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James P. Cannon

Pepper: Menace to Party Unity

13 February 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The following is an unpublished transcript of Cannon’s remarks to a session of the American Commission which convened in Moscow before the Fifth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. The American party had appointed a delegation of four to the plenum—two from each faction. But in Moscow the Ruthenberg minority attempted to have Pepper, who was then resident in Moscow, recognized as an additional American delegate. The dispute was eventually resolved by adding two new delegates—Pepper for the minority and John Williamson of the Young Workers League for the majority.

I think the question is not so much a formal question, it is a question of representation here in Moscow and of the Commission determining who represents the party here. I agree with comrade Kuusinen that the Pepper question is a part of the trouble in our party. What we object to is this typical example of comrade Pepper’s maneuvers, of trying to get in three delegates for the minority. against two for the majority. When comrade Pepper was in America he wanted to appear as representative of the CI. In Moscow he wants to appear as representative of our party. Comrade Pepper seems to have created the impression in Moscow that he represents our party. We want to establish the fact that our party has nothing to do with Pepper as a representative in Moscow, and anything he has to say here in no way speaks for our party.

The motion proposed by comrade Lozovsky would be acceptable to us—that there should be two reporters from each side. We object that the minority send Ruthenberg and Lovestone and we send Foster and myself, and then they try to get Pepper in because he is here already, and say it is not fair to put him out.

We can settle the question by letting the minority have two representatives and we will have two representatives.


At the last Commission to consider the American question, the CEC majority made an official request for the removal of Pepper from America. If this is not complete, if Pepper still has some strings on the American party, we here today make a further demand for the severance of those strings from the American party, because he is a constant menace to the unity of the party. The speech comrade Pepper made here just a minute ago gives a key to the work he has done in our party. What does he say about Foster? He compares him to Gompers. He has tried to stir up the most remote sections of the party against Foster on the ground that he is another Gompers. In this way he has created an extremely bitter situation. He comes here and says, I am not a hundred percent American, I am a poor immigrant. This may not mean very much here, but in America it is a good way to stir up a large portion of our foreign-born members and set them against the American leaders of the party. This creates strong nationalistic tendencies. I tell you here that if the CI does not remove Pepper from our party you will never have peace in it. He is a menace to the unity of our party. He incites the foreign workers in the party against us. We want the Commission to understand clearly that Pepper does not represent the American party, cannot, and never will by our consent.