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James P. Cannon

The Minority Attitude Toward Our Election Campaign
—A Warning Signal for the Party

3 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 attacks the views of the minority of the Central Executive Committee led by C.E. Ruthenberg. It was published in the Daily Worker.


Every Communist who can see straight knows that our election campaign this year, under our own banner, was one of the greatest and most significant achievements in the history of the party. And every Communist who has the right attitude toward his party is proud of that achievement; he wants every worker to know about it and to understand its great significance, and he will not try to minimize it.

The party did right to enter the elections under its own name. Our election campaign was a victory for the party. It strengthened the revolutionary morale of our membership and established our party as the only working class political party in America. This is our position, clearly stated in our theses.

The theses of the minority do not speak in such clear and emphatic terms about our election campaign.[1] They evade the issue. They completely evade one of the most important questions which must be answered before we can decide our line for the immediate future.

That question is:

Was the Central Executive Committee correct when it decided last July, against the opposition of comrades Lovestone, Engdahl and Browder, to withdraw support from the Farmer-Labor Party and to enter the elections under its own banner with its own candidates?

Why the Minority Theses Fail to Endorse Our Election Policy

The evasion of these questions by the Lovestone-Ruthenberg theses is no accident. The question was repeatedly discussed in the meetings of the Political Committee prior to the consideration of theses and the minority is fully aware of its importance and of its indissoluble connection with our future policy. The omission is conscious and deliberate. “There's a reason ” for it.

That reason is as follows: At least a part of the minority group represented by comrade Lovestone, which has become the dominant part of the minority group —the part which determines the policy of the whole group —still maintains that the CEC was wrong and that we should have conducted the campaign under the banner of the Farmer-Labor Party. Comrade Browder has long since admitted his error, but in the meeting of the Executive Council of November 14, both comrades Lovestone and Engdahl voted against the following resolution:

In view of the discussion that has arisen in the CEC over the results of the election and the results gained by the Workers Party participating in the election under its own name, the CEC considers it necessary to reaffirm its opinion that the decision of the CEC in its July meeting to withdraw its support of the national Farmer-Labor Party ticket and to enter its own candidates in the campaign was correct and the proposal of comrades Lovestone, Engdahl and Browder to continue the campaign under the banner of the Farmer-Labor Party was wrong.

The Minority Ridicules and Minimizes Our Election Campaign

Comrades Ruthenberg and Bedacht voted for the motion, but they must have done so with their tongues in their cheeks, for their whole attitude on the question of our election campaign is the same as comrade Lovestone's. That is, to persistently and systematically deride and belittle the achievements of the campaign in order to bolster up their theory that the Workers Party cannot do anything under its own name, but must find a substitute organization whenever there is practical agitational work to be carried on.

The arguments they now bring forward against the Workers Party attempting to lead united front struggles in its own name and in favor of assigning that role to a mythical “class farmer-labor party ” are the same arguments used by comrade Lovestone in the meeting on July 8, against the Workers Party raising its own banner in the election campaign. Their theses are one long argument against our election policy. The attitude of the minority toward our election achievements and their attempt to belittle them is symptomatic of the falsity of their whole theory. It is a warning signal to the party.

The CEC theses do not overstate the case when they say bluntly that the policy of the minority leads to the liquidation of the Workers Party. Of course, no one will say that this is the conscious purpose of the minority. We are sure that the comrades of the minority have no other object than to advance the cause of Communism. But in their over-zeal to find a shortcut to the goal of a popular mass Communist party, they have already put their feet on a path that leads backward and not forward. “In dealing with questions of policy, ” said comrade Zinoviev at the Fifth Congress, “we have to consider objective effects and not subjective intentions. ” It is by this standard that we measure the policy of the minority and condemn it, and declare openly our firm intention to fight it to the death.

We do not need to wait for the comrades of the minority to get control of the party and put their policy into effect in order to prove that it is a false policy. The minority has already proven it, not only in words, but in deeds.

Seven Facts Which Prove the Liquidation Tendency of the Minority Policy

On this point facts can speak for themselves. In order to bolster up their false and dangerous policy of demanding a farmer-labor party at all costs, right or wrong, “dead or alive, ” whether the workers are interested in it or not, the minority is forced to minimize and deprecate even the modest achievements of the Workers Party and to invest the “class farmer-labor party ” with virtues it does not and cannot possess —unless it is a genuine Communist party. The minority has already started out on this course, as the following facts bear witness:

1. In order to minimize before the CI the showing made by the party in the election campaign, the minority proposed in the CEC meeting of November 14 to answer the Communist International's inquiry about our vote in the following words: “Workers Party vote very small; will not exceed 20,000. ” They took this stand at a time when we already knew that over 10,000 votes had been counted for us in New York City and the state of Minnesota alone, and when we already had evidence of wholesale fraud against us.

2. In order to minimize our election achievements before the party, the minority opposed and ridiculed the CEC estimate of 100,000 votes (including the votes stolen from us) and voted against our motion “That we issue a statement claiming 100,000 votes and citing incidents in which votes were stolen from us. ”

3. Comrade Ruthenberg had such lukewarm interest in getting the facts about the size of our vote that it took two meetings of the Political Committee and more than a week's delay before we could get a letter sent to all party units asking for reports of votes counted for us and evidence of fraud against us in order that we could prove the contentions of our official statement. Ordinary office routine work was given the right of way over this important matter.

4. Comrades Minor and Kruse, chief spokesmen of the minority in the recent Chicago membership meeting, ridiculed the showing made by the party in the elections, comrade Minor sarcastically comparing it to the SLP.

5. Comrade Bedacht, at the same meeting, said, “Our party was less before the masses during the election campaign than at any time during the past two years.”

6. Writing in the November Workers Monthly, comrade Ruthenberg attributes qualities to a “labor ” party that only a Communist party can possess. He says: “A labor party speaks in the name of labor. It calls upon the workers for action. Or if it is a farmer-labor party it calls upon the workers and farmers and speaks in their name. ”

7. Writing in the December Workers Monthly, comrade Ruthenberg associates “class political action ” exclusively with the farmer-labor party. We, who believe the Workers Party represents “class political action, ” are disdainfully swept aside in the following words: “A group in our party, under the leadership of comrade Foster, is of the opinion that the movement towards class political action by labor is dead and that, therefore, the Workers Party must abandon the slogan `For a class farmer-labor party'. ”

The Struggle Against “Farmer-Laborism ” Is Only Beginning

The struggle between the Central Executive Committee and the minority over the question of future policy is only beginning. The party has not yet had time to study the two theses. But already the comrades of the minority have given us seven concrete examples of the objective effects of their good intentions to build a mass Communist party “quickly ” by means of the magic formula of a “class farmer-labor party. ” And this is only the beginning.

So false is their policy and so far afield will they be compelled to go to defend it, that before the discussion period has come to a close, the whole party will be able to understand, on the basis of evidence which the comrades of the minority will supply, that their policy would lead the party into the swamp.

The minority thesis fails to say the party did right to raise its own banner in the election campaign because the comrades of the minority have no enthusiasm over the great historical significance of the banner of Communism having been raised for the first time in a national election in America, and because it must belittle and deride the great achievements of our party in the campaign in order to convince the party and the Communist International that the Workers Party is a failure, that it cannot speak to the masses in its own name, and must, therefore, hide itself behind another organization and another name.

The comrades of the minority have started out on a false path, but the party will not follow them. When the party has studied and discussed the question and considered the objective effects of the false policy of the minority it will give such a decisive answer that “Farmer-Labor Communism ” will never raise its head again in the Workers Party.

 

Notes

1. Differences in evaluation of the 1924 U.S. election results between the Foster-Cannon majority and the Ruthenberg minority emerged almost as soon as the polls closed. A Central Executive Committee plenum was called for November 21-22. Both the majority and the minority wrote documents for the meeting entitled “Thesis on the Political Situation and the Immediate Tasks of the Workers Party. ” The plenum authorized the publication of the counterposed theses and decreed the opening of internal discussion leading to a projected Workers Party conference in December (the conference was later postponed due to Comintern intervention). The theses of the minority, which Cannon refers to here, were signed by Ruthenberg, Lovestone, Bedacht, Engdahl and Gitlow and were published in the Daily Worker, 28 November 1924. The majority theses, signed by Foster, Cannon, Bittelman, Browder, Dunne, Burman and Abern, were published in the Daily Worker, 26 November 1924.