MIA: History: ETOL: Document: SWP-US: 12 National Convention of the SWP-US

The Twelfth National Convention of
The Socialist Workers Party

By the Editors


Adopted: November 12-18, 1946
First Published:January 1947
Source: Fourth International, New York, Volume 8, No.1, January 1947, pages 3-8.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters, February, 2006
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2006. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.


The Twelfth National Convention of the Socialist Workers Party, the largest in the 18 years of American Trotskyism, held its sessions in Chicago, November 15 to 18, 1946. The immediate task of this national gathering, the third since the assassination by Stalin’s GPU of Leon Trotsky who inspired, taught and led our movement, was to sum up the activities and lessons of the two years that elapsed since the last convention and to chart the course for the period immediately ahead.

At the same time the deliberations of the convention and its entire work centered around a longer range task, namely, that of creating the revolutionary mass party. This is the fundamental but as yet unresolved problem of our epoch.

Such a party has been built thus far only in one country—in Russia, by Lenin, Trotsky and their co-thinkers. Underlying the terrible crisis that now convulses society as a whole has been the failure to repeat and reproduce in other countries the successful attainments of Russian Bolshevism.

James P. Cannon, National Secretary of the SWP, opened the convention with a brief introductory address. He paid tribute to those comrades whom death had recently taken from our own ranks and to the memory of countless Trotskyist martyrs abroad. The convention saluted their memory by rising in silence. Comrade Cannon concluded his remarks by welcoming the 1013 new members recruited into the party since the last convention.

The convention then proceeded to take up the international resolution. For revolutionary Marxists what is decisive is the world orientation and world perspectives. Only in the light of these can they correctly approach the tasks on their respective national arenas. The delegates had before them two different points of view which represented two divergent and irreconcilable political lines.

International Report

Comrade E. R. Frank, reporting for the majority of the National Committee, defended the perspective of the proletarian revolution.

“The job of building revolutionary parties, of mobilizing the masses for the revolutionary onslaught,” he pointed out, “has proven more arduous, more complicated, more difficult; it is taking longer than was anticipated in the first flush of the Russian revolution in 1917. But the task remains essentially the same. The basic task of our epoch has not been changed for the simple reason that it had not been solved.”

The reporter went on to express complete solidarity with the line set down in the resolution, “The New Imperialist Peace and the Building of the Parties of the Fourth International,” adopted by the International Conference of the Fourth International in April 1946. (The text of this resolution was carried in the June 1946 issue of our magazine.)

In defending the line of this resolution, Comrade Frank stressed that it takes its point of departure not from conjunctural developments or episodic interplay of political forces but “from the analysis of the world economic situation; and that is the right way for Marxists to begin when writing a world resolution.”

From this world economic analysis it follows inescapably that there is no way out for Europe along the capitalist road. “Under the present conditions, revival and reconstruction in Europe will take place at a very slow tempo; it will be very feeble in its achievements; it will not attain even the pre-war levels; under American tutelage, the European economy is doomed to stagnation and decay.”

The overwhelming preponderance of the United States acts to perpetuate this condition. “On a capitalist foundation Europe is through as a major world factor. It will only sink deeper in vassalage to its American overlords. Its only chance for revival, for regaining its place in the world and saving its great cultural heritage and achievements—is to unify the continent into a United States of Europe. And this, as has been demonstrated in two tragic world wars, is a utopian dream, except under Socialist auspices.”

Among the least stable sectors of world economy is the USSR which, although victorious in the war, emerged far weaker than before. Itself in the throes of a deepening internal crisis, Stalin’s regime aggravates the impasse on the European continent. Characterizing the role of Stalinism, the reporter pointed out:

“The Kremlin oligarchy, counter-revolutionary through and through, fearing and hating the workers’ revolution no less than the imperialists themselves, moved in not as a liberator, but as a foreign conqueror and a savage oppressor. The Red Army authorities stamped out the revolutionary manifestations and began to plunder the conquered countries. They couldn’t conceive of the European peoples as socialist allies but only as helpless victims to be exploited and oppressed.

“However, by converting Eastern Europe into its closed preserve, by shutting it off from the rest of the capitalist world, by deposing the old ruling classes, and by its military domination over the whole territory, the Kremlin further undermines the capitalist structure, further drags Europe towards the abyss, further aggravates the crisis of capitalism on a world scale.”

So far as England is concerned, both her domestic and world positions are beyond repair. Throughout Asia we witness similar conditions of capitalist instability, chaos and crisis. Japan is reduced to a vassal of American imperialism; China is once again the arena of civil war; India is in ferment. So is Egypt and the Arab Near East. In the Far East, the liberationist struggles of the colonial peoples are unfolding stormily in Indo-China, in Burma, in Indonesia.

And last but not least, the American colossus itself cannot assure stability at home where it is heading for another economic crisis and the resulting revolutionary explosions.

Summing up the world situation, Comrade Frank said:

“Thus the picture emerges sharp and clear and unmistakable that we are facing a long period of grave economic crisis, convulsions and upheavals on a world scale. World capitalist equilibrium has been shattered and a lengthy revolutionary period has opened up.”

This perspective is by no means invalidated by the defeat of the first revolutionary wave that swept over Europe in 1944-45, or by the absence of the German revolution. After analyzing the causes why the German revolution failed to erupt, and the reasons for the defeat of the first revolutionary wave in Europe—for which the Stalinist traitors and their Social Democratic allies bear the prime responsibility—Comrade Frank explained:

“In defeat, just as in victory, it is necessary to keep one’s head, to keep one’s sense of proportion and one’s perspective. We must ask ourselves the question: was the defeat a definitive one, or simply a conjunctural setback? Did we lose a battle or did we lose the war? The repulse of the revolutionary wave has enabled capitalism in Western Europe to regain a temporary political equilibrium. But as we have previously seen, it has not been able, nor will it be able, to achieve stability. The critical economic conditions, producing a frenzied inflation, are already goading the masses to renewed struggle. The strike curve is sharply rising in France, Italy and elsewhere on the continent. The workers are still full of confidence and fight, and still continue to give their main backing to the Stalinist parties. The capitalists in Western Europe—despite their throwing their weight behind the Catholic parties, and even outright Fascist movements—despite their building up the forces for authoritarian regimes, still cannot rule in their own name. They must still rule by coalition with the Stalinists and the Social Democrats. The defeat, in other words, was not a historical one, but a temporary one. There still lies ahead a whole period of revolutionary development which provides new opportunities for the growth and consolidation of revolutionary parties.”

Revisionist Minority

This line was flatly rejected by a tiny minority in whose name Felix Morrow reported. As against the perspective of the proletarian revolution, he advanced the outlook of the “The Three Theses,” first propounded some four years ago by the German émigré group of the IKD. In accordance with this perspective the working class in Europe has suffered a definitive defeat and all of mankind has been hurled back, with the socialist revolution becoming relegated to the indeterminate future and the class struggle ceding place to the struggle of the people as a whole for the restoration of national states in Europe and for the reconquest of democratic rights, that is to say, the re-constitution of bourgeois democratic regimes.

Further, Morrow advocated support to the action of the French party majority who had called upon the workers to support the capitalist constitution in the recent referendum.

In addition, the revisionist minority submitted at the last moment a resolution on the USSR, characterizing the latter as a capitalist state. Morrow, who a few weeks prior to the convention, still viewed the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers’ state, supported this resolution as well.

The headlong flight of the minority from the programmatic positions of our movement disclosed once and for all that at the bottom of the struggle that began three years ago at the October 1943 Plenum were profound political differences and not episodic disagreements over such tactical issues as the use of democratic slogans or over the internal party regime, and so on.

At every stage in the dispute the majority sought to clear all non-essentials out of the way in order to probe the differences to the bottom. The minority on the contrary felt an inner need to slur over fundamentals. They continued to nibble at issues and to conduct an incessant guerrilla warfare over incidental points or estimates, branding every attempt to discuss the fundamentals as simply a rehash of ritualistic phrases and a meaningless reaffirmation of a “finished program.” It took three years of discussion before the party was finally presented with the full program of the minority.

In the discussion that followed as well as by an overwhelming vote of 113 to 3 the delegates adopted the international resolution of the majority and passed a motion which reads in part as follows:

“We express our full agreement with the general political line of the Manifesto and Theses adopted by the recent International Conference of the Fourth International, together with the supplementary ’Resolution on the Withdrawal of Occupation Troops,’ adopted unanimously by the International Executive Committee at its June 1946 meeting, and instruct the editors of our press to militantly present and defend this line in our publications.”

By the same vote of 113 to 3 the delegates condemned the action of the French party in supporting the capitalist constitution during the recent referendum; and rejected the minority’s attempt to revise both our evaluation of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers’ state, and our position of defending it against imperialist attacks.

“Theses on the American Revolution”

The next point on the convention agenda was the report of the “Theses on the American Revolution” which was delivered by James P. Cannon. (The text of the theses appears elsewhere in this issue.)

The reporter made it clear that the U.S. has moved and is moving with increasing speed toward revolutionary developments. “Our theses,” he said, “specifically outline the revolutionary perspectives in America and require the party to conduct and regulate all its daily activities in the light of these perspectives.”

Following the First World War it was correct to place the European countries well ahead of the U.S. so far as the probable order of revolutions was concerned. Today it would be erroneous to estimate the situation in the same way.

Analyzing the objective conditions, Comrade Cannon showed the profound changes that have occurred in the evolution of American capitalism. Following World War I the economic conditions in this country were such as to prepare for the fullest expansion of capitalism which brought in its wake a crisis which lasted for a decade and which was resolved temporarily only by the Second World War and the colossal expenditures connected with it. Following World War II the economic conditions are such as have deepened all the contradictions and have prepared all the conditions for the explosion of another crisis far worse than that of the Thirties, and fraught with far more serious social implications.

“In surveying the future prospects of American capitalism,” the reporter stated, “we simply heed the counsel of realism by putting the question:

“If American capitalism was shaken to its foundations by the crisis of the Thirties, at a time when the world system of capitalism, and America along with it, was younger, richer and healthier than it is now; if this crisis lasted for ten years, and even then could not be overcome by the normal operation of economic laws; if all the basic causes and contradictions which brought about the crisis of the Thirties have been carried over and lodged in the new artificial war and post-war prosperity, and multiplied many times; if all this is true—and nobody but a fool can deny it—then what chance has the capitalist boom of the Forties to have a different ending than the boom of the Twenties ?

“Marxist realism tells us that it can be different only insofar as the crisis must go deeper; must be far more devastating in its consequences; and that it must come sooner.”

The economic debacle of the Thirties shattered the myth of permanent capitalist prosperity, propagated so assiduously by bourgeois economists and other apologists for Wall Street. Many among the disillusioned masses began to sense instinctively that capitalist forms are self-destructive in their nature; that these forms were dying and must die and they must be destroyed if this country was to live and thrive. These molecular processes which had their inception in the Thirties and which will ultimately revolutionize the consciousness of American masses, have continued beneath the surface during wartime and will be greatly accelerated by the recurring economic and political convulsions inherent in the decaying system.

Comrade Cannon placed special emphasis on the transformation that has already taken place in the American working class. In the Thirties the American workers confronted the crisis as a disorganized and helpless mass. Among the changes that have occurred since then, he listed the following:

“The proletariat has greatly increased in numbers with the expansion of industry during the war. Millions of Negroes, of women, and of the new generation of youth have been snatched up out of their former existence, and assimilated into the processes of modern industry. Thereby, they have been transformed from a multitude of dispersed individuals into a coherent body imbued with a new sense of usefulness and power. Most remarkable of all, and most pregnant with consequences for the future, is the truly gigantic leap which the American workers made from disorganized individual helplessness to militant trade union consciousness and organization in one brief decade.”

From non-existence in trade unionism the American workers have leaped to a powerful mass movement, embracing more than 15 miI1ion in all the basic industries. This achievement on the plane of elementary class organization is not an accident but the product of the vast dynamic powers latent in the American working class. It opens up grandiose perspectives for the future. Once the workers begin to move, as they must, beyond the limits of trade union organization and into the political arena, they are capable of achieving the transformation of their political consciousness at the same truly American tempo.

Deeply rooted in the class is not conservatism but rather a readiness to adopt and apply the most radical and militant methods of struggle, as was demonstrated time and again in the bitter battles that gave birth to the CIO, and in the series of strike waves that have since recurred periodically.

All the conditions for the swift radicalization of the working class have matured or are in process of maturing, Comrade Cannon pointed out.

“What are the limits to the future possibilities and powers of this remarkable class?” asked Comrade Cannon. His answer was that there were no limits whatever to what the giant American working class is able to achieve once it sets itself conscious goals. “All things are possible; and all things that are necessary will be achieved.”

The American working class is admittedly backward politically. But it is generally overlooked that the Russian workers, who built the party of Bolshevism, did not begin by being revolutionary-minded either. If it could be said of any country that it had to import progressive ideas and the revolution itself, then Russia would indeed have to be listed among the first. Czarist Russia, for decades the pillar of reaction on the European continent, entered the Twentieth Century as one of the most backward countries in the world, not only economically but also politically. Russian history prior to 1905 knew nothing either of revolution or of revolutionary traditions. Russia did not even pass through a period of religious reformation. All this can hardly be deemed as favorable for political advancement. The Russian workers made their leap from extreme backwardness to revolutionary consciousness not because of their handicaps but despite them.

On the other hand, if revolution can be said to be indigenous to any country, it is surely the United States which has already passed through two social revolutions, both of which proved highly successful. The very conditions under which this vast and virgin continent was settled and developed, its swiftness of growth, the premium placed on pioneering, the propensity to audacious experiments—all these are likewise highly propitious to tie assimilation and spread of revolutionary ideas. The native traditions will thus act not to retard but to aid the leap of the American workers from political backwardness to political awareness and organization.

The capital of our party lies both in its trained and tested cadres and its own great traditions of revolutionary irreconcilability and unswerving adherence to program. The struggle for the socialist future of America will never be waged by those who fail to break irrevocably with the ideas, prejudices and traditions of the bourgeoisie. For a period of almost two decades the SWP has retained its allegiance to the program of the socialist revolution and has repelled repeated attempts to corrupt the movement along the lines of reconciliation with “democratic” imperialism. It is this party that will organize the young generation of American workers who are awakening to revolutionary ideas.

“A great party,” said Comrade Cannon, “with a glorious record and a stainless banner, has already been prepared for them, and awaits their enlistment. It is a strong party, firmly built on the granite rock of Marxism. It will serve them well, and is worthy of their undivided allegiance.”

His concluding words were:

“The objective prerequisites for the social revolution in America will not be lacking. Capitalism itself will provide them. The manpower of the revolution will not be lacking either. The many-millioned masses of the organized workers will provide this manpower. It is already partly assembled and partly ready.

“The rest is our part. Our part is the building up of this vanguard combat party which foresees the revolutionary future and prepares for it. Our part is to build up this party which believes in the unlimited power and resources of the American workers; and believes no less in its own capacity to organize and lead them to storm and victory.”

After a spirited discussion the “Theses on the American Revolution” were adopted by 113 votes against.3.

Both the theses and Comrade Cannon’s report deliberately excluded all considerations other than those of a strategic character. The questions of tactics and immediate tasks were dealt with in a separate resolution, which appears in this issue under the heading: “From a Propaganda Group to a Party of Mass Action.”

Tasks and Tactics

Comrade Stein examined in his report the party’s slogans and their application in the class struggle, reviewed the past work in the mass movement and outlined the tasks ahead.

“To understand the need of building the mass revolutionary party is one thing; to act on the basis of this understanding is something else again,” he said. “The only way the revolutionary party can become a mass party is through action. The party must demonstrate by deeds that it knows how to lead the workers in the struggle. It must demonstrate in action the superiority not only of its program but also of its cadres. In the first place the party must be in its composition flesh of the flesh of the working class, an organic part of the class it seeks to influence and lead. It must embrace in its ranks, the best, the most advanced militants.”

Citing the great advances already made by our party in this respect, he stressed that the greatest opportunities lay ahead because of the inevitable sharpening and intensification of the class struggle. He outlined succinctly the basic factors that made it impossible for American capitalism to assure any prolonged period of prosperity. Instability and crisis—that is the real perspective for American capitalism. “The general instability of life is the greatest revolutionary factor driving the masses to struggle even under boom conditions. This universal instability will drive them into ever fiercer struggle when the bust comes,” he added.

The masses find it impossible to settle down to any sort of normal existence. “World War II has ended—but there is no peace! The fear of World War III is deep seated. The masses can plainly see that the United Nations and the Big Four conferences are nothing but a farce. It is plain to everyone that they are not shaping peace but merely jockeying for position in the next war. Washington is stockpiling atom bombs. Experiments with deadly bacteriological war weapons continue. The Navy ’goes where it damn pleases.’ Washington grabs islands in the Pacific whether others like it or not. The Brass Hats are busy standardizing the armaments of Latin American countries and of the British empire. And all these war preparations, unparalleled in history, are directed against the Soviet Union.”

To combat the war danger, our party must base its agitation on the people’s urge for peace. “Not by lulling them with false hopes, but by mercilessly exposing the real warmakers. We advance slogans designed to promote the independent struggle of the masses against the warmakers.”

On the economic front the workers are finding it more and more difficult to defend their living standards. The gains of the great strike wave that followed V-J Day have been quickly consumed by skyrocketing prices. Our party, Comrade Stein demonstrated, was the only one to advance a realistic program, the heart of which is the struggle for the sliding scale of wages. It is the only measure capable of securing positions already won in years of struggle; of laying the basis for an offensive for higher standards; of effectively counter-acting the corporation propaganda that wage increases are responsible for rising prices; and, what is most important, of ending the drain on the workers’ fighting morale, the drain that comes from too many battles of a purely defensive character.

The slogan for the sliding scale of wages has already made its way into a number of important unions, and will play an ever-increasing role so long as the inflationary trends persist.

In the next period the workers will be confronted with another major slash in their real wages in the form of boosted rents. It is certain that rents will be hiked either through the OPA’S granting of “legal” increases or through the elimination of rent controls altogether. Mass resistance to rent increases will assuredly materialize and it must be given an organized expression. Wherever possible we must initiate and champion the action and organization of tenants with the sanction and help of the trade unions, who have an excellent opportunity to give leadership to the whole community in the fight against the rent-gougers.

The need for independent political action is being driven home to the workers more and more sharply by the increasing boldness of reaction on the political front. The trade unions are under attack in Congress and in various states; the Democratic and Republican legislators are vying with one another in promoting anti-labor measures. The objective conditions for the formation of a labor party are becoming quite favorable.

“Whether or not a national labor party actually comes into existence,” the reporter pointed out, “or how soon it might be formed is not decisive. The struggle for a labor party raises the class consciousness of the workers. This struggle can help build the revolutionary party. In the process of struggle for a labor party we seek to imbue the workers with a full understanding of our program and our revolutionary ideas.”

Comrade Stein showed the need to introduce a correction in our attitude to the PAC. We have been too negative and abstentionist in the past. The PAC provides us with an arena for activity, for fighting for independent workers’ candidates in the elections, for advancing labor legislation, and, in certain cases, for initiating local and state-wide labor party formations.

The reporter singled out the party tasks relating to the Negroes and to the veterans and then passed on to discuss the need of the party to learn how to fight effectively on all fronts, from issues such as combating Jim Crow and incipient fascism to local problems and day-to-day grievances of the workers. The question of nurseries, playgrounds for children, overcrowded schools, unsanitary conditions in workers’ districts, cases of police brutality, and similar issues must receive more and more attention on our part.

“The workers,” Comrade Stein pointed out, “respond often more readily to protest action over a small grievance than a bigger issue. What is important is that such a protest action can frequently win victory. This instills the people with confidence in their own strength and their own independent action. They then become readier to undertake other struggles. They become friends of the party that shows them the way to struggle. The party members must become known in the community as the tribunes of the people, as the best fighters for their interests.”

Comrade Stein concluded his report by analyzing the great gains made by the party in the recent election campaigns conducted in six states. Despite the fact that in California it was possible to run only write-in candidates and that in Ohio and New York our candidates were ruled off the ballot on flimsy technicalities, tens of thousands of workers learned for the first time about our party and its program. As in all our other activities, we view only as a beginning this exploitation of the mass propaganda medium which is offered us by the elections. It is the party’s aim to place a presidential ticket in the field for 1948.

The resolution on party tasks was adopted by the same overwhelming majority as the previous resolutions.

The trade union report made by Comrade Dobbs, together with the supplementary reports of the trade union fractions in auto, steel, rubber, railroads and maritime, provided the most striking proof that the transformation of our movement into a party of mass action is already well underway. Almost one half of the party members belong in the trade unions, primarily in the basic industries. A relatively large number hold posts of various kinds in the unions. Many of the new recruits are prominent trade union militants in the major industrial areas of the United States where a total of 41 SWP branches are now functioning.

Trade Union Report

In outlining the key problems confronting the organized labor movement, Comrade Dobbs called special attention to the current red-baiting campaign inside the unions which is part and parcel of the capitalist offensive against labor. The Communist (Stalinist) Party, which is the immediate target of the red-baiters, has pursued, on the one hand, a policy of cowardly capitulation to the red-baiters and, on the other hand, has engaged in its own special brand of red-baiting—reactionary attacks on the “Trotskyists.” Our party has been and will remain in the forefront of the struggle against the red-baiters whose aim is to split the ranks of labor.

In the United States the task of building the revolutionary mass party is facilitated by a different relationship of forces inside the labor movement from the one existing in Europe where the specific weight of the Socialist and Stalinist organizations is predominant.

Comrade Dobbs underscored the fact that the specific weight of the Socialist Party, SLP and similar formations is negligible. The Communist (Stalinist) Party is the only serious political rival, the major internal obstacle in the way of a rapid radicalization of the American labor movement. But unlike Europe, Stalinism has not been able to sink its roots as deeply here. In some localities our party already matches and even surpasses the strength of the Stalinists. While the CP has been passing from one internal crisis to the next, stagnating or losing members, the SWP has recorded steady progress and growth. Ten per cent of the party’s new recruits have come from the CP itself. As our party roots itself more and more deeply in its class, it not only gathers strength but cuts the ground from under the feet of Stalinism.

Among the most pressing tasks that now face the union militants is the organization of a progressive left wing. The entire future of the trade union movement hinges on this. There is no blueprint for the left wing movement, the reporter explained. It cannot be grafted upon the trade unions but must arise in struggle as an integral and growing section of the leftward moving workers. It can grow only on the basis of a class conscious program.

In conclusion Comrade Dobbs predicted that as the struggles became more and more complicated and of necessity more and more political, the incompetence and treachery of the incumbent union officialdom would become more fully revealed, compelling the workers to seek new leaders and to enter the ranks of our party in ever larger numbers. “It is in the unions,” he said, “that we shall build the firm foundations of the mass party of the American revolution.”

Comrade Dobbs also delivered the organization report, summarizing the work accomplished in the past two-year period and outlining the current problems before the party.

The record shows that everyone of the goals of organizational and institutional expansion set by the 1944 convention had been successfully fulfilled and in many cases surpassed.

Organization Report

The size of The Militant was increased to eight pages and maintained for a year and a half. Its circulation rose to new peaks through two successful subscription campaigns, through mass distributions during the strike wave and during the 1946 election campaign. A most impressive publishing program was carried out, including the publication of three full-size books and 10 programmatic and agitational pamphlets. In the past two years Pioneer Publishers has distributed more than 100,000 books and pamphlets.

In the same period the party’s organizational staff was enlarged, new branches set up and several others strengthened. The educational activity of the party was ambitiously stepped up. The Midwest Vacation School has become an established party institution, with similar projects carried out on a more limited scale on the West Coast. The quota of 1,000 new recruits to the party was met, as were the quotas in every other campaign undertaken in the recent period.

We achieved the goal of the Trotsky School, a training school for party leaders who are in this way enabled to devote six months full time to the study of Marxism. The first session of the Trotsky School had been successfully concluded and the first six graduates were present at the convention.

Objective conditions, Comrade Dobbs explained, made it impossible to continue the program of institutional expansion at the same rate as in the past. The party’s financial resources have in the meantime been severely strained by inflation, especially the exorbitant printing costs. This has necessitated measures of retrenchment, among them such emergency steps as reducing the size of The Militant to six pages. The continued publication of our magazine in its present 32-page format depends largely on the success of the campaign for 1,000 new subscribers.

To meet the financial emergency the Convention decided to raise a fund of $20,000 by March 1, 1947.

The work and deliberations of the convention were greatly enriched by the highly fruitful panel discussions. Comrades involved in particular phases of party activity convened in special panels between the sessions of the convention itself in order to discuss questions of the Negro struggle, problems of veterans and of the trade unions, the functioning of Militant correspondents and the circulation of the press.

“Unity” Proposal

The convention had before it a “unity” proposal of the Workers Party, an opponent organization which came into existence in 1940 when the petty-bourgeois opposition, under the leadership of Burnham and Shachtman, split from the SWP. The “unity” proposal of this group, whose political difference with our party have deepened and multiplied in the six-year interval, was purely maneuverist in its character, and employed for the purpose of engineering a split in our ranks. This shabby maneuver was rejected by the delegates, with only 3 votes cast in favor. The text of the motion adopted by the convention on this point appears elsewhere in our columns.

* * *

The final point on the agenda was the internal party situation. Involved here was the need of safeguarding the party and its discipline against acts of disruption and disloyalty. For a period of more than two years the minority was guilty of unheard-of violations of discipline, of acts of disloyalty, of hostile combinations and conspiracies against the party, of threats of split and the actual carrying out of split by the Goldman half of the faction. The section of the minority that remained in the party after the Goldman-led handful split away to join the Workers Party, had continued to flout the decisions of the May 1946 Plenum which warned them to cease and desist from their anti-party conduct. It was this continued violation of party discipline and of the decisions of the highest party bodies that finally exhausted the patience of the party membership and impelled them to take drastic measures to put an end to this intolerable situation. By a vote of 101 to 4 with no abstentions, the delegates voted to expel Felix Morrow and David Jeffries for persistent violations of discipline and “disloyal and disruptive activities.” The other members of the faction were granted one final opportunity and given one final warning to alter their course. The text of the motion adopted in this connection is likewise contained in this issue.

The Twelfth National Convention was a living demonstration of the unconquerable will, of the vigor and strength of American Trotskyism, and at the same time it was a preview of our great future. In its composition the convention represented, even if on a miniature scale as yet, a genuine cross-section not only of the organized labor movement but of the American working class as a whole. It demonstrated that new layers of workers, who only yesterday remained untouched not alone by revolutionary ideas but by political life in general, are already stirring and that individuals, typical of these layers, are gravitating toward the SWP. It demonstrated that our party is making inroads into all other political formations, especially the Stalinists.

There was a large proportion of women, the majority factory workers and proletarian housewives, among the 117 voting delegates, 70 alternates and 190 registered guests. Veterans of whom there are several hundred in the party were likewise well represented. So was the youth.

An infallible sign of the party’s revolutionary spirit and integrity is its ability to attract Negroes. Proportionately to the population of the country the SWP has recruited more Negroes than whites. More than a fifth of the party consists of Negroes most of whom have been recruited in the last two years. We are proud of the fact that our party has made important gains among the most oppressed section of the American population.

The Twelfth Convention was a working convention in the full sense of the term. It was a gathering not of a propaganda circle but of a movement already with deep roots among the masses, a movement imbued with confidence, conscious of its strength and abilities, aware of the need of rapid growth and of engaging in large scale activities, and capable of achieving both.

The Twelfth Convention signalized a new stage in the forward march of American Trotskyism. The resolutions and decisions adopted by this convention will make it possible for the SWP to take giant steps on the main highway that leads to the party of mass action.


TOWARD A HISTORY OF THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL