Saturday, January 01, 2011

From The United For Justice With Peace Website- End The Siege Of Gaza!-Defend The Palestinian People!

Click on the headline to link to an entry from the UJP Website on a demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinians in Boston on New Year's Eve.

Markin comment:

End The Siege Of Gaza!-Defend The Palestinian People!

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-"The Internationale"- A Working Class Song For All Seasons

Click on the title to link a YouTube film clip of a performance of the Internationale.

In this series, presented under the headline Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist. Sadly though, hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground and have rather more often than not been fellow-travelers. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here. Markin.
The Internationale [variant words in square brackets]

Arise ye workers [starvelings] from your slumbers
Arise ye prisoners of want
For reason in revolt now thunders
And at last ends the age of cant.
Away with all your superstitions
Servile masses arise, arise
We'll change henceforth [forthwith] the old tradition [conditions]
And spurn the dust to win the prize.

So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.
So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.

No more deluded by reaction
On tyrants only we'll make war
The soldiers too will take strike action
They'll break ranks and fight no more
And if those cannibals keep trying
To sacrifice us to their pride
They soon shall hear the bullets flying
We'll shoot the generals on our own side.

No saviour from on high delivers
No faith have we in prince or peer
Our own right hand the chains must shiver
Chains of hatred, greed and fear
E'er the thieves will out with their booty [give up their booty]
And give to all a happier lot.
Each [those] at the forge must do their duty
And we'll strike while the iron is hot.


Debout les damnés de la terre
Debout les forçats de la faim
La raison tonne en son cratère
C'est l'éruption de la fin
Du passe faisons table rase
Foules, esclaves, debout, debout
Le monde va changer de base
Nous ne sommes rien, soyons tout

C'est la lutte finale
Groupons-nous, et demain (bis)
Sera le genre humain

Il n'est pas de sauveurs suprêmes
Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun
Producteurs, sauvons-nous nous-mêmes
Décrétons le salut commun
Pour que le voleur rende gorge
Pour tirer l'esprit du cachot
Soufflons nous-mêmes notre forge
Battons le fer quand il est chaud

L'état comprime et la loi triche
L'impôt saigne le malheureux
Nul devoir ne s'impose au riche
Le droit du pauvre est un mot creux
C'est assez, languir en tutelle
L'égalité veut d'autres lois
Pas de droits sans devoirs dit-elle
Egaux, pas de devoirs sans droits

Hideux dans leur apothéose
Les rois de la mine et du rail
Ont-ils jamais fait autre chose
Que dévaliser le travail
Dans les coffres-forts de la bande
Ce qu'il a crée s'est fondu
En décrétant qu'on le lui rende
Le peuple ne veut que son dû.

Les rois nous saoulaient de fumées
Paix entre nous, guerre aux tyrans
Appliquons la grève aux armées
Crosse en l'air, et rompons les rangs
S'ils s'obstinent, ces cannibales
A faire de nous des héros
Ils sauront bientôt que nos balles
Sont pour nos propres généraux

Ouvriers, paysans, nous sommes
Le grand parti des travailleurs
La terre n'appartient qu'aux hommes
L'oisif ira loger ailleurs
Combien, de nos chairs se repaissent
Mais si les corbeaux, les vautours
Un de ces matins disparaissent
Le soleil brillera toujours.

Die Internationale

Wacht auf, Verdammte dieser Erde,
die stets man noch zum Hungern zwingt!
Das Recht wie Glut im Kraterherde
nun mit Macht zum Durchbruch dringt.
Reinen Tisch macht mit dem Bedranger!
Heer der Sklaven, wache auf!
Ein nichts zu sein, tragt es nicht langer
Alles zu werden, stromt zuhauf!

Volker, hort die Signale!
Auf, zum letzten Gefecht!
Die Internationale
Erkampft das Menschenrecht

Es rettet uns kein hoh'res Wesen
kein Gott, kein Kaiser, noch Tribun
Uns aus dem Elend zu erlosen
konnen wir nur selber tun!
Leeres Wort: des armen Rechte,
Leeres Wort: des Reichen Pflicht!
Unmundigt nennt man uns Knechte,
duldet die Schmach langer nicht!

In Stadt und Land, ihr Arbeitsleute,
wir sind die starkste Partei'n
Die Mussigganger schiebt beiseite!
Diese Welt muss unser sein;
Unser Blut sei nicht mehr der Raben
und der machtigen Geier Frass!
Erst wenn wir sie vertrieben haben
dann scheint die Sonn' ohn' Unterlass!

(The English version most commonly sung in South Africa. )
The Internationale

Arise ye prisoners of starvation
Arise ye toilers of the earth
For reason thunders new creation
`Tis a better world in birth.

Never more traditions' chains shall bind us
Arise ye toilers no more in thrall
The earth shall rise on new foundations
We are naught but we shall be all.

Then comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale
Unites the human race.

(Zulu) i-Internationale

n'zigqila zezwe lonke
Sizokwakh'umhlaba kabusha
Siqed'indlala nobumpofu.

Asilwise yonk'incindezelo
Asisodwa Kulomkhankaso

Sibhekene nempi yamanqamu
Ibumb'uluntu lonke
British Translation Billy Bragg's Revision[16] American version

First stanza

Arise, ye workers from your slumber,
Arise, ye prisoners of want.
For reason in revolt now thunders,
and at last ends the age of cant!
Away with all your superstitions,
Servile masses, arise, arise!
We'll change henceforth the old tradition,
And spurn the dust to win the prize!

So comrades, come rally,
And the last fight let us face.
The Internationale,
Unites the human race.
So comrades, come rally,
And the last fight let us face.
The Internationale,
Unites the human race.

Stand up, all victims of oppression,
For the tyrants fear your might!
Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
For you have nothing if you have no rights!
Let racist ignorance be ended,
For respect makes the empires fall!
Freedom is merely privilege extended,
Unless enjoyed by one and all.

So come brothers and sisters,
For the struggle carries on.
The Internationale,
Unites the world in song.
So comrades, come rally,
For this is the time and place!
The international ideal,
Unites the human race.

Friday, December 31, 2010

* Support a Jailed Activist (and get fed) - Free Eric McDavid Now!

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for enviromental activist Eric McDavid.

Support a Jailed Activist (and get fed)
by Cole

Email: cole.anders18 (nospam) (unverified!) 26 Dec 2010
Modified: 10:16:01 AM

Join me in writing letters of support to jailed environmental activist Eric McDavid. Tuesday, January 4, 7 pm, in Cambridge near Porter Square. Dinner gratis. Send RSVP for the address: cole.anders18 (at)
I'll provide vegetarian dinner (with vegan option), stamps, and stationer; you write a few pages (or a few words) of support.

The focus of this evening's letter campaign is Eric McDavid. Eric was arrested on January 13, 2006, as part of the government's Green Scare campaign. He was charged with 'conspiracy to damage and destroy property by fire and an explosive.'

Eric's arrest was the direct result of the work of a paid government informant, a college student who posed as an environmental activist. Eric was imprisoned for what amounts to a thought-crime – no actions were ever carried out. He was charged with a single count of 'conspiracy.' Two other people arrested along with Eric eventually cooperated with the prosecution; Eric did not cooperate or inform. He is currently serving a 20-year sentence.

We'll be meeting on Tuesday, January 4 at 7 pm, in Cambridge near Porter Square.

Send an RSVP email; you'll receive a reply with the location of the event.
See also:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

**From The Partisan Defense Committee- 25th Annual Holiday Appeal- Honor Class-War Prisoner Lynne Stewart

Click on title to link to the Partisan Defense Committee Web site.
The following is passed on from the PDC concerning the 24th Annual Holiday Appeal and applies this year as well

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!

Free All Class-War Prisoners!

Build PDC Holiday Appeal

“The path to freedom leads through a prison. The door swings in and out and through that door passes a steady procession of ‘those fools too stubborn-willed to bend,’ who will not turn aside from the path because prisons obstruct it here and there.”

—James P. Cannon, “The Cause that Passes Through a Prison,” Labor Defender, September 1926

Twenty-four years ago, the Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—revived a key tradition of the International Labor Defense under James P. Cannon, its founder and first secretary: sending monthly stipends to those “stubborn-willed” class-war prisoners condemned to capitalism’s dungeons for standing up against racist capitalist repression. We are again holding Holiday Appeal benefits to raise funds for this unique program, calling particular attention to the fight to free America’s foremost class-war prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who remains on death row in Pennsylvania.

Our forebear, Cannon, also affirmed a basic principle that should be no less applicable today: “The class-conscious worker accords to the class-war prisoners a place of singular honor and esteem…. The victory of the class-war prisoners is possible only when they are inseparably united with the living labor movement and when that movement claims them for its own, takes up their battle cry and carries on their work.”

The PDC calls on labor activists, fighters for black and immigrant rights and defenders of civil liberties to join us in donating to and building the annual Holiday Appeal. An injury to one is an injury to all! We print below brief descriptions of the 16 class-war prisoners who receive monthly stipends from the PDC, many of whom were denied parole over the last year for refusing to express “remorse” for acts they did not commit!

Mumia Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther Party spokesman, a well-known supporter of the MOVE organization and an award-winning journalist known as “the voice of the voiceless.” This past April, the U.S. Supreme Court summarily threw out Mumia’s efforts to overturn his frame-up conviction based on the racist exclusion of black jurors from his 1982 trial. Ominously, this same court has yet to rule on the prosecution’s petition to reinstate the death penalty. The Philadelphia district attorney’s office states that, whatever the Supreme Court decides, it will continue to push for Mumia’s execution.

December 9 is the 28th anniversary of Mumia’s arrest for a killing that the cops know he did not commit. Mumia was framed up for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. Mountains of evidence proving Mumia’s innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner, have been submitted to the courts. But to the racists in black robes, a court of law is no place for evidence of the innocence of this fighter for the oppressed.

While others plead with the current U.S. president and his attorney general to “investigate” violations of Mumia’s “civil rights,” the PDC says that Mumia’s fate cannot be left in the hands of the government of the capitalists. The racist rulers hate Mumia because they see in him the spectre of black revolt. The stakes are high and the situation is grim, but any real fight for Mumia’s freedom must be based on a class-struggle opposition to the capitalist rulers, who have entombed this innocent black man for more than half his life.

Leonard Peltier is an internationally renowned class-war prisoner. Peltier’s incarceration for his activism in the American Indian Movement has come to symbolize this country’s racist repression of its native peoples, the survivors of centuries of genocidal oppression. Peltier’s frame-up trial, for the 1975 deaths of two marauding FBI agents in what had become a war zone on the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation, shows what capitalist “justice” is all about. Although the lead government attorney has admitted “We can’t prove who shot those agents” and the courts have acknowledged blatant prosecutorial misconduct, the 65-year-old Peltier is still locked away. Outrageously, in August, the U.S. Parole Commission again turned down Peltier’s parole request and coldbloodedly declared they would not reconsider his case for another 15 years.

Eight MOVE members—Chuck Africa, Michael Africa, Debbie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Delbert Africa, Eddie Africa and Phil Africa—are in their 32nd year of prison. They were sentenced to 30-100 years after the 8 August 1978 siege of their Philadelphia home by over 600 heavily armed cops, having been falsely convicted of killing a police officer who died in the cops’ own cross fire. In 1985, eleven of their MOVE family members, including five children, were massacred by Philly cops. This year, again, after more than three decades of unjust incarceration, nearly all of these innocent prisoners had parole hearings, but none were released.

Jaan Laaman and Thomas Manning are the two remaining anti-imperialist activists known as the Ohio 7 still in prison. They were convicted for their roles in a radical group that took credit for bank “expropriations” and bombings of symbols of U.S. imperialism, such as military and corporate offices, in the late 1970s and ’80s. Before their arrests in 1984 and 1985, the Ohio 7 were targets of massive manhunts. Their children were kidnapped at gunpoint by the Feds.

The Ohio 7’s politics were once shared by thousands of radicals during the Vietnam antiwar movement and by New Leftists who wrote off the possibility of winning the working class to a revolutionary program and saw themselves as an auxiliary of Third World liberation movements. But, like the Weathermen before them, the Ohio 7 were spurned by the “respectable” left. From a proletarian standpoint, the actions of these leftist activists against imperialism and racist injustice are not a crime. They should not have served a day in prison.

Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa are former Black Panther supporters and leaders of the Omaha, Nebraska, National Committee to Combat Fascism. They were victims of the FBI’s deadly COINTELPRO operation under which 38 Black Panther Party members were killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. Poindexter and Mondo were railroaded to prison and sentenced to life for a 1970 explosion that killed a cop, and they have now served more than 37 years in jail. This year, the Nebraska Supreme Court denied Poindexter a new trial despite the fact that a crucial piece of evidence excluded from the original trial, a long-suppressed 911 audio tape, proved that testimony of the state’s key witness was perjured.

Hugo Pinell is the last of the San Quentin 6 still in prison. He was a militant anti-racist leader of prison rights organizing along with George Jackson, his comrade and mentor, who was gunned down by prison guards in 1971. Despite numerous letters of support and no disciplinary write-ups for over 28 years, Pinell was again denied parole this year. Now in his 60s, Pinell continues to serve a life sentence at the notorious Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit in California.

Jamal Hart, Mumia’s son, was sentenced in 1998 to 15 1/2 years without parole on bogus firearms possession charges. Hart was targeted for his prominent activism in the campaign to free his father. Although Hart was initially charged under Pennsylvania law, which would have meant a probationary sentence, Clinton’s Justice Department intervened to have Hart thrown into prison under federal law. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals has turned down Hart’s habeas corpus petition, and he has faced myriad bureaucratic obstacles and racist targeting throughout his incarceration.

Contribute now! All proceeds from the Holiday Appeal will go to the Class-War Prisoners Stipend Fund. Send your contributions to: PDC, P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013; (212) 406-4252.

**Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- Out In Teen Dance Club Night- A CD Review

**Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- Out In Teen Dance Club Night- A CD Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of The Drifters performing the classic Save The Last Dance For Me.

CD Review

The Rock ‘N’ Roll Era: 1960: various artists, Time-Life Music, 1992

Recently I, seemingly, have endlessly gone back to my early musical roots in reviewing various compilations of a Time-Life classic rock series that goes under the general title The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era. And while time and ear have eroded the sparkle of some of the lesser tunes it still seems obvious that those years, say 1955-58, really did form the musical jail break-out for my generation, the generation of ’68, who had just started to tune into music.

And we, we small-time punk (in the old-fashioned sense of that word), we hardly wet behind the ears elementary school kids, and that is all we were for those who are now claiming otherwise, listened our ears off. Those were strange times indeed in that be-bop 1950s night when stuff happened, kid’s stuff, but still stuff like a friend of mine, not my grammar school best friend “wild man” Billie who I will talk about some other time, who claimed, with a straight face to the girls, that he was Elvis’ long lost son. Did the girls do the math on that one? Or, maybe, they like us more brazen boys were hoping, hoping and praying, that it was true despite the numbers, so they too could be washed by that flamed-out night.

Well, this I know, boy and girl alike tuned in on our transistor radios (small battery- operated radios that we could put in our pockets, and hide from snooping parental ears, at will) to listen to music that from about day one, at least in my household was not considered “refined” enough for young, young pious you’ll never get to heaven listening to that devil music and you had better say about eight zillion Hail Marys to get right Catholic, ears. Ya right, Ma, like Patti Page or Bob (not Bing, not the Bing of Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? anyway) Crosby and The Bobcats were supposed to satisfy our jail-break cravings.

And we had our own little world, or as some hip sociologist trying to explain that Zeitgeist today might say, our own sub-group cultural expression. I have already talked about the pre 7/11 mom and pop corner variety store hangout with the tee-shirted, engineered-booted, cigarette (unfiltered) hanging from the lips, Coke, big sized glass Coke bottle at the side, pinball wizard guys thing. And about the pizza parlor juke box coin devouring, hold the onions I might get lucky tonight, dreamy girl might come in the door thing. And, of course, the soda fountain, and…ditto, dreamy girl coming through the door thing, natch. Needless to say you know more about middle school and high school dance stuff, including hot tip “ inside” stuff about manly preparations for those civil wars out in the working class neighborhood night, than you could ever possibly want to know, and, hell, you were there anyway (or at ones like them).

But the crème de la crème to beat alll was the teen night club. Easy concept, and something that could only have been thought up by someone in cahoots with our parents (or maybe it was them alone, although could they have been that smart). Open a “ballroom” (in reality some old VFW, Knight of Columbus, Elks, etc. hall that was either going to waste or was ready for the demolition ball), bring in live music on Friday and Saturday night with some rocking band (but not too rocking, not Elvis swiveling at the hips to the gates of hell rocking, no way), serve the kids drinks…, oops, sodas (Coke Pepsi, Grape and Orange Nehi, Hires Root Beer, etc.), and have them out of there by midnight, unscathed. All supervised, and make no mistake these things were supervised, by something like the equivalent of the elite troops of the 101st Airborne Rangers.

And we bought it, and bought into it hard. And, if you had that set-up where you lived, you bought it too. And why? Come on now, have you been paying attention? Girls, tons of girls (or boys, as the case may be). See, even doubting Thomas-type parents gave their okay on this one because of that elite troops of the 101st Airborne factor. So, some down and the heels, tee-shirted, engineer- booted Jimmy or Johnny Speedo from the wrong side of the tracks, all boozed up and ready to “hot rod” with that ‘boss”’57 Chevy that he just painted to spec, is no going to blow into the joint and carry Mary Lou or Peggy Sue away, never to be seen again. No way. That stuff happened, sure, but that was on the side. This is not what drove that scene for the few years while we were still getting wise to the ways of the world The girls (and guys) were plentiful and friendly in that guarded, backed up by 101st Airborne way (damn it). And we had our …sodas (I won’t list the brands again, okay). But, and know this true, we blasted on the music. The music that is on this compilation, no question. And I will tell you some of the stick outs:

Save The Last Dance For Me, The Drifters (oh, sweet baby, that I have had my eye on all night, please, please, James Brown, please save that last one for me); Only The Lonely, Roy Orbison (for some reason the girls loved covers of this one ); Alley Oop, The Hollywood Argyles (a good goofy song to break up the sexual tension that always filled the air, early and late, at these things as the mating ritual worked its mysterious ways); Handy Man, Jimmy Jones( a personal favorite, as I kept telling every girl, and maybe a few guys as well, that I was that very handy man that the gals had been waiting, waiting up on those lonely week day nights for. Egad!); Stay, Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs (nice harmonics and good feeling); New Orleans, Joe Jones (great dance number as the twist and other exotic dances started to break into the early 1960s consciousness); and, Let The Little Girl Dance, Billy Bland (yes, let her dance, hesitant, saying no at first mother, please, please, no I will not invoke James Brown on this one, please).

From The "SteveLendmanBlog"- Israel Hardens Repression as Palestinian Recognition Increases

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Israel Hardens Repression as Palestinian Recognition Increases

Israel Hardens Repression as Palestinian Recognition Increases - by Stephen Lendman

On December 24, Ecuador became the fifth Latin American country to recognize "the Palestine state as free and independent within its borders since 1967." An accompanying statement said:

"Sadly, the Middle East continues to face wars and violent events that have led to the death of many innocent people, a situation contrary to the humane and pacifist position established by the Ecuadorian Constitution. This recognition is meant to reinforce the valid and legitimate wish of the Palestin(ian) people to have their own free and independent state." Having it is "fundamental to achieve the peaceful co-existence of the nations in the region through dialogue and mediation."

On December 23, Uruguay said it planned to join Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia in granting recognition, though would formerly do so in January 2011.

Though largely symbolic, growing recognition flies in the face of a unanimous December 16 House resolution opposing unilaterally declared independence, urging Palestinians to:

"cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiating process, including efforts to gain recognition of a Palestinian state from other nations within the United Nations, and in other international forums prior to achievement of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians....and calls upon foreign governments not to extend such recognition."

It also asked the White House to "deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated by the two parties." EU nations said they'll act when "appropriate," meaning not until Washington and Israel approve.

Never mind that Israel and America don't negotiate. They demand, imposing their will unilaterally when denied, often by force. Both countries also deplore peace. They prevent it by provoked conflict, blamed on governments they oppose, even democratically elected ones.

Israel is now so extremist that Haaretz writer Zeev Sternhell described Netanyahu's Knesset as "an assembly line of legislation that is dragging Israel down to the bottom of the list of civilized countries," amounting to might makes right.

On December 22, a Haaretz editorial headlined, "Netanyahu can blame himself for decline in Israel's world standing," saying:

He "embarked on a....diplomatic effort to (prevent possible) international recognition for Palestine (within) 1967 borders, and fend off a (UN Security Council resolution) condemning settlements." Another campaign aims to discredit what he calls the "delegitimization of Israel around the world."

He's "trying to convince us that Israel's" deteriorated image isn't "related to his government's policies on peace and settlements." Instead of seeking real peace, however, his "Foreign Ministry is sent to dust off ancient public-relations papers that failed to convince anyone." No wonder world leaders "are losing their patience with Netanyahu and are wondering if (he's really) a partner for peace."

On December 29, Haaretz writer Aluf Benn headlined, "It's over for Benjamin Netanyahu," saying:

"It's all downhill until the next elections, without any achievements and without an agenda....Instead of initiating and leading, Netanyahu (engages) in fruitless holding actions until he falls from power." Absurdly he claims "Palestinians are not ready to move forward to peace, so the whole country is stuck."

Of course, Palestinians always wanted an equitable peace, not conflict, but Israel wants none of the former. It thrives on conflict like America, inventing enemies as justification.

Benn urges that "Instead of cultivating false hopes for a peace agreement, international effort(s) should be geared toward heading off a war." Otherwise, it's just a matter of time before the next one.

Endless Wars

Decades of Arab-Israeli conflict produced seven full-scale wars, two Intifadas, thousands of violent incidents, bogus peace initiatives, annexed lands, settlement expansions, Gaza's siege, and repressive arrests, dispossessions, assassinations, torture, and countless other forms of police state terror. Why now would world leaders imagine potential policy change, especially under Israel's most extremist ever government and prime minister who abhors peaceful resolution, calling it a waste of time.

Moreover, he uses the coup d'etat Abbas regime repressively against his own people, and bogusly calls the legitimate Hamas government a terrorist organization as justification for Israeli assaults.

As a result, repeatedly without cause:

-- Israel attacks peaceful West Bank protestors;

-- conducts dozens of weekly incursions into West Bank communities, arresting Palestinian men, women and children;

-- attacks and kills farmers in their fields and fishermen at sea;

-- lets settlers rampage lawlessly against civilians, destroying property and causing injuries, at times serious;

-- uses drones to kill activists;

-- invades besieged Gaza at will; and

-- conducts regular F-16 air attacks, firing rockets against civilians and non-military targets.

More War Threatened

On December 23, Xinhau, China's English language news service, quoted PLO official Ahmed Majdalani saying:

Israel plans more war, and "is preparing the internal and international opinion using the same scenario" as during Cast Lead, claiming Gaza threatens its security. Majdalani believes "this proves there is a planned intention to wage a wide aggression on Gaza," perhaps harsher than before.

A December 22 Xinhau article headlined, "Israel, Palestinians warn of military escalation in Gaza," saying:

Palestinians fear it after "Israeli army officials said that the situation on the borders between the enclave and Israel is expected to flame sooner or later." In recent weeks, Israeli attacks increased, at times provoking responses regarded by Israel as "terrorism," the usual red herring for further escalation.

"Amid the mounting (attacks) and Israeli army officials (threatening) senior Hamas leaders, (its) government (ordered evacuation) of its ministries as well as police and security apparatuses headquarters" in preparation.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Xinhua that Israel:

"is preparing for a new war on the Gaza Strip by threatening to carry out a large-scale military operation or practice murder against the population and their military leaders. We expect anything from Israel, but Israel should understand that (Gazans) and their factions of resistance would never surrender in case of any operation....We will defend our people and our lands by all means."

Israeli Radio reported an official UN complaint filed, "accusing Gazan militants of firing homemade projectiles and rockets into Israel." Not explained was provocative IDF attacks using firepower Palestinian capability can't match. Nor that international law permits self-defense in response to naked aggression, an Israeli specialty.

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Abu Obaida said the Ezz El-Deen al Qassam Brigades "want to keep the Palestinian people away from suffering from war and aggression." However, if Israeli chooses confrontation, "we are ready and will resist regardless of the price and the Zionists will pay an expensive" one.

Obaida's remarks came a day after Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas' leadership, renewed his ceasefire commitment. No matter. Obaida said calm "may not last for long" before another war erupts. Why not given Israel's history of aggression against neighboring states and Palestinian communities.

Hamas - Fatah Friction

Allied with Israel and Washington, Abbas is Israel's sheriff against his own people, including by provoking conflict with Hamas. According to a WikiLeaks released cable, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin "established a very good working relationship" with him. He, in turn, shared "almost all its intelligence" with Israel. "They understand that Israel's security is central to their survival in the struggle with Hamas in the West Bank."

Another cable disclosed Abbas wanting unprecedented Israeli help in attacking Hamas prior to the split that left Fatah illegally controlling the West Bank with Hamas governing Gaza. At the time, Diskin described Fatah as "desperate, disorganized and demoralized," saying:

"They are approaching a zero-sum situation, and yet they ask us to attack Hamas. This is a new development. We have never seen this before. They are desperate." He also called Abbas "a paradox. He cannot function and do anything. Why is Fatah failing? (Abbas) knows he is weak and that he has rehabilitate Fatah. He did not start to take any action when he had the chance in 2004. Instead of choosing to be the leader of Fatah, he chose to be a national leader for all Palestinians," but he failed.

Hamas always accused Abbas of collaborating with Israel. Released cables prove it. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum expressed no surprise, saying:

"This is proof of what Hamas has said in the past, that there has been a division of labor between some elements of the former authority in Gaza and the Israeli occupation. The same situation is taking place right now in the West Bank as well."

Previous memos also showed Abbas - Israeli collaboration. A June 2009 diplomatic message cited Ehud Barak, Israeli defense minister, asking Fatah before Cast Lead if it wanted control of Gaza once Hamas was defeated. According to a US diplomatic memo, Fatah rejected the offer. Repeatedly, Abbas and key lieutenants acted duplicitously against their own people. In return, Israel and Washington rewarded them generously, no matter how repressively Palestinian civilians suffer.

On December 23, Zinhau reported that Hamas suspended reconciliation talks with Fatah, Hamas senior official Musa Abu Marzouq saying:

"There will not be any meeting with Fatah as long as it continues ignoring Hamas' prisoners who are (on) hunger strike."

Hamas wants all prisoners "immediately released," including six members detained in Jericho for nearly two years. Each side accuses the other of undermining Palestinian cohesion and reconciliation. It's no surprise with Abbas and key lieutenants as Israel's enforcer

A Final Comment

On December 25, the Palestine News Network headlined, "Santa Claus brings Rubber Bullets, Gas and Arrests," saying:

While Christmas was celebrated in Bethlehem, "the village of An Nabi Saleh (near Ramallah) faced another reality." Israel's military used "excessive violence" against peaceful demonstrators. "Several people (were) injured; three Israeli activists and one arrested."

Twelve rubber-coated steel bullets struck a 16-year old boy, "aimed from close range directly at his chest." Though hospitalized, he escaped serious injury.

Santa Claus joined with demonstrators walking down the village's main road chanting slogans. Israeli military and Border Police met them forcefully with sound bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets "aimed directly at people" with intent to commit harm - Israel's Christmas gift to nonviolent protestors.

Rubber bullets struck a man and his wife inside their home severely enough to require hospitalization. Gas inhalation harmed demonstrators.

"When the day came to a close, Santa Claus had brought only more tear gas and rubber bullets for the villagers....Merry Christmas," Israeli-style.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

posted by Steve Lendman @ 3:45 AM

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

* “Workers Of The World Unite, You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains”-The Struggle For Trotsky's Fourth (Communist) International-From The Archives-"Trotsky's Struggle for the Fourth International" (1946)

Markin comment:

Recently, when the question of an international, a new workers international, a fifth international, was broached by the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), faintly echoing the call by Venezuelan caudillo, Hugo Chavez, I got to thinking a little bit more on the subject. Moreover, it must be something in the air (maybe caused by these global climatic changes) because I have also seen recent commentary on the need to go back to something that looks very much like Karl Marx’s one-size-fits-all First International. Of course, just what the doctor by all means, be my guest, but only if the shades of Proudhon and Bakunin can join. Boys and girls that First International was disbanded in the wake of the demise of the Paris Commune for a reason, okay. Mixing political banners (Marxism and fifty-seven varieties of anarchism) is appropriate to a united front, not a hell-bent revolutionary International fighting, and fighting hard, for our communist future. Forward

The Second International, for those six, no seven, people who might care, is still alive and well (at least for periodic international conferences) as a mail-drop for homeless social democrats who want to maintain a fig leaf of internationalism without having to do much about it. Needless to say, one Joseph Stalin and his cohorts liquidated the Communist (Third) International in 1943, long after it turned from a revolutionary headquarters into an outpost of Soviet foreign policy. By then no revolutionary missed its demise, nor shed a tear goodbye. And of course there are always a million commentaries by groups, cults, leagues, tendencies, etc. claiming to stand in the tradition (although, rarely, the program) of the Leon Trotsky-inspired Fourth International that, logically and programmatically, is the starting point of any discussion of the modern struggle for a new communist international.

With that caveat in mind this month, the September American Labor Day month, but more importantly the month in 1938 that the ill-fated Fourth International was founded I am posting some documents around the history of that formation, and its program, the program known by the shorthand, Transitional Program. If you want to call for a fifth, sixth, seventh, what have you, revolutionary international, and you are serious about it beyond the "mail-drop" potential, then you have to look seriously into that organization's origins, and the world-class Bolshevik revolutionary who inspired it. Forward.
Trotsky's Struggle for the Fourth International
by John G. Wright
first published in Fourth International, August 1946.

[John G. Wright (1902-1956--legal name Joseph Vanzler) joined the Communist League of America in 1933 and was elected to the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party/U.S. in 1939. Wright translated many of Trotsky's writings and served as an SWP staff writer in New York until he died.]


All of Leon Trotsky's basic teachings are concentrated in the major task of his lifetime's activity--the building of the Fourth International.

For an entire decade--1923-1933--he struggled to reform the Third International, which he had founded together with Lenin. When Stalinism paved the way for Hitler's assumption of power in Germany; when this betrayal passed over the heads of the completely degenerated Stalinized parties, history itself proved irrefutably that the Third International was beyond reform. It died ignominiously as had the Second International before it. What died with these old Internationals was not revolutionary Marxism, but two virtually duplicate sets of false ideas and practices--nationalism, opportunism, reformism. In brief, petty-bourgeois adaptation to capitalism and capitulation to it. A new International became necessary. As Trotsky tirelessly repeated, this was--and is--the basic task of our epoch. It was to this task that he devoted his best energies and the last years of his life.

For Trotsky, the building of the Fourth International was least of all a question of abstract theory or of an “organizational form.” He heaped scorn upon all those who posed the issue in this manner, because such an approach stands everything on its head. Trotsky saw that the world party of the working class is first of all a closely knit system of ideas, that is to say, a program. On no other basis is it possible to train, temper and fuse the proletarian vanguard internationally and nation-lily. From the given system of ideas--or program--flows a corresponding system of strategic, tactical and organizational methods. The latter have no independent meaning or existence of their own and are subordinate to the former.

One of Trotsky's favorite sayings was: "It is not the party that makes the program; it is the program that makes the party."

Precisely because of this primary stress on program, Trotsky's decade of struggle to reform the Third International became in the most direct sense the preparation for the Fourth International.

This approach--and it is the only correct one--obviously invests ideas with extraordinary importance. Indeed we can say without any fear of exaggeration than none attach greater significance or power to ideas than do the revolutionary Marxists. Like Marx, Engels and Lenin, Trotsky regarded ideas as the greatest power in the world.

Lenin's Bolshevik Party valued its ideas as its most potent weapon. Bolshevism demonstrated in action, in 1917, that such ideas, once embraced by the masses, become convened into an insuperable material force.

Here is how Trotsky formulated this approach in a personal letter to James P. Cannon:

"We work with the most correct and powerful ideas in the world, with inadequate numerical forces and material means. But correct ideas, is the long run, always conquer and make available for themselves the necessary material means and forces."
Trotsky's ideas derive their power from the same source as Lenin's: both are the correct expression of the struggle of living forces, first and foremost of the liberationist struggle of the proletariat. They represent not only the product of profound theoretical analysis (without which it is impossible to understand reality) but also the unassailable deductions from the march of history for the last hundred years (that is to say, from 1848 when Marx and Engels first expounded the laws governing the movement of capitalist society).

There are ideas and ideas. As against the correct ideas of Marxism, there is also the power of the false ideas. The former serve he interests of progress, of the world working class; the latter only play into the hands of reaction and deal untold injury to workers all the oppressed and to society as a whole. False ideas, like correct ones, do not fall from the sky. They, too, express one of the living forces engaged in struggle, namely: the camp of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.

Like Lenin, Trotsky rejected the notion that the policies of opportunist tendencies represented merely mistakes in "theory." Theory is scarcely involved in the policy of the treacherous "Socialists," who each time base themselves on the current needs of propping up the rule of decaying capitalism. Theory has even less to do with the Kremlin's policy, which is each time determined by practical needs of safeguarding the privileges and power of the ruling clique. Fear of the proletarian revolution has long ago converted both the moribund Second and Third Internationals into agencies of world imperialism. Hence flows the necessity of an irreconcilable attitude towards them. For the first condition for unifying the workers is a complete break with all the agencies, direct or indirect, of the bourgeoisie.

The basic plank of a revolutionary program is--internationalism. Mere acceptance of "internationalism" is hollow mockery unless accompanied in practice by complete rejection of nationalist policies, in whatever guise they may manifest themselves. It was precisely against the nationalist deviations of the Soviet bureaucracy, most crassly expressed by Stalin's theory of "socialism in one country," that Trotsky launched his life-and-death struggle against Stalinism. He warned that the adoption of Stalin's theory would imperceptibly but inescapably shunt the Third International onto the tracks of opportunism.

This warning was swiftly verified by events. In England during the critical period of the labor movement in 1925-27, the Stalinists followed a false and opportunist policy (the policy of the Anglo-Russian Committee). In China the Stalinists betrayed the revolution of 1925-27 by pursuing a typical Menshevik policy of collaborating with the native bourgeoisie (Stalin's bloc of "four classes"), in the name of establishing not workers's rule but the "democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants." In the Soviet Union, Stalin's false policies manifested themselves at the time in an opportunist economic policy (slow tempo of industrialization, fostering of neo-capitalist elements: "kulak grow rich," etc.) and subsequently in the adventuristic economic policy in connection with the First Five-Year Plan.

The great lessons of these experiences in China, the USSR and England were the axis of the struggle inside the Russian party, and they later became the basis for the education and unification of the original world Trotskyist movement.

Internationalism became the very hall-mark of Trotskyism. Writing in 1938, on the Ninetieth Anniversary of the Communist Manifesto, Trotsky said:

"The international development of capitalism has predetermined the international character of the proletarian revolution. 'United action, of the leading civilized countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat,' [wrote Marx and Engels in 1848]. The subsequent development of capitalism has so closely knit all sections of our planet, both "civilized" and "uncivilized," that the problem of the socialist revolution has completely and decisively assumed a world character. The Soviet bureaucracy attempted to liquidate the Manifesto with respect to this fundamental question The Bonapartist degeneration of the Soviet state is an overwhelming illustration of the falseness of the theory of socialism in one country."
The Elaboration of an International Program
Trotsky's primary objective from the outset was to elaborate an internationalist program, and to select groups and individuals on this programmatic foundation. No sooner were his hands untied for work on a world scale (by his exile to Turkey in February 1929), than he began hammering home the cardinal consideration that whoever assigns a secondary importance to the international factor is traveling on the road to national opportunism. "National programs can be built only on international ground." "Our international orientation and our national policy are indissolubly bound together."

"It is undeniable," he explained, "that each country possesses the greatest peculiarities of its own. But in our epoch their true value can be estimated, and revolutionary use can be made of them only from an internationalist point of view. Only an international organization can be the bearer of an international ideology."
Trotsky's touchstone for evaluating "tendencies in world communism"--and therefore his touchstone for political collaboration--was: the position taken by any given group on the above-listed three questions which he designated as "classic" (Anglo-Russian Committee, Chinese revolution of 1925-27, Soviet economic policy in conjunction with the theory of socialism in one country). In his opinion only an organization which demarcated itself ideologically from all others on these issues, could prove viable, capable of action, capable of withstanding the test of events, and finally able to unite the proletariat under its banner.

Why? Because in each case fundamental principles of revolutionary policy were involved. Agreement meant the possibility for joint work within a common organization; disagreement either excluded such a possibility or rendered it extremely remote.

While attaching paramount importance to questions of principle, Trotsky invariably subordinated questions of tactic, organization and the like. In March 31, 1929, in the same letter in which he lists the "three classic questions" as the decisive criteria, he adds the following highly illuminating comment:

"Some comrades may he astonished that I omit reference here to the question of the party regime. I do so not out of oversight, but deliberately. A party regime has no independent, self-sufficient meaning. In relation to party policy it is a derivative magnitude. The most heterogeneous elements sympathize with the struggle against Stalinist bureaucratism.... For a Marxist, democracy within a party or within a country is not an abstraction. Democracy is always conditioned by the struggle of living forces. By bureaucratism, the opportunist elements in part and as a whole understand revolutionary centralism. Obviously, they cannot be our co-thinkers."

Of no less significance is Trotsky's refusal not only to unite but even to effect blocs with the Right wing, even though at the time it was a tendency within the Communist movement. This is an important lesson in principled politics. Only unprincipled politicians enter into political collaboration with those with whom they disagree fundamentally, but with whom they happen to have temporary agreement on secondary issues. Trotsky was unyielding on this score.

In March 1929 he wrote:

"Two irreconcilably opposed tendencies are usually listed under the label of opposition: the revolutionary tendency [the Trotskyists] and the opportunist tendency [Bukharin-Brandler-Lovestone wing]. A hostile attitude toward centrism [the reference here is to Stalinism] and toward the "regime" is the only thing they have in common. But this is a purely negative bond. Our struggle against centrism derives from the fact that centrism is semi-opportunist and covers up full-blown opportunism, despite temporary and sharp disagreements with the latter. For this reason there cannot even be talk of a bloc between the Left Opposition and the Right Opposition. This requires no commentary."
Trotsky safeguarded the movement from being converted into a melting pot of divergent ideological tendencies not only by a principled and serious attitude toward unifications but also by a similar attitude toward splits.

During the same period he wrote:

"It is not always, nor under all circumstances, that unity within an organization must remain inviolate. In cases where the differences assume a fundamental character, a split at times appears to be the only solution possible. But care must be taken that this be a genuine split, that is, that the split should not depart from the line of principled differences, and that this line be brought clear-cut before the eyes of all the members of the organization."
In the first seven years of its existence the Left Opposition experienced approximately a score of splits. The political opponents seized upon this with glee as proof of an intolerable "internal regime."

Trotsky dismissed this contention with contempt, pointing out that "it is necessary to take not the bald statistics of splits, but the dialectics of development." A movement irreconcilably defending its program against opportunism, against centrism, against ultra-leftism could not have possibly avoided splits under the most favorable conditions, and all the less so in the period of catastrophic defeats and universal disorientation of the labor movement.

Beginning with 1930 a whole series of splits occurred over the constantly recurring differences relating to the class nature of the Soviet Union. If in 1939-40 this issue precipitated the struggle inside the Socialist Workers Party, then in 1930, at the very inception of the European movement, it led to a break with Urbahns in Germany, Louzon in France, Overstraaten in Belgium, etc.

When the turn from propaganda groups to mass work was launched in 1934-36, another series of splits occurred in France, England, the U.S. and elsewhere over the tactic of entry into the Socialist parties where left wing tendencies were crystallizing (the famous "French Turn").

But precisely because the movement had a banner and a program from which it refused to swerve, it was able to overcome each internal crisis and to forge steadily, even if slowly, forward.

Trotsky's Struggle for the International
Parallel with Trotsky's irreconcilability in defending the internationalist principles of the movement was his adamant insistence upon the necessity and primacy of the international organization. "Only an international organization can be the bearer of an international ideology." The organization form flows from and must correspond to the party's platform.

From the outset, he insisted on the speediest possible consolidation of all his genuine co-thinkers into an international body. "From its first steps," he wrote in February 1930, "the Opposition must therefore clearly declare itself as an international faction--as did the Communists in the period of the Communist Manifesto, or of the First International, or of the Left Zimmerwald at the beginning of the war (1914-18)....In the epoch of imperialism, a similar attitude imposes itself a hundred times more categorically than in the times of Marx."

This conception of party building was hotly disputed and opposed by all the varieties of centrism who favored a "broader," more "all-inclusive" organization. In practically every country in Europe, especially France, voices were raised in favor of the more accommodating perspective. Their fundamental criterion for political collaboration was as simple as it was false: opposition to Stalinism. These people sought to operate in politics much after the manner of those who, strike up close personal friendships solely on the basis of mutual and pet dislikes. Trotsky fought the centrist trends implacably. For example, in answer to Paz and Treint, the French champions of an "all-inclusive" organization, be wrote:

"They dream of creating an international association which will be open to everybody: those who support Chiang Kai-shek and those who support the Soviet Republic [in the 1930 conflict over the Manchurian railway]; those who endeavor to save the 'autonomy' of the industrial unions from Communism as well as those who struggle for the influence of Communism in the trade unions; those who are for a united front with the Right wing groups [the Bukharin wing in Russia; the Brandlerites in Germany; the Lovestoneites in the U.S., etc.] against the official party as well as those who are for a united front with the official party against the Right wing groups. This program for a melting-pot is being advanced under the slogan of 'party democracy.' Could any one invent a more malicious mockery of party democracy?"
Trotsky's criteria for the building of the International, it will be observed, were not at all based on purely negative bonds. What he invariably sought was not unity for unity's sake, but unity based on community of ideas. No selection was worthwhile in his opinion unless it was a selection of co-thinkers animated by common basic views, by the same fundamental principles.

This was Trotsky's position during the years when the movement functioned as a faction of the Third International; this remained his position after 1933 when the movement turned to the task of building the Fourth International. The English ILP, the German SAP and others then came to the fore with proposals for a new melting pot. Trotsky rejected an "all-inclusive" International just as he had previously rejected an "all-inclusive" international faction. In the five years that elapsed between the issuance of the call for the Fourth International and its Founding Congress in 1938, the centrists played out to the fullest measure their experiment of creating a "broad," "non-sectarian," "non-dogmatic" International organization. Their catchall International, the London Bureau, otherwise known as the "International Bureau of Revolutionary Socialist Unity"--a pretentious body, without a banner, without a program, was a conglomeration of parties and groups moving simultaneously in all directions. As Trotsky predicted, it fell apart without leaving a trace.

The Norwegian Labor Party of Tranmael broke with the London Bureau and entered the capitalist government of Norway. The Swedish Socialist Party, one of the original mainstays, had found its way back into the embraces of the Social Democracy; the German SAP traveled in the same direction. The Brandler-Lovestone "international" that adhered to the Bureau in its heyday simply dissolved. The splinter exile groups (the Italian Maximalists and the Austrian Red Front "lefts") gave up the ghost. The ILP, the lone survivor of this galaxy, continued to vegetate.

* * *

The early splits in the Trotskyist movement which we have already recounted were in reality only anticipations of the two subsequent struggles upon the outcome of which the very fate of the International depended.

The first of these came in connection with the Spanish Civil War which erupted in 1936; the second coincided with the outbreak of the Second World War.

The internal crisis in connection with the Spanish Civil War was precipitated by the following developments:

Under the leadership of Andres Nin the majority of Spanish Trotskyist section merged with the semi-nationalist Catalan Federation of Maurin. The product of this fusion was the POUM (Party of Marxist Unity) with a typically centrist program. This sacrifice of principles for the sake of "unity" led unavoidably to disastrous results. The POUM was not a revolutionary party at all, but like its prototypes merely gave the appearance of being one. It began its career by engaging in electoral maneuvers with the Spanish People's Front and ended by the entry of Nin into the bourgeois government, that is to say, by the commission of the greatest crime of all in a period of the socialist revolution.

The policies of the POUM were supported not only by the London Bureau, to which it was affiliated, but met with widespread sympathy among revolutionary workers throughout the world. As a matter of fact, there were illusions about the POUM within the ranks of the Trotskyists.

A break with the POUM implied swimming against the stream, including broad sections of class-conscious workers. Trotsky did not hesitate. He did not change his course.

In January 1936, after the POUM entered into an electoral bloc with the Spanish People's Front, Trotsky branded its course as treachery, and added in conclusion:

"As far as we are concerned we prefer clarity. In Spain, genuine revolutionists will no doubt be found who will mercilessly expose the betrayal of Maurin, Nin, Andrade and Co., and lay the foundation for the Spanish section of the Fourth International."
Franco's assault came in July 1936. The POUM did not effect a change in its policy, but slid further and further on its false and perfidious course. Trotsky continued to criticise and oppose. The subsequent fate of the POUM bore out his position to the hilt. It is hardly necessary to point out that had a different policy been followed, the Fourth International would have assumed responsibility for the terrible defeat in Spain and could have been, in consequence, badly compromised.

Trotsky's Break With Sneevliet
Among the organizations that sided with the POUM was the Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party of Holland (RSAP) which under the leadership of Sneevliet and Schmidt was one of the signatories to the August 1935 call for the Fourth International. Trotsky remained firm, even though this meant a break with one of the largest mass parties affiliated to the Trotskyist movement at the time.

Despite this grave internal crisis, and without the RSAP, it became nevertheless possible by September 1938 to convene the Founding Conference of the Fourth International.

Less than a year later, in July 1939, Trotsky was able to declare:

"The international organization of Brandler, Lovestone, etc., which appeared to be many times more powerful than our organizations has crumbled to dust. The alliance between Walcher and the Norwegian Labor Party and Pivert himself (leader of PSOP, a French counterpart of the Spanish POUM) burst into fragments. The London Bureau has given up the ghost. But the Fourth International, despite all the difficulties and crises, has grown uninterruptedly, has its own organizations in more than a score of countries, and was able to convene its World Congress under the most difficult circumstances."
The movement could derive this inner drive and power from one source, and one source only--its unassailable ideas, its correct and tested program. This is how Trotsky explained it in July 1939:

"The Fourth International is developing as a grouping of new and fresh elements on the basis of a common program growing out of the entire past experience, incessantly checked and rendered more precise. In the selection of its cadres the Fourth International has great advantages over the Third. These advantages flow precisely from the difficult conditions of struggle in the epoch of reaction. The Third International took shape swiftly because many 'Lefts' easily and readily adhered to the victorious revolution. The Fourth International takes form under the blows of defeats and persecutions. The ideological bond created under such conditions is extraordinarily firm."
Within a few months after writing these lines, Trotsky was to engage in and lead, for the last time in his lifetime, another decisive struggle for the program and tradition of the Fourth International. This was the 1939-40 struggle against the petty-bourgeois opposition within the SWP. Involved here was still another attempt to revise and overthrow the colossal conquest of the revolutionary vanguard--its theory, its political principles, its organizational ideas and practices. Precisely because of its scope, the 1939-40 struggle recapitulated the essential features of all the preceding struggles.

The extraordinary firmness of the ideological bond that binds the movement created by Trotsky has been decisively confirmed by the emergence of a stronger and more homogeneous Fourth International out of the fiery test of World War II. What safeguards its future is the very same thing that has safeguarded its past, namely: it is being built in the same way and with the same ideas and methods that Trotsky taught all his co-thinkers.

[first published in Fourth International, August 1946]

*Films to While Away The Class Struggle By-Trotsky: The Rise And Fall Of A Revolutionary

Click on the title to link to a YouTube film clip from the film documentary, Trotsky: The Rise And Fall Of A Revolutionary.

Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some films that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. In the future I expect to do the same for books under a similar heading.-Markin

DVD Review

Trotsky: Rise and Fall Of A Revolutionary, starring Leon Trotsky, Natalia Sedova, V.I. Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and various other member of the Bolshevik Party, Kultur Films, 2008

This one has me stumped. I mean I was not sure whether to review the documentary or not. My quandary was whether in recommending this hour long documentary I was aiding in bringing the younger generation, who may not be familiar with the great Russian revolutionary and 20th century leftist icon, Leon Trotsky, more misconceptions about his role in history, the role of the Russian revolution in history, and the role of the Bolshevik Party in bringing that revolution about than clarity. The documentary has a fair number of those misconceptions, especially around the always controversial subjects of the seizure of power, the original sin, by the Bolsheviks in November 1917, Trotsky’s role in the Kronstadt uprising in 1921, and of Stalin as the “legitimate” continuator of the Leninist traditions, among others. I think that the comment of one of the Russian “talking heads” near the end of the presentation kind of summed up the whole piece-Yes, Trotsky was a great revolutionary, a great thinker, and great organizer but he was a fanatic (like the rest of the Bolsheviks) and the whole “experiment” was doomed to failure. Conclusion: Trotsky got caught up with great historic forces consciously and so he, basically, got what he deserved.

I have reviewed many books and films on Leon Trotsky and on the Bolshevik revolution, some of them, frankly, even less forthright that this effect so, in the end, I decided to review this one in the interest of completeness. And I will just add the proviso that further study is mandatory after viewing this one. Another factor pulling at me, as well, was that, political perspective and other faults aside, this is a very quick overview of Trotsky’s life and can at least serve at a primer for the highlights of his biography, and a glimmer of light on the issues that surrounded that life, including his theory of permanent revolution, his notions of socialist society-building and his fight, to the end, to save the honor of the Russian revolution.

One virtue of this film is that it presents a fair amount of film footage (some which I had not seem before) of Trotsky’s rise as revolutionary from his chairmanship of the Petrograd Soviet in the 1905 revolution, his various exiles in the aftermath of that event, his return to Russia in 1917 , his organization of the November revolution, his role as War Commissar in the Civil War against the Whites, his role in founding the Communist International, his fights inside the Bolshevik Party against Stalin in the early 1920s, his political defeats at the hands of Stalin in the late 1920s, his expulsion from the Soviet Union and further exiles abroad, and finally his assassination at the hands of a Stalinist agent in Mexico in 1940. Just that short list is enough to keep one going for a while. So watch this one. Then grab Isaac Deutscher’s definitive three-volume Trotsky biography(The Prophet series) to fill in the many blanks of his life left out of the film, and, finally, read Trotsky’s own History Of The Russian Revolution to get his take on that action. In any case don’t stop with this film documentary.

Note: Much has been made of Trotsky as an orator. Unfortunately, in his oratorical heyday film had no audio component so we can’t get a sense of what virtually every on the spot commentator has described as a mesmerizing presentation. Of course that was an age, or at least more of an age, when oratory, especially political oratory, was prized for its entertainment as well as educational value. Frankly, off his later voice presentation, in some of the footage later in the 1930s he sounds more like Hollywood’s image of a mad, exiled East European professor than a revolutionary leader.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not Read For Prime Time Class Struggle- A Rehash Of “M.A.S.H.”- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link ot a YouTube film clip of the movie trailer for M.A.S.H.
DVD Review

M.A.S.H., Robert Duval, Elliot Gould, Donald Sutherland, Tom Skeritt, directed by Robert Altman, 1970

I have always been a fan of the late Robert Altman’s work as a director. A couple of his films that have withheld the test of time, Nashville and California Split, come readily to mind. Those slice of life films still “speak” to the subjects at hand, the glitter of country music stardom and its underside reality and the fight to get rich quick at the gambling tables. No so this film, M.A.S.H., a film that on first viewing I was very impressed with. On a recent re-viewing I found myself distracted most of the time. Not that the film’s “follies of war” theme in a front-line Army medical unit (then the Vietnam War, although the earlier Korean War is the thinly-veiled locale of the film, and not to be confused with the handful of American wars since then) has lost its significance. If anything that theme is more relevant that ever. What has lost power, and punch, is the notion that through the antics, and frankly this thing is filled with antics, that would embarrass even the lowliest “frat rat”, can draw those lessons about the folly of war. Sex, sacrifice, more sex, some off-hand skilled surgery, more hi-jinks and booze, and then off to home (and presumably a soft, country club life) do not make that same impression that first drew me to the film. Even Elliot Gould, who was great, and still is worth seeing, in California Split and as an understated Phillip Marlowe in the film version of Raymond Candler’s The Long Good-bye got on my nerves. Enough said.

Monday, December 27, 2010

*From The Archives Of The American Communist Party-James Cannon On The Early Days Of The Party -At The Communist International Sixth Congress (1928)

Markin comment:

In the introduction to a recent posting that started a series entitled From The Archives Of The Spartacist League (U.S.) I noted the following that applies to this series on the roots of the American Communist Party as well:

“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…..”

I am continuing today in that vane in what I also anticipate will be an on-going series on the early days of the American Communist party from which we who are students of Leon Trotsky trace our roots. Those roots extend from the 1919 until 1929 when those who would go on after being expelled, led by James P. Cannon, to form the Socialist Workers Party which also is part of our heritage. That is not the end of the matter though as the American Communist Party also represented a trend in the 1930s, the Popular front strategic policy, that has bedeviled revolutionaries ever since in one form or another. Those 1930s issues need to be addressed as well.
Additional comment on this article-Markin

A certain amount of caution is needed in dealing with the Stalinized American Communist Party, as with the Communist International, because the Stalinists, then and now, were more than happy to slander political opponents on their left, and to rewrite history for their own purposes. Hardly a new idea among those who “win” whatever battle they are fighting. But a little bit tough on those of us who are trying to draw the lessons of the past for today’s left-wing militants. This series starts with the reflections of that early Communist leader mentioned above, James P. Cannon, who had his own axes to grind politically, no question. However, as Theodore Draper who wrote the definitive study on the history of the early American Communist Party in two volumes noted, of all the people whom he interviewed for the his books James Cannon was the one that stood out as wanting to remember as truthfully as he could that early history. I will use that statement as the touchstone for using Cannon’s work first. William Z. Foster, Earl Browder and the others will get their chance later.
James P. Cannon
Letters to a Historian
(1954 – 1956)
* * *
These articles from the magazines Fourth International and International Socialist Review are based on letters Cannon wrote to Theodore Draper who was then researching his two-volume series on the history of the US Communist Party

Written: March 1954 to February 1956.
Published: Fourth International, Summer 1954–Spring 1956, & International Socialist Review, Summer 1956–Spring 1957. Source: Original bound volumes of Fourth International and International Socialist Review and microfilm provided by the NYU Tamiment Labor Libraries.
Transcription & Mark-up: Andrew Pollack/Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive


James P. Cannon
Early Years of the American Communist Movement
Letters to a Historian


At the Sixth World Congress of the Comintern


Source: International Socialist Review, Vol.18 No.2, Spring 1957, pp.61-65.
Original bound volumes of International Socialist Review and microfilm provided by the NYU Tamiment Labor Libraries.
Transcription & Mark-up: Andrew Pollack/Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


February 1, 1956

Dear Sir:

There is very little I can add to what I have already written about the Sixth World Congress of the Comintern (1928) in the History of American Trotskyism. That report on the Congress as a whole is meager enough, and the reason for it is frankly explained there. The simple truth is that in the first period after our arrival in Moscow, I, like all the other American delegates, was far more concerned about the fight over the American question than the work of the Congress in general. Then, after I got hold of a copy of Trotsky’s Criticism of the Draft Program, my interest and attention was concentrated on that and what I would do about it after I got back home.

Maurice Spector, a top leader of the Canadian party, read the Criticism at the same time and his reaction to it was the same as mine. Thereafter we lost interest in the official proceedings. We made a compact to fight for Trotsky’s cause, but we knew that it would be futile and tactically unwise to begin our fight in Moscow. We held a continuous “Congress” of our own about Trotsky’s great document and its implications. As I said in the History, “We let the caucus meetings and the Congress sessions go to the devil while we studied this document.”

I realize that this puts me down as a poor reporter and convicts me of one-sidedness. This quality, however, is sometimes useful in a political worker. It certainly was so in this case; the “one side” represented by Trotsky’s criticism of the draft program was far more important than all the rest of the Congress put together.

* * *
My History of American Trotskyism will have to stand as my recollection of that time. Everything was fresher in my mind when it was written 14 years ago, and I can’t think of anything important to add to it. This book had a curious history. Like practically all my writing, it happened more or less by chance, incident to other work in the movement. It was not planned at all. In the winter of 1942 the comrades in charge of the party school in New York asked me to give a couple of lectures on party history to fill out some open dates on their forum schedule. I thought that would be a small chore and I agreed rather light-mindedly, having nothing more in mind than to relate a few reminiscences about the main points.

Then, when I sat down to make the notes for the first lecture, it occurred to me that I should explain how our movement originated in the Communist Party. But the story of this experience in the CP also required some explanatory background. Before I fully realized what I was undertaking to do I was back in the beginning, making notes about the early days of American communism. I got so bogged down in notes about that period that it took me three lectures to get out of the Communist Party, before I could start on the subject of our independent activities after our expulsion. The interest of the attending audience stimulated me to keep going along that line until the course was strung out to l2 lectures. The lectures were not written, but spoken free-style, from notes usually made on the day of the lecture. The only research I did was to leaf through the bound volumes of The Militant to fix the various events in their proper order of continuity. All the rest came from my memory at the time.

The eventual publication of the lectures also happened without prior design on my part. Sylvia Caldwell, who was my secretary at that time, took the lectures down in shorthand on her own initiative, and later transcribed her notes. There was some casual talk among us of publishing the lectures some time, but I did nothing about it and left the typescripts sleeping in the file for another year and a half. They would still be there, probably, except for another incident over which I had no control. In November, 1943, we got notice that our appeal from our conviction in the 1941 trial at Minneapolis had been denied by the Supreme Court, and that we would have about a month to get ready to go to Sandstone Prison. Then, under pressure of time, I hastily corrected some of the grammatical mistakes in the typescripts of the lectures and handed them over to Pioneer Publishers just under the deadline. The accidental book was finally published the following spring. Others have to judge what the book is worth. All I know for sure is that it is all true.

* * *
My comment on Stalin’s policy at the time of the Sixth World Congress must be qualified by the observation that I know more now about what was going on in the Russian party and the Comintern, than I did then. Consequently I have to be on guard against coloring my recollections of various incidents by interpretations I arrived at later.

It is safe to say that all of us in the American opposition were aware of the muted struggle going on against the right wing in the Russian party; and that we drew the conclusion that in one way or another this would be advantageous to us in the factional struggle at home. I don’t think we realized at that time how deep the cleavage had become between Stalin and Bukharin. This was obscured by the fact that Bukharin was put forward as the leader of the Congress to make the chief political report.

There was a great deal of speculation as to what was really going on in the Russian party, but no one seemed to know. I personally got a good deal of information from Hathaway, a member of our faction, who had just finished a three-year term in Moscow as a student in the Lenin School. Hathaway, like all the other students of this misnamed institution, had been trained to scent the wind in the Russian party, and he was a fully indoctrinated Stalinist. He parroted the official line against Rykov, Tomsky and a number of others whom he designated as right-wingers in the Russian party, but I can’t recall that he was very definite about Bukharin.

Stalin evidently wanted to utilize the Congress as a final mopping-up operation against the Left Opposition before bringing the fight against Bukharin into the open. The American opposition delegates were cagey about getting out on a limb in connection with the internal affairs of the Russian party. They denounced the Lovestoneites as representatives of the right-wing tendency in the International without specifying who were the Russian leaders in this right wing. I cannot recall that Bittelman or any other member of the American opposition attacked Bukharin openly. I am pretty sure it didn’t happen.

* * *
We were told that rumors of the fight in the Russian party had been taken up in the Senioren Konvent, but I do not recall any report that Lovestone had raised the question. (This Senioren Konvent was a sort of advisory body made up of the heads of delegations. I think it also included some other especially prominent delegates. If I am not mistaken Foster was also a member of the Senioren Konvent. It was translated as “Council of Elders.”)

What sticks in my mind is the report that Stalin, at a special session of the Senioren Konvent, had denied any conflict in the Russian leadership, and that this had a restraining influence on any delegates in the Congress who might have been inclined to press the question.

The Congress was buzzing all the time with rumors about the differences in the Russian party; but I heard nothing about any organized or semi-organized movement that could be considered a “Corridor Congress.” I am inclined to think this expression was manufactured by the Lovestoneites after their expulsion, when they no longer had anything to lose. My personal testimony, of course, is not conclusive; my standing in Moscow was such that I could not have been invited into such a cabal.

But Foster would have been considered eligible; and I never heard anything from Foster to indicate that he was part of any “Corridor Congress.” If he had been so connected, it seems almost certain that he would have reported it. He reported the even more confidential matter of his personal talk with Stalin, on the latter’s invitation, in which Stalin told him that he did not trust Lovestone, as I related in a previous letter.

* * *
As far as I know, Stalin’s devious method of political manipulation was absolutely unique. There was no criterion by which to estimate what he was driving at at any particular moment. In one of his comments about the early days of the struggle of the Left Opposition in the Russian party – perhaps it was in his autobiography – Trotsky said the party functionaries were kept in the dark as to what the majority faction intended by this or that action. They were required to “guess” what it meant and to adapt themselves in time. Selections of people and promotions were made by the accuracy of their guesses at each stage of development in the factional struggle. Those who guessed wrong or didn’t guess at all were discarded. This guessing game was played to perfection in the period of Stalin’s preparation to dump Bukharin. I don’t think many people knew what was really going on and what was already planned at the time of the Sixth Congress. Everybody was guessing, and it is quite evident that the Lovestoneites guessed wrong.

Here an interesting speculation arises. If Lovestone and Wolfe had known about the so-called “Corridor Congress,” and had also known that Stalin was behind it – would they still have clung to Bukharin as the representative of an obviously losing cause? Permit me to doubt it – or rather, permit me to say categorically, No.

The main concern of Lovestone and Wolfe was not the general direction of policy in the Russian party and the Comintern, but their own stake in the leadership of the American party. When the showdown came at the party convention the following year, their attempt to propitiate Stalin by proposing the expulsion of Bukharin, was a revealing gesture. Their failure to cut loose from Bukharin at the time of the Sixth Congress really doesn’t deserve to be considered as a sign of their quixotic devotion to Bukharin’s cause. It was just a bad guess.

* * *
As I have previously reported, I do remember the meeting during the Sixth Congress referred to in Lovestone’s cable to his factional supporters in America, submitted by Gitlow to one of the hearings of the Un-American Activities Committee. I recall it rather as a meeting of the American Commission than as a joint meeting of the American and Russian delegations. However that may be, I definitely do not remember Stalin being present and speaking. It is highly doubtful that I could have forgotten that, because Stalin’s personal appearances at such gatherings were rare events, and were apt to be remembered. What fixes the memory of this meeting in my mind was Lovestone’s unprecedented action in making a rude and angry attack on Losovsky, and his remark in obvious reference to Losovsky’s differences with Lenin in the October days: “Nobody in our party ever fought Lenin.”

It could be that the Lovestone faction had private meetings with Stalin and Bukharin and that Stalin at such a meeting gave them some grounds to think they could count on his support. That could have been part of his devious game of putting Bukharin off guard until he was ready to cut his throat. But that, of course, is speculation. Nothing was clear to anybody then. And all that’s clear now is that Stalin at the time of the Sixth Congress, was planning to open fire on Bukharin and to finish off his supporters in the International in the process, but that he wasn’t ready to disclose his whole plan at that time.

* * *
The opposition platform entitled The Right Danger in the American Party was submitted to the American Commission by the official Congress delegates of the opposition bloc. The signatures – J.J. Johnstone, M. Gomez, W.F. Dunne, J.P. Cannon, Wm.Z. Foster, Alex Bittelman and G. Siskind – were apparently the signatures of the regularly designated delegates. (A number of other oppositionists such as Browder, Hathaway and others, present at the Congress, were evidently not regular delegates.) The document was presented in the name of the opposition delegation as a whole. As far as I know there were no dissenters. The chief author of the document was Bittelman. The order of the signatures had no significance.

I do not remember the American oppositionists’ protest against Paragraph 49 of the Congress Theses on the ground that it failed to emphasize sufficiently the “growing contradictions confronting American imperialism, etc.” In any case, it could not be considered as a serious conflict but rather as an attempt to put a little pressure to have the American resolution brought into line more precisely with the new orientation of the Comintern and, to help the opposition in its fight in the American party. It was a custom in these faction fights in the Comintern for every faction to demand a little more than it expected to get in the hope that it would get something by way of compromise.

* * *
At the time we submitted the platform of the opposition on The Right Danger everything was still more or less normal in the opposition bloc. There was not the slightest sign of objection by the Fosterites to my participation, since there could be no hope of winning a majority in the party unless the bloc held together. The objection to me, rather, was that I was not sufficiently active and aggressive in the struggle before the American Commission. This discontent with my conduct became accentuated after I read Trotsky’s Criticism of the Draft Program. Then I began to slow down and lose interest in the faction fight altogether. The others may have known, or suspected the reasons, but I am sure they could not bring themselves to believe that I would do anything foolishly impractical about it. They didn’t care what anyone’s secret thoughts might be as long as they were not compromised by some overt action.

The delegates of the “Cannon group” were especially discontented with my increasing indifference to the factional struggle in Moscow and what it might portend; their own positions in the party stood to be affected adversely by my default. They started a pressure campaign to induce me to snap out of it and get back into the fight in earnest. The repudiation of Foster by his own faction had created a sort of vacuum in the leadership of the combined opposition and they felt, not without some justification, as things were at that time, that I was far better qualified to fill it than any of the other members of the Foster group. All this led to an incident which is perhaps worth reporting, since it compelled me to make the decision which was to have far-reaching consequences.

A meeting was called of all the members and sympathizers of our faction in Moscow. About a dozen, all told, were there, including our Congress delegates, the students in the Lenin School and a number of others. Spector was also present. There the proposition was flatly put to me – that if I would quit dragging my feet and go all-out in the factional struggle, they would pledge me their support all the way to the end as the logical candidate for the central position of leadership in the party when the Lovestone regime was overthrown.

I did not give a definite answer at the meeting. Spector and I held our own caucus on the question for a couple of days. We discussed it solely from the point of view of how best to serve the cause of Trotsky, to which we were by then fully committed. The proposal had an attractive glitter. In the first place, even though we were less optimistic than the others, we recognized that the objective outlined in the meeting was not unrealistic. If the indications of a Comintern swing to the left were fully developed there was good ground to think that the opposition’s chances for gaining the majority in the party would steadily improve.

Secondly, with Foster discredited and repudiated by his own former supporters, it was obvious that my claim to a more important role as the central leader of the opposition, and eventually of the party, was far stronger than that of Bittelman or any of the others in the Foster faction. Bittelman suffered from a number of disqualifications, which he himself was well aware of. He was distinctively an internal party man, not a mass worker and orator suited to the role of public leader. Browder had no standing as a political leader and was not even thought of in that connection. The other people of the Foster group were of even lesser caliber. We speculated that if I could secure the central position in the official apparatus of the party, I would be in a position to swing far more substantial support for the International Left Opposition when the time came to make a decisive open break. The fly in the ointment was that in order to carry out such a maneuver I would have to adapt myself to the official Comintern line against Trotskyism, and even make up for previous derelictions by excessive zeal in this respect. I would, in effect, be winning the party for the program of Stalinism.

Could I then, at some indefinite future time, reveal my own secret program and overcome the effect of the miseducation which I had helped to disseminate? Was there not a danger that I myself would become compromised and corrupted in the process and find it impossible to extricate myself at some future time?

I must state frankly that Spector and I discussed the proposition between ourselves very seriously before deciding against it. Only after thorough consideration of the maneuver from all sides, did we finally decide to reject the proposition. We came to the conclusion that the cause of Trotskyism would be served better in the long run if we frankly proclaimed his program and started the education of a new cadre on that basis, even though it was certain to mean our own expulsion and virtual isolation at the start of the new fight.

The choice of alternatives would present no difficulties to people who have been raised and educated in the Trotskyist school of principled politics, which our movement has consistently represented since 1928. The decision we made at that time would seem to be an easy one, to be made out of hand. It was not so easy for us in those days. Since the death of Lenin, the politics of the Comintern had become a school of maneuverism, and we ourselves had been affected by it. Trotsky’s document on the Draft Program was a great revelation of the meaning of principled politics. But for us at that time it was a new revelation. We were profoundly influenced by it, but we were only beginning to assimilate its full significance.

That accounts for our hesitation, for our toying for a day or two with the possibility of a self-deceiving maneuver which might well have gravely injured the cause of genuine communism in this country. And not only in this country, for the expelled and slandered defenders of the banner everywhere were then in their darkest hour. They needed to hear an American voice in their support. Our demonstrative action in publicly unfurling the banner of Trotsky in 1928 – at a time when he was exiled and isolated in Alma Ata – greatly encouraged the scattered forces of the International Left Opposition throughout the world.

* * *
The Fosterites had never talked to us about their own family affairs. Consequently, the big explosion at the joint caucus of the delegates of the two groups in Moscow came as somewhat of a surprise to us. To judge from the intensity of the feelings expressed, the revolt against Foster must have been brewing for a long time; it could hardly have been caused by the difference on trade-union tactics alone. It is more likely that the trade-union dispute, in which Bittelman and Browder could draw courage from being on Losovsky’s side, triggered an explosion built up out of many accumulated grievances.

One of Foster’s traits which I especially detested, after I got to know him well, was his different manner and attitude in dealing with different people. To those whom he thought he needed, such as Bittelman and myself, he was always careful and at times even a bit deferential. To those who needed him, such as Browder and Johnstone, he was brusque and dictatorial. They must have stored up many resentments against that.

I remember one rather dramatic incident during the discussion. Foster stood over Johnstone threateningly, with his fist clenched, and tried his old trick of intimidation with the snarling remark: “You’re getting pretty bold!” Johnstone, almost hysterical, answered: “You have been trampling on me for years, but you’re not going to trample on me any more.” Johnstone and Browder gave the impression at this meeting of people who had broken out of long confinement and were running wild.

Bittelman’s conduct was more difficult for me to understand. During all the time that we had been together in one group, and I had known everything that was going on with respect to personal relations, Foster had never presumed to bulldoze Bittelman. Yet at this meeting Bittelman’s tone and language seemed to be that of a man who was out to settle personal scores long overdue. He was absolutely ruthless in his attack on Foster, and even contemptuous of his arguments.

* * *
It was remarkable that not a single person in the meeting spoke up in defense of Foster. The whole faction was in revolt against him, with Bittelman in the lead and Browder and Johnstone close behind him. The funny thing about the whole business was that this fight, of almost unprecedented violence, which ordinarily would signify a complete break of personal and political relations between the participants, was apparently carried on with no thought of such consequences.

The Fosterites in revolt were still dependent on Foster’s name and prestige whether they liked it or not. At that time they had no prospect of playing a big role in the party without him. Foster, for his part, had nowhere else to go except to become a captive of the Lovestoneites, and that was impossible for him. So the whole stew blew up violently and then receded and continued to simmer and sizzle in the same pot. We, the “Cannonites,” stood aside and let the Fosterites fight it out among themselves. From a personal standpoint I felt a certain sympathy for the slaves in hysterical rebellion. But from a political standpoint I couldn’t see any sense whatever in encouraging a split with a view to realignment in the form of a bloc between our faction and the Fosterites, minus Foster.

Foster’s name and prestige, and his dogged persistence and outstanding ability as a mass worker, were always the bigger half of the assets of the Foster group, and remained so even after he had been defeated and isolated within the group. This was shown quite conclusively a short time later. When Stalin wanted to convey a message – with more than a hint of future support – to the American opposition, he sent for Foster and gave it to him personally.

It is quite possible that Browder and Johnstone could have had illusions of going on without Foster as if nothing had happened, for they were notorious for their political unrealism and ineptitude. But I could not imagine Bittelman entertaining such illusions. He had always been pretty realistic in his estimate of the forces in the party and of his own impediments. He knew that he had to be allied with others who had what he lacked, and he relied on combinations in which he could playa strategic part. The original Foster-Bittelman-Cannon combination was made to order for him to play a role in the party that he never could have played by himself. His importance declined when one-third of the combination broke off. And he cannot have failed to understand that it would decline still more if he came to an open break with Foster. I had known Bittelman as a man of reserve, who kept his personal feelings under control far better than most – a quality which I admired; and to this day I can’t understand what drove him to such violence in the attack on Foster as to risk the danger of an irreparable split. That he had any idea of fighting for the leadership of the party in his own name is in my opinion the one hypothesis that has to be excluded.

* * *
There is one small postscript to my recollections of this family fight among the Fosterites, which was soon swallowed up in my preoccupation with the immeasurably larger subject of Trotsky’s Criticism of the Draft Program, and all that it implied for my own future course.

After the meeting, in a personal conversation with Bill Dunne and me, Foster complained of the treatment he had received and intimated – without saying so directly – that he would like to have better personal relations with us for collaboration in the future. But my own mind was already turning to far bigger things than the old factions and faction squabbles in the American party, and I couldn’t get up any interest in them any more.

Yours truly,
James P. Cannon