James P. Cannon

Broaden the TUEL

Written: March 18, 1926
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The following summary of remarks by Cannon is taken from an unpublished document entitled “Minutes of the Discussion on the American Question.” The discussion evidently took place in Moscow after the conclusion of the Sixth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, held 17 February-15 March 1926. An American Commission had been convened in Moscow in connection with the plenum. The commission decreed that the Foster group should retain control of the Workers Party’s trade-union work even though the Ruthenberg faction had the majority on the party’s Central Executive Committee, and it also insisted that the Trade Union Educational League be broadened into a united-front organization. This “Discussion on the American Question” was evidently called to discuss implementing the commission decision. Present were A. Lozovsky, head of the Red International of Labor Unions, William Z. Foster, William F. Dunne, Cannon, Earl Browder, Max Bedacht and John Williamson of the Young Workers League.

We must approach the problem from the new situation as laid down in the CI resolution. Everything decided here must be based on this resolution and not on any interpretation of it by one or the other side. No decision made here should reflect previous party conflicts. The program of the TUEL should not be a political program; it shall bear no party characteristics. The TUEL is a united front organ; its program must therefore be broad enough for all the left wing elements. The program should have the following characteristics: it should be short and concise; it must contain such concrete points as the policy of the class struggle, the labor party, the organization of the unorganized, trade union democracy. The company unions shall be dealt with in connection with the organization of the unorganized.

There seems to be no conflict of concepts on the question of the progressives. As many of the progressive elements as possible should be drawn into the league on the basis of the minimum program. Those of the progressives who are not yet prepared to follow the minimum program can be won over and worked with on the basis of definite concrete measures.

The next period is a transition period, for the league is now in comparative isolation. The new development can be realized only gradually. If we don’t realize it in a short time it should not be construed as a failure. It is clear that the TUEL must have an organ of its own, which shall reflect the minimum program of the TUEL and not that of the party. The process of broadening the league must be a gradual one; from the top it will be reflected in the organ, from the bottom in our work in the various industries and localities. Of course, we cannot separate this from the program of the party. If we take the CI resolution as a basis we shall achieve our aim.

As to the party situation. The first necessity is peace in the party: the party must do more serious trade union work; the Foster majority in the Trade Union Commission is to be construed as a real leadership; the functionaries selected for trade union work are to be chosen according to their capabilities. The only possible victory will be the broadening of the TUEL. All points of dispute must be subordinated to this central aim.