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James P. Cannon

The Achievements of the Parity Commission

11 August 1925

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 appeared in the Daily Worker. The Comintern Executive Committee’s Fifth Plenum decision on the American question had mandated an early party convention to settle the question of party leadership. In the meantime a Parity Commission was established to decide all disputed questions. The Parity Commission included Foster, Cannon and Bittelman for the majority and Ruthenberg, Lovestone and Bedacht for the minority. Comintern representative S.I. Gusev was the nominally “neutral” commission chairman.

The Parity Commission commenced its work at a moment when the party was facing a most serious crisis. The majority and minority groups had crystallized themselves into the most rigid formation throughout the party. The positive aspects of the factional fight had exhausted themselves and disintegration was setting in. Party activity was paralyzed. The authority of party leadership was becoming undermined and was being replaced by factional leadership. In this favorable soil the right wing danger was growing, and the struggle against it was being subordinated to the struggle between the majority and minority. The situation in Cleveland was warning the party like an alarm bell of the danger of a split.[1]

In this desperate crisis the Parity Commission was constituted and commenced its sessions. The party members, wearied of the factional fight and fearful of its possible consequences, turned their attention toward the Parity Commission. Six years of party experience had taught the most responsible comrades in the party to fear splits and to guard the unity of the party at all costs. They looked with hope to the Parity Commission to find a solution which would turn the party back from the danger of a split, consolidate the Communist forces in the fight against Loreism and put the party on the road to unity.

The most urgent tasks of the Parity Commission were to save the party from the danger of a split, to unite all Communist elements in the fight against Loreism, to lay the foundation for the liquidation of factionalism, and to prepare the party to direct its energy, which is now being consumed by factionalism, into constructive work in all fields.

How did the Parity Commission deal with these tasks and to what extent did it accomplish them? The best way to answer this question is to review its proceedings and their results.

It was to be expected, in view of the general situation in the party, that a somewhat factional atmosphere should characterize the first sessions. This was accentuated by the fact that disputes over organizational and factional questions were taken up for consideration first. These conflicts brought many sharp clashes which made mutual agreement impossible. It was impossible for the two groups which had been engaged in the struggle for such a long period to see organizational and factional questions from the same standpoint. The factional situation made a solution of these problems very difficult.

However, consciousness of the seriousness in the party and of the grave responsibility resting upon us finally made concessions possible. Unanimity on the disputed factional and organizational questions was finally reached by means of compromises and concessions when mutual agreement was lacking. We believe this was the best course to follow under the circumstances. Factional interests were injured by some of these decisions, but the advantage to the party of a settlement of all disputes with the authority of unanimous decisions outweighed these considerations. The stabilizing effect on the party of the organizational decisions of the commission is proof of the correctness of this view.

While the settlement of the organizational questions marked a certain progress in the work of the Parity Commission, the crucial test came when the political resolutions were to be considered. Serious differences on these resolutions would have made unanimity impossible and would have canceled much of the practical value of the other decisions. Since political platforms are the only basis on which factional groupings can stand for any length of time, the consideration of the political resolutions of the two groups in the Central Executive Committee had to determine the question whether the foundation could be laid for the liquidation of the factional fight between the majority and minority and their unification on a common platform in the fight against Loreism. The political resolutions, which were all unanimously adopted, are the answer to this question.

The discussion over the political resolutions was conducted in an atmosphere considerably moderated. Each group brought forward its own resolutions on all the questions. A study of the resolutions showed differences only in construction and phrasing, but no serious differences in policy. Therefore it became possible in each case, either by taking one resolution as the basis and amending it, or by combining the two resolutions, to reach unanimous agreement. Serious controversy did not arise over a single point of principle or tactics. It became obvious that the two groups in the Central Executive Committee, which have been fighting over political questions with more or less intensity for the past two years, would be able to go to the convention with a common platform.

After the long factional fight, which had virtually developed to the point of two parties within the party, and, consequently, to the danger of a split, the two groups, with the assistance of the Comintern, were finally able to adopt a common political platform dealing with all party questions, external and internal. This common platform is not the product of compromise, but of agreement on all fundamental points. In the face of this political agreement, the unification of the two groups becomes possible and necessary. Anyone who would now attempt to continue or to aggravate the factional fight would take upon himself a grave responsibility indeed.

The unanimous resolutions of the Parity Commission have laid the foundations for unity but they have not liquidated the struggle between the two groups. It would be utopian to expect that the groupings could be dissolved on the eve of the party convention or that a preconvention struggle could be entirely eliminated, since the question of leadership is not yet decided. Besides, the complete liquidation of the factional fight is beyond the power of the Parity Commission. That can be accomplished only by the party members of both groups, especially the leading members, cooperating in good faith with the Parity Commission and striving to put its resolutions into life.

The Parity Commission has enabled the two groups to take the first real step toward unity. They must take the next step themselves by basing themselves on its resolutions and by consciously striving for unity. The way to do this is to put the main energy into the fight against Loreism; to subordinate factional interests to party interests; to emphasize the fundamental points of agreement more than the minor points of disagreement; to lay more stress on plans for future work than on recriminations over past disputes.

The party must concentrate its energies upon the big tasks confronting it. Loreism must be fought against and liquidated politically and organizationally. The party must be reorganized on a shop and street nuclei basis, its apparatus must be centralized and federations merged into the party. The party must extend its political horizon, broaden its base of activities and plunge into constructive work. The theoretical level of the party must be raised by systematic Leninist education.

These tasks can be accomplished if the resolutions of the Parity Commission are sincerely accepted and carried out and the Communist forces become unified. Enormous achievements are possible for the party when it unites its ranks and throws its energy into constructive work. The Parity Commission has laid the foundation for this unity. Now we must build upon it.


1.The Cleveland party organization was at the time fairly evenly divided between the Foster-Cannon majority and the Ruthenberg minority. Beginning in March, when the Workers Party leadership was still in Moscow at the ECCI plenum, the majority and minority members of the Cleveland Executive Committee and Cleveland Yiddish-language branch had engaged in a series of mutual suspensions and expulsions, resulting in a virtual split in the Cleveland party. See “Declaration of the Parity Commission,” DW, 28 July 1925.