From Fourth International, Vol.11 No.6, November-December 1950, pp.162.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
One of the outstanding characteristics of Marxists is their capacity to combine theory with practice. They are not cloistered observers; they are energetic participants in the battles of the working class. In periods of great upsurge of the labor movement, they invariably demonstrate their ability to lead workers in decisive struggles to better their living conditions and advance toward socialism. And in times of relative lull and passivity, Marxists demonstrate this living unity of theory and practice by turning their energies to such seemingly prosaic tasks as getting Marxist publications into those places where they will do the most good.
This was well illustrated at the Fourteenth Convention of the Socialist Workers Party, which was recently held in New York. After a rounded Marxist discussion of the new economic and political developments that have occurred in the past two years, the delegates turned to the concrete tasks facing the socialist movement in America. One of the decisions, we are sure, will interest readers of Fourth International. It was a pledge to help the theoretical magazine of American Trotskyism to expand its circulation. A similar pledge was made for The Militant, America’s leading socialist weekly.
James P. Cannon summed up the general sentiment. In this period, he said, increasing the circle of readers of socialist literature is a “No.1” task for all who believe in the socialist future of mankind. We must “rediscover” the socialist press and “restore it to its rightful place at the head of socialist activities.”
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Socialists in other countries hold The Militant and Fourth International in highest esteem, said Comrade Cannon. And both publications enjoy a solid reputation for their integrity, accuracy and searching analyses of the great problems facing the labor movement. But in America “we perhaps have them too close to our eyes to know how good they are.” We tend to take them for granted. One of the consequences is an unnecessary drop in circulation.
“I don’t know whether that is because some of the comrades encountered too much difficulty or whether some of them got so ‘theoretical’ and ‘political’ they didn’t have time for this humdrum activity.”
In the old days, socialists put promotion of Marxist literature at the head of their planned activities. Comrade Cannon suggested revival of this socialist practice. The tendency to passively accept resistance to the program and literature of socialism “can only be overcome by systematic work planned in every branch.”
“I consider it one of the great glories of several of the branches that in face of all this tidal wave of reaction which has been rolling over us, they have systematized and organized their work of distributing literature and kept it going by main strength and effort. Although it sometimes now takes four times or ten times as much work to get a subscription or to sell ten copies, where they have recognized the political importance of this work in preparation for the future, they have made good scores.”
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Comrade Cannon stressed the need for the leading socialists in each locality to set the example “by participating actively in the planning and execution of this No.1 practical activity.
“One of the important messages for the delegations to take back is that distribution of socialist literature goes on the top of the agenda of every branch, organized not by delegating it to some comrades but by making it an activity of the entire branch with the most important party leaders participating in it.”
These remarks, we are sure, will be appreciated by every one of our readers aware of Comrade Cannon’s wealth of experience in building the revolutionary socialist press in America.
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The September-October issue of Fourth International featuring a number of articles on the theme Asia in Revolt, was well received. “This issue is hot stuff,” writes Dan Roberts of Seattle. “Please rush us another 25 copies immediately.” Comrade Roberts found the articles on the civil war in Korea and its relation to the imperialist drive toward a new world conflagration of great value in preparing for a debate on the subject on the campus.
From St. Paul, Winifred Nelson also ordered more copies. “The comrades are selling them right and left and we’re all out again!”
Al Lynn of Los Angeles reports “there is a lot of interest in this issue on Asia and we anticipate a good sale. One newsstand sold out 15 copies within a week or so and I brought him 10 more.”
And Frank Roberts of Chicago says,
“You can best judge the reaction to the FI by the fact that we are increasing our bundle. I think that this issue on the Asian revolution will be a permanent part of our literature. Starting in January, we are going to start pushing the FI on newsstands and at bookstores.”
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From West Bengal, India, H.S. Chakra writes: “We happily inform you that the Leon Trotsky memorial issue of the FI created a great sensation among the local people.” A study circle is being formed, he says, “to discuss world events and Marxism. Let your literature be our guide.”
Last updated on: 18 March 2009