world on its shoulders that 
is the unshakable premise of all our calculations and all our work 
. . . the workers of America have power enough to topple over the 
structure of capitalism at home and to lift the whole world with 
them when they rise!" 

Those words the theme of all my pre-convention articles last 
year hold good today. In retrospect, they read more prophetically 
than I knew at that time. I did not know how deep, how great, was 
the "danger of degeneration" implicit in the bad composition of 
the party in New York and its inadequate contact with the mass 
movement of the workers. 

I said in that article: "Our program has withstood all the tests 
of theory and experience and stands unassailable." I must admit 
that I wrote these words on the assumption that I was stating a 
truism to which we all subscribed, and that the differences between 
us concerned only matters of orientation, emphasis and application. 



82 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTI 

I could not know that within a few months the ambitious plan of 
expansion adopted by the convention on my motion would be dis- 
rupted and crowded off the agenda by a factional civil war in the 
party. 

I, along with other comrades, expected future trouble from the 
intellectualist wing of our leadership. But we did not foresee that 
they would undertake to lead an insurrection against our funda- 
mental program, our doctrine, our tradition and our organiza- 
tional methods. This demonstration compelled us to put aside 
to postpone the execution of our ambitious plans for external 
work until the hegemony of Marxism in the party had again been 
established by struggle. That struggle is now drawing to a close. 
The victory of Marxism, and thereby of the proletarian tendency, 
is already assured. On that basis the party convention can and 
will again decide to implement the proletarian orientation by 
measures no different in basic content than those adopted at the 
convention last July. 

The convention will meet and conduct its work under the 
sign of the proletarian orientation. That is the way to meet the 
coming war. Preparation for war means, for us, not some esoteric 
special task. It means turning the face of the party to the work- 
ers, penetrating deeper into the trade unions. It means taking 
drastic measures to proletarianize the composition of the party 
membership. And, in the light of the experience of the faction 
struggle, the proletarian orientation means above all and in 
order to make all possible a firm decision to continue on all 
fronts the implacable war against any and all opposition to the 
doctrine and program of proletarian revolution Marxism, i.e., 
Trotskyism. 

New York, April 1, 1940. 






LETTERS TO COMRADES 



EDITOR'S NOTE: 



The "Letters to Comrades" which constitute the second section 
of this book cover the period of the struggle against the petty-bourgeois 
opposition within the S.W.P. from its inception to its consummation. 
They were written in the heat of the struggle itself; cover virtually 
every phase; are almost a day-to-day chronicle and form in fact, an 
integral part of the struggle. Therein is their primary interest and 
value. 

While the definitive history of this stage of the development of 
American Trotskyism belongs to the historians of the future, these let- 
ters provide the indispensable material both for such a history and for a 
correct understanding of the struggle itself. At the same time they 
supply an unexampled schooling for the Trotskyist youth, and the 
vanguard parties still in process of formation throughout the world. 
In their own way, these letters, along with the other documents in 
this volume, serve as a model in conducting a proletarian fight for 
the program of the revolution. 

Many of these letters were circulated among the entire party mem- 
bership; others, exclusively among members adhering to the Trotskyist 
majority; still others are here made public for the first time. 

They are reproduced without changes except for a few deletions 
which are noted in the text. 



[84] 






LETTERS TO COMRADES 



A LETTER TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE 
NATIONAL COMMITTEE 

New York, September 8, 1939 
Dear Comrade, 

In a letter dated September 5th you received the motions made 
in the last meeting of the Resident Political Committee relating to 
the preparation of our plenum. 

For your information I will state that these are motions made 
by myself as opposed to other proposals to call an immediate plenum 
without documentary preparation and without adequate time to 
supply the non-resident comrades with the necessary material for 
study and consideration beforehand. The gist of my position as 
represented by the motions which were received by you was this: 

(1) That for practical affairs of organization the Resident Com- 
mittee can proceed. In any event it will have to execute the plans, 
which are more or less obviously indicated. 

(2) The proposal to reopen the Russian question must be con- 
sidered separately from the organizational question. And the Russian 
question should not be projected at a hastily summoned plenum 
until the different positions have been formulated and communicated 
to the non-resident members for their study and consideration be- 
forehand. 

* * * 

Comrade Burnham has submitted a document which comes to 
you in the same envelope with this letter. I confine my remarks 
here to the second section of the document entitled, "The Nature 
of the Russian State in the Light of the War." 

At the meeting of the Political Committee where these opinions 
of Comrade Burnham were advanced orally, I took the position 

[85] 



86 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

that nothing particularly new in the policy of the Stalin bureau- 
cracy has taken place since our party convention two months ago 
except the signing of the Stalin-Hitler pact. Those who propose now 
to reopen the Russian question in our ranks can logically do so 
only on the basis of the signing of the Stalin-Hitler pact. 

This pact, however, is new only in the sense that an old policy 
of Stalin on the field of foreign policy, of which we have spoken 
more than once, has reached diplomatic realization through the 
agreement of Hitler. The position of the party and of the Fourth 
International which was taken after such extensive and all-sided 
discussion, and with almost complete unanimity as far as our party 
is concerned, did not at all depend on the oscillations of Stalin's 
foreign policy between the fascist and democratic imperialist camps. 
We arrived at our position from the economic structure of the Soviet 
Union and from the Marxist principle of evaluating each and every 
state, without exception, from the point of view of its basic class 
character. 

Has the economic structure of the Soviet Union undergone a 
profound change since our party convention two months ago? As 
far as my knowledge of the situation goes, it has not changed funda- 
mentally. For my part, I am not willing to revise the well-considered 
decisions of our party convention unless someone can demonstrate 
that the considerations which motivated the decisions have undergone 
a profound change in the meantime. 

I believe this will also be the opinion of the* majority of the 
plenum. How can it be otherwise? The position of the party and of 
the International was not the result of snap judgment. The question 
was discussed amply and more than amply beforehand. Volumi- 
nous documents on all sides of the question were written and studied 
and debated. I do not consider it necessary to repeat all that was 
said before; it is sufficient to mention and refer to the existing 
documents. 

Comrade Burnham proposes to write off the Soviet Union. As 
far as I can judge his reasoning, it is approximately the same as 
that employed in arriving at his old position. Only now he proposes 
to add one new detail: to abandon the defense of the Soviet Union. 
I cannot follow him there and I cannot offer that advice to the 
Russian workers. If the idea of the defense of the Soviet Union 
had meaning in practical application precisely in the event of war, 
I do not propose to drop the idea just at the moment the war knocks 

on the door. 

* * * 

The question raised by Comrade Burnham, however, has another 



LETTER TO NATIONAL COMMITTEE 87 

aspect, namely, the attitude towards party decisions taken by con- 
vention after adequate discussion. To me this is no less important 
than the other side of the question. I say this because I firmly be- 
lieve that the right conception of the party, the proper functioning 
of the party, and the subordination of every individual to the col- 
lective will of the party are the conditions for the successful leader- 
ship of the revolutionary proletarian struggle. 

Naturally, everybody has a right to his opinion. But the party, 
as a party, also has the right to its opinion. And the collective opin- 
ion of the party, especially at moments of crisis, must have the right 
of way. 

Consider for a moment the fact that we concluded our second 
convention only two months ago. This followed by a year and a half 
the previous convention which took a position on the Russian question 
by a vote which closely approached unanimity. At the convention of 
last July after all that had intervened not a single comrade could 
be found to make a motion or demand a reconsideration of the party 
position on the Russian question. Now, two months later, simply be- 
cause Stalin has signed the pact which he sought for more than five 
years, a pact, moreover, which was contemplated and even predicted 
long ago in our ranks, we are abruptly confronted with the demand 
to change our policy on the Russian question fundamentally. 

Permit me to ask you a small question. Isn't this just a little bit 
like making fun of the party? Isn't this something like assuming 
that the party has no sense and didn't know what it was doing when 
it took its Russian position so firmly and so categorically, and 
after such thoroughgoing and all-sided discussion? 

Add to this the scandalous fact that the editors of the New Inter- 
national went so far as to set forth, by oblique writing, a new posi- 
tion on the Russian question, in contradiction to the established party 
position, in the editorial on the Stalin-Hitler pact in the September 
issue. 

The party position, with the most extreme meticulousness in 
the choice of words, has described the Soviet bureaucracy as a 
parasitic caste, and not a class. The September New International, 
not in a signed discussion article but in an editorial which presum- 
ably sets forth party policy, suddenly announces that the bureau- 
crats are exploiters, i.e., a ruling class. Isn't this something like an 
insult to the party? That is the way it appears to me. 

There is one more point. It is needless, I hope, to point out that 
decisions taken by party convention cannot be changed by the 
plenum, to say nothing of being changed by individual editors at 
their whim. The party membership, which is sufficiently patient 



88 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

and long-suffering, will rise up against any such pretensions. Of 
that we can be sure. 

The positions cannot be changed without a discussion and a new 
convention. Can we afford ourselves the luxury of a new discussion 
at this time, in the face of the difficult practical tasks, and so soon 
after a party convention? I doubt it. 

Of course circumstances can arise which compel abrupt changes 
at any cost. It would be foolish to bar ourselves off from the pos- 
sibility of correcting an error in policy or of adapting an old policy 
to new circumstances. But in the present case, it seems to me that 
those who propose now a change which they did not propose in the 
convention and pre-convention discussion so recently concluded, are 
obliged to motivate their demand for a new discussion on new con- 
ditions of a fundamental character which were not known to us at 
the time of the party convention, and which, up to the present, have 
not been revealed to us. 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO JOSEPH HANSEN 89 



A LETTER TO JOSEPH HANSEN 

[In October 1939, Joseph Hansen went to Mexico City to work 
in Trotsky's secretariat. The following and other letters addressed 
to him during his stay there were also written for the information 
of Trotsky. Ed.] 

New York, October 24, 1939 
Dear Joe, 

I received the second article on the nature of the Soviet State* 
yesterday and am turning it over to the Committee for publication. 
It answers many of the concrete questions which have been troubling 
some comrades and will aid materially in the clarification of the 
whole problem, insofar as clarity is really sought. 

Since your departure the internal situation has taken a very sharp 
turn. Two membership meetings on the disputed questions here in 
New York have been very heated. It is obvious now that a good deal 
of factional work has been going on in the party. It is now coming 
out into the open in a quite violent form. 

We have a rainbow-colored bloc against us which includes those 
who want to revise the Marxian theory of the state and those who 
maintain an orthodox line on this not unimportant point; it includes 
frank defeatists on the question of the Soviet Union and uncondition- 
al defensists; those who deny the identity of Bolshevism and Stalin- 
ism and those who imagine that Stalinism somehow or other is the 
logical outcome of Bolshevism in the sphere of organization. The 
latter question has already asserted itself as a great motor force 
generating the factional antagonisms to the party "regime." With 
only half an eye one can easily discern a considerable volume of 
disguised and not so well disguised Souvarinism in the New York 
section of the party. 

Moreover, it is an actual fact that a good fifty percent of the 
supporters of the rainbow bloc are completely defeatist on the ques- 
tion of the USSR in their sentiments. The speeches from the floor 
in the membership meetings have clearly indicated this. However, 
that does not deter our friends Shachtman and Abern from pro- 
claiming a firm solidarity of the combined opposition and directing 
all fire against the "conservative" majority. In New York, as I have 
said, the dispute has taken an extremely violent turn from the out- 
set. As to the situation in the rest of the country, I have not yet heard 
anything. 

Above I give you only an outline of the situation in New York, 



*See In Defense of Marxism, p. 24. Ed. 



90 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

with my customary moderation and restraint. Perhaps it is not sur- 
prising that the devastating impact of the world crisis on the intel- 
lectuals should call forth some Souvarinistic reactions in a section 
of the party with th'e social composition of New York. It is a bit 
awkward, however, not to be able to combat this pitiful sickness 
by means of a united leadership. 

I must admit that we have taken too superficial and complacent a 
view of the dangers that can arise in a moment of crisis from the 
social composition of the New York section of the party. It comes 
now like a sharp fillip on the nose, if not a blow over the head. It 
is a payment, so to speak, for our failure to put the O'Brien* letter 
on the social composition of the party before the convention for 
forthright consideration. The Old Man can say now with full justi- 
fication, "I told you so." 

Can we again buy ourselves off from a sharp struggle in the 
party by conciliation and compromise at the top, at the cost of ob- 
scuring deep and basic conflicts which lurk in the whole situation 
like unexploded mines the course we have followed more or less 
consistently for a long time now or is it necessary to bring some 



*0n the eve of the July 1939 convention of the S.W.P., Leon 
Trotsky sent a personal letter to James P. Cannon. In this 1 letter of 
May 27, 1939, Trotsky in connection with discussions in the Political 
Committee over the Socialist Appeal sounded a warning concerning 
the danger latent in the then existing social composition, of the party, 
with a preponderance of petty-bourgeois elements in large cities, 
especially New York. 

The concluding section of this letter follows: 

"A radical and courageous change is necessary as a condition of 
success. The paper is too wise, too scholarly, too aristocratic for the 
American workers and tends to reflect the party more as it is than to 
prepare it for its future. 

"Of course it is not only a Question of the paper,, but of the whole 
course of policy. I continue to be of the opinion that you have too 
many petty-bourgeois boys and girls who are very good and devoted 
to the party, but who do not fully realize that their duty is not to 
discuss among themselves, but to penetrate into the fresh milieu of 
workers. I repeat my proposition: Every petty-bourgeois member of 
the party who, during a certain time, let us say three or six months, 
does not win a worker for the party should be demoted to the rank 
of candidate and after another three months expelled from the party. 
In some cases it might be unjust, but the party as a whole would 
receive a salutary shock which it needs very much. A very radical 
change is necessary. 

"Comradely, 

"V. T. O'BRIEN [Leon Trotsky]" 

As comrade Cannon stresses in his letter, neither Trotsky's warn- 
ing nor his proposal was given proper heed or consideration at the 
time. Ed. 



LETTER TO JOSEPH HANSEN 91 

clarity into the situation by means of a frank and unambiguous po- 
litical struggle and draw sharp lines of demarcation? 

I would like to have your opinion and your advice in this respect. 
In this situation it seems to me that a lazy and pacifistic approach 
could at best only buy for us a short term ticket to a fool's para- 
dise. What do you think? 

Fraternally yours, 

J. P. CANNON 



92 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO VINCENT R. DUNNE 

New York, October 25, 1939 
Dear Vincent, 

I judge that you have received a copy of a letter addressed to 
Joe Hansen, which was mailed to you yesterday. Since dictating it we 
received a copy of Crux's [Trotsky's] reply to a letter from Com- 
rade Stanley on the internal party situation.* This reply of Crux was 
enclosed with the copy of my letter to Comrade Hansen. 

You are perfectly at liberty to show my letter to interested com- 
rades so they will know my point of view. The same applies to the 
letter of Crux, as it will very likely be published in the internal 
bulletin. 

From all indications we are in for a serious struggle. The strug- 
gle for the Fourth International is concentrated right now in the 
struggle for programmatic intransigence within the American sec- 
tion. Only in this way will we be able to preserve a firm unity and 
really prepare our ranks to meet the war and go through the war 
without encountering explosive crises at every difficult moment. 

In such a moment each man must stand at the post where he can 
best serve the cause. In the opinion of comrades here this signifies 
that for the next period I must be relieved to the greatest extent pos- 
sible of administrative routine and freed for political work, exter- 
nally as well as internally. For my part I am ready to accept such 
a rearrangement of duties and to carry my full share of the respon- 
sibility in the struggle. 

This raises in the sharpest form the future work of Comrade 
Dobbs. In a recent letter he states that the big work which occupied 
his attention in the recent months is completed through the signing 
of the union contract with the employers. He adds: "I am in the midst 
of the mopping up operations. I expect to be able to discuss with 
you soon the question of future work." It would greatly facilitate 
matters if we could now carry through our original program of 
bringing him to the Center for party administrative and organiza- 
tional work. 

I know that the new difficulties of the Minneapolis comrades in 
connection with the prosecutions makes this a somewhat risky shift. 
As I see it, the difficult situation in Minneapolis precludes for the 
time being the demonstrative transfer of Comrade Dobbs from trade 
union to party work. That might bring unfavorable repercussions 



*See In Defense of Marxism, pp. 34-36. Ed. 



LETTER TO VINCENT R. DUNNE 93 

for you. At the same time, the party in its present struggle which 
if we want to call it by its right name is nothing less than a struggle 
to vindicate eleven solid years of programmatic preparation to 
stand up under a crisis has the right and the duty to summon 
every individual to the post where he can be most useful. 

I think we can reach a transitional solution of the question of 
Dobbs' work without infringing too deeply on the requirements of 
the Minneapolis sector, in the following way: Dobbs should arrange, 
in the shortest time possible, for a leave of absence from his trade 
union post without any announcement of his intentions with regard 
to the party and without cutting himself off from the possibility of 
reentering the trade union situation, insofar as Minneapolis is con- 
cerned, at a critical moment. The party purposes can be very well 
served in the transition period by his activity under a suitable party 
name without any public fanfare. 

Naturally, we cannot very easily carry through such a decisive 
step without the agreement of the Minneapolis comrades. But we 
have reason to believe that when the party necessities are placed 
before us in such categoric form as at present, you will be ready on 
your part to make the necessary local sacrifices. 

Aside from the immediate requirements of the party there is 
another aspect to this question which deserves consideration. I refer 
to the preparation of Comrade Dobbs for all-sided political work 
in the future, as distinct from the limited field of trade unionism. 
By entering the direct service of the party now, at a difficult moment 
of internal crisis, in an unobtrusive and even anonymous manner, 
he will be put sharply before a salutary experience in the vicis- 
situdes of revolutionary political activity. He will face a point-blank 
test of his ability to adjust himself promptly to a radical transforma- 
tion in the nature of his activity and the conditions under which 
it is conducted. 

To be the leader of a workers' mass movement and show an 
ability to meet and solve the comparatively simple and broadly- 
outlined problems of an ascending trade union that is one thing. I 
don't need to tell you that I fully appreciate the personal qualities 
of a militant who is capable of distinguishing himself in this field. 
But to be able to lead the organization work of a small political 
party which is still further restricted in its activities by a paralyzing 
internal crisis, and at the same time to take a resolute part in the 
struggle for a programmatic solution of that crisis that is another 
thing. 

A leader of the proletarian revolution must be able to shift his 
activity from one field to the other as the circumstances require it. 



94 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

It should be added that experience is indispensable for the efficient 
execution of each of these assignments. We have often had occasion 
to say that one can't learn how to lead a trade union out of a book. 
From books he can learn the history and theory of the trade union 
movement, but its actual leadership he must learn in practice. The 
same thing holds true in regard to the party. One cannot learn how 
to lead a party out of a book either. If that were so there would not 
be such a poverty of political-party leadership everywhere. 

The test of experience is decisive in this field above all others. 
By coming to the party service now, at a moment of acute crisis in 
a chauvinistic encirclement, the experience of Comrade Dobbs will 
be one hundred times more concentrated and will advance his polit- 
ical education one hundred times faster than if he came in normal 
times. His merits or demerits as a political-party leader will be 
established far more precisely and in an incomparably shorter time 
by this test. 

Needless to say we all share the same optimistic opinions in 
regard to Comrade Dobbs' potentialities as a party leader. But six 
months after he begins party work under these conditions, we, as well 

as he, will know more about it and know more definitely. 

* * * 

The internal crisis of the party, which at bottom reflects the pres- 
sure of its encirclement, is already beginning to have a crippling 
effect on the working out of the ambitious program of expansion 
elaborated at the party convention. The financial difficulties which 
are besetting us are a barometer. 

We must strive by all means to see that the internal struggle does 
not drive the party in upon itself to the neglect of its external agi- 
tation and organization work. That would only prolong the crisis 
which can find a real solution only on the road of an expansive 
public activity and a recruitment of new proletarian elements of 
stabilization. 

We will most likely have to call on the Minnesota comrades for 
unexampled financial support to sustain our program of public 
activity during the internal struggle. I think the party is entitled to 
turn to the Twin Cities comrades once again with this demand. 

To no small extent our trade unionist wing in Minnesota has 
floated in recent years on the stream of success made possible by 
the heroic struggles of 1934, which were in turn inspired it should 
not be forgotten by the patient and stubborn theoretical and polit- 
ical work carried out in isolation by the leading cadre in the six 
years which preceded the 1934 strikes. This fairly comfortable situ- 
ation could exert negative influences on the mentality of our trade 



LETTER TO VINCENT R. DUNNE 95 

unionist comrades if they do not keep in mind the instability of 
their present situation ; if they begin to imagine that their improved 
circumstances and standards of living are permanently assured and 
begin, unknown to themselves, to develop petty-bourgeois habits of 
life and illusions of security in a world situation which is exploding 
at every seam. 

It will not be bad for them to begin even now to shake themselves 
loose from these possible illusions. The whole trade union upper stra- 
tum of the Second International could remain secure and grow fat 
and complacent and satisfied with things as they were only in the per- 
iod of the stabilization and ascending progress of the capitalist world 
order. Such possibilities do not exist in these days. The sooner all 
our comrades face this question to the end and adjust themselves to 
the prospect of new and violent shocks and displacements the better. 

A modest beginning in preparation to swim once more against 
the stream can be made by the voluntary agreement of the affected 
comrades to double their assessments for the material support of 
the party in its present critical test. The same holds good for all 
serious comrades in the party. 

Fraternally yours, 

J. P. CANNON 



96 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO JOSEPH HANSEN 

New York, October 26, 1939 
Dear Joe, 

The answer of Crux to Stanley was received. It will not add to 
the popularity of Crux in some circles. But I long ago came to the 
sad conclusion that it is impossible to take a firm stand on political 
questions and please everybody at the same time. 

We intend to utilize the intervention of Crux with the greatest 
discretion and responsibility. This is doubly necessary now because 
there are some ugly nuances in some of the sentiments of sections 
of the opposition. 

There is a good deal of talk here against the "one man party," 
but trailing closely behind it like an afternoon shadow behind a 
Kansas jackrabbit is the objection to a "one man international." This 
is most outspoken on the part of Burnham who really sets the course 
for the rainbow combination, precisely because he has definite con- 
ceptions not only on the Russian question, but on the question of 
Bolshevism in general and particularly the Bolshevik system of party 
organization. 

I remember very well the objections raised in their time by the 
heroes of the S.A.P.* against the preponderant influence of Trotsky 
in the Fourth International. For my part I have always been ready 
to agree that a predominant influence of two men with good ideas 
is better than the predominance of one. In fact, I am ready even 
now to go further and to say that ten leaders who lead by means of 
ideas and not with a club of corruption and persecution are better 
than two; but that, I think, is the maximum concession one could 
make to this S.A.P.ist theory which does not improve with age. 

However, you can be sure in any case that we will take all the 
exceptional circumstances of the personal situation of Crux into con- 
sideration and take upon our shoulders the responsibility of the 
struggle which is from start to finish a struggle over ideas, and not 
of personalities. 

There is one little favor I wish you would do for me, Joe. About 
two years ago, more or less I think it was in January 1938 after our 
first convention I had occasion to write a letter to the Old Man 
in regard to Burnham. In my shifting about from one house to 
another and packing and unpacking my stuff I have not been able 
to find the copy of this letter in my files. I wish you would see if it 



*See page 72 of this volume. Ed. 



LETTER TO JOSEPH HANSEN 97 

can be located in the files at Coyoacan and send me a copy along 
with a copy of the Old Man's answer. 

This matter has a certain importance for me in connection with 
attempts which are being made to interpret my objections to Burn- 
ham's sorties and sallies on the programmatic front as a personal 
opposition and a refusal to recognize his positive qualities. I want 
to refresh my memory of the development of the antagonism be- 
tween us. 

I reported to the last meeting of the P.C. the indications that the 
services of yourself and Chris might be necessary there for a few 
weeks in preparation for the Austin affair.* It was unanimously 
agreed that there is no objection here to your accepting this assign- 
ment. 

All things considered, everything is going along O.K. Isn't it a 
real piece of American luck to have the opportunity at this hour of 
the clock to thrash out the question of the program of the Fourth 
International under conditions of free democratic discussion. The 
time between the outbreak of the war in Europe and the entry of 
the United States is indeed a precious interlude in this respect. 

I take a completely optimistic view of the ultimate results. . . . 

As ever, 
J. P. CANNON 



*The reference is to the Dies Committee which had scheduled a 
special session at Austin, Texas, inviting Leon Trotsky to appear as 
a witness. Trotsky accepted and then Dies reneged. See In Defense of 
Marxism, pp. 85-86, 91 ff. Ed. 






98 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 

New York, November 2, 1939 
Dear Comrade Hansen [Trotsky] :* 

I received your, letter of October 28th.** 

Several comrades to whom I have shown the letter express no 
objections to the suggestions and proposals you made. I personally 
will support them. 

The situation is very sharp and it is possible that action on our 
part along the lines of your proposals can add in moderating the 
atmosphere or, failing that, in clarifying the issue. 

Even if I didn't agree with the steps you propose I wouldn't 
hesitate at all to make such a concession to a co-fighter for program- 
matic intransigence. 

I send you this brief note to reassure you that we will do every- 



*Because of the conditions of Trotsky's residence in the various 
countries in which he lived after his exile, letters were frequently 
forwarded to him in the name of his English secretaries. Ed. 

**This letter was inadvertently omitted from, the volume In 
Defense of Marxism, and is printed here for the first time. Ed. 

October 28, 1939 
Dear Jim: 

Two things are clear to me from your letter of October 24: (1) 
that a very serious ideological fight has become inevitable and po- 
litically necessary; (2) that it would be extremely prejudicial if not 
fatal to connect this ideological fight with the perspective of a split, 
of a purge, or expulsions, and so on and so forth. 

I heard for example that Comrade Gould proclaimed in a mem- 
bership meeting: "You wish to expel us." But I don't know what reac- 
tion came from the other side to this. I for my part would immediately 
protest with the greatest vehemence such suspicions. I would pro- 
pose the creation of a special control commission in order to check 
such affirmations and rumors. If it happens that someone of the 
majority launches such threats I for my part would vote for a cen- 
sure or severe warning. 

You have many new members and uneducated youth. They need a 
serious educational discussion in the light of the great events. If their 
thoughts at the beginning are obsessed by the perspective of personal 
degradation, i.e., demotions, loss of prestige, disqualifications, elimi- 
nations from Central Committee, etc., and so, the whole discussion 
would become envenomed and the authority of the leadership would 
be compromised. 

If the leadership on the contrary opens a ruthless fight against 
petty-bourgeois idealistic conceptions and organizational prejudices 
but at the same time assures all the necessary guarantees for the dis- 
cussion itself and for the minority, the result would be not only an 



LETTERS TO LEON TROTSKY 99 

thing we can along the lines of your suggestions to keep the main 
political issues in the foreground and to eliminate or compromise the 
secondary organizational questions. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



ideological victory but an important growth in the authority of the 
leadership. 

"A conciliation and compromise at the top" on the questions which 
form the matter of divergences would of course be a crime. But I for 
my part would propose to the minority at the top an agreement, if you 
wish, a compromise on the methods of the discussion and parallelly on 
the political collaboration. For example, (a) both sides eliminate from 
the discussion any threats, personal denigration, and so on, (b) both 
sides take the obligation of loyal collaboration during the discussion, 
(c) every false move (threats, or rumors of threats, or a rumor of 
alleged threats, resignations, and so on) should be investigated by the 
National Committee or a special commission as a particular fact and 
not thrown into the discussion and so on. 

If the minority accepts such an agreement you will have the pos- 
sibility of disciplining the discussion and also the advantage of having 
taken a good initiative. If they reject it you can at every party mem- 
bership meeting present your written proposition to the minority as 
the best refutation of their complaints and as a good example of "our 
regime." 

It seems to me that the last convention failed at a very bad mo- 
ment (the time was not ripe) and became a kind of abortion. The gen- 
uine discussion comes some time after the convention. This signifies 
that you can't avoid a new convention at Christmas or so. The idea 
of a referendum is absurd. It could only facilitate a split on local 
lines. But I believe that the majority in the above-mentioned agree- 
ment can propose to the minority a new convention on the basis of two 
platforms with all the organizational guarantees for the minority. 

The convention is expensive but I don't see any other means of 
concluding the present discussion and the party crisis it produces. 

J. HANSEN [Leon Trotsky] 

P.S. Every serious and sharp discussion can of course lead to some 
desertions, departures, or even expulsions, but the whole party should 
be convinced from the logic of the facts that they are inevitable results 
occurred in spite of the best will of the leadership, and not an ob- 
jective or aim of the leadership, and not the point of departure of the 
whole discussion. This is in my mind the decisive point of the whole 
matter. 

J.H. [Leon Trotsky] 



100 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 

New York, November 4, 1939 
Dear Comrade Hansen [Trotsky], 

I received the copies of the old letters of December 1937,* re- 
garding Comrade B. [Burnham] and thank you very much for send- 
ing them to me. They are very useful to me personally as a self- 
assurance that the present difficulties in this respect were foreseen, 
along with their basic causes, and have not been provoked by obtuse- 
ness and tactlessness on my part. 

The situation here is developing very rapidly. I hope you will 
follow the course of developments very attentively from week to 
week, and even, insofar as information at your disposal permits, 
from day to day, and participate further in the discussion. 

I could very well be satisfied with an attitude of aloofness or a 
very restrained and limited intervention on your part in an ordinary 
dispute. But it is becoming clearer every day that we are concerned 
now with a fundamental struggle for the program and the general 
ideology of our movement; not simply for the victory of the Bol- 
shevik doctrine on this or that point, but for the supremacy of the 
system and method of Bolshevik politics and organization. 

In your letter to Stanley of October 22d, you castigate the at- 
tempts to muddle up the discussion of the Russian question with 
arguments about the "regime." You touched only in passing 
reserving for later comment, I hope on the positively infuriating 
nonchalance with which comrades holding different positions on the 
political question in dispute (the Russian question) have combined in 
a bloc for the purpose of changing the "regime." 

We have subjected this downright unprincipledness to a pretty 
militant attack in the New York membership meetings. In my speech 
last Sunday I quoted from the records of the plenum the three dif- 
ferent positions of Abern, Burnham and Shachtman on the nature 
of the Soviet state. Abern voted for our resolution, which character- 
izes it as a degenerated workers' state. Burnham denies that it is a 
workers' state "in any sense whatever." Shachtman declares he does 
not raise the question at the present time. 

Without questioning the right of each comrade to his separate 
opinion, I simply put to the audience and to the leaders of the 
minority this question: What will be the position of the party on 
this question if the minority becomes the majority at the conven- 



*See pp. 27-29 of this volume. Ed. 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 101 

tion? Similarly, I showed from the documentary record that the 
three named comrades each give a different answer to the question 
of the defense of the Soviet Union. I repeated then the same ques- 
tion: What will the party say about the defense of the Soviet Union 
if the bloc gains the majority? 

You can imagine the devastating effect on the minority bloc 
of such questions. A political observer might say very confidently 
that such a political attack, conducted with the necessary persistence 
and militancy, is bound to break the bloc. To a certain extent this 
impression is already being realized. We are witnessing now a very 
noticeable shift of rank and file comrades from the untenable position 
of the bloc over to the support! of the majority. 

But what about the leaders? From numerous indications, they 
are attempting to extricate themselves from their impossible position, 
not by each defending his own standpoint and letting the bloc go 
to the Devil, but by readjusting their principles to the exigencies 
of bloc politics. That is, they appear from all signs to be working 
out a common position by making mutual concessions, in order to 
arrive at uniform answers to the questions in dispute. 

I understand that the ambiguous resolution of Shachtman, which 
served up to now as the platform of the bloc, interpreted by each of 
its three divisions as it saw fit, is to be replaced by a new resolution 
to which all will subscribe. 

By this, they evidently hope to escape the accusation of combina- 
tionism and to present themselves as a single group with one plat- 
form. To us this will only signify another demonstration of the 
game of playing with ideas, which can only promote political cyni- 
cism among the youth. It can never educate them in the spirit ex- 
pressed so cogently by De Leon: "Be serious about principles and 

be honest about them." 

* * * 

We have decided to make a general codification of the various 
arguments and answers on the Russian question in the form of a 
resolution which will be submitted as our platform for the conven- 
tion. Along with this, we plan also a resolution on the character of 
the party and the question of the internal regime. It is somewhat 
ironic to recall that contrasting resolutions on these two questions 
defined the issues between the majority and the Carter-Burnham 
minority before and at the convention two years ago. Nothing has 
since changed in the essence of the disputes except that Burnham 
has taken further steps away from us while Shachtman and Abern, 
who stood at that time on our side, have simply crossed over to the 
other side. 



102 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

In view of the fact that under the conditions of the war our 
discussion on the Russian question becomes in essence the discussion 
of the Fourth International, we think international participation in 
the drafting of the Russian resolution is decidedly in order. The 
question for us is not the authorship of the resolution hut of having 
the most precise and instructive formulation on each and every 
point as a guiding line for the whole International. 

We are working on a resolution here, but we would also be very 
glad if time permits you to submit a draft. At the same time it is 
our plan to forward to you the draft of our resolution for criticism 
and amendment. 

* * * 

As I remarked in the early part of this letter, I consider your 
intervention not only on the Russian question but also on the other 
problems of ideology and political method as absolutely in order 
and imperative. It would be simply absurd to run the risk of leav- 
ing one question unclarified or a single serious comrade in doubt, 
for party tactical or diplomatic reasons. 

From all indications, the proletarian centers of the party are 
standing absolutely firm on all the basic questions. . . . 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 103 

A LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 

New York, November 8, 1939 
Dear Comrade Hansen [Trotsky], 

(1) At last night's meeting of the Political Committee, I intro- 
duced the enclosed statement on the regulation of the discussion.* It 
was accepted by the minority and adopted unanimously. It was de- 
cided also to send this statement to all party branches. I think it will 
help somewhat to provide a more favorable atmosphere for political 
discussion, and consequently for clarification of the great questions. 
At the same time, it will put a serious obstacle in the road of any- 
one who may want to play with the adventure of split. 

(2) Politically, the minority draws further away from us and 
the political hegemony of Burnham in the combination is becoming 
more manifest. At last night's meeting of the Political Committee we 
discussed the new manifesto of the Comintern and our line in regard 
to it. On this point, also, it appears we are no longer able to find a 
common language, because we no longer agree on the role of 
Stalinism. 

It appears that revisionism in our ranks is becoming somewhat 
"imperialistic"; it wants to conquer in all fields, one by one. Per- 
haps another way of explaining the new divergence would be to say 
that the Russian question, because of its fundamental nature, domi- 
nates a political orientation in general, now as in the past. 

We began the discussion in the P.C. without motions, as an ex- 
change of views and information about the new Stalinist turn, par- 
ticularly from the point of view as to how we should combat it in 
the American labor movement. In the course of the discussion, how- 
ever, it became evident that Burnham's estimate of the aims of the 
Soviet bureaucracy is somewhat different from ours. 

We explain the "peace" offensive of Stalin and the threats of 
revolution as simply a repetition of the whole Stalinist game of using 
the Comintern and its parties in the capitalist countries to serve the 
current needs of Soviet foreign policy. The left turn is designed, 
as was the People's Front ballyhoo, not for fundamental struggle 
against the imperialist powers, but as a means of pressure upon one 
camp or the other. Fundamentally, Stalin doesn't want to fight any 
of the big powers; he wants them to let him alone. 

This view of the role and tactics of Stalinism on the world arena 



*See "Resolution on Party Unity" in the next section of this 
volume entitled Documents of the 'Struggle. Ed. 



104 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

used to be taken for granted amongst us, and didn't need to be re- 
peated in every discussion. In fact, during the discussion I began 
to formulate some practical motions in regard to the tactics 
of our comrades in the trade unions, without bothering to put 
this accepted analysis as a preface to the motions. Thereupon, Burn- 
ham introduced a motion from a decidedly different standpoint. 
The gist of his theory is contained in point "b" of his motion which 
I am sending along in this letter, together with the other motions 
presented by me. 

The discussion then took a new turn and we spent quite a long 
time on the question of the aims of the new line of Stalinism. We 
explained at some length, as has so often been explained in the past, 
that the Stalinist bureaucracy is an excrescence on the Soviet state 
and is in radical conflict with its own economy. Hence, its extra- 
ordinary instability and its fears of any social shocks or disturbances 
such as wars and revolutions. Its subsidized parties in the capitalist 
countries create activities in support of the current zig-zag of the 
Soviet foreign policy. These activities are designed, not to overthrow 
or conquer this or that group of imperialists, but as blackmail to 
buy them off or scare them off. 

Burnham, and Shachtman following him, elucidated more frank- 
ly and fully than before their new theory that everything is changed, 
and that the Stalin gang is stepping out on a sort of Napoleonic path 
of world aggression. Burnham's point "b" says "the Soviet bureau- 
cracy aims to capture control of potential popular uprisings against 
the war in order to serve and expand its own power and privilege." 
In the discussion that followed this was explained in the most fan- 
tastic manner, especially by Shachtman. He drew a picture of Stalin 
spending millions of dollars to buy up the nationalist leaders in 
India and of setting on foot a great uprising against Britain, which 
would be controlled bureaucratically from Moscow. 

We explained that in our opinion Stalin could take the path of 
Napoleonic conquest not merely against small border states, but 
against the greatest imperialist powers, only on one condition: that 
the Soviet bureaucracy in reality represents a new triumphant class 
which is in harmony with its economic system and secure in its 
position at home, etc. That if such is really the case, we certainly 
must revise everything we have said on the subject of the bureau- 
cracy up to now, and admit at the same time that the regenerating 
revolution in the Soviet Union, along with the proletarian revolu- 
tion in the West, must be crossed off for a long time to come. 

The debate ended by the decision to draft resolutions for con- 
sideration at the next meeting. My motions are taken as the basis 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 105 

for the resolution of the majority and Burnham's for the resolution 
of the minority. 

It must be borne in mind that both motions were formulated on 
the spot and, therefore, lack a finished and rounded-out shape. 
Nevertheless, they give the gist of the two conflicting opinions. 

I should mention that Abern sat silent throughout the discussion, 
as he almost invariably does when important questions are on the 
agenda. He almost always sits silent and waits and adjusts his posi- 
tion to the exigencies of the internal faction struggle, not vice versa. 

On the vote, all four members of the minority voted for Burn- 
ham's formulation. The eight members of the majority voted for 
mine. 

I will forward to you th'e copies of the conflicting resolutions 
as soon as they are prepared. I am sure that you will want to com- 
ment at length on this new attempt to throw overboard all that has 
been thought and said and done on the subject of the role of Stalin- 
ism, and start all over again, on the eve of the war. 

It is clearer than ever that we are in for a fundamental struggle 
over the programmatic basis of our movement. But I, for my part, 
face? it without a trace of pessimism or discouragement. That also 
is the attitude of all my closest co-workers here. We are only pro- 
foundly gratified that this hidden weakness is brought out into the 
open tefore the entry of the United States into the war, and under 
conditions which permit a solution and a reeducation of the cadres 
of the Fourth International in free discussion. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



106 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO ALL MAJORITY GROUPS 

New York, November 20, 1939 
Dear Comrades, 

In a previous letter I informed you about the dispute between 
us and the minority over the meaning of the new turn of Stalinism. 

Their theory of an imperialistic Stalin, launching on a Napo- 
leonic path of conquest throughout the world, stems directly from 
Burnham's thesis that the Soviet bureaucracy has, to all intents and 
purposes, emerged as a new victorious class. 

It is remarkable how the other people in the combination, 
Shachtman, Abern, etc., more and more adapt themselves in the 
political conclusions they draw to this basic theoretical premise of 
Burnham which has been ostensibly "withdrawn." 

Anyone with half an eye can see that Burnham has simply made 
a shrewd bargain. In return for the formal withdrawal of his docu- 
ment, he succeeds in smuggling it in piece-meal into the practical 
political conclusions of the whole minority. 

Joe Hansen sent me the enclosed copy of a prospectus the Old 
Man drew up for an article for Liberty magazine. You should study 
it very attentively in the light of our new dispute over the role of 
Stalin. It seems to us to confirm entirely our analysis as communi- 
cated to you in a previous letter. 

All comrades should acknowledge the receipt of each letter as it 
arrives, and also give us information about the local party situation. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO C. CHARLES 107 

A LETTER TO C. CHARLES 

New York, December 1, 1939 
C. Charles 
Los Angeles, Cal. 
Dear Comrade, 

I received your letter today. Also received letters from David 
Stevens and Mark Knight. Please take this as an acknowledgment 
of all three and show it to the others. 

Naturally we are all gratified to hear that all three of you take 
a firm position on the Russian question. I can state, however, that 
I personally never expected anything different. I could not assume 
that comrades who have participated most actively in the theoretical 
and political disputes and discussions out of which our program has 
been crystallized really learned nothing from the experience. In gen- 
eral, I can state that your reactions are similar to those of the basic 
cadres of the party throughout the country. 

We are in for a thoroughgoing programmatic fight. It is incorrect 
to delay organization of our forces. On the contrary you should 
proceed immediately with the organization of a firm political caucus 
strictly confined in membership to those who take a clear and unam- 
biguous position in support of the program of the Fourth Interna- 
tional. We want no blocs or combinations with half-way people, but 
a straight-out fight for the program, the whole program and nothing 
but the program. This caucus should map out a campaign of strug- 
gle to win a firm majority for the forthcoming convention. You 
should also designate some comrade as secretary to receive com- 
munications from us and to send us information and reports. 

We are having the regular semi-annual city convention in New 
York tomorrow. According to the results of the branch elections the 
opposition will have a majority of approximately two to one. This 
is to be explained in part by the unfavorable social composition of 
the party in New York and the frightful demoralization of petty- 
bourgeois elements in general before the assault of bourgeois demo- 
cratic public opinion. We have not a few people who react to every 
headline and editorial against the Soviet Union in the bourgeois 
press as a seismograph reacts to tremors in the earth. 

In part, the momentary victory of the minority here is to be 
attributed to the fact that we are confronted with a combination of 
people of all kinds of differing and contradictory views on political 
questions, who are united in their opposition to the "regime," i.e., 



108 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

a firm political line and a corresponding organizational system. 

In part, the immediate advantage of the combination in New 
York can be attributed to the fact that they began the factional strug- 
gle secretly long in advance. We had the preliminary rumblings of 
this at the national convention, when a two-thirds majority of the 
New York delegates suddenly turned up as opponents of the national 
leadership without any advance notice to anybody. 

Of interest to you will be the fact that Abern is being put forward 
as the candidate of the combination to replace Frank as City Organ- 
izer. This so to speak is to be Abern's organizational reward for 
capitulation to Burnham on the Russian question. 

The line-up of well known leading people presents no surprises. 
The attempts at revisionism (Burnham), the pitiful vacillations 
(Shachtman), and the crass subordination of political and even pro- 
grammatic questions to "organizational" considerations (Abern) all 
this is confined pretty much to individuals who have exhibited these 
tendencies time after time in the past. In the present circumstances, 
under the pressure of the war crisis, they are only running true to 
form. 

Their supporters at the beginning and as has always been the 
case, such oppositions are far stronger at the beginning than at the 
end of a discussion consist mainly of the inexperienced comrades 
who have not had the advantage of the previous educational discus- 
sions, plus the incurable cliquists who lie in wait from year to year 
for somebody else to lead a political struggle, in the course of which 
they hope to present their "organizational" claims. 

The line-up of the party on a national scale (including New 
York) from the point of view of personnel is simply devastating for 
the combination. All the outstanding proletarian and trade union 
leaders of the party, with perhaps an incidental exception here and 
there which is not yet known to us, firmly support the party pro- 
gram. The same is true of the experienced party activists whom we 
have relied upon at every decisive turn in the past. 

We suffer at the moment, once again, from an ironic twist of 
the dialectic contradiction involved in fusions with centrists and en- 
tries into reformist organizations. You recall that we had to force 
through the fusion of the Trotskyists with the centrists of the Muste 
organization against the opposition of the Oehlerites and in part, 
also, against the Abernites. Nevertheless, at the next stage after the 
fusion had been consolidated in a formal sense, both Oehler and 
Abern found new points of support for a new struggle against us 
precisely among the unassimilated centrists. It required a new inter- 
nal struggle to complete the fusion in a political and ideological 



LETTER TO C. CHARLES 109 

sense and isolate the sectarians on the one hand and the sterile 
cliquists on the other. Nevertheless, the political dregs of the old 
Musteite organization remained with the Abern clique and helped 
to nourish its subterranean existence throughout these years. 

We are having an analogous experience now as a deferred pay- 
ment on the overhead charges of the entry into the S.P. The left 
social-democratic elements who were not made over in the process of 
fusing with us, who didn't succeed in assimilating the ideas and 
methods of Bolshevism into their blood and not few of whom 
haven't yet got them straight in their heads these comrades are today 
the chief base of support for the opposition combination. We 
"entrists" of 1935 have to take upon ourselves now the task of com- 
pleting our work of re-educating and assimilating the ex-socialists 
in the course of a very sharp and concentrated ideological and 
political fight. 

The center of this fight naturally is in New York. We have every 
reason to be confident that we will succeed even here. But we re- 
quire the overwhelming support of the rest of the country, and par- 
ticularly of the proletarian sections, in order to discourage any 
further attempts to tamper with the program of the Fourth Interna- 
tional after the forthcoming national convention. 

In the course of the political fight which has been going on here 
for some time now, we are having the most gratifying successes in the 
ranks of the youth. The young comrades who were stampeded in the 
beginning on all kinds of extraneous and inconsequential issues and 
gossip are beginning now to review the question in the light of fun- 
damental considerations. The "solid block" of the youth, with which 
the opposition combination expected to intimidate the National Com- 
mittee, is falling apart. A considerable number of the most able 
comrades among the youth in New York have completely changed 
their position and are now leading a struggle for the program and 
for principled methods of struggle. We gain in this field not only 
from week to week but even from day to day. After this struggle 
is concluded and its experiences are fully assimilated I think we 
can be confident that never again will anyone be able to count on 
"lining up" the youth as a body to support an assault on the pro- 
gram of the party. 

The discussion preceding the New York District Convention has 
taken place ostensibly around organization questions of a local char- 
acter without reference to any of the national political resolutions. 
In reality, however, the combination mobilized solidly to take revenge 
on the local Executive Committee and the local organizer, Comrade 
E. R. Frank, for their support of the party program on the Russian 



110 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

question. By their announcements in the discussion they have given 
a clear indication of what they mean by a change in the "regime." 
The present local leadership is to be thrown out of office, and the 
organizer removed from his post in favor of a new committee stand- 
ing on the political platform of the combination, with Abern as the 
organizer. 

This also foreshadows their national plans in the event of victory. 
I doubt very much whether this kind of a regime will prove very 
attractive to the serious and experienced and informed cadres of the 
party throughout the country, including those (like myself) who can 
point out more than one flaw in the "regime" we have at present. 

I hope you will not take these references to the prospect of an 
Abern "regime" as "scare propaganda" designed to terrorize every- 
body into line for the present "regime." I simply give you the facts 
of the New York plans of the combination and their projection na- 
tionally and leave you to draw your own conclusions, with only one 
pertinent quotation from the cautious Hamlet of Shakespeare: 
"Rather bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of." 

As a matter of fact, the campaign against the New York local 
leadership, and against Frank as the organizer, is a positive out- 
rage. On the merits of their work during the past six months they 
deserve not censure but congratulation and approval. The one place 
where we made a real stir in the struggle against the Coughlinites 
and in general activity since the party convention was precisely here 
in New York under this leadership. All the records and facts show, 
not simply a modest improvement in the work in New York during 
the past six months, in comparison with the preceding six months, 
or with the same period a year ago, but a multiplication of activity 
in practically all fields. 

Since I am somewhat familiar with the activity of the party in 
other parts of the country, I can testify that the same] comparison 
to the advantage of the New York organization during the recent 
period holds good there also. When we come to discuss the organiza- 
tion question at the national convention, I am quite sure that on 
the basis of the record the report of Frank as the leader of the New 
York work during the past six months will stand out above all 
others. 

The attempt to remove and disgrace Frank and to replace him by 
Abern should have an interest for all comrades in the party who 
take seriously the orientation towards trade union work and pro- 
letarianization in general. In the person of Frank we have a com- 
rade who, despite his youth, distinguished himself in the trade union 
field and became one of the outstanding party trade union leaders. 



LETTER TO C. CHARLES 111 

He brought to his work as party organizer a rich experience in the 
mass movement and a proven capacity to deal with workers, to or- 
ganize them, and to understand their language. Such comrades are 
rare enough in our ranks. 

But if we mean seriously to change the character and the com- 
position of the party by turning its face towards the workers, 
shouldn't we deliberately aim to strengthen the composition of our 
professional party staff by the inclusion of more organizers of this 
type? Moreover, although he always talks and acts like a man, from 
the point of view of age Frank is still a youth 26 years old. In 
years he is younger than several of these professional and eternal 
Yipsels who are almost old enough to have children in the Yipsels 
but who are nevertheless everlastingly whining that a sharp word 
addressed to them is unfair to the "youth" the youth, who, it 
is maintained, are as yet too fragile to be exposed to the realities 
and brutalities of our manners, which, God forgive me, I must 
confess are not always the manners of the salon or the college class 
room. 

Abern, on the other hand, with his merits and defects which are 
known to each and every one of the experienced people in our party, 
is and always has been a strictly internal party man. His experience 
has been confined exclusively to inner party work and activity, with 
the exception of the brief period when he assisted me in the work 
of the International Labor Defense years ago. To be sure, this does 
not disqualify him from holding one or another party post where 
his administrative talent can have free play. But as the organizer of 
the most important political district of the party, at a time when we 
are constrained to make heroic efforts to turn the activities of the 
party outward towards the workers and not inward upon ourselves, 
he can only be the symbol of a step backward. The replacement of 
Frank by Abern will be a miscarriage of the line of our last con- 
vention dictated by shortsighted factional considerations. 

One more point and not a small one either. You have seen the 
resolution unanimously adopted by the P.C. in favor of party 
unity and the settlement of the dispute within the framework of the 
party and the Fourth International, without expulsions on the one 
hand or splits and withdrawals on the other. The whole party was 
waiting for this reassurance and welcomed it. But how does the 
violent campaign for the replacement of Frank by Abern reenforce 
this assurance? In the past we have known of two attempts by Abern 
to organize a split in the party. If he did not succeed it was perhaps, 
on the one hand, because he is not as good an "organizer" as he is 
cracked up to be and, on the other hand, because we placed a few 



112 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

obstacles in his path. To be more precise, we pounded his program 
so mercilessly that his splitting caucus fell apart and was reduced 
to such a small circle of diehard personal adherents as to be incap- 
able of making a split that anybody would notice. 

The party has not yet made proper acknowledgment of the party- 
loyal action of Comrade Weber in separating from Abern and par- 
alyzing the split program at the decisive moment, just before the 
convention preceding our entry into the S.P. (Needless to say, the 
Abern clique has neither forgotten nor forgiven the "treachery" of 
Weber. They ostracize him socially up to this day and even at the 
last convention they made a surreptitious attempt to remove him 
from the National Committee. The sentiment of revenge, apparently, 
has a longer memory than the sentiment of gratitude.) 

It is time now to recall also that in the old Cannon-Shachtman 
struggle in the C.L.A.,* which, as we all remember, brought us to 
the very brink of a split which was only prevented by international 
intervention it was precisely Abern who resisted the peace agree- 
ment and the dissolution of the contending factional organizations. 
Shachtman has testified to this in a party document. It was only 
the revolt of Shachtman, Lewit and others which paralyzed a split 
at that time. 

It should be noted, also, that Abern, who took the post of local 
organizer in New York at the time when split was on the order of the 
day, and in that capacity sharpened and accentuated the struggle 
with the National Office in every possible way, immediately resigned 
his post as local organizer when the peace agreement was made. 

I would be the last one to rake up past errors of anyone in a 
new situation if there is reason to believe there is no connection 
between the past and the present. But we have now a very grave crisis 
in the party over the most fundamental questions that have ever 
created divisions in our ranks. The atmosphere in New York is ex- 
tremely sharp. Our experience teaches us to see in every factional 
dispute the possibility and the danger of a split. In my own personal 
experience of twenty years of American communism, to leave aside 
the previous experience of the war and pre-war movement, I have 
observed that faction struggles have led more often to splits than 
to reunifications on a higher basis. 

From this experience we must all conclude that it is necessary 
to take every possible measure at the outset of a dispute to safeguard 



* Communist League of America (C.L.A.) was the original name 
of the Trotskyist movement in this country, after the expulsions of 
the American Trotskyists from the Communist Party of the United 
States of America, fifteen years ago. Ed. 






LETTER TO C. CHARLES 113 

the party unity. This attitude dictated our proposals for the joint 
adoption of the unity statement; for the setting up of the parity 
commission to examine grievances; for the joint editorship of the 
internal bulletin to guarantee the minority against discrimination; 
the removal of organization complaints to the point where there is 
not a single grievance at the present time before the parity commis- 
sion and has not been since it was constituted. 

But I think we can also testify from experience that unity is 
safeguarded not merely by pacifistic gestures and concessions toward 
those elements of a minority who want in good faith to preserve 
party unity. There must also be the dialectic complement of militant 
struggle and exposure of all elements who venture even to play 
with the idea of a split, in order to separate the conscientious com- 
rades from them, to isolate them, and thereby paralyze any split 
adventure. 

Abern was never interested in the post of city organizer in New 
York at any time during the past two years of more or less normal 
party peace. At every city convention in New York they take place 
every six months there has been a suggestion from someone or other 
of Abern's personal clique that Abern take the post of organizer. 
Each time he refused entirely to consider the proposition. Now, at 
the height of a faction fight, the sharpest and bitterest we have ever 
known, Abern proposes to take the post of New York organizer 
and, in the process, to remove and disgrace a young comrade who 
has done a good job. 

It is proposed, in addition, to set up a New York local commit- 
tee which would aim in effect to be a rival political center to the 
National Committee which alone has authority in political matters 
under our constitution. Whatever the design of the minority combina- 
tion may be in this procedure, the whole proposition, especially the 
designation of Abern as organizer in the present situation, has for 
us a sinister implication. 

You can depend upon it that we will be on guard, for we have 
set for ourselves as revolutionary task or more precisely, double 
task number 1 the realization of the following two slogans: Main- 
tain the program of the Fourth International, and maintain the unity 
of the party on the basis of the program. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



114 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO JOSEPH HANSEN 

New York, December 14, 1939 
Dear Joe, 

Wright told me that you inquired about the article on the workers' 
guard. He translated that for us but we have only one copy. From 
the content of the article it is unclear to us whether it is designed for 
publication in the press, the internal bulletin or in a circular to 
branches. Will you please check this right away and let us know 
what disposition is desired? Then we will take care of it right away. 

I am now having some concrete figures compiled on the social 
composition of the party in New York City. As you perhaps remem- 
ber, a registration was taken sometime recently. According to the 
statement of Sam Gordon, who checked the registration in connection 
with his trade union work, only about one-sixth of the membership 
of the party and YPSL in New York is composed of industrial work- 
ers. This figure seemed to me so astounding that I have asked the 
City Office to give me an exact report. I will forward a copy to you 
as soon as I get it. 

The big preponderance of the minority in New York gives us 
quite a handicap in the national contest. I had been proceeding on 
the theory that the strong majority in the more proletarian districts 
would easily overbalance the New York handicap. However, a rather 
careful check which I made yesterday on the basis of the last con- 
vention figures of representation doesn't present too optimistic a 
picture. On the face of things now we appear to be assured of a 
small majority at the convention. A few shifts or surprises could 
change the situation in the other direction. 

You mustn't forget for a moment that we are up against a general 
combination of all elements opposed to us on every conceivable 
ground. The opposition as represented by its political leader (Burn- 
ham) is indubitably a right-wing opposition, not simply on the Rus- 
sian question, but also on the organization question. This does not 
prevent the remnants of ultra-left opposition who remained in the 
party from rallying around the combination. And, needless to say, 
the combination leaders in no way repel support from this direction 
also. In addition, they count on the votes of all the insulted and 
injured, regardless of who insulted or injured them. Many of our 
New York youth, for example, who were justifiably offended by 
McKinney's rudeness and brusqueness, are lined up against the 
"regime" along with McKinney. 






LETTER TO JOSEPH HANSEN 115 

On the other hand, we have the overwhelming majority of the 
proletarian activists on our side. This applies in New York as else- 
where. Among the statistical data being compiled by Comrade Ed- 
wards some figures on this are also to be included. 

We are making steady headway in the youth. But here we had 
to begin from nothing. The youth had all been lined up before the 
fight started on the basis of gossip or small grievances of one kind 
and another. A great many of them were so poisoned and disoriented 
that a serious political discussion has had difficulty in making its 
way among them. 

Together with our leading youth comrades I am arranging to 
devote from now on one night a week for political discussions with 
the youth. A long series of lectures has been mapped out, beginning 
with explanations of what principled politics really means. This has 
to be explained to our youth who have been cruelly miseducated 
and disoriented by the clique politicians of the Abern school on the 
one side, and the ex-Socialists in the youth leadership who haven't 
yet completely shed their skins. The latter are better material than 
the former. *There is reason to hope that in time most of them can 
learn. The others, however, don't want to learn. 

In my elucidation of the principled method of politics I intend 
to sketch out for our young comrades a history of the American 
Communist movement in the light of its internal struggles. I will 
also draw heavily on the experience of our international organiza- 
tion for the past ten years. Together with Wright, I have been compil- 
ing all the necessary material from the old internal and international 
bulletins. If you want to spend a few profitable hours you should 
dig this material out of the files and read it over. The things that 
were written by the Old Man years ago in the conflicts with Landau, 
Naville, Nin, etc., appear startling in their freshness and timeliness 
and their pertinence to the struggle that has broken out in our party 
under pressure of the war crisis. We have remarked about several 
of these articles that, with a very slight editing and change of names, 
they could be printed in our internal bulletin today as contributions 
to the present discussion. 

I am very glad indeed to hear that Crux is writing another ar- 
ticle on the most fundamental aspects of the present dispute. A 
really positive intervention on his part, which will present things 
as they really are, is perhaps the one thing now that can save for 
the Fourth International those who are worth saving. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



116 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO BILL MORGAN 

New York, December 15, 1939 
Bill Morgan 
San Francisco, Cal. 
Dear Bill, 

The results of the New York City convention must put all com- 
rades throughout the country on guard and convince them of the 
necessity of making the most thorough preparations for the forth- 
coming National Convention of the party on the organizational as 
well as on the political field. 

As I wrote in a previous letter, the opposition combination 
won the elections by approximately two to one. Their representa- 
tion in the City Convention was somewhat even better than this 
as a result of certain maladjustments in the proportional repre- 
sentation and the addition of the YPSL delegation. This relation 
of forces, in view of the large number of New York delegates, 
means that we will come to the National Convention under a very 
heavy handicap. Unless we make a real effort to see that the major- 
ity sentiment in the branches throughout the country is fully repre- 
sented, the results of the convention can represent a catastrophe 
for the Fourth International. 

I am enclosing herewith a blank form which you are requested 
to fill out without delay in order that we may have the necessary sta- 
tistical information to get a fairly clear picture of the convention 
prospects. In addition, exceptional efforts must be concentrated 
now on seeing to it that all membership lists are carefully checked, 
that dues of members are paid up, and that each branch is repre- 
sented at the convention by the exact number of delegates to which 
it is legitimately entitled under the convention rules no more 
and no less. 

I write on this subject for the first time in the eleven years' 
history of our movement because we have reasons, as a result of 
the experience in New York, to be apprehensive of attempts at 
manipulation. We have already uncovered one case of an outright 
election fraud and we are conducting a rigorous investigation into 
some other suspicious incidents. You will be given concrete in- 
formation about this a little later. In the meantime, begin now to 
devote serious and concentrated attention to the organization side 
of the convention preparations. Study the convention rules and 
see to it that they are strictly adhered to. 

The right-wing combination gave us a real dose of Tammany 



LETTER TO BILL MORGAN 117 

Hall politics in the campaign preceding the New York City con- 
vention. They mobilized all their political supporters without pre- 
senting any political resolutions. On the other hand, they appealed 
for the support of those in political agreement with the majority 
who had organizational grievances or criticisms of one kind or 
another. They were as busy on the technical side of convention 
preparations figuring the proportional percentages, wangling a 
vote here and there, shifting people from one branch to another 
in such a way as to exploit the most favorable factional percent- 
ages, paying back dues of supporters, etc. as any set of precinct 
captains. In addition, they hit us over the head with a considerable 
bloc of "graveyard votes" people who hadn't been seen or heard 
from for a long time, and from some carelessness remained on 
the books of the branches, suddenly turned up to pay back dues 
and vote on election night. Some of these "election workers" 
didn't learn much from us in the Socialist Party, but they learned 
plenty from Jack Altman. We can expect a transference of these 
.methods to other parts of the country. 

The bourgeois political method manifested itself in another 
characteristic way. Every bourgeois politician always promises to 
reduce taxes and increase efficiency at the same time. This cam- 
paign demagogy and bombast, hitherto absent from our discus- 
sions, came out in full bloom in the New York pre-convention period 
without the slightest relation to reality and without discrimination 
between the different departments of city work. Everything done 
during the past six months was condemned as wrong and ineffi- 
cient, and unfulfillable promises were made that everything would 
be done better under the new administration. They promised every- 
thing but Socialism ; that naturally has to wait until the main enemy 
which apparently is not "in our own country" but in the National 
Committee of our own party is overthrown. One can easily admit 
that one result of this bourgeois campaign the replacement of 
one set of local officials by another can eventually be rectified. 
But the other and more important result the miseducation of the 
party, the promotion of cynicism, the spirit of electioneering, etc. 
that will not be so easily overcome. 

The new City Committee, which was installed at the convention, 
consists of twenty-one members including the alternates, who attend 
all meetings without vote. You will perhaps say that a committee 
of such fantastic size is not properly adapted to the efficient organ- 
ization of local work even in normal times, and that a serious 
preparation for war conditions in any case must dictate the con- 
struction of smaller committees all along the line, for greater 



118 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

safety and mobility. But such objections leave out of account the 
necessity of the combination to provide representation for each of 
its various tendencies, as well as to "take care" of various individuals 
who were against the old committee precisely because they were 
not members of it. 

The first session of the new committee gave us a dose of spoils 
politics and at the same time gave those comrades throughout the 
country, who are worried about the "regime," an advance picture 
of a different one. Frank was replaced by Abern as City Organizer. 
The director of unemployed work was replaced by one of theirs. 
Then the director of the party educational department, Comrade 
Wright, was also summarily removed and replaced by Carter. This 
removal has aroused a particular antagonism and resentment. Every- 
body knows the conscientiousness with which Comrade Wright 
undertakes and carries out every task assigned to him. And nobody 
could have reason to doubt that a party school under his direction 
would teach Marxism. From all reports I have heard, the work of 
Comrade Wright as educational director was highly regarded by 
the party generally. No serious attempt was made to justify his 
removal, except to maintain that the majority had a right to remove 
and appoint whomever it saw fit to any post. This "right" is unas- 
sailable. But if we take the New York performance as precedent 
for general application, the party will undoubtedly experience 
something new in the way of an internal "regime." 

In order to present an absolutely fair and complete picture I 
must admit that one post was left to the defenders of the Soviet 
Union, that of trade union director. Frank, removed from his post 
as party organizer on the ostensible ground that he is no good for 
organizing, was entrusted with the task of organizing and directing 
the trade union work. Was this a concession to the minority of 
the City Committee even at the cost of a little contradiction? No, 
that is not the reason. Among all the supporters of the combination 
in New York City they could not find a single man with the exper- 
ience and authority required for the office of trade union director. 
That fact says much about the real line-up here. It says almost 
everything. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO FARRELL DOBBS 119 

A LETTER TO FARRELL DOBBS 

New York, December 15, 1939 
Dear Comrade Dobbs, 

Last Sunday we had an internal party debate on the Soviet in- 
vasion of Finland. This followed by one week the New York City 
convention about which I have written in another letter. These 
two events have revealed the profound differences more clearly 
and have enormously sharpened the factional situation in New York 
City. 

As becomes clearer every day, what is involved is not simply 
an ordinary discussion in which different opinions are presented, 
but an irreconcilable struggle in which sides are being taken. You 
will recall that at the plenum a mere two months ago we character- 
ized the ambiguous resolution of Shachtman as a bridge to the anti- 
Bolshevik position of Burnham. With the Finnish events this bridge 
has already been crossed. The author of the minority resolution on 
Finland was Burnham and, corresponding to the new stage in the 
development of the struggle, Burnham appeared at the New York 
membership meeting as the debater for the minority, in place of 
Shachtman who appeared in this capacity at the beginning of the 
discussion on the Russian question. This change of pitchers, so to 
speak, signifies that the ball game is entering the crucial seventh 
inning. Or, to change the figure, as I remarked in the debate, 
the attorney is replaced by the principal and the real issues will 
be clearer now. 

The debate had all the tension of a battle. We didn't discuss 
with each other, we fought each other. We couldn't "discuss" be- 
cause we didn't proceed from the same premise and couldn't talk 
on the same plane. I constructed my whole argument around the 
idea that Roosevelt and Hoover are mobilizing the American and 
world bourgeoisie for a political and ideological war against the 
Soviet Union on the pretext of the Finnish events; that this cam- 
paign in fact has already advanced to the stage of providing material 
aid, which can have all the significance of a direct military inter- 
vention (Hoover's fund-raising committee, remission of Finnish debt, 
war materials from Italy, England, etc.) ; and that in these circum- 
stances we must reassert and stand by the two basic points of our 
thesis on "War and the Fourth International": 

1. The main enemy is in our own country expose and fight 
the Roosevelt-Hoover combination. 



120 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

2. Defend the Soviet Union in spite of Stalin against Stalin. 

Burnham constructed his whole speech around an attack on the 
National Committee of the party as capitulators to Stalinism. He 
denied that the Soviet Union is a workers' state since he was 
speaking in his own name and not through an attorney I provoked 
and demanded of him that he state his position. He declared himself 
in favor of the defeat of the Red Army. 

It was a hard and bitter debate. Two sides. Two camps. Burn- 
ham laid aside the professorial urbanity which he never entirely 
loses in polemics against the class enemy and attacked the National 
Committee with truculence and even impudence, as though it were 
indeed the main enemy. He challenged me, with the brutal arro- 
gance of a man who has his opponent in a corner, to go out and 
face the popular clamor at a public mass meeting on the Soviet in- 
vasion of Finland. To all of us he seemed to speak with an unwonted 
self-assurance and self-confidence, like a man who feels powerful 
forces behind him. 

I, in answer, said that I would be very glad to defend the 
Soviet Union at a public meeting and hoped one would be arranged 
in the near future, but that unfortunately my first task was to 
defend the Soviet Union in our own party. I characterized the whole 
popular clamor around the question of Finland as primarily an 
expression of the powerful pressure of the united bourgeoisie on 
public opinion, mobilized through newspapers, pulpits, radio sta- 
tions, and other means of communication and information. I said 
that Stalin to be sure, in this case as always, had done everything 
possible to alienate the sentiment of the masses and to serve the 
game of the democratic imperialist masters, but that we shouldn't 
be thrown off the track and lose sight of the essence of the question 
on this account. 

I characterized and, by God, I was right! the offensive against 
the Soviet Union inside our party as nothing but a craven capitu- 
lation to the pressure of bourgeois public opinion. I said that a 
party which yields to this pressure already before the actual war 
begins would never be able to stand up when the real heat is turned 
on. You see, we didn't get along very well together at all. 

Burnham wants to undermine the Marxist program of the party 
and to replace the Marxist political method by an empirical ap- 
proach to every new incident as an independent question. I per- 
sonally never had any sympathy with Burnham's ideas and con- 
ceptions in this respect. But, along with others, as long as Burnham 
remained an isolated factor unable to assert any decisive influence 
on the course of the party, I saw no reason to draw our differ- 






LETTER TO FARRELL DOBBS 121 

ences with him out to the end. But now, since Burnham speaks as 
the representative of a numerically strong combination in the party, 
the situation stands somewhat differently. It would be criminal 
folly and disloyalty to the Fourth International to yield an inch 
to this anti-Marxist offensive or to relent for a single moment in 
the struggle until the program and the methods of Marxism in all 
fields have re-established an unquestionable hegemony. 

In order to leave absolutely nothing unsaid, now that the fight 
is out in the open in all respects, I intend to write in another letter 
political and personal characterizations of the three main leaders 
of the right-wing combination Burnham, Abern and Shachtman* 
and to show that speculation on possible shifts or retreats of one 
or another of these three people is a false approach to the problem 
posed by the party crisis. The party membership must be educated 
to reconquer the positions of Bolshevism in an uncompromising 
struggle against these people. That is the only way to prepare the 
party for the war. What any of these individuals, or all of them, may 
do after the party ranks have consciously asserted themselves 
that question, with all its importance, is nevertheless a question 
of second order. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



*Instead of writing these characterizations in letter form, they 
were set down at length in the document, "The Struggle for a Pro- 
letarian Party." See pp. 1-82 of this volume. Ed. 



122 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 

New York, Dec. 21, 1939 
Dear Comrade Hansen [Trotsky], 

Here is one very important question about which we would like 
to have your opinion by return mail. For some time, Burnham and 
Shachtman have been pressing to carry the discussion into the public 
press of the party. Our original decision to publish your second 
article on the nature of the Soviet State was later reconsidered be- 
cause the minority demanded the right to answer it also in the 
Appeal* 

Next they demanded the right to publish the minority statement 
on Stalin's invasion of Finland in the Appeal with the official state- 
ment of the P.C. 

Now they announce that they have a long document on the Russian 
question almost ready which they want to publish in the next 
number of the New International** We have not yet seen this 
document, but from all indications it is highly polemical against 
you as well as against the majority. 

The majority of our comrades here, including myself, are op- 
posed to taking the discussion into the public press. Goldman, how- 
ever, is in favor of it. In view of the difference of opinion, we 
have decided to consult you since very important issues are in- 
volved. 

1. Up till now we have felt that if B. and S. carry their strug- 
gle into the public press in the present extremely sharp situation, 
and over such fundamental issues, they will be cutting off their 
own retreat. It would be much more difficult for them to reconcile 
themselves in one way or another to the party's rejection of their 
revisionist program once they have advertised it to the world. 

2. We come into increasingly sharp conflict with Burnham, 
and lately also with Shachtman, over some general principles of 
communist organization involved in this question. They are pressing 



*Tlie Socialist Appeal was the name of the weekly organ of the 
party at that time. It was later changed back to tha original name, 
The Militant. 

For Trotsky's "second article on the nature of the Soviet State," 
see In Defense of Marxism, p. 24. Ed. 

**The New International was the name of the monthly magazine 
of the party at that time. For an- explanation of why the name was 
changed to Fourth International, see "Why We Publish Fourth Inter- 
tional" in the next section of this volume. Ed. 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 123 

all the time to establish as the normal procedure the right of a 
minority to contradict the party line in the public press. Implicit, 
and very frequently now explicit, in every move or proposal of 
Burnham touching organizational questions is the idea that we 
must take deliberate measures on every possible occasion to arrest 
the natural development of the Bolshevik party along the lines of 
Stalinist bureaucratization. Irrespective of the merits or demerits 
of the proposals at a given moment, we are entirely opposed to 
the general assault on the idea of a centralized and disciplined 
party which regulates its own affairs without the intervention of 
the general public, and decides for itself when and under what 
conditions it finds it advisable to make its internal affairs public. 
In a rather heated argument in the P.C. the other night, Burnham 
maintained that the right of a minority to publish its views in 
the press should be assured at any time in the development o the 
party's activities except during insurrection. I asked, "Why not 
during the insurrection?" 

3. There is no possible question of the democratic party rights 
of the minority involved in this case. Our internal bulletins pub- 
lish everything submitted by the minority and reach the entire 
membership. In addition, there is absolutely no discrimination in the 
discussion at party branch and membership meetings. The rule every- 
where is equal time for the minority. What is really involved in the 
present demand of the minority is the right to appeal to the public. 

4. Goldman maintains that the discussion in the press will serve 
our cause; that the force of our arguments in the controversy will 
mobilize the party sympathizers more firmly around the program of 
the Fourth International. I also think this would be the case. But I 
insist that if we take this step we must do it with eyes wide open. 
We must realize that a public discussion can hardly fail to accelerate 
the movement of Burnham and his satellite, Shachtman, in a 

direction opposite to ours. 

* * * 

The situation in New York gets sharper every day. We talk dif- 
ferent languages. Nobody, not even the conciliatory Goldman, fore- 
sees any possibility of reconciling the conflicting positions. Our deci- 
sion on the question of opening the discussion in the press must be 
taken with this state of affairs in mind. We have to make the decision 
in the next few days, as the magazine is already overdue. We all 
would appreciate it very highly if you would let us know your 
opinion immediately. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



124 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO A SEATTLE COMRADE 

December 27, 1939 
Dear Dick, 

I have been sending you regularly copies of caucus correspon- 
dence on the internal dispute. Have you been receiving it? ... 

I would be glad to hear your opinion of the Old Man's latest 
article on the "Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist Workers 
Party" and also on the fight in general. 

My opinion in brief is that we now have the fundamental 
fight with the right-wing tendency that we had a few years ago with 
the ultra-lefts and that a decisive victory in this struggle is a pre- 
requisite for further progress of the party. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO PARTY MEMBERSHIP 125 

A LETTER TO THE PARTY MEMBERSHIP 

New York, January 3, 1940 
To All Locals and Branches: 
Dear Comrades, 

On the Question of Discussion in the Socialist Appeal 

For some time the minority of the Political Committee has been 
demanding that the public press of the party, including the Socialist 
Appeal, be opened to the minority for the presentation of their 
position on equal terms with the majority. They demand the right 
to counterpose [their own program to] the program laid down by 
national conventions of the party and congresses of the Fourth 
International. 

At the meeting of December 5th, Comrade Burnham presented 
the following motion: "That in the same issue of the paper where 
the official party position on the Finnish conflict appears, there 
also be published the resolution introduced by the minority." 

Repeatedly in discussions in the Political Committee, and lately 
also in branch meetings, the leaders of the minority and their sup- 
porters have maintained that a free presentation and defense of an- 
other program, as against the official program of the party and 
the international, in the public press is a normal procedure, and 
that its denial signifies a suppression of democratic party rights in 
the spirit of Stalinism. 

In this conception of organization, as in their theoretical and 
political positions, the leaders of the minority demonstrate their 
antagonism to the principles and traditions of Bolshevism. The 
demagogic demand for "freedom of the press" represents a petty- 
bourgeois, anarchistic revolt against revolutionary centralism. 

During the pre-convention discussion period the Bolshevik or- 
ganization system assures full rights and facilities to a minority to 
present its case, freely and fairly, for the consideration and decision 
of the party membership. This tradition and unvarying practice of 
our movement the best and most honestly democratic tradition 
and practice the labor movement has ever known has been fully 
adhered to in the present discussion. All resolutions and articles 
submitted by the minority are published without censorship or dis- 
crimination in a jointly edited internal bulletin which reaches every 
party member. At all branch and membership meetings where the 
disputed questions are under discussion an equal division of time 



126 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

is the uniform rule. No restrictions of any kind are put in the way 
of the minority getting a fair hearing. 

From the point of view of party democracy, from the point of 
view of getting a fair hearing from the entire party membership, the 
minority has no possible ground for any kind of complaint, and 
has placed no such complaints on record. In assuring and safe- 
guarding this free and democratic discussion, the majority of the Na- 
tional Committee is only according to the minority its party rights, 
as established by the constitution of the party and the traditions 
of the Bolshevik movement. 

With the public press of the party, however, the situation stands 
differently. If democracy holds sway in the internal discussion, 
then centralism predominates in the public expressions and actions 
of the party. The public party press is not and cannot be an instru- 
ment of discussion under the control of a parity committee. It is, 
rather, an instrument of the party and its National Committee for 
the presentation and defense of the official position of the party. 
In the discussion bulletin the opposition can ask for equal rights 
with the majority, but the official party publications have the 
duty to defend the point of view of the party and the Fourth 
International until they are changed by convention or congress. A 
discussion in the pages of the official party publications as pro- 
vided in the forthcoming issue of the New International, for ex- 
ample can be conducted only within the limits established by the 
majority of the National Committee. Whoever disputes this rejects 
the whole conception of a centralized revolutionary party. At the 
same time he negates party democracy by subjecting the decisions 
of a majority to the public attack of a minority at whim. 

There is a fundamental difference between the honest demo- 
cratic centralism of a Bolshevik party and the pseudo-democracy 
of the parties of the reformists and centrists of all shades. The 
much-advertised public "freedom of discussion" didn't prevent 
the Socialist Party of Norman Thomas from gagging its revolu- 
tionary left wing. On the other hand, the genuine and honest democ- 
racy of a Bolshevik party does not assure "freedom" for anar- 
chistic individuals to disavow and attack the party program before 
the public. 

These considerations are self-evident to those comrades who 
are familiar with the Bolshevik tradition and practice and who 
desire to uphold it. Different opinions are possible only on the 
part of those who seek inspiration from other traditions of organ- 
ization. But it is quite obvious that the attempt of the minority to 
overthrow the Bolshevik tradition, and break down the right of 



LETTER TO PARTY MEMBERSHIP 127 

the party to speak through its press without public contradiction, 
involves something more than a mere difference of opinion. It is 
obvious that the leaders of the minority are not content to rest 
their case with the members of the party and let the party members 
decide. They want to proclaim their program to the public before 
the party has endorsed their program. 

In view of the insistence with which they present this demand 
it is proper to ask: What is the source of this impatience? Why 
can't they wait for the verdict of their own party before appealing 
to the public? The explanation is all too simple. They want to 
justify themselves before democratic public opinion. Without wait- 
ing for the party convention, and not trusting the party member- 
ship to accept their position, they want to shout to all the Eastmans, 
Hooks and others that they, the opposition, are not as bad as we. 
They want to make it known that, besides the bad "Trotskyists," 
there are also some good ones who take a more reasonable and 
more popular view of things. 

In their extreme impatience to make these announcements the 
leaders of the minority are attempting to stampede the inexperienced 
members of the party and the youth with the demagogic appeal for 
"democracy." The National Committee answers to the leaders of 
the minority: Democracy party democracy is precisely what you 
shall have. Full and equal rights for the minority in the party 
discussion but only there! The members of the party and not the 
public will decide these disputes! You must wait for the verdict 
of the party and you cannot appeal to the public until this party 
verdict is announced. 

The demand of the minority for "equal rights" in the public 
press of the party is an attack on the Bolshevik principle of cen- 
tralized party organization. It is a perversion and distortion of its 
traditions and an unscrupulous attempt to miseducate the party 
in the spirit of Menshevism. The National Committee declares that 
it will under no circumstances permit any attacks on the program 
of the party and the Fourth International to appear in the Socialist 
Appeal the political-agitational organ of the party. On the con- 
trary, the Socialist Appeal will be devoted exclusively to a militant 
defense of the party position on all questions as long as these posi- 
tions have not been changed by a convention or a congress. 

Political Committee 
SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY 
by J. P. CANNON 
National Secretary 



128 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TQ THE PARTY MEMBERSHIP 

New York, January 3, 1940 
To All Locals and Branches: 

Dear Comrades, 

On Democratic Centralism 

Supplementing the Political Committee letter of January 3d, we 
are calling your attention here to three pertinent references on the 
subject of democratic centralism as it has been conceived and prac- 
ticed by our movement in the past and stated in official documents. 

1. "Democratic centralism means the right of discussion inside 
the party, at times and in ways laid down by the party. Democratic 
centralism also means discipline; it means the subordination of 
the minority to the majority; it means the centralization of 
authority, between conventions, in one leading committee selected 
by the convention; it means that the party always confronts the 
outside world with a single policy, the policy of the majority of 
its authoritative bodies. Democratic centralism means that the in- 
dividual party member always and under all circumstances must 
subordinate himself in his public action and expressions to the 
policy and decisions of the party." From the "Statement of the 
Political Committee on the Expulsion of Joseph Zack," issued by 
the Workers' Party under date of June 4, 1935. 

2. Replying to and rejecting the demand of the Oehlerites for 
public discussion, the plenum of the Workers' Party stated: "There 
is no principle which requires that material on controversy within 
the party must be carried within the public press of the party. Even 
in pre-convention discussions this is not the case ; much less in other 
periods. It is the province of the National Committee to order such 
a discussion if it is to take place." From the "Resolution on the 
Internal Situation of the Workers' Party, adopted by the October 
1935 Plenum." 

3. "The plenum . . . will lay down procedure for the pre- 
convention discussion and arrangements for the convention itself in 
accordance with the principles of democratic centralism. The rights 
of the membership will be fully safeguarded. The plenum categori- 
cally asserts, however, that it is the prerogative and duty of the 
plenum and the Political Committee, in accordance with well- 
established Bolshevik procedure and the constitution of the W.P. 
itself, to determine what is the correct procedure; what in a given 



LETTER TO PARTY MEMBERSHIP 129 

situation safeguarding the rights of the membership means, and to 
carry out the provisions of the constitution of the party. No in- 
dividual or group can arrogate this so-called *right' to himself or 
itself." From the "Resolution on the Internal Situation of the 
Workers' Party, adopted by the October 1935 Plenum." 

Yours fraternally, 
POLITICAL COMMITTEE 
by J. P. CANNON 
National Secretary 



130 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO ALL MAJORITY GROUPS 

New York, January 3, 1940 
Dear Comrades, 

We here are of the opinion that the party will benefit in every 
way if the convention is postponed for at least one month. However, 
we do not want to take the step here in the Committee without reso- 
lutions from the branches, requesting such a postponement. 

We request you to introduce resolutions in all branches, asking 
for a postponement of the convention for at least one month. We 
list below a list of reasons. You can cite any one or all of them as 
you see fit in the resolutions you draw up. Please inform us imme- 
diately of the adoption of any such resolutions and see that official 
copies are sent to the National Office without delay. 

* * * 

Reasons for Postponing the Convention 

(1) A month's postponement will assure much better weather 
for travelling by auto from far distant places. February is still pretty 
cold. We want at all costs to have a complete representation from 
the Western branches, and a month's postponement to a time of 
milder weather should facilitate their travel by car. 

(2) We want a discussion in the party on resolutions of the two 
groups. We must demand everywhere that the minority present a 
resolution stating precisely what the party position will be on the 
Soviet state and its defense in the event that they receive a majority. 
Recently they have handed in and also distributed in the party a 
document of 25,000 words on the Russian question in which they 
manage to evade these two simple questions. They promise a resolu- 
tion for the convention, but the membership is entitled to see it and 
discuss it beforehand. The branch resolution should state that we 
demand resolutions from the two sides so that members can know 
what they are voting on. The detailed resolution of the majority is 
going to be published in the next number of the New International. 

(3) In view of the fact that Comrade Trotsky in his article on 
the "Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party" has 
raised the question of Marxist philosophy, the branches should ask 
what the answer of the minority leaders is on this point so that the 
party membership will be able to judge between the two positions 
and improve their Marxist education in the process of the discussion. 

* * * 

All branches are receiving a circular letter from the Political 



LETTER TO MAJORITY GROUPS 131 

Committee, replying to the demand of the minority that the columns 
of the Appeal be opened for attacks on the program of the party. 
In this case we have an excellent opportunity to educate some of the 
younger and more inexperienced comrades in the meaning of Bol- 
shevik organization. 

We propose that resolutions be drawn up on this question in all 
party branches without exception and that a thoroughgoing dis- 
cussion take place on the meaning and significance of the two posi- 
tions. All the necessary arguments are contained in the statement of 
the Political Committee and in the two letters from ^Comrade Rork 
'[Trotsky] which you will receive. 

We must take the offensive on this point. In no instance have the 
leaders of the opposition bloc shown their capitulatory attitude to- 
wards public opinion more clearly than in their demand of the 
"right" to tell their troubles to the public before the party member- 
ship has decided the disputes. 

Incidentally, all comrades who are doing serious work in the mass 
movement can understand how the agitational value of the Appeal 
will be destroyed if it is converted into a discussion organ at the 
very moment we are undertaking to defend the Soviet Union against 
the whole world, including Stalin. It must be pointed out that the 
campaign of the Appeal in defense of the Soviet Union is an action. 
It can be compared to a strike situation, multiplied ten thousand 
times. A member of a strike committee might consider that a given 
strike is ill-advised and should be called off for one reason or an- 
other, and would have a full right to explain his point of view within 
the closed limits of a strike committee. But it would be a miserable 
strike committee indeed which would permit such an individual to 
carry his fight to the public before the question had been decided 
in the workers' ranks. And an individual who would resort to such 
an action would be called something more than miserable. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



132 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 



A LETTER TO FARRELL DOBBS 

[When this letter was written comrade Dobbs was preparing to 
leave for Mexico City to visit Trotsky. Ed.] 

New York, January 3, 1940 
Dear Dobbs, 

... I haven't anything definite that you need to take up with the 
Old Man that he doesn't already know except what you can tell 
him from your own personal impressions, etc. The thing here is 
getting sharper every day. The first letters and articles of the Old 
Man were taken by these people as a sign of softness and weakness 
instead of as a warning. His blast on the petty-bourgeois opposition 
in the party, instead of inducing them to stop, look and listen 
for a while, has only aroused them to a greater frenzy. 

... At last night's P.C. meeting we were informed that Shachtman 
has written an answer entitled "An Open Letter to Leon Trotsky." 
They should quit politics and read poetry for a while. Alexander 
Pope warned, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." And Shake- 
speare's Hamlet remarked that "The Almighty had set his canon 
'gainst self-slaughter." 

With so many people in the world being killed off by the wars 
and all it seems a pity that others out of the danger zone should em- 
bark on an orgy of self-destruction. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 






LETTER TO A SEATTLE COMRADE 133 

A LETTER TO A SEATTLE COMRADE 

New York, January 4, 1940 
Dear Dick, 

I was very glad to get your letter of December 27th. 

It is necessary to devote the maximum attention to the education 
of the party comrades on the present internal dispute. The coming 
convention will be in reality the real foundation convention of the 
American section of the Fourth International. In a broader sense 
we can say it will represent the real foundation congress of the 
Fourth International itself. Here we are meeting in concentrated 
form, in the only country where free democratic discussion is pos- 
sible at the present time, a concentrated attempt to overthrow the 
program. If it is firmly repelled here it will represent a milestone 
in the development of the Fourth International on a world scale. 

From this point of view, it is very important that you come to 
the convention as a delegate. If necessary, we will find some way 
of helping out with the finances. 

According to the constitution, it would be possible for us to 
have a proxy delegate from the East elected by your branch. But 
the real purposes of the convention will only be served if the most 
qualified comrades from every part of the country attend the con- 
vention in person. 

From this point of view I think you will heartily favor the sug- 
gestion that the convention be postponed until the weather breaks 
a little bit. Therefore, I hope to receive from you by early mail 
a resolution from the Seattle branch requesting this postponement. 

Portland is chartered as a regular branch. It is highly worth- 
while and absolutely necessary in fact for you to go down there 
and see that they get paid up and in shape to send a delegate. I 
cannot overemphasize the importance of such details as this at the 
present time. Also, it will be very good for you to contact Van- 
couver. We have heard that a large majority of the comrades in 
Toronto support the position of the majority but it is likewise im- 
portant that Vancouver also take the correct position. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



134 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO A NEW HAVEN COMRADE 

New York, January 4, 1940 
Dear Frank, 

I received your letter of January 3d. In the meantime you 
should have received some additional material. 

It is very gratifying to hear that the majority of the branch 
has already declared for the majority. The thing to do is to keep 
hammering away to make it as close to unanimous as possible. 

It is not sufficient for us to get a majority at the convention. 
We've got to get such a strong majority that no adventurer will 
dare to tamper with the idea of a split. 

We are sending a copy of the Old Man's article to as 

you suggest. It is very important for you to keep in contact with 
him and try in every way to get his agreement with our position. . . . 

We've had an almost similar situation in Boston. The famous 
leader Donlon, according to a letter from Larry, has resigned 
from the party because he doesn't want to support red fascism in 
Russia. That's one of the troubles with the opposition in the party. 
People who really assimilate their teachings in all their implica- 
tions can't see any longer the necessity of a revolutionary party. 

With best wishes, 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



A GRADUATE BURNHAMITE 135 

A GRADUATE BURNHAMITE 

(An Internal Circular) 
By J. P. Cannon 

Burnham's theory that the Soviet bureaucracy is a new exploiting 
class, and "imperialist" to boot, has been taken seriously to heart 
by one of his Boston converts. D. Lawrence, who was an ardent 
member of Burnham's opposition bloc, doesn't belong to it any 
more. He graduated. Burnham convinced him too well; and as a 
practical man, after he became convinced that the Soviet Union is 
a new "imperialist" state, he naturally put to himself the question: 
Why the devil should I bother to argue or quibble about defending 
such a state in any way or under any circumstances? 

Thereupon, he sent a letter of resignation to the Boston branch. 
The secretary in his official report says: "The branch after hear- 
ing the letter and giving it serious consideration and also consider- 
ing what possible harm he could do our members in the trade 
unions had a somewhat different idea on the matter of resigning. 
The E.G. brought in a unanimous recommendation for his expul- 
sion. The branch also unanimously approved the recommendation. 
The charge which the E.G. presented was on the 'grounds of renegacy 
from the 4th International'." 

Bravo, Boston! Three cheers for the Bolshevik guard of Boston! 



136 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 

New York, January 11, 1940 
Dear Comrade Trotsky, 

Your Open Letter to Burnham was received by Comrade Wright 
yesterday. He is now at work translating it. As soon as he is fin- 
ished a copy will be supplied to Comrade Burnham and the docu- 
ment will be promptly published in our internal bulletin. 

Your aggressive thrust of the question of the dialectic into the 
party discussion is producing some quite "dialectical" reactions in 
the two camps. The supporters of the minority apparently have been 
instructed to meet the attack along the following lines: 

1. Joke about the question and taunt the supporters of the major- 
ity: Since when did you become an expert on philosophy, etc. 

2. Dialectical materialism of course is an interesting subject but 
it should be discussed some other time. 

3. It is a bad method to introduce this question during a faction 
fight. (Did opportunists ever in any case to your knowledge fail to 
object to the "methods" of the Marxists?) 

4. It is obviously a factional trick to split the minority by inject- 
ing extraneous issues, but since we all agree on our "conclusions" 
the maneuver will not succeed. 

On the other hand, the ranks of the majority have responded 
with great interest and enthusiasm to your militant intervention on 
the subject of dialectical materialism precisely because it is done 
in connection with a thoroughgoing political and theoretical strug- 
gle. Many of them are turning to the books to study. Spontaneous 
popular demand called forth a decision to start a class on the sub- 
ject in the party school under the direction of Comrade Wright who 
has studied the question seriously. There is general satisfaction and 
great appreciation of your initiative. Most of our comrades want not 
only to win but to learn and they are soaking up the lessons of this 
struggle like a sponge. Apropos a suggestion in the caucus meeting 
the other night that the convention might be postponed, one of 
the best and most promising of our young comrades remarked to 
those sitting beside him: "I hope the discussion is prolonged; I am 
learning every day." 

Reports from the country are increasingly favorable. What is 
most gratifying is the virtual unanimity with which the pro- 
letarian activists, as well as the older basic cadres of the party, 
are rallying to the support of the majority. Outside New York 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 137 

and Chicago the party is basically proletarian. I am now receiv- 
ing the returns from a questionnaire sent to our supporters through- 
out the country, asking questions as to the membership, social com- 
position and attitude of the branch members on the disputes. These 
figures are extremely revealing. As soon as the returns are com- 
pleted I intend to draw up a circular letter analyzing the figures 
and quoting some of the pertinent comments. 

It is extremely interesting and reassuring to see how acutely 
the experienced worker Bolsheviks sensed the real trouble in the 
party. They knew what was the matter, and the various documents 
and arguments on the majority side only appear to them as rounded- 
out formulations of their own views. For example, one writes : "Our 
branch here is 100% for Bolshevik-Leninist methods which is not 
surprising when you know that the social composition of the branch 
is proletarian and completely so. The article by the Old Man was 
excellent. It expressed my thoughts on the minority tendency. Our 
Chicago organization has been stymied by this petty-bourgeois group 
too long." 

Another: "I have not yet seen the article on the 'Petty-Bourgeois 
Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party' and consequently cannot 
express myself except to say that if a title means anything it should 
hit the nail on the head." 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 






138 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 

New York, January 18, 1940 
Dear Comrade Trotsky, 

I am enclosing herewith Comrade Burnham's comments on your 
recent article on the petty-bourgeois opposition. Note the self-reveal- 
ing first sentence. He shows that he thinks first of all about the re- 
actions of the intellectual camp followers of democratic imperialism. 
It is unnecessary to point out also that he turns the original dispute 
with Eastman upside down. Eastman originally claimed to support 
the whole practical program of Lenin (the "engineering") ; at that 
time, he announced, he simply wanted to make a "revolutionary" 
revision of Marxism by amputating its "religion" (dialectical mate- 
rialism). It is amazing how the oppositionists mix up so many simple 
facts as well as ideas. 

Resolutions are coming in from practically all the proletarian 
branches requesting a postponement of the convention in order, 
among other things, to have a more extended discussion on the 
questions raised in the first part of your article and Burnham's 
answer to it. Sneers and wisecracks on the subject of dialectical 
materialism hold sway among the declassed kibitzers of the Bronx 
branch (the Shachtman branch) but the proletarians in the party 
seriously want to know about this "religion," what it is, who is 
for it, and who is against it, and why. 

I think you received a copy of the notice about a "Burnham 
graduate." Yesterday we received information of another. Robertson, 
the leader of the minority in Canada the large majority there is 
firmly on our side sent a letter of resignation to the party. The 
reasons are priceless. First, he does not want to defend the Soviet 
Union any longer; second, he feels the "despair" of an isolated 
petty-bourgeois intellectual (he is also by some strange chance a 
professor) ; and third, he is very much afraid that an American 
Soviet government with Cannon at the head of it would be just as 
ruthless as Stalin. By the way, that is exactly the fear that Burn- 
ham expressed almost word for word in a personal conversation 
with me and Shachtman about the time I wrote you my disturbed 
letter concerning him two years ago. In that conversation he also 
told us frankly that he wasn't sure whether the contradictions be- 
tween his personal life and the responsibilities of a revolutionary 
leader were subconsciously at the bottom of his differences with 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 139 

us. A few months later Shachtman began to move over into Burn- 
ham's orhit. . . . 

I am writing to Comrade Dobbs simultaneously. Since he has 
finally realized his long-deferred visit to you it would be short- 
sighted to cut the visit short. The length of his stay should be 
determined by your mutual convenience and desires. We will jog 
along here in the meantime. I suffer, of course, a great disadvan- 
tage and personal annoyance in this situation by the responsibility 
for administrative details which have to be taken care of somehow. 
It is like trying to run through a field cluttered with tough vines. 

On top of that is the endless speaking. Last night I had to debate 
once more with Shachtman (on the organization question). I go 
through such labor with a feeling of physical revulsion; at least 
two-thirds or three-fourths of the time must be taken up in re- 
setting Shachtman's "quotations" into their proper context and in 
explaining how his historical references are falsely and disloyally 
represented in an opposite sense to their real import. I console 
myself with the thought that in doing this work I am at least acting 
the part of a good soldier. In debating with Shachtman I crawl 
on my belly through the mud for the sake of the Fourth Interna- 
tional. 

With warmest greetings, 

J. P. CANNON 



140 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO FARRELL DOBBS 

New York, January 18, 1940 
Dear Comrade Dobbs, 

I just wrote the Old Man that it would be pointless for you to 
cut your visit short now that it has been realized after so many 
delays. We will jog along here until you finish everything you have 
to talk over with him. However, I wish you would let me know 
what your schedule is and approximately when we can expect you. 
The convention will undoubtedly be postponed. 

If you have time I would also like to get reports from you in 
rough outline at least of the subjects you are discussing with him 
and any suggestions or propositions you may have to make on the 
basis of these discussions. I would advise you to make comprehensive 
notes after each discussion when the subjects are fresh in your mind 
for your future consideration and also to refresh your mind when 
you report to us at more length. 

One thing more. Be sure to talk over with the Old Man all ques- 
tions of an administrative, personal and confidential nature which 
have concerned his dealings with me and Rose. I have already told 
him that I expect you will fully participate with us in this aspect 
of future work; consequently you should take advantage of the con- 
versations face to face to have a thorough understanding about every- 
thing. . . . 

We are still pounding away in the party fight. A close check-up 
of the national situation shows that on the basis of the present line- 
up we can expect a majority of about 5 to 3. They've still got the 
bulk of the petty-bourgeois elements and we've still got the bulk 
of the workers, but in spite of everything this is still a workers' party 
and the workers are the mostest and the toughest. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO MAJORITY GROUPS 141 

A LETTER TO ALL MAJORITY GROUPS 

New York, January 19, 1940 
Dear Comrades, 

The Opposition Leaders Threaten Split 

It has become very clear in recent days that the leaders of the 
opposition bloc are deliberately undertaking to maneuver their sup- 
porters into a split from the party and the Fourth International. This 
tendency has been manifest for some time, but in the most recent 
period their agitational preparation has taken more concrete forms. 
It appears that the article of Trotsky on the Petty-Bourgeois Oppo- 
sition impelled them more deliberately on this course. The rather 
barren results of Shachtman's tour to the Middle West evidently 
convinced them finally that it is impossible to get a majority at 
the convention. The following are the most important facts which 
have come to our attention: 

1. The other night, some comrades have informed us, they held 
a membership caucus meeting in New York with Shachtman as 
reporter. There the idea of a split was projected in a half-open, 
half-diplomatic manner. Shachtman explained that by characteriz- 
ing them as petty-bourgeois, the majority means to put them in a 
category of second class citizens in the party. We, he announced, 
will never submit to this. We have principled differences. There will 
be no living in the party under Cannon after the convention. They 
will begin to expel Burnham, Abern, etc., and to remove all our 
people from posts. Since we are fighting for principles, we must 
keep our faction together and continue the struggle after the con- 
vention. That means we must have an organ of our own. (It was 
left unclear perhaps deliberately whether this means a public or 
an internal organ.) Cannon will not allow this; thereby he will 
provoke a split. Such was the gist of his long report. 

2. This speech called forth violent reactions and considerable 
disturbances in the rank and file of the meeting. Three comrades 
took the floor and protested most vehemently against a split pro- 
gram on the ground that this will disrupt the whole movement of 
the Fourth International. They especially protested against the ulti- 
mative demand for the right to publish an organ after the conven- 
tion. One comrade in particular (a former Socialist) argued that 
we have always explained democratic centralism differently. We 
have always boasted of the tradition of our movement according 
to which there is the freest discussion before conventions and 



142 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

strictest discipline afterwards on the basis of the decisions of the 
majority. How can we go against this without doing violence to 
our tradition? 

On the other hand, Gould, Carter and Garrett took the floor to 
support the position of Shachtman. Shachtman in his summary re- 
plied to the argument of the critics who had opposed an ultima- 
tistic demand for a minority organ after the convention by saying : If 
Cannon sees that we don't mean it seriously he will not pay any 
attention to our demand. We can only convince him that we mean 
it if we actually do mean it. (Psychology!) 

3. Along the same line has been the attitude of the opposition 
leaders towards party duties and even towards Political Committee 
meetings. Shachtman departed for his tour without authorization or 
notice to the Political Committee. Letters sent to him by order of 
the Political Committee, requesting at least that he furnish us with 
his itinerary, were ignored. One special and one regular meeting 
of the Political Committee found Shachtman, Abern and Burnham 
absent without notification. An official request for an explanation 
from them brought no reply. Shachtman makes no pretense of 
assuming any responsibility whatever for the production of the 
Appeal, of which he is co-editor. Even more symptomatic is the atti- 
tude of Burnham in the past always very punctilious in the per- 
formance of accepted duties. He submits his weekly column or not 
as he sees fit without informing the managing editor, and usually 
omits it. 

We have information that they have established a separate head- 
quarters for the conduct of their local and national factional work. 
Burnham and Shachtman never appear at the National Office of 
the party, and consultation with them on day to day party matters 
is completely excluded. In addition, it should be mentioned that 
the national apparatus of the YPSL is to all intents and purposes 
a faction apparatus of the opposition. It routes organizers for fac- 
tion work, etc., without any consultation whatever with the Na- 
tional Office of the party. 

All in all, we must face the fact that the leaders of the oppo- 
sition bloc, in their present mood, are moving deliberately towards 
a split. 

How to Combat the Split Program 

Already here in New York we have discussed this question 
several times and have begun our struggle against the split adven- 
ture. We give you here an outline from the main points of our 
approach to the question. It must be borne in mind at the outset 



LETTER TO MAJORITY GROUPS 143 

that an incipient split is the most dangerous of all things to play 
with. It is folly to imagine that mere good will and good nature 
can prevent it. Only well-calculated and ruthless struggle can break 
up this split as we have broken up others in the past. This premise 
is incontestable. The methods and the forms of combatting the 
split, however, are extremely important. 

1. First of all, it is necessary to educate and harden our own 
cadres and to inspire them with a fanatical patriotism for the 
party and the Fourth International and a determination to defend 
it under all circumstances. Split adventurers must be shown up 
in their true light as criminals and traitors to our International. 
How can one imagine a more perfidious crime than the disruption 
of the strongest legal section of the Fourth International on the 
eve of the war? 

2. We must make a real campaign to win the rank and file 
supporters of the minority away from the split program. First of 
all, this means to convince them that we on our part have no inten- 
tion whatever to initiate or provoke a split. In all speeches and in 
private conversations we must remind the comrades that it was the 
majority which introduced the unity resolution in the Political Com- 
mittee, with the pledge to the membership that there should be no 
expulsions on the one side or withdrawals on the other at the party 
convention. It was we who brought forward the motion to set up a 
parity commission to examine and regulate grievances. It was we 
who proposed and provided a joint editorship of the internal bulle- 
tin to insure the minority against discrimination or fear of discrimi- 
nation. On all occasions we state that, for our part, we still stand 
unconditionally on this resolution and are determined to maintain 
party unity. Even as a minority at the convention we will remain 
disciplined and wait for the further development of events tQ con- 
firm our views and re-establish our majority in the leadership with 
the support of the vast majority of the party rank and file. 

3. On all occasions refer the comrades to the letters of Trotsky 
and Cannon in Bulletin No. 6 wherein we each speak for unity and 
against a split even though the convention goes against us. 

4. Ask the comrades: What is your complaint? Do you not get 
a fair hearing in the party discussion? Do you not have free access 
to the internal bulletin? Are you not given equal consideration with 
the majority in all respects in the party debates? Do you think the 
discussion should be prolonged in order to give you a greater oppor- 
tunity to win over the majority? In that case you have only to make 
a proposal to postpone the convention; the majority will undoubted- 
ly agree to any reasonable proposition along this line. 



144 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

5. Ask the minority comrades: How can you possibly advance 
your cause by a split? Surely the workers belonging to the party 
are the most intelligent and advanced radical workers that can be 
found at the present time. If you cannot convince them in a pro- 
longed and absolutely free and fair discussion, where, as an inde- 
pendent group, will you find the workers with whom to build a 
party? Can you visualize a revolutionary party without workers? 
Are there more advanced, more receptive and more militant workers 
to be found outside the party? Split leaders in the past who over- 
looked this point and rushed headlong into an appeal to the 130 
million people in the country soon found themselves shouting in a 
void. The road to the masses is through the vanguard, not over its 
head. 

6. Say to the minority comrades : If, in spite of everything, you 
really mean to split you should consider carefully the following 
questions : 

a) The first question for every revolutionist is the question of 
international affiliation. Without a close union of co-thinkers on an 
international scale a revolutionary movement in our epoch is un- 
thinkable. The split can only be a split away from the Fourth Inter- 
national, for the majority has stated that it will in no case initiate 
a split even though it remains for the time being in a minority ; in no 
case will the majority leave the Fourth International. 

b) Do you think there is political "living space" between the 
Fourth International and the London Bureau (which means, in the 
USA, the Lovestoneites) ? Do you know any important political 
group on an international scale that found such a space? As a 
matter of fact doesn't the evolution of the Lovestone group the 
American section of the London Bureau towards fusion with the 
Thomas Socialists, who in turn approach the Socialist old guard, 
show that there is not enough political living space between the 
Fourth International and the Second? 

c) Bear seriously in mind the political fate of others who tried 
to split the American section of the Fourth International. Weisbord, 
Field, Oehler, Stamm, etc., were all talented people collectively, 
not less so than the leaders of the opposition bloc. In addition, most 
of them were more serious and more capable of determined struggle 
and sacrifice for their ideas. Yet all of these people came to the most 
miserable ends. Field lost his little group of a dozen or so and 
returned to private life a completely isolated figure. Ditto Weisbord. 
As for Oehler and Stamm, their original group has split into eight 
parts and the process goes on uninterruptedly. What do these catas- 
trophic experiences prove? That the leaders of our party were much 



LETTER TO MAJORITY GROUPS 145 

abler than the split leaders mentioned? Perhaps, but that is not by 
any means the most important side of the question. The degeneration 
and decay of each and every group which broke from the Fourth 
International on an international scale, as well as in the United 
States, in the course of the past ten years demonstrates conclusively: 
Outside the Fourth International there is no historic road. 

d) A light-minded attitude towards party organization, towards 
splits and unifications one of the most characteristic expressions 
of intellectualism and dilettantism is a fatal thing. Socialism is in- 
evitable but the struggle for socialism by means of the proletarian 
revolution must be organized. The sole means of organizing the 
proletarian revolution is the revolutionary party. A petty-bourgeois 
intellectual or dilettante, who has not assimilated the ideas of Marx- 
ism into his blood, is capable of rushing into unifications one day 
when there is only a seeming agreement and of splits the next day 
at the first sign of serious disagreement. Not so the workers. The 
worker joins a party for struggle. He puts his life into it. He takes 
his time before joining in order to see what a party is doing as well 
as what it is saying. When such a worker joins a party he takes it 
very seriously. He gives it his full devotion and recoils fiercely 
against anyone who takes the party lightly and disregards its disci- 
pline. 

An intellectual dilettante is capable of joining a party without 
attaching any great significance to such an action, and of leaving it 
at the first disagreement, or more often the first time someone 
steps on his toes. The worker, on the other hand, who as a rule will 
not join a party unless he means business, will not leave it at the 
first disappointment or when the first doubt enters his mind. No, 
the worker clings to his party and supports it until all his confidence 
and hopes in it are exhausted. This is the great factor which under- 
lies the extraordinary tenacity with which thousands of militant 
workers stick to the Communist Party. Superficial intellectuals are 
inclined to regard these workers as incurable idiots. Not so. The 
workers cling to the C.P. in spite of disappointments and doubts 
and misgivings only because they do not see any other party. This 
sentiment of seriousness, devotion, sacrifice, tenacity horribly 
abused and betrayed by the Stalinist fakers is a sentiment that in 
its essence is profoundly revolutionary. Don't be hasty to leave your 
party. That is a sign of petty-bourgeois impatience and instability, 
not of proletarian revolutionary responsibility. 



146 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

Threats Are Useless 

7. All the above arguments and others of a similar nature are 
always supplemented in our discussions, both at meetings and in 
private conversations, with the following: If the talk about a split 
is meant as a threat to scare us, then it would be better to lay aside 
the threats. We are not afraid of threats. We shall continue to char- 
acterize the minority politically as we see it, and call it by its right 
name. We shall continue a merciless political struggle against their 
revisionist ideas under all circumstances. The dispute must be 
fought out within the framework of the party and the Fourth Inter- 
national, according to the method of democratic centralism. That 
means the fullest freedom and discussion, without organization dis- 
crimination on the one side or threats on the other. The party mem- 
bership must decide the dispute at the convention. The minority 
must be subordinated to the majority. The unity of the party must 
be secured on that basis. 

Fraternally yours, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO A ROCHESTER COMRADE 147 

A LETTER TO A ROCHESTER COMRADE 

New York, January 22, 1940 
Dear Comrade, 

I am writing you this additional note as a personal letter. 

Aside from the general considerations of the official letter I 
am enclosing to which I am sure no one can object I may say 
that we of the majority consider that every extension of party activity 
outside the narrow circle, which results in the recruitment of new 
workers, is bound to strengthen our tendency. 

We base ourselves squarely on the conception of a proletarian 
party, in composition as well as in program. In our opinion it is 
precisely the unfavorable social composition of the party in New 
York a state of affairs derived from many causes peculiar to the 
metropolis that gives the present faction dispute its intense atmos- 
phere and strengthens revisionist tendencies. 

The present sickness of the party cannot be cured without an 
improvement in the social composition of the party. A few hundred 
more workers who take the class struggle more seriously and who 
discuss, not for the sake of discussion, but in order to decide and 
to act will very soon restore a normal internal atmosphere in the 
party and call the undisciplined and unrestrained intellectuals to 
order. 

I personally thought the Boston branch acted correctly in not 
giving Lawrence the "honor" of resigning. His letter of resignation 
was a slanderous insult to the party and made it clear that he leaves 
us as an enemy to work against us in the trade unions. Of course 
the personal character of Lawrence was an additional reason to 
prompt the action of the Boston comrades. The Russian question for 
him was not simply a point of disagreement, but also a pretext for 
getting out of the line of fire. I, of course, do not attribute this moti- 
vation to all the comrades of the minority. But such people naturally 
gravitate towards them and they do nothing to repel them. 

Yes, I personally think the teachings of Burnham, which are anti- 
Marxist and anti-Bolshevik, are a preparatory school for desertion 
of the revolutionary movement. You will see from the enclosed 
circular that there is a second "graduate" already. There will be 
others, mark my words. 

From this it does not follow that there is any ground to expel 
Burnham from the party. The thing is to combat and refute his anti- 
Marxist teachings. This we are doing to the best of our ability and 



148 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

not without success. As far as the proletarian militants of the party 
are concerned, an overwhelming majority supports the program of 
the Fourth International against Burnham's attempt to revise it. 

Our party is democratic not only in the formal but in the real 
sense of the word. If anybody thinks he can improve the program 
or propose a better one he has a full right to bring his propositions 
forward in the course of the pre-convention discussion. Any proposal 
to expel him for this would be absurd. That would be the negation 
of democracy. That would be equivalent to passing a definitive judg- 
ment in advance of the convention, which alone has the right to 
decide. Up to the convention there is only a struggle of opinions 
and all opinions must have free play. 

However, if it is shown that one disciple of Burnham after an- 
other draws the conclusion that he can no longer function as a 
member of the revolutionary party we have a right to cite these 
facts as an argument against his teachings. What kind of a program 
is it that leads people to desert the fight? 

I assume you know that the joint declaration on party unity sent 
to the branches some weeks ago was introduced on the initiative of 
the majority. According to this resolution, we stand against any 
expulsions of comrades at the convention for the opinions they have 
defended in the discussion, and also against any withdrawals of 
a minority. After the convention there remains only the obligation 
on the part of the minority, whichever side it may be, to respect 
the decisions of the convention and to observe discipline in public 
action. 

We repeat on every occasion that we intend fully to abide by 
this declaration if we find ourselves in a minority at the convention. 
Only if both sides take such a serious and responsible attitude to- 
ward party unity can we demonstrate our capacity to build a serious 
revolutionary party in spite of the inevitable differences of opinion 
which arise from time to time. 

I hope that all the Rochester comrades are following the dis- 
cussion bulletins with the greatest attentiveness. Two more articles 
by Comrade Trotsky will appear in new bulletins soon together with 
an article by Comrade Burnham. These documents will still further 
clarify the principle questions in dispute. 

I know very well that politically inexperienced comrades have 
a tendency to get impatient with the prolonged discussion and to 
consider it a waste of time and energy. But this is a short-sighted 
view. The questions in dispute at the present time go to the very 
heart of our principled program. How can the dispute be resolved 
by the collective decision of the party members without the most 



LETTER TO A ROCHESTER COMRADE 149 

thoroughgoing discussion? If this takes time and energy away from 
practical work we have to charge it off as an unavoidable part of 
the overhead costs of the democratic self-education of the party 
membership. 

Nobody can give the proletarian vanguard a party able to lead 
the struggle for power. They must create it themselves. The present 
discussion is in my judgment one of the most important events in 
the creation of the American section of the Fourth International. 
We will all know more when it is finished and we will know it 
more firmly because of the discussion. 

The important thing is to keep up the constructive work of the 
party while the discussion is in progress. I would be very glad to 
hear your personal appreciation of the internal struggle as it has 
unfolded so far and also the opinions of the other individual com- 
rades of the Rochester branch. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



150 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO OSCAR COOVER 

New York, January 22, 1940 
Oscar Coover 
Minneapolis, Minn. 
Dear Oscar, 

I notice in your minutes of January llth a reference to a letter 
from Shachtman and an answer from you. I would appreciate very 
much if you would send me copies of these documents. 

You must know that the opposition is circulating a lot of slander- 
ous agitation and cheap school boy sneers against the Twin Cities or- 
ganization. They represent it as a conglomeration of provincial 
scissorbills that is cut off from the life of the party by a Chinese 
wall. They say Shachtman wanted to go to Minneapolis but couldn't 
get a passport, etc. 

There are two more articles by the Old Man on the fire. One, an 
open letter to Burnham and two, an answer to Shachtman's docu- 
ment. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO C. THOMAS 151 

A LETTER TO C. THOMAS 

New York, January 22, 1940 
C. Thomas 
San Francisco, Gal. 
Dear Thomas, 

I received the copy of Bill's letter of January 20th. 

The most important thing in the Bay Section is to moderate the 
atmosphere a bit so that the important political disputes can break 
through. I think it is very important for you to return to the Bay 
Section for a while even if you have to cut your trade union mission 
short. 

You should even try to talk to Sam Meyers and show him that he 
is on the road to hell. Burnham comes out openly more and more 
as a shrewd opponent of the doctrine and traditions of our move- 
ment. Meyers, who used to take pride in his Marxist education, 
should take a week or two out to think things over and pull himself 
up short. 

As you will see from the enclosed circular, we already have a 
Burnham graduate number two. The leader of the minority in Cana- 
da has just walked out of the Fourth International and purely in- 
cidentally of course out of the line of fire for the duration of the 
war. 

Please tell the comrades not to get nervous about rumors. The 
proletarian majority caucus is as solid as a rock from Coast to 
Coast. The only sailor we know who supports the revisionists is 

. We expected that. We also expect that the minority leaders 

are perfectly capable of supporting any kind of a screwball trade 
union policy in exchange for a few votes. The seaman comrades 
should give a thought to this when they consider the question of 
"regime." They had a good sample of our regime in the handling 
of the maritime dispute. In the auto dispute there was a sample 
of the regime of the opposition. For any serious comrade these two 
examples alone are decisive. They epitomize the whole question. 

Two more blasts from the Old Man are coming out soon. One 
is an open letter to Burnham; the other is a reply to Shachtman. 
In the latter document, which he informs us is already written 
and is now being revised, he indicates that he will put Shachtman's 
pseudo-learning and cheap juggling of quotations and historic in- 
cidents out of their context under the Marxist microscope. 



152 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

Many comrades who are taken in by this phony document of 
Shachtman's will be surprised to see what kind of a bug it turns 
out to be under the glass. 

Let me know if you will return to Frisco as soon as possible 
and when. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO MAJORITY GROUPS 153 

A LETTER TO ALL MAJORITY GROUPS 

Confidential 

New York, January 24, 1940 
Dear Comrades, 

Measures to Combat a Split 

Enclosed herewith is a letter we received from Cornell [Trotsky]* 
about the ways and means of combatting the split program of Burn- 
ham and Co. 

There can be no doubt that they are working along this line. 
How shall we combat it? In a previous letter, Trotsky remarked 
that it is difficult to hinder adult individuals who want to commit 
suicide. I might add that, as experience shows, it is equally diffi- 
cult to stop a man who has an inner compulsion to get out of the 
line of fire. However, our problem is the problem of conducting 
our struggle in such a way as to hamper an organized split and 
reduce its size while keeping our own forces intact and militant. 

This requires a combination of measures. On the one hand, the 
struggle on the political front must take on an even more aggressive 
and merciless character. We cannot admit even a suggestion of any 
conciliation or compromise in this respect. But we can and should 
supplement the ruthless political fight with all the necessary organ- 
izational flexibility. 

The general sentiment of the leading comrades here is in favor 
of the proposals indicated in Cornell's [Trotsky's] letter. However, 
we do not want to move on these points until we hear your opinions. 

One of the great factors we must take into account now is the 
impatience of the worker elements with a prolongation of the dis- 
cussion and their impulses soundly proletarian revolutionary to 
clamp down on the petty-bourgeois windbags rather than to make 
concessions to them. If we decide on the course of organizational 
concessions, as we feel sure the majority of you will agree, we must 
be doubly careful to explain the thing fully to the rank and file 
of our supporters as soon as the announcement is made officially. 

We all know that the worker who is busy in the class struggle, 
to say nothing of the shop two fields of activity which occupy 
very little of the time of the professional discussion mongers are 
as a rule very impatient with too much palaver. This will be our 
salvation when we get a few hundred more workers in the party. 



*See In Defense of Marxism, pp. 101-102. Ed. 



154 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

But right now, when the task is to draw the lessons of the present 
dispute out to the end, and to isolate the would-be splitters, this 
impatience can operate against us. 

The worker comrades have to see the faction fight as an un- 
avoidable part of the revolutionary struggle for the consolidation 
of cadres. We didn't balk at more than a year's factional struggle 
in the S.P. in order to win over a few hundred people. We 
needed them in order to turn more effectively to mass work. The 
present struggle must be seen in that same light fundamentally. In 
addition, one of the most important positive results of the factional 
fight inside the S.P. perhaps the most important was that in the 
process of winning over and partly educating a few hundred new 
people we also demolished the opportunist party of Thomas and Co. 
This is also an extremely important element of the tactic of com- 
batting the split. 

If some people are bent on breaking with the Fourth Internation- 
al we can hardly prevent it. But we must take off our coats and roll 
up our sleeves and do a thorough, workman-like job of smashing 
the attempt to set up a serious organizational rival to the S.W.P. 
This requires patience as well as militancy, and organization con- 
cessions as well as political intransigence. If we do a bad and hasty 
job and permit Burnham and Co. to make a deep split, we will then 
have the problem of continuing the struggle between two organiza- 
tions for a time. That would seriously interfere with all practical 
mass work. It is better to be patient and try to finish the job inside 
the party. 

Please keep this letter confidential and let us know right away 
your opinion. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO BILL MORGAN 155 

A LETTER TO BILL MORGAN 

New York, January 25, 1940 
Bill Morgan 
San Francisco, Gal. 
Dear Bill, 

. . . You did right to retreat on the organization question of 
the Bay Area Committee. It would be foolish for us to concentrate 
the fight around such a question when we have such advantages on 
the political and theoretical side. 

... I am going to take up the question of the membership status 
of seamen and other comrades who fall far behind in their dues 
for one reason or another. I think it is best to get some kind of 
a general ruling from the P.C. In any case, however, do not make 
factional discriminations or distinctions on these questions. We pro- 
ceed always by rules and let the chips fall where they may. I per- 
sonally favor the idea of a special rule which would allow all com- 
rades who have not been stricken from the rolls to pay up their 
back dues and regain full status, within a definite time limit. 

. . . Above all, don't let the fight reach the boiling point over 
incidental and organizational questions. That is the only kind of 
politics Trimble knows apparently. Ours is a different brand. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 

P.S. I have heard several reports about some agitation against the 
Minneapolis comrades. I wish you would send me details of anything 
you hear along this line. I think the petty-bourgeois faction is tak- 
ing hold of the hot end of a poker when they start a fight against 
our leading proletarian center. 



156 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO C. THOMAS 

New York, January 25, 1940 
C. Thomas, 
San Francisco, Cal. 
Dear Thomas, 

I wrote you the other day about returning to the Bay Area to 
concentrate on party work for a while. 

I get the impression from letters of Morgan that things are 
not in a good way there. There is too much tension and struggle 
over secondary and incidental questions. 

Our aim must be to break through all this to the political and 
theoretical questions and educate the comrades in the process. Above 
all, we must not carry our concentration on practical work to the 
point of leaving the maritime fraction open to factional demoraliza- 
tion. 

If the petty-bourgeois opposition gets a foothold in the maritime 
fraction it will cancel out all your work in the canneries and every 
place else. You must make up your mind to devote the necessary 
time and attention to preventing this. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO MAJORITY GROUPS 157 

A LETTER TO ALL MAJORITY GROUPS 

New York, January 25, 1940 
Dear Comrades, 

Convention Postponement 

At last night's Political Committee meeting it was decided to 
postpone the convention till April 5th. Numerous branches had 
requested such a postponement. Shachtman voted for the motion. 
The other members of the minority abstained. The postponement 
does not become officially effective, however, until the non-resident 
members of the National Committee have cast their votes. However, 
there is no doubt that a majority of the National Committee will 
concur in the decision. 

This postponement will give you time to open up a new stage 
of the discussion and to organize our forces more systematically 
and thoroughly. Trotsky's open letter to Burnham, together with 
an article by Burnham against Trotsky, comes out in a printed 
bulletin in two or three days. These two documents should be the 
basis for a new development of the discussion. Following that, we 
have word from Comrade Trotsky that another long article in reply 
to Shachtman is already written and will be here soon. 

In addition, we are mimeographing now an excellent document 
by Comrades Wright and Hansen, entitled "The Shachtman School 
of Quotations." In this document the whole fraudulent, pseudo- 
learned manipulation of quotations and historic incidents and quota- 
tions out of context, which distinguishes the political method of 
Shachtman, and which has confused some inexperienced comrades, 
is treated to a thorough examination and exposure. We also have 
a substantial document by Comrades Clarke and Gordon which dis- 
sects the lengthy bulletin of the opposition bloc on the Russian ques- 
tion. There is also a Marxist analysis of the Russian question and 
the political method of the opposition by Comrade Murry Weiss. 

You will have no lack of material for the systematic education 
of our own people and for beginning a new Marxist offensive 
against the revisionists and their contemptible attorneys. 

The best method in our opinion is to have regular educational 
meetings of our own caucus where the various documents are ana- 
lyzed and discussed. On the basis of this procedure the individual 
comrades can be equipped with the necessary arguments for in- 
dividual propaganda among the minority comrades. 



158 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

The publishing facilities of the National Office bogged down a 
bit under the sheer weight of material that had to be published. If 
you bear in mind that we have already published eight internal 
bulletins; that number nine is on the press; and that we already 
have material for three or four more; you will realize what a 
strain the National Office has been put to on the technical side alone. 

However, we are in a discussion now that is really determining 
the future of the Fourth International in this country, and not only 
in this country. Weeping and wailing will not help. The only thing 
to do is to settle down for a thorough job that will put an end 
definitely to any attempt to revise Marxism in our movement. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO MURRY WEISS 159 

A LETTER TO MURRY WEISS 

New York, January 25, 1940 
Dear Murry, 

I am very glad to hear that you have possibilities of influencing 
the Akron comrades. For our part it is O.K. for you to devote all 
the necessary time to this if the Youngstown comrades are in agree- 
ment. 

The conquest of the Abernite fortress in Akron would be a 
major victory for the party. There are not many left, you know. 
Lynn long ago passed over to the side of the majority almost unan- 
imously, and now it appears Chicago is also definitely lost to the 
opposition. Out of the six delegates from the four branches, we 
appear to be assured of four. 

The opposition has created some confusion and is apparently 
making a little headway in California. If we get any word of a 
move by Shachtman to go to California we intend to ship you out 
there to combat him. Hold yourself in readiness for a quick sum- 
mons in this respect. And keep me informed all the time where we 
can reach you in short order. 

Otherwise, there is no contemplated interference from here with 
the concentration on the Ohio District. 

Please let me know every nuance of development. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



160 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO C. CHARLES 

New York, February 1, 1940 
C. Charles, Organizer 
Los Angeles, California 
Dear Comrade, 

I received your letter of January 29, reporting the motion passed 
by the city-wide Red Card meeting at Los Angeles on January 28. 

The motion as you report it reads: "Motion to inquire of the 
National Secretary the reason for the removal of Shachtman from 
the Appeal on the grounds of retrenchment only to add two weeks 
later Clarke and Goldman to the payroll." 

It is obvious that the Los Angeles comrades have been misin- 
formed. The minutes of the Political Committee on the Socialist 
Appeal, at its meeting November 28, read as follows: 

"Motion by Cannon: That during the period of the financial 
emergency the staff of the Appeal be reduced to one paid editor 
and one business manager and that all other labor be organized on 
a voluntary basis. Carried. 

"Motion by Cannon: That Comrade Shachtman continue as the 
sole paid editor. 

"Motion by Shachtman: That Comrade Morrow be retained as 
the sole paid editor during the emergency. Carried. 

"Motion by Shachtman: That Morrow and Shachtman be desig- 
nated as editors of the paper. Carried." 

From this official record it will be clear to you that Comrade 
Shachtman was not "removed" from the Appeal but retired as a 
paid worker on his own motion and at his own request, and that 
he retains the status of co-editor of the paper. 

Comrade Clarke was appointed to the post of general press man- 
ager to replace Comrade Abern who resigned this position to take 
up the post of city organizer in New York. There was no removal 
and no addition to the payroll. On the contrary, the overhead pay- 
roll of the publications has been substantially reduced since then 
by the substitution of voluntary workers in technical capacities 
for others previously paid small amounts. There have been no 
removals and no increasing of payrolls. 

As for Comrade Goldman, this question must be separated from 
the press question since his duties are connected with the admin- 
istration of the National Office. 

At the meeting of December 12 Comrade Goldman was appointed 



LETTER TO C. CHARLES 161 

Assistant Secretary to work in the Natioiial Office at a salary of 
$15.00 per week. Nobody objected and nobody could object to 
this modest proposal. The total administrative and technical staff 
of the National Office of the party consists of Comrades Cannon, 
Goldman and one stenographer. 

Yours fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



162 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO ALL MAJORITY GROUPS 

New York, February 2, 1940 
Dear Comrades, 

Comrade Goldman is going to assist in the work of the National 
Office for the next period. I am going to take a little time out to 
catch up with some of the organizational falsifications by which 
the opposition bloc is trying to divert attention from the principled 
issues. 

I enclose herewith a copy of a letter sent today to Comrade 
Charles.* As I understand, this same misrepresentation is being 
broadcasted generally and is being taken seriously by some inex- 
perienced comrades. Any questions of this kind which are used as 
arguments by the supporters of the opposition should be promptly 
brought before the branch in the form of a motion to ask official 
information from the National Office. 

Up to now we have steadfastly refused to follow the trail of 
the opposition on minor issues of organization. The reason for this 
policy was that we considered it necessary to break through with 
the principled questions first. We suffered somewhat from this 
procedure insofar as inexperienced comrades allowed themselves 
to become disoriented over the secondary questions, rumors, gossip, 
etc. Nevertheless, the main objective was achieved. 

In the next phase of the discussion we can take up the organ- 
ization question in its proper subordinate place. Our aim here also 
will be first of all to show that the dispute over the organization 
question springs not at all from abuses and grievances, but from 
fundamentally different conceptions of party organization. In this 
setting we will also clear aside a great deal of the rubbish, half 
truths, and downright misrepresentations over little "incidents." 

The facts about the "removal" of Shachtman as revealed by the 
official records of the Political Committee should be an eye-opener 
as a beginning. 

Yours fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



*The reference is to the letter printed on the preceding two 
pages. Ed. 



LETTER TO PARTY MEMBERSHIP 163 

A LETTER TO THE PARTY MEMBERSHIP 

New York, February 3, 1940 
To All Locals and Branches: 
Dear Comrades, 

"New International" 

The January-February number of the New International, delayed 
because of financial difficulties, is just coming off the press and 
is devoted to an exposition of the Russian question from the point 
of view of the program of the Fourth International. 

Originally the Political Committee provided that documents of 
the two points of view represented in the National Committee be 
published. The minority submitted their statement, entitled, "What 
Is at Issue in the Dispute on the Russian Question," and also the 
"Open Letter to Comrade Trotsky" by Max Shachtman. On the major- 
ity side the article of Comrade Trotsky, entitled, "A Petty-Bourgeois 
Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party"; the resolution of the 
National Committee and other relevant documents were submitted. 

The comrade in charge of technical preparation of the issue 
informed the Political Committee that the publication of all these 
documents would require a magazine almost triple the usual 32 
pages. This was manifestly out of the question from the financial 
standpoint the two preceding issues of the magazine had been 
reduced to 16 pages for these reasons. 

In addition, the Political Committee considered it necessary 
to reconsider the decision from the point of view of the general 
interest of the party. That is, while allowing an objective presenta- 
tion of the position on each side, factional polemics must be elimi- 
nated from the public organ. 

At the Political Committee meeting of January 9th the Political 
Committee adopted the following motion: 

"That the discussion in the New International be confined to 
an objective presentation of the two points of view on the Russian 
question without internal factional polemics. That the documents of 
the majority be edited from this point of view and the article of 
Trotsky, entitled "A Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist 
Workers Party" be eliminated from this point of view. That the 
minority be requested to make an objective presentation of their 
position in not more than 5,000 words to fit space requirements. 
That all documents submitted by both sides which do not conform 



164 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

to these regulations be printed at once in the internal bulletins with- 
out any changes or editing." 

The minority comrades refused to accept this proposition and 
submitted no material for publication under the provisions of the 
motion. 

Yours fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 

National Secretary 



LETTER TO MAJORITY GROUPS 165 

A LETTER TO ALL MAJORITY GROUPS 

New York, February 3, 1940 
Dear Comrades, 

Forthcoming "New International" 

Enclosed herewith is a copy of a circular sent today to all 
locals and branches on the forthcoming issue of the New Inter- 
national. 

Our decision to eliminate factional polemics from the New 
International was motivated by the following considerations: 

1. It became obvious that the publication of the violent fac- 
tional polemics on each side would work an injury to the party 
and accelerate the tendencies of the minority towards a split. By 
committing themselves to such fantastic positions and violent at- 
tacks before the public, they would be cutting off their own re- 
treat and retreat is their only salvation from an impossible posi- 
tion. 

2. The great majority of the resolutions and letters from the 
proletarian branches and the proletarian branches, not the petty- 
bourgeois student youth, are for us the barometer protested most 
strenuously against carrying the factional dispute into either the 
New International or the Appeal. 

3. The two articles submitted by the minority, together with 
articles of corresponding length on the majority side, would have 
required a publication of such size and consequently such a stag- 
gering expense as to be out of the question for an institution al- 
ready bankrupt. (Of course such earthly considerations do not 
trouble the petty-bourgeois politicians of the opposition in the 
least. They float in the air far above the battle especially the 
vulgar battle with creditors threatening suit, landlords threaten- 
ing eviction, etc.) 

It is indicated that the opposition is going to make a fight in 
the branches over the "injustice" of offering them a mere 5,000 
words to present their point of view in an objective manner. 

It is above all necessary for our comrades everywhere to take 
an aggressive and militant stand on this question as in the case 
when the issue of the Socialist Appeal was before the branches. 
This same fundamental issue is, involved and it would be entirely 
false to take a defensive position. It is advisable to read over again 
the statement of the Political Committee on the question concerning 
the Appeal. The same reasons hold good now with double force. 



166 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

The opposition is in frantic haste to make their appeal to the 
democratic public before the verdict of the party convention. We, 
on the other hand, are doubly determined to bind them to the 
rules of democratic centralism and compel them to submit to the 
judgment of the party first. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO A ST. LOUIS COMRADE 167 

A LETTER TO A ST. LOUIS COMRADE 

New York, February 6, 1940 
Dear Comrade, 

I got your letter of February 2d. By this time you will have had 
the answer to the momentous question of the penny pamphlet. I 
think I sent you a copy of my answer to the Los Angeles local on 
a point of similar character, concerning removals, etc. 

You are right in your statement that these are not political 
questions. They are dragged in and inflated in order to divert dis- 
cussion from the principled questions and to catch inexperienced 
people. Moreover, every one of their accusations along this line is 
false. There is no merit in a single one of them. I am beginning 
to work now on a comprehensive document on the question of 
party organization. In the course of this work, and putting things 
in their proper proportion, I will answer these accusations. 

I was very much interested to note your reference to the con- 
flict between the Spokane local and the General Executive Board 
of the I.W.W. in 1913. I was an organizer of the I.W.W. at that 
time and remember the incident very well. Even at that time, 27 
years ago, I was a firm believer in centralized organization and a 
member of St. John's faction of centralizers against the decen- 
tralizers. 

In the summer of 1913 I was leading, together with Frank Lit- 
tle, a rather important strike on the ore docks in Duluth and 
Superior. I remember that Fred Heselwood gave our strike a big 
play in the Industrial Worker. I was also well acquainted with 
Leheney who was sent out to Spokane to take over the editing of 
the paper by the General Executive Board. . . . 

There is another very big document by Trotsky, in answer to 
Shachtman, which has just been translated. It is simply devastating. 

I hope we gain the majority in St. Louis and I am glad to note 
that you have formed a majority caucus. This is absolutely neces- 
sary. I would like to get from you a report as to how things stand 
insofar as the line-up of the comrades is clearly established by 
this time. 

As I understand it, your organization is divided into two 
branches and will have a delegate from each branch. Therefore, 
I would like to get a report of the status of each branch. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



168 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO A FRESNO COMRADE 

New York, February 6, 1940 
Dear Comrade, 

I would like to know your impressions of the party struggle. 
I have a special personal interest in the attitude of the California 
comrades. Since I spent a whole year there I shouldn't like to think 
that young comrades who were influenced in any way by me at 
that time should turn out to be Menshevik revisionists, as the 
crisis approaches. 

Comrade Charles wrote me that you agree with the majority. 
Please let me know your opinion precisely and that of other com- 
rades with whom you are in contact. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO MURRY WEISS 169 

A LETTER TO MURRY WEISS 

New York, February 6, 1940 
Murry Weiss 
Youngstown, Ohio 
Dear Murry, 

As I wrote you yesterday, we have decided in favor of your 
going to California and remaining there up to the convention. It 
is important, however, that you get formal release from the 
branch. At tonight's P.C. meeting we will introduce a motion to 
relieve you of your responsibilities provided it is agreeable to the 
branch. 

California is by far the most important sector now. The com- 
rades write that is out there and that the "organizational" 

question is disturbing many comrades. That is somewhat strange 
but inexperienced people are always caught on this hook and 
some people never learn from experience. Just consider: I spent 
an entire year in California and in general had far more influence 
on the "regime" of our faction in the Socialist Party than I could 
possibly exert on the regime of the last P.C., in which I was one 
member against six of the present minority. 

Isn't it logical to ask the California comrades to give some 
consideration to their own experience at first hand with the "Can- 
non regime" and weigh it against the fantastic stories about events 
alleged to have occurred 3,000 miles away which cannot be verified 
and which never had any influence in the life of the California 
organization ? 

To be sure, the P.C., under my instigation, did intervene very 
energetically in the San Francisco local faction situation. But that 
was to oppose the bureaucratism of Trimble and others and to pro- 
tect the party rights of a minority with which as you know from 
my letters to you we had no political sympathy. Doesn't it seem 
to you that this case alone has an important bearing on the real 
nature of the regime from the standpoint of the California com- 
rades? 

Another thing: Sam Meyers, I hear, is doing a lot of beefing 
about the regime of Cannon, the one-man dictatorship and so forth 
and so on. But how did Meyers judge the Cannon regime when 
he saw it operating under his nose in 1936-37? Under date of 
November 23, 1936, Sam Meyers wrote to Larsen, who was at that 
time National Secretary of our faction: 



170 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

"Comrade Cannon here sees the situation as it is and works 
like a realist. He does not overestimate people. He feels his way 
carefully, utilizing everyone and does not put a period where a 
question mark is necessary. He gets results with an amazing rapid- 
ity. ... 

"The arrival of Comrade Cannon gave us an opportunity to esti- 
mate our strength. His experience and leadership improved the situ- 
ation manifold. It was like having all the elements of a powerful 
solution and along with it, a chemist who knows how to mix it. 
As you know, I changed places with Charles after the W.P. conven- 
tion so that I was away from L.A. When I visited L.A. on the day 
of one of Comrade Cannon's last lectures of a series of six it was 
difficult to find a seat in the hall and there was such a spirited 
jubilation that the cafes around the hall after the lecture resembled 
nothing so much as Fourteenth St., N.Y. 

"This 'resurgent Socialism' has taken California Socialism a 
long way in a short time. It was at that time that Labor Action* 
began to be born. It is no surprise that some of the comrades can- 
not accustom themselves to the idea in so short a time. 

"Our connection with the waterfront also worked in our favor. 
Here I must acknowledge that my reports on the waterfront were 
somewhat faulty in giving too negative a picture. I was blinded by 
skepticism and could not see the real character of the problem. I 

was blinded by my lack of confidence in Comrade . Here 

too, Comrade Cannon saw a little farther. Of course, experience, 
ability and authority were indispensable in this case. I find myself 
writing like a Soviet journalist (I mean in my eulogy of Cannon) 
but of course, with greater sincerity." 

As you see, Comrade Sam is somewhat inclined to exaggeration 
in praise as well as in blame. However, at that time he was writing 
about what he saw himself; now he is talking about what he heard. 

Now that Comrade Goldman is back in the office to give me a 
hand there, I am assembling material to sit down and write a com- 
prehensive document on the balance sheet of the party discussion 
and the organization question. In passing, I will take up each and 
every one of the half truths, distortions and falsifications of the op- 
position's drawn-out Winchellized column on "Bureaucratic Con- 
servatism." But I will do my best to show that what is really at 
stake in all this dispute over the organization question is the con- 



*Tliis refers to the periodical published in California, with com- 
rade Cannon as editor in 1936-37 during the stay of the Trotskyists 
in the Socialist Party. Ed. 



LETTER TO MURRY WEISS 171 

flict over conceptions of Leninist centralism and petty-bourgeois 
looseness. 

I am anxious to know how you have arranged the California 
trip from a personal point of view. Since you will be back in New 
York for the convention and our plan is for you to remain in the 
East for another period, you have to take this into consideration. 

I would like to know what was your impression of the latest 
document of the Old Man which we sent to Preis and asked him 
to turn over to you "From a Scratch to the Danger of Gangrene."* 
It seemed to me something like taking a twenty-pound sledge ham- 
mer to smash a flea. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



*See In Defense of Marxism, pp. 103-148. Ed. 



172 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO GRACE CARLSON 

New York, February 9, 1940 
Dear Grace, 

I received your letter of January 15th and note that your time 
is all taken up with the fight with the bosses and the capitalist 
courts. I suppose this is what qualifies you as "backward elements" 
in the minds of the Bronx kibitzers. 

There is quite a campaign in the party against Minneapolis- 
St. Paul instigated by Burnham and Shachtman. They claim it is 
a walled-off medieval city to which they can't get a passport. But 
I don't think they are really worried about getting in. It is the 
problem of getting out again that really worries them. 

I have heard a good many high school boys and girls expressing 
disapproval of the Twin Cities movement in recent weeks and half 
started to turn loose on them many times. Then I decided I might 
as well be real mean and wait till Dobbs gets here and then turn 
them over to him. 

I have made, according to my count, 43 speeches so far in this 
tussle and I am beginning to get somewhat bored with the sound of 
my own voice. The worst of it is that with many of these people 
here, speeches by Cannon and even articles by Trotsky don't do 
any good. It is like lecturing on the art of swimming on dry land. 
We will have to chuck them into the water (the mass movement) 
and then look around to see what happens. Those who manage some- 
how or other to stay on top will be O.K. . . . 

As ever, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 173 



A LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 

(Copies to All Groups of the Majority) 

New York, February 20, 1940 
Dear Comrade Cornell [Trotsky], 

It is now the unanimous opinion of the leading comrades here 
that the split which the opposition leaders have been preparing is 
no longer to be avoided. Our tactics in the struggle from now on 
must take this as the point of departure. Last Sunday night's 
general membership meeting in New York removed the last doubt 
that any of us entertained on the question. 

The debate occurred between Shachtman and Goldman. The 
latest article of Trotsky "From a Scratch to the Danger of Gan- 
grene" had been published and we awaited the public reactions of 
Shachtman and of the opposition comrades generally to this last 
warning to halt. There was no sign even of an understanding of 
the political meaning of this solemn document. Shachtman true 
to himself spent his whole time twisting and squirming around 
those points in the document which dealt with him personally, 
ignoring the fundamental principle sections, and joking above all 
joking in a manner which even for Shachtman was exceptionally 
clownish. The opposition followers, especially the high school 
and college students, enjoyed the jokes immensely. As for the 
speech of Goldman they did not even listen. They laughed and 
joked among themselves and engaged in buzzing conversations most 
of the time. It is safe to say that every serious comrade left the 
meeting cursing under his breath and saying to himself: It is really 
time to call a halt. There is no more profit in this discussion. 

In reply to Goldman's point-blank question as to whether the 
opposition intends to demand the right to a public organ of its 
own as a splitting ultimatum, Shachtman, without giving a direct 
reply, gave an airy and facetious exposition of the "well-known 
traditions" in which the publication of separate organs by the Bol- 
sheviks and Mensheviks, the Trotskyists and others was taken as a 
matter of course. He conveyed the impression with many grimaces 
and quips that anyone who doubts the necessity of repeating all 
this experience, and starting all over again as if nothing happened 
in the meantime, is simply stupid. The college students especially 
enjoyed this part of the performance. Some of them, it seems, are 
students of history. 

Meanwhile right during the meeting Demby sat in a corner 



174 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

collecting money for the caucus treasury and many bills of no small 
denomination passed across the table. (We were threatened with 
a strike at the print shop last week because we couldn't pay the 
printer's wages.) The collections were obviously being taken to 
finance the national conference of the opposition to be held, as I 
understand, in Cleveland this weekend. This is not a gathering of 
a few national leaders, but a full-fledged conference, with delegates 
from all districts, and is manifestly designed to organize and pre- 
pare the split. The very fact of the holding of this conference on 
such a scale, taken together with the attitude expressed at Sunday 
night's meeting; the latest document of Burnham, "Science and 
Style," which exceeds all others in impudence and disdain and 
class hatred of the proletarian majority; Abern's letter to Trotsky 
which threatens a split in as frank a manner as Abern knows how 
to speak; the complete abstention of the opposition leaders from 
all participation in party work; the campaign against Trotsky as a 
fool, a liar and a crook any high school student in the opposition 
will tell you that Trotsky has made all kinds of mistakes in the 
past and that as far back as the controversy over Max Eastman and 
Lenin's testament he showed he had no moral scruples all this 
must lead to the inevitable conclusion: Any further attempts to re- 
strain the petty-bourgeois tendency and to assimilate and reeducate 
them within the framework of a common organization are Utopian. 
The petty-bourgeois opposition is bent on a break. It is necessary 
without any further delay to acknowledge the reality and to pre- 
pare our lines of battle accordingly. 

There is another side of the question too. The discussion has 
become completely degenerated. It is no longer possible to produce 
anything more than a laugh or a sneer in the New York branches 
if one attempts an exposition of the Russian question from the 
point of view of the Marxist theory of the State. Meeting after 
meeting in the branches is taken up with disputes initiated by the 
Abern City Committee on practical differences of tenth-rate im- 
portance. Along with this there is the complete neglect and even 
sabotage of daily party work. It was discovered, for example, that 
Shachtman's Bronx branch had not distributed a single copy of the 
Appeal for five weeks. 

It is necessary to acknowledge that the discussion has exhausted 
itself. We have before us a first-class demonstration of "the petty 
bourgeoisie gone mad." All of us now feel sorry that we postponed 
the convention, since the prolongation of the discussion is obvi- 
ously producing disintegration and demoralization. Of course we 
could not know that beforehand. We all shared the hope that the 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 175 

last document of Trotsky would at least have a sobering effect and 
prompt the oppositionists to stop and consider their future course. 
And here I think we all made a common error. It is this: We did 
not realize how deeply petty-bourgeois panic and petty-bourgeois 
corruption permeate the ranks of the opposition as well as the 
leadership. 

On the other side, there is a factor of no less importance that 
we dare not underestimate. The serious worker elements in the 
party have had enough and more than enough of this horseplay. 
We have received several ominous warnings of this development. 
Just think: eleven thick bulletins have already been published and 
the material for two more is on hand. For such a brief space of 
time, this is already the most voluminous party discussion in the 
history of mankind. In several letters we have been informed that 
active workers are fed up with this flood of material and begin- 
ning to grumble. The workers have made up their minds firmly 
about the merits of the dispute and about the character of the 
leaders as revealed in the crisis. They don't want to talk forever. 
They want to act. 

Even the suggestion of permitting a limited continuation of the 
discussion after the convention which was contained in a confi- 
dential letter of Cornell [Trotsky] and relayed to our most re- 
sponsible people brought a storm of opposition from the field. One 
comrade wrote very cogently: "I am very much afraid that if we 
continue this business after the convention the workers will simply 
walk away and leave their address behind so we can look them up 
if and when we mean business." The Minneapolis incident can be 
taken as a danger signal. Shachtman from Chicago wrote to the 
Minneapolis comrades, asking for an informal meeting to discuss 
the party disputes. They answered him bruskly that they saw no 
need of such a meeting. They did not ask my advice on this pro- 
cedure. If they had done so, it is possible that I would have 
suggested to them that they hold a meeting in order to thrust aside 
extraneous arguments about democracy, etc. Such arguments have 
been made against the Minneapolis comrades by Shachtman in a 
factional circular, but the Minneapolis comrades remain unmoved. 
They have read and studied all the bulletins and discussed them in 
meeting after meeting; they know Shachtman; and they don't want 
to hear anything more from Shachtman. Now, when the most ad- 
vanced and experienced and responsible proletarian comrades in 
the party take this attitude and make no bones about it, it is time 
for us to realize that the proletarian elements in general want to 
bring this discussion to a conclusion and get down to work. 



176 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

We are coming right up against the necessity for a decision and 
a line of action which will put our conception of the "organization 
question" to a test in life, not in the pages of the opposition's fic- 
tion serials. My own opinion is very definite and I will state it 
frankly: It is impossible to build a combat party with a tolerant 
attitude towards splits. In the discussion every democratic right 
must be assured and has been assured. Every reasonable organiza- 
tion concession must be made in the interests of preserving unity 
and educating the party in a normal atmosphere. But we must not 
sanctify permanent demoralization. We must not permit anybody 
to make an endless discussion club out of the party. Those who go 
beyond these bounds and take the road of split are no longer to 
be considered as comrades discussing a difference of opinion, but 
as enemies and traitors. They must be fought without mercy and 
without compromise on every front. We will never instil a real 
party patriotism into the ranks unless we establish the conception 
that violation of the party unity is not only a crime but a crime 
which brings the most ruthless punishment in the form of a war 
of political extermination against those who commit it. 

I personally have no use for the French system of organization. 
I know very well, especially after my experience there, all the many 
factors which contributed to the unfortunate results in France. Many 
of these perhaps were insurmountable. But I have for long been 
deeply convinced that the light-minded attitude towards unifications 
on the one side and splits on the other contributed heavily to the 
failures which occurred so often when good prospects for successes 
were at hand. 

It is possible that the opposition leaders, counting on our fear 
of a scandal and Trotsky's well-known and extraordinary patience, 
really imagine that they will bluff us into permitting the spectacle 
of two public organs, advocating two different and contradictory 
policies. If that is so and if I have my way they will meet a 
cruel disillusionment. What do I propose? I propose to call their 
bluff. I will advise the worker delegates at the convention to say 
firmly that we want a party not a play house, that we want one 
program and one press that defends it. If the opposition will not 
accept this fiat of the party majority and their present frenzy ex- 
cludes the possibility of them accepting it and take the road of 
split, then war to the knife begins. 

Shachtman has been circulating an anecdote that I, in the 
earliest days of the discussion, proposed to him a "friendly split." 
This only shows that this jokesmith does not understand the broad- 
est and most obvious sarcasm. For me the vanguard party of the 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 177 

proletariat is a combat organization aiming at the conquest of 
power on the basis of a clearly defined program. Another party 
with another program that I can understand only as an enemy. 
To be sure, there are exceptional cases where comrades having 
the same fundamental program can divide into separate organiza- 
tions to facilitate a division of labor like entrists and non-entrists, 
for example and still, at least theoretically, maintain friendly 
relations and avoid mutual polemical attacks. We know cases of 
two separate parties of different origin beginning to approach each 
other and establishing friendly cooperative relations preparatory 
to fusion. That was the case, as you recall, with the American Trot- 
skyists and the Muste organization. But even to think of having a 
friendly attitude towards a group that splits from a party of the 
Fourth International on programmatic questions, and on the eve of 
war to boot that is simply monstrous. 

* * * 

I fully agree that even now, faced with a certain split being or- 
ganized by the opposition, we must do everything within reason to 
show that the splitters have no just grievances in the organizational 
sphere; that the split takes place over principled political ques- 
tions and not at all over bureaucratic injustices. I fully agree with 
your remarks that our organizational methods are not fixed and 
final and applied rigidly in all cases. The fact that we gave up our 
organization and even our press for a time in order to penetrate 
into the Socialist Party should convince all the comrades that we 
are flexible enough in our "organization methods"; that we can 
make even the most sweeping concessions when we have something 
to gain politically which can later be crystallized organizationally. 

I personally do not rule out in principle the idea, in certain 
cases, of permitting a minority to have its own internal bulletin. 
I would go even further and say that such a concession could in 
exceptional cases even be extended to the permission of a separate 
public organ for a time if the composition and general nature of 
the dissident group were suck as to give some reasonable hope 
that it would learn and change under the impact of events. But the 
present opposition is not that kind of a group and this is the 
essence of the whole question. The opposition is petty-bourgeois to 
the core in its ranks as well as in its leadership. Except for stray 
individuals who do not decide the course, it is not connected with 
the labor movement, and does not learn anything from experiences 
in the class struggle. Because it is not proletarian it has not assimi- 
lated the discipline and respect for organization which is more 
or less natural for a worker. Taken as a whole, the minority, as 



178 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

is so glaringly demonstrated in the discussion, never assimilated 
the basic principles of Marxism as a guide to action in the class 
struggle. How else could one account for the fantastic departure 
from everything that is elementary in such a short time? 

Under these conditions, a prolongation of the discussion with 
this group after the convention or an attempt to maintain the 
fiction of unity with two separate public organs would only de- 
moralize the proletarian section of the party by compelling it to 
squander its time and energy in the most barren field. I am pro- 
foundly convinced that the present hodge-podge program of the 
opposition represents only the first stages of its fundamental break 
with Marxism. It is by no means a finished expression of the real 
tendencies inherent not only in the leadership, but, again I repeat, 
in its ranks. 

The two groups in the party will begin moving in opposite 
directions from the first day of the split. The moment the oppo- 
sition is freed from the formal restraints of membership in a com- 
mon party with us, the "experimental science" of Burnham will 
begin to assert in full scope its real anti-proletarian and anti- 
revolutionary meaning. This would also be manifested, even if not 
at such an accelerated pace, if our proletarian majority should be 
so foolhardy at the convention as to permit the experiment with 
two public organs. It can be said with certainty in advance, that 
the tendencies in that case would not grow together but apart. The 
result of the experiment would only be to discredit the party as 
an organization that doesn't know its own program, doesn't know 
how to keep its ranks united and lacks the resolution to make a 

definitive split. 

* * * 

The day after the split should mark a sharp turn in our 
orientation and in the character of our work in general. As a mat- 
ter of fact, the split will be more of a scandal than a loss. The 
basic cadres of the party throughout the country will remain vir- 
tually unaffected. The same is true of all our trade union groups. 
Only individual trade union comrades here and there have wan- 
dered into the minority by mistake. The same is even true, of the 
youth that is, the real youth. The opposition has the bulk of the 
petty-bourgeois students; of that there is no doubt. But the young 
sailors, steel workers and others, are on our side almost to a man. 
Our ranks will have had enough discussion to last for a while and 
there will be a general all around impulse to get down to practical 
work. With the coming of Dobbs to the center our trade union 
work in particular can get a big impulse and receive for the 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 179 



first time a systematic direction and development. 

One of our first tasks should be to reshape the character of 
the Appeal from top to bottom as a bona fide workers' paper that 
is accessible to the rank and file worker and understandable to 
him. We will be in a position to turn our backs completely on 
the soul-sick intellectuals and sophisticated radicals and make an 
earnest and determined effort to penetrate into new proletarian 
circles. Even here in New York there are a great many workers. 
Unfortunately, we didn't reach very many of them yet. I am afraid 
we must admit that we have spent too much time and too many 
years explaining the fine points to sophisticated radicals and have 
not carried on enough persevering activity in the workers' neigh- 
borhoods. . . . 

* * * 

We must not wear our lives out trying to convince intellectuals 
and petty-bourgeois smart alecks who don't want to be convinced, 
or who are not prepared to act seriously even when they agree 
fundamentally. I am very much afraid that here in New York at 
least the party activity including my own has been too much 
concentrated on this barren soil. . . . 

We must change all this after the convention and take drastic 
steps to reshape the whole nature of our activity in New York. 
That will be far more profitable for the party and far more satisfy- 
ing than trying to explain to over-wise college boys and girls that 
the question of the class character of the state is an important point 
and that Trotsky really didn't raise the question of dialectical ma- 
terialism as a factional trick. 

* * * 

If we now recognize that the opposition is determined to carry 
through the split and that we cannot prevent it, but perhaps at best 
only prolong the agony a while at the cost of demoralization and 
disintegration and get a worse split in the end if that is the case, 
as we all here feel, then we should reconsider our previous atti- 
tude towards the publication of the most important documents in 
the controversy in the New International. Previously, as you know, 
my objection to this was motivated chiefly on the ground that the 
publication of the sharp polemical documents would compromise 
the opposition hopelessly before the public and cut off their retreat. 

That reason doesn't hold in the new situation. If we are going to 
have a split we should make a sharp right-about-face in our tactics 
on this point and begin to prepare the sympathizing public for the 
split. We had a discussion in our committee yesterday about this 
matter, but did not come to final conclusions. I personally am of 



180 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

the opinion that we will he at a disadvantage if we have to hegin 
explaining the split the day after it happens. That would take 
an enormous amount of time and energy and space in our press. It 
would be better to publish the most important documents before 
the convention so that the whole case and the basic issues of the 
split are known to our sympathizers. That will clear the decks, so 
to speak. Then, following the convention, we can devote a few 
sharp and not too lengthy summary articles to the splitters, and 
let them talk among themselves thereafter. We will have more 
serious things to do. 

I would be very glad to know your opinion on the points in 
this letter. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 181 

A LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 

New York, February 22, 1940 
Dear Comrade Cornell [Trotsky], 

I just saw your letter of February 19th to Goldman. 

I think by now practically all of the leading comrades here 
agree that we shall publish the most important documents from 
both sides in a special number of the New International. Along 
with this, I think we can draw up a general letter to the party 
which will be designed to put some more obstacles in the path of 
the splitters. However, we must be absolutely clear in our own 
minds as to what is going to happen. The split will not be pre- 
vented and we must prepare for it on all fronts. 

One extremely important point which I did not touch on in 
my other letter is the situation in the International. . . . 

The Canadian section supports the majority with practical un- 
animity. The one supporter of the minority in the leadership, Rob- 
ertson, resigned from the movement with a shameful capitulatory 
statement. 

I understand the Mexican section also supports the program. 
A sailor comrade from California who recently returned from a 
voyage to China where he contacted our people, reports that the 
Chinese section entirely supports the majority, having fought this 
issue out some time ago. 

From Europe we hear nothing. Held sent us a resolution adop- 
ted by himself, Neureth and a third emigre, together with four 
Scandinavian comrades. It is a very bad statement on the Finnish 
events. I presume you have received a copy. Of course Held does 
not accept the fundamental position of the minority on the Russian 
question, but they exploit the resolution against us. This is some- 
what ironic. The polemics of Held in the New International* against 
Shachtman's article on Luxemburg were extremely interesting. It 
could even be said that they foreshadowed the struggle which has 
now broken out in full force on the question of the party organi- 
zation. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



*See New International of February, 1939. Ed. 



182 STRUGGLE TOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO OSCAR COOVER 

New York, February 22, 1940 
Oscar Coover 
Minneapolis, Minn. 
Dear Oscar, 

I received your note of February 19th with the copy of Com- 
rade E 's letter. 

His remarks on the Russian question are very pertinent. It 
doesn't bear out the impression that Shachtman and Co. are trying 
to convey that the Minnesota people are a bunch of illiterate farmers 
who can't read and who are not permitted to hear anything from 
the professorial leaders of the minority. 

Instead of Shachtman travelling to Minnesota to teach a com- 
rade who can explain the Russian question in such a concise Marx- 
ist manner as E did, there would be more sense in them 

bringing E to New York to make a speech to them. But 

that would be a waste of time and carfare too. People who can't 
learn anything even from the last big document of the Old Man 
don't offer much hope. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



TELEGRAM TO MINORITY CONFERENCE 183 

A TELEGRAM TO THE MINORITY CONFERENCE* 

NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 24, 1940 
I. BERN 

C/0 CHELSEA HOTEL 
1815 EAST 9TH STREET 
CLEVELAND, OHIO 
TO THE MINORITY CONFERENCE, DEAR COMRADES: 

WE ADDRESS YOUR CONFERENCE ON ONE POINT ONLY: 
PARTY UNITY. WE ON OUR PART REPEAT OUR PREVIOUS 
DECLARATION THAT IF WE ARE IN THE MAJORITY AT THE 
CONVENTION WE WILL OPPOSE ANY EXPULSIONS. IF WE 
ARE IN THE MINORITY WE WILL MAINTAIN UNITY AND 
DISCIPLINE. WE ASK YOUR CONFERENCE TO MAKE A SIMI- 
LAR DECLARATION. ON THAT BASIS, IF WE ARE IN THE 
MAJORITY WE ARE WILLING TO MAKE EVERY REASONABLE 
PROVISION OR ORGANIZATIONAL CONCESSION CONSISTENT 
WITH THE PRINCIPLES AND METHODS OF BOLSHEVIK OR- 
GANIZATION TO GUARANTEE THE PARTY RIGHTS OF THE 
MINORITY AFTER THE CONVENTION. 

THE MAJORITY OF THE P.C. 

BY J. P. CANNON 



*See pp. 14, 173 ff. of tMe volume; and In Defense of Marxism, 
pp. 152 ff. Ed. 



184 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 

New York, February 29, 1940 
Dear Comrade Rork [Trotsky], 

I just received your letter of February 27th. 

We have not yet received from the minority any report of their 
conference proceedings. All we have is the informal reports of in- 
dividual comrades which we have not been able to check against 
any documents. 

I gather, however, from all these reports that their demand is 
for the right to publish a separate organ of their own after the 
convention. 

I was told that Comrades and appeared at their 

conference and issued a statement whether "in the name of the 
International" or not, I do not know and stated that in their 
opinion the demand for the separate organ was justified under 
the circumstances. 

We sent a telegram to the conference as follows: 

"To the Minority Conference, Dear Comrades: 

"We address your conference on one point only: Party Unity. 
We on our part repeat our previous declaration that if we are, in 
the majority at the convention we will oppose any expulsions. If 
we are in the minority we will maintain unity and discipline. We 
ask your conference to make a similar declaration. On that basis, 
if we are in the majority we are willing to make every reasonable 
provision or organizational concession consistent with the prin- 
ciples and methods of Bolshevik organization to guarantee the party 
rights of the minority after the convention. 

"The Majority of the P.C. 
"by J. P. CANNON." 

Up till today we have received neither an acknowledgment nor 
an answer to our telegram. 

We also distributed to all the delegates your letter, "Back to 
the Party." 

Comrade Stuart, secretary of the E.G., received the proposals 
of Crux, Fischer and Munis only after the conference had begun 
and all delegates had left New York. However, he immediately 
transmitted copies of the letter to the conference, addressed to 
Shachtman, Lebrun and Johnson, with the statement that both he 
and I agreed with the proposals. This was last) Saturday. Up to 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 185 

today Thursday he has not received any acknowledgment from 
any of those addressed. 

We are proceeding with the publication of the next number of 
the New International as indicated. We are also proceeding with 
every necessary step of self-defense and preparation. At the same 
time, you have no need whatever to fear any precipitous acts on 
our part or any failure to make an absolutely clear record of 
efforts to prevent a split by every reasonable means. We now 
await the resolutions of the minority conference and will deter- 
mine our answer after we have studied them. 

I don't know whether you fully appreciate the character and 
tendencies of the present opposition as it is revealed by such inci- 
dents as their failure to come to the party office from one end of 
the week to the other; the failure to give us a formal statement of 
their conference demands after four days; the neglect of all the 
party duties and routine and financial obligations. In my experi- 
ence I have never yet encountered such a thoroughly irresponsible 
petty-bourgeois tendency. 

A half-serious politician, even if he were deliberately plan- 
ning a split, would be afraid to encourage such irresponsible atti- 
tudes for fear that the new organization would be poisoned with 
them at the beginning. Even at the time of our split with the So- 
cialist Party we made a better formal record, up to the very end, 
in responsibility for the routine activities of the party. 

Perhaps a part of the impatience of the worker comrades is 
due to their inexperience with drawn-out theoretical controversy. 
However, the feeling of impatience with the present opposition is 
practically universal in our ranks, no less so on the part of the 
most theoretically qualified comrades. There is a pretty general 
feeling that even the small percentage of them that are not more 
or less deliberately breaking with our movement under a cloud of 
dust and controversy will require a few sharp experiences to 
wake them up. 

If they are permitted to have a public organ after the conven- 
tion it will simply mean that we have in reality two parties. The 
opposition would have its own treasury, its own headquarters, its 
own distributing staff, etc. At the same time our own activities 
would be paralyzed by the continuation of the dispute with them 
in common branches. I don't know anyone in our ranks that is will- 
ing to consider such a perspective for a movement. 

As far as the majority is concerned, the split will represent no 
serious rupture whatsoever. The separation on the psychological 



186 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

plane is as profound as on theoretical, political and organizational 
planes. 

We will keep you informed of all developments and as always 
will be glad to have your opinion on every point that you con- 
sider important. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO PARTY MEMBERSHIP 187 

A CIRCULAR LETTER TO THE PARTY MEMBERSHIP 

New York, March 5, 1940 
Dear Comrades, 

An Answer to the Splitters 

Under separate cover you have already received a copy of the 
"Resolution on Party Unity" adopted by the Cleveland conference 
of the opposition. This "resolution" was handed to us by the repre- 
sentatives of the opposition at the P.C. meeting the other day. Evi- 
dently they want our answer. We shall not keep them waiting. Here 
is our answer: 

/. Formal Declaration of Split 

This resolution is in fact a political declaration of the split 
which the conference itself was designed to prepare in an organiza- 
tional sense. The resolution declares, "The nature of the differences 
is such that it does not permit a solution merely by the procedure, 
normal in the movement, of having the convention minority sub- 
mit to the decision of the convention majority." By that declaration 
they reject in advance the only possible solution of a party dispute 
by the democratic method of majority rule. They say in effect 
that for them the decisions of a democratically organized party 
convention have no meaning and they declare in advance their 
refusal to accept the decisions of the convention. As far as they 
are concerned, the convention might as well not be held unless 
they can have their way. 

Unless we are prepared to throw overboard the Leninist prin- 
ciple of democratic centralism; unless we are ready to turn the 
principle upside down and compel the majority to submit to the 
minority we have to recognize the declaration of the opposition 
for what it really is: the formal declaration of a split. Nothing re- 
mains but to recognize reality and take all the necessary measures 
to protect the integrity of the party and declare a merciless and 
uncompromising war on the splitters. 

II. Peculiar Kind of "Unity" 

The resolution demands for the minority "the right to publish 
a political journal of its own." And to leave no room for doubt 
that they mean a completely independent publication, they add: 
"Such a journal can only be published upon the responsibility and 
under the control of the tendency itself." And then, to make their 



188 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

position crystal clear, they state that this "solution" of the diffi- 
culty "is the only concrete one that can be made." Under these 
conditions, and only under these conditions, they assure us the "unity 
of the party" can be preserved. That is to say, if the majority will 
authorize and "legalize" a split, the party can have the fiction 
of formal unity by way of compensation. We do not believe a 
single member of the majority will entertain such a proposition 
for a moment. 

///. Democratic Centralism Annihilated 

At the very best, the resolution of the opposition can be de- 
scribed as an attempt to annihilate the democratic centralism of a 
revolutionary party in favor of the notorious and ill-fated "all in- 
clusive party" of Norman Thomas. But history has already passed 
a cruel judgment on this conception of party organization. It 
would be insane folly to repeat the experiment. If the convention 
should sanction such a scheme of organization it would simply 
mean that the "united" party would be paralyzed internally by a 
permanent faction fight and deprived of all external striking power. 

For the opposition to have its own press, "published upon the 
responsibility and under the control" of the opposition, could mean 
only that it must have its own treasury, its own staff, and its own 
apparatus of distribution. But things could not possibly stop even 
there. If the opposition is granted the right to attack the party pro- 
gram and defend another in print, there is no plausible reason why 
they should be denied the right to do the same thing orally. There is 
no logical ground to prevent them from holding public meetings 
"upon the responsibility and under the control" of the autonomous 
faction. There would be no means of enforcing discipline in the exe- 
cution of the party program upon the members of a faction which has 
been granted the right to attack the program in public. In short, 
the minority would have all the rights of a party of their own, 
plus the privilege of paralyzing the official party from within and 
discrediting it before the working class public. 

This is precisely what is intended by the hypocritical "unity" 
resolution of the minority. It is a scheme to carry out their split 
and achieve complete freedom of action for themselves in such a 
way as to do the most damage and bring the greatest possible dis- 
credit to the party. This is fully in line with the conscious design 
of Burnham, who has already proclaimed the downfall of the Fourth 
International in his infamous document on "Science and Style," to 
bring about the maximum possible disruption of our movement 
before taking his formal departure. 



LETTER TO PARTY MEMBERSHIP 189 

IV. Another of "Shachtman s Precedents' 9 

It is to be assumed that Shachtman's contribution to the resolu- 
tion is the paragraph on "precedents" from the history of the 
Bolshevik party of Lenin and of the Fourth International. We 
know from the article of Comrades Wright and Hansen on the 
"Shachtman School of Quotations," and from Trotsky's answer to 
Shachtman's "Open Letter," how Shachtman perverts and falsifies 
historical incidents to serve factional ends. The historical refer- 
ences in the resolution under discussion are worth just as much and 
just as little as the others. It is precisely from Lenin's Bolshevik 
party that we learned the theory and practice of democratic cen- 
tralism. Lenin's party had a single program and subordinated the 
party press to the service of the program. It is from Bolshevism 
that we learned to conduct free discussions, not for the sake of dis- 
cussing in permanence, but in order to decide and to act unitedly 
on the basis of the decision of the majority. 

We are approaching the end of a six-months' discussion, and 
none was ever freer or more democratic. We are on the eve of 
the convention which will conclude the discussion with a decision. 
From that we shall proceed to discipline in action on the basis 
of the decision. That is in the real tradition of Bolshevism. The 
"tradition" which the opposition invokes are those of Menshevism, 
of pre-war social democracy, of the "all inclusive party." To at- 
tempt to pass this off in the name of Lenin and his party of demo- 
cratic centralism is to practice fraud on the inexperienced and 
uninformed members of the party and the youth. 

Equally fraudulent is the reference to "many similar instances" 
in the history of the Fourth International There are no such in- 
stances. The Fourth International and its predecessor, the Inter- 
national Left Opposition, never sanctioned different publications 
advocating antagonistic programs on fundamental questions. Just 
the contrary. The International Left Opposition took shape on a 
world scale in the course of an irreconcilable struggle for a single 
program and against groupings (with their publications) which, 
while pretending agreement "in general," advocated antagonistic 
programs. The International Left Opposition continued to exist and 
to grow and to expand as the world movement of the Fourth In- 
ternational not only by uniting revolutionary elements around 
a common program, but also by openly repudiating all groups and 
all publications advocating a different program. This was the case 
with Urbahns in Germany; Van Overstraaten in Belgium; Souvarine, 
Monatte and Paz in France; Weisbord and Field in the United 



190 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

States, etc. They lie about the Fourth International, they pervert 
its history, when they say the Fourth International gave its blessing 
to publications which opposed its program. 

The temporary experiment sanctioned by the Executive Com- 
mittee of the Fourth International in the case of the French section 
a year ago has nothing in common with the proposal of the opposi- 
tion. The differences in the French section occurred exclusively 
over tactics; both groups adhered to a common program on the 
principle questions as laid down by the Congress of the Fourth In- 
ternational. One group of the POI (our French section) wanted 
to maintain the complete independence of the organization. The 
other group wanted to join the PSOP to work as a Bolshevik frac- 
tion within it. The Executive Committee of the Fourth Interna- 
tional was strongly in favor of the "entrist" position, but did not 
desire in the beginning to impose this tactic on the opposing com- 
rades by disciplinary measures. Under these conditions, the Exec- 
utive authorized a division of labor whereby one group would con- 
tinue its independent activity with its own press and the other group 
would join the PSOP and publish a journal as a fraction of the 
PSOP in favor of the program of the Fourth International. 

There was no question whatever of two different programs. 
The only difference between the two publications was that the 
journal of the independent group addressed its propaganda pri- 
marily to workers outside the PSOP, while the journal of the 
entrist faction addressed its propaganda in favor of the same 
programmatic ideas primarily to the members of the PSOP. But even 
this experiment was strictly limited in time. It was discontinued a 
few months later after a test of experience with work in the two 
fields. 

This "analogy" of Shachtman's, like all the others, is false 
to the core and is criminally distorted and misapplied. Their 
scheme compares not at all to the relations established between 
the two groups of Fourth Internationalists in France the en- 
trists and the majority of the POI but, by a dishonest twist, 
to the relations between the entrist faction of Bolshevik- Leninists 
and the majority of the PSOP. If, like all liberal philistines, 
the Burnhamites argue that they should have the same "rights" 
in a Trotskyist party of the Fourth International that the Rous 
group of Fourth Internationalists enjoyed for a time in the 
Pivertist party of the London Bureau, we answer: The Pivert party 
pretended to be an "all inclusive party" and could not conveniently 
refuse these rights to the Fourth Internationalists, since they were 
also enjoyed by Free Masons, and all kinds of opportunists and 



LETTER TO PARTY MEMBERSHIP 191 

social patriots. We, on the other hand, don't pretend to be an 
"all inclusive party," and nobody shall make such a madhouse 
out of our organization. 

On this point we shall ask the convention to reaffirm the sec- 
tion of the organization resolution drafted by Shachtman and Can- 
non and adopted at the foundation convention of the SWP in Chi- 
cago: 

"The revolutionary Marxian party rejects not only the arbitrar- 
iness and bureaucratism of the C.P., but also the spurious and de- 
ceptive 'all-inclusiveness' of the Thomas-Tyler-Hoan party, which 
is a sham and a fraud. Experience has proved conclusively that 
this 'all-inclusiveness' paralyzes the party in general and the 
revolutionary left wing in particular, suppressing and bureaucrati- 
cally hounding the latter while giving free rein to the right wing to 
commit the greatest crimes in the name of socialism and the party." 

V. Split Disastrous to Splitters 

The "unity" resolution of the Burnhamite splitters makes the 
assertion the wish is father to the thought that "a split would 
prove disastrous to the American section and to the International 
as a whole." We remain unimpressed by this forecast of calamity. 
If those who seek to terrorize us in this way would take a backward 
glance at the history of our party they would discover that threats 
of split have always been a menace only to those who uttered them. 
It cannot be otherwise with the present opposition, the most miser- 
able of all those impatient petty-bourgeois groupings which tried to 
impose their demands upon the majority with threats of split. There 
has never yet been an opposition in our movement so heterogeneous, 
so far removed from Marxism and the spirit of the proletarian revo- 
lution, so weak in proletarian composition and so lacking in lead- 
ers with the necessary political firmness, devotion, singleness of 
purpose and capacity to sacrifice. 

The threat of such an opposition to split from our party and 
set up an independent organization presents the prospect of a truly 
ludicrous spectacle. We have done everything in our power 
throughout the discussion to save the supporters of the opposition 
from this sad experience, and to preserve the unity of the party. We 
shall continue to work in this spirit, to make every reasonable con- 
cession, to provide every guarantee for the party rights of the mi- 
nority after the convention consistent with the principles and 
methods of Bolshevik organization, that is, with the requirements 
of a combat party of the proletarian revolution. 



192 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

But so far and no further! Nobody shall transform our 
party into a perpetual talking shop. Nobody shall make a play- 
house out of the party. Nobody shall be allowed to obstruct the 
proletarianization of the party. The convention must make it obli- 
gatory for all party members to connect themselves in one way or 
another with a workers' environment and recruit fresh elements from 
the proletariat in the course of class struggle activities. 

That is the only way to save the party and prepare it for its 
great historic mission. Those who try to block this course will be 
defeated. Those who try to disrupt our movement by a treacherous 
split on the eve of the war will be smashed, as enemies and trai- 
tors deserve to be smashed. 

After six months of discussion, as free and democratic as any 
party has ever known, the party is approaching the convention and 
the decision. Let every comrade in the party, regardless of what 
his opinion has been, face seriously once more and finally the in- 
escapable rules of democratic centralism: The unconditional right 
of the party majority to decide the disputed questions and the 
unconditional duty of every party member to accept the decision. 
Only in this way can the unity of the party be preserved and com- 
mon political work for the future made possible. There is no other 
road. 

The slogan of split is the slogan of class betrayal. Its purpose 
is to disrupt the Fourth International on the eve of the war. But 
it will fail in its purpose. The only "disaster" will be the one that 
overtakes those criminals who, on the eve of the war, dare to direct 
such a treacherous blow at the only revolutionary movement in the 
whole world. The Fourth International will survive it in spite of 
all the Burnhams and Aberns plus the Shachtmans. 

THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE MAJORITY 



LETTER TO C. CHARLES 193 

A LETTER TO C. CHARLES 

New York, March 6, 1940 
C. Charles, Organizer 
Los Angeles Branch 
(Copy to all California Branches) 
Dear Comrade: 

Concerning Johnson 

I hear that Johnson is in California promoting the split program 
of the opposition and giving sermons on the organization question. 
I hope the comrades who value the unity of the party will give 
him a suitable reception. Here is a first class example of an irre- 
sponsible adventurer in our movement who deserves to be handled 
without gloves. Let me tell you a few things about him. 

Johnson was appointed director of a party department under 
the supervision of the P.C. He leaves town and turns up in Cali- 
fornia without so much as notice to the Political Committee of his 
departure, to say nothing of permission. This is no doubt a sample 
of the "organizational methods" which the petty-bourgeois opposi- 
tion recommends to the party. I am sure that every serious worker 
in the party will repudiate and condemn such light-minded irre- 
sponsibility. The procedure of Weiss in returning to California 
stands in marked contrast to that of Johnson. He did not venture 
to leave his post as branch organizer at Youngstown until he re- 
ceived the formal and official approval of both the P.C. and the 
Youngstown branch. There is a difference in the men and in the 
method. The method of Weiss is better, more responsible, more 
revolutionary. . . . 

Our party, like every other, also has its share of inexperienced 
members who are inclined to mistake oratorical and literary facility 
for the qualities of revolutionary leadership. Cruel disappointments 
await such young comrades. But perhaps some of them will learn 
from their experience to demand better credentials next time. . . . 

I hear that Johnson, the disorganizer, is going to lead a dis- 
cussion of the Los Angeles comrades on the organization question. 
This impudence can only be based on the assumption that any kind 
of quackery can prosper in Southern California. But I know another 
California the California of a group of resolute Trotskyists who 
have shown in practice that they know how to organize a party and 
do serious work in the mass movement. Instead of lecturing such 






194 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

comrades on "organization" Johnson should go to school to them. . . . 
I greatly regret that I cannot be present when Johnson elucidates 
these questions. They go to the heart of the issue. It may seem 
impolite and even "bureaucratic" of me to put the questions so 
bluntly and so concretely. But that is the only way to bring the 
discussion of the organization question down to earth. Engels was 
fond of the proverb: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." 
The organizational puddings Johnson has cooked up to date have 
not been very digestible. 

With Trotskyist greetings, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 195 

A LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 

New York, March 7, 1940 
Dear Comrade Rork [Trotsky], 

We received and discussed your letter of February 29th regard- 
ing the International Executive Committee. 

We are all in agreement with your proposal. We think the best 
way would be for the S.W.P. to issue the call for the conference 
and to sponsor it and in the near future we will try to determine the 
most feasible approximate date at the earliest possible time after 
our convention. 

We will contact the Canadian section and are assured of their 
complete support. After the ignominious departure of the Can- 
adian Burnham (Robertson) the few comrades in Canada who had 
wavered on the fundamental question drew the necessary conclu- 
sions and the latest report we had is that they are all now unani- 
mous in support of the program. 

In the meantime, we think it would be a good idea for the 
Coyoacan delegation to begin work on the manifesto. The publica- 
tion of the manifesto immediately after the conference will un- 
doubtedly become the rallying call for all the sections of the Fourth 
International. 

We learned yesterday that the Argentine section had published 
our Finnish resolution in their paper. We have not heard from 
them directly, but we must conclude from this act that they are 
in agreement with us. The Argentine section, together with the 
Mexican, can go a long way to dissipate the pretensions of Lebrun. 
We have no direct contact with the Brazilian section. . . . 

However, in a letter from the Brazilian section which came last 
fall, it was stated that one or two of the prominent leaders (jour- 
nalists, I think) had turned bad at the beginning of the war crisis 
and had been expelled and the section reorganized. This would 
seem to indicate that the rank and file of the Brazilian section can 
be depended upon. 

As for the English section, we have not succeeded in getting any 
direct report from them, nor can we learn whether they receive our 
publications or letters. However, in the latest number of their paper, 
dated last October, they state categorically their position in favor of 
defending the Soviet Union in spite of Stalin and even use almost the 
exact formulas contained in our press. I think it can be considered 
an absolute certainty that the English section will completely re- 



196 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

pudiate . It is only a question of establishing communication 

in some way and providing the possibilities for them to get the 
necessary information and to declare their position. 

We likewise have not been able to get any direct information 
from the Belgian section. We know, however, that Vereecken criti- 
cizes them for defending the Soviet Union and we conclude from 
that that the Belgian section is on the right line. 

We are going to make renewed attempts in every way to estab- 
lish direct communication with them. We have not gotten word 
now for several months. However, from such information as we 
have now it is quite clear that the International as a whole will 
rally round the war manifesto of our conference. If the splitters, 
aided by Johnson and Lebrun, attempt to represent themselves as 
the Fourth International this pretense cannot last for any great 
length of time. 

I don't know whether I mentioned in a previous letter that a 
sailor comrade who had returned from China reported that the 
entire section with the exception of one individual supported the 
official position of the Fourth International. They told him they 
couldn't understand why the minority in our party is so large, 
since they themselves had discussed this question a long time ago 

and settled it quite decisively. . . . 

* * * 

Under separate cover we are sending you our answer to the 
resolution adopted by the minority national conference. It is being 
distributed on a wide scale in the party, with the object of making 
clear to any wavering elements, who draw back from the prospect 
of a split, that there is no possibility of bargaining with us on the 
question of two parties in one and two public journals. 

The oppositionists are telling our comrades all over the coun- 
try that you will intervene at the last moment in favor of their 
demands for an independent journal of their own. It is quite 
possible that even some of the leaders believe this and it is the most 
important argument by which they reassure the wavering elements 
in their ranks. It would be very good to disillusion the opposition- 
ists on this point. It is the one best way now to compel the waver- 
ing elements who shrink from leaving the party to stop and consider 
their course before it is too late. 

Dobbs is here and he is already rapidly integrating himself 
into the work. As you perhaps observed, he has the precious qual- 
ities of enthusiasm and confidence and imparts these sentiments to 
others. 






LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 197 

Our ranks are firmly united from one end of the country to 
the other. There is not a trace of pessimism or hesitation. On the 
contrary, there are unanimous expressions of satisfaction about 
the great lessons learned in this struggle and over the fortunate 
circumstance that the party was able to have its showdown struggle 
with unreliable leaders before the real test begins. 

The lectures of Wright and Warde on dialectical materialism 
are being conducted with remarkable success and appreciation by 
the comrades. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



198 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO MURRY WEISS 

New York, March 7, 1940 
Muny Weiss 
Los Angeles, California 
Dear Murry, 

... I have today written a letter to the Los Angeles organization 
ahout Johnson. You should go after him hammer and tongs along 
the line of this letter, and pull a few feathers from this peacock. 
You are also receiving by air mail our answer to the split resolu- 
tion of the Cleveland conference of the minority and also the Old 
Man's answer in the form of a letter to Dobbs. These new develop- 
ments the program of split, completely overshadowed the organi- 
zational details which were the subject of discussion earlier, and 
your speech must take this into account in its emphasis. 

I think it would be useful for you also to present the organiza- 
tion question from the point of view of the California experience. 
In a previous letter to the group I dwelt at some length on this. 
After all, the test of all organizational theories is the practice. 
The California comrades had a solid year's experience with our 
"regime." They have also had some experience with the Trimble 
regime. 

I am working on my document on the organization question, 
but I am continually interrupted and never get a chance to do any 
sustained work. Our comrades must understand that everything 
is now poised for the split, and conduct a struggle accordingly. No 
compromise and no quarter must be our slogan. This is the only 
way to impress the wavering comrades with the fact that they must 
decide finally which way they are going. 

It is absurd for us to take a defensive position on the organiza- 
tion question. By God, we built the best section of the whole 
Fourth International by our methods. We know what the French 
and English methods produced. Johnson is a first class exponent of 
these methods, and it is not by accident that he is with the minority 
and belongs to the same school. 

If I get a chance to send you more material between now and the 
convention date, I will do so. 

Comradely greetings, 
Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



LETTER TO MAJORITY GROUPS 199 

A LETTER TO ALL MAJORITY GROUPS 

New York, March 8, 1940 
Dear Comrades, 

Prepare for the Split 

Along with this letter or under separate cover you will receive 
our mimeographed reply to the split resolution of the Cleveland 
conference of the opposition. We decided to mimeograph this for 
widespread distribution in the party. The reason: to make it clear 
to any wavering elements of the opposition, to anyone in the ranks 
still inspired by sentiments of loyalty to the party, and to any 
others who may think they may bluff us into permitting an inde- 
pendent "journal" of the opposition attacking our program that 
there is nothing doing, and that as far as we are concerned the 
"negotiations" on this point are finished before they start. 

It is extremely important that you conduct a concentrated cam- 
paign along these lines. This is the only way to save for the party 
a small part of the deluded supporters of the petty-bourgeois opposi- 
tion. 

In the meantime the most important thing is to make all neces- 
sary organizational preparations for the inevitable split. See that 
all membership lists, lists of sympathizers, contacts and so forth 
are in safe hands. Have all supporters of the majority prepared 
for resolute action the moment the split becomes a formal reality. 

It is important to impress upon any comrades playing with the 
idea of split that it can only mean the beginning of a merciless war 
with us. Some of them undoubtedly are playing with the idea 
that they can split the party and still maintain some kind of friendly 
and comradely relations with us. It must be made clear to them 
that friendship ceases when the party is attacked. 

The International 

The opposition leaders are deluding some of their followers 
with the story that they have the support of the Fourth International. 
This is pure nonsense. All the sections of the Fourth International 
which are known to have declared themselves are standing by the 
position of the majority. The Canadian section is unanimous; like- 
wise the Mexican. Yesterday we saw the paper of the Argentine 
section which printed our resolution on Finland. This is a decisive 
test as to their attitude, although we have no direct mail reports 
from them yet. 



200 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

We note in the bulletin of the London Bureau that Vereecken 
attacks our Belgian section for defending the Soviet Union in Fin- 
land. This is an indirect confirmation of other reports we have had 
that the Belgian section, the strongest proletarian section in Europe, 
is on our side. We have heard no direct communication from Eng- 
land on account of the censorship. But the last number of their 
organ which we saw in October repeated our formulas about the 
defense of the Soviet Union. One thing we can be absolutely sure 

of is that the English section will repudiate and leave him 

hanging in mid-air with all his pretensions. 

The same thing applies to . He is the Latin-American rep- 
resentative, but with Mexico and Argentina disavowing him he is also 
shown up as a phony, representing nobody but himself. The paper 
of the Australian section supports the position of the majority. A 
sailor comrade who returned from China reported that the entire 
Chinese section with the exception of one individual supports the 
official program. Also, it is not without importance that the Rus- 
sian section supports our position. 

We plan to call a conference of genuine representatives of all 
available sections immediately after the convention and publish an 
anti-war manifesto in their name. Any pretensions the traitors 
may make to being the representatives of the Fourth International 
will be knocked into a cocked hat. There is no question whatever 
that practically all the functioning sections of the International 
throughout the world will rally around the anti-war manifesto of 
the conference called by our party. 

Warning Against Provocations 

From all sections of the country we get reports of the growing 
impatience of the proletarian sections of the party with the petty- 
bourgeois opposition and its provocations. We must expect that 
an opposition of this kind will do everything in its power to dirty up 
our house before they leave it. They can be expected to try to 
create some scandals in order to bring discredit on our movement. 
Therefore, it is necessary to warn all comrades to be on guard 
against provocations. Do not under any circumstances engage in 
any physical encounters which can be utilized to scandalize our 
movement. Observe all formalities of organization and do not de- 
prive the oppositionists of any of their normal rights up to the 
moment of the convention and the split. 

Check carefully the membership lists in connection with elec- 
tions for delegates. In this regard be governed by one inflexible 
rule. Do not permit any irregularities whatever on one side or the 



LETTER TO MAJORITY GROUPS 201 

other. Don't give the opposition a single vote they are not entitled 
to and don't try to make any claims for the majority to which we 
are not justly entitled. 

Finances 

I think all of us understand that this struggle is the fundamental 
crisis and test of the Fourth International in this country, of its 
ability to survive and face the war. The fact that some unreliable 
leaders showed their colors in time to be dealt with properly is a 
great advantage. But just because the crisis is of such a fundamental 
nature all comrades must realize the necessity for making extra- 
ordinary sacrifices to enable the party to cope with the problem. 
It is needless to tell you that we are operating here under great 
difficulties in the face of the sabotage of the minority and the gen- 
eral paralysis of party work. 

All delegates should come to the convention with enough money 
to take care of themselves. The assistance which out of town dele- 
gates have been accustomed to in normal times cannot be depended 
upon in this situation. If we have a few dollars on hand here we 
will be lucky and we will need that for party work and the struggle 
against the splitters, beginning the day after the convention. 

Please bear this in mind and collect all the funds you need to 
finance your delegate. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



202 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO MURRY WEISS 

New York, March 8, 1940 
Murry Weiss 
Los Angeles, Cal. 
Dear Murry, 

I got your letter of February 29th. 

We are most of all glad to hear that the caucus is getting or- 
ganized on a military basis. That is the most important thing now. 
The opposition is heading straight for a split and we must organize 
our forces to smash it. That is the alpha and omega of revolutionary 
strategy from now on. 

I think you are quite right in stating that Burnham's impudent 
document on "Science and Style" is a blow at the remnants of 
Shachtman's independence. That I think is the real purpose of it. 
He is just giving these traitors to Marxism advance notice of what 
he will serve up for them and make them take after they set up 
an independent organization of their own. 

Incidentally, it is an excellent lesson in principled politics, or 
rather, the fatal consequences of experimenting with unprincipled 
politics. I think you could give the comrades a whole lecture on 
this point, using the latest incident as a supplement to similar inci- 
dents in the past history of our movement. 

George Clarke has written a long document on the auto crisis 
which should go onto the mimeograph today or tomorrow. It is a 
complete history of the affair and will be quite an eye-opener to 
the Los Angeles rank and file comrades who were taken in on this 
and similar questions. Its subtitle certainly describes the docu- 
ment: "The Petty-Bourgeois Leaders Before the Test of the Class 
Struggle." 

As you know I was away in France at the time. I heard a 
great deal about the affair in snatches but I never realized what 
a horrible mess was made of things by these so-called leaders until 
I read the whole connected and integrated story as written by 
Clarke. 

The "independent" position of the Everett group is a trans- 
parent fraud. Soviet defeatism is a position of class betrayal and 
its advocates belong with the other traitors. I got the impression 
from previous letters that there was a tendency in the ranks of 
the majority to temporize with this group. I don't think that's 
correct. I read Everett's document and think you estimate him 






LETTER TO MURRY WEISS 203 

correctly when you say he is just a Burnhamite who wants a house 
of his own. I think it should be made perfectly clear in our caucus 
that there can be no talk of any kind of conciliation with the Everett 
tendency. They are not shooting in the same direction that we are. 
Consequently they cannot be allies in any sense of the word what- 
ever. 

It is possible that the Los Angeles Everettites may hesitate at 
a split. They should be smoked out on this without delay. If 
they decide to remain in the party naturally we will make a distinc- 
tion between them and the splitters. But we will not conciliate with 
their tendency in any way, shape or form. Nor will we continue 
the discussion with them after the convention. 

You speak about the "Menshevik spirit and conception" of the 
oppositionist leaders. Trotsky in a letter to Chris Andrews the 
other day remarked that "our Russian Mensheviks were revolution- 
ary heroes in comparison to Burnham and Company." 

I note the reactions of Ted to the first page of Burnham's docu- 
ment. Every worker in the party was similarly revolted. I don't 
know who was this international figure who stopped to admire the 
beauty of the cop's sabers flashing in the sun instead of plung- 
ing into the fight. But from the way he describes him he belongs 
in the opposition caucus. Comrades around here think he is refer- 
ring to Glenner, that fourflusher who is trying to palm himself off 
as some kind of international leader, and rationalizing his personal 
demoralization into a political program. Give short shrift to these 
birds, Murry. 

I agree with your proposals to work out party propositions in 
the caucus for presentation in branch meetings, etc. As a matter 
of fact the comrades must consider the majority caucus from now 
on as the party and they must take the whole responsibility upon 
themselves already now in preparation for the split which is sure 
to come at the convention. . . . 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 

P.S. I just this minute opened a letter from Trotsky to Dobbs. 
He fully supports our stand in openly and flatly rejecting the de- 
mand of the minority for a public organ. You will receive a copy 
perhaps in the next mail or so. 



204 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO C. CHARLES 

New York, March 12, 1940 
C. Charles 
Los Angeles, Cal. 
Dear Charley, 

I received your letter of March 7th and I am awaiting with 
some impatience a report of the debates with Johnson and the re- 
action of the comrades to the biographical material I sent on this 
fly-by-night expert on the organization question. 

There is no sense in taking time to write an answer to Lebrun. 
Even historians of the movement will have to dig a long while 
through the mass of material already printed to get to anything that 
is written now. The party is water-logged with the discussion. 

It is important to keep pounding away on the minority on the 
split question to shatter their morale in confronting this decisive 
break with our movement. I agree with your comments on the 
minority. I don't care what the Los Angeles comrades do with the 
official status of Johnson. As far as we are concerned, he is 3,000 
miles away from his post of duty without authorization and what 
he does or does not do is not our affair. 

I received the copy of 's letter on China. You will receive 

a copy of a letter from the Brazilian section which shows that the 
opposition claims about that are mainly the bunk. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 

P.S. Now that Dobbs is here and has taken a good many duties 
and worries off my hands I am pounding away every day on my 
document on the organization question. I am afraid it is going to 
be a book before I get through. Of course it will not have any 
influence in the present discussion and is not so intended. People 
who can be lined up on organization questions when fundamental 
principles are at stake are not the kind of material we want at this 
time in the majority ranks. My document is designed to deal with 
this method of politics fundamentally and to be a sort of manual 
for the party in the future. 



LETTER TO MAJORITY GROUPS 205 

A LETTER TO ALL MAJORITY GROUPS 

New York, March 15, 1940 
Dear Comrades, 

Trade Union Discussion at the Convention 

We intend to have a real thoroughgoing trade union discussion 
at the convention. We must not permit the faction struggle to put 
it off the agenda this time. Regardless of what the opposition does 
or does not do we intend to utilize the opportunity of this conven- 
tion to bring out the whole problem of the trade union work our 
policy, our experiences and our plans in the most thoroughgoing 
discussion we ever had to date. 

Comrade Dobbs is preparing a comprehensive convention re- 
port on the trade union question in general.* He will illustrate it by 
all kinds of examples drawn from experiences in practical trade 
union work. We also plan to have outstanding comrades in the 
different trade union fields give supplementary reports on their 
work. I think we can count on very instructive and interesting 
reports from Minneapolis, the maritime fraction, the auto fraction 
and from the steel fraction. 

We don't know yet how long we'll be stalled up in the fight 
with the opposition, but we intend to have this trade union dis- 
cussion regardless. All delegates should plan to stay an extra day 
if necessary for this trade union discussion. All branches and locals 
which have comrades participating actively in trade union work 
should try to have at least one trade unionist on the delegation in 
order to enrich this discussion with every possible variety of ex- 
perience. 

Fraternally, 

J. P. CANNON 



* Comrade Dobbs worked up the material for this highly important 
report into a pamphlet Trade Union Problems, which is still available. 
Pioneer Publishers. Ed. 



206 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 

New York, March 16, 1940 
Dear Comrade Cornell [Trotsky], 

Our statement flatly rejecting the ultimatum of the Cleveland 
conference and your supplementary letter along the same line seem 
to have disoriented the minority. 

Many comrades were persuaded to support the demand for a 
public organ as a clever bargaining point which might be discussed 
and result in some compromise. The fact that the leadership put it in 
ultimatistic form and that we rejected it out of hand thus leaving 
no room for "negotiations" has greatly disturbed a considerable 
number of rank and file minorityites and has perhaps raised some 
doubts in their minds as to the strategical wisdom of their leader- 
ship. 

Both here in New York and in other parts of the country they 
have been approaching our comrades with the suggestion that we 
discuss the matter and perhaps achieve a settlement, not on the 
basis of an independent journal, but on the space allotment in The 
New International. I think many of these suggestions are inspired 
by the leadership. However, there is noticeable a distinct hesita- 
tion of many rank and file minorityites before the cold prospect 
of a definitive split. 

Another significant development occurred in the Bronx branch 
the other night. Two comrades, who have been with the minority 
from the beginning and who are counted as amongst the most fa- 
natical, suddenly changed their position and announced their sup- 
port of the majority. One of them, a very active comrade in the 
branch work, read a statement to this effect: I have been studying 
Comrade Trotsky's article, "From a Scratch to the Danger of 
Gangrene" as well as other documents. This reconsideration and 
further study of the dispute have brought me to the conclusion that 
the majority is correct on all the principled points; that the min- 
ority under the influence of Burnham is moving in the direction of 
Menshevism; and that the leaders of the opposition are deliberately 
preparing a split. For these reasons I have changed my position 
and announce my support of the majority. 

This declaration caused considerable consternation in the Bronx 
stronghold of Shachtman-Abern. All the more so since the com- 
rade in question has been an Abernite. He came to us from the 
Socialist Party, had no previous serious political experience, was 



LETTER TO LEON TROTSKY 207 

drawn into the social gossip circles by Max Sterling, poisoned 
with all the "dope" of a personal nature and completely disoriented. 

We are letting the opposition stew in its own juice for the time 
being. We think the best strategy is to let the idea sink deeply 
into the minds of the rank and file of the opposition that it is im- 
possible to negotiate with us on the basis of any ultimatums and 
that they cannot entertain the hope that we will legalize a split by 
authorizing the publication of an independent journal. 

The latest circular of the opposition coming after our statement 
rejecting their ultimatum complains that "Cannon" has seized 
their ultimatistic demand for an independent public journal as a 
"pretext" to push them out of the party. Apparently it has not 
yet occurred to them to disarm Cannon by removing the "pretext." 

The agitation initiated by Shachtman against Minneapolis has 
apparently had boomerang effects. There has been a noticeable ten- 
dency to qualify their criticism and to make elaborate explanations 
that the Minneapolis comrades are very good in their way, that 
they have the highest respect for them, etc., etc. 

The ultimate results of the fight in the party are wholly pro- 
gressive. We are all beginning to realize on second thought that 
the postponement of the convention was very advantageous in spite 
of the continued irritations and growing impatience of the rank 
and file comrades with the discussion. The smoking out of Bum- 
ham was a major victory. In general, all the profound differences 
are more fully ripened and the decision of the convention can be 
all the firmer. 

As I view it, we are already three-fourths or four-fifths through 
the most decisive and radical new stage in the evolution and de- 
velopment of the American section. It has been demonstrated to 
the hilt that the proletarian cadres of the party stand four-square 
on the basis of orthodox Bolshevism and cannot be diverted from it. 

Simultaneously, a leadership of the party intimately connected 
with the proletarian ranks and directly expressing its revolutionary 
sentiments has been more firmly consolidated than ever before. 
Up till now the leadership has always been a coalition of the pro- 
letarian and the unripened petty-bourgeois tendencies. The party 
as a whole reflected this unstable equilibrium which was frequently 
upset by the moods and caprices of people who were considered as 
an indispensable section of the leadership. 

In this fight, such people have not only lost terribly in prestige 
and authority; they have lost the power to seriously disturb the 
party or to impede a radical transformation of its activities in a 
proletarian direction. The proletarian ranks are so firmly consoli- 



208 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

dated against them that the Hamlet question to split or not to 
split is pretty much their own personal affair. The party will 
move forward on sure feet in either case. 

Last night we had a quite startling demonstration of this. Com- 
rade Dobbs has already integrated himself into the party work and 
is especially taking hold of the trade union end of it. Last night 
he called the first of what are to be regular meetings of the party 
trade unionists in New York to discuss the practical aspects of their 
work and to exchange experiences.- The meeting was quite successful 
and aroused considerable enthusiasm among the trade union com- 
rades. A small number of minorityites were present and seemed 
to be quite astounded at the nonchalance with which we are pro- 
ceeding to outline and organize future plans for practical work 
without regard for the fact that the "catastrophe" of a split is in 
the offing. Among other things, this meeting was a direct and 
powerful blow at the will of the rank and file minorityites to split. 

Comrade Dobbs has already drawn up a comprehensive ques- 
tionnaire which will establish the exact number of trade unionists 
in the party, their location, experiences, etc., and lay the ground 
for a better coordination of the work on a national scale. Simul- 
taneously, with the help of some of our research comrades, he is 
preparing a comprehensive survey of the geographic and industrial 
distribution of the American proletariat as a basis for a more con- 
crete consideration by the convention as he expresses it, "to fit 
the small gear of available party forces in the most efficient man- 
ner to the large gear of the mass movement." 

At the end of the internal party fight we are thus coming back 
to the original slogan, the serious application of which will be the 
best assurance against any recurrence of the petty-bourgeois dis- 
ease: Deeper into the mass movement of the proletariat. 

Fraternally yours, 

J. P. CANNON 



DOCUMENTS OF 
THE STRUGGLE 



EDITOR'S NOTE: 



While in the preceding section of this book, the struggle against 
the petty-bourgeois opposition is reflected in the letters written by 
Comrade Cannon, in the following section the struggle from its 
inception, through its most critical stages of the discussion up to 
the climax at the convention and the split following the convention 
is faithfully reproduced through documents. 

The first of these documents, "Speech on the Russian Question," 
is in point of fact also one of the first political documents of the 
Trotskyist majority, being preceded only by Leon Trotsky's "The 
USSR in War," which is dated September 25, 1939, and which arrived 
in New York a few days before the above j mentioned speech of Can- 
non on October 15, 1939. Of Cannon's sixty-odd speeches on Bol- 
shevik political and organizational issues involved in the eight months' 
struggle, it is the only one which has been preserved. No stenograms 
were taken down of the others primarily because the entire limited 
resources and tiny apparatus of our iparty were strained to th,e utmost 
at the time. 

The remaining documents in this section pertain to questions of 
organization, discipline and party press. They are either self-explanatory 
or accompanied with adequate notes. 

The political questions decided by the National Convention of the 
Socialist Workers Party on April 5-8, 1940 are dealt with exhaustively 
in the book, In Defense of Marxism, by Leon Trotsky. 



210 



DOCUMENTS 
OF THE STRUGGLE 

SPEECH ON THE RUSSIAN QUESTION* 

(New York Membership Meeting of the Socialist Workers Party, 
October 15, 1939) 

The Russian question is with us once again, as it has been at 
every critical turning point of the international labor movement 
since November 7, 1917. And there is nothing strange in that. The 
Russian question is no literary exercise to be taken up or cast aside 
according to the mood of the moment. The Russian question has 
been and remains the question of the revolution. The Russian 
Bolsheviks on November 7, 1917, once and for all, took the ques- 
tion of the workers' revolution out of the realm of abstraction and 
gave it flesh and blood reality. * 

It was said once of a book I think it was Whitman's "Leaves 
of Grass" "who touches this book, touches a man." In the same 
sense it can also be said, "Who touches the Russian question, touches 
a revolution." Therefore, be serious about it. Don't play with it. 

The October revolution put socialism on the order of the day 
throughout the world. It revived and shaped and developed the 
revolutionary labor movement of the world out of the bloody 
chaos of the war. The Russian revolution showed in practice, by 
example, how the workers' revolution is to be made. It revealed 
in life the role of the party. It showed in life what kind of a party 
the workers must have. By its victory, and its reorganization of the 
social system, the Russian revolution has proved for all time the 
superiority of nationalized property and planned economy over 
capitalist private property, and planless competition and anarchy 
in production. 



*Pul>lish,ed in The New International of February 1940. Ed. 

211 



212 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 
A Sharp Dividing Line 

The question of the Russian revolution and the Soviet state 
which is its creation has drawn a sharp dividing line through the 
labor movement of all countries for 22 years. The attitude taken 
toward the Soviet Union throughout all these years has been the 
decisive criterion separating the genuine revolutionary tendency 
from all shades and degrees of waverers, backsliders and capitula- 
tors to the pressure of the bourgeois world the Mensheviks, Social 
Democrats, Anarchists and Syndicalists, Centrists, Stalinists. 

The main source of division in our own ranks for the past ten 
years, since the Fourth Internationalist tendency took organized 
form on the international field, has been the Russian question. Our 
tendency, being a genuine, that is, orthodox, Marxist tendency from 
A to Z, has always proceeded on the Russian question from theoret- 
ical premises to political conclusions for action. Of course, it is 
only when political conclusions are drawn out to the end that differ- 
ences on the Russian question reach an unbearable acuteness and 
permit no ambiguity or compromise. Conclusions on the Russian 
question lead directly to positions on such issues as war and revolu- 
tion, defense and defeatism. Such issues, by their very nature, 
admit no unclarity, no compromise, because it is a matter of taking 
sides! One must be on one side or another in war and revolution. 

The Importance of Theory 

But if the lines are drawn only when political conclusions di- 
verge, that does not at all signify thfat we are indifferent to theoret- 
ical premises. He is a very poor Marxist better say, no Marxist at 
all who takes a careless or tolerant attitude toward theoretical 
premises. The political conclusions of Marxists proceed from 
theoretical analyses and are constantly checked and regulated by 
them. That is the only way to assure a firm and consistent policy. 

To be sure, we do not decline cooperation with people who 
agree with our political conclusions from different premises. For 
example, the Bolsheviks were not deterred by the fact that the left 
S.R.s were inconsistent. As Trotsky remarked in this connection, 
"If we wait till everything is right in everybody's head there will 
never be any successful revolutions in this world" (or words to 
that effect). Just the same, for our part we want everything right 
in our own heads. We have no reason whatever to slur over theoret- 
ical formulas, which are expressed in "terminology." As Trotsky 
says, in theoretical matters "we must keep our house clean." 

Our position on the Russian question is programmatic. In 
brief: The theoretical analysis a degenerated Workers' State. The 



SPEECH ON RUSSIAN QUESTION 213 

political conclusion unconditional defense against external attack 
of imperialists or internal attempts at capitalist restoration. 

Defensism and Defeatism 

Defensism and defeatism are two principled, that is, irreconcil- 
able positions. They are not determined by arbitrary choice but 
by class interests. 

No party in the world ever succeeded in harboring these two 
antipathetic tendencies for any great length of time. The contradic- 
tion is too great. Division all over the world ultimately took place 
along this line. Defensists at home were defeatists on Russia. De- 
fensists on Russia were defeatists at home. 

The degeneration of the Soviet state under Stalin has been an- 
alyzed at every step by the Bolshevik-Leninists and only by them. 
A precise attitude has been taken at every stage. The guiding lines 
of the revolutionary Marxist approach to the question have been: 

See the reality and see it whole at every stage; never surrender 
any position before it is lost; the worst of all capitulators is the 
one who capitulates before the decisive battle. 

The International Left Opposition which originated in 1923 as 
an opposition in the Russian party (the original nucleus of the 
Fourth International) has always taken a precise attitude on the 
Russian question. In the first stages of the degeneration of which 
the Stalinist bureaucracy was the banner bearer the opposition con- 
sidered it possible to rectify matters by methods of reform through 
the change of regime in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. 
Later, when it became clearer that the Communist Party of Lenin 
had been irremediably destroyed, and after it became manifest that 
the reactionary bureaucracy could be removed only by civil war, 
the Fourth International, standing as before on its analysis of the 
Soviet Union as a workers' state, came out for a political revolu- 
tion. 

All the time throughout this entire period of 16 years the 
Bolshevik-Leninists have stoutly maintained, in the face of all 
slander and persecution, that they were the firmest defenders of 
the workers' state and that in the hour of danger they would be in 
the front ranks of its defense. We always said the moment of 
danger will find the Fourth Internationalists at their posts defending 
the conquests of the great revolution without ceasing for a moment 
our struggle against the Stalinist bureaucracy. Now that the hour 
of danger is at hand now that the long-awaited war is actually 
knocking at the door it would be very strange if the Fourth In- 
ternational should renege on its oft-repeated pledge. 



214 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

"Conservatism" on the Russian Question 

Throughout all this long period of Soviet degeneration since the 
death of Lenin, the Fourth Internationalists, analyzing the new 
phenomenon of a degenerating workers' state at every turn, striv- 
ing to comprehend its complications and contradictions, to recog- 
nize and defend all the progressive features of the contradictory 
processes and to reject the reactionary during all this long time 
we have been beset at every new turn of events by the impatient 
demands of "radicals" to simplify the question. Thrown off balance 
by the crimes and betrayals of Stalin, they lost sight of the new 
system of economy which Stalin had not destroyed and could not 
destroy. 

We always firmly rejected these premature announcements that 
everything was lost and that we must begin all over again. At each 
stage of development, at each new revelation of Stalinist infamy 
and treachery, some group or other broke away from the Fourth 
International because of its "conservatism" on the Russian question. 
It would be interesting, if we had the time, to call the roll of these 
groupings which one after another left our ranks to pursue an 
ostensibly more "revolutionary" policy on the Russian question. 
Did they develop an activity more militant, more revolutionary, 
than ours? Did they succeed in creating a new movement and in 
attracting newly awakened workers and those breaking from Stalin- 
ism? In no case. 

If we were to call the roll of these ultra-radical groups it would 
present a devastating picture indeed. Those who did not fall into 
complete political passivity became reconciled in one form or 
another to bourgeois democracy. The experiences of the past should 
teach us all a salutary caution, and even, if you please, "conserv- 
atism," in approaching any proposal to revise the program of the 
Fourth International on the Russian question. While all the inno- 
vators fell by the wayside, the Fourth International alone retained 
its programmatic firmness. It grew and developed and remained 
the only genuine revolutionary current in the labor movement of 
the world. Without a firm position on the Russian question our 
movement also would inevitably have shared the fate of the others. 

The mighty power of the October revolution is shown by the 
vitality of its conquests. The nationalized property and the planned 
economy stood up under all the difficulties and pressures of the 
capitalist encirclement and all the blows of a reactionary bureau- 
cracy at home. In the Soviet Union, despite the monstrous mis- 
management of the bureaucracy, we saw a tremendous development 



SPEECH ON RUSSIAN QUESTION 215 

of the productive forces and in a backward country at that while 
capitalist economy declined. Conclusion: Nationalized and planned 
economy, made possible by a revolution that overthrew the capital- 
ists and landlords, is infinitely superior, more progressive. It 
shows the way forward. Don't give it up before it is lost! Cling 
to it and defend it! 

The Class Forces 

On the Russian question there are only two really independent 
forces in the world. Two forces who think about the question in- 
dependently because they base themselves, their thoughts, their an- 
alyses and their conclusions, on fundamental class considerations. 
Those two independent forces are: 

(1) The conscious vanguard of the world bourgeoisie, the states- 
men of both democratic and fascist imperialism. 

(2) The conscious vanguard of the world proletariat. 
Between them it is not simply a case of two opinions on the 

Russian question, but rather of two camps. All those who in the 
past rejected the conclusions of the Fourth International and broke 
with our movement on that account, have almost invariably fallen 
into the service of the imperialists, through Stalinism, social and 
liberal democracy, or passivity, a form of service. 

The standpoint of the world bourgeoisie is a class standpoint. 
They proceed, as we do, from fundamental class considerations. 
They want to maintain world capitalism. This determines their 
fundamental antagonism to the U.S.S.R. They appreciate the re- 
actionary work of Stalin, but consider it incomplete, insofar as 
he has not restored capitalist private property. 

Their fundamental attitude determines an inevitable attempt at 
the start of the war, or during it, to attack Russia, overthrow the 
nationalized economy, restore a capitalist regime, smash the foreign 
trade monopoly, open up the Soviet Union as a market and field of 
investments, transform Russia into a great colony, and thereby alle- 
viate the crisis of world capitalism. 

The standpoint of the Fourth International is based on the same 
fundamental class considerations. Only we draw opposite conclu- 
sions, from an opposite class standpoint. 

Purely sentimental motivations, speculation without fundamental 
class premises, so-called "fresh ideas" with no programmatic base 
all this is out of place in a party of Marxists. We want to advance 
the world revolution of the proletariat. This determines our atti- 
tude and approach to the Russian question. True, we want to see 
reality, but we are not disinterested observers and commentators. 



216 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

We do not examine the Russian revolution and what remains of 
its great conquests as though it were a bug under a glass. We have 
an interest! We take part in the fight! At each stage in the de- 
velopment of the Soviet Union, its advances and its degeneration, 
we seek the basis for revolutionary action. We want to advance 
the world revolution, overthrow capitalism, establish socialism. 
The Soviet Union is an important and decisive question on this 
line. 

Our standpoint on the Russian question is written into our 
program. It is not a new question for us. It is 22 years old. 
We have followed its evolution, both progressive and retrogressive, 
at every stage. We have discussed it and taken our position anew 
at every stage of its progressive development and its degeneration. 
And, what is most important, we have always acted on our conclu- 
sions. 

The Decisive Criterion 

The Soviet Union emerged from the October revolution as a 
workers' state. As a result of the backwardness and poverty of the 
country and the delay of the world revolution, a conservative 
bureaucracy emerged and triumphed, destroyed the party and 
bureaucratized the economy. However, this same bureaucracy 
still operates on the basis of the nationalized property established 
by the revolution. That is the decisive criterion for our evaluation 
of the question. 

If we see the Soviet Union for what it really is, a gigantic labor 
organization which has conquered one-sixth of the earth's surface, 
we will not be so ready to abandon it because of our hatred of the 
crimes and abominations of the bureaucracy. Do we turn our 
backs on a trade union because it falls into the control of bureau- 
crats and traitors? Ultra-leftists have frequently made this error, 
but always with bad results, sometimes with reactionary conse- 
quences. 

We recall the case of the International Ladies' Garment Work- 
ers Union here in New York. The bureaucrats of this union were 
about as vile a gang of labor lieutenants of the capitalist class as 
could be found. In the struggle against the left-wing in the middle 
twenties they conspired with the bosses and the A. F. L. fakers. 
They expelled the left-wing locals and used hired thugs to fight 
them and to break their strikes. The difference between them and 
Stalin was only a matter of opportunity and power. Driven to re- 
volt against the crimes of these bureaucrats the left-wing, under 
the influence of the Communist Party in the days of its Third Period 



SPEECH ON RUSSIAN QUESTION 217 

frenzy, labelled the union not merely its treacherous bureaucracy 
as a "company union." 

But this same "company union," under the pressure of the work- 
ers in its ranks and the increasing intensity of the class struggle, 
was forced to call a strike to defend itself against the "imperial- 
ist" attack of the bosses. Workers who had kept their heads, sup- 
ported ("defended") the strike against the bosses. But the Stalin- 
ists, trapped by their own hastily-improvised theory, having already 
denounced the union as a company union, renounced support ("de- 
fense") of the strike. They denounced it as a "fake" strike. Thus 
their ill-considered radicalism led them to a reactionary position. 
They were denounced, and rightly, throughout the needle trades 
market as strike breakers. To this day they suffer the discredit 
of this reactionary action. 

To defend the Soviet Union as a gigantic labor organization 
against the attacks of its class enemies does not mean to defend 
each and every action of its bureaucracy or each and every action 
of the Red Army which is an instrument of the bureaucracy. To 
impute such a "totalitarian" concept of defense to the Fourth In- 
ternational is absurd. Nobody here will deny defense of a bona- 
fide trade union, no matter how reactionary its bureaucracy. But 
that does not prevent us from discriminating between actions of the 
bureaucracy which involve a defense of the union against the 
bosses and other actions which are aimed against the workers. 

The United Mine Workers of America is a great labor organiza- 
tion which we all support. But it is headed by a thoroughgoing 
scoundrel and agent of the master class who also differs from 
Stalin only in the degrees of power and opportunity. In my own 
personal experience some years ago, I took part in a strike of the 
Kansas miners which was directed against the enforcement of a re- 
actionary labor law, known as the Kansas Industrial Court Law, a 
law forbidding strikes. This was a thoroughly progressive action 
on the part of the Kansas miners and their president, Alex Howat. 
Howat and the other local officials were thrown into jail. While 
they were in jail, John L. Lewis, as president of the national organi- 
zation, sent his agents into the Kansas fields to sign an agreement 
with the bosses over the head of the officers of the Kansas district. 
He supplied strike breakers and thugs and money to break the strike 
while the legitimate officers of the union lay in jail for a good 
cause. Every militant worker in the country denounced this treach- 
erous strike-breaking action of Lewis. But did we therefore re- 
nounce support of the national union of mine workers? Yes, some 
impatient revolutionaries did, and thereby completely disoriented 



218 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

themselves in the labor movement. The United Mine Workers re- 
tained its character as a labor organization and only last Spring 
came into conflict with the coal operators on a national scale. I 
think you all recall that in this contest our press gave "uncondi- 
tional defense" to the miners' union despite the fact that strike- 
breaker Lewis remained its president. 

The Longshoremen's Union of the Pacific Coast is a bona fide 
organization of workers, headed by a Stalinist of an especially un- 
attractive type, a pocket edition of Stalin named Bridges. This 
same Bridges led a squad of misguided longshoremen through a 
picket line of the Sailors' Union in a direct attempt to break up 
this organization. I think all of you recall that our press scathingly 
denounced this contemptible action of Bridges. But if the Long- 
shoremen's Union, headed by Bridges, which is at this moment con- 
ducting negotiations with the bosses, is compelled to resort to 
strike action, what stand shall we take? Any ordinary class-con- 
scious worker, let alone an educated Marxist, will be on the picket 
line with the Longshoremen's Union or "defending" it by some other 
means. 

Why is it so difficult for some of our friends, including some 
of those who are very well educated in the formal sense, to under- 
stand the Russian question? I am very much afraid it is because 
they do not think of it in terms of struggle. It is strikingly evident 
that the workers, especially the more experienced workers who have 
taken part in trade unions, strikes, etc., understand the Russian 
question much better than the more educated scholastics. From 
their experiences in the struggle they know what is meant when the 
Soviet Union is compared to a trade union that has fallen into 
bad hands. And everyone who has been through a couple of strikes 
which underwent crises and came to the brink of disaster, finally 
to emerge victorious, understands what is meant when one says: 
No position must be surrendered until it is irrevocably lost. 

I, personally, have seen the fate of more than one strike deter- 
mined by the will or lack of will of the leadership to struggle at a 
critical moment. All our trade union successes in Minneapolis stem 
back directly to a fateful week in 1934 when the leaders refused to 
call off the strike, which to all appearances was hopelessly defeated, 
and persuaded the strike committee to hold but a while longer. In 
that intervening time a break occurred in the ranks of the bosses; 
this in turn paved the way for a compromise settlement and event- 
ually victorious advance of the whole union. 

How strange it is that some people analyze the weakness and 
defects in a workers' organization so closely that they do not always 



SPEECH ON RUSSIAN QUESTION 219 

take into account the weakness in the camp of the enemy, which 
may easily more than counter-balance. 

In my own agitation among strikers at dark moments of a strike 
I have frequently resorted to the analogy of two men engaged in a 
physical fight. When one gets tired and apparently at the end of 
his resources he should never forget that the other fellow is maybe 
just as tired or even more so. In that case the one who holds out 
will prevail. Looked at in this way a worn-out strike can some- 
times be carried through to a compromise or a victory by the reso- 
lute will of its leadership. We have seen this happen more than 
once. Why should we deny the Soviet Union, which is not yet 
exhausted, the same rights? 

The Danger of a False Position 

We have had many discussions on the Russian question in the 
past. It has been the central and decisive question for us, as for 
every political tendency in the labor movement. That, I repeat, is 
because it is nothing less than the question of the revolution at vari- 
ous stages of its progressive development or degeneration. We are, 
in fact, the party of the Russian revolution. We have been the 
people, and the only people, who have had the Russian revolution 
in their program and in their blood. That is also the main reason 
why the Fourth International is the only revolutionary tendency 
in the whole world. A false position on the Russian question would 
have destroyed our movement as it destroyed all others. 

Two years ago we once again conducted an extensive discussion 
on the Russian question. The almost unanimous conclusion of the 
party was written into the program of our first convention: 

(1) The Soviet Union, on the basis of its nationalized property 
and planned economy, the fruit of the revolution, remains a work- 
ers' state, though in a degenerated form. 

(2) As such, we stand, as before, for the unconditional defense 
of the Soviet Union against imperialist attack. 

(3) The best defense the only thing that can save the Soviet 
Union in the end by solving its contradictions is the international 
revolution of the proletariat. 

(4) In order to regenerate the workers' state we stand for the 
overthrow of the bureaucracy by a political revolution. 

But, it may be said, "Defense of the Soviet Union, and Russia 
is a Workers' State those two phrases don't answer everything." 
They are not simply phrases. One is a theoretical analysis; the 
other is a political conclusion for action. 



220 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

The Meaning of Unconditioned Defense 

Our motion calls for unconditional defense of the Soviet Union 
against imperialist attack. What does that mean? It simply means 
that we defend the Soviet Union and its nationalized property 
against external attacks of imperialist armies or against internal 
attempts at capitalist restoration, without putting as a prior condi- 
tion the overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Any other kind of 
defense negates the whole position under present circumstances. 
Some people speak nowadays of giving "conditional" defense to 
the Soviet Union. If you stop to think about it we are for condi- 
tional defense of the United States. It is so stated in the program 
of the Fourth International. In the event of war we will absolutely 
defend the country on only one small "condition": that we first 
overthrow the government of the capitalists and replace it with a 
government of the workers. 

Does unconditional defense of the Soviet Union mean support- 
ing every act of the Red Army? No, that is absurd. Did we sup- 
port the Moscow Trials and the actions of Stalin's G.P.U. in these 
trials? Did we support the purges, the wholesale murders of the 
forces in Spain which were directed against the workers? If I 
recall correctly, we unconditionally defended those workers who 
fought on the other side of the barricades in Barcelona. That did 
not prevent us from supporting the military struggle against Franco 
and maintaining our position in defense of the Soviet Union against 
imperialist attack. 

It is now demanded that we take a big step forward and support 
the idea of an armed struggle against Stalin in the newly occupied 
territories of old Poland. Is this really something new? For three 
years the Fourth International has advocated in its program the 
armed overthrow of Stalin inside the Soviet Union itself. The 
Fourth International has generally acknowledged the necessity for 
an armed struggle to set up an independent Soviet Ukraine. How 
can there be any question of having a different policy in the newly 
occupied territories? If the revolution against Stalin is really 
ready there, the Fourth International will certainly support it and 
endeavor to lead it. There are no two opinions possible in our 
ranks on this question. But what shall we do if Hitler (or Cham- 
berlain) attacks the Sovietized Ukraine before Stalin has been over- 
thrown? This is the question that needs an unambiguous answer. 
Shall we defend the Soviet Union, and with it now and for the same 
reasons, the nationalized property of the newly annexed territories? 
We say, yes! 



SPEECH ON RUSSIAN QUESTION 221 

That position was incorporated into the program of the founda- 
tion congress of the Fourth International, held in the summer of 
1938. Remember, that was after the Moscow Trials and the crush- 
ing of the Spanish revolution. It was after the murderous purge of 
the whole generation of Bolsheviks, after the People's Front, the 
entry into the League of Nations, the Stalin-Laval pact (and be- 
trayal of the French workers). We took our position on the basis 
of the economic structure of the country, the fruit of the revolution. 
The great gains are not to be surrendered before they are really 
lost. That is the fighting program of the Fourth International. 

The Stalin-Hitler Pact 

The Stalin-Hitler pact does not change anything fundamentally. 
If Stalin were allied with the United States, and comrades should 
deny defense of the Soviet Union out of fear of becoming involved 
in the defense of Stalin's American ally, such comrades would be 
wrong, but their position would be understandable as a subjective 
reaction prompted by revolutionary sentiments. The "defeatism" 
which broke out in our French section following the Stalin-Laval 
pact was undoubtedly so motivated and, consequently, had to be 
refuted with the utmost tolerance and patience. But an epidemic of 
"defeatism" in the democratic camp would be simply shameful. 
There is no pressure on us in America to defend the Soviet Union. 
All the pressure is for a democratic holy war against the Soviet 
Union. Let us keep this in mind. The main enemy is still in our 
own country. 

What has happened since our last discussion? Has there been 
some fundamental change in Soviet economy? No, nothing of that 
kind is maintained. Nothing happened except that Stalin signed 
the pact with Hitler ! For us that gave no reason whatever to change 
our analysis of Soviet economy and our attitude toward it. The 
aim of all our previous theoretical work, concentrated in our pro- 
gram, was precisely to prepare us for war and revolution. Now 
we have the war; and revolution is next in order. If we have to 
stop now to find a new program it is a very bad sign. 

Just consider : There are people who could witness all the crimes 
and betrayals of Stalin, which we understood better than anybody 
else, and denounced before anybody else and more effectively 
they could witness all this and still stand for the defense of the 
Soviet Union. But they could not tolerate the alliance with fascist 
Germany instead of imperialist England or France! 



222 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

The Invasion of Poland 

Of course, there has been a great hullaballoo about the Soviet 
invasion of Polish Ukraine. But that is simply one of the conse- 
quences of the war and the alliance with Hitler's Germany. The 
contention that we should change our analysis of the social char- 
acter of the Soviet state and our attitude toward its defense because 
the Red Army violated the Polish border is even more absurd than 
to base such changes on the Hitler pact. The Polish invasion is only 
an incident in a war, and in wars borders are always violated. (If 
all the armies stayed at home there could be no war.) The in- 
violability of borders all of which were established by war is 
interesting to democratic pacifists and to nobody else. 

Hearing all the democratic clamor we had to ask ourselves 
many times: Don't they know that Western Ukraine and White 
Russia never rightfully belonged to Poland? Don't they know that 
this territory was forcibly taken from the Soviet Union by Pilsud- 
ski with French aid in 1920? 

To be sure, this did not justify Stalin's invasion of the territory 
in collaboration with Hitler. We never supported that and we never 
supported the fraudulent- claim that Stalin was bringing "libera- 
tion" to the peoples of the Polish Ukraine. At the same time we did 
not propose to yield an inch to the "democratic" incitement against 
the Soviet Union on the basis of the Polish events. The democratic 
war mongers were shrieking at the top of their voices all over town. 
We must not be unduly impressed by this democratic clamor. Your 
National Committee was not in the least impressed. 

In order to penetrate a little deeper into this question and trace 
it to its roots, let us take another hypothetical example. Not a 
fantastic one, but a very logical one. Suppose Stalin had made 
a pact with the imperialist democracies against Hitler while Ru- 
mania had allied itself with Hitler. Suppose, as would most prob- 
ably have happened in that case, the Red Army had struck at Ru- 
mania, Hitler's ally, instead of Poland, the ally of the democracies, 
and had seized Bessarabia, which also once belonged to Russia. 
Would the democratic war mongers in that case have howled about 
"Red Imperialism"? Not on your life! 

I am very glad that our National Committee maintained its in- 
dependence from bourgeois democratic pressure on the Polish in- 
vasion. The question was put to us very excitedly, point-blank, like 
a pistol at the temple: "Are you for or against the invasion of Po- 
land?" But revolutionary Marxists don't answer in a "yes" or 
"no" manner which can lump them together with other people who 



SPEECH ON RUSSIAN QUESTION 223 

pursue opposite aims. Being for or against something is not enough 
in the class struggle. It is necessary to explain from what stand- 
point one is for or against. Are you for or against racketeering 
gangsters in the trade unions? the philistines sometimes ask. We 
don't jump to attention, like a private soldier who has met an offi- 
cer on the street, and answer, "against!" We first inquire: who asks 
this question and from what standpoint? And what weight does this 
question have in relation to other questions? We have our own 
standpoint and we are careful not to get our answers mixed up 
with those of class enemies and pacifist muddleheads. 

Some people especially affected bosses are against racketeer- 
ing gangsters in the trade unions because they extort graft from 
the bosses. That side of the question doesn't interest us very much. 
Some people especially pacifist preachers are against the gang- 
sters because they commit violence. But we are not against violence 
at all times and under all circumstances. We, for our part, taking 
our time and formulating our viewpoint precisely, say: We are 
against union gangsterism because it injures the union in its fight 
against the bosses. That is our reason. It proceeds from our special 
class standpoint on the union question. 

So with Poland: We don't support the course of Stalin in gen- 
eral. His crime is not one incident here or there but his whole 
policy. He demoralizes the workers' movement and discredits the 
Soviet Union. That is what we are against. He betrays the revolu- 
tion by his whole course. Every incident for us fits into that frame- 
work; it is considered from that point of view and taken in its 
true proportions. 

The Invasion of Finland 

Those who take the Polish invasion an incident in a great chain 
of events as the basis for a fundamental change in our program 
show a lack of proportion. That is the kindest thing that can be 
said for them. They are destined to remain in a permanent lather 
throughout the war. They are already four laps behind schedule: 
There is also Latvia, and Estonia, and Lithuania, and now Finland. 

We can expect another clamor of demands that we say, point- 
blank, and in one word, whether we are "for" or "against" the 
pressure on poor little bourgeois-democratic Finland. Our answer 
wait a minute. Keep your shirt on. There is no lack of protests 
in behalf of the bourgeois swine who rule Finland. The New 
Leader has protested. Charles Yale Harrison has written a tearful 
column about it. The renegade Lore has wept about it in the New 
York Post. The President of the United States has protested. Finland 



224 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

is pretty well covered with moral support. So bourgeois Finland can 
wait a minute till we explain our attitude without bothering about the 
"for" or "against" ultimatum. 

I personally feel very deeply about Finland, and this is by no 
means confined to the present dispute between Stalin and the Fin- 
nish Prime Minister. When I think of Finland, I think of the thou- 
sands of martyred dead, the proletarian heroes who perished under 
the white terror of Mannerheim. I would, if I could, call them 
back from their graves. Failing that, I would organize a proletar- 
ian army of Finnish workers to avenge them, and drive their mur- 
derers into the Baltic Sea. I would send the Red Army of the regen- 
erated Soviet Union to help them at the decisive moment. 

We don't support Stalin's invasion only because he doesn't come 
for revolutionary purposes. He doesn't come at the call of Finnish 
workers whose confidence he has forfeited. That is the only reason 
we are against it. The "borders" have nothing to do with it. "De- 
fense" in war also means attack. Do you think we will respect fron- 
tiers when we make our revolution? If an enemy army lands troops 
at Quebec, for example, do you think we will wait placidly at the 
Canadian border for their attack? No, if we are genuine revolu- 
tionists and not pacifist muddleheads we will cross the border and 
meet them at the point of landing. And if our defense requires the 
seizure of Quebec, we will seize it as the Red Army of Lenin seized 
Georgia and tried to take Warsaw. / 

Foreseen in Program of Fourth International 

Some may think the war and the alliance with Hitler change 
everything we have previously considered; that it, at least, requires 
a reconsideration of the whole question of the| Soviet Union, if not 
a complete change in our program. To this we can answer: 

War was contemplated by our program. The fundamental theses 
on "War and the Fourth International," adopted in 1934, say: 

"Every big war, irrespective of its initial moves, must pose 
squarely the question of military intervention against the U.S.S.R. 
in order to transfuse fresh blood into the sclerotic veins of capital- 
ism. . . . 

"Defense of the Soviet Union from the blows of the capitalist 
enemies, irrespective of the circumstances and immediate causes of 
the conflict, is the elementary and imperative duty of every honest 
labor organization." 

Alliances were contemplated. The theses say: 

"In the existing situation an alliance of the U.S.S.R. with an 
imperialist state or with one imperialist combination against another, 



SPEECH ON RUSSIAN QUESTION 225 

in case of war, cannot at all be considered as excluded. Under the 
pressure of circumstances a temporary alliance of this kind may be- 
come an iron necessity, without ceasing, however, because of it, to 
be of the greatest danger both to the U.S.S.R. and to the world 
revolution. 

"The international proletariat will not decline to defend the 
U.S.S.R. even if the latter should find itself forced into a military 
alliance with some imperialists against others. But in this case, even 
more than in any other, the international proletariat must safeguard 
its complete political independence from Soviet diplomacy and 
thereby also from the bureaucracy of the Third International." 

A stand on defense was taken in the light of this perspective. 

A slogan of defense acquires a concrete meaning precisely in the 
event of war. A strange time to drop it! That would mean a rejec- 
tion of all our theoretical preparation for the war. That would 
mean starting all over again. From what fundamental basis? No- 
body knows. 

There has been much talk of "independence" on the Russian 
question. That is good! A revolutionist who is not independent 
is not worth his salt. But it is necessary to specify: Independent 
of whom? What is needed by our party at every turn is class in- 
dependence, independence of the Stalinists, and, above all, inde- 
pendence of the bourgeoisie. Our program assures such independ- 
ence under all circumstances. It shall not be changed! 



226 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 



RESOLUTION ON PARTY UNITY* 

A Proposal for a Joint Statement to the Party Membership, to be 
Signed by the Leading Representatives of Both Groups in the P.C. 

Submitted to the Political Committee, November 7, 1939, by 
J. P. Cannon for the N.C. Majority. 

In view of the fears expressed by some comrades that the present 
internal discussion can lead to a split, either as a: result of expul- 
sions by a majority or the withdrawal of a minority, the leading 
representatives of both sides declare: 

(1) It is necessary to regulate the discussion in such a way as 
to eliminate the atmosphere of split and reassure the party members 
that the unity of the party will be maintained. Toward this end both 
sides agree to eliminate from the discussion all threats of split; or 
expulsions. 

(2) The issues in dispute must be clarified and resolved by 
normal democratic processes within the framework of the party and 
the Fourth International. After the necessary period of free discus- 
sion, if the two sides cannot come to agreement, the questions in 
dispute are to be decided by a party convention, without, on the 
one side, any expulsions because of opinions defended in the pre- 
convention discussion, or any withdrawals on the other side. 

(3) Both sides obligate themselves to loyal collaboration in the 
daily work of the party during the period of the discussion. 

(4) The internal bulletin is to be jointly edited by two editors, 
one from each side. 

(5) A parity commission of four two from each side is to 
be constituted. The function of the parity commission is to investi- 
gate all organization complaints, grievances, threats, accusations, or 
violations of discipline which may arise out of the discussion and 
report same to the Political Committee with concrete recommen- 
dations. 



*The N.C. minority (Burnham-Shachtman-Abern and others) voted 
for this resolution at the time. All of the provisions in it were strictly 
fulfilled and enforced by the N.C. majority but violated shamelessly and 
disloyally by the leaders and members of the opposition. In Defense 
of Marxism (pp. 63-69 ff.) contains further details and clarifying mate- 
rial on this aspect of the struggle. Ed. 






CONVENTION RESOLUTIONS 227 

r 

CONVENTION RESOLUTIONS 

(The National Convention of the Socialist Workers Party convened 
on April 15, 1940, after more than six months of democratic discussion 
on all the disputed questions. The following four resolutions pertaining 
to questions of organization and discipline were adopted by the con- 
vention in the final sessions on April 8th. Ed.) 

iTHE ORGANIZATION PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH 
THE PARTY WAS FOUNDED* 


(Resolution Adopted by the Convention) 

The third convention of the Socialist Workers Party reaffirms 
the resolution adopted by the Founding Convention of the S.W.P. 
"On the Internal Situation and the Character of the Party," as fol- 
lows: 

The Socialist Workers Party is a revolutionary Marxian party, 
based on a definite program, whose aim is the organization of the 
working class in the struggle for power and the transformation of 
the existing social order. All of its activities, its methods and its 
internal regime are subordinated to this aim and are designed to 
serve it. 

Only a self-acting and critical-minded membership is capable of 
forging and consolidating such a party and of solving its problems 
by collective thought, discussion and experience. From this follows 
the need of assuring the widest party democracy in the ranks of the 
organization. 

The struggle for power organized and led by the revolutionary 
party is the most ruthless and irreconcilable struggle in all history. 
A loosely-knit, heterogeneous, undisciplined, untrained organization 
is utterly incapable of accomplishing such world-historical tasks as 
the proletariat and the revolutionary party are confronted with in 
the present era. This is all the more emphatically true in the light 
of the singularly difficult position of our party and the extraordin- 



*This resolution was drafted originally by Cannon and Shachtman 
in the struggle against Menshevik principles of organization advanced 
by Burnham and others in the party discussion preceding the National 
Convention of Decemiber 1937- January 1938; and was adapted by this 
convention. In the struggle of 1939-1940 Shachtman went over to 
Burnham's position on the organization question and joined him in 
a general attack on the basic Leninist principles. The majority of 
the convention, maintaining the old principles, consequently reaffirmed 
the old resolution, partly drafted by Shachtman, against the contentions 
of the petty-bourgeois opposition as a whole on the organization 
question. Ed. 



228 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

ary persecution to which it is subject. From this follows the party's 
unconditional demand upon all its members for complete discipline 
in all the public activities and actions of the organization. 

Leadership and centralized direction are indispensable pre- 
requisites for any sustained and disciplined action, especially in the 
party that sets itself the aim of leading the collective efforts of the 
proletariat in its struggle against capitalism. Without a strong and 
firm Central Committee, having the power to act promptly and 
effectively in the name of the party and to supervise, coordinate and 
direct all its activities without exception, the very idea of a revolu- 
tionary party is a meaningless jest. 

It is from these considerations, based upon the whole of the 
experience of working class struggle throughout the world in the 
last century, that we derive the Leninist principle of organization, 
namely, democratic centralism. The same experience has demonstrated 
that there are no absolute guarantees for the preservation of the 
principle of democratic centralism, and no rigid formula that can 
be set down in advance, a priori, for the application of it under 
any and all circumstances. Proceeding from certain fundamental 
conceptions, the problem of applying the principle of democratic 
centralism differently under different conditions and stages of de- 
velopment of the struggle, can be solved only in relation to the 
concrete situation, in the course of the tests and experience through 
which the movement passes, and on the basis of the most fruitful 
and healthy inter-relationship of the leading bodies of the party 
and its rank and file. 

The Responsibilities of Leadership 

The leadership of the party must be under the control of the 
membership, its policies must always be open to criticism, discus- 
sion and rectification by the rank and file within properly estab- 
lished forms and limits, and the leading bodies themselves subject 
to formal recall or alteration. The membership of the party has 
the right to demand and expect the greatest responsibility from the 
leaders precisely because of the position they occupy in the move- 
ment. The selection of comrades to the positions of leadership 
means the conferring of an extraordinary responsibility. The war- 
rant for this position must be proved, not once, but continuously by 
the leadership itself. It is under obligation to set the highest ex- 
ample of responsibility, devotion, sacrifice and complete identifica- 
tion with the party itself and its daily life and action. It must dis- 
play the ability to defend its policies before the membership of the 



CONVENTION RESOLUTIONS 229 

party, and to defend the line of the party and the party as a whole 
before the working class in general. 

Sustained party activity, not broken or disrupted by abrupt and 
disorienting changes, presupposes not only a continuity of tradi- 
tion and a systematic development of party policy, but also the con- 
tinuity of leadership. It is an important sign of a serious and 
firmly constituted party, of a party really engaged in productive 
work in the class struggle, that it throws up out of its ranks cadres 
of more or less able leading comrades, tested for their qualities of 
endurance and trustworthiness, and that it thus insures a certain 
stability and continuity of leadership by such a cadre. 

Continuity of leadership does not, however, signify the auto- 
matic self-perpetuation of leadership. Constant renewal of its 
ranks by means of additions and, when necessary, replacements, is 
the only assurance that the party has, that its leadership will not 
succumb to the effects of dry-rot, that it will not be burdened with 
deadwood, that it will avoid the corrosion of conservatism and 
dilettantism, that it will not be the object of conflict between the 
older elements and the younger, that the old and basic cadre will 
be refreshed by new blood, that the leadership as a whole will not 
become purely bureaucratic "committee men" with a life that is 
remote from the real life of the party and the activities of the rank 
and file, 

Responsibilities of Membership 

Like leadership, membership itself in the party implies certain 
definite rights. Party membership confers the fullest freedom of 
discussion, debate and criticism inside the ranks of the party, limited 
only by such decisions and provisions as are made by the party 
itself or by bodies to which it assigns this function. Affiliation 
to the party confers upon each member the right of being demo- 
cratically represented at all policy-making assemblies of the party 
(from branch to national and international convention), and the 
right of the final and decisive vote in determining the program, 
policies and leadership of the party. 

With party rights, the membership has also certain definite ob- 
ligations. The theoretical and political character of the party is 
determined by its program, which forms the lines delimiting the revo- 
lutionary party from all other parties, groups and tendencies in the 
working class. The first obligation of party membership is loyal 
acceptance of the program of the party and regular affiliation to 
one of the basic units of the party. The party requires of every mem- 



230 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

her the acceptance of its discipline and the carrying on of his 
activity in accordance with the program of the party, with the de- 
cisions adopted by its conventions, and with the policies formulated 
and directed by the party leadership. 

Party membership implies the obligation of one hundred per 
cent loyalty to the organization, the rejection of all agents of other, 
hostile groups in its ranks, and intolerance of divided loyalties in 
general. Membership in the party necessitates a minimum of ac- 
tivity in the organization, as established by the proper unit, and 
under the direction of the party; it necessitates the fulfillment of 
all the tasks which the party assigns to each member. Party mem- 
bership implies the obligation upon every member to contribute 
materially to the support of the organization in accordance with his 
means. 

A Party of Revolutionary Workers 

From the foregoing it follows that the party seeks to include 
in its ranks all the revolutionary, class conscious and militant work- 
ers who stand on its program and are active in building the move- 
ment in a disciplined manner. The revolutionary Marxian party 
rejects not only the arbitrariness and bureaucratism of the Com- 
munist Party, but also the spurious and deceptive "all-inclusive- 
ness" of the Thomas-Tyler-Hoan Socialist Party, which is a sham 
and a fraud. Experience has proved conclusively that this "all- 
inclusiveness" paralyzes the party in general and the revolutionary 
left wing in particular, suppressing and bureaucratically hounding 
the latter while giving free rein to the right wing to commit the 
greatest crimes in the name of socialism and the party. The S.W.P. 
seeks to be inclusive only in this sense: that it accepts into its ranks 
those who accept its program and denies admission to those who 
reject its program. 

The rights of each individual member, as set forth above, do 
not imply that the membership as a whole, namely, the party itself, 
does not possess rights of its own. The party as a whole has the 
right to demand that its work be not disrupted and disorganized, and 
has the right to take all the measures which it finds necessary to 
assure its regular and normal functioning. The rights of any in- 
dividual member are distinctly secondary to the rights of the party 
membership as a whole. Party democracy means not only the most 
scrupulous protection of the rights of a given minority, but also the 
protection of the rule of the majority. The party is therefore en- 
titled to organize the discussion and to determine its forms and 
limits. 



CONVENTION RESOLUTIONS 231 

All inner-party discussion must be organized from the point 
of view that the party is not a discussion club, which debates in- 
terminably on any and all questions at any and all times, without 
arriving at a binding decision that enables the organization to act, 
but from the point of view that we are a disciplined party of revo- 
lutionary action. The party in general not only has the right, there- 
fore, to organize the discussion in accordance with the requirements 
of the situation, but the lower units of the party must be given the 
right, in the interests of the struggle against the disruption and dis- 
organization of the party's work, to call irresponsible individuals 
to order and, if need be, to eject them from the ranks. 

The decisions of the national party convention are binding on 
all party members without exception and they conclude the discus- 
sion on all these disputed questions upon which a decision has been 
taken. Any party member violating the decisions of the convention, 
or attempting to revive discussion in regard to them without formal 
authorization of the party, puts himself thereby in opposition to the 
party and forfeits his right to membership. All party organizations 
are authorized and instructed to take any measures necessary to 
enforce this rule. 



232 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 



THE ORGANIZATIONAL CONCLUSIONS OF 
THE PRESENT DISCUSSION 

(Resolution Adopted by the Convention) 

The Bolshevik party of Lenin is the only party in history which 
successfully conquered and held state power. The S.W.P., as a 
combat organization, which aims at achieving power in this coun- 
try, models its organization forms and methods after those of the 
Russian Bolshevik party, adapting them, naturally, to the exper- 
ience of recent years and to concrete American conditions. 

The S.W.P. as a revolutionary workers' party is based on the 
doctrines of scientific socialism as embodied in the principal works 
of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky and incorporated in the basic 
documents and resolutions of the first four congresses of the Com- 
munist International and of the conferences and congresses of the 
Fourth International. 

The S.W.P. rejects the contention of social democrats, skeptics 
and capitulators disillusioned in the Russian revolution, that there 
is an inevitable and organic connection between Bolshevism and 
Stalinism. This reactionary revision of Marxism is a capitulation 
to democratic imperialism. It is capable of producing only de- 
moralization and defeat in the critical times of war and revolution. 

The rise of reaction on a world scale, accompanied and pro- 
duced by the disastrous course of Stalinism in the working class 
movement, has catapulted all centrist groups and parties (Love- 
stoneites, Socialist Party, London Bureau) away from Bolshevism 
and in the direction of social democracy. In whole or in part, all 
of these groups attempt to identify Bolshevism with Stalinism. 
Without exception these groups are all in a state of collapse and 
passing over to the side of the class enemy. 

Petty Bourgeoisie Transmits Skepticism 

This tendency (Souvarinism) has manifested itself in leading 
circles of our party (Burnham) and in certain sections of the 
membership. Their skeptical criticisms of Bolshevism express their 
petty-bourgeois composition and their dependence on bourgeois 
public opinion. The petty bourgeoisie is a natural transmission 
belt carrying the theories of reaction into the organizations of the 
working class. 

Those who seek to identify Bolshevism with Stalinism concern 
themselves with a search for guarantees against the Stalinist degen- 



CONVENTION RESOLUTIONS 233 

eration of the party and the future Soviet power. We reject this 
demand for insurance as completely undialectical and unrealistic. 
Our party, in the first instance, is concerned with the struggle for 
state power, and therefore with creating a party organization capa- 
ble of leading the proletarian struggle to this goal. There are no 
constitutional guarantees which can prevent degeneration. Only the 
victorious revolution can provide the necessary preconditions for 
preventing the degeneration of the party and the future Soviet 
power. If the party fails to carry through and extend the revolu- 
tion the degeneration of the party is inevitable. 

Insofar as any guarantees are possible against the degeneration 
of the proletarian party, these can be obtained only by educating 
the party in firm adherence to principles and by a merciless strug- 
gle against all personal and unprincipled clique combinations 
within the party. The outstanding example of this clique formation 
is the Abern group which is based solely on personal loyalties 
and on rewards of honor and place within the party for those 
whose primary loyalty is to the clique. The history of the Fourth 
International in this country amply reveals that such a clique, with 
its utter disregard for principles, can become the repository for 
alien class influences and agents of enemy organizations seeking 
to disrupt the Fourth International from within. The S.W.P. con- 
demns the Abern clique as hostile to trie spirit and methods of 
Bolshevik organization. 

REVOLUTIONARY CENTRALISM 

To overthrow the most powerful capitalist ruling class in the 
world, the S.W.P. must be organized as a combat party on strong 
centralist lines. The resolution adopted at the founding convention 
gave a correct interpretation of the principle of democratic cen- 
tralism. Its emphasis was placed on the democratic aspects of this 
principle. The party leadership has faithfully preserved the demo- 
cratic rights of the membership since the founding convention. It 
has granted the widest latitude of discussion to all dissenting 
groups and individuals. The duty of the incoming National Com- 
mittee is to execute the decisions of the convention, arrived at 
after the most thorough and democratic discussion, and to permit 
no infringement upon them. 

Conditions, both external and in the internal development of 
the party, demand that steps now be taken towards knitting the 
party together, towards tightening up its activities and centraliz- 
ing its organization structure. For the work of penetrating into 
the workers' mass movement, for the heavy struggles to come 



234 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

against capitalism, for the onerous conditions of war, it is imper- 
ative that a maximum of loyalty be required of every leader and 
every member, that a maximum of activity be required, that a 
strict adherence to discipline be demanded and rigidly enforced. 

THE PRESS 

The party press is the decisive public agitational and propa- 
gandist expression of the Bolshevik organization. The policies of 
the press are formulated on the basis of the fundamental resolu- 
tions of the congresses and conferences of the International, the 
conventions of the party, and decisions of the National Committee 
not in conflict with such resolutions. Control of the press is lodged 
directly in the hands of the National Committee by the convention 
of the party. The duty of the editors is loyally to interpret the 
decisions of the convention in the press. 

Control of Public Discussion 

The opening of the party press to discussion of a point of view 
contrary to that of the official leadership of the party or of its pro- 
grammatic convention decisions must be controlled by the National 
Committee which is obligated to regulate discussion of this char- 
acter in such a way as to give decisive emphasis to the party line. 
It is the right and duty of the National Committee to veto any 
demand for public discussion if it deems such discussion harmful 
to the best interests of the party. 

The petty-bourgeois opposition in our party demonstrates its 
hostility to Bolshevik organization by its demand that the minority 
be granted the right to transform the press into a discussion organ 
for diametrically opposite programs. By that method it would 
take the control of the press out of the hands of the National Com- 
mittee and subordinate it to any temporary, anarchistic combina- 
tion which can make itself heard at the moment. 

By the same token, the demand of the petty-bourgeois opposi- 
tion for an independent public organ, expounding a program in 
opposition to that of the majority of the party, represents a com- 
plete abandonment of democratic centralism and a capitulation to 
the Norman Thomas type of "all-inclusive" party which is inclusive 
of all tendencies except the Bolshevik. The granting of this de- 
mand for a separate organ would destroy the centralist character 
of the party, by creating dual central committees, dual editorial 
boards, dual treasuries, dual distribution agencies, divided loyal- 
ties and a complete breakdown of all discipline. Under such 
conditions the party would rapidly degenerate into a social demo- 



CONVENTION RESOLUTIONS 235 

cratic organization or disappear from the scene altogether. The 
convention categorically rejects the demand for a dual organ. 

LEADERSHIP 

To build the combat organization capable of conquering state 
power, the party must have as its general staff a corps of profes- 
sional revolutionists who devote their entire life to the direction 
and the building of the party and its influence in the mass move- 
ment. Membership in the leading staff of the party, the National 
Committee, must be made contingent on a complete subordination 
of the life of the candidate to the party. All members of the Na- 
tional Committee must devote full-time activities to party work, 
or be prepared to do so at the demand of the National Committee. 

In the struggle for power, the party demands the greatest sac- 
rifices of its members. Only a leadership selected from among 
those who demonstrate in the struggle the qualities of singleness 
of purpose, unconditional loyalty to the party and revolutionary 
firmness of character, can inspire the membership with a spirit 
of unswerving devotion and lead the party in its struggle for power. 

The party leadership must, from time to time, be infused with 
new blood, primarily from its proletarian sections. Workers who 
show promise and ability through activity in the union movement 
and its strike struggles should be elevated to the leading commit- 
tees of the party in order to establish a more direct connection 
between the leading committee and the workers' movement, and 
in order to train the worker-Bolshevik for the task of party direc- 
tion itself. 

The party must select from its younger members those qualified, 
talented and promising elements who can be trained for leadership. 
The road of the student youth to the party leadership must not 
and cannot be from the class room of the high school and college 
directly into the leading committee. They must first prove them- 
selves. They must be sent without high-sounding titles into working 
class districts for day-to-day work among the proletariat. The young 
student must serve an apprenticeship in the workers' movement 
before he can be considered as candidate for the National Committee. 

PROLETARIANS THE PARTY 

The working class is the only class in modern society that is 
progressive and truly revolutionary. Only the working class is capa- 
ble of saving humanity from barbarism. Only a revolutionary party 
can lead the proletariat to the realization of this historic mission. 
To achieve power, the revolutionary party must be deeply rooted 



236 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

among the workers, it must be composed predominantly of workers 
and enjoy the respect and confidence of the workers. 

Without such a composition it is impossible to build a pro- 
grammatical ly firm and disciplined organization which can accom- 
plish these grandiose tasks. A party of non-workers is necessarily 
subject to all the reactionary influences of skepticism, cynicism, 
soul-sickness and capitulatory despair transmitted to it through its 
petty-bourgeois environment. 

To transform the S.W.P. into a proletarian party of action, 
particularly in the present period of reaction, it is not enough to 
continue propagandistic activities in the hope that by an automatic 
process workers will flock to the banner of the party. It is neces- 
sary, on the contrary, to make a concerted, determined and system- 
atic effort, consciously directed by the leading committees of the 
party, to penetrate the workers' movement, establish the roots of 
the party in the trade unions, the mass labor organizations and in 
the workers' neighborhoods and recruit worker militants into the 
ranks of the party. 

Steps to Proletarianize the Party 

To proletarianize the party, the following steps are imperative: 

1. The entire party membership must be directed towards root- 
ing itself in the factories, mills, etc., and towards integrating itself 
in the unions and workers' mass organizations. 

2. Those members of the party who are not workers shall be 
assigned to work in labor organizations, in workers' neighborhoods 
and with the worker-fractions of the party to assist them and 
learn from them. All unemployed members must belong to and be 
active in organizations of the unemployed. 

Those party members who find it impossible after a reasonable 
period of time to work in a proletarian milieu and to attract to the 
party worker militants shall be transferred from party membership 
to the rank of sympathizers. Special organizations of sympathizers 
may be formed for this purpose. 

Above all the student and unemployed youth must be sent into 
industry and involved in the life and struggles of the workers. 
Systematic, exceptional and persistent efforts must be made to assist 
the integration of our unemployed youth into industry despite the 
restricted field of employment. 

Lacking connection with the workers' movement through fail- 
ure or inability to get jobs in industry or membership in unions, 
the student and unemployed youth are subject to terrific pressure 
from the petty-bourgeois world. A large section of the youth mem- 



CONVENTION RESOLUTIONS 237 

bership of the S.W.P. and Y.P.S.L. adopted the program of the 
Fourth International, but brought with them the training and habits 
of the social democratic movement, which are far removed from 
the spirit of the proletarian revolution. 

These student elements can transform the program of the Fourth 
International from the pages of books and pamphlets into living 
reality for themselves and for the party only by integrating them- 
selves in the workers' movement and breaking irrevocably from 
their previous environment. Unless they follow this road they are 
in constant danger of slipping back into their former social demo- 
cratic habits or into complete apathy and pessimism and thus be lost 
for the revolutionary movement. 

3. To attract and to hold workers in the ranks of the party, 
it is necessary that the internal life of the party be drastically trans- 
formed. The party must be cleansed of the discussion club atmos- 
phere, of an irresponsible attitude toward assignments, of a cynical 
and smart-aleck disrespect for the party. 

Organizing Real Campaigns 

Party activity must be lifted out of dragging, daily routine and 
reorganized on the basis of campaigns which are realistically ad- 
justed to the demands and direction of the workers' movement. 
These campaigns must not be sucked out of the thumb of some func- 
tionary in a party office, but must arise as a result of the connec- 
tions of the party with the workers' movement and the indicated 
direction of the masses in specific situations. 

All party agitation campaigns, especially in the next period, 
must be directed primarily at those workers' groups and organiza- 
tions in which we are attempting to gain a foothold and attract 
members. General agitation addressed to the working class as a 
whole or the public in general must be related to those specific aims. 

The press must gear its agitation into the activity conducted 
among specific workers' groups so as to transform the party paper 
from a literary organ into a workers' organizer. The integration 
of the party into the workers' movement, and the transformation 
of the party into a proletarian organization, are indispensable for 
the progress of the party. Successful achievement of this internal 
transformation is a thousand times more important than any amount 
of empty phrases about "preparation of the party for war." This 
transformation is, in fact, the only real preparation of the party 
for war, combined of course with the necessary technical adjust- 
ments in organization forms. 

The S.W.P. must adhere to the principles and program of the 



238 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

Fourth International, transform itself into a democratically cen- 
tralized Bolshevik organization, integrate itself into the workers' 
movement. On that basis, and on that basis alone, can the party 
meet the test of the war, survive the war and go forward to its 
great goal the establishment of a Workers' Republic in the United 
States. 



CONVENTION RESOLUTIONS 239 



RESOLUTION ON DISCIPLINE 

(Resolution Adopted by the Convention) 

Having heard the declaration made to the convention by the 
representative of the minority to the effect that, regardless of the 
decision of the convention, the minority will publish a paper of its 
own in opposition to the press of the party, the convention states: 

1. The threat is an attempt of a petty-bourgeois minority to 
impose its will upon the party in opposition to the principles of 
democratic centralism which alone can assure the unity of a revo- 
lutionary combat party. The convention categorically rejects the 
ultimatum of the minority and declares that any attempt on the 
part of any individual or group to execute it and to issue or dis- 
tribute any publication in opposition to the official press of the 
party is incompatible with membership in the party. 

2. All party organizations are instructed to expel from the 
party any member or members violating this convention decision. 
The National Committee or its Political Committee are empowered 
and instructed by the convention to expel any regular or alternate 
member or members of the N.C. or P.C. who may participate in 
any such violation. The N.C. or P.C. is instructed to immediately 
expel and reorganize any party unit or executive committee failing 
to act promptly in the execution of the above instructions in regard 
to any member or members under its jurisdiction who may violate 
the convention decisions. 



240 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 



SUPPLEMENTARY RESOLUTION ON THE 
ORGANIZATION QUESTION 

(Resolution Adopted by the Convention) 

In order to assure the concentration of the party membership 
on practical work under the most favorable internal conditions, to 
safeguard the unity of the party and to provide guarantees for the 
party rights of the minority, the convention adopts the following 
special measures: 

1. The discussion in the party branches on the controversial 
issues is to be concluded with the convention decisions and the 
reports of the delegates to their branches. It may be resumed only 
by authorization of the National Committee. 

2. In order to acquaint the party sympathizers and the radical 
labor public with all aspects of the disputes, and the opinions of 
both sides, the N.C. shall publish in symposium form the most 
important articles on the Russian question and the organization 
question. These symposia shall be jointly edited and each side may 
select the articles it wishes to publish. 

3. As an exceptional measure in the present circumstances, the 
discussion may be continued in literary form if the representatives 
of either side, or both, so desire. Articles dealing with the theoretical- 
scientific aspects of the disputed questions may be published in 
The New International. Political discussion articles are to be pub- 
lished in a monthly Internal Bulletin, issued by the N.C., under 
joint editorship of the convention majority and minority. 

4. The N.C. shall publish all resolutions considered by the 
convention, those rejected as well as those adopted. Editorial com- 
ment shall be restricted to defense of the adopted positions. 

5. The decisions of the party convention must be accepted by 
all under the rules of democratic centralism. Strict discipline in 
action is to be required of all party members. 

6. No measures are to be taken against any party member be- 
cause of the views expressed in the party discussion. Nobody is ob- 
liged to renounce his opinion. There is no prohibition of factions. 
The minority is to be given representation in the leading party 
committees and assured full opportunity to participate in all phases 
of party work. 



SUSPENSION OF BURNHAM-SHACHTMAN-ABERN 241 



THE SUSPENSION OF THE BURNHAM-SHACHTMAN-ABERN 

GROUP 

(Statement of the National Committee*) 

The readers of the Appeal are already familiar with the resolu- 
tions adopted by the recently concluded national convention of our 
party. These resolutions (published last week) made extremely lib- 
eral provisions for the participation of the leaders of the minority 
in party work. The resolutions offered them the opportunity to con- 
tinue the discussion in defense of their point of view in the Internal 
Bulletin and in The New International, on the condition that they 
refrain from issuing an independent publication in opposition to 
the press of the party. 

These decisions of the convention have been rejected by the 
leaders of the minority. This conduct left the National Committee 
no alternative, under the instructions of the convention, but to sus- 
pend the minority leaders from the party until such time as they 
signify their readiness to abide by the convention decisions. This 
action was taken by the National Committee, at its meeting held 
on April 16, in order to protect the party against disruption. At 
the same time the terms of the suspension leave the way open for 
the suspended members to reconsider the question and return to 
their places in the party leadership and in its editorial boards on 
the basis of the convention decisions. 



^Published in the Socialist Appeal, April 20, 1940. Ed. 



242 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 



THE CONVENTION OF THE SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY* 

The special convention of the Socialist Workers Party, held in 
New York, April 5-8, summed up the internal discussion which 
has been in progress ever since the outbreak of the war in Europe. 
The task of the convention was to determine whether the party shall 
maintain its allegiance to the program of the Fourth International; 
that is, whether it shall continue to exist as a revolutionary organiza- 
tion or begin to degenerate along the lines of reconciliation with 
democratic imperialism. The convention accomplished its task in 
a revolutionary fashion. By the decisive vote of 55 to 31, the dele- 
gates from the branches reaffirmed their allegiance to the program 
and rejected the revisionist improvisations of the opposition. 

The victory of the proletarian revolutionary tendency was in 
reality far more decisive than these figures indicate. More than 
half of the delegates of the opposition came from New York 
branches which are predominantly petty-bourgeois in composition. 
Outside New York the delegates stood three to one behind the ma- 
jority of the National Committee in its defense of the program. But 
even these figures do not adequately portray the weakness of the 
opposition in the proletarian ranks of the party. Among the genu- 
ine worker elements of the party, those members connected with 
the mass movement and directly engaged in the class struggle, the 
position of the majority of the National Committee prevailed by 
not less than ten to one. The opposition started and finished as a 
purely literary tendency, making big pretensions, but without any 
serious base of support in the proletarian ranks of the party. 

The decision of the party came at the end of a thoroughgoing, 
democratic party discussion which left not a single question un- 
clarified. The discussion was formally opened early in October 
and continued uninterruptedly for six months. It is highly doubtful 
that any party discussion anywhere was ever so extensive, so com- 
plete and so democratically conducted as this one. Thirteen big in- 
ternal bulletins were published by the National Committee during 
the discussion, with the space about equally divided between the 
factions; and there was an unrestricted distribution of factional 
documents, besides those published in the official bulletins. In addi- 
tion, there were innumerable debates and speeches in party mem- 
bership meetings. Such an extensive and drawn-out discussion may 



*A summary article published in Fourth International, May 1940. 
Ed. 



CONVENTION OF SWP 243 

appear to be abnormal, even for a democratic organization such 
as ours which settles all disputed questions by free and democratic 
discussion. So it was. But the controversy which preoccupied our 
members in this instance, went far beyond the usual differences of 
opinion as to the best methods of applying the program. The re- 
visionist opposition attacked the program itself. 

Their position at bottom represented a fundamental break with 
the programmatic concepts, traditions and methods embodied in 
the Fourth International. Consequently it was necessary to carry 
the fight out to a definitive conclusion. The result justified the ex- 
traordinary amount of time and attention devoted to the dispute. 
The internal fight was imposed upon the party by the war. Dis- 
oriented by the war, or rather by the approach of war, a section 
of the leadership turned their backs on the program, which had been 
elaborated in years of struggle in preparation for the war. Over- 
night, they forgot the principles which they had defended jointly 
with us up to the very day of the signing of the Stalin-Hitler pact. 
These soldiers of peace had evidently assimilated the ideas of Bol- 
shevism only as a set of literary formulas. They wrote endlessly, 
and sometimes cleverly, in favor of them. But the moment the formu- 
las were put to the test of life or rather the threat of such a test, 
for America has not yet entered into the war the literary exponents 
crumpled miserably and shamefully. And with amazing speed. 

Even a revolutionary party is not free from the pressure of its 
bourgeois environment. In the case of Burnham and Shachtman this 
pressure was reflected in its crudest form. Stalin in alliance with 
the brigands of French imperialism, and prospectively with the 
United States, was acceptable to democratic public opinion; his 
frame-up trials and purges and his bloody work in Spain were 
passed over as the peccadillos of an eccentric "democrat." During 
all this time the time of the Franco-Soviet pact all the leaders 
of the opposition fully agreed with us that the defense of the Soviet 
Union is the elementary duty of every workers' organization. When 
the same Stalin "betrayed" the imperialist democracies by making 
an alliance with Hitler Germany, he became anathema to the bour- 
geois democrats. Immediately, as if by reflex action, our heroic 
Burnham, and after him Shachtman and the others, disavowed the 
defense of the Soviet Union by the world proletariat as an "out- 
moded" idea. That is the essence of the dispute they started in the 
party, and its immediate causes. All the rest of their explanations 
are literary trimming. 

Fortunately the proletarian militants of the party took their 
program more seriously, and showed they are capable of adhering 



244 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

to it without regard to external pressure. Our eleven years' strug- 
gle for a proletarian party which has also been an unceasing strug- 
gle against alien tendencies within our own ranks was recapitu- 
lated in our six months' discussion. The convention drew a balance 
from this whole experience, and put an end to all speculation about 
the course of the party. It recorded the determined will of the pro- 
letarian majority to face the war with the same program that had 
been worked out in years of international collaboration in antici- 
pation of the inevitable war. It showed clearly that, in spite of all 
obstacles and difficulties, the party has become predominantly pro- 
letarian in composition. Thereby it has reenforced its proletarian 
program. 

Our convention had more than national significance. The Fourth 
International, as a whole, like all other organizations in the labor 
movement, was put to a decisive test by the outbreak of the war. 
Fortuitous political circumstances have delayed the entry of U.S. 
imperialism into the war. This provided our party with a more 
favorable opportunity for a free and democratic discussion of the 
issues posed by the war crisis than was enjoyed by any other sec- 
tion of our International. Our party was also the best equipped by 
past experience and training to carry out this discussion in all its 
implications, from all sides, and to the very end. In addition, out- 
standing representatives of several other important sections of our 
International were able to participate directly in the literary dis- 
cussion in our party. The discussion in the S.W.P. became in effect 
a discussion for the entire Fourth International and was followed 
with passionate interest by the members of all sections. 

It was clear from the beginning that the issues at stake were 
international in character and that our decisions would have fateful 
consequences for our movement on a world-wide scale. Thus our 
convention, formally and nominally a convention of the Socialist 
Workers Party, was in its political import a veritable Congress of 
the Fourth International. Under war conditions, and the consequent 
illegality of many of the sections, a formally organized World Con- 
gress, composed of representative delegations, could not be held. 
Our convention had to serve as temporary surrogate for the World 
Congress. Politically, there can be no doubt that it had this meaning 
for all the other sections. 

The discussion initiated in our party was transferred into the 
other sections; and one after the other, they began to take positions 
on the dispute. In every case where we have been able to establish 
communication under war conditions, and have direct knowledge of 
their position, the sections have supported the majority of our 



CONVENTION OF SWP 245 

party. The international report at our convention disclosed that the 
Canadian, Mexican, Belgian, German, Argentine, Chinese, Australian 
and Russian sections have all declared categorically in support of 
the position of the majority of our party. The other sections, with 
whom communication is faulty or who have not formerly recorded 
their position, indicate the same tendency. After our convention 
there can no longer be the slightest doubt that the overwhelming 
majority of the members and sections of the Fourth International 
remain true to their banner to the doctrine and program of revo- 
lutionary Marxism. The decision is made. The revisionist movement 
of Burnham and Co. can no longer hope for success in our move- 
ment, nationally or internationally. The Fourth International re- 
mains, after the first test of the war, firm in its programmatic posi- 
tion the only revolutionary organization of the workers' vanguard 
in the entire world. 

From beginning to end, and in all respects, the two factions 
in the S.W.P. confronted each other in a classic struggle of the 
proletarian against the petty-bourgeois tendency. This line of de- 
marcation was unmistakably evident in the class composition of 
the factions and in their general orientation, as well as in the pro- 
grams they defended. 

Despite the extraordinary preoccupation of the entire party with 
the theoretical dispute, the convention, on the initiative of the ma- 
jority, devoted two whole sessions and part of a third to discussion 
of the trade union question and mass work in general. Led by the 
informed and inspiring report of Farrell Dobbs, the discussion of 
the delegates on this point revealed that our party in many localities 
and industries is already deeply integrated in the mass movement of 
the workers, and that its whole orientation is in this direction. The 
reports of the delegates showed that even during the six months' 
discussion, when the literary panic-mongers were crying havoc and 
discovering nothing but weaknesses and failures, the proletarian 
supporters of the majority were busy in many sections with their 
trade union work; burrowing deeply into the mass movement and 
establishing firm bases of support for the party there. The opposi- 
tion at the convention was greatly compromised and discredited by 
the fact that it virtually abstained from participation in this exten- 
sive discussion. They had nothing to say and nothing to report. 
Here again the petty-bourgeois composition of the opposition, and 
its lack of serious interest in mass work, were flagrantly manifest. 

The report and discussion on the trade union question and mass 
work dealt a knockout blow to the calamity howlers, pessimists and 
quitters who have been attributing to the movement their own weak- 



246 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

ness, cowardice and futility. The convention resounded with pro- 
letarian optimism and confidence in the party. The trade union 
report and discussion, following the decisive reaffirmation of the 
proletarian program, engendered a remarkable enthusiasm. It was 
clear from this discussion that the turn of the party toward mass 
work is already well under way and that the proceedings of the 
convention could not fail to give it a powerful acceleration. 

If any came to the convention with the usual discouragement 
over a heated factional fight and the prospect of a split, there was 
no evidence of it. In the camp of the proletarian majority there 
was not a trace of pessimism, or discouragement, or doubt that the 
party is going forward to the accomplishment of its historic goal, 
and that the period ahead of us will be one of expansion and growth 
and integration in the mass movement. They approached the faction- 
al situation in the convention with the calm assurance of people 
who have made up their minds and know precisely what they want. 
When the leaders of the petty-bourgeois opposition, defeated in the 
convention, hurled the threat of split, it was received without a 
ripple of agitation. The demand of Burnham and Shachtman for 
the "right" to publish a press of their own in opposition to the 
press of the party that is, to make a split in the hypocritical guise 
of unity; to attack the party in the name of the party was rejected 
out of hand by the majority of the convention. The minority was 
confronted with a clear alternative: either to accept the decision 
of the majority under the rules of democratic centralism or go their 
own way and unfurl their own banner. 

The majority did everything possible to preserve unity, and 
even made extraordinary concessions to induce the minority to turn 
back from their splitting course before it was too late. Their party 
rights as a minority were guaranteed by a special resolution at 
the convention. This resolution went to the extreme length of sanc- 
tioning a continuation of discussion of the decided questions in the 
Internal Bulletin, and a discussion of the theoretical aspects of 
the question in The New International. At the same time, the con- 
vention resolution decreed that discussion in the branches must 
cease, and that all attention and energy of the party membership 
be concentrated on practical mass work in the next period. 

The minority was given proportional representation on the Na- 
tional Committee and a period of time to make up their minds 
whether to remain in the party or not under the terms and condi- 
tions laid down. The minority leaders rejected the convention deci- 
sion, launched their own publication, and began a public attack 
on the program of the party and the Fourth International. Thus, by 



CONVENTION OF SWP 247 

their own decision and actions, they placed themselves outside the 
ranks of the party and the Fourth International. Their political 
degeneration is inevitable; nobody has ever yet found a revolution- 
ary road outside the Fourth International. But that is their own 
affair. Our discussion with them, which was fully adequate, is now 
concluded. 

We are looking forward, not backward. Our task is a deeper 
penetration of the workers' mass movement on the basis of the con- 
vention decisions. That is our way to prepare for the war. In this 
course we are assured of the support of the overwhelming majority 
of the sections of the Fourth International. With a correct program, 
and the assurance of international collaboration and support, we 
have every reason to be confident of our future. 



24S STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 



WHY WE PUBLISH "FOURTH INTERNATIONAL"* 

(A Statement by the National Committee of the 
Socialist Workers Party) 

This is the first issue, Volume I, No. 1, of Fourth International, 
the new monthly theoretical organ of the Socialist Workers Party. 
Fourth International will defend the program, ideas and traditions 
which The New International can no longer represent. We owe our 
readers an explanation for changing the name of our official maga- 
zine. 

The New International was the official theoretical organ of the 
Socialist Workers Party, American section of the Fourth Interna- 
tional. The magazine had been in existence since 1934 and was 
published regularly with the exception of the period when the 
Fourth Internationalists of this country held membership in the 
Socialist Party. At all times The New International was the prop- 
erty of our organization. It voiced in its columns the official 
position of the Trotskyist movement, as a section of the Inter- 
national Communist League and later as a section of the Fourth 
International. The policies of the magazine were determined by 
our National Committee. The editors and business staff of the 
magazine were appointed by and subject to the decisions of the 
party. The New International was financed by the nickels and 
dimes and dollars of the worker members of the party and its 
sympathizers. Its deficits were paid by the party. The New In- 
ternational was an integral part of the international Trotskyist 
movement and its American section, the Socialist Workers Party. 

By a breach of trust, morally and legally equivalent to a 
misappropriation of funds by a financial officer of a workers' 
organization, Burnham, Shachtman and Abern, who held posts 
on The New International by party appointment, and who were 
trustees for the party in The New International Publishing Com- 
pany, have usurped the name of the magazine and attempted to 
appropriate its mailing rights as their personal property. 

These turncoats, defeated in the party convention after a 
free and democratic discussion in the party, have sought to revenge 
themselves on the proletarian majority of the party by stealing the 
name and the mailing rights of the magazine entrusted to their 
management, and attempting to cash in on its tradition. An is- 
sue of The New International has appeared under the auspices 



*Published in Fourth International for May 1940. Ed. 



"FOURTH INTERNATIONAL" 249 

of these ex-Trotskyists. A casual reading of the forged copy is 
sufficient to convince any reader that it is not The New Inter- 
national they have known, but a miserable counterfeit. 

The old New International defended the program of the 
Fourth International; it was the chief medium for the publica- 
tion of the theoretical contributions of Comrade Trotsky, and 
was honored throughout the world as the theoretical protagonist 
of the Marxism of our time, i.e., "Trotskyism." The counterfeit 
New International, stolen in sneak-thief fashion from the party 
that owned it and paid for it, and published behind its back 
in the dark of night, has nothing in common with the traditions 
of its name and its past association. 

Those who know the revolutionary traditions established by 
the magazine, those who appreciate its great work in the ideas 
of Marxism throughout the world cannot fail to be revolted by 
the publication of The New International under revisionist and 
anti-Trotskyist auspices. This feeling of revulsion must have been 
augmented by the appearance from the pen of Burnham under 
the heading "Archives of the Revolution," of a foul attack on 
the Marxist doctrine and method and on the author of most of 
the rich material in Marxist theory which in the past appeared 
under this heading. 

There is no doubt that by every political and moral right 
The New International belongs to the Socialist Workers Party 
as represented by its convention majority. There is likewise no 
doubt, competent attorneys have assured us, that all legal rights 
to the magazine, its name, its subscription lists and its second 
class mailing rights belong entirely to the Socialist Workers Party, 
and that Burnham, Abern and Shachtman would stand in any 
litigation as betrayers of financial trust and common thieves. No 
class-conscious worker would censure us for taking legal action 
to protect our rights in this case. Obviously, we are dealing here, 
not with an ideological dispute but a case of petty larceny. Never- 
theless, we have decided to forego any legal action. We are wash- 
ing our hands of The New International and launching a new 
magazine, Fourth International, for the following reasons: 

1. It is not worthwhile for us to spend time and effort in legal 
struggles over property rights which could only divert energies 
and resources from more serious and important activity. 

2. We do not want our irreconcilable political struggle against 
the turncoats to be obscured or confused by squabbles over a maga- 
zine's name and property rights. Our aim is, in every respect, to 



250 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

distinguish ourselves from the ex-Trotskyists, and to eliminate every 
possible point of identification with them. 

3. The once glorious name of The New International has been 
irretrievably sullied by its appearance for one issue under the 
auspices of these betrayers of its tradition. The program of the 
Fourth International, the great theoretical contributions of Comrade 
Trotsky, the Marxist message of our party, cannot appear under its 
dirtied name. We want no deception, no confusion, no mixing of 
banners. We need a clean banner which will truly express what we 
stand for and at the same time sharply distinguish us from the 
prostituted The New International. They stole it. They have already 
identified its name with their own treachery. Let them keep it, 
and let the whole world know it is henceforth their magazine, not 
ours. Our magazine is Fourth International\ 

It alone is the theoretical organ of the Socialist Workers Party 
and of the Fourth International! 

Fourth International will fill out all the unexpired subscrip- 
tions of The New International. The subscribers of The New Inter' 
national are entitled to get what they paid for a theoretical organ 
of Bolshevism. We feel politically and morally responsible to give 
it to them by sending this magazine for the full time of the unex- 
pired subscriptions. 

We appeal to all readers who sympathize with the principles we 
stand for to help us maintain this magazine by subscriptions and 
contributions. 



FOURTH INTERNATIONAL STATEMENT 251 

FOURTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE RESOLUTION ON 
S.W.P. INTERNAL STRUGGLE 

(The following is one of the resolutions adopted by the May 
29-26 [1940] Emergency Conference of the Fourth International*) 

1. The recent split in the Socialist Workers Party, official sec- 
tion of the Fourth International in the United States, came as the 
result of an attempt by a petty-bourgeois minority to revise the 
fundamental program of the Fourth International on unconditional 
defense of the Soviet Union and the refusal of this minority to 
abide by the decisions of the majority in the convention called to 
decide the issues in dispute. 

2. In attempting to revise our program calling for unconditional 
defense of the Soviet Union without at the same time relating the 
proposed revision to the question of the class character of the Soviet 
Union, which the Fourth International has exhaustively analyzed 
as a degenerated workers' state, the petty-bourgeois opposition was 
guilty of a fundamental revision of the methodology of Marxism. 
On the part of James Burnham, ideological leader of the group, this 
attempt at revisionism was extended to complete rejection of the 
basic principles of scientific socialism as first propounded by Marx 
and Engels and subsequently developed by Lenin and Trotsky. 

3. The attempted revision of our fundamental principles was 
begun by the petty-bourgeois opposition immediately after the sign- 
ing of the Hitler-Stalin pact and gained impetus with the outbreak 
of the Second World War, thus clearly indicating that the force 
pushing the petty-bourgeois elements of the party into opposition 
to the Fourth International was the war pressure of the democratic 
bourgeoisie. 

4. Not only did the petty-bourgeois opposition attempt to revise 
the fundamental principles and political conclusions of the Fourth 
International, they attempted also to revise its Bolshevik organiza- 
tional methods. 

They participated in the April convention of the Socialist Work- 
ers Party, thus recognizing its authoritativeness and its validity. 
Nevertheless they rejected the majority decisions and in flagrant 
violation of democratic centralism launched an independent press 
in order to appeal to the public in its attack against the Fourth 
International. 



*Published in the Socialist Appeal, July 6, 1940. Ed. 



252 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

In view of the previous discussion which was conducted with the 
fullest democracy in accordance with the best tradition of Bol- 
shevism, and in view of the guarantees for the minority to continue 
its factional existence, to present its views to the party in an Inter- 
nal Bulletin even after the convention adjourned, and to hold posts 
in all the leading bodies regardless of their views and without penal- 
ty for their previous infractions of party discipline, this rejection of 
the convention decisions and their subsequent desertion from the 
party can be interpreted in no other way than as additional evidence 
of the petty-bourgeois character of the opposition. 

The Emergency Conference of the Fourth International endorses 
the action of the American section of the Fourth International in 
suspending all those who violated the decisions of its April con- 
vention. The Conference suggests to the N.C. of the S.W.P. that it 
set a definite time limit of one month after publication of Con- 
ference decisions within which the suspended members must sig- 
nify their acceptance of the convention decisions under penalty of 
unconditional expulsion from the party. 

5. The Emergency Conference of the Fourth International views 
the struggle of the proletarian majority in the Socialist Workers 
Party as a struggle in defense of the program of the Fourth Inter- 
national from the heights of its Marxist theory right down to its 
Bolshevik organizational principles. The Emergency Conference 
calls upon all the sections of the Fourth International to solidarize 
themselves with the Socialist Workers Party in this struggle. 



EXPULSION OF SHACHTMAN-ABERN GROUP 253 



THE EXPULSION OF THE SHACHTMAN-ABERN GROUP 

(Resolution adopted by the Plenum Conference of the S.W.P. 
held in Chicago, September 27 to 29, 1940*) 

By decision of the April 1940 convention of the party, the 
National Committee was instructed to take disciplinary action 
against the Burnham-Shachtman-Abern group if that group failed 
to abide by the decisions of the convention. 

In accordance with those instructions, the National Committee 
on April 22 suspended those members of the Burnham-Shachtman- 
Abern group who, following the convention, refused to accept the 
decisions of the convention. The National Committee by suspending 
rather than expelling the undisciplined members of the petty- 
bourgeois opposition, gave them an opportunity to reconsider their 
refusal to abide by convention decisions and to return to the party. 
In the course of the ensuing months a number of the suspended 
comrades have reconsidered their refusal, have declared their ad- 
herence in action to convention decisions while remaining free to 
defend their political views in subsequent party discussions, and 
have on this basis been restored to full membership rights. 

The Emergency Conference of the Fourth International, con- 
vened in May 1940, endorsed the decisions of the April convention 
of the S.W.P. It recommended to our party that only a limited 
period should remain in which suspended members would have 
time to reconsider their refusal. At the end of that period those still 
refusing to accept the convention decisions should be uncondition- 
ally expelled from the party. 

The period recommended by the Emergency Conference has 
now elapsed. Meanwhile, since their suspension, the Burnham- 
Shachtman-Abern group has undergone a political evolution which 
has widened the chasm between them and the Fourth International. 
Burnham has drawn the final conclusion to the position he elabo- 
rated for his group, and has openly deserted to the class enemy. 
Shachtman and Abern lead a petty-bourgeois semi-pacifist sect. 
After the passage of nearly six months it is, therefore, time to draw 
a conclusion to this question and put an end to any possible am- 
biguity or confusion. 

The plenary session of the National Committee declares that 



*Published in the Socialist Appeal for October 5, 1940. Ed. 



254 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

those suspended members who have not up to this time signified 
their willingness to abide by the decisions of the April convention 
are hereby unconditionally expelled from the party. 



APPENDIX: The War and 
Bureaucratic Conservatism 






EDITOR'S NOTE: 

This document was published in Internal Bulletin Vol. II, No. 26 
of the Socialist Workers Party (January 1940) as the organizational 
platform of the petty-bourgeois opposition. It is reprinted here for 
the information of the reader who may wish to check the conceptions 
of the petty-bourgeois opposition against the Leninist principles de- 
fended by the majority as elucidated in this volume. Similarly, "Science 
and Style," the chief theoretical work of the petty-bourgeois opposition, 
was printed as an appendix to In Defense o/ Marxism by Leon Trotsky. 



256 



APPENDIX: The War and 
Bureaucratic Conservatism 



1 THE ORIGIN OF THE PARTY CRISIS 

It will not be disputed that the party is now in the midst of a 
serious political crisis. All the familiar signs of such a crisis are 
present: a factional division in the leading committees; the growing 
extension of factional lines into the membership; the use of the harsh- 
est language in; designating opponents; the growing concentration of 
the energies of the party on the internal dispute to the grave detri- 
ment of constructive external activities; etc. The purpose of this docu- 
ment is to examine, analyze and explain the party crisis, and to 
indicate a solution of it. 

* * * 

"Whatever the background of an internal crisis, however much! it 
may be implicit in the general situation within a party, it very often 
comes first into the open in a leading committee. This is the case 
with the present crisis in our party, and the place and date of its 
breaking into the open can be precisely fixed. It occurred in the Resi- 
dent Political Committee at a special meeting held on the evening of 
the day when the German army invaded Poland; that is, the first day 
of the Second World War. Between the end of the July convention and 
that day there had been no crisis and no "crisis atmosphere" in the 
Resident Committee. From that day there has been an uninterrupted 
and deepening crisis. 

The crisis was precipitated by a statement and series of motions 
presented by Gould. Gould's statement condemned the sluggishness 
and inactivity of the Committee, and its failure to respond adequately 
to the war situation which had been signalled by the announcement 
of the German-Russian agreement and the subsequent mobilizations of 
the European powers. His motions, practical in character, called for 
a drastic re-orientation of the party's activities and attitude in order 
to meet the demands of the war: cancellation of all leaves; more fre- 
quent publication of the Appeal, and of pamphlets, leaflets and mani- 
festos; the holding of public meetings and demonstrations; the imme- 
diate convocation of a full plenum of the National Committee. He pro- 
posed that the agenda of the plenum should include an analysis of the 
war, the preparation of the party's organization to meet the war, and 
the "Russian question" in the light of the new developments. 

257 



258 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

Neither Cannon nor Shachtman was present at this meeting. Abern, 
who also could not be present, had expressed substantial agreement with 
Gould's proposals earlier that day. The response to Gould's statement 
and motions already showed, however, the emergence of a sharp divi- 
sion in the Committee. On the one side, Burnham, McKinney, Carter, 
Bern agreed in substance with Gould. On the other, except for Lewit, 
the other P.C. members agreed with the proposal for an early plenum, 
and, after some questioning, virtually all of Gould's proposals were 
adopted. The question of the plenum date was held over to another 
meeting that Cannon would attend. 

It is of the first importance to recall that the "Russian question" 
played a completely subordinate role at this meeting, as it had in all 
previous meetings, including those following the announcement of the 
German-Russian agreement. Gould did not motivate his demand for an 
immediate plenum only or mainly on the Russian issue. All of the Com- 
mittee, without exception, recognized that discussion of the Russian 
question ought properly to be part of the business of the plenum. And 
the Committee at that meeting voted unanimously to appoint Burnham 
to make a verbal report on the Russian question to the next meeting, 
as preparation for the plenum. 

At the next meeting, however, with Cannon present and under his 
pressure, there was a general reversal of position of all but the present 
minority members. Cannon, Lewit, Morrow, Gordon denounced Gould's 
contribution as "hysteria," "light-mindedness," "irresponsibility"; and 
contended that nothing in the situation called for "excitement" or 
drastic action. 

A knowledge of its beginning is of the very greatest importance in 
understanding the real meaning of the present crisis in the party. Let 
us sum up what this brief review discloses: 

A great event the greatest since the 'beginning of the Fourth 
Internationalist movement, the start of the Second World War, oc- 
curred. This great event precipitated a major crisis in our party, in 
the first instance in the leadership. One part of the leadership held 
that this great event called for a drastic change in the organization 
and activity of the party, and a change in our policy toward Stalinism 
in the war along the lines already dealt with by Johnson, Shachtman 
and Carter, prior to the German-Soviet pact, at the July convention 
of the Party. Another section (the majority of the Committee) held 
that no change was necessary. 

The view that the crisis broke out over the "Russian question" is 
entirely false, and is disproved by the record, the essential parts of 
which are cited in Shachtman's speech to the New York membership 
discussion meeting and all of which will be presented verbatim in the 
Internal Bulletin. The crisis broke out over the war, not over the 
Russian question. The Russian question entered and became acute, 
only as one phase of the more general question of the war. 

The first stage of the crisis was completed at the plenum of the 
National Committee. The intervening actions in the Resident Com- 
mittee have been reviewed in Shachtman's speech which, in written 
form, is before the membership, and we will not repeat the review 
here. We wish to emphasize only certain general features: 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 259 

The minority kept pressing along three lines: 1) for concrete 
answers to the specific questions being raised 'by the war in particular 
the Red Army's invasion of Poland, which was then the outstanding 
immediate issue; 2) for action on the reorganization of the party's 
structure and activities to meet the war; 3) for the opening of a 
discussion in the party, and the holding of a plenum. 

The majority, on its side: 1) gave no\ answers whatever neither 
right nor wrong to the specific questions, merely repeating day 
after day that "nothing had changed," "we had predicted everything 
in advance," and, when it came down to committee motions, simply 
"reaffirming the fundamental position of the Fourth International"; 
2) agreed in occasional words with the need of reorganization and 
did nothing whatever; 3) opposed for weeks the opening of a discus- 
sion, and delayed as long as possible the calling of a plenum. 

The plenum, when finally held, revolved around the Russian 
question and the reorganization of the Political Committee. The first 
session, held nominally on "the party and the war," was hardly more 
than a formality, and has besides led to nothing. At the plenum there 
were presented for vote: (1) the resolution of Shachtman, which char- 
acterized the war in its present phase and the role of Russia in the 
war, and drew the conclusions from this characterization as to our 
attitude in such cases as that of the Polish invasion; and (2) a motion 
of Cannon re-affirming our basic position, but not in any way char- 
acterizing either the war or the role of Russia or the Polish invasion. 

At approximately 2 a.m. on the Sunday of th,e plenum, the lengthy 
article of Trotsky, published subsequently in The New International, 
was made available to those Committee members who had not gone 
to bed. In spite of the fact that this document had not even been 
completely read by all Committee members during the course of that 
Sunday, that one of its pages was because of a technical slip missing, 
and that no one short of a super-man could have assimilated its 
meaning without serious and considerable study, it, together with Can- 
non's motion, was endorsed that afternoon by the plenum. The Political 
Committee was then reorganized, and provisions made for beginning 
a discussion in the party. 

* * * 

The present party crisis began under the impact of the war. 
Nevertheless, though this crisis is probably the most severe that has 
occurred during several years at least, many of its features are rec- 
ognizably similar to lesser crises of the past some of which, like 
the curious debate at the July convention over the "organizational 
secretary" were more or less carried to the party, others of which 
remained on the whole within leading committees. For one thing, 
there is roughly the same lineup of Committee members as in the 
lesser disputes of the past couple of years. Secondly, the same general 
sort of charges at once were made by both sides: the minority speaking 
of "routinism," "conservatism," "bureaucratism"; the majority of 
"irresponsibility," "light-mindedness," "petty-bourgeois instability," 
and so on. 

It is necessary to emphasize though not to over-emphasize this 
similarity to past disputes in order to indicate that although the 



260 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

present crisis was provoked by the war and takes its special character 
from that circumstance, it nevertheless has its roots in a past before 
the war began. 

2 THE WAR AND THE PARTY CRISIS 

Too much cannot be made of the fact that the war was the occa- 
sion of the present crisis. 

From one point of view, every comrade will naturally feel regret, 
disturbance and even dismay that when the war which we had so long 
been concerned with in preparation became a reality of the living 
present, our party did not meet it in a unified and positive manner 
but immediately plunged into a crisis. 

Justified as such a feeling may be, an objective and scientific 
view must however conclude that what has happened is what was 
most likely to happen, even apart from the particular tendencies that 
were present in our own party. Indeed, in a certain sense, the occur- 
rence of the crisis is understandable and might have been foretold: 
if the war had left things in the party just where they were, it would 
not necessarily have been a sign of health but perhaps of senility or 
death; even pain can be felt only by a living organism; it is a dead 
animal that makes no response whatever. Such a crisis affects the 
basically healthy and the basically unhealthy organism differently 
in that the latter is completely paralyzed by it while the former is 
able to emerge from the crisis without fatal consequences* 

If a party is not completely monolithic and totalitarian (even 
such a case may not be an exception), the occurrence of a major his- 
torical event of world-shaking importance is bound to produce a crisis 
of one or another degree. Different members react differently to the 
event. Some think big changes are called for, others not, some want 
to re-orient, others to continue along the previous directions; some 
want to expand boldly, others think it is necessary to contract cau- 
tiously. Whichever of the opposing views is right under the given 
conditions, clashes are sure to result. 

Wars and revolutions are the most decisive of all events in the 
lives of political parties. In 1914, the outbreak of the war had a 
shattering effect upon every working-class party in the world. In 
their bulk, the parties went over to their respective imperialists. 
But even within the left, ostensibly revolutionary wings, the Rus- 
sian Bolsheviks not excluded, the outbreak of the war provoked the 
most profound crises. In spite of all that had been written and fore- 
told, no one neither Lenin nor anyone else had anticipated the 
actual effect which the outbreak of the war would have. New group- 
ments and re-groupments were to be found within every party, the 
Bolshevik Party included. Nor was a definitive solution to the var- 
ious crises found in a day or a week. During the course of the entire 
war, even among those who stood committed to struggle against 
the war, a constant and changing debate went on as to just what 
struggle against the war meant concretely (Lenin, Liebknecht, Trotsky, 
Luxemburg, Debs . . .). 

The same phenomenon was to be observed again, in 1917, with 
the outbreak of the Russian revolution. In Russia itself, inside and 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 261 

outside the Bolshevik Party, the response to this event was not at all 
uniform, and a crisis or rather crises occurred. It was necessary 
for Lenin himself to throw overboard some of his own most cherished 
doctrines, and to meet on common ground many, such as Trotsky, who 
had up to then been not merely organizational opponents but even 
members of different organizations. 

The outbreak of the Second World War is not less but far more 
momentous in the history of mankind than the outbreak of the war 
of 1914. Indeed, in all probability the fate of mankind^ for centuries 
to come will be decided during this war and the period immediately 
following it. Small wonder, then, that in our own small group the 
war has a convulsive effect. 

We are, in reality, facing the question of whether we are prepared 
to meet the challenge of the war; and, perhaps, we could not face that 
question fully and openly before the war itself began. The war chal- 
lenges us every moment, without respite, politically: Can we answer 
concretely and rapidly (for the speed of events no longer gives us the 
luxury of delay) the political questions posed by the war? Can we 
explain our answers to others? Can we foresee, at least sufficiently, 
what is going to happen so that it will not take us by surprise? Can 
we give guidance and a program of action to ourselves and those 
others whom we can reach, every step of the way? And the war chal- 
lenges us also, every moment, organizationally: Can wei continue to 
exist as an organization, to act and to function? Can we find ways to 
make our program a reality in the minds of the workers, or at least 
of a significant section of the workers? Can we assimilate in our ranks 
the genuine and militant anti-war fighters, from whatever quarter, 
who are not now with us? Can we have we the will to develop the 
technical arid structural means to continue to live and to be active 
through the war itself? 

These questions are the background and foundation of the present 
dispute in the party, whatever form it may seem at a given moment 
to take. The Russian question became a center for a while not merely 
because of its own independent merits and it is a very serious ques- 
tion indeed but because in the first stage of the war the party lead- 
ership has shown itself incapable of meeting the political challenge 
of the war on the issues where that challenge first became acute 
namely on the issues raised by Russia's actions. But the organizational 
problems could not be left out, even temporarily,, because the leader- 
ship was simultaneously showing that it was not meeting the chal- 
lenge of the war organizationally. 

The issue, then, is the war. 

3 WHAT THE PRESENT CRISIS EXPRESSES 

In every serious political dispute, it is a necessary part of the 
duty of a responsible politician to define the political character of the 
various positions taken. If this is not done, we cannot understand 
the disputes politically, nor know what to do about them. We must 
decide whether a given position is "sectarian" or "centrist" or "re- 
formist" or "syndicalist" or whatever the case may be. 



262 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

It is not enough merely to say that your opponent is "wrong" 
everyone always thinks that his opponent is wrong. We must know 
just why and how, politically, he is wrong. And it is not enough to 
give merely an impressionistic or psychological or moralistic analysis 
to say that our opponent is "irresponsible" or "light-minded" or 
"unstable" or "wicked." Such psychological and ethical judgments 
might be true enough, but they would not aid us in a political defini- 
tion of his position. The central question can never be whether he is 
light-minded or inefficient, but into what kind of a political posi- 
tion has his light-mindedness or inefficiency led him. 

It is the contention of the opposition that the position which 
the Cannon group has taken in the present dispute is the manifes- 
tation or expression of a type of politics which can be 'best described 
as bureaucratic conservatism. We hold that this bureaucratic conserva- 
tive tendency has existed in the party for some time; that during the 
course of a number of years it gradually solidified, manifesting itself at 
first sporadically and then more and more continuously; and that the 
outbreak of the war crystallized this tendency and brought it to a head. 
The outstanding representative of this tendency in the party, we 
hold, is Comrade Cannon. The importance of Cannon, however, is not 
primarily as an individual but precisely as the embodiment of bureau- 
cratic conservatism; and when we refer to him in what follows we do 
so in no personal sense but simply as the outstanding representative 
of a tendency. 

The crisis in the party occurred fundamentally, it follows, because 
of the resistance by one section of the party, in the light of the war, 
to the solidification of the entire party on a bureaucratic conservative 
basis. The resolution of the crisis, therefore, must 'be sought in the 
definite ascendancy in the party as a whole of either bureaucratic 
conservatism or of the opposition which stands for party democracy 
and collective leadership. 

* * * 

How would it be possible to prove this political conclusion 
namely, that the Cannon faction is bureaucratic-conservative in its 
political character? This can be done chiefly in two ways: 

(1) First it is necessary to analyze carefully the immediate dis- 
pute, to determine whether "bureaucratic conservatism" is a correct 
description of the position and actions taken by the Cannon faction. 

(2) Such an analysis would, however, be by itself inconclusive. 
It would leave the possibility that the present position of Cannon is 
an exception or an "accident." In order to show that Cannon repre- 
sents a bureaucratic conservative tendency, it is further necessary 
to relate the position taken in the immediate dispute to other positions 
and actions of the Cannon group both during recent months and also 
in the past. If it is found that as a general rule in the past two-three 
years Cannon has shown himself to be not bureaucratic but demo- 
cratic, not conservative but dynamic, especially as against other com- 
rades, then the characterization of his present position becomes at 
least doubtful. If, on the other hand, we find numerous other examples 
showing Cannon to be bureaucratic and conservative, the characteriza- 
tion of his present position and of the tendency he represents is re- 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 263 

inforced and established. We propose to make the analysis and to give 
some of the evidence. Many members of the party, however, are in a 
position to come to conclusions- independently on the basis of their 
own experience. 

It should be remarked that the N.C. majority is under exactly the 
same obligations as the minority. If it is to 'be taken seriously the 
majority must make up its mind it has not done so up to the present 
about how it characterizes the minority politically. It must then 
attempt to prove its characterization both by an analysis of the posi- 
tion taken by the minority in the present dispute and by relating this 
position to other actions of the minority both at the present time 
and in the past. In a later section of this article, we; shall return to 
the unhappy troubles which the majority has had in trying to decide 
on a political characterization of the minority. 

4 THE NATURE OF BUREAUCRATIC CONSERVATISM 

It is a fact that from the outset in the present dispute there have 
been raised questions of "organization" and "regime." The majority 
has accused the minority of having been "responsible" for raising 
these questions, and in addition has made the mutually contradictory 
accusations that: (a) the minority has been using the question of 
"regime" as a cover for a false and revisionist position on the Russian 
question; and (b) the minority has 'been using the Russian question 
as a cover for an underhanded attack on the "regime." 

In his letter of October 22 to Comrade Stanley (Internal Bulletin, 
II, 2, p. 14), Comrade Crux writes as follows: 

... (4) You state in your letter that the main issue is not the 
Russian question but the "internal regime." I have heard this 
accusation often since almost the very beginning of the existence 
of our movement in the United States. The formulations varied a 
bit, the groupings too, but a number of comrades always remained 
in opposition to the "regime." They were, for example, against the 
entrance into the Socialist Party (not to go further into the past). 
However it immediately occurred that not the entrance was the 
"main issue" but the regime. Now the same formula is repeated in 
connection with the Russian question. 

(5) I, for my part, believe that the passage through the Social- 
ist Party was a salutary action for the whole development of our 
party and that the "regime" (or the leadership) which assured this 
passage was correct against the opposition which at that time 
represented the tendency of stagnation. 

... (9) Thus in two most important issues of the last period 
comrades dissatisfied with the "regime" have had in my opinion a 
false political attitude. The regime must be an instrument for cor- 
rect policy and not for false. When the incorrectness of their policy 
becomes clear, then its protagonists are often tempted to say that 
not this special issue is decisive but the general regime. During 
the development of the Left Opposition and the Fourth Interna- 
tional we opposed such substitutions hundreds of times. When 
Vereecken or Sneevliet or even Molinier were beaten on all their 
'Points of difference, they declared that the genuine trouble with the 
Fourth International is not this or that decision but the bad regime. 



264 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

A correct understanding of Cannon's bureaucratic conservatism 
will enable us to understand both bow and why the question of 
"organization" and "regime" immediately entered, and also the falsity 
of the accusations made by the majority on the one side and by Crux 
on the other. 

(1) The initiative in introducing the question of "regime" was 
taken not by the minority but by the Cannon faction. On September 
5 Burnham submitted to the Political Committee a resolution on the 
character of the war (included in Internal Bulletin, II, 2). In sending 
copies of this resolution to members of the N.C., Cannon accompanied 
it with a letter signed by himself. This letter did not deal essentially 
with the political issues raised by Burnham, but made a sharp organi- 
zational attack, contending that the raising of the issues was irre- 
sponsible and scandalous and that the party could not afford the 
"luxury" of a discussion. This letter was only a pale written reflection 
of the "organizational" denunciations of the minority which were 
being made at Committee meetings. The unprincipled and bureaucratic 
manner of reorganizing the P.C. at the plenum, again on the majority's 
initiative, brought the "organization question" to the forefront. Gold- 
man's article in Internal Bulletin, II, 1, contains a sharp organizational 
attack on the minority, on the usual personal-psychological plane. The 
first internal discussion meeting was held in Newark, a few days 
after the plenum; there, Weber, speaking for the majority, made a 
sharp organizational attack on the minority in his opening report. 
When Cannon subsequently accused Shachtman, at the New York mem- 
bership meeting, of "dragging in" the organization question, he, was 
simply falsifying the facts that he was well acquainted with. On the 
basis of these facts. Comrade Crux is quite wrong in the impression 
and argument incorporated in his letter. 

The record is unambiguous: the majority was the "aggressor" in 
pushing forward the organization question, the question of "regime" 
as has repeatedly been the case in lesser incidents of the past. We do 
not make our decisions here, any more than in the case of war, on the 
basis of who is the aggressor party. The minority does not object to 
or condemn the majority for taking the initiative in raising questions 
of regime (though it does condemn misrepresentations about it). On 
the contrary, the minority believes that this flowed naturally from 
the real nature of the dispute. 

(2) It is difficult to understand with what motivation Crux tries 
to draw an analogy between the present dispute and that over entrance 
into the Socialist Party. Leaving aside the fact that the latter dispute 
was some years in the past (1934-35), and without discussing here the 
issue involved, the composition of the present opposition does not in 
the least coincide with that of the opposition to entry. Indeed, the pres- 
ent opposition includes many of the most conspicuous leaders in the 
"{pro-entry" group, including Shachtman and Carter and Burnham 
who first posed the perspective of an S.P. orientation, as well as many 
comrades who were not even in the Fourth Internationalist movement 
in those years (among them the chief "pro-entryists" in the Socialist 
Party itself, Erber, Draper, etc.). On the other hand, prominent among 
the present Cannon group are Weber, for long the accepted theoretical 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 265 

leader of the "anti-entryists," and the one who from any point of view 
did not play the least shabby role of all participants in the dispute of 
those years; and Goldman, whose role in the dispute over entry into 
the S.P. was not very politely characterized, in its time, by leaders of 
both the majority and the minority. The only objective meaning which 
reference to this past dispute can have today is to try to "smear" the 
present opposition, or at least some comrades of it, by arbitrary, sterile 
and irrelevant hints drawn from a quite different past. 

The Cannon group has been concentrating, in "defense" of its 
political position, upon criticisms and even sharp polemical attacks 
made in the past by some members of the present minority against 
others, particularly against Comrade Abern. How much validity and 
merit are contained in the quotations from the past factional docu- 
ments? How much clarity do they introduce into the present political 
dispute? With due regard for proportions, .exactly as much as in the case 
of the "Old Bolsheviks" who condemned Lenin and Trotsky for uniting 
in the political disputes of 1917 by quotations from the violent polemical 
attacks the two leaders had directed at each other before the war and 
on the very eve of the March revolution; exactly as much as in the 
case of the "Triumvirate" who condemned the Moscow Opposition in 
1923 with arguments drawn from the same quotations; exactly as much 
as in the case of the Stalinists who condemned the union of the Trot- 
skyist and Zinovievist groups in 1926 on the basis of quotations from 
the polemical attacks the two groups had made on each other up to 1926. 

(3) Crux' references to "Vereecken, Sneevliet and Molinier" are 
even more extraordinary. Quite apart from their proved loyalty to the 
Fourth International, all the members of the present opposition have 
consistently been in the forefront of /the defense of the Fourth Inter- 
national against Vereecken, Sneevliet and Molinier. The listing of Moli- 
nier is particularly inappropriate, since for a considerable period it 
was Comrade Crux who in many respects supported Molinier against 
criticisms some of which were levelled by leaders of the present minority 

(Shachtman, Carter, Abern). 

(4) Nor can we agree in general with the mechanical relationship 
which the majority constantly alleges to hold between "good regime" 
and "correct policy." The majority reasons as follows: good regime 
automatically follows from correct policy; if the policy is correct, then 
the regime which tries to carry through that policy is also correct. 
Though normally (not at all invariably) regime is or should be properly 
subordinated to policy, the automatic and necessary relationship be- 
tween the two is a phantom of the imagination, and a dangerous 
phantom at that. 

Assuming a correct policy, it is not merely possible, but it frequently 
happens, that this policy is carried through in a bad or false organiza- 
tionar manner: e.g., lureaucrutically, by manipulation of the "appara- 
tus," by arbitrary fiat, by removals from posts or expulsions, without 
education of the membership to the correctness of the policy, etc. When 
this occurs (and there are hundreds of examples in political history: 
the records of the Frey group in Austria and the Molinier group in 
France are but two instances in the history of the Left Opposition 
alone), a certain paradox arises within the given organization, especial- 



266 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

ly acute for those who agree with the policy 'but object to the "meth- 
ods." Ideally and in the abstract, this paradox can be solved by separat- 
ing the two questions (policy and regime) carefully, and by supporting 
the policy but taking steps to alter the regime and methods. In practice 
the solution is not so simple, since the bureaucratic regime exploits its 
allegedly correct (or rather generally false) policy to uphold its regime 
and methods. Indeed, a bureaucratic regime, seeing its methods about 
to be attacked, often provokes a political dispute to turn aside the 
organizational attack. No absolute rule can be given in advance for 
meeting these problems in practice. At a particular time, the failure 
to alter the regime may have a more damaging long-term effect even 
than the adoption, temporarily, of a false or inadequate policy, espe- 
cially in those cases where policy is only a secondary consideration in 
the mind of the regime. 

We make these remarks not to suggest that the majority has in 
the present a correct policy which it most certainly does not have, 
but to combat the loose and empty formalism of the conception that 
regime and policy are mechanically, necessarily and automatically 
united, and particularly against the conception that regime flows 
directly and harmoniously from policy. 

(5) However, bureaucratic conservatism is unique among all po- 
litical tendencies in precisely the relation that holds, in its case, be- 
tween regime and policy. In its case, there is a necessary relation be- 
tween regime and policy; and this relation is the reverse of the normal. 
In the case of bureaucratic conservatism, policy is subordinated to re- 
gime, not the other way around. Let us see what this means. 

Bureaucratic conservatism is, put crudely and bluntly, apparatus 
politics. Its chief base, in any organization or movement, large or small, 
is the "apparatus." Objectively considered, the goal and purpose and 
aim of a bureaucratic conservative tendency is to preserve itself. To 
this aim all else is, in the last analysis, subordinated. To this aim, 
policy and political issues are subordinated. 

It is for this reason that the policies adopted by the bureaucratic 
conservative tendency tend always toward being conservative. It is the 
defender of the status quo until the point where its own preserva- 
tion becomes incompatible with the preservation of the status quo. Nor- 
mally a bold move, an abrupt change, a reorientation, the intrusion of 
something new, upset things as they are: that is, tend to undermine 
the established regime. That is why, to Cannon and his central core 
of supporters, those who propose bold and new steps, changes and re- 
orientations, are almost invariably characterized out of hand, without 
even consideration or discussion, as "irresponsible," "light-minded," 
"yielding to pressure," etc. 

This is the reason, moreover, why in a dispute with Cannon 
especially of late years the "organizational question" always makes its 
appearance almost at the start, from one side or the other. To imagine, 
as does Crux, that this is due to an "incurable habit" of the incorri- 
gible comrades who opposed S.P. entry, is mistaken, for it is at var- 
iance with the facts. As a matter of fact, Abern, who with Weber led 
the fight against entry, has, during the past three years up to the out- 
break of the present dispute, gone to the most extreme lengths to 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 267 

avoid all disputes and to quiet them when they arose; it was invar- 
iably others, and usually those who fought /or entry, who have been 
concerned in the disputes of these years. 

The fact is that most if not all of the leaders of the minority 
have proceeded in the past period from the standpoint that compared 
with risking the precipitation of a sharp struggle in the party, a 
conciliatory attitude and even silence on a whole series of questions in 
dispute among the leadership are the "lesser evil." Hence the refusal 
to take a number of disputed questions to the membership, a refusal 
that often involved keeping the membership uninformed about what 
they had a right to know. This is the fact, regardless of whether the 
leaders of the minority, singly or collectively, were right or wrong 
in their manner of dealing with past disagreements in the National 
Committee. It is this which, moreover, explains the obscure and per- 
plexing character of the discussion at the last party convention over 
the question of the "organization department." If the discussion is 
now taking place in the ranks of the party in the form of a factional 
fight, the reason for it is not to be sought in the "incurable habits" of 
this or that comrade or group, but precisely in the fact of the out- 
break of the war, the urgent and immensely important 'problems it 
raised, and the serious character of the disagreement over the an- 
swers that must be given to these problems. Only a disagreement over 
such vital questions as contrasted with disagreements over relatively 
secondary matters in the past could impel the comrades of the mi- 
nority to present the questions, insoluble in the leadership itself, for 
fundamental decision by the membership. 

To imagine, as Crux does, that oppositions revert to the "organ- 
ization question" when "the incorrectness of their policy 'becomes 
clear" is likewise incorrect, at variance with the facts. In the first 
place, the organization question always enters before it is in the least 
"clear" whose policy is false (in the present dispute it is certainly not 
clear* either to the minority of the N.C. or to the party membership 
that its position is false: the fact is that every day more of the party 
thinks it correct). 

No, here as elsewhere we must seek a 'political explanation for 
the speedy appearance of the organization question in every dispute. 
And that explanation is found in the political character of the Can- 
non faction, in the fact that it is a bureaucratic conservative tendency, 
a tendency for which every serious political proposal with which it 
differs (and this includes virtually all proposals which involve some- 
thing new) is interpreted as an attack on its regime. It replies always 
by raising, openly or implicitly, the question of "confidence." Its tone 
takes on the bitterness of the apparatus defending its control of 
the leadership. 

Let us give two examples here to concretize the point we have 
been making: 

(A) Comrade Goldman is a prominent supporter of Cannon. He 
himself has often declared that he supports the Cannon leadership 
and regime, independently of agreement or disagreement on policies. 
During the course of the present dispute, when the question of the 
invasion of Poland by the Red Army was before the P.C., Goldman 



268 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

made a motion supporting and approving the invasion. He alone 
voted for this motion. Nevertheless, during this entire period, Goldman 
supported Cannon in general, and acted as a chief spokesman for the 
majority. At the plenum, Goldman voted for both the Cannon political 
and the organizational motions, in spite of the fact that the political 
motions conflicted flatly with his own expressed opinion. He pub- 
lished an article in the Internal Bulletin (II, 1) among other things, 
to "explain" his change in politics. This explanation (dealt with by 
Shachtman in Bulletin II, 3) is so feeble as to deceive no one. The 
fact is that Goldman, caught in the trap of the bureaucratic conserva- 
tive group, was compelled to subordinate his politics to his defense of 
the regime. Exactly the same procedure was followed later by Gold- 
man on his slogan for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Finland 
suppressed by Goldman when the faction meeting voted it down. 
(B) At the convention, a freely elected convention committee 
voted by a large majority to include a provision for an "organizational 
department" in the resolution on organization to be presented to the 
convention. In meetings of the ex-N.C. held during the convention, 
Cannon objected to this plan. His objections were based not in the 
least upon the merits of the proposal itself, but because he thought he 
saw in it some kind of "plot," a conspiracy to get a stranglehold on 
the "apparatus," to put a "commissar" in the National Office, etc. 
(This interpretation was, in passing, in the highest degree fantastic 
and typical. The plan was presented quite spontaneously by several 
comrades in the convention committee, most particularly by Comrade 
Weiss, a Cannonite supporter, and in the light of their experience 
recommended itself at once to virtually all committee members.) To 
remove these absurd suspicions, Shachtman, Burnham, and others 
who favored the plan on its merits pledged themselves (as they did 
later on the convention floor) to vote for any nominee to the post of 
"organization secretary" who would be nominated by Cannon (express- 
ing as their own opinion that Comrade "Smith" of Minneapolis, a 
well-known Cannon supporter, would be the best qualified man for 
the job). Cannon was not at all content. He turned this comparatively 
simple question which could easily have been settled quietly on its 
merits, and about which a difference of opinion was certainly legiti- 
mate and to be expected into what parliamentarians call a "question 
of confidence." To support the "org. dep." was to attack the regime 
and the leadership. No one would get away with such an under- 
handed attack; he would go to bat on the convention floor if the plan 
were persisted in. And then, to underline the point that it was a 
"question of confidence," Cannon made the usual cheap announcement 
of a Chamberlain or a Norman Thomas or any bureaucrat under simi- 
lar conditions: he told the N.C. that his term of office as National 
Secretary had expired at the convention and that he was not a candi- 
date for re-election. In other words: play my way, or I quit. This 
bluster was enough to whip his faction into line, even those who 
(like Comrade Weiss) had, voting on the merits of the issue, supported 
the plan in the convention committee. Needless to say, nothing was 
heard subsequent to the convention about the resignation and with- 
drawal from further service as national secretary. 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 269 

From the point of view of the minority, therefore, it is not in 
the ordinary sense that it raises the question of "regime." When we 
call the Cannon faction "bureaucratic conservative," we are! giving a 
political characterization. But this particular political tendency mani- 
fests itself at one and the same time as conservative in its politics, 
and bureaucratic in its regime these are the two sides of the same coin. 

If we keep these conceptions clearly in mind, we shall find them a 
key to the understanding of the Cannon tendency, not merely in the 
case of the present dispute, but in its role in the movement generally. 

5 BUREAUCRATIC CONSERVATISM IN ACTION 

That the N.C. majority has manifested bureaucratic conservatism 
in the present dispute is so obvious that the merest recital of the facts 
suffices to prove it. 

First, as to the conservatism of its policy: Conservatism in policy 
can be shown in either of two different ways either by a failure to 
change a past policy when changes in events call for such a change, 
or by a failure to apply concretely a general position which itself may 
still be correct in its general form. The former type is more easily 
recognized than the latter. When, after the consolidation of power by 
Hitler, revolutionists refused to change the earlier policy of "working 
as a faction of the Comintern" to the policy of building a new party, 
they were displaying the first type of conservatism. The second type 
can be equally fatal for the progress of the movement. For example, a 
given situation might call imperiously for the application of a united 
front tactic toward some particular organization. This application might 
be opposed conservatively by those who would not at all call into ques- 
tion the "general policy" of the united front; indeed, these would 
probably 'be just the ones who would most solemnly "reaffirm" the 
"fundamental position" of the International on the united front. 

What has been the position of the N.C. majority on the actual ques- 
tions which have been before the party, the questions, namely, of the 
character of the war, the character of the role of the Red Army in the 
present stage of the war, the characterization of the Red Army's and 
Russia's intervention in Poland, the Baltics, Finland, etc.? As a matter 
of fact, no one can answer this question with any assurance for the 
simple reason that the majority has had no position at all! Startling 
as this may seem, it is the undiluted truth. The majority has had no 
position on the most momentous events in the history of our movement 
and perhaps of mankind. 

Does anyone doubt this? Then let him tell us what the position 
has been. The record of the committee speaks clearly for itself. The ma- 
jority has some general and abstract remarks in its motions about "the 
class character of the Soviet state" and about "reaffirming our funda- 
mental position on the defense of the Soviet Union." But to this day it 
has not answered the actual questions. To this day it has not charac- 
terized the Polish invasion, or the Baltic adventures or the moves 
toward Finland. To this day it has not characterized the present war, 
or the role of Russia in the war. To this day it has not even stated 
whether in the case of the invasion of Poland or similar threatened 
invasions we are for the "unconditional defense" of the Red Army. For 



270 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

the position it is obligated to state as a group, as the leadership (major- 
ity) of the party, it substitutes a number of individual positions, 
mutually exclusive and contradictory.* 

It has not answered these questions. Much less has it given any 
concrete guidance for the future. It does not say what we should be 
telling the Finnish workers and soldiers, or the Red Army soldiers fac- 
ing the invasion of Finland. For weeks it prevented even mention of 
India and the relation of Russia to India in the Appeal; and of course 
has had nothing to say about India itself. And while the minority was 
denounced for raising the "remote" question of India, it was peremptorily 
asked to state its position on the defense of Odessa from a British 
warship going through the Dardanelles and up the Black Sea, presuma- 
bly on the grounds that this was. indeed the immediate and not a "re- 
mote" question. Events finally compelled the majority to permit the 
minority to raise, in part, the Indian question-though this question 
is at least as burning as any other in connection with the present phase 
of the war. No, the majority has done nothing whatever save to re- 
affirm "fundamentals." 

Now the minority contends that the war which is going on is not 
entirely the war that we foresaw and that the role of Russia in it is 
not what we expected; and therefore that we must make new analyses 
related to the reality of today's events and give new answers, and that 
among other things we must also revise our slogan of "unconditional 
defense of the Soviet Union." The minority, concretely and clearly, has 
made the new analyses, given new answers, and proposed the revision 
of the slogan. This again is why we say that the policy of the majority 
has been conservative. 

But let us assume, for a moment, that the minority is wrong, and 
that the old position and analysis are correct. Even with that assump- 
tion, the policy of the majority is revealed as starkly conservative 
conservative in the second sense explained above. The majority was un- 
able to apply the general position to the concrete events, and it is 
therefore reduced to the politics of mumbo-jumbo. 

But it is no less clear that the majority has acted 'bureaucratically 
in the present dispute. This may be unambiguously shown in four ways: 



* Although this was written before the actual invasion of Finland, 
the charge is not invalidated but substantially confirmed by the actions 
of the majority. As is shown in more detail in our document on the 
Russian question, the Cannon group, characteristically, evaded taking 
a clear-cut position on the invasion by the device of taking several 
positions, containing mutually contradictory lines of policy, and each 
succeeding position being adopted with a renunciation of those it suc- 
ceeded. Under pressure of the minority and the membership as a whole, 
the Cannon group felt compelled to do in the case of Finland what it 
denounced as superfluous in the case of Poland, that is, to formulate a 
specific position on the concrete situation. In actuality, however, it re- 
mained true to itself. On Poland it said nothing and therefore its 
"position" could be and was all things to all men. On Finland, it says 
several different things in several different documents (all written 
within a week or ten days!) so that its "position" can again be and is 
all things to all men. 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 271 

(a) At the time of the Hitler-Stalin pact and the beginning of the 
war crisis, it was unanimously recognized by the committee that at 
the very least a "reexamination" of our position was called for in the 
light of the new events. Nevertheless, for weeks, the majority bitterly 
opposed any party discussion, and delayed as long as possible the call- 
ing even of an N.C. plenum in spite of the fact that the need for a 
discussion and the wish of the membership for it became daily more 
apparent. This attitude meant nothing else than an attempt to solve 
the political difficulties within the "apparatus," to solve them bureau- 
cratically. (After the discussion was finally forced by the minority, 
Cannon, of course, changed his tune, and said that a "discussion was 
imperatively required in order to clarify the membership" but, he 
added, "fruitful" discussion could only be "on the character of the 
Russian state.") 

(b) During the entire first period of the dispute, the majority (in 
public and private, in committee and out) hurled charges of "irrespon- 
sibility," "light-mindedness," "instability" at the opposition, and con- 
demned it for "throwing the party into a crisis on the eve of war," 
while at the same time making no reply whatever to the opposition on 
the political points it raised. We have here the classic response of the 
bureaucrat to political criticism: no answer to the criticism, charges of 
irresponsibility and disruption against the critic (for further analysis 
of this attitude, see Trotsky's article on the P.S.O.P. in the October 
1939 New International). 

In the few weeks elapsing since the opening of the discussion, with 
the contending groups having scarcely had the opportunity to state 
their positions fully before the membership in other words, with the 
discussion really in its first stages the Cannon faction has enormously 
sharpened the atmosphere with the most violent attacks ever known 
in our eleven years of existence. Bureaucratic disloyalty and misrepre- 
sentation of an opponent is developing in exact proportion to the 
majority's inability to give a political defense of its political position. 
Every day now sees increasing attempts by the majority to displace 
the axis of the discussion from the political and organizational dispute 
(the organizational questions involved are in this case also political 
questions), to questions of personalities and the type of abuse known 
to us up to now only from the records of the Stalinist campaign against 
the Russian Opposition. It is not so much the "Russian question" and 
the "question of the party regime" that is discussed by Cannon now 
the ground under his feet is too weak for that but Abern's personal 
record, Burnham's personal record, and the like. It is not a political 
characterization that the Cannon group gives of the opposition; it sub- 
stitutes for that such characterizations as "traitors," "scabs and strike- 
breakers," "Finland's Foreign Legion," "enemies of the Soviet 
Union," "agents of imperialism." The tone and style fit the regime, and 
while it is unprecedented in our movement, it has its precedent in the 
Stalinist party. 

(c) When the specific problem of characterizing the Red Army's 
invasion of Poland came before the P.C., the majority passed Cannon's 
motion which gave no answer to the specific problem but merely "re- 
affirmed the fundamental position." It then instructed Cannon to pre- 



272 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

pare an article for the Appeal on the invasion. But it had already been 
shown that on the alleged basis of the, "fundamental position," three 
entirely different positions on the Polish invasion had been held: ap- 
proval of the invasion, disapproval, and "explanation" without either 
approval or disapproval. This fact proves that the action of the majority 
here was bureaucratic. It did not have the committee (or even itself) 
take a position. Instead, it turned a blank check over to Gannon, and 
said in effect whatever you write is the position. Such a procedure, 
if there is any serious issue in dispute, is always bureaucratic. The 
democratic procedure must always be to have the proper party body 
make the decision, and then assign someone to carry out not to make 
the decision. 

(d) The reorganization of the P.C. at the plenum was bureaucratic. 
Cannon has denied this charge, claiming that the reorganization was 
entirely proper. He argues as follows: There was a political dispute; 
we had a majority, and therefore we had to construct a P.C. majority 
to carry out our politics. He further argues: Our majority was 16 to 9 
in the N.C.; in the new P.C. our majority, when the youth representa- 
tive is included, is 8 to 4, a close and reasonable approximation of 
the N.C. majority. 

The minority does not at all deny the right of those who have 
a political majority to elect committees in accordance with the majority, 
nor does it deny that Cannon had an N.C. majority. It nevertheless 
maintains the charge that Cannon's reorganization of the P.C. was 
bureaucratic. Let us examine the facts. 

On what political basis does Cannon establish his majority? 
Does he establish it on the basis of those at the plenum who voted 
against the Shachtman resolution? If so, the vote was 14 to 11, not 
16 to 9. 

Or does he (as would seem more plausible) establish his majority 
on the basis of those who voted for his motion of "reaffirming the 
fundamental position." This would get him his 16 to 9 majority. But in 
this case, what happened to Erber, McKinney 1 and Abern (who voted 
for his motion) when the problem of constructing the new P.C. was 
decided? The P.C. slate was drawn up by a faction meeting; neither 
Erber, McKinney nor Abern was present at that meeting; none of 
them had any voice in selecting the new P.C. Why not? Will Cannon 
answer: Because by their vote also for the Shachtman motion, they 
showed "instability," that they could not carry out the line "firmly." 
(On what basis, in passing, is Cannon the only judge of "stability" 
and the proper way of interpreting the fundamental position? On 
what basis is Goldman, who participated in the caucus, even though 
his views on the disputed question were rejected unanimously, more 
"stable" and "firm" on the issue in dispute then, say, Abern?) But 
if so, Cannon cannot have it both ways. He cannot count his majority 
on one basis, and select the personnel of his P.C. on another. To b@ 
consistent, he would either have had to propose at the least a bloc with 
Erber, Abern and McKinney in selecting the new P.C.; or he would 
have had to organize the P.C. on a different basis, namely, on the 
vote on the Shachtman resolution. This he could not do without 
reducing his alleged majority to 14-11. But he could not have done 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 273 

it even then for the simple reason that Cannon had no motion of his 
own in real opposition to Shachtman's motion which would have had 
to be a motion including a specific characterization of the Polish 
invasion. 

All this would have had to follow if Cannon had proceeded on a 
democratic and principled 'basis. In reality he proceeded on a clique 
basis, calling his caucus meeting and constructing his P.C. not on any 
political foundation, but solely on the basis of assured membership in 
his bureaucratic conservative clique. For this reason, naturally, Erber, 
Abern and McKinney were excluded even though, in the political ra- 
tionalizations which were cooked up later, their votes were counted as 
part of the "justification" for the lineup of the new P.O.* 

* * * 

Was this series of incidents an accident, something extraordinary 
and unusual? Not in the least: it is normal and typical. But before 
citing other examples of the mode of operation of the Cannon 1 clique, 
we wish to clear up an apparent but only apparent difficulty in our 
argument. 



*Let us dispose in passing of the Cannonite contention that the 
minority is an "unprincipled bloc." This contention stands or falls on 
the claim that Abern and others voted for Cannon's plenum motion on 
the Russian question but did not join with Cannon against the minority; 
and further that these comrades voted for the Cannon motion in favor 
of "unconditional defense" and also for the Shachtman resolution in 
favor of revising that slogan. The facts are these: Abern did vote for 
the Cannon motion, but added a statement making clear the meaning 
of his vote. A loyal reading and interpretation of this statement shows 
that Abern voted for that motion only in the sense of a reaffirmation 
of the official party position that the Soviet Union is a "degenerated 
workers' state, whose bas*ic structure must be defended by the Russian 
and international proletariat against world imperialism and against the 
anti-Soviet bureaucracy of Stalinism." His vote was not, however, an 
endorsement of the at best ambiguous conception of the slogan of 
"unconditional defense" which is interpreted by the majority in several 
mutually contradictory ways, and which, at the plenum, was used by 
the majority as a substitute for a position on the concrete events facing 
us. Abern's statement added: "With this basic evaluation I find no 
contradiction in the resolution of Shachtman which I accept in its 
essentials as an interpretation or analysis of specific current issues 
therein cited, not invalidating the basic party position. I am ready to 
leave to the next period the enfoldment or otherwise of the interpreta- 
tions or implications asserted by some comrades here as to the 'bridge' 
character of the Shachtman resolution, or whether it stands episodically 
by itself; and to make my judgment accordingly on the merits of any 
issue." No wonder the Cannonites have carefully avoided quoting this 
statement! It should be added, finally, that the "next period" referred 
to in the Abern statement has showed more clearly that more than 
an "episodic" difference was involved; that ouri old formula does re- 
quire revision, as the Shachtman plenum resolution proposed, if only 
because the Cannon faction employed and interpreted it in defense of 
an indefensible line (or variety of lines) which is essentially a political 
capitulation to Stalinism. Erber and McKinney, in voting for the Can- 
non motion, also subscribed to the Abern statement. 



274 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

6 WHAT HIDES THE ROLE OF THE CANNON CLIQUE 

If our contention is true namely that the Cannon faction repre- 
sents a bureaucratic conservative tendency in the party, and operates 
as a clique it would seem, offhand, that this ought to be obvious 
to nearly every member of the party. If this is indeed the case, and if 
it has been going on to one or another degree for some years, why 
doesn't everyone know about it? Now many comrades, including not 
a few who are members of the Cannon faction, do know about it; and, 
especially when speaking "off the record," show that they have no 
illusions. But it is still true that there are sections of the party to 
whom our charges will come as a surprise, and will even seem to be 
unfounded. 

There are three chief factors which have obscured the role of 
the Cannon faction: 

(1) The first is that Cannon, upon all occasions without excep- 
tion, accepts the politics of Trotsky, accepts them immediately and 
without question. Since Trotsky's politics are, as a rule, correct and 
progressive, this tends often to make Cannon's politics appear correct 
and progressive that is, the opposite of conservative. 

If this is the case (and no one will seriously dispute it) it might 
seem to refute, in itself, our contention that the Cannon tendency is 
conservative, unless we are saying that Trotsky's politics in general 
are also conservative. 

Everyone knows that comrade Trotsky is the outstanding theo- 
retical leader of the Fourth International. It is entirely proper that 
every revolutionist should give the maximum weight to his opinions: 
other things being equal, more weight than to those of any other 
individual. Nine times out of ten, perhaps ninety-nine times out of 
a hundred, we find ourselves on the right course when we take the 
course mapped out 'by Trotsky. It would be superfluous to elaborate 
upon the irreplaceable contributions he has made to the international 
Bolshevik-Leninist movement for more than fifteen years, and for 
a long time before then. Even if less known, his contributions to the 
solution of theoretical, immediately political and internal problems 
of the American movement have beenj none the less solid. We reject 
with the contempt it deserves that Philistine protestation of "inde- 
pendence from Trotsky" which is calculated to promote "independence" 
from the Fourth International and the principles of revolutionary 
Marxism. At the same time, we can have nothing in common with the 
theoretical and political slothfulness which, under cover of hypocritical 
humility, seeks to counterpose and therefore replace serious political 
reflection and discussion of the membership and leadership with refer- 
ences to Trotsky's position and demagogical invocations of his right- 
fully enjoyed authority. The Fourth International has not the slightest 
ground for "apologizing" for its outstanding leader, who, alone among 
the older generation of the world movement, has consistently defended 
the principles of revolutionary internationalism. Nevertheless, there 
are ways and ways of seeking and accepting advice. 

For a genuine revolutionary politician, the thought of another 
cannot be a substitute for his own thoughts; the politics of another a 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 275 

substitute for politics of his own regardless of| who that other may 
be. The ideas of another can be correctly accepted) only intelligently, 
only critically. Otherwise, what we have is not a policy really under- 
stood and capable of being utilized as a guide to action, but merely 
the ceremonial repetition of phrases. 

For the Cannon faction, Trotsky's politics function precisely as 
a substitute for politics of their own. As a bureaucratic conservative 
group, they merely utilize Trotsky's politics, as they utilize politics 
in general, as an instrument of their regime. Thus, a policy, which as 
advocated by Trotsky has a progressive character, takes) on a sterile 
and conservative coloration in their hands. 

This is not at all a psychological comment, but a political judg- 
ment; and it can be demonstrated by the evidence. 

Consider the way (already described) in which the majority at 
the plenum "endorsed" the long article on the "Russian question." 
Some of them had not even read it in its entirety; none of them could 
possibly have studied and assimilated it, and the complete document 
was not even on hand. Wlhat had happened? They had arrived at the 
plenum with their faction, their clique, but without a policy. A policy 
dropped into their laps (fortunate for them that it was not a day or 
two late) and they snatched it at once as a substitute for their own 
inability to develop a policy, as a "political justification" for the 
clique which they already had, though without any political basis. 

But, it might be argued, whatever the lacks of the past, they 
finally got a "correct" policy. This does not in the least follow, even 
if Trotsky's policy is considered correct. Their endorsement of Trot- 
sky's policy, here as usual during the past couple of years at least is 
essentially formal, verbal, ritualistic. (For in reality, let us repeat 
again, the policy is the instrument of the regime, not vice versa.) Being 
adopted as a substitute, without intelligent examination, without crit- 
ical thought, the Cannon faction does not in reality understand it 
their own avowed policy from then on nor know how to apply it in 
the concrete. 

The ideas and theories of Trotsky, like the theories of revolu- 
tionary Marxism in general, are not a dogma or a ritual but a guide 
to action. Their formal acceptance, however correct by itself, does 
not eliminate the need of applying them to concrete situations and 
problems. To repeat a thousand times that we stand by the fundamen- 
tals of Marxism is no answer to urgent questions posed by specific 
instances of the class struggle; indeed, very often it is a way of evad- 
ing an answer. To repeat a thousand times that we are followers of 
Trotsky is no answer to the question of what course the leadership 
proposes that the party shall follow in a given case, or what the party 
proposes that the workers shall follow. 

Nothing could be clearer than this during the present dispute. 
Granted their policy (that is, Trotsky's policy) in the abstract, in 
general, they are unable to use it for anything but the purposes of 
internal polemic. Neither in committee nor in their public writings 
and speeches have they made a single illuminating analysis of a single 
concrete event; they have made no predictions, suggested no guidance 



276 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

whatever. They merely repeat, parrot-like, in their own phrasing and 
rhetoric, the ideas already presented by Trotsky. 

Here, too, there is nothing exceptional. The same situation exactly 
obtained in the case of the "Transition Program" adopted at the N.C. 
plenum held in the spring of 1938. Though many of the N.C. members, 
as usual, had not even read the entire document; though it was in 
many parts very difficult to understand; Cannon insisted on an im- 
mediate vote of endorsement with the threat to "ride roughshod" (as 
he put it) over anyone who hesitated. But, again, the Program was, 
and remained, for Cannon not a policy but a substitute for a policy. 
Endorsement meant not understanding, not the effort to apply the 
policy in the concrete life of the movement, but simply the ritualistic 
nod of agreement with its words. Shachtman, Burnham and others, 
including Goldman at that time, insisted that it meant nothing merely 
to "accept" the transition program; that in incorporating it into the 
life of our own party, distinction would have to be made between 
those parts of it which were directly applicable to the United States, 
and those parts which were not, between those slogans which were of 
a general propagandists and educational character and those suitable 
for immediate agitational uses; and they insisted further that the 
concrete meaning of many of the general concepts of the program had 
to be sought in terms of living developments in this country. For Can- 
non, the test of the true believer was whether he made the sign of the 
cross with proper piety. "All or none!" 100 per cent verbal acceptance 
of the program just as it stood, and nothing more. Cannon went even to 
the preposterous extreme of putting through a motion in the P.C. 
that there is no difference between propaganda slogans and agitation 
slogans (comparable to a motion that two plus two does not equal 
four). It took nearly a year to force through the conception that the 
movement and slogans arising in the labor movement for "Thirty 
hours, thirty dollars," "Thirty hours' work at forty hours' pay," etc., 
were concretizations of the general transition slogan for "A sliding 
scale of wages and hours"! It took a year before it was possible to 
treat the slogan for a workers' guard as suitable for anything but the 
most vague and general educational propaganda. As a consequence of 
this thoroughly sterile approach, the transition program has as a whole 
not to this day become a significant living factor in our movement. 

The Cannon faction covers the conservatism of its own politics 
and seeks prestige and control through appearing as "the unyielding 
representative" of Trotsky's views. In the light of the foregoing analy- 
sis, we deny categorically that the Cannon group has the slightest 
right to be regarded as the representative of Trotsky's views in a 
genuinely political sense. 

But even if it were true that the Cannon group were a responsible 
representative of Trotsky's politics and were able to apply those politics, 
the result would remain wholly unsatisfactory. 

To begin with, Trotsky is not only capable of being wrong but has 
a number of times been wrong. The habit of automatic, uncritical ac- 
ceptance of Trotsky's views eliminates the basis for fruitful discussion, 
in whole or in part, and the possibility of mutual influence and cor- 
rection. 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 211 

Secondly, it is impossible for Trotsky to present a line of daily 
policy for the development of the American section, that is, to sub- 
stitute for the party leadership, its problems and its tasks; nor does 
he seek or desire to do so. So far as the American section goes, he 
can give guidance only on the more general, the international, the 
basic questions, and occasionally on specific national problems which 
arise. If this guidance were invariably right, it would still be only 
a part of what has to be done. There remain a thousand-and-one 
political problems of the American movement and the American revo- 
lution. These can be answered only by an independently and critically 
thinking leadership and membership of the American section itself. 
This is, as we understand it, the attitude that Trotsky has always had 
to this problem, and it is the only one admissible in our movement. 
There is not the slightest element of provincialism or nationalism in 
such a view. It is common horse sense. And unless such a leadership 
and membership is not developed and it cannot be under the regime 
of bureaucratic conservatism the Fourth International in this country 
is foredoomed to sterility. 

The Cannon group, we have said, accepts automatically, in words 
at least, the 'politics of Trotsky. But this does not mean that it accepts 
all the views of Trotsky. We have defined the Cannon group as bureau- 
cratic conservative, and have' pointed out that for a bureaucratic 
conservative group, politics is subordinate to regime. The independence 
of the Cannon group, what keeps it alive and makes it possible for it 
to be a group, is not its political policies which, in the last analysis, 
are wholly secondary for it but its central object of the maintenance 
of itself. On questions of regime, or "organizational methods," Cannon 
is not in the least the "follower of Trotsky," but, on the contrary, 
though willing to listen to Trotsky's opinion, pursues an assured and 
independent course. Political or theoretical questions can be left to 
others to Trotsky, or even, on "normal" occasions, to Burnham or 
Shachtman. But Cannon will keep a firm and guiding hand on "organ- 
ization." This difference in attitude is infinitely revealing of the true 
nature of bureaucratic conservatism. Politics, programs, are more or 
less routine matters for others to take care of; the business of the 
"real Bolshevik" is to cinch up the majority and retain party con- 
trol. Yes: Trotsky or Burnham or Shachtman writes the "political 
resolutions" for plenums and conventions; but the organization reso- 
lutions come from the firm Bolshevik hand of Cannon. From the end 
of the Chicago convention in November 1937 to June 1939 not one 
word of Cannon's appears in the public political press of the party; but 
his articles on "organization" feature the pre-convention discussion. 

The articles themselves are characteristic, too. In the pre- 
convention discussion in the P.C., comrades of the present opposition 
pointed out, objectively and self-critically, the justified discontent- 
ment of the membership with the sluggishness and apathy of the lead- 
ership, with its failure to elaborate or carry out a program of action, 
in particular the failure to make a living reality out of the Transition 
Program; point out, further, that the preparations for the convention 
are routinist to the core, providing for no critical examination of the 
past or program for the future. The articles by Cannon, many of the 



278 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

ideas in which were a collective product even though they were printed 
as a personal contribution, were written essentially for the purpose of 
warding off the necessary criticism of the party leadership's steward- 
ship between the two conventions. No clearer proof of this assertion 
is required than the fact that following the convention nothing more 
was heard of the "program of action" contained in the articles. They 
were a defense mechanism for preserving the regime from criticism, 
nothing more. 

(2) The second chief factor which hides the true role of the Can- 
non group is Cannon's undoubted organization skill as it has some- 
times been called, his "organization flexibility." This, well known to 
those who have been associated with him for a period of years at the 
center, is difficult to describe briefly and explain. No politician is more 
careful of "the record" than Cannon. He waits as long as possible to 
commit himself to writing and specific motions. And much, perhaps 
the most part, is done quietly in action, without motions at all, or 
motions only to record or sanction what has already taken place. 

A trip by Cannon to Minneapolis seems advisable. Why? The com- 
rades would) like some "consultation." A few weeks after the trip is 
over, it turns out that a very important decision about the work of 
comrade "Smith" has been made. Naturally, the P.C. approves the 
decision. 

A few weeks ago, Cannon evinced, for the first time in three years, 
a sudden interest in the Youth. Frightful conditions had come to his 
attention 'by a coincidence, just as a severe factional struggle was 
getting under way. Comrade Tanner of the YPSL N.C. (up to yesterday, 
as proved by the record and by letters, well' satisfied with the YPSL 
leadership) had, by a happy chance, felt compelled to tell Cannon, in 
an interview and then <by letter, how bad things are. And a couple of 
days later again by happy chance comrade Art Preis, who a few 
months ago publicly found the YPSL to be the only salt in his Ohio 
earth, wrote in to the national office a denunciation of the YPSL that 
must have exhausted his supply of adjectives. 

The membership, approaching the July 1939 convention, feels that 
all is not well with the functioning of the party. Cannon's excellent 
literary style, long slumbering, springs to life. What we need is ten 
thousand dollars, a three-a-week Appeal, and thirty new organizers. 
To try to talk soberly and critically about the past and what to learn 
from it that is to sabotage the chance of a "constructive convention/' 
The convention ends, but the new "program of action" does not get 
off the paper it was written on. 

The New York organization has been slipping away from the 
Cannon influence? Luckily, just before a local convention, Cochran 
turns up in New York; and, though the P.C. has not known about it, 
it happens that his work in auto (three months before defined as the 
main concentration point) has come to an end. The articulate Cannon 
supporters in New York are not so many and not doing so well as in 
the old days? Murry Weiss, fortunately, is no longer needed so 
urgently in California and is specially assigned to New York; while 
auto has so thoroughly quieted down that George Clarke also is no 
longer required in the Detroit area. 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 279 

The Organization Committee, discussing the severe financial crisis 
in the party, unanimously recommends a retrenchment policy to the 
P.C., which just as unanimously endorses it. To save the Appeal, it is 
imperative, under the conditions, to return to weekly publication, and 
to cut down the staffs of the national office, and the press. There is 
to be only one full-time editorial worker and one full-time business 
manager. After the defeat of the Cannon faction at the New York city 
convention of the party, the financial crisis disappears over night. 
Goldman is added to the national office staff; Clarke, who has never 
had the slightest experience in this field, is added to the Appeal staff 
as general manager of the press, without the P.C. majority deigning 
to give the slightest argument, good or bad, either for increasing the 
staff or for the candidate's qualifications. Other departments of the 
work, however, not less important than these, but manned by oppo- 
sitionists cannot be maintained for "financial" reasons. 

And none of this is done with mirrors. 

(3) The third chief factor which 'has obscured the role of Cannon 
is the cover which has been provided for him 'by other N.C. members, 
in particular by members of the present opposition. This has had, for 
many party members, one of two effects, both of which serve to cover 
Cannon: it has led some party members, who decided for themselves 
that the party leadership was conservative and bureaucratic, to place 
responsibility on the leadership as a whole; whereas others, who did 
not believe that this, that or the other members of the N.C. was con- 
servative and bureaucratic, felt that the failure of such members to 
separate themselves from Cannon proved Cannon himself to be neither 
bureaucratic nor conservative. (It may be noted that some N.C. mem- 
bers even now supporting Cannon such as Goldman still serve as 
covers.) 

It is true that, with the exception of a partial and inadequate dis- 
cussion at the convention, we have not spoken out and have therefore 
undoubtedly served as a cover for Cannon's bureaucratic conservatism. 
Why not? The party must understand the reasons for this silence, in 
order not to be misled by such suggestions as the one to the effect that 
we speak now in order to divert attention from an allegedly false policy. 

(i) In the first place, the present N.C. minority, while opposing 
Cannon's organizational conceptions and actions as bureaucratic, does 
not in the least counterpose to them an anarchist conception of organ- 
ization. We believe in centralism as well as democracy for the party; 
and we believe it leads to nothing but chaos when every dispute in a 
leadership is at once "taken to the ranks." We believe that there is a 
certain order in the party structure, and that this is as it should be. 
When disputes arise in the leadership, we believe that, in most cases, 
the possibilities of solving these disputes in the leadership should be 
explored and exhausted before they are taken to the ranks; and at the 
very least that they should not be taken to the membership until the 
differences if there continue to be differences are clarified and crys- 
tallized. A party pays a heavy cost for membership disputes, in terms 
of the lessening of positive external activity, the loss of members 
through discouragement and disgust, the waste of energies and funds, 
etc. ; and such disputes are therefore not to be initiated lightly. 



280 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

It is not in any degree true that the minority has suddenly "dis- 
covered" organizational and other differences with Cannon subsequent 
to the emergence of a political difference on the Russian question. 
During the past several years, one or another member of the present 
minority has time and again posed the questions herein discussed 
within the leading committees in the attempt to work out some solu- 
tion. This was done, for example, at the time of the special enlarged 
P.O. meeting during the "auto crisis." Prior to the July convention, 
there were attempts to discuss them in a number of meetings. Burn- 
ham presented to the committee a long written document as a basis 
for discussion. The document did not pretend to solve all problems, or 
to deal with all of them; nor could it. It was meant to initiate an 
orderly discussion among the leadership so that, by a frank and gen- 
eral discussion, some solution of the questions raised might at least be 
approached. Apart from McKinney, who spoke briefly on the document, 
only Abern took the floor to discuss it. He dealt at length and in 
detail with the criticisms directed at him. Cannon however whose re- 
gime was the main burden of the document, did not deign to utter a 
single word of comment, either in defense or rebuttal. On a later 
occasion, he made it clear that he had no intention of even trying to 
resolve the problem by discussion in the formally constituted leader- 
ship of the party, or for that matter, in the national convention of 
the membership. Such problems are to be dealt with and disposed of 
only by the clique. In other words, the Cannon regime and it alone 
may judge the Cannon regime. 

At the N.C. meetings immediately preceding the convention, 
Shachtman proposed to raise these questions at the convention, through 
placing on the agenda of the convention a report on the( leadership's 
record since the last convention. This proposal was rejected by the 
N.C., on the ground that "such questions could not be decided by a 
convention." By whom, then, by the way? It was made clear that any 
attempt to raise any question however limited, specific and partial, re- 
lating to "the regime" would provoke a crisis in the party. The majority 
operated under an American version of the famous slogan: "These 
cadres can be removed only by civil war." When nevertheless these 
questions forced their way to the surface in the convention, they did so 
in the distorted and confusing form of the debate over the "org. sec." 

(ii) The problem of Cannon's conservatism in politics has also 
often been before the committees. We have cited one important instance 
in connection with the interpretation of the transition program. Com- 
rades of the present opposition at this time debated whether to submit 
an independent resolution to the party in the discussion and referen- 
dum, and did submit a draft resolution to the committee. But here, as 
has a number of times happened, the following factor operated to keep 
the dispute from the membership: Virtually all committee members 
were in general, at least formal, agreement in supporting the transition 
program and the new Labor party position. Separate documents to 
the party would have been hard to understand, and would have inter- 
fered with the education of the party to acceptance of the new pro- 
gram, and to successful opposition to the opponents of the change 
in position on the Labor party. It seemed impossible to accomplish 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 281 

everything at once, and the main task seemed to be the general polit- 
ical one. Political scruples, justified or unjustified, blocked the road 
to the membership. This we believe has often happened with honest 
party members, who have closed their eyes to the meaning of the 
Cannon tendency because of conjunctural agreement on a question 
temporarily in political dispute. Cannon need not be troubled by such 
considerations, since his policy is the instrument of his regime, and 
since often the political dispute is for him simply the means of 
stifling the impending attack on his regime. 

(iii) We have already pointed out that the Cannon group is in a 
state of development. Its bureaucratic conservatism is not the product 
of a day or a year. It has become crystallized, become a system, only 
gradually, over a long period. It is our conviction that the outbreak 
of the war is what precipitated it clearly and crassly. It was diffi- 
cult to attack before the party as a whole what was primarily a threat, 
a tendency, an embryo. Nor would this have been justified. By taking 
things as they came, a point at a time, the tendency might be cor- 
rected in time; at least we might "muddle through." 

(iv) Nor is a real understanding of the Cannon group arrived 
at overnight. Not all members of the present opposition reached their 
present views simultaneously. The intimater experience of years was 
necessary; and the war itself was required to make matters fully clear. 

(v) These four are, we think, legitimate reasons for having hesi- 
tated to bring the dispute for open discussion and decision by the 
full party membership. We do not wish to pretend that only legitimate 
reasons motivated all members of the opposition. Other reasons, not 
so worthy, also influenced their action: a certain inertia; even cyni- 
cism at times with regard to what often seemed an incurable evil in 
the party; unwillingness to take responsibility for a serious struggle 
all of which boiled down to a shrinking from the kind of fight 
which a bureaucratic conservative regime is compelled to make against 
its opponents. ... Certain members of the present opposition, in 
particular Burnham and Shachtman, do not pretend to be free from 
having shared responsibility in several of Cannon's bureaucratic ac- 
tions, and from having themselves acted bureaucratically. 

7 THE CLIQUE AND ITS LEADER 

The leading members of the Cannon faction are well known as 
such. They are not new recruits, either to the party or to the faction. 
They include such comrades as Lewit, Gordon, Dunne, Skoglund, 
Weber, Turner, Clarke, Cochran, Morrow, Wright, Weiss, etc. We have 
called this faction a clique. We do so not for the sake of employing 
an epithet with unpleasant associations against our opponents, but, as 
always, in the effort to give an exact and scientific political description. 

The Cannon faction is a clique because it is a grouping that exists, 
that has a continuous existence, without any principled political 
foundation so different from the policies of others as to warrant a 
separate (and secret) formation. 

Cannon has stated, in the present party discussion, that for two 
years there was no "Cannon faction," but that now there is; and 
there is one now because a serious political dispute arose (over; the 



282 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

Russian question) and a faction representing an identical point of 
view took shape on the foundation of that political view. This claim 
is put forward only to pull wool over the eyes of the innocent. It is quite 
true that, in the present dispute, many supporters and members of 
the present (temporary) "Cannon faction," are not members of the 
(permanent) Cannon clique. But the clique itself has a lasting life. 

Is this doubted? It can be confirmed by a single incident. At the 
July convention, Shachtman presented a slate for the new N.C. He 
gave a political motivation for his slate: relating it to the difficulties 
and problems revealed in the party's activities, to the need for shaking 
off routinism and conservatism, and to the approach of the war; he 
advocated a committee which would: retain the core of the old leader- 
ship, in order to assure political stability and experience, and add a 
large draft of "new blood," especially of "youth" members. 

After Shachtman finished, comrade Dunne presented a slate. He 
offered no 'motivation for it whatever. He simply presented it for the 
delegates to take and like. An adjournment was proposed by Cochran, 
and voted. As at a signal 30 or 35 delegates then proceeded like a man 
to the back of the hall, where they held a caucus meeting. What political 
visa granted admission to that caucus meeting? There was none, and 
could have been none. It met as a clique, the Cannon clique. 

Two other points were of interest in connection with this reveal- 
ing incident. Cannon did not go to the back of the hall nor does he 
usually on such occasions. Why not? Isn't the selection of a slate a suf- 
ficiently crucial problem to occupy the talents of the best leaders of 
the party above all a slate, presumably, for war-time? Or is Cannon so 
purely interested in "political ideas" that he doesn't dip his hands into 
the business of selecting slates? Questions to trouble the innocent. The 
explanation is this: Cannon is very much indeed interested in slates 
and N.C.s; but he is interested only in having an N.C. whose majority 
will vote the right way when necessary. Consequently, he can safely 
leave to his faction associates and does the specific personnel. 

And second: Cochran asked the adjournment because of the surprise 
and puzzlement at the slate which Dunne read off. But doesn't this dis- 
prove the existence of the clique, or at least Cochran's membership in 
It? Again, a question to bother the innocent. The explanation is the 
following: The inner circle of the clique's leadership has a contempt 
for the clique's own members, and especially for its outer circle of less 
informed supporters. Consequently, the inner circle didn't even bother 
to inform the rest of the members what the slate was; it merely 
declared, through Dunne: Here is what you vote for. A shock, and a 
pitiful little "rebellion" resulted. Then it was quickly, and peacefully, 
straightened out by the clique gathering during the intermission. The 
P.C. members are all well acquainted with these little rebellions from 
committee meetings: they usually last just up to the time that a vote 
is taken. 

* * * 

The Cannon faction is a bureaucratic conservative clique, not a 
group built on a commonly accepted political platform. But what, then, 
holds it together, if not a political platform? It, like all such groupings, 
if it is to endure, has only one resort: to group itself aroaind an in- 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 283 

dividual, a leader. The "platform" of the grouping becomes the leader. 
It could not be otherwise. 

It is natural, in politics, that individuals who have shown talent 
and ability should come to occupy somewhat special places in the minds 
of their associates, and that some or many persons will put consider- 
able confidence in what the talented individuals do and say. It is 
natural that these leading individuals should carry weight as persons 
and not merely as embodiments of political ideas. There need be nothing 
wrong with this, though it contains undoubted dangers in the best of 
circumstances. But the relation of the followers of a clique to its 
"leader" is something very different; and the "cult of the leader" is 
not at all the same thing as confidence in an outstanding, tried, and 
talented comrade. It is in this latter sense that we say that Cannon is 
regarded as a leader by his followers. He is the substitute for a 
political platform. 

Is this charge groundless? It is proved over and over again, often 
in the very eyes of the party. Let us take an example or two: 

At the July convention, Weiss (as already referred to in another 
connection) was a member of the convention committee which spon- 
sored the proposal for an organizational secretary. Weiss in the conven- 
tion committee, favored the plan and voted for it. But Weiss is also a 
supporter of the Cannon clique. In his ten minute speech on the con- 
vention floor, when the point came up on the agenda, Weiss disclosed 
that he had "changed his mind" (not on the merit of the issue, he 
admitted, but because he had had pointed out to him "what was behind 
it"). But the greater part of his speech, as convention delegates and 
visitors will remember, was a song of adulation to his leader. He had 
observed Cannon, he told us, for many years. On organizational ques- 
tions, he declared, he had found Cannon right 999 times out of 1000 
(our reference is literal) ; maybe Cannon had been wrong in the final 
1 out of the 1000, but if so, he, Weiss, did not know it. Weiss, in spite 
of his honest opinion on the issue, was another victim caught in the 
bureaucratic conservative trap. 

A more revolting occurrence took place at one of the N.C. meetings 
which preceded the convention. The question under debate was the 
Shachtman proposal to have on the agenda the report of the secretary 
on the record of the party leadership. Morrow took the floor, in oppo- 
sition to the proposal. And why did Morrow oppose it? Because it was 
a scheme to attack Cannon, and Cannon was the one and the only one 
leader of the party. What was the evidence for this judgment? When 
the little movie of the workings of the Appeal staff was shown to the 
members in New York, Cannon's picture on the screen was the only 
committee member's picture, except for McKinney's, to be greeted with 
applause. (Is it trivial gossip to recall such an incident? Alas, no: we 
know the school where such incidents are bred.) Morrow, by the way, 
was once explaining in a less formal meeting why Cannon "showed so 
much contempt for committee members" (these were Morrow's words). 
"It is because," we again quote literally, "Cannon towers above his 
fellow committee members as far as Lenin towered above his." Unfor- 
tunate for Lenin that he cannot defend himself from the praise of his 
self-avowed disciples! 



284 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

Or a year ago, when the question of who should be the party repre- 
sentative in France was being discussed, and Clarke ended up a speech 
in favor of Cannon by demanding in a loud and belligerent voice: "Does 
any one here dare to deny that Cannon is the one outstanding; leader 
of this party?" 

Or more recently, and still more revealing: At the P.C. meeting 
of November 9th, the question of the attitude of the party toward 
Browder's arrest was discussed. Two motions were proposed, one by 
Burnham and the other by Shachtman. Whether the difference between 
the motions was great or slight, there was nevertheless a difference 
that had to be decided. Burnham's motion carried by a considerable 
majority, with Cannon and all of his group supporting it, and only 
Abern and Shachtman voting for a motion of their own. At the next 
meeting (November 16th), the point came up again. Cannon spoke for 
a minute or two: he had, he said, been thinking it over, and he wanted 
to change the record of his rote; he found after thought that he favored 
Shachtman's motion. He had spoken in a mild tone, and given no 
serious motivation for a change. Then Cochran spoke, and said he saw 
no reason for changing. After him, Weber: Weber not only saw no 
reason for a change to Shachtman's motion, but declared that in his 
mind the Burnham motion did not go far enough in the direction 
away from Shachtman's motion. While Weber was speaking, Weiss (at 
times an uneasy captive in the bureaucratic trap) triumphantly passed 
a note to Shachtman. You see, the note said, how wrong you are about 
the "Cannon hand-raisers"! Shachtman shrugged his shoulders, re- 
marking to Burnham that on so minor a matter Cannon did not have to 
make it a "vote of confidence." But, lo, Cannon took the floor for a brief 
summary. He turned the heat on, became most fervent in defense of 
Shachtman's motion, since he amazingly discovered Burnham's mo- 
tion implied his position on the "class nature of the Soviet State." The 
vote was taken, and Burnham found himself in a minority of one. Solid 
with Cannon were the votes of Cochran and Weber. But perhaps Can- 
non had "persuaded" them, in his summary, of the incorrectness of 
their position. Not so: an hour later, after the adjournment of the 
meeting, Weber repeated exactly the argument against Shachtman's 
motion that he had stated in the committee. But, caught in the bureau- 
cratic conservative trap, he had voted in line with the demand of his 
leader. 

(We do not mean to say that the Cannon followers never vote 
against Cannon. If you search the record carefully, you will find that 
on this or that occasion, some not all by any means have differed. 
But, as in a parliament, they never vote against him when the question 
is posed as a "vote of confidence," and it is Cannon, like Chamberlain 
or Daladier, who decides what constitutes a vote of confidence. A cer- 
tain leeway for "self-expression" is tacitly assumed and allowable. 
But the leeway has been narrowing steadily.) 

A clique with a leader-cult has its own laws of development, and 
the Cannon faction cannot escape the operation of these laws. In order 
to keep the leader in his niche, all other leading comrades must be top- 
pled. Consequently, a systematic undercover campaign to poison the 
minds of party members is conducted, in terms often of the most fan- 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 285 

tastic slanders. An "anti-New York" propaganda is spread, which is 
at "bottom a catering to prejudices that are not always healthy. This 
campaign was especially whipped up by Cannon at the last convention 
of the party in the most artificial manner and to such an extreme 
point that it was carried over to the public mass meeting celebrating 
the convention. It served the interests of the clique to do so at the 
national convention. But, at the New York city convention a few 
months later, when it served the clique's interests to laud to the skies 
everything Cochran, the city organizer, had done and to deny violently 
that anything was wrong or deficient in his administration, the New 
York organization was suddenly presented as an all but perfect section 
of the party at least that section of it which supported the Cannon 
group. 

Above all, an "anti-intellectual" and "anti-intellectuals" attitude 
is drummed into the minds of party members. The faction associates 
are taught, quite literally, to despise and scorn "intellectuals" and 
"intellectualism." A loud laugh is guaranteed for a joke or story about 
an intellectual. Such symptoms, though they have been rare in the 
"Trotskyist" movement, are familiar enough. Some of us will remember 
a prominent appearance of them in the American movement some six 
years ago: Within the A.W.P., the struggle against fusion with the 
C.L.A. was conducted by Hardman under the banner of "anti-New 
York," "anti-intellectual" (not unlike many of the present campaigners, 
the banner-carrier was himself a New York intellectual). The self- 
avowed "trade-union" faction of Poster and Co. in the old Communist 
Party fights distinguished itself in the same way, although in those 
days Cannon combatted Fosterite demagogy with all his strength. 

Rudeness and harshness, of a personal rather than a political kind, 
more and more make their appearance. At the very beginning of the 
present dispute, before positions and lines were even clearly drawn, 
Cannon and his associates were referring to the opposition constantly 
as "traitors," "snivelling" this and "stinking" that. Not on the floor 
of the plenum, but during its sessions Dunne described the minority as 
"snivelling strike-breakers" (our quotations are, as always, literal). 
The opposition has since become "agents of imperialism/' "scabs" and 
"strike-breakers." Vocabulary, too, is caught in the bureaucratic con- 
servative trap. 

* * * 

Cannon has argued: How can I be blamed for the ills of the party? 
Do not the members of the minority occupy many of the most promi- 
nent posts? Was I not a minority of one in the P.C. that existed from 
the Chicago convention to the recent July convention? (In passing: 
We do not blame Cannon for all the ills of the party. We blame also 
the harshness of the times, and ourselves. But, in order (to cure, it is 
necessary to diagnose the main danger and the root disease.) 

It is true that the members of the minority occupy many posts, 
that they do their good share of the work of the party. Why not? Can- 
non has not the least objection to everyone in the party doing as much 
work, even in prominent posts, as he is capable of handling. Even 
Abern, who is now the target of Cannon's most venomous attacks on 
the ground of irresponsibility and incompetence, may be assigned to 



286 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

the most responsible or confidential work, often on Cannon's initiative. 
But on one condition: that the comrade in question carry out his task 
without exercising his right to criticize or differ with the regime and 
its line. As soon as he seeks to exercise this right in any important 
question, the qualifications of yesterday are instantly converted into 
disqualifications, and every conceivable means is employed to discredit 
and blacken him in the ranks of the party. 

As for the P.O.: It is true that at the beginning of last summer, 
Cannon found himself in a minority of one in the P.O. Indeed, not 
once but a dozen times, he repeated: "I do not take responsibility for 
a single member of the committee." A damaging excuse, surely, when 
it is remembered that Cannon at the Chicago convention expressed him- 
self as well satisfied with both the N.C. and the P.C. there chosen. A cur- 
ious leader who in a year and a half has succeeded in driving every 
one of those who should be his closest colleagues into opposition! 

But the full truth is more complex. The P.C. is in reality a fiction, 
or at best a semi-fiction. Its authority is strictly limited: here it may 
act, but into this territory it may not venture. Over the P.C. looms the 
N.C. (which, formally, is as it should be); and over the N.C. looms 
the final authority the Cannon clique. 

Often during the past eight months Cannon has been stressing the 
formally quite correct point that the P.C. has no independent status, 
that it is merely a sub-committee of the N.C. Why has this obvious 
truth become so prominent? For an important reason. Cannon is unable 
to construct a plausible and convincing and proper-sized P.C. on which 
his clique has a firm majority (the new post-plenum P.C., which is 
neither plausible nor convincing nor proper-sized, is no exception). 
But it always keeps a "safe" majority on the N.C. 

But even the N.C. is largely fictitious. It is called to act only rare- 
ly, and then its deliberations have an air of unreality. The clique itself 
is the court of last appeal, on all "crucial" questions i.e., questions 
"of regime." 

We will illustrate these observations with three decisive examples: 
On New Year's Eve of last year, comrades Dunne and "Smith" of 
Minneapolis suddenly appeared in New York. When they were asked 
how they happened to be around, they replied facetiously that they 
wanted to attend the New Year's Eve party. On New Year's morning a 
number of invited comrades appeared at Cannon's apartment. These 
included: Cannon, Shachtman, Burnham, Smith (with status as P.C. 
members) ; and Dunne, Clarke, Cochran, Morrow from the N.C. No one 
else had been invited. At this meeting there were taken up and decided 
plans for an "auto campaign" including personnel and finances; plans 
for a projected more extensive campaign in the Michigan area; and 
the setting up of a special "field committee" with vaguely defined di- 
rectorial powers; and, lastly, plans for the "harmless"' presentation of 
this program to the P.C., for nominal approval. By what authority did 
this body sit as a deciding body, usurping the functions of both P.C. 
and N.C.? The full meaning of this meeting can only be grasped when 
we recall that Cannon was about to leave for Europe: this meeting was 
designed to sterilize the P.C. during his absence. (Here, by the way, 
is the source of the famous "auto crisis." Burnham and Shachtman 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 287 

have no defense to make for their attendance at this meeting, even 
though it was clear to them at that time that their invitation; to the 
meeting was calculated to give a somewhat more acceptable status to 
its decisions which had in reality already been made by the Cannon 
group. It is not today, however, that they realized their error: last 
spring, in writings and in speeches, they stated and analyzed it.) Can- 
non, it may finally be added, has never commented upon this meeting, 
never repudiated it or what it symbolized. 

Second: In accordance with a mandate of the Chicago convention, 
a trade union department was set up, and Widick named trade union 
secretary. Presumably, Widick was to head the party's trade union 
work. There is no point in arguing whether Widick was or was not the 
most qualified comrade for the job; it was up to the N.C. to place in 
the job the most competent man available, and then to giv,e him sup- 
port and confidence. But this department and post remained also a 
fiction or at best a semi-fiction. The department was never even half- 
properly financed. Widick was compelled to spend much time keeping 
himself going. Wherever possible, he tried to carry out his assignment: 
in such places as Lynn, Newark and Akron his influence was felt, and 
trade union work in these localities advanced notably during this per- 
iod. But never, at any point, was Widick permitted to "interfere" in 
Minneapolis, maritime or auto. These fields were within the special 
province of the Cannon group. Nor was the P.C. in any different rela- 
tion to them. Indeed, questions that arose in these three fields were, 
more often than not, brought to the attention of the P.C. only after 
actions had been taken. Of the comrades at the center, Cannon, and 
Cannon alone, and Cannon not as a representative of the P.C. but as 
an individual, was in reality consulted. In this light it will not appear 
so strange that the trade union secretary was excluded from the New 
Year's meeting which made such far-reaching decisions precisely in 
trade union matters. But why, then, was Widick given the job? Because 
no one of sufficient stature in the Cannon group would take the trade 
union job at the center. And because though Widick with his post was 
a fiction he was yet a useful fiction: like other useful fictions, he helped 
to hide the reality. 

Third: Prior to and during the convention, comrades of the present 
minority proposed that comrade "Smith" of Minneapolis should come 
to the center as organization and trade union secretary. For this pro- 
posal they were denounced by the Cannon faction in N.C. meetings^ as 
light-minded petty-bourgeois who never did or would grasp the meaning 
and importance of trade union work. Three weeks following the con- 
vention, a motion submitted in writing by Cannon, Dunne and "Smith" 
made exactly the same proposal, which was hailed as a triumph of 
statesmanship. What had changed? Not the N.C., not the P.C., not the 
conditions and prospects of "Smith's" trade union work. What had 
changed was for reasons that have never been explained the clique 
decision. 



288 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

8 CANNON'S "THEORY OF CRISES" 

We have explained to the party, consistently and openly, our 
political analysis of the party crisis. It is our duty to do so. It is no 
less Cannon's duty to give his theory, his political analysis. It is not 
without significance that since the beginning of the present crisis, he 
has shifted back and forth among no less than four different theories 
of the party crisis; and only one of these four, the one to which he 
has devoted least attention, is a political analysis. 

(1) Cannon's first theory was that the leaders of the opposition 
are "irresponsible," "light-minded," "subjective," and using their own 
inner doubts to "throw the party into a crisis." This, it may be ob- 
served, is what Cannon has said at the outset of every even minor con- 
flict in the party during the past several years. Let us note: 

(a) Even if this were true, it would be of very minor significance 
politically. Granted that we are irresponsible and light-minded (a rather 
cavalier charge against comrades few of whom are either new or un- 
tried in the movement), this is at most a psychological comment. The 
political analysis must show into what kind of false political position 
our "irresponsibility" throws us. 

(b) But it is more important to see that this theory is an expres- 
sion of a typically and time-dishonored bureaucratic approach. "Whoever 
disagrees with me is irresponsible." This is the reply of the bureau- 
crat to his critics, the substitute for a political reply. 

(2) The second theory of Cannon was that the position of the 
minority is an expression of "the pressure of democratic imperialism": 
that is, that the minority's position on the question immediately under 
dispute is social-patriotic. This is Cannon's sole attempt at a political 
analysis. But apparently he senses the weakness of this analysis, for 
he mentions it only occasionally and in passing. He never, so far, has 
dwelt on it, never attempted to prove it. 

To prove it convincingly, it will not be enough for him to give an 
abstract analysis of the minority's position on "the Russian question." 
He must bolster his proof with evidence from other actions motions, 
speeches, writings of the leaders of the minority during this period 
and before it, must show that these too reveal the tendency toward 
democratic imperialist patriotism. But everyone knows that he cannot 
do this. Everyone knows that the leaders of the minority have con- 
sistently and day by day upheld the internationalist, anti-patriotic posi- 
tion of the party, above all on the question of war, where it means 
most. Everyone knows that they have been not the last but the first 
in the party in this all-important task. 

Our party, true enough, is subject to the pressure of democratic 
patriotism, and we must guard against it. Fortunately, this pressure 
has not yet had serious and crystallized results in our ranks. Where 
it has been manifested concretely when Cochran in Cleveland jumped 
head over heels into th,e Keep America Out of War Committee, when the 
comrades in Toledo slipped reformist versions of our transition slogans 
into the unemployment pamphlet they sponsored, when a couple of 
months ago our Minneapolis comrades supported a resolution at the 
Minnesota State A. F. of L. convention hailing William Green as a 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 289 

fighter against war in these concrete cases we find that it was never 
members of the present minority who were primarily involved, or 
involved at all. 

(3) The third theory of Cannon, advanced at a New York member- 
ship meeting, is that the present minority constitutes a "stinking office 
bureaucracy" (the adjective was very much insisted upon). As proof 
of this he offered flat falsifications of three incidents in party history 
We shall not here counter these with the truth, though if the falsifica- 
tions are persisted in or committed to paper we shall take occasion to 
do so, and do so conclusively. But we wish now only to observe, as in 
theory 1, how this reply is typically bureaucratic. "You call me a 
bureaucrat? You are yourselves not only bureaucrats, but stinking 
bureaucrats." Again: a substitute for a political answer. 

(4) The fourth theory of Cannon is as follows: The present dispute 
in the party is the expression of a conflict between the petty-bourgeois, 
middle-class elements (the minority) and the proletarian elements (the 
majority). A luscious and satisfying theory indeed! What we the 
majority says to itself, licking its chops have in the party is: the 
class struggle. Thus the majority can get compensation by participation 
in "its own" class struggle for the party's inadequacies in the real 
struggle which is proceeding in its own way in the outside world. 

This theory also is not political, but sociological. If it were true 

and significant it would still be necessary to characterize the position 
reached by the "petty-bourgeois current" politically. It is not enough 
just to call it "petty-bourgeois." 

Now, in the first place, this theory even if it were significant 
and relevant as it is not is not true even as a description of the facts, 
quite apart from their interpretation. We do not miss "petty-bourgeois 
elements" prominently in the Cannon faction in many localities from 
Boston to the Pacific Coast to, above all, the national center. If we 
really think it worth while to speak of social status, we must remember 
that it is not altered by learning to speak out of the side of one's 
mouth, to smoke large cigars, or to sprinkle one's speeches with re- 
sounding cuss words. 

We are the first to admit that the social composition of our party, 
above all its lack of genuine proletarians, is a tragic weakness, and 
that all justifiable means must be used to overcome this weakness. We 
find, however, that this has been a weakness of the entire Fourth 
Internationalist movement, and in fact of wide sections of the revolu- 
tionary movement from its inception. We do not expect, therefore, to 
solve it in a day or by an easy formula. "Pursue a correct Marxian 
policy, translate our views into terms understandable by the masses, 
participate directly in the mass movement along this line" that is the 
only "formula" we know and it is not an easy one. 

The revolutionary program is not the spontaneous or automatic 
product of the proletarians themselves; the "natural" proletarian policy 
is reformist or syndicalist. Indeed, from at least one most important 
point of view, the most radical influence in our party is the youth, the 
disinherited generation who above all have "nothing to lose but their 
chains" and their hopeless social situation. And the youth is in its 
overwhelming bulk against Cannon and his policies and his regime. 



290 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

Cannon's "class struggle" theory of the party crisis is a very danger- 
ous fraud. Its concrete meaning is to encourage the trade union com- 
rades to free themselves not from "petty-bourgeois elements" but 
from political control by the party. The talk about "petty-bourgeois 
elements" serves them as a rationalization to excuse rejection of polit- 
ical control by the party when that control seems to (and sometimes, 
necessarily, does) interfere with local or temporary advantages in trade 
union work. In this fundamental respect it is identical with the 
"theory" and agitation of the Foster faction in the C.P. years ago, 
often condemned by our movement in the past and meriting the same 
condemnation today. 

9 THE STERILITY OF BUREAUCRATIC CONSERVATISM 

A political party cannot continue as a living organism in a period 
of crisis, above all of war crisis, merely with a policy of "reaffirming 
our past position." 

More and more we find that the Cannon faction resists every new 
idea, every experiment. Let us grant that half at least of the new ideas 
and proposed experiments are wrong. Still: we can better afford to 
make mistakes than to do nothing. What is revealing is that the Cannon 
associates always have as their first response to a new idea "hysteria," 
"romanticism," "light-mindedness." In small things as in great: 
Whether it is the attempt actually to do something about building a 
"workers' guard" or even to hold, in New York, an out-of-door May Day 
meeting (which Goldman and Cannon opposed as not feasible and sure 
to flop though, as usual with experiments we try, it far more than 
justified itself when carried out). We must not "rush into" taking con- 
crete positions on concrete questions of the day (the embargo or the 
invasion of Poland or municipal ownership of New York subways or 
what is going on in India because, forsooth, we "might be mistaken" 
or "might violate our fundamental position" or "involve ourselves in 
speculation." 

Bureaucratic conservatism, by its very nature, is sterile. Its self- 
preserving objective allows it to be skillful in organizational maneu- 
vers, but blocks the outward road; if it tries the outward road, it is 
only because its inner difficulties have compelled it to seek external 
solution; and its expansion is also therefore conservative and bureau- 
cratic. 

The growing sterility of the Cannon faction is shown most clearly 
of all by its attitude toward the youth, and by its inability to assimilate 
the best of the youth. It has never even noticed the youth except to 
smash down on its leaders for an alleged "antinparty" attitude and, 
characteristically, for their alleged "ultra-leftism" and "adventurism," 
which is in reality only the resistance of the youth to the Cannon 
clique's bureaucratic conservatism and to its leader-cult. It is not yet 
a decided question in our party that failure to adulate Cannon as infal- 
lible leader constitutes an anti^party attitude. 

Entirely prepared for the easy bureaucratic charge of "flattering 
the youth" and well recognizing the distinct weaknesses in our youth 
organization, we say without hesitation that our youth the YPSL 
organization itself and those comrades recently come from the YPSL 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 291 

to the party are in every essential respect the most progressive force 
in the movement, and 90% of its hope for the future. The approach of 
war only makes this truth the more weighty. The youth carry the bur- 
den of the work of the party as well as of the YPSL; in responsible 
organization they put the party to shame; in receptivity to new and 
experimental ideas they are a standing lesson; they supply the party 
with most of its new members; and it is they alone who have actually 
done something to put themselves in readiness for work under war 
conditions. And it is this force, the potential force of the revolution, 
which Cannon, instead of educating and assimilating, brutally dismisses 
as "irresponsible petty-bourgeois triflers," "Lovestoneites" and "traitors 
to the party"! 

What, we ask, is the perspective of the Cannon group? We know 
very well what are its intentions with regard to the coming special 
convention. It has become increasingly plain that the Cannon regime 
is preparing a split. The party must not be taken in for a moment by 
solemn "unity resolutions" which Cannon presents and has adopted 
for the sake of the record. Despite the "unity resolution" the line and 
the conduct of the Cannon group have already made it abundantly 
clear that if they are in the majority at the convention, they will wipe 
out the opposition (that is, one form of a split); andi if they are in 
the minority, they have no intention of abiding by the discipline of the 
party (that is, another form of a split). Whichever variant materializes, 
that is, no matter how the annoying opponents and critics are disposed 
of, the Cannon group will still have before it the question: What is its 
persipective? To continue forever "re-affirming our old position" in 
answer to the political questions of the day, and to) reply to all pro- 
posals for new organizational steps by denouncing them as "hysteria"? 

The truth is that the Cannon group has no perspective beyond 
that proper to it as a bureaucratic conservative* grouping: self-main- 
tenance; hanging on. 

This is the truth: If bureaucratic conservatism completes its 
crystallization and engulfs the party as a whole, then the party can- 
not survive the war. It will not, as a whole, capitulate to the war. But 
it will simply be lost, swamped by great events that leave it helpless, 
to which it cannot respond. That is, the destiny of bureaucratic con- 
servatism in the crises of war and revolution. 

10 THE ALTERNATIVE 

This document has been very long. We know that some comrades 
who will read it, some of those who agree with it altogether or in part, 
will draw from it cynical or discouraged or defeatist conclusions. This 
cannot be helped. It is necessary now to tell the truth and the whole 
truth. If we cannot face the truth, how can we hope to face the revo- 
lution? Nor are we in the slightest degree affected by the demagogic, 
charge that we "have broken the harmony of the party on the very 
eve of war." It is precisely because it is the eve of war that we realized 
we had to speak out bluntly. 

There is in our presentation a certain possibility of distortion, 
hard to avoid in a polemical document. Just as we reject a "Messiah 
theory" of how to make the party succeed, so we equally reject any 



292 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 

"Devil theory" of what is wrong with the party. We do not for a mo- 
ment contend that Cannon has been engaged in any deliberate "plot," 
that he, as an individual, has consciously conspired to impose upon 
the party a bureaucratic conservative stranglehold, with himself as 
leader. Not at all. Of all the victims, it is Cannon who is himself most 
painfully caught in the bureaucratic conservative trap. We know Can- 
non's virtues and services and abilities better, with a juster apprecia- 
tion, we imagine, than many of his own most slavish idolaters. And it 
is his greatest virtue of all his complete identification of himself with 
the movement that, by a not uncommon irony, has played a great 
part in leading him to his present impasse, and that blocks a road out 
for him. And we know and estimate at their true value the qualities of 
the best of his associates; some of them are very great indeed. 

What has led to the spreading growth of this evil of bureaucratic 
conservatism that now threatens the very life of the party? The gen- 
eral causes are clear: It is a consequence of long years of isolation, 
defeat, uphill struggle, fighting always against the stream; of the 
weariness, discouragement, even cynicism and despair that these engen- 
der in the hearts of men. Bureaucratic conservatism, creeping stealthily 
up, seems a last desperate means of somehow "hanging on," and refuge 
against a better day. 

So far as individuals are responsible for this growth, we exempt 
no one, least of all ourselves. When Cannon replies to us by saying: 
"You are also responsible for these same crimes," we answer: "We will 
take upon ourselves our rightful share of the responsibility." Furthest 
from our minds is any desire to embellish the minority, as individuals 
or as a group. It would be absurd for us to pretend a freedom from 
political mistakes, bureaucratic practices and even personal derelic- 
tions. Beyond doubt, however, most reprehensible in our conduct was 
our failure to present the problem under discussion to the calm and 
responsible and timely consideration of the party as a whole. Although 
we have not organized or functioned as an opposition until recently, 
we are prepared to submit our individual records for the examination 
and criticism of the entire party. But important as this may be, im- 
portant as the examination of other individuals may be, they do not 
compare in urgency and decisiveness with the central problem treated 
by the present document the regime of bureaucratic conservatism and 
how to eliminate it. 

The minority presents this chief claim as against the majority: 
Whatever the past may have been, we recognize the disease in the 
party, we diagnose it, we propose to cure it and the first, most impor- 
tant step in the cure is the diagnosis. The majority, so far, refuses to 
recognize the existence of the disease; nay, more, proclaims that the 
disease is a vital and healthy plant. By this attitude they make their 
own even those evils which, in t"heir origin, were not theirs alone. And 
by this attitude they prevent a cure. 

We shall, in an independent document, present to the party a 
specific program of action, the initial steps in the cure. What is needed 
is, in its general outline, clear enough: In place of conservative politics, 
we must .put bold, flexible, critical and experimental politics in a word 
scientific politics. In place of bureaucracy in the regime, not an aban- 



WAR AND CONSERVATISM 293 

donment of centralism naturally, but democracy also, democracy to 
the utmost permissible limit. "Wherever there is a doubt, resolve the 
doubt on the democratic side. Only a truly democratic inner- life can 
develop the initiative, intelligence and self-confidence without which 
th,e party will never lead the masses. All the formal democracy enjoyed 
by the party today and it is abundant is worse than meaningless, it 
is a mockery, if the real policies and the leadership and the regime of 
the party are continuously determined only by a clique which has no 
distinctive political foundation. The removal of party control from the 
hands of this clique is a pre-condition to the establishment of genuine 
party democracy and progressive policy. In place of a leader-cult, not 
another leader (we propose none and want none) but a collective lead- 
ership, genuinely collective, coordinating and integrating by a real 
exchange of opinion and an efficient division of labor the best talents 
of the party. If there is one in the party who is outstanding from all 
others in his abilities and devotion and political insight, he will be 
known and recognized; but let him be 'primus intra 'pares first among 
equals. In place of "reaffirming old positions," let us like free and in- 
telligent men use our mighty programmatic concepts to meet th.e living 
problems of history, to foresee and to guide in action. A maximum of 
branch and local initiative! Comradely education, not brutal and dis- 
loyal attacks, for those in error. A warm, if critical, welcome for every 
new idea, even a doubtful idea, not a denunciation for "irresponsibility." 
Comradely criticism, encouragement, help, praise for the youth even 
when the youth errs on the side of exaggeration or over-zealousness. 
And let us be less terrified of mistakes! Only the dead make no 
mistakes. 

The future is hard, true, but not black. Already, on a world scale, 
the revolt against the war is rising. Tomorrow a storm will break in 
whose light our difficulties will be no more than the passing dream of 
an infant. It is for us to decide what role we shall then play. 

December 18, 1939 

(P.O. Minority) 

ABERN 

BERN 

BURNHAM 

SHACHTMAN 



INDEX 



Abern, 3-4, 8, 11-2, 16-8, 33-49, 52, 
54-5, 59-61, 63-4, 67, 75, 89, 100-1, 
105-6, 108-12, 115, 118, 121, 141-2, 
160, 174, 192, 206, 226n, 233, 
241, 248-9, 253, 258, 265-6, 271-3, 
280, 284-5, 293; unprincipled 
combinationist, 4, 11-2, 16-8, 33- 
49, 108; defensist, 33; turns 
defeatist, 34; an "American 
Stalin," 38; splitter, 35-6, 40, 
42-5, 49, 111-2, 174, 226n; alli- 
ance with Stalinist agents, 43- 
44; splits frustrated, 43-5; con- 
tinues intrigues, 45-9; investi- 
gated by control commission, 
48; irresponsibility, 142. See 
also Abern clique, Abernism. 

Abern clique, 8, 11-2, 17-8, 35-49, 
59-60, 75, 108-9, 115, 233; petty- 
bourgeois, 8, 12, 59-60; in- 
trigues, 12, 45-9; unprincipled 
combinations, 12, 36-49; gossip- 
mongers, 12, 35, 38-9, 41, 45-8; 
history, 36-49; recruiting meth- 
ods, 41; politics, 42, 46-7, 49, 59- 
60; conservatism, 59-60. See also 
Abern, Abernism. 

Abernism, 35-49. See also Abern, 
Abern clique. 

Abernites. See Abern clique. 

Abern-Muste group, 11, 44-5. 

Abern-Shachtman coalition, 11, 
42. 

Abern- Weber faction, 42-3, 45, 112. 

A.F.L., 216f, 288. 

Akron, 159, 287. 



Allentown, 44. 

"all-inclusive party," 14, 188-91, 
230, 234. 

Altman, Jack, 48, 56, 117. 

American Communist Party. See 
Communist Party of U.S. 

American Labor Party (A.L.P.), 
56. 

American Workers Party 
(A.W.P.), 75, 285. 

Anarchists, 212. 

Andrews, Chris, 97, 203. 

Appeal. See Socialist Appeal. 

"Appeal to Members and Follow- 
ers of the Socialist Workers 
Party, An," 73. 

"Archives of the Revolution," 
249. 

Argentine section Fourth Inter- 
national, 195, 199, 245. 

Austin (Texas), 97. 

Australian section Fourth Inter- 
national, 200, 245. 

Austria, 265. 

"auto crisis," 56, 66-8, 70, 77-8, 
202, 280, 286. 

"Back to the Party" (Leon Trot- 
sky), 184. 
Bakunin, 11. 
Baltics, 269-70. 
Barcelona, 220. 
Bay Area, 155-6. 
Bay Area Committee, 155. 
Bay Section, 151. 



294 



INDEX 



295 



Belgian section Fourth Interna- 
tional, 196, 200, 245. 

Belgium, 189. 

Bern, L, 43, 183, 258, 293. 

Bessara'bia, 222. 

Bill, 151. 

Black Sea, 270. 

Bloor, Mother, 44. 

Bolshevik-Leninists, 70, 190, 213. 

Bolshevik-Marxists, 4. 

Bolshevik party, 14-5, 232, 260-1. 

Bolsheviks, 50, 173, 212, 221. 

Bolshevism, 5, 8, 17, 25-6, 28, 31, 
50, 60, 89, 121, 125-7, 189, 207, 
232, 243, 250, 252; concept of 
party, 14^5. See also Marxism, 
Trotskyism. 

Bonapartism, 71. 

Boston, 134-5, 147. 

Brandler, 72, 75. 

Brandler-Lovestone, 72, 75. 

Brazilian section Fourth Interna- 
tional, 195, 204. 

Bridges, 218. 

Bronx branch (Shachtmanites), 
138, 172, 174, 206; sabotages 
Socialist Appeal, 174. 

Browder, 284. 

Budenz, 44. 

Bukharin, 16-7. 

Bulletin No. 5 (Cannon-Shacht- 
man group, Workers Party), 44. 

Bulletin No. 6, 143. 

"Bureaucratic Conservatism." See 
"War and Bureaucratic Con- 
servatism." 

"bureaucratism," 11, 54-6, 60-72; 
social basis, 61-4, 70-1. See also 
"auto crisis." 

Burnham, Professor, 2-5, 10-1, 14, 
17-8, 20-31, 33, 37-8, 43, 45-7, 54- 
56, 60, 63-4, 66-70, 75, 78, 85-7, 
97, 100, 103-6, 108, 114, 119-20, 
122-3, 138-9, 141-2, 147-8, 150, 
153, 157, 172, 174, 178, 188, 190, 
192, 202-3, 206-7, 226n, 227n, 232, 
241, 243, 245-6, 248-9, 251, 253-4, 



258, 264, 268, 271, 276-7, 281, 284, 
286, 293; petty-bourgeois char- 
acter, 3, 15, 20-1, 23; Souvarin- 
ist views, 14-5, 22, 25-6; politi- 
cal hegemony in minority 
group, 17-8, 103-6; privileged 
party position, 20-31; bureau- 
cratism, 20-1, 54-6, 66-70; "per- 
secution" by Cannon, 22-31; 
weaknesses, 23; rejects full- 
time party work, 25; revision- 
ist views, 25-6, 28-30, 33, 86, 119- 
120; condemns Abern, 37-8, 47; 
deserts to bourgeoisie, 253. 

Burnhamites, 14, 135, 191. 

Burnham-Shachtman-Abern group, 
241, 253-4; expulsion, 253-4. 

California, 11, 23, 46, 54, 107, 116, 

151, 155-6, 159-60, 167-70, 181, 

193, 198, 202-4, 278. 
Canadian section Fourth Interna- 

tional, 138, 151, 181, 195, 199, 

245. 
Cannon, James P., 4, 11, 22-31, 36, 

38, 41, 43, 45-8, 50ff., 75-9, 90n, 

112, 141-3, 160-1, 169-70, 172, 

184, 191, 202, 207, 210, 226, 227n, 

258-93; "persecutes" Burnham, 

22-31. 
"Cannon clique," 36, 41, 51ff., 75-9, 

274-93; evaluated by Burnham, 

47. See also "leader cult." 
"Cannon regime," 4, 169-70. See 

also "Cannon clique," "leader 

cult." 
Cannon- Shachtman "r.egime," 11, 

43. 
Cannon-Swabeck "bureaucratic ap- 

paratus," 11. 

Carlson Grace, 172; letter to, 172. 
Carter, 11, 101, 118, 142, 258, 264- 

265. 

Carter-Burnham minority, 101. 
centralism. See democratic cen- 

tralism. 



296 STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 



Centrists, 212, 232. 
Chamberlain, 220, 268. 
Charles, C., 107, 160, 168, 170, 193- 
194, 204; letters to, 107-13, 160- 
161, 193-4, 204. 

Chicago, 25, 52-3, 55-7, 137, 159, 
175, 191, 227; convention, 25, 
52-3, 55-7, 191, 227, 285-7. 
Chinese section Fourth Interna- 
tional, 181, 196, 200, 204, 245. 
Chris. See Andrews, Chris. 
C.I.O., 59. 
City College, 80. 
Clarke, George, 77, 157, 160, 202, 

278-9, 281, 284, 286. 
Clement, 11. 
Cleveland, 14, 174, 183, 187, 198, 

206, 288. 

Cleveland Conference (Minority), 
14, 174, 183, 187, 198, 206; unity 
telegram to, 183; split resolu- 
tion, 198. 

Cochran, 278, 282, 284, 286, 288. 
combinationism, 16-8, 31-49, 89, 
100-2. See also Abern, Abern 
clique, Abernism. 
Comintern (Communist Interna- 
tional, Third International), 5, 
16-7, 60, 71, 103, 225, 232, 269; 
collapse in Germany, 7. See also 
Stalinism. 
Communist International. See 

Comintern. 
Communist League of America 

(C.L.A.), 75, 112, 285. 
Communist Manifesto, 19-20, 22. 
Communist Party (C.P.), 145', 191, 

230, 285, 290. 
Communist Party of U.SA., 17, 24, 

71, 112n, 216. 

Communist Party of S.U., 17, 52, 
213; "Anti-Trotskyist" faction, 
17. 

conservatism, 57-60. 
Coover, Oscar, 150, 182; letters to, 

150, 182. 
Corcoran, 29. 



Cornell (Trotsky), 153, 173, 175, 

181. 

Coughlinites, 110. 
Coyoacan, 97, 195. 
Crux (Trotsky), 92, 115, 184. 

Daily Worker, 45. 

Dardanelles, 270. 

Debs, 260. 

defeatism. See Russian question. 

defensism. See Russian question. 

De Leon, Daniel, 21, 101. 

Demby, 173-4. 

democratic centralism, 14, 42, 122- 

123, 125-31, 141-2, 146, 166-7, 170- 

171, 187-91, 227-30, 233-4, 239-40, 

246, 251-2 279, 292-3. 
Detroit, 278. 
Dewey, Professor, 27. 
Dialectical materialism, 136, 138, 

179, 197. 
Dick (Seattle comrade), 124, 133; 

letters to, 124, 133. 
Dies Committee, 97n. 
Dobbs, Farrell, 39, 79, 92-4, 119-21, 

132, 139-40, 172, 178, 196, 198, 

203-5, 208, 245; letters to, 119-21, 

132, 140. 
Donlon, 134. 
Draper, 264. 
Duluth, 167. 
Dunne, Vincent R., 23, 76-7, 79, 92- 

95, 281-2, 285-7; letter to, 92-5. 

Eastman, Max, 127, 138, 174. 

Edwards, 115. 

Eide, 68-9. 

Emergency Conference of the 
Fourth International, 251-3; re- 
solution, 251-2. 

Engels, 19, 194, 232, 251. 

England (Great Britain), 104, 119, 
195, 200, 221. 

English section Fourth Interna- 
tional, 195, 200. 

Erber, 264, 272-3. 

Estonia, 223. 



INDEX 



297 



Everett, 202-3. 
Bverettites, 203. 

fascism, 72. 

Field, 144, 189. 

Finland 119-20, 122, 181, 199-200, 

223-4, 264-70. 
First International, 10. 
First World War, 5. 
Fischer, 184. 
Foster, 285, 290. 

Fourth International, 3-5, 34, 44-6, 
57-8, 60, 64, 72, 74-5, 92, 97, 102, 
105, 109, 115-6, 121, 123, 126-7, 
133, 138-9, 141, 143-5, 149, 151, 
154, 158, 163, 176-7, 181, 188-92, 
195-6, 198-201, 204, 212-3, 215, 
217, 219-21, 226, 232-3, 237, 242- 
247, 249-53, 263, 274; Stalinist 
penetration, 44-5; "leader cult," 
74-5; Congress of, 56, 190, 221; 
Emergency Conference, 251-3. 
Fourth International, 122n, 242n, 

248-9; founded, 248-9. 
Fourth Internationalists. See Trot- 

skyists. 
France, 34, 58, 79, 176, 190, 202, 

221-2, 265, 284. 
Franco, 220. 
Franco-Soviet (Stalin-Laval) pact, 

221, 243. 

Frank, E. R., 109-11, 118. 
Frank (New Haven comrade), 134; 

letter to, 134. 
Free Masons, 190. 
French Left Opposition, 34. 
French section Fourth Internation- 
al, 34, 58, 176, 190. 
"French turn," 58. 
Fresno, 168. 
Frey, 265. 
Froelich, 72n. 

"From a Scratch to the Danger of 
Gangrene" (Leon Trotsky), 171, 
173, 206. 

Garrett, 142. 
Georgia, 224. 



German section Fourth Interna- 
tional, 245. 

German-Soviet pact. See Stalin- 
Hitler pact. 

Germany, 2, 189, 221, 243, 245, 257. 

Glenner, 203. 

Goldman, 39, 68, 122-3, 160-2, 170, 
173, 181, 264-5, 267-8, 272, 276, 
279, 290. 

Gordon, Sam. 114, 157, 258, 281. 

Gorky, 19. 

Gould, 39-40, 55, 98n, 142, 257. 

"Graduate Burnhamite, A" (J. P. 
Cannon), 135. 

Green, William, 65, 288. 

Hallet, 44-5. 

Hansen, Joseph, 89-92, 96-8, 99n, 

100, 103, 106, 114-5, 122, 157, 189; 

letters to, 89-91, 96-7, 114-5. 
Hardman, 285. 
Harrison, Charles Yale, 223. 
Held, 181. 
Hitler, 2, 6, 8, 60, 86-7, 220-2, 224, 

243, 251, 269. 
Hitler-Stalin pact. See Stalin-Hitler 

pact. 

Hoan, 191, 230. 
Hook, 127. 
Hoover, 119. 
Howat, Alex, 217. 
Hudson, 68. 

I.C.L. conference, 46. 

In Defense of Marxism (Leon 

Trotsky), 3n, 89n, 92n, 97n, 98n, 

122, 153n, 171n, 183n, 210, 226n. 
India, 104, 270, 290. 
Industrial Worker, 167. 
intellectuals, 6-7, 15, 18ff., 81, 138, 

145, 179. 
Internal Bulletin, No. 1 (Workers 

Party), 61. 
Internal Bulletin, No. 3 (Workers 

Party), 34. 
Internal Bulletin, No. 3 (S.W.P.), 

73. 



298 



STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 



Internal Bulletin, II (S.W.P.), 
264, 268. 

International Communist League 
(I.C.L.), 46, 248; conference, 46. 

International Executive Commit- 
tee (Fourth International), 190, 
195. 

International Labor Defense, 111. 

International Ladies' Garment 
Workers Union, 46-7. 

International Left Opposition, 34, 
41, 61, 70-1, 189, 213. 

I.S., 46. 

Italy, 119. 

I.W.W., 167. 

Johnson, 52-3, 60, 184, 193-4, 196, 

198, 204, 258. 
Johnson, Arnold, 44-5. 
July convention, 56-7, 75-7, 90n, 

258-9, 282-3, 285. 

Kamenev, 17. 

Kansas, 217; Industrial Court 
Law, 217. 

Keep America Out of War Com- 
mittee, 288. 

Kerry, 46. 

Kluger, Pearl, 47. 

Knight, Mark, 107. 

Labor Action, 54, 170. 

Labor 'party, 56, 280-1. 

La Guardia, 56. 

Landau, 115. 

Larry, 134. 

Larsen, 169. 

Latvia, 223. 

Laval, 221. 

Lawrence, D., 135, 147. 

"leader cult," 51, 65, 70-5, 96, 

281-93. 

League of Nations, 221. 
"Leaves of Grass," (Whitman), 

211. 

Lebrun, 184, 195-6, 204. 
Left Opposition, 34, 41, 61, 70-1, 

189, 213, 263, 265. 



Leheney, 167. 

Lehigh County Executive Board 
(Unemployed League), 44. 

Lenin, 5, 14, 19, 58, 61-2, 71, 138, 
174, 213-4, 224, 232, 251, 260-1, 
265, 283. 

Lewis, John L., 65, 217-8. 

Lewit, 42, 112, 258, 281. 

Liberty, 106. 

Liebknecht, 260. 

Lithuania, 223. 

Little, Frank, 167. 

London Bureau, 73, 144, 190, 200, 
232. 

Longshoremen's Union of the Paci- 
fic Coast, 218. 

Lore, 223. 

Los Angeles, 107, 160, 167, 170, 
193, 198, 202-4. 

Lovestone, 72, 75. 

Lovestoneites, 16-8, 20, 67, 144, 232. 

Luxemburg, 19, 181, 260. 

Lynn, 159, 287. 

Majority, 33-4, 56-7, 59, 63, 65, 77, 
98-100, 103-5, 119-20, 122, 142-6, 
153-4, 159, 165, 167, 183-5, 199, 
206, 211ff., 226, 246; anti-split 
program, 98-100, 103, 142-6, 153- 
154, 165, 183-5, 199, 206, 226, 246. 
See also democratic centralism, 
Russian question. 

Mannerheim, 224. 

Marx, 11, 18, 232, 251. 

Marxism, 3-5, 8, 31-2, 42, 57, 60, 
70-1, 81-2, 121, 158, 178, 202, 232, 
245, 249, 251, 274; "organiza- 
tional methods," 10-1; political 
methods, 31-2, 50. 

"Marxist Politics or Unprincipled 
Combinationism?" (Shachtman), 
34, 40-1. 

Marxists, 10-1, 31-2, 50; "organiza- 
tional methods," 10-1; political 
methods, 31-2, 50. 

McKinney, 39, 55, 114, 258, 272-3, 
280, 283. 



INDEX 



299 



Mensheviks, 173, 212. 

Menshevism, 11, 58, 127, 189, 203, 
206. 

Mexican section Fourth Interna- 
tional, 181, 195, 199-200, 245. 

Mexico, 89, 132, 181, 195, 199-200, 
245. 

Mexico City, 89, 132. 

Meyers, Sam, 46, 151, 169-70. 

Michigan, 286. 

Militant, The, 122n. 

Mill, 34. 

Minneapolis, 27, 29-30, 67-9, 92-4, 
150, 155, 172, 175, 182, 205, 207, 
218, 278, 287. 

Minneapolis-St. Paul (Twin Cities), 
94, 150, 172. 

Minnesota, 94, 182, 288. See also 
Minneapolis. 

minority (petty-bourgeois opposi- 
tion), 3, 4, 14-5, 18-21, 31-5, 66- 
70, 89, 114, 141-6, 153-4, 156, 163, 
173-4, 176-7, 179-81, 183, 185, 187- 
193, 202, 204, 206-8, 210, 234, 239, 
245-7, 251; "peace-time Trotsky- 
ists," 3; political methods, 9-18, 
50-1; split orientation, 15, 141-6, 
153-4, 173-4, 176-7, 179-81, 183, 
187-93, 202, 204, 206-8, 239, 246- 
247, 291; unprincipled combina- 
tion, 31-5, 89, 100-2; bureaucra- 
tism, 66-70; right-wing, 114; ir- 
responsibility, 185, 193; defies 
convention, 239; suspended, 241; 
expelled, 252-4. 

Minority Conference. See Cleveland 
Conference. 

Molinier, 263, 265. 

Monatte, 189. 

Morgan, Bill, 116-8, 155-6; letters 
to, 116-8, 155-6. 

Morrow, 47, 160, 258, 281, 283, 286. 

Moscow, 6, 17, 104. 

Moscow Opposition, 265. 

Moscow Trials, 6, 220-1. 

Munis, 184. 



Muste, 7, 11, 36, 40, 42-5, 47, 49, 
54, 59, 64, 109, 177. 

Muste-Abern caucus, 40, 44, 54; al- 
liance with Stalinists, 43-5. 

Musteites, 109. See also Muste. 

"Nature of the Russian State in 
the Light of the War, The" 
(Burnham), 85. 

Naville, 115. 

Neureth, 181. 

Newark, 264, 287. 

New Haven, 134. 

New International, The, 2, 87, 122, 
126, 130, 163, 165, 179, 181, 185, 
206, 211n, 240-1, 246, 248-50, 259, 
271; stolen by splitters, 248. 

New International Publishing 
Company, The, 248. 

New Leader, 223. 

"New Year's meeting," 31, 77-80. 

New York, 7-8, 27, 29, 54-6, 63, 89- 
90, 100, 107-10, 112-8, 123, 136, 
147, 173-4, 179, 206, 208, 242, 258, 
264, 278, 284-5, 290;; social com- 
position, 7-8, 27, 90, 114, 147; 
District Convention, 109; City 
Convention, 116-7. 

New Yorfc Post, 223. 

New York University, 180. 

Nin, 115. 

Norwegian Labor Party, 73. 

Novack, 47. 

O'Brien, V. T. (Trotsky), 90. 
October plenum (1939), 57, 73-4. 
October revolution, 5, 24, 211, 214, 

260. 

Odessa, 270. 
Oehler, 36, 42-3, 54, 64, 108, 128, 

144. 

Oehlerites, 42-3, 54, 108, 128. 
Ohio District, 159. 
Old Man. See Trotsky, Leon, 
"one-man regime," 73, 96. See also 

"leader cult." 



300 



STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 



"On the Internal Situation and 

the Character of the Party," 

227. 
"Open Letter to Burnham" (Leon 

Trotsky), 136, 157. 
"Open Letter to Comrade Trotsky" 

(Shachtman), 40, 132, 163, 189. 
Organization question, 4, 9-18, 23-9, 

61, 85, 162, 170, 198, 204, 227ff. 

240, 257ff. See also democratic 

centralism. 
Organizer, The, 23. 
Overstraaten, Van, 189. 

Paz, 189. 

"Peace-time Trotskyists," 3. 

People's Front, 73, 103, 221. 

Petty-bourgeoisie, 2, 3, 6, 9-18, 31-2, 
50-1; vacillations, 2; flight from 
Stalinism, 6; from Trotskyism, 
6; political methods, 9-18, 31-2, 
50-1. See also intellectuals. 

"Petty-Bourgeois Leaders Before 
the Test of the Class Struggle" 
(George Clarke), 202. 

Petty-bourgeois opposition. See 
minority. 

"Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in 
the Socialist Workers Party, A" 
(Leon Trotsky), 124, 130, 137, 
163. 

Pilsudski, 222. 

Pivert, 190. 

Plekhanov, 19. 

POI, 190. 

Poland, 2, 220, 222-4, 257, 259, 
267-73, 290. 

Political Committee S.W.P. (Jan- 
uary 1938 October 1939), 55-7, 
66-70; composition, 55-7; politi- 
cal errors, 56, 68-70; trade union 
errors, 56, 66-7; reorganized, 57. 

Pope, Alexander, 132. 

Portland, 133. 

Preis, Art, 171, 278. 

PSOP, 190, 271. 



Quebec, 224. 

"Question of Organizational Meth- 
ods, The" (Shachtman), 61. 

Red Army, 217, 220, 222, 224, 259, 
267-9, 271. 

"Red Imperialism," 222. 

Reich, 44-5. 

"Resolution on Party Unity" 
(Minority), 187-9. 

"Resolution on the Internal Situ- 
ation of the Workers' Party, 
adopted by the October 1935 
Plenum," 128-9. 

Robertson, 138, 181, 195. 

Rochester, 147-9. 

Roosevelt, 119. 

Rork (Trotsky), 131, 184, 195. 

Rose, 140. 

Rous, 190. 

Rumania, 222. 

Russian Bolshevik party, 17, 52, 
213. 

Russian Communist Party, 17, 52, 
213; "Anti-Trotskyist" faction, 
17. 

Russian question, 2-4, 6, 11, 14n, 
25-8, 32-5, 50, 57, 60, 85ff., 100-7, 
114, 119-22, 130-1, 138, 147, 157, 
163, 174, 181-2, 195-6, 199-200, 
210ff., 243, 251-2, 257ff.; origin 
of struggle, 26, 32; speech on, 
211f f. ; Fourth International 
Conference resolution, 251-2. 

Russian revolution, 5, 24, 211, 214, 
260. 

Russian section Fourth Interna- 
tional, 200, 245. 

Sailors' Union, 218. 

San Francisco, 116, 151, 155-6, 169. 

S.A.P. (Socialist Labor Party, Ger- 
many), 72. 

"Science and Style" (Burnham), 
3-5, 10, 31, 60, 174, 188, 202. 

Seattle, 124, 133. 

Second International, 62, 95, 144. 



INDEX 



301 



Second World War, 5-6, 251, 257-8, 
261. 

Shachtman, 2-5, 11, 18, 25-6, 28, 31, 
33-4, 37-42, 45, 48-9, 54-6, 61, 63- 
64, 67-8, 73-9, 89-90, 100-1, 104, 
106, 108, 112, 119-23, 138-9, 
141-2, 150-1, 157, 159-63, 167, 172- 
176, 181, 184, 189-92, 202, 206-7, 
226n, 227n, 241, 243, 246, 248-9, 
253, 258, 264-5, 268, 272, 276-7, 
281-2, 284, 286, 293; "peace-time 
Trotskyist," 3; Burnham's attor- 
ney, 4; "doubtist," 33; "defeat- 
ist," 34; defends Abern, 37-9; 
condemns him, 40-1; bureaucrat- 
ism, 54-5; ignores P.O., 142; 
lightmindedness, 142; on Lux- 
emburg, 181. 

Shachtmanites, 138, 172, 174, 206. 

"Shachtman School of Quotations, 
The" (Wright and Hansen), 157, 
189. 

Shakespeare, 132. 

Skoglund, 281. 

"Smith," 278, 286-7. 

Sneevliet, 263, 265. 

Social democracy, 23-4, 212, 215, 
232. 

Socialist Appeal, 68-9, 79, 80, 90n, 
122, 125, 131, 142, 160, 165, 179, 

241, 251n, 253n, 257, 272, 278-9, 
283. 

Socialist Labor Party of Germany 
(S.A.P.), 72. 

Socialist Party, 7-8, 11, 40, 42, 45, 
47-8, 54, 59, 109, 112, 117, 126, 
154, 169, 170n, 177, 185, 206, 
230, 232, 248; entry, 7, 40, 45, 
109, 112. - 

Socialist Party of California, 11. 

Socialist Workers Party (S.W.P.), 
7-8, 10-1, 27, 55-7, 65-77, 81, 84, 
90, 114, 137, 147, 154, 191, 19$, 
207, 210, 227, 230, 232, 236-7, 

242, 245, 248-54; social compo- 
sition, 7-8, 27, 81, 90, 114, 137, 
147, 236-7, 245; proletarianiza- 



tion, 9, 236-7; foundation con- 
vention, 25, 52-3, 55-7, 191, 227, 
285-7; political committee, 55-7, 
66-70; July (1939) convention, 
56-7, 75-7, 90n, 258-9, 282-3, 285; 
"leader cult," 51, 65, 70-5, 96, 
281-93; Third National (Spe- 
cial) Convention (1940), 210, 
227, 242, 252-4. 

Souvarine, 14, 60, 189. 

Souvarinism, 89-90, 232. 

Soviet-Nazi pact. See Stalin-Hitler 
pact. 

Soviet Union, 2-3, 6-7, 60, 62-4, 71, 
73-4, 85ff., 106-7, 119-20, 122, 131, 
134-5, 138, 195-6, 199-200, 214-7, 
219, 243, 251. See also Russian 
question, Stalin-Hitler pact. 

Spain, 220-1, 243. 

Spanish revolution, 221. 

Spector, 49. 

Spokane, 167. 

S.R.S, 212; left, 212. 

Stalin, 8, 16, 33, 61-2, 71-2, 86-7, 
103, 106, 120, 122, 131, 138, 195, 
213-4, 216-7, 221-4, 243. 

Stalin-Hitler pact, 2, 6, 8, 60, 86-7, 
221-2, 243, 251, 258, 270-1; im- 
pact on fellow travellers, 6. 

Stalinism, 6, 26, 60-2, 65, 70-2, 74, 
89, 103-6, 120, 125, 213-5, 232, 
258, 273n. 

Stalinists, 44-5, 212, 217, 265. 

Stalin-Laval (Franco-Soviet) pact, 
221, 243. 

Stamm, 144. 

Stanley, 92, 100, 263. 

"Statement of the Political Com- 
mittee on th,e Expulsion of Jo- 
seph Zack" (Workers' Party), 
128. 

Sterling, Max, 207. 

Stevens, David, 107. 

St. John, 167. 

St. Louis, 167. 

St. Paul, 94, 150, 172. 

Stuart, 184. 



302 



STRUGGLE FOR A PROLETARIAN PARTY 



Superior, 167. 
Symes, 11. 
Syndicalists, 19, 212. 

Tammany Hall, 116-7. 

Tanner, 278. 

Ted, 203. 

Third International. See Comin- 
tern. 

Third Period, 16, 216. 

Thomas, C., 151, 156. 

Thomas, Norman, 14, 56, 126, 144, 
154, 191, 230, 234, 268. 

Toledo, 288. 

Toronto, 133. 

"Towards Brass Tacks" (Burn- 
ham), 38. 

"Trade Union Problems" (Farrell 
Dobbs), 205n. 

trade unions, 23, 27, 40, 54, 59, 65- 
71, 77-9, 92-5, 104, 110, 118, 147, 
167, 170, 205, 208, 217-8, 245; 
bureaucracy, 71. 

Trimble, 155, 169, 198. 

"Triumvirate," 17, 265. 

Trotsky, Leon, 2, 4, 6, 11, 17, 19, 
27-9, 34-5, 40, 46-7, 52, 61, 70, 
72-5, 89-90, 92, 97n, 98-105, 115, 
122-4, 130, 132, 136-41, 143, 148, 
150, 153, 157, 163, 167, 171-82, 
184-6, 189, 195-8, 203, 206-8, 212, 
232, 249, 251, 259-61, 263-6, 271, 
274-7; letters to, 27-9, 40, 98-105, 
122-3, 132, 136-9, 163, 173-181, 184- 
186, 189, 195-7, 206-8; on com- 
binationism, 34; letters from, 
90n, 98n, 99n, 136, 157. 

Trotsky Defense Committee, 47. 

Trotskyism, 5ff., 25, 40, 58-9, 72, 
84, 214, 249; American, 5ff., 25, 
58-9, 84. 

"Truth About the Auto Crisis, 
The" (George Clarke), 66. 

Turner, 281. 

Twin Cities, 94, 150, 172. See also 
Minneapolis. 

Tyler, 191, 230. 



Ukraine, 220, 222; Polish, 222; 

Western, 222. 
Unemployed Leagues, 44. 
United Mine Workers of America, 

217-8. 
United States, 81, 97, 105, 145, 189- 

90, 220-1, 223, 238, 243-4, 263. 
unity proposals, 98n, 99n, 103, 143, 

184, 291. 
Urbahns, 189. 
U.S.S.R. See Soviet Union. 
"U.S.S.R. in War, The" (Leon 

Trotsky), 73-4, 210. 

Vancouver, 133. 

Van Overstraaten, 189. 

Vereecken, 196, 200, 263, 265. 

Walcher, 72. 

"War and Bureaucratic Conserva- 
tism, The" (Minority), 3, 18, 43, 
48ff., 61, 66, 170, 255ff. 

"War and the Fourth Interna- 
tional," 119, 224. 

Warsaw, 224. 

Weber, 42-3, 45, 48, 112, 264, 266, 
281, 284; breaks with Abern, 43. 

Weisbord, 59, 144, 189. 

Weiss, Murry, 157, 159, 169-71, 193, 
198, 202-3, 268, 278, 281, 283-4; 
letters to, 159, 169-71, 198, 202-3. 

"What Is at Issue in the Dispute 
on the Russian Question" (Mi- 
nority), 163. 

White Russia, 222. 

Whitman, 211. 

Widick, 39, 40, 55, 67, 287. 

Winchell, 50. 

Workers 1 Age, 17-8, 73-4. 

Workers Party, 43-4, 62, 128. 

Wright, 114-5, 118, 136, 157, 189, 
197, 281. 

Youngstown, 159, 169, 193. 
Y.P.S.L., 39, 40, 76, 114, 116, 142, 
237, 278, 290-1. 

Zack, Joseph, 128. 
Zinoviev, 16-7. 



Works by LEON TROTSKY 

BOOKS 



In Defense of Marxism (Against the Petty- 
Bourgeois Opposition) (240 pages) 

paper $1.50; cloth $2.00 

History of the Russian Revolution (3 vols. in 1 

1336 pages). ...3.00 

Living Thoughts of Earl Marx (184 pages) 1.25 

Lessons of October (125 pages paper) .50; (cloth) 75 

The Bolsheviki and World Peace (238 pages) 2.00 

My Life (598 pages) 2.00 

The Third International After Lenin (357 pages) 2.00 

Whither France (160 pages paper) .50; (cloth) 75 

The Case of Leon Trotsky (Dewey Commission) 

(600 pages).... 1.00 

PAMPHLETS 

I Stake My Life (24 pages) 05 

War and the Fourth International (36 pages) ID 

In Defense of the Soviet Union (40 pages) ID 

Leon Sedoff (32 pages) 10 

Stalinism and Bolshevism (40 pages) 10 

Their Morals and Ours (48 pages) 20 



PIONEER PUBLISHERS 
1 16 University Place New York. 3. N.Y. 



Other PIONEER Publications 

By JAMES P. CANNON 

Socialism on Tried (116 pages) 10 

Trotsky Memorial Address (16 pages) 05 

The Workers and the Second World War (48 pages) 10 

Defense Policy in the Minneapolis Trial (48 pages) 20 

By ALBERT GOLDMAN 

In Defense of Socialism (96 pages) 10 

Assassination of Leon Trotsky (74 pages) 15 

Why We Defend the Soviet Union (32 pages) 05 

What Is Socialism (48 pages) 10 

DOCUMENTS OF THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL 

Founding Conference of the Fourth International 

(127 pages) 25 

Manifesto of the Fourth International on Imperialist 

War and the Proletarian Revolution (48 pages) 05 

Manifesto to the Workers and Peasants of India 

(24 pages) 05 

OTHER WORKS 

Dobbs, Farrell Trade Union Problems (44 pages).... JO 
Guerin, Daniel Fascism and Big Business (339 pages) 1.00 
Morrow, Felix Revolution and Counter-Revolution 

in Spain (202 pages paper) .50; (cloth) 1.00 

James, C. L. R. World Revolution, 1917-36 (429 pages) 3.50 
Lang, Frederick J. Maritime, A Historical Sketch, 

A Workers' Program (181 pages) 1.00 

Charles, C. Your Standard of Living 

What's Happening to It? (32 pages) 05 

Varlin, Eugene The Negro and the U. S. Army 

(32 pages) 05 

Why Did They Confess? (32 pages) 10 

Parker, Albert March on Washington, 1 Year After 

(15 pages).... .03 
Parker, Albert Negroes in the Post-War World 

(16 pages) .05 
Sounders, John and Parker, Albert The Struggle 

for Negro Equality (32 pages) 05 

Serge, Victor From Lenin to Stalin (112 pages paper) 50 

PIONEER PUBLISHERS 
1 16 University Place New York, 3, N.Y. 



J. P. CANNON 

The 

HISTORY 

of 
AMERICAN 

TROTSKYISM 



THIS book will contain 
Comrade Cannon's series 
of 12 lectures on the ori- 
gin and development of 
Trotskyism in America. 



In Preparation 



PIONEER 



Your Marxist Library is Not Complete Without- 




LEON TROTSKY'S Last Writings 

In Defense of MARXISM 

Against the Petty Bourgeois Opposition 

ARTICLES and LETTERS written in the last year of 
Trotsky's life are brought together in a volume invaluable 
to the student of Marxism and current politics. Trotsky dis- 
cusses: 

1) Dialectical Materialism 

2) The Class Nature of the Soviet Union 

3) The Soviet Union at War 

4) Democratic Centralism 

The appendix includes James Burnham's article, 
"Science and Style" as well as his letter of resignation from 
the Workers Party. 

Introduction by William F. Warde and Joseph Hansen 
Paperbound $1.50 240 pages Clothbound $2.00 

PIONEER PUBLISHERS 

116 UNIVERSITY PLACE NEW YORK 3, N. Y.