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James P. Cannon

Lovestone Quotes Mahoney

8 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.
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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.

The more the party controversy is brought out into the open, and the more the minority is compelled to defend its position, the more does the shallow opportunism of both the minority position and its advocates become revealed. In my previous article, I showed how the false policy of the minority had already led them, in seven concrete instances, to a non-Communist attitude toward our election campaign.

I can now add another example, more clear, more obvious, and more damning than the others. The latest and worst example is given to the party by comrade Lovestone in his article in the Daily Worker of December 3. This is only natural, since the policy of the minority is the policy of Lovestone and is the logical outcome of his opposition to the Workers Party entering the election campaign under its own name in the July meeting of the CEC.

“If you give a finger to opportunism,” said Zinoviev, in speaking of Serrati, “you will soon have to give your whole hand.” Comrade Lovestone has not given his whole hand as yet. But, in his article in the Daily Worker of December 3, he adds another finger to the one he gave last July. At the rate he is traveling to the right, and if the more stable elements of the minority do not call him to order, we may expect that he will soon give his whole hand —and his head, too.

From the very beginning of the discussion, the CEC, placing itself on the ground of reality, has put one insistent question to the advocates of “an intensified campaign for a class farmer-labor party.” That question is: Where is the sentiment amongst the working masses for this so-called “class” party? Time and again we have begged them to tell us in what trade unions, in what cities, states or localities this sentiment exists and how it is manifesting itself.

Up till December 3, the minority made no answer. Oh, yes, comrade Ruthenberg answered. His answer was a formula. He told us, in effect: “The contradictions of capitalism will intensify the class antagonisms. The capitalist state power will be used against the workers and the latter will be driven to independent political action. Therefore, we must build a ‘class farmer-labor party.' This is a fundamental of Marxism. Please do not press the question any further.”

But it soon became evident that the sophomoric essays of comrade Ruthenberg were not satisfying the party. The party wanted facts, and not merely formulas. In the ranks of the minority itself voices began to be raised: “Give us some facts about the actual sentiment for a ‘class farmer-labor party' so that we can at least answer the merciless attacks of those comrades who say there is no mass sentiment for it.”

Comrade Lovestone Takes the Stand and Introduces Mahoney's Editorial as “Exhibit A”

At this juncture comrade Lovestone stepped into the breach. The question of facts was no problem for him, for is he not an expert “research worker” and “fact-finder” as well as an expert and experienced witness?[1] He took the witness stand, so to speak, in his article of December 3, to “give evidence.” He had “run down” the elusive sentiment for a “class farmer-labor party,” captured it, and brought it into court with him.

What is this evidence? First and foremost, it is a quotation from the Minnesota Trade Union Advocate, edited by William Mahoney.

Think of it!

After all our experience with this renegade and faker, after his treacherous performances at the St. Paul convention and since, comrade Lovestone still wants us to put faith in him and rely on him as an ally in the fight for a “class” movement.

Basing his conclusions solely on the quotations from Mahoney, comrade Lovestone says: “It is only natural that the first tangible crystallization of disillusionment with La Folletteism should manifest itself in Minnesota....It is only a matter of time when similar manifestations will be displayed in other sections of the farmer-labor movement.”

Let us examine the black record of this “ally” whom comrade Lovestone has found. Let us see how much the party can depend on this “first tangible disillusionment with La Folletteism.”

The whole story cannot be told here. Mahoney's treachery multiplies daily and only a resident of St. Paul can keep track of it. But we all —including comrade Lovestone —know enough facts to take his measure and estimate him properly. Let me set down here a few outstanding facts about Mahoney which are known to us:

1. On the very day that comrade Lovestone's article appeared in the Daily Worker, and on the day following, a news story from Minneapolis also appeared containing the information that the Hennepin County Central Committee of the Farmer-Labor Federation, with the full support of Mahoney, had expelled the delegates of the Workers Party.

The news story in the Daily Worker of December 4, signed by comrade C.A. Hathaway, our district organizer, says:

Mahoney, in his speech after the motion was carried, stated that the Farmer-Labor Federation of Minnesota was essentially a non-partisan organization having no goal aside from its immediate aims for social reform.

In conversation after the meeting he repudiated all the progressive ideas previously held and even went so far as to condemn the workers and peasants government of Russia. He further stated that at the state convention to be held in the near future that the Federation would have to take steps to rid itself of the “troublesome” left wing.

Lovestone's Quotation From Mahoney Throws a Searchlight on His Opportunistic Policy

2. This present attitude of Mahoney is no temporary aberration. It is the logical outcome of a long and consistent series of betrayals which are known to us, and known to comrade Lovestone. Here are a few of them:

(a) Mahoney fought for La Follette before, during, and after the St. Paul convention.

(b) Mahoney fought in the arrangements committee which met on the eve of the St. Paul convention for a resolution excluding the delegates of the Workers Party.

(c) At the Cleveland conference of the CPPA Mahoney swore allegiance to La Follette and repudiated the St. Paul convention.

(d) Mahoney supported Oscar Keller, the Republican candidate for Congress in St. Paul, and fought against comrade Emme, the candidate of the Farmer-Labor Party.[2]

More evidence can be cited by our Minnesota comrades to prove the systematic treachery of this faker and renegade. But the facts set forth above are more than enough to show that he is no friend of a “class farmer-labor party,” no friend of the Communists, and no ally for us.

Mahoney serves one good purpose, however. His introduction into the party controversy as “Exhibit A” for comrade Lovestone's policy is sufficient to prove that comrade Lovestone's policy is no good, that it is built in quicksand, that it is opportunistic in the worst and most dangerous sense of the term, and that it would lead the party to the “united front from the top only,” to “maneuvers” around the conference table with “farmer-labor” fakers, and, consequently, to the degeneration of the Workers Party.

Lovestone Finds Sentiment for the “Class Farmer-Labor Party” Even in the Camp of Coolidge

Another word about Minnesota before we pass over to “Exhibit B” —the Farmer-Labor leaders of Washington.

Comrade Lovestone found sentiment for his “class farmer-labor party” in the most strange and unexpected places. First he found it in the camp of La Follette embodied in the person of William Mahoney. Next he found it in the camp of Coolidge!

The fact that the Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota jumped down La Follette's throat and insisted upon being swallowed, digested, and excremented does not mean, according to comrade Lovestone, that it suffered any serious injury. It was a “mere election union” and it emerged from the bowels of La Follette in better shape than ever, strong enough to go to Coolidge and repeat the process. Read this piece of evidence for the “class farmer-labor party” submitted by comrade Lovestone:

Least of all does it follow that such a campaign alliance (comrade Lovestone still has that “election alliance” in his head, as I shall prove in another article —JPC) means the uprooting of the idea and sentiment for a farmer-labor party....For instance, in Minnesota, Magnus Johnson and Olson, running on the Farmer-Labor Party ticket, polled a higher vote than La Follette. The majority by which La Follette, running on an independent ticket, was beaten by Coolidge was much larger than the majority by which those running on the Farmer-Labor Party ticket were beaten.

This is telling evidence indeed!

Do you comprehend the situation? There were, it appears, some tens of thousands of workers in Minnesota who were hot-foot for a “class” party. Therefore, they couldn't bring themselves to vote for La Follette. Comrade Foster, the candidate of the Workers Party, was on the ballot, but he wouldn't do for them. They, like the minority, wanted “independent class political action.” They, like the minority, wanted a “class party that would fight the battles of the workers and farmers.” This, of course, eliminated the Workers Party.

What were these desperate supporters of the “class party” to do? They couldn't vote for La Follette since he represented no class party. Foster was out of the question since the Workers Party has no class at all when it appears under its own name. Then something truly remarkable happened. These workers and farmers of Minnesota executed a stroke of grand strategy. They showed such proficiency in the difficult art of going north by running south that they deserve to have their names appended as honorary signatories to the minority theses.

These dauntless proletarians of the plains voted for Coolidge! By this master stroke they accomplished three things: first, they proved that “the La Follette movement is disintegrating”; second, they got their “class” party; and third, they provided the minority with an argument in favor of their theses. It is as good as any argument the minority has.

Lovestone Condones the Treachery of the Farmer-Labor Leaders of Washington

One more quotation from comrade Lovestone's article will complete the proof that his conception of “an intensified campaign for a class farmer-labor party” is an opportunistic conception of the “united front from the top only” by means of negotiations and conferences with reformist leaders of reformist organizations. Moreover, it will show that he condemns our Communist action in entering the Workers Party in the election campaign under its own banner because it alienated some of these reformist leaders.

Comrade Lovestone's “Exhibit B” is the Farmer-Labor Party of Washington, a reformist party, predominantly agrarian and based on individual membership. Comrade Lovestone is very indulgent towards this so-called party. He says it “merely endorsed La Follette and Wheeler.”

The leaders of this party attacked and denounced the Workers Party throughout the campaign, but comrade Lovestone does not seem to hold that against them. It was all our fault!

Read what he says in his article in the Daily Worker, the official organ of the Workers (Communist) Party of America, on December 3:

More than that. There is good reason to believe that the leaders of this Farmer-Labor Party would likely never have sought to secure the endorsement of their organization for La Follette or be tempted to drive their followers into the La Follette election camp if the Workers Party had not cut itself loose from the national Farmer-Labor Party on July 10. The bungling manner in which we handled our change in policy then was especially harmful.

Here in plain words we have the real policy of comrade Lovestone, which is the policy of the minority. The evasive, double-meaning language of the minority theses is put aside. The mask of Marxian phraseology is torn off and the party has an opportunity to see the ugly face of opportunism that hid behind it.

The minority theses speak very vaguely and evasively about the means to be employed to form the “political united front” by organizing a “class farmer-labor party.” Comrade Lovestone makes the matter clear.

We will “handle” the reformist leaders of reformist organizations more carefully. We will not make again the stupid blunder of raising our own party's banner in the elections. We will see what the “leaders” want us to do and do it. Then these leaders will not “be tempted to drive their followers into the La Follette election camp.”

These leaders, who according to comrade Lovestone are, after all, not so bad, delivered their organization to La Follette, they “drove their followers into the La Follette election camp,” and they maligned and denounced our party and its candidates. But why did they make these trifling errors? Because “the Workers Party cut itself loose from the Farmer-Labor Party on July 10.”


Comrade Ruthenberg complains because we are not observing the amenities of parliamentary debate, and he raises a special “point of order” against the term “Farmer-Labor Communism.” But he is criticizing us from the wrong side. We believe that when the party considers all the implications of comrade Lovestone's article, it will say that the word “Communism” should be eliminated entirely from the definition of his policy.

The party and the CI will say this policy is “farmer-laborism.” And they will kill it, too!


1. Cannon is here alluding to the fact that Lovestone served as a witness in the trial of Harry M. Winitsky in March 1920. Winitsky, executive secretary of the CPA, was one of the first Communists prosecuted in New York in the aftermath of the Palmer Raids. Lovestone, under threat of prosecution himself, testified after being granted immunity by the state. Many Communists strongly disapproved of Lovestone's actions and a cloud formed over his head; for a time he was barred from party leadership. Ruthenberg asserted that he had ordered Lovestone to testify as a matter of party policy, and Lovestone was evidently cleared of wrongdoing by an internal UCP investigation in December 1920. Nonetheless, his testimony was raised during the Goose Caucus/Liquidators faction fight in early 1922, and Foster raised it again during the faction fight in 1924-25.

After Cannon wrote this article, around the time of the Fifth ECCI plenum in the spring of 1925, the Control Commission of the Comintern investigated the matter and evidently cleared Lovestone again of any wrongdoing. Ruthenberg, Lovestone and Pepper requested that the Control Commission's decision not be publicized at the time since Lovestone was still under indictment in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

2. While the Workers Party ran Foster for U.S. president and Gitlow for vice president, it ran candidates for state and local office in only a few states (e.g., New York, where Cannon was the party candidate for governor). In Minnesota, Washington and South Dakota, the Workers Party supported local candidates of the state Farmer-Labor parties. Julius F. Emme, a member of the machinists union and an open Workers Party supporter, was the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party candidate for U.S. Congress in the Fourth Congressional District of St. Paul. According to the 6 November 1924 Daily Worker, Emme polled over 13,000 votes though he lost the election; Emil Youngdahl, a Communist who was FLP candidate for the Minnesota legislature, won his seat with 4,483 votes. Youngdahl served in the legislature until 1933 and he remained active in Minnesota Farmer-Labor politics. The Daily Worker (21 January 1927) referred to him as a “former Communist.” Emme quit the Workers Party around 1925. In the early 1930s he was the organizer of the Minnesota State Employees Association and a supporter of the Trotskyists.

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