Struggle for a Proletarian Party / Edition 2by James P. Cannon, John G. Wright, George Novack
Pub. Date: 01/01/1972
Publisher: Pathfinder Press GA
Introduction by George Novack, photo, glossary, index. Appendix, "The War and Bureaucratic Conservatism," by James
On the eve of World War II, a founder of the communist movement in the U.S. and leader of the Communist International in Lenin's time defends the program and proletarian course of Bolshevism. A companion volume to Leon Trotsky's In Defense of Marxism.
Introduction by George Novack, photo, glossary, index. Appendix, "The War and Bureaucratic Conservatism," by James Burnham.
- Pathfinder Press GA
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This is a collection of documents and letters written by James P. Cannon, the central leader of the Socialist Workers Party for many years. The documents and letters are the product of an internal debate that began in 1939 and led to a split in this party in 1940. They tell the story of how a workers' party successfully strove to be faithful to its own revolutionary roots and thus protect itself from losing everything that it had struggled to build up. The battle that took place within the Socialist Workers Party reveals what kind of work goes into building a party that can become the leading element of the struggle for a government that puts human needs before profits ¿ a workers and farmers government. The initial nucleus of the Socialist Workers Party was formed when a group of Communist Party members was expelled in 1928 for adhering to the program of Trotsky, although that party name was not adopted until 1938. Trotsky was the Russian revolutionary leader, and collaborator of Lenin, who opposed the rise of Stalinism in the USSR. Living in exile in Mexico in 1939-40, Trotsky worked with Cannon to see this faction fight through to its conclusion. For Trotsky's contribution to the debate see his book, In Defense of Marxism. In the late 1930s the U.S. capitalist class prepared to enter the war, expecting to use its military might to massively increase its world influence, and thereby its capacity to skim off the cream of the world's labor and natural resources (a goal which was essentially achieved ¿ for a period of time). The working class came under intense political pressure to give up its class independence, to stop fighting for trade-union goals and for socialism; and instead, to knuckle under to the war drive, to put uniforms on its young men and send them overseas to sacrifice themselves for the profits of the capitalist class. A substantial portion of the membership of the Socialist Workers Party did indeed knuckle under, in their own way, to this pressure. Trotsky called them the petty-bourgeois opposition. Their arguments in the debate reflected their deeply-felt need to get out of the line of fire, to retreat from the struggle for socialism. Cannon led the proletarian party majority, which not only defended the proletarian principles of the party as it answered the arguments of the minority, but also conducted the discussion in such a way that the party's democratic internal norms were preserved and strengthened. This book is necessary reading for rebellious young people and workers seeking a way of finding out how they fit in to the political trajectory of the workers movement. Making a revolution requires deep knowledge not only of the nature of capitalism, but also of the developmental course of the political vanguard movement of the working class. The lessons we learn from this are the common bond we share as we build anew.
I enjoy books by James P. Cannon¿they brim over and bristle with confidence in the working class. This book first and foremost. Cannon takes on the faint hearts and doubters who try to undermine the workers party from within. He provides a text book on how a communist party must organize itself to stand up to the patriotic pressure of a war drive. On clarifying the relationship between the intellectuals and the workers, he points out that the intellectuals are welcome in the party if they come all the way over to the working class side¿they cannot expect that the workers meet them half-way. The party must be proletarian in composition as well as program. Cannon writes with clarity, force, and wit.
There is a lot of the wit and wisdom of Cannon, and his back and forth with leaders like Trotsky, Cannon's collaborator in the 1939-1940 fight to preserve revolutionary communist politics. This is a book for people who retain the faith of the founders of Marxism, the faith of Gene Debs, the faith made real by people like Malcolm X, that workers can change the world and run it themselves. Cannon lead a fight that stopped middle class elements fleeing their fears of the coming of World War II toward anti-communism, from taking the Socialist Workers Party with them. This is not history, but a vibrant guide to building a revolutionary movement, about what principles are, about how to fight for what you want, about the practical realities of building a real revolutionary workers movement.