Showing posts with label max shachtman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label max shachtman. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

In Honor Of The King Of The Folk-Singing Hard-Living Hobos The Late Utah Phillips -From The Archives- *Labor's Untold Story-The Industrial Workers Of The World (IWW)- Party Or Union?

Click on title to link to ex- IWW'er, American Communist Party founder and Socialist Workers Party (Trotskyist)founder James P. Cannon's analysis of the IWW.

Every Month Is Labor History Month

This Commentary is part of a series under the following general title: Labor’s Untold Story- Reclaiming Our Labor History In Order To Fight Another Day-And Win!

As a first run through, and in some cases until I can get enough other sources in order to make a decent presentation, I will start with short entries on each topic that I will eventually go into greater detail about. Or, better yet, take my suggested topic and run with it yourself.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

In Honor Of The Anniversary Of The Paris Commune-From The Archives-The Struggle For The Labor Party In The United States- 1930s American Socialist Workers Party Leader Max Shachtman-The Problem of the Labor Party (1935)

The Struggle For The Labor Party In The United States- 1930s American Socialist Workers Party Leader Max Shachtman-The Problem of the Labor Party (1935)

A link to the Max Shachtman Internet Archives online copy of The Problem of the Labor Party

Markin comment on this series:

Obviously, for a Marxist, the question of working class political power is central to the possibilities for the main thrust of his or her politics- the quest for that socialist revolution that initiates the socialist reconstruction of society. But working class politics, no less than any other kinds of political expressions has to take an organization form, a disciplined organizational form in the end, but organization nevertheless. In that sense every Marxist worth his or her salt, from individual labor militants to leagues, tendencies, and whatever other formations are out there these days on the left, struggles to built a revolutionary labor party, a Bolshevik-style party.

Glaringly, in the United States there is no such party, nor even a politically independent reformist labor party, as exists in Great Britain. And no, the Democratic Party, imperialist commander-in-chief Obama's Democratic Party is not a labor party. Although plenty of people believe it is an adequate substitute, including some avowed socialists. But they are just flat-out wrong. This series is thus predicated on providing information about, analysis of, and acting as a spur to a close look at the history of the labor party question in America by those who have actually attempted to create one, or at to propagandize for one.

As usual, I will start this series with the work of the International Communist League/Spartacist League/U.S. as I have been mining their archival materials of late. I am most familiar with the history of their work on this question, although on this question the Socialist Workers Party's efforts run a close second, especially in their revolutionary period. Lastly, and most importantly, I am comfortable starting with the ICL/SL efforts on the labor party question since after having reviewed in this space in previous series their G.I. work and youth work (Campus Spartacist and the Revolutionary Marxist Caucus Newsletter inside SDS) I noted that throughout their history they have consistently called for the creation of such a party in the various social arenas in which they have worked. Other organizational and independent efforts, most notably by the Socialist Workers Party and the American Communist Party will follow.
Markin comment on this article:

Max Shachtman knew how to "speak" Marxism back in the 1930s and believe it. Later he could speak that language only at Sunday picnics and the like as he drifted back into the warm embrace of American imperialism.

Monday, May 20, 2019

From The Marxist Archives-In Commemoration of the Paris Commune by Max Shachtman (When He Was A Revolutionary And Could "Speak" Marxism)

Workers Vanguard No. 980
13 May 2011

In Commemoration of the Paris Commune

(Quote of the Week)

On the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune, we honor the heroic proletarian militants who seized power in the French capital in March 1871, the first historical expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Two months later, amid a reactionary frenzy whipped up by the bourgeoisies of Europe, French troops drowned the Commune in blood, massacring tens of thousands and imprisoning or deporting tens of thousands more. In a 1927 American Communist Party pamphlet, Max Shachtman, quoting from Karl Marx’s 1871 The Civil War in France, outlined the bold measures taken by the Communards, despite shortcomings, to establish workers democracy and begin undertaking socialist measures. Among the Commune’s best militants were members of the International Workingmen’s Association (First International), of which Marx was a principal leader.

The Commune took hold of the old bureaucratic and militarist apparatus, the bourgeois state, and crushed it in its hands, and on its broken fragments it placed the dictatorship of the proletariat, the workingmen of Paris organized as the ruling class of France. With a single stroke it abolished the standing army of the Second Empire and the Third Republic and replaced it with the people’s militia, a force, directly responsible to the Commune, of all the men capable of bearing arms....

The ruling body was based upon a real proletarian democracy, providing for the recall of unsatisfactory representatives, abolishing special allowances, paying all state officials the wages of workers, and realizing that “ideal of all bourgeois revolutions cheap government by eliminating the two largest items of expenditure—the army and the bureaucracy.” The parliamentarism of the bourgeois society was smashed and the Commune transformed itself into a “working corporation legislative and executive at one and the same time,” and held itself up to the provinces of France as the mirror of their own future. Church and State were separated, ecclesiastical property was confiscated and all education secularized.

The pawned property and furniture of the workers were returned, the workers were relieved of the payment of the overdue rents, it abolished the sickening piety of charity and “relief,” and resumed the pay of the National Guard. Thru Frankel, the Internationalist delegate of labor, it took its first steps, however few and unclear, to destroy the system of capitalist production and socialize it by turning it over to the trade unions; to ameliorate the conditions of the workers; to enforce a “fair wage” proviso in Commune contracts and abolish the abominable system of fines and garnisheeing of wages by employers; it planned the institution of the eight-hour day. Its internationalist character was testified to by the Hungarian, Frankel’s presence as delegate of labor, Dombrowski and Wroblewski, the Poles, in the defense.

Its heroic and noble spirit of sacrifice has been left as a revolutionary legacy to the new generations of the avenging proletariat. The Commune was a dim glass in which was reflected the rise of that greater and more powerful dictatorship of the proletariat, the successful proletarian revolution in Russia.

—Max Shachtman, 1871: The Paris Commune (1927)

Friday, March 22, 2019

In Honor Of The 140th Anniversary Of The Paris Commune- C.L.R. James On The Paris Commune- (1946)

C.L.R. James on the Paris Commune

Revolutionary History is grateful to Scott McLemee for permission to use his transcription of this and other C.L.R. James texts. Standard American spellings have been retained here, on the assumption they were used in the original publication.

The following article by C.L.R. James appeared under a pseudonym in the 18 March 1946 issue of LABOR ACTION, newspaper of the Workers Party of the United States.

They Showed the Way to Labor Emancipation:
On Karl Marx and the 75th Anniversary of the Paris Commune
by C.L.R. James

The American working class is not yet as familiar as the European working class with the history and traditions of the revolutionary socialist movement. March 14, anniversary of the death of Karl Marx, and March 18, anniversary of the Paris Commune will be celebrated by only a small minority.

U.S. Workers and Marx’s Heritage
As the international crisis deepens, the American proletariat will rapidly increase its interest in the great thinker whose whole work was based upon the proletariat as the most progressive force in modern society and the irreconcilable enemy of capitalist barbarism. As the class struggle sharpens in the U.S. Marxism will come into its own as a great popular study. The American proletariat will then learn to celebrate in its own vigorous style the anniversary of those workers in Paris who in 1871, to use Marx’s phrase, stormed the heavens. They gave to the world, for the first time, the “political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labor.”

Karl Marx’s life was all of a piece. He devoted himself to a scientific demonstration of the inevitable decline of capitalist society. But side by side with this decline there emerged the socialist proletariat, the class destined to overthrow capitalism, establish the socialist society, and wipe away for good and all the exploitation of man by man.

In Marx there was not the slightest trace of mysticism. He was a master of English political economy, German philosophy, and French political science. These he used in his monumental labors to establish that the social movement had the inevitability of a process of natural history, that it was “governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness, and intelligence, but rather on the contrary determining that will, consciousness., and intelligence.” By this he did not mean to say that the future of human society was predestined in all its events and occurrences. He knew that men made their own history. He knew that social life proceeded by the conflict of interests and passions, complicated by all the bewildering phenomena which attend the daily activity of hundreds of millions of human beings. But he, more than any other thinker, established the fact that all these multitudinous actions took place according to certain laws. For him the most important law was the organic movement of the proletariat to overthrow bourgeois society.

Perhaps today it would be as well to recall an aspect of his doctrine too often forgotten. No man had a more elevated conception of the destiny of the human race. This for him was the greatest crime of capitalism, that while, on the one hand, it created the possibility of a truly human existence for all mankind, by the very nature of the process of capitalist production, it degraded the individual worker to the level of being merely an appendage to a machine.

A New Vision for the Working People
In his great work, CAPITAL, over and over again, he pointed out that as capitalist production became more scientific, the actual labor of the worker was more and more deprived of intellectual content and educational potentiality. So far was Marx from being a vulgar materialist that in his denunciation of the evils of capitalist production, he did not hesitate (for the moment) to brush aside the wages of the worker. “In proportion as capital accumulates,” he insisted, “the lot of the laborer, be his payment high or low, must grow worse.” On the basis of economic analysis he drew the conclusion that modern society would perish if it did not replace the worker of today, condemned to automatic repetition of mechanical movement, by the highly developed individual. Such a man, according to Marx, would be fit for a variety of labors, ready to face any change of production, a man to whom the different social functions he performed were but so many means of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers. This for him would be a workers in a civilized society but that could come only by the destruction of capital.

Such was his vision that this student of political economy and the labor process has unfolded perhaps the most poetic and far- seeing perspective for human society ever propounded by any philosopher or poet. According to him it was only with the creation of the socialist society that the real history of humanity would begin. Thus at a single stroke, he thrust into insignificance the painfully acquired knowledge and culture of thousands of years of civilization, which he, more than most other men, had studied and understood. All this, he said, would be as nothing in comparison with the perspective which would be opened to human society by the abolition of the exploitation of classes on the basis of a world-wide cooperation. Yet scientist and philosopher as he was, with the unquenchable faith in the inevitability of socialism, Marx was no mere man of the study. He took part in the German revolution of 1848, was active in the preparation of the revolution of that year, and to the end of his days participated, whenever possible, in the workers struggles against capitalism which he always knew as preparation for social revolution. In 1871, when the workers of Paris established the Commune, Marx hailed it as one of the greatest events in human history. Let us briefly recall the circumstances.

The First Working-Class Government
France had been defeated by the armies of Germany which stood at Versailles, a few miles away from Paris. The leaders of French capitalism, statesmen, and soldier, were on their knees before the German conquerors, anxious to save their hides and the plunder that they had accumulated during the war. They were ready to sell out France to the conquered. The French people had proclaimed the French republic, and these capitalist politicians knew that one great obstacle stood in the way of their conspiracy with Bismarck. This obstacle was the armed republicans of Paris. Working in the closest association with the German invader, the French ruling class attempted to disarm the Parisians but the workers of Paris, emaciated by a five months’ famine, did not hesitate for a single moment. They seized the power in Paris and established the Paris Commune. What exactly was this Commune? There have been many interpretations. The interpretation of Karl Marx remains unchallenged in its simplicity and its penetration. “It was essentially a working class government, the product of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of man.”

What the Paris Commune Symbolized
The Paris Commune was first and foremost a democracy. The government was a body elected by universal suffrage. None of its functionaries was paid more than the wages of a skilled worker. It did not expropriate the property of the bourgeoisie, but it handed to associations of workingmen all closed workshops and factories, whether the capitalist owners had run away or simply had decided to stop work. It lasted for 71 days. It was destroyed by a combination of its own weaknesses, chiefly a lack of decision, and the treacheries of the French bourgeoisie in shameless alliance with the German army. The murderous brutality with which the fighters of the Commune were shot, tortured, and deported, remained a landmark in European civilization, until the days of Hitler and Stalin. Today, to the American proletariat, there are many lessons to be drawn for the history of the Commune. Perhaps the most important for the advanced workers are the methods by which Marx approached its study and conclusions which he drew. For him, the Commune, despite its failure, was a symbol of inestimable value. It was a symbol in that it showed the real women of Paris – heroic, noble, and devoted like the women of antiquity. It was a symbol in that it showed to the world: “working, thinking, fighting, bleeding Paris – almost forgetful, in its incubation of a new society, of the cannibals at its gates – radiant in the enthusiasm of its historical initiative.” It was a symbol in that it admitted all foreigners to the honor of dying for the immortal cause. It was a symbol because even before peace had been signed with Germany, the Commune made a German working man the Minister of Labor. It was a symbol because under the eyes of the conquering Prussians on the one hand, and the Bonapartist army on the other, it pulled down the great Vendome column which stood as a monument to the martial glory of the first Napoleon. Marx saw in these actions not accidental gestures but organic responses of the revolutionary proletariat to the barbarous practices and ideology of bourgeois society.

The Important Conclusion
Most important, however, Marx drew a great theoretical conclusions from the experience of the Commune. He showed that the capitalist army, the capitalist state, the capitalist bureaucracy, cannot be seized by the revolutionary proletariat and used for its own purposes. It had to be smashed completely and a new state organized, based upon the organization of the working class. In 1871, he drew this as a theoretical conclusion. In 1905, and later in 1917, the Russian working class, by the formation of Soviets, or workers councils, laid the basis of a new type of social organization. It was by his studies of Marx’s analysis of the Commune that Lenin able to recognize so quickly the significance of the Soviets and to establish them as the basis of the new workers’ state. Today the advanced American worker needs to know the history of the international struggles of the proletariat. From these he will most quickly learn to understand his own. Marx’s pamphlet on the Commune, THE CIVIL WAR IN FRANCE, is a profound and moving piece of writing. The worker who has not yet begun the study of Marxism will never forget this double anniversary if he celebrates it by reading what Karl Marx had to say about the great revolution of the Paris working-class.

Monday, January 21, 2019

From The Archives Of The Spartacist League (U.S.)-Fascism and the World War AND Working Class And War By Max Shachtman (1941)

Markin comment:

In October 2010 I started what I anticipate will be an on-going series, From The Archives Of The Socialist Workers Party (America), starting date October 2, 2010, where I will place documents from, and make comments on, various aspects of the early days of the James P. Cannon-led Socialist Worker Party in America. As I noted in the introduction to that series Marxism, no less than other political traditions, and perhaps more than most, places great emphasis on roots, the building blocks of current society and its political organizations. Nowhere is the notion of roots more prevalent in the Marxist movement that in the tracing of organizational and political links back to the founders, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the Communist Manifesto, and the Communist League.

After mentioning the thread of international linkage through various organizations from the First to the Fourth International I also noted that on the national terrain in the Trotskyist movement, and here I was speaking of America where the Marxist roots are much more attenuated than elsewhere, we look to Daniel DeLeon’s Socialist Labor League, Eugene V. Deb’s Socialist Party( mainly its left-wing, not its socialism for dentists wing), the Wobblies (IWW, Industrial Workers Of The World), the early Bolshevik-influenced Communist Party and the various formations that led up to the Socialist Workers Party, the section that Leon Trotsky’s relied on most while he was alive. Further, I noted that beyond the SWP that there were several directions to go in but that those earlier lines were the bedrock of revolutionary Marxist continuity, at least through the 1960s.

I am continuing today  what I also anticipate will be an on-going series about one of those strands past the 1960s when the SWP lost it revolutionary appetite, what was then the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) and what is now the Spartacist League (SL/U.S.), the U.S. section of the International Communist League (ICL). I intend to post materials from other strands but there are several reasons for starting with the SL/U.S. A main one, as the document below will make clear, is that the origin core of that organization fought, unsuccessfully in the end, to struggle from the inside (an important point) to turn the SWP back on a revolutionary course, as they saw it. Moreover, a number of the other organizations that I will cover later trace their origins to the SL, including the very helpful source for posting this material, the International Bolshevik Tendency.

However as I noted in posting a document from Spartacist, the theoretical journal of ICL posted via the International Bolshevik Tendency website that is not the main reason I am starting with the SL/U.S. Although I am not a political supporter of either organization in the accepted Leninist sense of that term, more often than not, and at times and on certain questions very much more often than not, my own political views and those of the International Communist League coincide. I am also, and I make no bones about it, a fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, a social and legal defense organization linked to the ICL and committed, in the traditions of the IWW, the early International Labor Defense-legal defense arm of the Communist International, and the early defense work of the American Socialist Workers Party, to the struggles for freedom of all class-war prisoners and defense of other related social struggles.
Markin comment on this series of Proletarian Military Policy (PMP) articles:

Coming out of the radical wing of the Vietnam War anti-war movement in the early 1970s, and having done military service as well, I was intrigued when I first read about the Socialist Workers Party’s (SWP-U.S.) Proletarian Military Policy (PMP) as propounded by that party just before and during World War II. The intriguing part, initially at least, was the notion that radicals could have a democratic propaganda platform to work off of in bringing their fellow soldiers around to an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist by proposing to control the then much less powerful American military through democratic methods like election of officers, etc..

And then life intruded. Or rather I reflected on my own somewhat eclectic anti-war military work and, as well, of various schemes by reformists to “control” various aspects of bourgeois society without having to take power and replace those institutions. In short, take political responsibility for the current regime. In the year 2010 we, after years of defeat and decline, are quite used to reformists and others putting forth all kinds of nice schemes for turning swords into plowshares by asking the bourgeois state to take the war budget and create jobs, better educational opportunities, provide better health care, you name it all without, seemingly, positing the need to change the state.

A classic and fairly recent example of that, in the aftermath of the Professor Henry Louis Gates arrest in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was the renewed call for “community control of the police.” And of course, come election time, the willingness, sometimes without even the caveat of refusal to take office if elected, of all and sundry leftists to run from the executive offices of the bourgeois state. Thus, by standing for those offices, exhibiting a touching “innocence” on the question of responsibility for the administration of the capitalist state. To my mind, the PMP is on that order. The idea, the utopian idea, when you talk about the central organs of bourgeois state power, the armed forces, the police, the courts and the prisons that something short of the struggle for power will do the trick. The hard, hard reality is otherwise, as we are also too well aware of every time we get a little uppity.

Reflecting on my own military experience about what can and cannot be done in order to influence soldiers and sailors and fight for an anti-war perspective military does not mean that nothing can be done short of taking take power to do so. The real problem with the PMP, and it may have reflected a lack of knowledge of wartime military possibilities, cadre familiar with the then peacetime volunteer military, and the “weak” military presence in pre-World War II America was that it was trying to project a positive program where what was called for, and is usually called for in war time conditions, were defensive measures such as creation of rank and file servicemen’s unions that fight for democratic right for soldiers, essentially the right to organize, and against victimizations of both radicals and others that get into the military’s cross hairs. The other key policy was to link up the civilian political anti-war opposition with the soldiers through the vehicle of coffeehouses or other off base places and soldiers and sailors solidarity committees. Late in the Vietnam War period those effects were beginning to have effect as rank and file disaffection with that war almost split the soldiery. Certainly it was a factor in Vietnamization of the war as the American army became more unreliable as a tool to carry out imperial policy.

As the material presented notes, especially in the introduction, the SWP never, as far as I know, repudiated the PMP (it kind of drifted away as World War II entered its final phases.) This, perhaps, reflected a certain “softness” as also noted on the question of running for executive offices of the bourgeois state which that party did after the war and revolutionaries’ relationship to that state in the struggle for power. As well it is not clear how much Leon Trotsky’s posthumous residual authority, who pushed the PMP as much as anybody else, played in this whole mess. Read this material as a modern Marxist primer on the bourgeois state.

Fascism and the World War
by Max Shachtman

Written: 1940
Source: Prometheus Research Library, New York. Published in Prometheus Research Series 2, 1989.
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: David Walters, John Heckman, Prometheus Research Library.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2006/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.

This is the second in a series of six articles under this title written by Max Shachtman from late 1940 to early 1941. It appeared in Labor Action, 4 November 1940.

Fascism’s rise to power in Germany, its consolidation, and above all the spectacular victories it has won in the war, have had a decisive influence in shaping the thoughts and actions of the working class. Especially in the democratic countries, the labor movement is increasingly aware of the peril to its existence represented by Hitlerism, increasingly anxious to fight it to the death. The worker’s hatred of fascism and all it stands for is sound to the core.

Up to the present, however, the revolutionary vanguard elements have been unable to give this hatred a clear-cut class expression. Rather, it has been cunningly and effectively exploited by every capitalist demagogue, every professional “democrat” and every one of their retainers in the labor movement. It has been basely perverted in the interests of a decadent social order, for the preservation of capitalist rule, for the promotion of the profits and privileges of one imperialist gang against another. The most detestable form of this exploitation of a progressive sentiment for reactionary purposes is the use made of it to lead proletarian cannon-fodder docilely into supporting the capitalist democracies in the present war.

We didn’t do so well against fascism in Germany when we had the chance in 1931 and 1932 and 1933—say the social-democrats—but we’re ready to make up for it now under the sacred leadership of Daladier or Churchill or Roosevelt.

War is a terrible thing; it threatens the standards of living and even the existence of the working class—say the labor lieutenants of imperialism—but fascism, which we ourselves cannot fight, is worse and so we must fight it under the banner of imperialism.

We used to have some confidence in the working class and socialism—say the intellectuals who have completed their retreat to capitalism—but now everything, especially the class struggle and all idea of revolution, must be abandoned in the interests of the holy war against fascism.

Our traditional principles and beliefs held in the past—they all say in one way or another—but they hold no longer because fascism makes it necessary for us to revise them or to drop them altogether.

The tragic hordes of refugees fleeing before the mechanized armies of Hitler have as their no less tragic counterpart the flight from working-class principles of virtually everybody in and around the labor movement. Some are moving fast, and some faster, but almost all of them are in flight.

It would be somewhat surprising if even the most revolutionary section of the working class were not affected in one degree or another by the atmosphere thus created. We know from the last world war that those revolutionists who were able to resist the impact of the powerful chauvinistic wave, not give a single inch to it, were exceedingly few in number and remained in total isolation for a long time. Others either plunged into the war current or drifted with it and landed far from the shores of the working class. In those days, the pretext for abandoning Marxism was the need of preserving labor from the horrors of Kaiserism or Czarism; today, it is the horrors of fascism.

The Cannonites Decide on a Change of Front
Among the recent examples of change of front is the unfolding of a new policy towards the war and militarism by the Socialist Workers Party (Cannon group). It is worthy of detailed examination precisely because it is calculated to appeal to those revolutionary workers who were educated in the spirit of Lenin’s uncompromising ideas. Let us see just what it has and what it has not in common with these ideas.

The policy, specifically described as a new one, has its origin in a point of view developed by Trotsky shortly before his assassination. It is presented publicly, with characteristic amplifications, one-legged analogies and other improvements, in two speeches delivered by Cannon at the last meeting of the S.W.P. National Committee in Chicago and a resolution adopted there, all of which appear in recent numbers of the Socialist Appeal.

Our examination could not possibly dwell on all the ludicrous theoretical boners with which Cannon’s contribution is studded and which have always been a source of polite merriment among his less awed colleagues. That would be too long a task for one or even two articles. Insofar as it is possible to crash through the commonplaces and pomposity that surround its central points, we shall deal only with those points.

“These are new times,” says Cannon. “The characteristic feature of our epoch is unceasing war and universal militarism.” So far—even if not very new—so good. And what new policy does the revolutionary Marxist movement need for these new times which it did not have yesterday? “The workers themselves must take charge of this fight against Hitler and anybody else who tries to invade their rights. That is the whole principle of the new policy that has been elaborated for us by comrade Trotsky. The great difference between this and the socialist military policy in the past is that it is an extension of the old policy, and adaptation of old principles to new conditions.” (Emphasis in original.)

Having read what the “whole principle of the new policy” is, we rub our eyes for the first time. “The workers themselves must take charge of this fight against Hitler and anybody else who tries to invade their rights.” Just what is new in this policy, at least so far as the Marxist movement, or the modern Trotskyist movement, is concerned? Of which old policy is it an extension? Liberals, social-democrats and Stalinists in the past (and today) placed the fight against fascism in charge of the bourgeoisie. That is true. But not we.

Especially since the rise of the Nazis in Germany in 1931, Trotsky above all taught the movement that “the workers themselves must take charge of this fight against Hitler” and Hitlerism, both on a national and an international scale, both in the case of civil war in one country and in the case of imperialist war between bourgeois-democratic and fascist nations. That thought runs through every document of the Fourth International, every document of Trotsky, from 1931 down to the thesis on “The War and the Fourth International” and “the Transitional Program of the Fourth International.” If that is the “whole principle of the new policy,” what was the principle of the “old” policy?

Just What Was the Bolshevik Policy?
We have learned, in politics, that the attempt to present an old policy as a new one, or a new policy as merely an old one, usually conceals something quite different. But before we look to see if that is so in this case, let us inquire into the reasons, the premises, for a new policy.

We must rid ourselves, says Cannon, of a hangover from the past of our own movement. “We said and those before us said that capitalism had outlived its usefulness. World economy is ready for socialism. But when the World War started in 1914 none of the parties had the idea that on the agenda stood the struggle for power. The stand of the best of them was essentially a protest against the war. It did not occur even to the best Marxists that the time had come when the power must be seized by the workers in order to save civilization from degeneration. Even Lenin did not visualize the victory of the proletarian revolution as the immediate outcome of the war.” (Emphasis in original.)

Now, having read what the premises for the “new” policy are, we rub our eyes for the second time. One would think that the need of imposing the new line on his party did not require such an insistent display of contempt for commonly-known facts. We restrict ourselves to the term “contempt” only because it is not quite clear to us whether it is falsification that is involved or merely ignorance.

Not even “the best of them,” not even “the best Marxists,” and not even Lenin looked forward to the proletarian revolution in the last war? Let us see:

In one of its very first manifestoes following the outbreak of the war, the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party declared in October, 1914: “The war has placed on the order of the day (in the advanced European countries. M.S.) the slogan of a socialist revolution.” The resolution of the Bolshevik conference in Switzerland, March, 1915, declared: “Civil war to which revolutionary social-democracy calls at the present period is a struggle of the proletariat, with arms in hand, against the bourgeoisie for the purpose of expropriating the capitalist class in the advanced capitalist countries, for a democratic revolution in Russia (democratic republic, eight-hour work-day, confiscation of landowners’ lands), for a republic in the backward monarchist countries in general, etc. ...A revolutionary crisis is approaching.”

Cannon now tells us that “the stand of the best of them was essentially a protest against the war.” If the above perspective and program of the Bolsheviks (“the best of them”) was only a protest against the war, what, if you please, would a program of revolution look like?

Again, in his article of October 11, 1915, Lenin wrote, precisely against those who did not have a revolutionary perspective: “...We are really and firmly convinced that the war is creating a revolutionary situation in Europe, that all the economic and socio-political circumstances of the imperialist epoch lead up to a revolution of the proletariat... (therefore) it is our bounden duty to explain to the masses the necessity of a revolution, to appeal for it, to create befitting organizations, to speak fearlessly and in the most concrete manner of the various methods of forceful struggle and of its ‘technique’”... And a year later, at the end of 1916, the same “not-even-Lenin” wrote in his criticism of the German Marxists: “In the years 1914 to 1916 the revolution stood on the order of the day.” And above all, what in heaven’s name was the meaning of Lenin’s slogan, repeated a thousand times during the last war, “Turn the imperialist war into a civil war”?

Trying to Reconcile the Irreconcilable
Now why is Cannon compelled to resort to so transparently false an argument to motivate the change in course? The answer is not hard to find. His problem is to reconcile the irreconcilable: adherence to the revolutionary anti-war tradition of Lenin and Bolshevism, with advocacy of a new and different policy towards the present war crisis that has little in common with that tradition. He resolves his problem very simply—by a complete misrepresentation of the views and tradition of the Bolsheviks in the last war. Once that is done, he is ready to proceed with his “new” policy. We have already seen that his first attempt to describe what is “new” in the policy adopted by the S.W.P., is simply a failure. Let us see how he fares with his other attempts.

Pacifist opposition to war is futile or misleading or even reactionary. Good, and like most of the commonplaces of which Cannon is qualified master, true. Moreover, it is worthwhile repeating and explaining this truth over and over again. The working class, and revolutionists in particular, are not and cannot be opposed to war as such and therefore to all wars. We were for the war in Spain; we are for the war of a colonial people against an imperialist power (China vs. Japan); we are, above all, for the war of the workers against their oppressors. The professional pacifists are at best utopians (disarmament, or abolition of war, under capitalism!) and at worst, as a rule, they disarm the exploited in face of the enemies of the people. But Marxists have pointed this out for almost a hundred years. The whole modern revolutionary movement was brought up, especially by Lenin and Trotsky, in the last quarter of a century with a keen appreciation of these ideas. Repeat it today? Emphasize it more and more? Yes. But that is not new—at least not to the Marxists.

Individual abstention from imperialist war is futile and reactionary. Good, and again, true. We are not “conscientious objectors.” If the imperialist government, because of our weakness, compels us to enter the army, we enter. If it compels us to participate in its war, we participate. We do not claim “exemption” on grounds of conscientious objection. Such opposition to imperialist militarism and war is futile because it is based on individual action instead of action by the organized masses. And if the masses were conscious and strong enough to impose a demand for “exemption,” they would be strong enough to take power and put an end forever both to militarism and war. Such opposition is reactionary, because, if carried out by us, it would mean eliminating revolutionists from the aggregate of the workers in uniform, thus leaving them prey to chauvinists and reactionaries. But these views are at least twenty-five years old in the Marxist movement. When Cannon says of us, the Workers Party, that “They were primarily concerned about the various ways of evading the draft,” he merely adds another monstrous falsehood to the one he tells about Lenin in the last war, doubly monstrous because of the interest which “perspicacious” authorities would show in the lie...But be that as it may, wherein is what he says on this point new—that is, new to the Fourth International, for it is a new policy for the International that he is proposing?

The interests of the workers-in-uniform must be defended. Good, and true, and an elementary duty of the revolutionary movement, of the working class as a whole, both inside and outside the army. We demand decent living standards for the soldiers. We demand full political, democratic rights for the soldiers. We demand an end to all arbitrariness and abuses by the officer caste. We demand the election of officers by the soldiers. We demand an end to the division between the barracks and the civilian population. All these and similar demands have been put forth in Labor Action. But we do not claim that they are “new.” They represent the position of the modern revolutionary movement since the beginning of the last World War and, for that matter, for many years before it.

And Finally–the “New Policy”
But if these things, to which Cannon devotes slabs of lead in the Socialist Appeal, are not the “new policy” demanded by the “new times,” what is it? We finally come to it in Cannon’s summary speech, tucked away in a few modest little sentences. We will quote them so that the reader may have them right before him:

Was our old line wrong? Does the resolution represent a completely new departure and a reversal of the policy of the past? It is not quite correct to say that the old line was wrong. It was a program devised for the fight against war in time of peace. Our fight against war under conditions of peace was correct as far as it went. But it was not adequate. It must be extended. The old principles, which remain unchanged, must be applied concretely to the new conditions of permanent war and universal militarism. We didn’t visualize, nobody visualized, a world situation in which whole countries would be conquered by fascist armies. The workers don’t want to be conquered by foreign invaders, above all by fascists. They require a program of military struggle against foreign invaders which assures their class independence. That is the gist of the problem.

Many times in the past we were put at a certain disadvantage; the demagogy of the social democrats against us was effective to a certain extent. They said: “You have no answer to the question of how to fight against Hitler, how to prevent Hitler from conquering France, Belgium, etc.” (Of course their program was very simple—the suspension of the class struggle and complete subordination of the workers to the bourgeoisie. We have seen the results of this treacherous policy.) Well, we answered in a general way, the workers will first overthrow the bourgeoisie at home and then they will take care of invaders. That was a good program, but the workers did not make the revolution in time. Now the two tasks must be telescoped and carried out simultaneously. (Socialist Appeal, No. 43. Our Emphasis.)

There is the new policy of Cannon! There it is, along with the real reason for it. At the beginning we were told that the “new military policy” cannot be found in the records of the Marxists during the last war, because “not even Lenin” visualized a revolution coming out of the war, whereas in the present war we do visualize it. The argument was spurious and Cannon implicitly acknowledges it in his summary. What is new is what Jay Lovestone and Sidney Hook say is new, what all the social-patriots say is new, namely, the dramatically speedy advance of the Hitlerite armies which “we didn’t visualize, nobody visualized.”

“The workers don’t want to be conquered by foreign invaders, above all by fascists.” Quite true, and in that the workers are quite justified. But that was true also in the last world war. The German workers, with their socialist traditions and institutions, did not want to be conquered by the invading Cossack representatives of Czarist absolutism. The French workers, with their republican and revolutionary traditions, did not want to be conquered by the invading Prussian Junkers and the Hohenzollern dynasty. And not only the workers in general, but we, the revolutionary Marxists, in particular, and that both in 1914 and in 1940.

But what follows from that for Marxists? The policy of the social-patriots, of Scheidemann and Cachin and Henderson in 1914, Blum and Bevin and Oneal in 1940, the policy of supporting the imperialist war in the name of “defense of the fatherland” (or “defense of the working class and its institutions and rights”) from the “invading aggressor”?

Not for a minute! We have always replied, and we still do: This is a war between imperialist bandits for the re-division of the world and its spoils, and not at all a war between democracy and fascism, between defender and invader. The latter is a vicious imperialist lie, and if you believe it you are a dupe of the ruling class and its apologists. But you want to fight fascism? Yes, of course we do. However, there is but one road in that fight—all others lead to the triumph of fascism. That road is the overthrow of the imperialist ruling class, the establishment of workers’ power, of the socialist nation, which will resist all counter-revolutionary aggressors and invaders with arms in hand.

That has always been the position of the revolutionary Marxists. Cannon confirms it. What if we are attacked by a foreign power? he is asked. He says he used to answer: “The workers will first overthrow the bourgeoisie at home and then they will take care of invaders.” That is, from the revolutionary standpoint, the right of national defense in war is conferred upon the working class only after it has taken power from the imperialist ruling class, and has a nation to defend. This, and nothing else, is what has always distinguished the revolutionary Marxists, the socialist-internationalist, from all varieties of social-patriots and social-chauvinists. The argument of the latter, from 1914 to 1940, has been, contrariwise, that the workers must defend “their” country from “invaders” whether or not they have yet succeeded in overthrowing the bourgeoisie.

Now, however, Cannon calls for a different, a new answer to the demagogy of the social-democrats. “Now the two tasks must be telescoped and carried out simultaneously.” What two tasks? Task One: “Overthrow the bourgeoisie at home” and Task Two: “Take care of the invaders,” i.e., national defense. No amount of sophistry—and we look forward to the usual quota—can wipe out this fact:

Up to now, Cannon, together with all other partisans of Marxism, declared that national defense in an imperialist war was permissible only after the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. Today, in virtue of the “new” policy, Cannon declares that national defense is permissible “simultaneously” with the struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie. In other and simpler words, national defense in imperialist war is permissible while the bourgeoisie still rules!

There is the “new” policy of the Cannonites and nothing else! And so far as the Fourth International and its precursors are concerned (we cannot speak for other groups in the labor movement!), it certainly is new!

A Slogan With Class-Collaboration Overtones
What about the slogan of “control of military training by the trade unions,” which the Cannonites seem to present as the “new” element in their policy? Nonsense! That is not what is essentially new in the policy; it is only an offshoot of the “new” course. Military training of the workers and under workers’ control? Of course! What else is our already pretty-well-established slogan of a people’s army based on the trade unions? Yes, we were and remain for the arming of the workers, for a people’s army based on the most authentic organs of the masses today, the trade unions. That’s the army we rely upon to fight our battles, to defend our interests against reaction at home and abroad. As a separate and class institution of the workers, we want it to be completely independent today of the capitalist state machinery, of its military apparatus in particular. Tomorrow, if the people are ready for it, we want it to replace that apparatus.

Of our slogan we can truthfully say: we are reviving (not revising!) Lenin’s old “proletarian militia” slogan of the last war, “modernizing” it neither in principle nor tactically, but only agitationally, from the standpoint of the concrete situation in our day. Our slogan of a people’s army based on the trade unions is the indispensable complement of the fight we carried against conscription, that is, against the building and consolidation of imperialist militarism. (Parenthetically: Cannon knows this, of course; but that does not prevent him with characteristic disloyalty and malice from putting our fight against conscription into the same category with that of Norman Thomas and other pacifists!)

Is this, however, what Cannon’s slogan amounts to? It is sometimes hard to say—reading the Appeal—because “military training under trade-union control” is presented there with deliberate ambiguity. At times, it seems to call for the establishment of a separate armed force, brought together, armed, trained, directed and controlled by the class organizations of the workers, the trade unions, and not as a part of the imperialist army. Given that sense, the slogan is identical with our slogan of a “people’s army” and is one hundred percent correct.

Elsewhere in the Cannonite press, however, the slogan is interpreted as a demand for trade-union “control” of the conscript imperialist army—which is something quite different! Thus—to take the most striking sample from the Appeal—the headlines in No. 39: “N.J. Survey Shows Workers Want Union Control of Military Training. Approve Enactment of Conscription, But Also Favor Union Control of It.” The story that follows corresponds to the headlines.

Why is this second interpretation different from the first? The first—a separate, independent, army of the workers, a “proletarian militia”—is a slogan of class struggle. It stands on the same social feet, so to speak, as a trade union itself. It may be and at the outset it would be, shaded by class-collaborationist officials, just as, for example, the pre-1933 independent social-democratic military organization in Germany, the Reichsbanner, or the Red Front-Fighters League of the Stalinists. Yet it remains, like the unions, a class organization of the proletariat, and it can always be “reformed” of its defects, i.e., transformed peacefully into a revolutionary institution. The second—“trade-union control” of the conscript army—is a slogan of class collaboration, especially in view of the present trade-union leadership (for in this slogan, the reformist character of the officialdom is involved). This slogan stands on the same social feet as a call for “trade-union control” of the Roosevelt government. That is why revolutionary Marxists have never put it forward and do not put it forward today. The bourgeois army cannot be “reformed,” transformed into an institution or instrument of the working class. The proletarian analysis of it, and attitude towards it, is the same as it is towards the bourgeois state, of which the armed forces are the principal physical constituent and characteristic.

Cannon, with vulgar disregard for Marxian theory, compares the army with a factory, a political with an economic institution. His comparison is significant. The working class will take over the factories; it will not take over the imperialist army any more than it will take over the imperialist state. According to the “outlived” Lenin and, before him, Marx and Engels, it will “shatter” the existing state apparatus and replace it with an entirely new and different machinery. Meanwhile, to be sure, revolutionists will no more “abstain” from participating in the armed forces of the bourgeoisie than they abstain from participating—allowing for obvious changes—in the parliament of the bourgeoisie.

“Trade-union control of military training” in the present army is essentially class-collaborationist, finally, because the trade-union “controllers” would only be captives of imperialism, could only be the executors of the policy and purpose of the army, both of which are decided or determined by the imperialist bourgeoisie and its executive committee—the government, the President-Commander-in-Chief and his Staff. It is tragic to think that such ABC’s have to be re-stated not in a polemic against social-democrats but in a polemic against a...Bolshevik.

Dangerous Symptoms Manifested in Practice
In their anxiety to find a “practical” program, to adapt themselves to the patriotic, anti-fascist moods of the workers (that is, to the anti-fascist moods which the bourgeoisie have subverted to the needs of bourgeois patriotism), the Cannonites have given an important finger to the devil of national defensism. It would be stupid to put them in the camp of the social-patriots, of course. But while they are not in flight from revolutionary internationalist principles, they are moving away from them. The “two tasks” which they want to carry out “simultaneously”—there is a treacherous trap they have set for themselves. That trap is all that is new in Cannon’s “military policy of the proletariat.”

It is in light of this overwhelmingly important fact that the recent other “peculiar” developments among the Cannonites must be judged. We list a few of the more significant ones made understandable only by understanding the main point we have made:

1. Dropping the fight against conscription like a hot potato—weeks before it became law. Worse: the sabotaging of that fight by repeating every week that it is useless, that conscription is “inevitable,” that all its opponents are miserable, poisonous pacifists. Worse yet: deliberately falsifying the facts to suit the “new” policy. For example: Before the “new” policy gained its full impetus, the Appeal recognized (No. 32) what everybody knew: “There is today a great wave of popular opposition to the conscription bill now being debated in Congress...millions of workers and farmers oppose conscription.” Two months later, the Appeal discovered (No. 41) that “it is a hopeful fact that the great mass of the workers who are required to do so will go to the registration places on Wednesday seriously and without whining or empty regrets. They go to the army as they go to the factory.” And two weeks later, Cannon writes (No. 43) that “the workers were for conscription.” The type of lie is a bad symptom; the lie itself is a bad symptom.

2. The unprecedentedly furious assault on “pacifism” by the Cannonites. The “pacifism” of the broad masses is healthy and sound—let the Cannonites shout all they please about this in their newly-acquired stage- sergeant’s bluster! It has little, if anything, in common with the professional and “theoretical” pacifists, like the patriotism of the masses, their “pacifism” is progressive, at any rate, potentially progressive. It represents the justified suspicion that fills the people about the imperialist war-mongers and their wars. It represents their hatred and dread of the horrors of war which has become a permanent phenomenon of a rotten social order. It represents their yearning for peace, for security. It is often possible, necessary and right to make a bloc with pacifists against social-patriots, for example; never possible to make one the other way around!

And Cannon? Not a word about all this. Instead, his Plenum resolution states curtly: “Pacifism is a debilitating poison in the workers’ movement.” That, and nothing more! Jim Oneal could scarcely improve upon the formulation. And oh! another discovery. Do you know what destroyed the European labor movement in the present war? According to Cannon, it was its pacifism! Yes, yes, black on white. We thus learn (high time!) that pacifism is the greatest danger to the working class and the labor movement. Ernest Bevin, Minister of Supplies in His Majesty’s Imperial Government, is, you see, a pacifist, and not a social-patriot.

3. But not a single word from the Cannonites about social-patriotism! Exaggeration? Polemical overstatement? No, that is literally the case. The Appeal has printed both of Cannon’s speeches on “military policy” and his resolution. In all three documents, there is not one single solitary word, not a syllable, which mentions social-patriotism. We repeat, not one! Blum and Company in France, and the European labor movement he represented, collapsed, you see, because of pacifism—but not because of social-patriotism! Pacifism is a terrible poison ruining the American workers’ movement, but social-patriotism is not even serious enough to be mentioned as a pimple.

The present writer cannot be endorsed by the Socialist Appeal as candidate for Congress on the platform of the Workers Party because he represents a “petty-bourgeois pacifist sect” the A.L.P. and Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party candidates are endorsed although the Appeal criticizes their “false, opportunist programs.” How delicately put! Their “opportunist” but not their “social-patriotic” programs. Is all this mere accident, or is it a case of the old German proverb: In the house of the hanged, you don’t talk of rope....

4. We used to speak of the “war program” and “war industries” and we still do. The imperialist patriots, deliberately, speak of the “defense program” and “defense industries.” Deliberately—because they must imbue the people with the lie that this is a “defensive” war. The Cannonites used to speak our language on this point. Here, too, we record a change, evidently in accordance with the “new times” and the “new policy.” The front page “box” demand of the Appeal (No. 32) called for “Trade-Union Wages on All Defense Work!” Accident? The Election Platform of the Minnesota S.W.P. (Appeal No. 42) calls for “Trade-union hours and wages on all defense and public works programs....Take over without compensation the national defense industries....” In No. 34, we read that “Instead of allowing the [American] Legionnaires to monopolize the defense movement, every trade union ought to set about to form Union Defense Guards.” It is nice to learn that the much-maligned Legion has been taking care of “our defense”—even “monopolizing” it. Merely loose language? We hope so!

5. The proposal, made in a letter from Goldman to Trotsky, that the S.W.P. drop the slogan of a “People’s Referendum on War” (a proposal Trotsky rebuffed). Yet, why not? Drop the fight against conscription because it is “inevitable” then drop the fight against the war, for it is even “more inevitable”! Is it not rather “strange” that for the last month or more no attention or space has been devoted by the Appeal to criticizing or condemning the new steps Roosevelt takes every day to bring the country closer and closer to participation in the imperialist slaughter? Is it, perhaps, because, this being a “new epoch” of war and militarism, we no longer fight against war and militarism? The fact that Goldman could even make his proposal—surely not in his name alone—is of ominous significance.

Why the “New Policy”?
6. The startling contrast between the speed and wholeheartedness with which Cannon accepted Trotsky’s basic thesis (to say nothing of Cannon’s contributions to it—historical, theoretical, tactical, analogical) and the curt, even violent opposition Cannon manifested towards Trotsky’s other proposal, namely, to give critical support in the elections to Browder and the rest of the Stalinist ticket? On the military policy, Cannon speaks of Trotsky with tenderness, praise, even veneration. On the election policy, Cannon uses the—for him—unprecedented language: “Trotsky...put forward a shocking proposal....We took the position that such a drastic change in the middle of the election campaign would require too much explanation, and would encounter the danger of great misunderstanding and confusion which we would not be able to dissipate.” Would it not be simpler to put the difference in Cannon’s reaction to the two proposals in these terms: (a) to storm against “pacifism” and to shout for “compulsory military training under union control” may not meet with one hundred percent approval of our patriotic union officialdom, but at the same time they would scarcely regard it as terribly “subversive” whereas (b) to call for critical support of the Stalinists in the unions, even though it is fully in line with the rest of the Cannonite position, both on the war question and the question of defense of the Soviet Union (Trotsky was quite consistent in his proposal), will not sound pleasant in the ears of those “progressive fakers” in the unions with whom Cannonites are collaborating.

At the time of the factional struggle in the S.W.P. which ended in the mass expulsions of the minority and the formation by us of the Workers Party, Cannon pretended that he wanted nothing more than unity, that the split would be injurious to the movement, and more of the same. In his speech, Cannon now admits his real feelings about the split: “It is a great advantage for us that we got rid of this petty-bourgeois opposition.” When Cannon speaks of “us” he uses the word like an editorial writer. Therefore, in this case, he is telling the simple, sincere truth. His “new policy” on war and militarism, represents a real departure from the principles of revolutionary Marxism. It is hard to believe that it can go unchallenged in the S.W.P., for there must be in it a group of thoughtful Marxists capable of speaking their convictions and ready to exercise this capacity. If Cannon is able to deal with them as he tried to deal with us he certainly will have a greater advantage in his party than he already has.
Working-Class Policy in War and Peace

Once More on the New Policy Towards Militarism and War
of the Socialist Workers Party

by Max Shachtman
The New International, January 1941

Written: 1941
Source: Prometheus Research Library, New York. Published in Prometheus Research Series 2, 1989.
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: David Walters, John Heckman, Prometheus Research Library.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2006/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.


The second World War is here, and it is only a matter of time before the United States is an open belligerent in words as well as in deeds. Of all the havoc caused by the war, none is so tragic as that produced in the working-class movement. Suppressed, atomized, corrupted, demoralized or misled, labor has missed its second great opportunity in the twentieth century to lift society out of the dreadful morass in which it is floundering and to reorganize it socialistically, on the foundations of orderliness, brotherhood, abundance, security and peace for the peoples.

The weight of the old parties, the old leaderships, the old theories and programs, has again proved so heavy a burden on the working class as to prevent it from rising to its feet and acting as the revolutionary savior of society threatened by barbarism. The fate of mankind is being fought out on the battlefields of the Old World. The American working class, still comparatively fresh and free, can play a decisive if not the decisive role in determining the outcome of the war in favor of world revolution and world socialism. But only on one condition, the all-importance of which is emphasized by labor’s defeats in Europe: that it develops as speedily as possible a revolutionary Marxist party capable of leading the oppressed to victory. An indispensable prerequisite and concomitant of this task is the maximum of clarity and preciseness—hence, of effectiveness—of such a party’s theory and program. Especially now, in the midst of war, ambiguity and carelessness in this domain can become crimes for which punishment will not be lacking. Errors and worse which had only white paper as their background in yesterday’s peace times, have a far greater importance today with the flames of war as their background, and a still greater one tomorrow when the irresistible revolution rises to throw its light upon them.

With these thoughts in mind, I began a few weeks ago to write a series of articles in Labor Action on proletarian policy towards war and fascism, the subjects uppermost in everyone’s mind. In the articles, I reviewed briefly the representative views on these subjects held by some of the radical publicists and organizations in this country—Dwight Macdonald, the Socialist Workers Party, Sidney Hook, the Lovestone group. I submitted them to a criticism from the standpoint of revolutionary Marxism, and ended with an exposition of our own views, those of the Workers Party. On these two most vital of all current problems, war and fascism, the articles aimed at eliminating some of the prevailing confusion, opportunism and even treachery, and at reaffirming and fortifying the revolutionary internationalist position by means of arguments related to present-day realities.

The article criticizing the Cannonite position on the war and war policy Labor Action, Nov. 4, 1940) elicited a reply in the form not of one but of three articles in the Socialist Appeal (Nos. 47, 48, 49), written by Cannon himself. If it were merely a question of a debate with Cannon, the matter could be safely allowed to rest with the last of his articles, for the sufficient reason that there has seldom been any point or profit in a debate on fundamental theoretical or political questions with one who lacks most of the elementary equipment for it. He usually enters such a discussion, to use his own words, with “a pair of hip boots and a shovel,” noble proletarian tools in their field, handy for spraying a debate with such compliments as “unscrupulous twister,” “perverter of historical incidents,” “political underworld,” but yet not quite enough for a political debate. But much more than Cannon’s touching plight is involved in this discussion. It is a matter of clarity in the policy of a section of the Fourth International on vital questions of our period. This alone warrants a return to the discussion of Cannon’s position.

Let us first recall this position, as formulated by Cannon in two speeches delivered at the S.W.P. Plenum in Chicago last September. “These are new times,” he said. “The characteristic feature of our epoch is unceasing war and universal militarism.” The workers must be armed, and trained in the use of arms, for every important problem of our epoch will be settled with arms in hand. Even before the first world war, socialists said capitalism was outlived and ripe for socialism. But when the war broke out “none of the parties had the idea that on the agenda stood the struggle for power. The stand of the best of them was essentially a protest against the war. It did not occur even to the best Marxists that the time had come when the power must be seized by the workers in order to save civilization from degeneration. Even Lenin did not visualize the victory of the proletarian revolution as the immediate outcome of the war.” The present war is not our war, but as long as the mass of the proletariat goes with it, we will go too, raising our own independent program in the army, in the same way as we raise it in the factories. The workers do not want the country overrun by Hitler’s hordes; neither do we. Because workers must be armed and trained, and because we have no confidence in the ruling class and its officers, we are for compulsory military training but under trade-union control. “The workers themselves must take charge of this fight against Hitler and anybody else who tries to invade their rights. That is the whole principle of the new policy that has been elaborated for us by comrade Trotsky.” (See Socialist Appeal, Oct. 12, 1940.)

Except for the utterly false estimation of Lenin in the last war, and the more than ambiguous slogan of trade-union control of military training, there was little to be quarreled with in the above exposition. But what, we asked in our criticism, was the “new policy” that it marked? To this, we concluded, Cannon gave sufficient answer in his summarizing speech at the Plenum:

The gist of the problem, said Cannon, is that the workers “require a program of military struggle against foreign invaders which assures their class independence.” If Hitler attacks us, the social-democrats used to ask, what will you do about it? “Well, we answered in a general way, the workers will first overthrow the bourgeoisie at home and then they will take care of invaders. That was a good program, but the workers did not make the revolution in time. Now the two tasks must be telescoped and carried out simultaneously.” (See Socialist Appeal, Oct. 26, 1940.)

This “new” position—that the workers should be for “national defense” while the bourgeoisie is still in power, and “simultaneously” fight against the bourgeoisie—I characterized with restraint as a concession to social-patriotism and a corresponding abandonment of the revolutionary internationalist position.

I hope the reader will forgive me and not interpret what I say as cheap boasting or as anything but a simple statement of fact if I write that I regarded my criticism of Cannon’s views as so elementary, conclusive and unassailable that I freely predicted Cannon would not reply to it. Frankly, I expected that he would strike a posture and reply to those of his members who are perturbed by the “new line” with one of two statements: “Trotsky himself was for our line; he even originated it; and that’s good enough for us”—or, “We are too busy doing mass work to bother with the criticisms of a sect.” I was wrong, at least in part. He said both these things, to be sure, but he did write a series of three articles for his public press, commenting on the criticism in Labor Action. He even said in the first of his series: “His entire article from beginning to end is a mixture of confusion and bad faith—a Shachtman ‘polemic’. Not a single one of his ‘points’ can stand inspection. In my next article I shall undertake to prove this, point by point.” But while I was wrong, as indicated, yet I was right. Cannon’s reply is no reply. What he undertook to do, he did not do, either in the next article or in the third and last article. And, as will be shown below, he not only failed to take up my criticism “point by point” but deliberately omitted any reference whatsoever to the principal point I made.

In contrast, I intend to deal with all of the very few points Cannon does make, both the relevant and the irrelevant. Let us take them one by one, beginning with the latter.

Military Policy? What About Burnham?
I write a criticism of Cannon’s “military policy” which is either good, bad, or indifferent. Cannon’s first retort is: What about Burnham? Shachtman’s article, you see, “is not directed at Burnham; it is intended to drown out the question of Burnham by shouting loud and long against others.” The reader here gets his first example of what Cannon means by replying to a criticism “point by point”!

Yes, Burnham deserted the socialist movement and socialism. He is not the first deserter and probably not the last. But just what is that supposed to prove against our party and its political position? Does Cannon want to say that Burnham’s desertion is a logical outcome of his previous adherence to that party and its position? That will take a bit of proving.

Maria Reese was received and hailed by us when she quit the German Stalinists. When she deserted to the Nazis, the Stalinists argued that her desertion was the “logical outcome” of her adherence to Trotskyism. The proof that they were disloyal and unscrupulous liars lay in the fact that the condition for Reese’s flight to the Nazis was her renunciation of everything the Trotskyist movement stood for.

Diego Rivera was “protected” by us—by Trotsky, Cannon and me—for years from the criticisms of the other Mexican Fourth Internationalists. Suddenly, he turned up in the camp of the reactionary wing of the Mexican bourgeoisie, even arguing that this was the only way effectively to fight Stalinism. What the Stalinists said about Rivera and Trotskyism is known, or can also be easily imagined.

Similarly with Chen Tu-hsiu, whom we elected a leader of the Fourth International despite the criticisms of the Chinese comrades. He has now passed into the camp of the imperialist democracies. Suppose I were to say about Cannon’s article: “It is not directed at Rivera and Chen; it is intended to drown out the question of these deserters by shouting loud and long against Shachtman.”

Similarly with virtually the whole leadership of the Russian Opposition, who, with the renowned exception of Trotsky and a few others, deserted the fight and went over to Stalinist counter-revolution. In reply to those, who like Souvarine, concluded from these desertions that the distinction between Trotskyism and Stalinism is insignificant and that the one leads easily to the other, we always pointed out that for the capitulators to go to Stalinism they had to break with the Opposition, its platform and traditions, and that there was not “development” from one to the other.

With due respect to the difference in proportions, the same holds true in the case of Burnham. A scrupulous and loyal commentator would say: “I have read the Workers Party statement expelling Burnham and I have read Burnham’s statement. I must take note that he broke with the Workers Party, in his own words, precisely because it was a Marxist party, precisely because it rejected (as Burnham truthfully points out) every attempt to revise or undermine its Marxian position. I must take note, likewise, of the fact that Burnham did not take a single member of the Workers Party along with him in his desertion, that he did not find a single supporter in the party’s ranks, that his departure did not create the slightest disturbance in its midst—all of which would indicate that, so far as the character of the Workers Party is concerned, his desertion had a purely individual and not a broader political or symptomatic significance.” That is what a scrupulous and loyal commentator would say. A demagogue, of course, would speak differently. But our cruel times, and long years of them, have inured us against demagogues.

Lenin Has a Defender
One of the motivations for the “new policy” (which really isn’t a new policy at all, we are assured, but only “an extension of the old policy, and adaptation of old principles to new conditions”), is that in the first world war, not even Lenin—much less others—had the perspective of revolution breaking out in direct connection with the war, that “even Lenin did not visualize the victory of the proletarian revolution as the immediate outcome of the war.” Cannon seeks to justify his present policy (otherwise, why the reference to Lenin?) by contrasting to Lenin’s perspective of 1914-1916, the “immediacy of the revolutionary perspective in connection with the present war.”

In my Labor Action article, I quoted from Lenin to show that his whole course in the last war was based on the conception of a socialist revolution in Europe (in Russia, a “democratic revolution”) in direct connection with the war, a fact which we thought was generally known in the Marxist movement. But this is too much for a patient and tolerant Cannon, who will stand for a lot, but not for anybody tampering with Leninism. Choking with indignation, he accuses me of literary charlatanry, quotation-twisting, distortion, mutilation and common forgery. “It is a matter of simple respect to his [Lenin’s] memory to protect him from the hypocritical support of an advocate who is known among Leninists only as a betrayer of Leninism.” As a betrayer, and what’s more, only as a betrayer of Leninism. The steam behind these blows is terrific and they are delivered with all the weight and effectiveness of a Tony Galento boxing with his own shadow for the benefit of the customers assembled at his bar. But not even a graceful fighter ever hurt anybody shadow-boxing.

It seems, you see, that I left a sentence out of the middle of my quotation from Lenin, and ended when I should have continued. And what did I omit? Nothing less than Lenin’s reference to the need of revolutionary propaganda “independent of whether the revolution will be strong enough and whether it will come in connection with the first or second imperialist war, etc.” The italics are triumphantly supplied by Cannon. This triumph is buttressed by two other quotations from Lenin in 1916 and early 1917, straight from the original Russian edition: (1) “It is possible, however, that five, ten and even more years will pass before the beginning of the socialist revolution,” and (2) “We, the older men, will perhaps not live long enough to see the decisive battles of the impending revolution.” Cannon is so carried away by his researches into the original Russian, that where Lenin said “it is possible” and “perhaps”, he sums it up by saying: “Lenin wrote in Switzerland that his generation would most probably not see the socialist revolution.” (My italics—M.S.)

Now, what is the point of this otherwise absurd counter-posing of quotations? We shall soon see that it has more of a practical than an academic aim. Let us begin by examining what Cannon set out to prove by his reference to Lenin in the last war.

In the first place, he declared that “when the World War started in 1914 none of the parties had the idea that on the agenda stood the struggle for power. The stand of the best of them was essentially a protest against the war. It did not occur even to the best Marxists that the time had come when the power must be seized by the workers in order to save civilization from degeneration.”

In reply I quoted several statements made during the war by Lenin and the Bolsheviks which sound as though they were uttered in anticipatory refutation of the assertion by Cannon. According to the latter, none of the parties, not even Lenin’s, had the idea that the struggle for power, the socialist revolution, was on the order of the day. In October, 1914, the Bolsheviks wrote: “The war has placed on the order of the day the slogan of a socialist revolution” in western Europe. At the end of 1916, Lenin wrote: “In the years 1914 to 1916 the revolution stood on the order of the day.”

Cannon wisely ignores this and takes refuge in his second assertion: “Even Lenin did not visualize the victory of the proletarian revolution as the immediate outcome of the war.” To make even plainer what he meant by this statement made at the September Plenum, he points out to me in his Appeal articles that Lenin of course had a revolutionary program during the war—but, he had been preaching revolution since 1901, as Marx had since 1847; more to the point, he was not dead certain that “we, the older men” would live to see the victorious revolution, that it was possible for the revolution to be postponed to a period long after the first world war. “Shachtman twisted it [i.e., what Cannon said] and distorted it into a denial that Lenin had a ‘program of revolution,’ during the war. But I think it is thoroughly clear to a disinterested reader that I was speaking of something else, namely, Lenin’s expectations as to the immediate outcome of the war, and not at all of what he wanted and what he advocated.”

But Cannon is no better off with his second assertion than with his first. He either does not understand or does not want to understand what is involved, either in Lenin’s time or now, by the conception of “revolutionary perspective.” In the first world war, Lenin did have a revolutionary perspective. He did believe and he said that the socialist revolution is on the agenda. But he did not and could not divorce this belief from the state of the living revolutionary forces at hand for realizing this perspective. He knew then, as he put it years later, that there is no “absolutely hopeless” situation for the bourgeoisie—either in the last war or in the present one. That, and that alone, is why he could say, not only in January, 1917, a few weeks before the uprising in Russia, but from the beginning of the war, that it was “possible” that years and even decades would pass before the socialist victory, that his generation would “perhaps” not see it. In October, 1914, he wrote to Shliapnikov about the slogan of converting the imperialist war into a civil war: “No one would venture to vouch when and to what extent this preaching will be justified in practice: that is not the point (only low sophists renounce revolutionary agitation on the grounds that it is uncertain when a revolution would take place). The point lies in such a line of work. Only such work is socialistic and not chauvinistic and it alone will yield socialistic fruit, revolutionary fruit.” All his writings and doings in the period of the war were equally animated by this conception and spirit.

In other words, while Lenin had a revolutionary perspective, and repeated that the struggle for power was on the order of the day, he did not guarantee that the actual proletarian rising would occur on this or that day, and he did not guarantee either that the first rising would lead to victory. He would not and could not say whether the revolution “will come in connection with the first or second imperialist war”. Not only Lenin, but Trotsky as well. Dealing in his War and the International in 1915 with the alternatives of revolution or capitalist peace and temporary stabilization, Trotsky wrote: “Which of the two prospects is the more probable? This cannot possibly be theoretically determined in advance. The issue depends entirely upon the activity of the vital forces of society—above all upon the revolutionary social democracy.” (My emphasis—M.S.) And so it does today also.

“Lenin,” writes Cannon, “obviously was not arguing about the immediacy of the revolution as we visualize it in connection with the present war, but about the necessity of advocating it and preparing for it.” Cannon’s persistency in arguing this point is noteworthy. Lenin didn’t see revolution as the immediate outcome of the war. Presumably, Cannon’s repetition of this statement means that he, on the contrary, does have the perspective of an immediate revolution in connection with the war. Lenin wasn’t entirely sure of “the victory of the proletarian revolution as the immediate outcome of the first world war”, whereas Cannon is sure of the victory this time. And it is this difference that apparently warrants the “new policy” which, remember, is only an “extension,” an “adaptation” of the old.

But is it not obvious that the only “difference” that Cannon could establish with Lenin’s perspective in the last war is if Cannon did guarantee that “victory of the proletarian revolution” which Lenin did not visualize? “I was speaking of something else, namely, Lenin’s expectations as to the immediate outcome of the war,” Cannon repeats. But it is clear that he hasn’t read his own program, or else doesn’t remember it. Trotsky’s last important political document was the Manifesto on the war written for the Fourth International less than a year ago. There we find (1) on Lenin’s perspective in the last war: “Only the Russian party of the Bolsheviks represented a revolutionary force at that time [the outbreak of the first world war]. But even the latter, in its overwhelming majority failed, except for a small émigré group around Lenin, to shed its national narrowness and to rise to the perspective of the world revolution.” (Remember Cannon on Lenin? that the position of even the best Marxists in 1914 “was essentially a protest against the war”?!) And (2) on the Fourth International’s perspective in the present war: “The capitalist world has no way out, unless a prolonged death agony is so considered. It is necessary to prepare for long years, if not decades, of war, uprisings, brief interludes of truce, new wars and new uprisings.” Long years, if not decades—that is entirely correct, not because we believe the revolution’s triumph will be postponed for decades, but because we cannot guarantee that the victory will come six months from now or a year.

If Cannon had wanted to say that world capitalism has less right to expect long life in connection with the second world war than the first, that its objective possibilities of stabilization are fewer in our time than in Lenin’s, he could have done it without all his revealing juggling with words and quotations about Lenin’s “expectations” and “perspectives”. If he were concerned in reality with the objective question of perspectives and tasks in Lenin’s time and in our own, he would simply have said: “Like Lenin, we of the Fourth International today have the same revolutionary perspective. The socialist revolution is here, on the order of the day. Only, the working class is not prepared for it. The revolutionists are few in number, and isolated. The task, now as then, is the preparation of the revolutionists and the mobilization of the working class, for the realization of this perspective which is, always was and always will be indivisible from our own policies and activities.”

But that is not the point with which Cannon is concerned. He pursues much more practical aims than the somewhat academic dispute over what Lenin’s expectations were and what his perspectives were. His aims relate precisely to “policies and activities.” The reference to Lenin is only calculated to “prove” that “we” must have a different policy in the second world war because Lenin had a different perspective in the last one. The fact that Cannon had to distort Lenin’s views in the last war already speaks badly for the “new policy” he is currently advocating.

Before proceeding to it, let us deal with one other little matter, in accordance with the promise that no point made by Cannon will be left unanswered.

Trotsky, Too, Has a Defender
“Against whom is Shachtman really defending Lenin?” asks Cannon. “To be sure, he mentions only ‘Cannon’ but it is perfectly obvious that Cannon in this case is only serving Shachtman as a pseudonym for the real target of his attack. My remarks about Lenin’s perspective during the first world war were no more and no less than a simple repetition of what Trotsky said on the subject.” And further: “Shachtman’s attack on ‘Cannon’ in behalf of Lenin is in reality aimed against Trotsky in a cowardly and indirect manner. He wants to set Lenin against Trotsky, to make a division in the minds of the radical workers between Lenin and Trotsky, to set himself up as a ‘Leninist’ with the sly intimation that Leninism is not the same thing as Trotskyism. There is a monstrous criminality in this procedure. The names of Lenin and Trotsky are inseparably united in the Russian Revolution, its achievements, its doctrines and traditions, and in the great struggle for Bolshevism waged by Trotsky since the death of Lenin. ‘Lenin-Trotsky’—those two immortal names are one. Nobody yet has tried to separate them; that is, nobody but scoundrels and traitors.”

There it is, both barrels, but the reader can sit quietly in his chair. The noise is nothing but stage thunder, the brandished sword is only a lath, and the theatrical posturing is nothing but theatrical posturing.

My article did not aim at polemizing against Trotsky. It did not even aim with monstrous criminality to intimate slyly that the names of Lenin and Trotsky should be separated. I know fairly well where and on what points and in what struggles the two names are inseparable; I know also on what points the names represent differences of opinion, even sharp ones. If Cannon wants to set up a privately-owned two-headed deity exempt from profane criticism, he may be allowed to imitate the Stalinists in this procedure as he has in others. But that is not my concern here any more than it was in my original article.

I did not criticize Trotsky explicitly in my article, although I stated that Cannon’s policy apparently originated (but was not necessarily identical) with Trotsky. Why didn’t I? What Trotsky’s views were on the questions covered in Cannon’s new policy, I know only from a couple of brief letters reprinted in the Fourth International, and from a few paragraphs in the disjointed notes drafted for an article which Trotsky’s death prevented him from elaborating and completing. From these fragments I have not the possibility nor the right to formulate a rounded opinion of what Trotsky’s views on the subject really were, nor to what extent they jibed with the views developed by Cannon at his Plenum after Trotsky’s death. Assassination prevented Trotsky from developing his point of view, from motivating it fully, from defending it critically or polemically, and from revising it in one or another direction in the light of further reflection or of criticism. I feel perfectly free in polemizing against Trotsky’s views on the class nature of the Soviet state, for example, because they are views that he had the opportunity to state elaborately and over a period of years. The same does not hold for views which, so far as I am aware, are presented in the course of a few paragraphs or pages, and no more; views which, moreover, it is no longer possible for their author to elaborate upon or to defend from criticism. Hence, I refrain from criticizing Trotsky on the question at issue, and direct my remarks instead at Cannon.

And Cannon? He makes no serious effort to answer the criticism. He weaves and bobs around a bit, but in the end he starts whining and running to hide behind Trotsky’s skirts. “It wasn’t I who said it, it was Trotsky.” Let us suppose that Trotsky did say what Cannon writes, although that is not quite the case. That would be beside the point. Our dispute is not over what Trotsky said, but over what Lenin said, what his views were. And in this particular instance, I consider it preferable to conduct the discussion by referring to Lenin’s own words than to have Cannon cut off the discussion by referring to what Trotsky is supposed to have said and meant about Lenin.

Finally, I have never considered it a mark of distinction or a special virtue to go around “disagreeing” with Trotsky, or Lenin, or Marx. At the same time, in my twelve years in the Trotskyist movement, I always voiced my opinion when I believed that I had grounds for a serious disagreement with Trotsky, and I argued for my views until one or another of us was convinced otherwise. The organizational separation that occurred last year was not of our choosing and was not consummated without regret. But whatever views we held we stated openly, and whatever steps we took we prepared and took openly. I never went about secretly, among a few close chums, laying the basis for an organizational split with Trotsky over some difference or grievance, real or alleged. As Cannon knows, he cannot say the same.

Trade-Union Control—Of What Army?
In Trotsky’s fragmentary notes referred to above, he points out that Lenin’s concept of “Turn the imperialist war into a civil war” was “the basis for propaganda and for training the cadres but it could not win the masses who did not want a foreign conqueror.” The Russian masses were won to the revolution by such simple slogans as “Land, Bread, Peace, All Power to the Soviets.” We tried in vain to explain this to Cannon during the last discussion in the S.W.P.

The transitional program of the Fourth International adopted three years ago, while animated through and through with revolutionary internationalism, at the same time took into account the progressive, or potentially progressive, antifascist patriotism of the masses. At present, this sentiment is hideously exploited by the ruling classes for the most reactionary objectives. It is necessary, we said, to utilize this sentiment of the masses, their hatred and fear of fascism, for working-class objectives. Given the world social crisis and the imminence of the second world war, knowing from old times the futility and worse of pacifist opposition to militarism and war, we raised the slogan of Workers’ Defense Guards and a People’s Army. In effect, we said to the workers: You want to fight fascism, to preserve your rights and labor institutions? Good, so do we. We even want to go further, and extend those rights, make them more genuine and durable. Only, we warn you that under the leadership of the bourgeoisie, and in the course of the war that it will carry on in the democracies against Germany, we will merely end up under a totalitarian régime in our own country. Organize armed and trained forces of your own, under your own leadership and control, and then you will not only be able to meet the threat of fascism at home and abroad, but you will be assured that in the course of the fight imperialist interests will not be served and all democratic rights destroyed.

These ideas, and the slogans represented by them, were and remain entirely correct and we, for our part, continue to put forward and defend them.

The new policy of the Cannonites, however, is something else again. First, with the adoption of the new policy, they dropped entirely the fight against bourgeois militarism represented concretely by the drive to impose conscription upon the American people. Not only dropped the fight, but by their repeated nonsense in the Socialist Appeal about how the workers were overwhelmingly in favor of conscription, by their ridicule of any opposition to conscription as “poisonous” and “sinister” and “petty-bourgeois pacifism,” they sabotaged any fight against it, introducing, at best, only confusion among the radical workers. On the score of this indictment I made of the Cannonite policy, Cannon, who is to answer “point by point”, is utterly silent.

In the midst of the bourgeois conscription campaign, the Cannonites came forward with the slogan of “Trade-union control of conscription” or “Compulsory military training under trade-union control.” The objective effect of this slogan, in so far as it would have an effect among the workers, could only be to facilitate the drive of the imperialists. The slogan could represent one of two ideas, but not both at the same time. (1) It means that the trade unions and other workers’ organizations should take the initiative in organizing their own training camps, their own armed and trained forces, entirely under their control and management and democratically run by the workers themselves. But if this is what Cannon means by the slogan, wherein, except in words, does it differ from the slogan the S.W.P. had up to yesterday and which we still advocate, namely, Organize a People’s Army? In my article, I asked that question specifically of Cannon. There is no reply. Or (2) the slogan means that the trade unions should demand of the government that they be put in control of the present U.S. army. Such a slogan, however “attractive” and “practical” it may seem, no Marxist could support. As I pointed out, it can only have class-collaborationist significance, it can only help preserve capitalist illusions among the workers.

Cannon tries to explain in a vague sort of way that advocating the socialist revolution is a propagandist task, whereas pressing the transitional program and slogans is agitation, calculated to bridge the gap between the present working-class mentality and the revolution and to lead the workers across this bridge. Good. But a transitional slogan must bring them across the bridge and not keep them where they are. It must help break down bourgeois and reformist prejudices among the workers, and not preserve these prejudices. If the Cannon slogan has the second meaning we indicated, then it does the latter.

Why? The basic distinction between reformists and revolutionists, according to Lenin and to all the lessons of modern history, is that the former believe or say that the bourgeois state machine can be taken hold of by the workers and, with some reforms, be used as the instrument for ushering in socialism, whereas the Marxists point out that the bourgeois state machine must be shattered and an entirely new and different one erected in its place before any serious progress to socialism is possible. The army and the police, the armed forces in general, are the principal prop of the bourgeois state machine. To tell the workers that they can reform this machine is to abandon one of the principles of revolutionary Marxism. The latter calls neither for “trade-union control of the government” nor for “trade-union control of the army.” These are essentially slogans of reform.

Whatever may be said about Lenin’s “perspective” before the February, 1917, revolution, it would surely take a bolder historian even than Cannon to deny that Lenin had an immediate and direct revolutionary perspective after that revolution—the struggle for state power which culminated in October of that year. Yet, while Lenin and the Bolsheviks put forward the slogan of “workers’ control of production”, they never advanced the slogan of “workers’ or Soviet control of the army”—not even of the disrupted Czarist army, not even during the period of dual power. Why? We demand workers’ control of the factories because the socialist revolution has no need or desire to replace factories with any substitute. We do not demand workers’ control of the army because we do not want to foster the illusion that the proletariat can reform the imperialist military machine, because it is the instrument of the capitalist state, because that state, in Lenin’s view, has to be shattered and cannot be reformed.

It is interesting to note, that before Lenin’s return to Russia, Stalin and the right wing who controlled the Bolshevik party and its press, did put forward a slogan analogous to Cannon’s: The Soviets should control the Provisional Government. But Lenin, who was a Marxist and who had a revolutionary perspective, made short shrift of the slogan immediately upon his arrival.

Now, in my article, I asked the Cannonites which of the two meanings indicated above is the one they give to their slogan of “Trade-union control of military training”? The question was calculated to open an avenue for explanation. Cannon wrote three articles in reply. One would think that so bold and forthright a politician, who does not, like his critics, stoop to “sly intimation”, would give a categorical answer to the question. But it is clear: whatever Trotsky may have had in mind with regard to the slogan of military training for the workers, Cannon is not sure enough of himself to say, simply and directly, that it is the one thing or the other. The reader must lumber through a thick mass of verbal undergrowths and tree-stumps, so unusual in Cannon’s style when he has something straightforward to say, before he comes to the inescapable conclusion: The Cannonite slogan means “Workers’” control of the imperialist army, and not the agitation for an independent People’s army. Which was to be expected. As we pointed out weeks ago, that has been the line of the Cannonite press, even if there also with what, we must repeat, can only be deliberate ambiguousness.

Yet the two slogans, the two concepts, are as different as day and night. Each stands on a different class basis, as we have indicated. The social-democrats consider that the present national bourgeois state is, fundamentally, theirs, the people’s. Hence, they demand that the people control it. If that were possible—not just theoretically, but in actual life—then reformism could bring about the socialist society and revolution would be superfluous. What applies to the state as a whole, applies with equal if not more force to the army of that state.

Does a policy of “boycotting the army” follow from our rejection of the reformist concept? That is an accusation the social democrats have hurled at us with reference to participation in bourgeois parliament. It is groundless, however. We are for participating in elections. We call upon the workers to elect their own class representatives to Congress and Parliament and Reichstag. But we know, alas, that the proletariat cannot capture the bourgeois state; at best, it can remain its captive. Hence, we do not delude the working class with slogans of “workers’ control” of Parliament or Congress. Again, the same with the army. When the proletariat is conscripted, naturally, we go along with the working class. We do not conduct an individual struggle against the bourgeoisie. In the army, we continue to represent the best interests of the working class. We stand for the extension of the democratic rights of the soldiers. We stand for their right to organize and present their demands collectively. We stand for their right to elect their own officers. But we do not delude them or ourselves with slogans of “workers’ control” of the army. Quite the contrary, the slogans we do put forward have a distinctly different objective . . . At the same time, we continue to popularize the idea of a People’s Army, an army organized, trained, led and controlled by the workers and their organizations. Utopian? Yes, to those for whom only war in permanence, capitalist domination for another century, working-class servitude forever, barbarism and misery are not Utopian! But the German workers built up their Reichsbanner and Rotfront-kämpfer Bund, the Russian workers their Workers Guards and Red Militia. The relationship of these movements to the German Reichswehr and the Czarist Army, respectively, is the way we understand the relationship between the People’s Army and the present imperialist army. They are the organs of different classes.

Cannon, who was so insistent on dealing with the class nature of the Soviet state as a substitute for answering the questions raised by Stalin’s invasion of Poland and Finland, is mum as a sphinx when it comes to the class nature of the army he wants “controlled.” More accurately, he implies that the army is or can become a working-class institution. Indeed, one of his satellites whose ignorance of Marxism and politics has already qualified him for the appointment as editor of Cannon’s theoretical organ, writes a truly venomous polemic against the conscientious objectors in the Socialist Appeal (Nov. 23, 1940) and says:

“These pacifists who oppose military training must be rejected with the utmost contempt by the class-conscious worker, just as he would reject with scorn and hate a scab who said: ‘Unions? No, I will have nothing to do with them. They lead to tear gas! I choose independence!’”

Roosevelt’s army is like—a union! Whoever refuses to go along with the army-union must be treated by the workers like a scab. And what about the Fellow-worker Judge who sentenced the eight pacifist-student-scabs of the Union Theological Seminary to a year and a day in prison—doesn’t he deserve a kind word for the thorough promptness with which he administered justice? And Roosevelt—shall we forget him altogether, after the vigorous way he established the conscript-army-union?

The reader may say: After all, the quotation is only an accidental outburst by an overzealous dunderhead who was mistakenly allowed to write on political questions. The reader may be right, at least with reference to the accidental nature of the outburst. But, as I pointed out in my original article, we have already had from the Cannonites the accidental reference to the war industries as “defense industries.” We have already had the accident of the >em>Appeal stating at first that millions of workers and farmers opposed conscription, only to change its tune to say that “the workers were for conscription” as soon as Cannon changed the line. We have already had the accident of Goldman’s proposing to drop the slogan of a People’s Referendum on War, a proposal rejected by Trotsky. We have already had the accident of Goldman proposing that “once conscription is made into law, we cease to struggle against it”, a proposal also rejected by Trotsky. We have already had the accident of the Cannonites giving up completely, yes, completely, any struggle against social-patriotism. Now we have the accident that the army is like a union. We are ready to call all these things “accidents,” but we refuse to ignore the fact that all the accidents are of one type, that they all lead in one direction.*


* As we go to press, we have the latest accident. The leading article in the Appeal after Roosevelt’s Fireside Chat and Message to Congress has not one word to say in criticism of the President’s latest and longest step to war—not one word.


We Used To, But We Don’t Any Longer
Armed with his favorite weapons, “a pair of hip boots and a shovel,” Cannon assured his readers that he would answer my article “point by point”.

We asked Cannon, who calls us petty-bourgeois pacifists, to specify just what is pacifist in our program or activities—our opposition to imperialist war and to bourgeois conscription, our advocacy of workers’ defense guards and a People’s Army, our economic and political demands for the drafted workers? No answer from Cannon, not a word, unless bluster is an answer.

I asked Cannon why there was not one single, solitary syllable in his two speeches at the Plenum and in the Plenum resolution, and, nowadays, in general in the Socialist Appeal, about social-patriotism, about the need of combatting it. The answer he made to this point is satisfactory enough—complete and unrelieved silence.

I asked Cannon if he really believed, and could motivate this belief, that what caused the downfall of reformism in Europe was Blum’s “pacifism” (and not his social-patriotism and class collaboration), and that the main danger in the American working class today, in connection with the war, is pacifism. The answer made by our “point-by-point” answerer was, once more, silence.

Perhaps these are, after all, minor points. But what about the principal point that I indicated in Cannon’s new line? I refer to the section I quoted at length from Cannon’s summarizing speech in Chicago. In it, Cannon says: We used to answer the social-democrats by saying first we would overthrow the bourgeoisie and then we would be for national defense. “That was a good program, but the workers did not make the revolution in time. Now the two tasks must be telescoped and carried out simultaneously.”

I argued that this, and this mainly, was what is new in Cannon’s policy, and I characterized his formula as essentially social-patriotic. And what do we hear in reply from the “point-by-point” man? Not a word, nothing but the swish and slosh of his hip boots and the dull thud of his shovel. He just pretends I never mentioned it. He does not give the slightest hint that he ever said what I quoted or read what I had to say about it. Yet, these sentences are the most important part of his two speeches.

In my earlier article I already pointed out their meaning. Cannon used to say: We will be defensists when we have a country to defend, that is, when the workers have taken power in the land, for then it will not be an imperialist war we are waging but rather a revolutionary war against imperialist assailants. But that is only what he used to say. Now he says something different, because the revolution did not come in time. Now the two tasks—the task of bringing about the socialist revolution and defending the fatherland—“must be telescoped and carried out simultaneously.” Evidently, not even Cannon’s ability to squirm and twist sufficed to explain away his new formula, and silence became the better part of valor. For if the formula means what it says, and it cannot possibly mean anything else, it signifies: We will continue to fight capitalism and at the same time (“simultaneously”) we will defend the Fatherland, that is, support the war.

What part of Lenin’s garments can Cannon hide behind in defense of this formula? What part of Trotsky’s writings, what little fragment of them, can Cannon find now to enable him to say, “Shachtman is attacking Trotsky although he names only Cannon”? It would be interesting to get an answer, if not a “point-by-point” answer, then at least some kind of answer.

In his first article, Cannon “answered” everybody. The Oehlerites, he points out, are against his line. What they say about it, he does not even hint at. But they have a sectarian mentality in general, and so he passes on to his next critic. Who? The S.L.P. What do they say about Cannon’s line? He doesn’t know. “The S.L.P. will surely reject our military program if they have not already done so. (God forgive me, I don’t read the Weekly People as attentively as I should and don’t know whether they have yet expressed themselves).” This disposes of the S.L.P. in that effective manner which marks out Cannon from ordinary men. Then, before proceeding to his annihilating, “point-by-point” answer to Shachtman, he lingers for a fanciful moment with the Lovestoneites. “The Lovestoneites have not yet commented on our military resolution, as far as I know. But if they find it possible to take time off from their frenzied defense of Great Britain, they will surely attack our resolution ‘from the left’ . . .”

Ah, Cannon, you spoke too soon, forsooth! The Lovestone paper, Workers Age, of the same date as the Appeal carrying Cannon’s above-quoted remarks (Nov. 23, 1940) prints an article which gives Cannon’s new line the salut fraternel on both cheeks. It is written by one Donald Graham, a finished social-patriot who is hell bent for leather to get England all the aid she needs in the war. In his article, he defends Lovestone from his critic, Wolfe. He knows, mind you, that it’s an imperialist war. He is not, God forbid, a mere British patriot. Oh no, he’s as revolutionary as the next man and just as much for socialism now as yesterday. He would have liked to see the workers in power in England and even in this country, but, you know, “the workers did not make the revolution in time,” as Cannon says. Now, the foreign invaders must be driven off, Hitlerism—“counter-revolution on the march”—must be halted. The reader will surely allow the importance of the quotation from Mr. Graham to excuse its length:

“The struggle to defeat fascism is inseparable from and inextricably related to the struggle for socialism. Only the victory of socialism, as the majority resolution states, could solve the problem of the menace of fascism in a ‘fundamental’ sense. Hitlerism cannot be defeated by suspending the class struggle. On the contrary, the taking of socialist measures is required to ensure the defeat of Nazism. As Lovestone points out, the slogan of Laski (which is also that of the I.L.P.), ‘Through Socialism to Victory over Hitlerism’ is a correct one. This does not mean that you do not begin to struggle against a Hitler invasion until the day you have socialism in England. It means that the struggle for socialism and against Hitlerism are inseparable. Therefore, the duty of the socialist is not the simple one of aiding England to defeat Hitler, but also one of aiding the struggle for socialism in England, America and every other country in the world. There is no contradiction.”

Lovestone-Graham also used to say, “the workers will first overthrow the bourgeoisie at home and then they will take care of invaders.” But the war came, and not the revolution. Now, says Lovestone-Graham, “the two tasks must be telescoped and carried out simultaneously.” We must “take care of invaders” (“struggle against a Hitler invasion”) and “simultaneously” we must fight for socialism. “There is no contradiction,” for it is all done with the aid of mirrors.

Here we can just see Cannon striking another posture: “Shachtman, scoundrel and traitor, dares call me a social-patriot,” and so on to the usual point. The indignation will be wasted. I do not call Cannon a social-patriot for the good and simple reason that I do not believe he is one. I do say, however, that Cannon put forward an essentially social-patriotic position in the vitally-important sentences we quoted. He has neither explained, defended nor withdrawn this position. One or the other he will have to do.


We said at the beginning of this article that just because we are in the midst of wars and revolutions, ambiguity, lack of preciseness, theoretical confusion are less permissible than ever. Such vices are paid for heavily. It means nothing for us to have an “immediate revolutionary perspective” unless there is a revolutionary vanguard so trained up in theory and activity as to enable it, at the right moment, to reduce that perspective to reality. One uncorrected error, Trotsky once wrote, leads to many others. Cannon has already imposed more than one error upon his party, the most serious of which are now involved in his “new” military policy. His resistance to correction is notorious, but not always very consequential. In the given case, it can prove to have the most harmful effects on the future of a party which, as another section of the Fourth International, is of direct concern to us.