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James P. Cannon

The CEC, the Minority and Comrade Lore:
How the Minority “Fought” Lore When They Controlled the Party

Published 11 December 1924


Source: James P. Cannon and the Early Years of American Communism. Selected Writings and Speeches, 1920-1928 © Spartacist Publishing Company, 1992. ISBN 0-9633828-1-0; Published by Spartacist Publishing Company, Box 1377 G.P.O. New York, NY 10116. Introductory material and notes by the Prometheus Research Library.
Transcription\HTML Markup: Prometheus Research Library
Copyright: Permission for on-line publication provided by Spartacist Publishing Company for use by the James P. Cannon Internet Archive in 2005.


The following article by Cannon was published in the Daily Worker. It attacks the record of the Central Executive Committee minority led by C.E. Ruthenberg in combatting the ideas of Ludwig Lore. The question had become an issue in the faction struggle because the Comintern had directed the Workers Party leadership to wage an ideological campaign against Lore’s views. Lore was a supporter of the Foster-Cannon CEC majority at this time.


The outstanding characteristic of the right wing always and everywhere is its political cowardice. This has been demonstrated so often in the international Communist movement that it can be laid down as an axiom. Opportunism is so foreign to Communism that it instinctively feels itself to be an intruder and tries to conceal its identity. The right wing never has the courage to stand up and fight directly for its policy, but tries by devious ways, by indirection, and by shifting issues, to advance its influence and smuggle in its policy.

At least a tendency in this direction is manifested in the article of comrade Ruthenberg in the Daily Worker of December 6. In this article comrade Ruthenberg runs away from the central and immediate issue of the “class farmer-labor party,” which has already been so badly shattered in the party discussion. He attempts to divert the discussion from the real issue of our present and future policy in regard to the labor party question to the question of who was right and who was wrong in the past on a number of questions. By raising the issue of the opportunistic errors of comrade Lore he evidently hopes to avoid further discussion of the opportunistic policy the minority sponsors now.

We welcome the occasion to discuss this issue of “Loreism” openly before the party. But we will not oblige comrade Ruthenberg by separating it from the present issue of the opportunistic policy of the minority on the “class farmer-labor party.” On the contrary, we will link them up together and show that the attitude of the minority toward the opportunistic errors of Lore has been itself, from first to last, an example of opportunism.

The Lore question has a history and to deal with it adequately and get the true perspective we must go back a little. Comrade Lore’s mistakes did not begin since the present Central Executive Committee took office. As comrade Olgin points out in the Daily Worker of December 6, they began in the early days of the Comintern.[1] They arose from a faulty conception of some of the essential elements of Leninism and for that reason they have been repeated in a quite systematic manner.

The Lore of this year is no more out of harmony with the main line of the Communist International than the Lore of last year, when the Pepper-Lovestone-Ruthenberg group were in control of the party. In fact, as I shall prove in these articles, comrade Lore is today closer to the Comintern than ever before. As a result of the CI decision, and the ideological struggle of the CEC, he has publicly admitted a number of his past errors, which is the first necessary step towards correcting them. This does not please the minority, but we are sure it pleases the Comintern.

Therefore, let us have a real and thorough discussion of the Lore question. Let us review it at least for the past two years. Such a retrospect will reveal some very interesting facts.

The theses of the minority say:

“Contrary to the decision of the Communist International, the Foster-Cannon group, in place of carrying on a struggle against the tendency, has maintained an organizational alliance with it.”

Comrade Ruthenberg repeats these accusations in practically the same words.

In these articles I will not only show the falsity of both these accusations, but I will prove the following:

1. The Pepper-Ruthenberg group itself had both an organizational and political alliance with comrade Lore.

2. The Pepper-Ruthenberg group never once uttered a word of criticism of comrade Lore, to say nothing of making a fight against his ideas, during the whole year in which they controlled the party, although some of his greatest mistakes were made during that time.

3. The Pepper-Ruthenberg group did not utter a word of criticism of comrade Lore during the last party convention, but, on the contrary, sought his help in their fight against us.

4. Their “fight” against Lore began only after the last party convention, not as an honest ideological struggle, but as a factional maneuver against the CEC.

The Minority Attitude Toward Lore When They Controlled the Party

In the hectic days of 1923, the year of the boom, when the party was buying gold bricks right and left, comrade Lore was in high favor with the CEC. He was handled with the greatest tact and consideration, and his advice and support were always sought whenever a question of policy was to be considered. Comrade Lore was carried around—so to speak—like a basket of eggshells. I never saw a grown man handled with more tender concern.

If I may be pardoned a few personal allusions, which are introduced not in any sense as a complaint but merely by way of illustration, I might cite the fact—to show the high favor enjoyed by comrade Lore—that he was drawn into the Political Committee when I was excluded from it, and that he was appointed a member of the CEC steering committee at the July 3 convention in Chicago which I was denied the right to attend, being assigned to speak at a picnic in Portland, Oregon on that historic occasion.

After July Third

After “July 3” the CEC returned to New York with the “Federated Farmer-Labor Party” in its briefcase. The letter of the Young Communist International to the Young Workers League of America quotes Karl Radek, who wrote the last CI thesis on America, as having said in the American Commission: “The Federated Farmer-Labor Party is seven-eighths a fantasy.” What the other one-eighth consisted of, the letter does not say.

In the August meeting of the CEC, comrades Foster, Bittelman and myself began to ask a few questions about this “fantasy”; but comrade Lore supported it. Perhaps I do him an injustice. Comrade Lore’s attitude, as I recall it, was about as follows: “We’ve got it, so we have to keep it.”

At this meeting the “August Theses,” the most curious melange of opportunism and confusion ever pressed into one document, was adopted. Foster, Bittelman and myself voted against it. Comrade Lore voted for it and his support was most gratefully accepted. Comrade Lore was one of comrade Pepper’s famous “majority.” I mention this merely as a matter of history.

Up till the time of this meeting comrade Foster had also been generally supporting the original experiments of comrade Pepper in the political laboratory and had consequently enjoyed a certain respect in the CEC. In fact, comrade Foster was highly regarded. He was immune from all criticism, and, as long as he did not attempt to assert himself in the CEC, was given the title, not only of “leader of the party,” but “leader of the whole American working class.”

When the attempt on his life was made in Chicago, The Worker carried a two-line streamer head, written by comrade Pepper, running across the entire first page. “The capitalists want to kill Foster! Workers! We Must Defend Our Leader![2]

The Attempt to Destroy Foster

But when it became apparent that comrade Foster was not becoming reconciled to the FFLP “fantasy,” and that he was beginning to assert his right and duty to participate actively in the party leadership, the leading group in the CEC, which had formerly been heaping such fulsome flattery upon him, turned on him in fury. They set out to destroy him, to “kill” him, to rob him of his great prestige and undermine his authority in the party.

The leading group in the CEC suddenly discovered that comrade Foster was a “syndicalist,” a “trade unionist,” that is to say, no good. A subtle campaign in the party press against “non-Communist and syndicalist tendencies” held by unnamed comrades was accomplished by a systematic whispering campaign of slander and character assassination in the party ranks against Foster and the Chicago trade union comrades generally. Some of comrade Lore’s greatest errors were made during this period—his estimation of events in Germany and the party crisis there—but the CEC took no notice. It was too busy fighting the “trade unionists.”

This campaign to destroy Foster and the group closely associated with him continued right up to the last party convention and was the one big issue there.

The convention divided into two camps over the resolution introduced by Pepper and Ruthenberg, which had for its object the putting of the whole blame for the July 3 debacle upon Foster and the Chicago trade union comrades, who were standing up in the Chicago unions under the heaviest blows of the reactionaries and bearing the whole brunt of the fight for the party.

In the CEC meeting held on the eve of the convention, and in the convention itself, comrade Lore voted for the resolution of Pepper and Ruthenberg.

The overwhelming majority of the convention delegates, however, revolted against this monstrous piece of political crookedness and swept those who sponsored it out of power in the party.

What Happened in the Last Party Convention?

The minority have been making the statement, and still repeat it, that the present CEC gained the majority at the last party convention by making “an alliance” with the Lore group, and that this alliance is still maintained.

Here are the facts:

1. The majority of the present CEC appeared at the last party convention as a distinct and independent group, having its own policy on every disputed question that came before the convention.

2. On all questions we had a clear majority of the delegates from the beginning of the convention to the end.

3. We made no compromise on any question of policy with any group or individual in any way, shape or form. We specifically refused all proposals of the Lore group to change or modify our attitude toward the “third party alliance.” (In this we were wrong, but we fought honestly for our wrong position.)

4. The Pepper-Ruthenberg group, in its desperate efforts to get the support of the Lore group for their fight against Foster and the Chicago trade union group, went to unheard-of lengths. They withdrew the entire section of their thesis dealing with the “third party alliance” in order to avoid a collision with the Lore group. In addition to this they centered their whole fight, during the entire convention, on the Chicago “trade union group” and had not a single word of criticism for comrade Lore.

5. Our group received from the convention a clear majority of the CEC members, independent of both other groups. That majority has stood unshaken until the present day, firmly united, on the rock bottom foundation of common policy, constantly drawing a line between itself and the Lore group, as well as the Lovestone-Ruthenberg group, on questions of policy.

The present majority of the CEC has a policy of its own and fights for that policy. It had no alliance with any other group, organizational or otherwise, at the party convention and has no such alliance now.

The above constitutes a record of facts which no one can deny. It shows that comrade Lore was politically and organizationally united with the Pepper-Ruthenberg group at the time this group was leading the CEC. The record shows that comrade Lore was highly honored by the former CEC, being drawn into the Political Committee and appointed to the Steering Committee at the July 3 convention in Chicago. It shows that the former CEC sought the support of comrade Lore at the convention, that it received this support on the main issue of the convention and that it made no criticism of Lore there. And it shows that some of comrade Lore’s greatest errors, which the CI has pointed out, were made during the administration of the former CEC and passed over in silence.

During the entire year that the present minority controlled the party, up to and throughout the party convention, their “ideological struggle” against comrade Lore’s ideas was—not a word of criticism, not one single article, nor speech, nor motion. Their “fight” against comrade Lore, which comrade Ruthenberg now demands so virtuously, was—an organizational and political alliance with him against the “trade unionist Communists.”

In my next article I will prove that the great fight of the minority on “Loreism” since the last convention is not now and never has been primarily directed against the wrong tendency of comrade Lore.[3] On the contrary, it has been directed against the CEC. This indirect means of attacking the CEC under cover of a fight against “Loreism,” is merely a continuation of the last year’s direct attempt to destroy comrade Foster and the group around him, and is organically connected with it. The raising of the Lore issue by the minority, after the convention, was merely a shift in tactics to serve the purposes of unscrupulous factionalism. The real target was not the wrong tendencies of Lore, but the Communist CEC which has nothing in common with these tendencies.

 

Notes

1. Moissaye Olgin wrote a three-part series entitled “Lore and the Comintern” which was published in successive issues of the Saturday Daily Worker magazine supplement, beginning 6 December and ending 20 December 1924. In this series Olgin quoted from Lore’s Volkszeitung articles to prove that Lore had (1) supported Serrati against the Comintern; (2) defended Paul Levi even after he had been expelled from the German party; (3) opposed trying to organize a workers revolution in Germany in 1923; (4) defended Trotsky’s right to criticize the Stalin majority of the Russian party; (5) criticized the offensive policy of the Italian Communist Party as having led to the victory of fascism; (6) written sympathetically of the MacDonald Labour Party government in England; (7) been openly critical of what he saw as the frequent tactical zigzags by Zinoviev’s Comintern. This evidence, concluded Olgin, was more than enough to brand Lore an opportunist and a centrist.

2. This was the front-page headline of The Worker of 8 September 1923. The lead article, written by John Pepper, reported: “A small group of gunmen burst into the Carmen’s Auditorium in Chicago and fired three shots at William Z. Foster. He was speaking to thousands of members of the International Ladies’ GarmentWorkers’ Union who had gathered to protest against the splitting tactics of the reactionary union officials in expelling from the union seven members of the Trade Union Educational League.”

According to subsequent issues of The Worker, the gunmen were never caught or identified; the bourgeois press belittled the attempted assassination by claiming that the Workers Party had hired the gunmen as a publicity stunt. Foster does not mention the incident in his History of the Communist Party of the United States, though he does mention being kidnapped by Colorado Rangers and held for several days during the 1922 railway shopmen’s strike. The Worker (19 August 1922) also ran a front-page headline on the kidnapping incident.

3. Cannon did not publish a second article on this subject.

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