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James P. Cannon

For the Liquidation of Factionalism

6 May 1927

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The following is an unpublished transcript of a speech by Cannon to a plenum of the Workers Party’s Central Executive Committee. As part of the factional maneuvering following C.E. Ruthenberg’s death, Jay Lovestone delayed the convening of this plenum as long as he could, knowing that Cannon and William Weinstone had won William Z. Foster’s agreement to vote for Weinstone as party secretary. Rather than submit to the new Cannon-Weinstone-Foster CEC majority, Lovestone and his factional lieutenant Benjamin Gitlow fled the plenum early in order to hurry to Moscow to seek support for Lovestone’s own bid for party leadership. The Comintern had requested that the party send a delegation to Moscow to discuss the party factional situation and to participate in the upcoming Eighth Plenum of the ECCI.

Comrade Chairman and Comrades:

I think it should be agreed by everybody that the plenum of the Central Committee, which was so long deferred, has already proven to be of great value for the party, particularly in this respect—and this is the most important thing of all—that it has established more clearly the political attitude of the various groups and comrades in the Central Committee and their perspectives on the future work, and it is possible now for us to approach the problem of unity and leadership with more knowledge of how we are to proceed.

I wish to say on behalf of those comrades with whom I am associated, and who hold the same views, comrades Weinstone, Dunne, Ballam, Abern, Swabeck, Reynolds and Gomez, that on our part, we have a clearer perception of the party situation and of the attitude of the various groups than we had before and we are in a better position now to determine our attitude towards them. This applies with particular reference to the majority of the Polcom, which has been going through a process of reorientation in the period of recent weeks and months, and which has established at the plenum its new line more clearly.

Our attitude towards the question of party leadership and towards party unity is naturally regulated and determined by the things which have been established in this plenum and about which I will speak in the course of my remarks.

Our attitude expressed previously remains fundamentally the same, modified and adapted to the developments of the plenum.

I would like to take up first of all, in order to make our own position clear on the various points, the question of the “offensive against the party and our tasks,” and try to establish some perspectives on the future development. I believe both the other groups have been somewhat deficient in this respect.

What is this drive against the party and the left wing, and what is its relation to the general struggle between the workers and the capitalists? What is the meaning of the united front between the government, the employers, the labor bureaucracy and the Socialist Party?

On the part of the bureaucrats I think we can all agree that it is on the one hand an attempt to divert the attention from their own bankruptcy as leaders of the workers and that they are acting in this whole situation as agents of the capitalists. It is essential for us to see the situation, not as a static affair, but to see it as a process, and look in this very process for the perspective of new struggles and new alignments which will create new bases of operation for the party.

It is a part of the “worker-employer cooperation” policy by means of which the bureaucracy aim first of all to maintain their own positions; secondly, to remove those elements who fight to maintain the unions and maintain the position gained by the workers in the previous period from 1919 and the war; thirdly, it is a move to evade the implications and consequences of the attack of the capitalists on the unions. Likewise, it is undeniable that the successes of the party in the organization of the unorganized, in conducting strikes, in Passaic, in United Mine Workers, needle trades, etc., have given impetus to this drive against the party.

We do not see the bureaucrats as a homogenous body engaged in direct and permanent contractual relations with the bosses. We see them also under the pressure of a process in which they are confronted with certain alternatives. Under the pressure of the general drive of the capitalists against the unions, the bureaucrats are confronted with the alternative of surrendering entirely all struggles against the capitalists and of entrenching themselves more securely in the various business enterprises of the unions, or of preparing and organizing the resistance against the open shop campaign of the bosses.

They are confronted with a contradiction in this sense, that regardless of their desire to come to an agreement with the bosses, the bosses are not always ready to come to an agreement with them to establish “stable” class collaboration relations between the unions and the bosses. The bosses are much more “unreasonable” than the bureaucrats and are not willing to stop at the point of “class collaboration.” Their drive against the unions goes ahead, and in this process, under pressure of the masses, even the blackest reactionaries are compelled to make certain gestures of struggle.

For example, the situation in the United Mine Workers of America. The open fight of the operators against the miners union is a part of this whole campaign. It is impossible to get a clear picture of the drive against the party and the left wing without taking into account this fact, that despite the willingness of Lewis to come to “class collaboration” agreement with the operators, the latter have launched an offensive directly against the union. The fight against the party and left wing is an inextricable part of the fight against the unions.

Take the automobile campaign, decided upon by the AFL convention, even though it was a mere gesture. Consider the fact that the AFL Executive Council rejected the affiliation of the Passaic strikers, and then was compelled to reverse this decision at the convention of the AFL under the pressure of the masses. These things show, comrades, that the bureaucrats are not able to act as a homogenous body with a clear and definite orientation and policy, but that they themselves are in the midst of a demoralization and disorganization as a general result of the attack of the bosses which began against the unions in 1922. The offensive against the Communists and the left wing by the bureaucrats serves as a smokescreen, behind which they intend to carry out their retreat before capital. It is further designed to break the morale of the rank and file and thus make it easier to consummate their program of surrender and impose it on the unions. It also serves, in this stage of American imperialism, as the basis of the united front between the capitalists, the government and the reactionary bureaucrats against all fighting elements in the trade union movement.

This confronts the party, as all must agree, with the necessity of increasing the trade union work and organizing a broad left wing. Everyone who speaks will say that. The problem is not merely that the party has the will to do this and adopts or proposes certain things more or less obviously necessary, such as organization of the unorganized and so on. The important thing for us here in the plenum is to establish, insofar as we can, what features of this fight against the party and the left wing in themselves create a contradiction which will assist the work of the party in organizing the unorganized and creating a broad left wing.

It is necessary to understand that within the camp of the bureaucrats there is not a unanimous policy. There is a certain lack of enthusiasm for the fight in certain sections of the “upper strata” of the labor movement and its officialdom. We know, and it is reported here by comrade Lovestone, correctly I think, that Green has shown a somewhat more wavering policy than that of Woll. We know such people as Maurer, Brophy, etc., are in no way enthusiastic supporters of this policy and that the general weakness of the fight, the lack of funds, etc., shows that it has not yet been possible to mobilize the complete united strength of the labor officialdom in this fight against us. What we maintain is that the dialectics of this struggle are opening new possibilities for the party and it is from this standpoint that we make special criticism against the resolution of the Polcom, which, we think, has not sufficiently established this. First of all, the misgivings, lack of enthusiasm, wavering and even opposition in certain sections of the bureaucracy in itself creates possibilities for the party to maneuver. But more important is the fact that the developing offensive against the unions and the resultant struggles will create new bases for the broadening of the left wing. They will bring new masses of workers into the struggle and will therefore be the means, if properly exploited, by which this attack against the party and the left wing will be defeated and a broader left wing developed.

Let us consider for a moment the effects of this drive on the bureaucrats. The blackest section of the bureaucracy, which is collaborating so openly with the bosses and the government, is giving up all possibilities of leading any struggles of the workers against the employers, but this is not by any means stopping the struggle. The direct struggle of the employers against the workers proceeds, as we see, for example, in the United Mine Workers. We see Lewis on the one hand, and Brophy on the other hand. We see new alignments and struggles looming up inevitably in America on a broader scale than ever before.

We do not see this merely in fantasy, but in facts which have been reported. The facts, for example, that in the United Mine Workers convention in Illinois the left wing and the progressive delegates have shown an unexpected strength, in the fact that the possibility has arisen in recent days of creating a new movement in the miners union on the basis of a fight against the fraudulent election practices of Lewis and on the basis of a claim that the presidency belongs to Brophy. The Political Committee had sufficient facts to adopt a policy calling for a reconstitution of the left and progressive committee around Brophy on the issue of claiming the election in the United Mine Workers was stolen by Lewis, and of connecting this claim for presidency by Brophy with the bringing forward in an aggressive way of the strike policy of the progressive bloc. One must be dull indeed, and pessimistic besides, not to see the dynamic possibilities in the present situation in the UMW.

Here we come to sharp issue with the majority of the Polcom from the standpoint of their lack of perspective on this situation. I want to refer now to the differences which arose on this question in the Polcom. In this union which is engaged in a life and death struggle against the bosses, in which the bosses are driving to destroy the union, wherein there is a movement growing in the rank and file, where possibilities exist to recreate the leadership of the progressive bloc on a broader basis than before, we brought forward the idea, rather comrade Foster brought forward the proposition, that we should get this movement under way at once, with the objective of a conference of the left wing.

Now, is there anything utopian about the idea that we should aim for a conference of the left wing in the miners union? I say that in a union engaged in such a life and death struggle, in a union where we claim a majority voted for the opposition, and with the new ferment now going on, a conference of the progressive bloc should be regarded as an elementary aim to strive for. The Polcom could not see this.[1]

I will refer to the discussion as I recall it. We spoke of a conference of the left wing as an objective. The Polcom, with its new orientation, which I do not hesitate to say is a right orientation, rose up in alarm at the proposition. Despite the fact that the proposal did not provide for the calling of a conference but merely for the perspective of a conference, despite the fact that it was qualified by several motions, two by Foster and another one by me, that the actual calling of the conference was to be decided upon later, we met with a tremendous barrage of resistance from the majority of the Polcom.

We think this attitude is directly connected with their lack of perspective in the development of the process of this fight. We believe this attitude shows a lack of a grasp of the dynamics of this fight against the left wing as part of the fight against the unions. We were treated there by comrade Wolfe to an analogy between calling a conference of the left wing—and I repeat that the calling of a conference of the left wing only marks the elementary stage of the real fight against the bureaucrats—comrade Wolfe drew an analogy between our proposal and talk of developing a demonstration into an armed insurrection. They seem to see the idea of a conference of the left wing in a union engaged in a life and death struggle, where we have a majority voting for the opposition, and where the rank and file is in ferment—they see that as a utopia. For my part, I do not characterize that reaction as a part of the leftism of the past year. On the contrary, I think it shows on one hand not only lack of perspective on the processes at work, but it shows fundamentally something even more dangerous, a lack of faith in the masses, a lack of faith that the miners, under pressure of a life and death fight, will find ways and means to break through the iron ring of the reactionaries and hold an elementary conference of their own forces.

While we have always opposed premature conferences, fake conferences and things of that sort, we do not consider the idea of a conference of the left wing in the UMW as a remote or utopian idea, by any means. It is the duty of a Communist leadership, surveying the conditions as they really are, to see this perspective and drive towards it.

We see the starting of a process of differentiation in the bureaucracy. We do not see this differentiation so clearly now as we will see it later. Some of the bureaucrats, under the pressure of the masses, will be compelled to take part in the fight against the bosses to maintain the unions and even to help us to organize the unorganized. Others will go still further the other way and this will create new alignments, new problems for our work, and new possibilities. Basing ourselves always fundamentally upon the masses, we can, at the same time, to a certain extent, find allies in the bureaucracy, and make use of them.

We maintain that if anyone stands here in this plenum and says that he can give a complete, precise, correct line for our party in this situation, he is deceiving himself. We have no real orientation on these problems of our trade union work. We have not sufficiently studied the means and methods of penetrating the entrenched unions under the new conditions.

We do not yet know enough about the different policies of the bureaucrats, as we have learned in the debate here. There are differences between them. We have Lovestone on the one hand speaking on the differences of orientation in the Executive Council of the AFL. We do not see anything about this in the resolution. We have heard other comrades express views about it. So we are really only beginning to get an approach to this problem.

We do not know enough about the whole situation, and one of the reasons is that this is the first time in six months that we have had a plenum of the party. There is another reason why we were not sufficiently oriented, that is the faction situation in the party, which hampers objective inquiry and discussion.

I maintain that the situation in the labor movement—the changes that take place, the growth of class collaboration, the drive of the bosses against the workers’ unions directly, as well as the drive against the left wing and Communists—this represents a turning point in the American labor movement, and consequently a turning point in our party work in the unions.

We do not have sufficient orientation on these new tasks. What are the reasons for that? First of all, the unstable situation in the party and the unstable leadership which cannot provide normal processes of discussion. Second, the factional situation in the party, which is evident in spite of the optimistic assurance given by the majority of the Polcom, and for which the majority of the Polcom is primarily responsible. We have a situation in the party where the real political discussions take place in caucuses instead of in the regular party organs. This is the first time in six months that we have aired the problems before the party organization.

We are only now beginning. We have no material, no discussion. Can you imagine, comrades, in the circumstances of the party’s great strike experiences of the past year, we have had no real survey of our shortcomings in the needle trades situation? There we have the most serious, complicated and difficult problem, not only in regard to the attack on the party as a whole, but also in regard to the internal situation of the party in the needle trades work. Our position has been weakened in this tremendous fight by reason of the fact that many of the leading comrades of the party in the needle trades have a clear and definite opportunist deviation and they are sheltered in it by the majority of the Polcom.

That is one of the most serious phases of the offensive against us in the needle trades. Our leading staff in the needle trades has rightist tendencies, yet there is not sufficient discussion and criticism, not sufficient struggle against it. And for this the majority of the Polcom is directly responsible. Let me take up for you a series of incidents in this connection which I think the plenum should know about and which the comrades of the majority of the Polcom ought to explain:

First of all, we had, out of a clear sky, a short time ago a change in the administration of our committee in the needle trades.[2] I want to give a picture of four stages of development which have helped undermine our position in the fight against the bureaucrats in the needle trades.

First stage: the removal of comrade Zack as secretary of the Needle Trades Committee. When I cite this I don’t want to associate myself entirely with the point of view of comrade Zack. I do not agree with him on some questions of tactics and I think the whole party knows this; but I recognize in Zack a comrade who wants to fight for the party against those who want to undermine the party and weaken it for their own purposes in the needle trades. He was removed on the ground that he could not get the cooperation of the opportunistically inclined leading comrades in the needle trades.

Second, against the alternative proposal to create a secretariat of three, which I supported, we were confronted with the appointment of comrade Gitlow, who apparently was acceptable to the opportunistic comrades in the needle trades, at least he was nominated by them.

The third development was that this whole group of opportunistic comrades in a body joined the Lovestone caucus in the party in recent weeks and have become enthusiastic promoters of comrade Lovestone’s candidacy for general secretary of the party.

Fourth, there is no discussion or criticism against these comrades in the needle trades, neither in the Polcom report nor resolutions. Instead they go back to August last year and pick out an isolated sentence, or rather half-sentence, of comrade Swabeck’s report to a district meeting and serve it up in distorted form as the basis of the political discussion of the Polcom. I hope the Polcom reporters will take the time to answer and explain these quotations.

We have had no discussion or evaluation of the Passaic strike. No examination of experiences, no conclusions drawn, no perspective laid out, nothing except a foolish pamphlet by Weisbord, and still more foolish speeches by Weisbord. All this is part of our lack of orientation. And when we take into account our position as the leaders and guiding spirits of the left wing, the critical situation of the labor movement as a whole, when we realize that what we do and what we decide and the tactics that we pursue may determine to a large extent the course of the labor movement itself, we must realize that it is time for us to begin serious work of orientation on trade union problems.

I said that the capitalists are not ready to accept class collaboration. The capitalists want the open shop and the elimination of the unions, and it is the greatest error to regard class collaboration as a fixed and final stage in this development. You want evidence of that? Take the miners union, the garment workers union, the lockout of the plumbers union in Brooklyn; take the fact that here in Chicago one of the largest printing plants employing 300 printers went to an open shop basis in recent weeks.

The fact of the matter is that the logic of the class struggle is entirely against any stable relations between capital and labor, and when the unions surrender a fighting policy in favor of class collaboration, they only give the bosses ground for new encroachments. This has already begun and is to be seen in the instance I have pointed out. But the Polcom evidently does not see it because in their resolution they point out no such perspective or possibilities of this development.

All we have from the Polcom is a black picture of pessimism. Our work is more difficult than ever! Not a ray of light ahead! The Polcom shows a tremendous weakness in this resolution from that standpoint.

They do not see the whole picture. They mention the drive of Lewis against the party and left wing in the UMW, but evidently they do not see as part of the same process the drive of the bosses against the UMW which in itself is creating the base for the broadening of the organization of the left wing. Lewis tried in every way to come to an agreement with the bosses for class collaboration agreements. He has made eleven different and important concessions in the past four years in order to establish “stable relations” with the bosses. For example, he began the war on the Communists in 1923. He took all class struggle phraseology out of the union’s constitution, he abolished the checkoff in Anthracite and smuggled a form of arbitration into the agreement. In the last negotiations he offered district agreements. The open attack against the union and the lockout is the answer of the bosses to all of these overtures of Lewis.

I deny that class collaboration represents a fixed stage in the struggle. It represents only a stage in a process. Now the bureaucracy, in our opinion, is before the alternative of giving up the position of the unions entirely or taking up the defensive and even an offensive struggle. And herein we want to state the point of view that the tactics of the bureaucracy and reactionary workers will not be uniform by any means.

Some of the bureaucrats will unquestionably be compelled under pressure of the masses to take a stand which will be a gesture of struggle. And this in itself will create new possibilities which we can exploit in our work for the organization of the unorganized and the broadening of the left wing. These processes will work somewhat like that attitude of Brophy in the United Mine Workers union. The attitude of Brophy is an illustration ofit.

And we also are of the opinion, on the basis of the fact that the capitalists will not stop with the class collaboration agreements, but will proceed from there to direct attacks on many of the unions, besides other factors making for movement in the masses, we are of the opinion that a new period of strike activity will begin.

A whole new situation will open up and prospects will appear which the resolution of the Polcom does not deal with at all. It leaves only a pessimistic and negative outlook.

On the trade union work of the party, I want to make a few remarks. Factionalism in the party and the lack of criticism has greatly affected this work. As a result of the general lack of orientation we are quite often a step behind and do not see clearly the implications of the fights we undertake.

We do not see clearly the implications of the needle trades situation, the general offensive, the miners conference, etc. There has been a lack of examination and revision of the steps we have taken. We work too much on the basis of formulae instead of dialectic processes of struggle. We have been confining ourselves to mere dogmatic denunciations of the class collaboration schemes and do not occupy ourselves sufficiently with the positive methods of struggle against it.

I want to make certain criticisms of the TUEL, and in making them I want to emphasize the fact that I make them from no factional attitude. First of all we reject absolutely the position that the situation we are in, the attitude of the bureaucracy and disappearance of radical unions, the trend of the labor movement to the right, dictates a TUEL comprising merely Communists and sympathizers.

On the contrary, our analysis of the symptoms and perspectives point in the opposite direction. We see forces at work in addition to our own wishes, making for new alignments and new struggles, creating bases for a broader TUEL. We have to prepare ourselves for that. We must understand the dialectic processes at work in the labor movement and base our plans upon them. We must work for a broader left wing to include all elements who will fight to preserve and modernize the unions as fighting organs against capital.

The dividing line between lefts and progressives must not be dogmatic and schematic. The real test is action more than formal program. The whole distinguishing characteristic of the entire movement of opposition outside of the Communist Party is the lack of clearness and consistency. The test is struggle and action. Furthermore, in recruiting the left wing and in establishing the line of demarcation between the left and progressive elements, we must distinguish between leaders and on the basis of their actions more than on the basis of their formal programs. And by all means we have to distinguish between leaders and workers in recruiting our left wing in the trade union movement and apply a different criterion to them. Here also the real test is action.

Again I emphasize the fact that the criticism I make is from a general party viewpoint, and not from a factional viewpoint. I believe that the TUEL is too narrow from the standpoint of the labor movement at present. I believe we put too much emphasis on schematic formulations, not enough on the dynamics of the struggle. I believe there is too strong a tendency to seek the dividing line which excludes workers from the left wing and not enough in the opposite direction, that is, to find the workers whom we can make qualified for the left wing. We must work out tactics for the fight against class collaboration, within the framework of class collaboration, in those industries where it is in operation.

Finally, I am going to make still more serious criticism. The TUEL is not only too narrow from the standpoint of the labor movement, but the TUEL is too narrow from the standpoint of the party. The party as a whole is not in the TUEL enough, and you may apply the blame and the criticism for this wherever you will. You may say that on the one hand there is a coolness or lack of enthusiasm for the TUEL in some sections of the party. On the other hand there is a certain monopolistic attitude on the part of some other comrades in regard to the TUEL work. I believe this is fatal to the TUEL. I believe that no program, however correct, will be able to make the TUEL the organ which it must and can become until the party as a party, much more than now, is inside of the TUEL and functioning in its apparatus. Factional passivity is equally fatal. A monopolistic attitude on the part of some comrades and passivity of other sections of the party—each of these spell death to the TUEL and any difference of attitude in the party towards the TUEL, regardless of who is correct from a formal standpoint, means isolation of the TUEL from the party membership, means the stagnation of the TUEL.

I think that the TUEL and its apparatus, as well as the trade union apparatus of the party, must become much more the concern of the party as a whole. In that, a certain decision of the CI on the division of labor has laid down a correct line. The basis is correct from an immediate standpoint, but from the standpoint of a permanent situation it is wrong. It should be the conscious aim of the party in its development to completely pass over this period of any division between political work and trade union work.

We are opposed to all theories and practices of a special trade union group in the party as well as all the implications of such a theory.

I want to go over the report of the Polcom and the resolution of the Polcom and to make the remark that I made before, that comrade Lovestone, in his analysis on the question of the united front, has not only abandoned the entire leadership of comrade Ruthenberg. He has not only thrown overboard the somewhat leftist orientation of the Polcom but has bent the stick backward. I agree with those comrades who have drawn the conclusion that the Polcom today in its orientation has a different line from the Polcom of the past year. This is established both in the meetings of the Polcom and in this plenum discussion and resolution.

I believe this resolution, when compared with comrade Lovestone’s speech, represents a contradiction. I believe that this resolution, when compared with comrade Lovestone’s speech, is an illustration of the conflicting lines within the majority of the Polcom. I believe that in this resolution we do not see the same tendency as in the Lovestone line. I think that the majority of the Polcom has conflicting tendencies within it. If any comrade thinks I am in error, I hope he will explain and prove it. In the present majority of the Polcom there is a conflict of tendencies, which will grow more and more apparent as the work develops, between the old line of a year ago led by comrade Ruthenberg and comrade Bedacht, and the new line represented by comrades Lovestone and Wolfe. I make the statement here that the Polcom in the past year, on the question of the united front and a number of other questions, under the leadership of comrade Ruthenberg expressed theoretically most of all by comrade Bedacht, represented a somewhat leftist orientation, and I maintain that since the death of comrade Ruthenberg, under the leadership of comrades Lovestone and Wolfe there is a bending of the stick backward. This is a most serious political statement, and nobody but a fool or a cynic can take this as a jest. Answer it politically and refute it if you can.

We have other contradictions in the line of Bedacht and Lovestone. The conflict between the line of Bedacht and the line of Lovestone reminds us of the advice once given to a man in the Bible: “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.”

We say there are errors in the resolution of the Polcom, basic errors. First of all, we say this resolution is pessimistic, in this sense—that it gives no outlook, no perspective of new developments and new struggles creating a basis for a broadening of the left wing of the organization. It says that our work is more difficult than ever before under the drive against us. Speaking from a general standpoint, we say that is not correct. On the contrary, we say that the dialectics of the fight against the unions, of the drive against the Communists as a part of the drive against the unions, is in itself creating conditions and contradictions making more favorable the developments and the broadening of our left wing in the struggle. The resolution sees a static bureaucracy. We see a process of differentiation within the bureaucracy, in which are already indications of new alignments in the unions. You see growing difficulties in the work; we see growing possibilities.

The contradiction between the report of Lovestone and the resolution of Bedacht is especially interesting on the question of differentiation within the bureaucracy. It is quite characteristic of comrade Lovestone that he should see these things and point out that they have already been shown to a certain extent in the Executive Council of the AFL, and it is likewise characteristic of comrade Bedacht that he did not see them. On this question, Lovestone is apt to see too much and Bedacht to see nothing.

Comrade Bedacht makes a statement here in his resolutions about the bureaucracy. He says the trade union bureaucracy is the most powerful base of the capitalists in the labor movement. I want to know what this statement means. Do you mean to say that the trade union bureaucracy is a homogeneous static body which consciously serves as a basis of the capitalists? We say that this very bureaucracy will become instruments of the left wing against the capitalists in the fight to preserve the unions and for the organization of the unorganized. We point to the instances of Brophy and Maurer—and there are more Brophys and Maurers—who by our tactics and strategy have become instruments to fight in certain instances against the capitalists.

The resolution does not see this. It is very characteristic that it is made by comrade Bedacht and not by comrade Lovestone. In the question of the left wing, this resolution of our Political Committee says we must build a left wing. Well, I think we can take a vote and be unanimous on that point. We are all for the left wing and for the organization of the unorganized. But how are we going to build it and what forces are going to work on our side? On this the resolution is silent. Therefore the whole talk of the resolution dealing with the left wing is a hollow phrase. It does not show from where and in what dynamic process the left wing will be recruited and built on a broader basis.

We do, and we reiterate our position that out of the very drive against the party and the left wing in the unions, there will be developed new bases for building the left wing, new alignments, in which part of the very bureaucrats under the pressure of the masses will become instruments of the left wing. The resolution of the Polcom presented by comrade Bedacht paints only a picture of hardship, of difficulty, the blackest pessimism with no perspective, no analytical approach, while we on the contrary do see perspectives and draw conclusions from them.

I want to go over to the speech of comrade Wolfe, and to preface my remarks on this point by saying that I was one of those here who listened with the greatest attention to the remarks of comrade Wolfe. I believe that comrade Wolfe, jointly with comrade Lovestone if subordinate, is a bearer of the new orientation of our majority of the Polcom. And I listened very seriously and very attentively. I want to say, comrade Wolfe—and I wish the remarks I make here will be taken seriously with the understanding that I say them with a real feeling of responsibility. I am not here to make irresponsible charges or accusations.

I say the speech of comrade Wolfe was one of the worst speeches I have listened to since the foundation of our party. I say that the foremost duty of a leader of the party is to be a teacher of the party, that anyone, particularly an influential or able comrade, who resorts to misrepresentation, who confuses issues, and who above all evades the serious political charges, such as those made by comrade Weinstone, and covers them up, as comrade Wolfe did, is misleading and confusing the party.

Lenin said: “A demagogue is the greatest enemy of the working class.” And I say doubly, demagogy is the greatest danger to our party.

I am going to answer the speech of comrade Wolfe point by point, and I will establish the thesis that it was not the speech of a political leader trying to clarify and explain and teach the comrades, but it was the speech of a comrade trying to confuse and cover the issues, with evasions and demagogy. For this purpose I will take up the speech of comrade Wolfe point by point.

First of all, comrade Wolfe said that comrade Foster does not want an alliance with comrade Weinstone, but the other way around, that Weinstone wants an alliance with comrade Foster. Comrade Wolfe knows that is not true. If it were true, there would be no reason to deny it. It is merely a clever attempt to transpose words and to confuse the real question of the relationship of the Foster group and the group of comrade Weinstone and myself. Comrade Wolfe knows that up to now the policy of our group has not been to seek an alliance with Foster. He knows on the other hand that Foster has made more or less open propositions for such an alliance. I do not say this as a criticism of comrade Foster. I am not one of those to put the Foster group in an outlaw category. I say the single consideration for a political relationship between our group and the Foster group, for closer cooperation, or even a combination of forces, is the question of the line of the party. That is the consideration. There is nothing personal about it. The political line is the deciding thing. I say, however, we will not trade off any principles for the sake of an alliance with comrade Foster. We will not say that we were “misled” into the old fight against Foster, as Lovestone said yesterday. We will take full political responsibility for our past attitude towards comrade Foster, and, furthermore, say that if the conditions arise for a principled fight with the Foster group in the future, as they did in the past, we will not evade it. Our attitude will be determined by their line.

I maintain, comrade Wolfe, that you evaded and confused the real question presented by comrade Weinstone on the 1924 and 1928 elections. On the one hand, Weinstone made the statement that if there is to be no mass labor party in 1928 and we all agree that chances for this are small, our party, while continuing naturally the fight for the labor party, must begin to orient to the idea that it must present its own candidates in the 1928 elections. Upon what does he base this proposition? On the theory that we will not put up a labor party ticket unless we have a mass basis for it. And then he made the serious accusation that the reason perhaps that Lovestone was silent on the question of our own candidates in 1928 was that, although he says that there are slight chances for a mass labor party, he would be willing to take a narrow labor party, a MacDonald-Bouck labor party which he stood for in 1924.

If you are performing your duty as a teacher of the party, you would explain whether this is so or not so. You would answer the serious accusation which you know, if it is true, will provoke a more serious, more determined struggle in the party. We fought with Lovestone on this question in the party and in Moscow, and he has never yet admitted he was wrong in wanting to support the Bouck-MacDonald “labor party” in 1924 instead of putting up our own candidates. We want to know whether you acknowledge it now or retreat from that position. When you say that it is too trivial to answer, you are evading a most serious question. If we cannot have a mass labor party in 1928, will you form a narrow labor party? You are duty bound to explain this thing. It is never too late to put forward our own ticket, but nevertheless it is never too early to foresee the probabilities and orient and prepare the party accordingly.

I want to cite another illustration. The position presented by comrade Weinstone, as Wolfe knows, merely meant to prepare the party for an eventual actuality that we will have no mass labor party in 1928, which we all see now. You distort that into a proposition on the part of Weinstone to abandon the idea of a labor party. You know that if the prospects and possibilities exist for a labor party, Weinstone said we can orient ourselves and organize that sentiment. We are for that. When you compare Weinstone’s statement, that if the prospects are against the formation of a mass labor party in 1928 we must orient our party to put up its own ticket, with the Socialist Party’s “day of mourning” for Sacco and Vanzetti, you are deliberately distorting and misrepresenting the position of Weinstone. Such methods are responsible for the fact that the party members do not get a clear teaching from the leaders of the party. They get only demagogy and misrepresentation.

Weinstone said the majority of the Polcom is characterized by a lack of principle in its relations to the party. A most serious accusation indeed! I agree with him and I do not make this as a blank charge. I will give reasons, point by point.

Why was “bourgeoisification” left out of the resolution? You must explain this. You have been going up and down the party since the death of comrade Ruthenberg with one of the most highly organized and venomous campaigns in the history of the party against Foster and “Fosterism” on the grounds that he advocates the idea that the American working class is becoming “bourgeoisified.” This is a most serious political accusation and, if that is the case, you have to make it the center for discussion at the plenum and have the Foster group establish whether it is so or not. But when you came to the plenum apparently you were not quite sure what the situation would be between the groups, and consequently you were not quite sure what stand to take.

You were not quite sure, although a very short while ago you had established as your principal line that the Lovestone group must unite with the so-called Cannon group to save the party from Foster and Fosterism. When this proposal failed to work out, you began to orient to the idea of uniting with Foster to save the party from Cannon. And that is why when you came to the plenum you were not sure where to deal your blows and you forgot another principle and left out of your resolution the question of “bourgeoisification” about which you were so agitated in recent weeks. What is this but lack of principle? On the first day after the death of comrade Ruthenberg, Lovestone told me that we must unite against Foster because “we have not changed our attitude a bit about him.” Yet in his speech yesterday, he threw away the fight against Fosterism and blamed it on Cannon. He said he was “misled” by Cannon. Why, to use some of the phraseology and terminology introduced in the plenum by comrade Gitlow, I would say the speech of comrade Lovestone was not flirtation with Foster. This was solicitation of Foster. And it is very unfortunate for comrade Lovestone that comrade Foster, if not in words, at least in attitude, repulsed these ardent advances so coldly and indifferently.

This is a serious charge that the Lovestone group is an unprincipled group which changes from day to day in its attitude to the groups in the party. One day he denounces Foster and the next day he denounces Cannon and asks for unity with Foster against him. Explain that, if you can, and show us what principle is involved in these gyrations.

Now I go on further, comrade Wolfe, and say that you resorted to misrepresentation and demagogy on the question of the united front. Comrade Weinstone said that we had many criticisms of the old Political Committee, before the death of comrade Ruthenberg, on the question of the united front. I say it here. I say that the tactics of the party in the past year established by the Polcom on the question of the united front showed a tendency towards the left, a tendency of putting the party forward as an organization with interests of its own, a tendency to demand that the party must be represented in its own name directly in all united fronts.

We see Lovestone come here as representative of this Polcom and present an entirely different tactical line on the united front. We say that the line presented by comrade Lovestone cannot be criticized fundamentally. We say it is a change of line, a correction of line. Comrade Weinstone made that charge and you, Wolfe, know that it is true. And you, Stachel, know that it is true, that it is a change of line. That our old criticisms on the united front of the past year do not apply to this line and we cannot honestly attack the line on the united front presented by Lovestone on the same basis that we did during the last year. But how do you educate the party? There is only one way of educating the party, and that is when you change a position, especially a position of the leadership of the party, you explain that change to the party and give the reasons, so that the party will understand it and not make the old errors again. Comrade Wolfe, you in your speech covered up this change. You did not acknowledge it or explain it, and you shifted the whole question to a discussion of alleged personal errors of Weinstone. I say if everything you said against Weinstone were true, and if you brought in 20 more errors of Weinstone, you do not answer the fundamental charge which we ask you again to answer: that the Polcom has changed its line on the united front, that it has not given any reasons for it, that it has not explained it to the party and is covering it up and maintaining that there is no change. That is not Leninist leadership. That is lack of principle.

Comrade Wolfe spoke about the “Nine Points” and mentioned one of them and said that they had been abandoned. I can assure you, comrade Wolfe, that you have been too optimistic on this question. Later I will speak upon it. I just want to mention one point in passing, that Wolfe centered his attack upon the proposal to create in the Polcom an advisory committee of three, one from each group, to consider matters before decisions of the Polcom, to facilitate mutual agreements and modify the factional intensity. You attack this as though this were a crime against the party. I tell you, comrade Wolfe, that this point of the “Nine Points” you will yet adopt. In fact you have already adopted it, but not officially. Every time there is anything serious in the party you have to talk to a representative of the Foster group and a representative of our group. When you try to represent our proposal for an informal body, without powers, as setting up an instrument against the Polcom, you are distorting the question. And when you reject the idea of one of the Lovestone group, one of the Foster group, and one of our group meeting informally to discuss disputed questions, you are rejecting the idea of any attempt to find a common political line in the party. You are rejecting the idea of unity, no matter how much you speak about it.

Something with respect to the party bulletin. You know that no one proposed a board to censor articles but merely to agree on the tone and character of them. You misrepresented that. You call that criminal hypocrisy. Our idea was to prevent the possibility of the discussion in the bulletin taking the form of 1924.

In comrade Wolfe’s speech, last night, we had a shocking spectacle of a party leader making the charge, before a roomful of comrades, many of them rank and file workers, that we are keeping you here so that you can’t go out and do anti-war work! Such a speech as that would call forth a unanimous protest from the meeting in any Communist party that established the necessity of principled conduct of leaders. It is only because the party, as a result of so many months of factional fights, heterogeneous groupings, and corrupt factional practices, is so saturated with cynicism and lack of Communist approach to these questions that we could tolerate such a remark as that in a party meeting. Everybody in the party is for anti-war work and when you try to put us in such a position you resort to the lowest form of demagogy. Comrades, the task of the party leaders is to pull the party out of this morass and unify it and set it to its revolutionary task. One of the foremost tasks of the party is to establish the necessity of principled conduct of party leaders. That they do not corrupt the party, resort to demagogy, and confuse and misrepresent questions to the party. That they have a principled line for which they work and when they change or correct it they explain it to the party. That is what is necessary in the party.

I want to take up some of the criticisms made by the Foster group, particularly the Sacco-Vanzetti campaign.[3] On this question, in my opinion, the Foster group made a very, very serious error, the failure to take into account the concrete realities of the problems of the Sacco-Vanzetti movement. I believe that if we had agreed to the line of the Foster group on this question, the destruction of the ILD in the labor movement might easily have resulted. Here is the situation. It is not an ordinary issue which you can fight to your heart’s content. It requires the most delicate and tactful approach. First of all, two men are in danger of death. They are not Communists, but anarchists. Their committee is composed of anarchists bitterly hostile to us and to a certain extent under the influence of the worst enemies in the labor movement.

This committee is composed of elements politically hostile to the party and looking for the opportunity to destroy and discredit the party. And yet you propose that the ILD go over the head of this committee, giving this committee the slightest basis for the charge that we disrupt the movement. The whole reactionary labor press and the fakers would take up the hue and cry that the Communists are disrupting the movement. I believe the proposal of the Foster group would have led to the most serious consequences. If your proposition meant anything, it meant to go over the head of the Boston committee and organize a national conference with or without their consent. This we cannot do under the present circumstances if we have any regard for realities. And when you finally qualified your motion by saying we should go as far as possible without an open break with the Boston committee, you abandoned the whole position, because that is the line we have been following.

Now some of the criticisms made by the Foster group against the Polcom I agree with and some I disagree with. And I believe it is my duty to state those I do agree with as well as those that I disagree with, since we are aiming for clarification. We must have the perspective of unifying the leadership, for there is no point in concealing agreements or disagreements. If we are aiming toward unity on policy we must not overlook real difficulties or set up false ones. Our conception of the party is not a schematic combination of two or more groups against others. It is the establishment, with the help of the CI, of a common line for collaboration of all leading and able comrades on the basis of the line. That is my idea and I am by no means one of those people who are compelled to change their attitude from day to day because I am looking for different combinations.

I believe that when Foster stated that the majority of the Polcom opposed building the TUEL he was wrong. It is my honest opinion that since the return from Moscow a year ago, such a charge is unfounded. I think it is wrong for you to drag up issues which were considered before the last decision of the CI, because there will never be any way of finding a common ground if you do that. At the last session of the CI all the propositions were presented there. I say the right thing is to take that decision as a starting, because if you go back in the history of the party you will find differences on every issue, not only between groups but within groups.

I do not believe that the Polcom has sabotaged the trade union work. I believe there was a real disposition on the part of the Polcom as a whole to support this work and I believe the party has been showing progress in trade union work because of that fact.

I believe when he says we failed to build the left wing he makes a criticism that applies to all equally. Comrade Foster states that the Polcom is sabotaging Labor Unity. I believe that there was indifference and passivity. On the other hand, that Labor Unity is organized on a very narrow basis. And I believe that the decision to have Labor Unity up for discussion in the Polcom with the prospect of revamping and remodeling it, with the idea of mobilizing the party behind it, will be successful. Our attitude on the question of “bourgeoisification”—we have never made this the issue against Foster, because we have no documents or concrete proof of such an attitude of comrade Foster. If Foster stands for this, if it is established in a document, then you have something concrete to base your attack upon. But in the absence of presentation of any such point of view of “bourgeoisification” in a clear and definite form, we see no possibility to educate the party on the basis of rumors and gossip. Our discussions must proceed from the basis of established facts. The same rule should apply on the question of the famous “head-on collision” which comrade Foster raises as a counter-bogey to “bourgeoisification,” and in much the same way.

My recollection of this question, borne out by the records of the Polcom, is the following: At the first consideration of this question a wrong line was adopted but the decision was unanimous. At the second meeting, Foster raised the question of reversing the position and I supported him. Comrade Ruthenberg retreated from the former position and a new course was taken.

Do we have to fight over errors that are openly rejected and acknowledged? The fight over errors is only if somebody persists in them and develops a systematic line from them. We have got to quit fighting in the party over errors which are corrected and done with. I would like to have here the speech of comrade Stalin against Zinoviev and Trotsky on this point. He said everybody makes errors. The errors you fight upon are those which are persisted in and developed into a line. When errors are made and dropped, then it is useless to continue to fight against the comrades responsible. Otherwise you have a permanent factional fight. The fact that comrade Ruthenberg changed his position and that no one now defends the original motions is a sufficient reason to discontinue the controversy over them.

I would like to say a few remarks about Akron. Akron was a case where errors were multiplied at a rate and speed of which comrade Amter alone would be capable. He showed such incompetency for practical mass work that comrade Amter, in a normally functioning party, would be relieved of that post and assigned to another one. If our Polcom majority were free from its own factional contradictions, they would support that point of view. Unfortunately, it is not free and the party, particularly the Akron section, must suffer.

A few remarks on the criticism of our group. For a year and a half comrade Foster has been confronting us with a false accusation. Ever since the “big split” in the old majority group, which in my opinion was a good split, which helped serve the cause of the unification of the party, and which comrade Lovestone objectively repudiated yesterday and which I will never repudiate—we have been confronted with the charge that we were against taking power in the unions. If there were no factionalism in the party such a ridiculous charge would never be made. I do not believe that Foster believes it. I want to say that I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that there is anybody in this room or in this party who is more in favor of taking power in the unions than we are.

We are opposed to the fight for office for the sake of office, and particularly opposed to certain corrupt practices in the needle trades on the part of some elements of our left wing, and we say, Foster, that when you attack us on the ground of being opposed to taking office in the unions, you are objectively supporting those elements and tendencies in the needle trades which the party has fought in the past and must fight in the future. The factional misrepresentation of the Foster group against us on this question is a blow at the party.

Our group, in common with every group in the party, is prepared to resort to every strategy and method in line with the methods of Communists to conquer power in the unions. On the question of the Philadelphia convention, I believe the formulation made by the Polcom was subject to misrepresentation and was misrepresented. And, by the way, it is very interesting to see such an attitude towards party responsibility that although I have only one vote in the Polcom and was not the author of the resolution in question, yet I am credited with the trade union policy of the CEC at that time, and the personal responsibility for the resolution.[4]

Yesterday Lovestone accused me of misleading the Polcom majority on the fight with Foster, and today the Foster group accuses me of misleading the Polcom majority on the trade union question. They make out a case of “undue influence” which appears to be slightly exaggerated.

The basic line of the Polcom resolution, drafted by Ruthenberg, was correct. Its formulation was not wrong but faulty. It was subject to misrepresentation and the Foster group, for factional reasons, has misrepresented it.

The resolution was primarily aimed against those corrupt practices which would undermine our left wing in the needle trades, and I will never let anybody swerve me away from that principal question to the question of one incidental or tactical decision. The fundamental thing that we were and are driving against is the tendency to substitute maneuvers and deals with the blackest fakers for mobilization of the masses on the basis of the class struggle. At that time we were confronted with the brilliant idea of a combination with Sigman, and we said to them that you must at all costs keep up your criticism and attack against Sigman or you will demoralize and destroy the left wing. They entered into secret negotiations with Sigman and discontinued the attack and criticism against him. We said we were not going to allow it. That is the fundamental principle involved and the Polcom resolution struck against it. You are doing a wrong service to the party, Foster, when you distort the meaning of our fight even though we made errors in formulation. The party will not be educated and corruption will not be overcome by such methods.

Comrade Wolfe yesterday referred to the document of “Nine Points,” which represents a point of view on the internal line of the party arrived at by a number of comrades coming from different groups in the party, having for their purpose the unification of the party. I might say, in prefacing my remarks on this point, that they were not formally presented to the party before, because we did not have the opportunity. The plenum was delayed, and I want to say in further explanation that since the time of the drafting of these “Nine Points,” especially since the discussion in the plenum, we have to make a certain amplification and modification of the point of view outlined in the document.

We have to underscore more the question of political differences between the groups which were not so clearly established then as now. The question of the internal policy is to a certain extent even overshadowed by the question of external policy at the plenum, and the question of arriving at the unification of the party here as a prerequisite, the liquidation of these differences manifested here. With the help of the CI, this can be done, we hope. Then it should be possible to achieve unity.

If the comrades will indulge me, since this question has been brought up, I am prepared to introduce the “Nine Points” in the name of our group, with the explanation which I spoke of before, and take full responsibility for them.

First of all, I want to explain they are an outline, by no means a program, but a preparatory outline which we thought would lay the basis for beginning the process of unifying the leadership. Some comrades have said we are looking for a “Mulligan unity,” a general scramble of all the groups regardless of the differences existing. They don’t know what they are talking about. We want unity on the basis of a clearly established political line and those who have tried unity with us in the past ought to know that. For us, policy is the determining factor and everything proceeds from that.

We have a situation in the party of permanently organized factions existing in times of struggle over differences as well as in time of unanimous resolutions, and we are trying to find a way to break the party out of it.

I will read the nine points with these words of explanation:

1. In order that the party may effectively cope with its problems in the class struggle, the party leadership must accomplish the liquidation of factionalism and the unification of the party on the basis of correct policy without factions.

2. Each group contains qualities and elements necessary for the party. The problem of party unity therefore cannot be solved by the elimination from effective participation in the party leadership of any of the groups. Neither can it be solved, with the present relation of forces and composition of the groups, by the control of the party by any one of the existing groups operating on factional lines, or by any combination of two groups and not a third.

3. The control of the party by the former majority group represented a factional deadlock; the former majority was unable to unify the party. The present majority of the Political Committee likewise failed to unify the party, notwithstanding its greater opportunities.

4. Neither of the factions was able to defeat the other decisively and establish a sufficiently stable majority. They were not able to work together harmoniously or to unite. They presented the party with the prospect of permanent factional struggle, continually hampering the development of the party work.

5. The experience shows that neither one of the factions as now constituted is able to lead the party alone and overcome the factional impasse. This arises out of the whole inner party situation. It is anomalous for a Bolshevik party to have factional groupings within which there are political divisions on issues of prime importance, while the groups cross each other in support of major political questions, and yet these groups retain their separate factional identity, cohesion and discipline. This rapidly degenerates into a condition of factional bankruptcy. The heterogeneous composition of the factions and the stubborn maintenance of permanent factional organization leads to factional corruption and unprincipledness.

6. The factional slogans that one or the other faction as now constituted must exercise “hegemony” or “form the basic element” of the leadership in the present circumstances are untenable. The party must now recognize the necessity for collective leadership. All the groups can contribute to this collective leadership and all the leading forces must come together and work consciously to establish it. The stable, collective leadership of the party will be further evolved in the process of the party unification and consolidation and the development of the party’s leadership of the masses in the class struggle.

7. The dissolution of the existing factions is a necessary prerequisite for the unification of the party. The disintegration of the factions is directly connected with the process of integration and growth of the party. The idea of party must take precedence over the idea of factions. Party leadership must replace faction leadership. Loyalty to the party must prevail over loyalty to the factions. Not the mechanical combination or “amalgamation” of factions, but their liquidation, is the path to genuine party unity.

8. As first steps towards this end, we believe it is necessary to devise measures which by their nature would tend to liquidate within a reasonable period the factional groupings and practices, as well as such general party practices as are a hindrance to the unification and centralization of the party. As a beginning, we submit the following proposals:

a. It is proposed to establish as an informal and unofficial body an advisory committee to be composed of three members, one from each group as presently constituted. Its duty and task would be constantly to consult upon policies and measures with a view of forming a harmonious line of action and avoiding factional friction. The advisory committee should hold regular meetings twice a week as a minimum, which meetings should be considered as preparatory to the meetings of the Polcom. In case of failure to hold any such regular meeting, it may be convoked by any one of the three members.

b. The practice of the groups holding separate caucus meetings, where party questions are discussed and binding decisions arrived at, is a matter of general party knowledge. As a means of changing the irrational forms of the present factional practices and of leading towards the ultimate liquidation of the factions, it is proposed that the existing groups agree upon the following procedure.

1. For the next immediate period of approximately two months to permit representatives of the other two groups to come to every general caucus meeting of the third group for the purpose of presenting their position on the question under consideration.

2. Should this practice work satisfactorily, to extend it for the next period so as to permit such representatives not only to present their position, but also to remain and take part in the discussion in the caucus meeting.

c. As steps preparatory to a truly representative convention of the party the following proposals are made:

1. The establishment of a party bulletin to be devoted entirely to information and discussion on party matters. An editorial board to be formed on a parity basis whose duty it will be to pass unanimously on the discussion articles. All articles must be signed and can be accepted only as the position of the individual comrade signing the article. No article to be accepted that is either the presentation of the position of a faction or directed against the presumable position of another faction.

2. The organization of a truly representative and constructive party convention. To this end, the convention should be called only after all possibilities have been exhausted for the reaching of at least a tentative agreement on the main political line of the party.

3. As a safeguard against factional manipulations and mechanical suppression, the party convention should be organized on the basis of proportional representation and the creation of national, district and local convention committees on a parity basis.

1. The foregoing propositions are submitted to the Polcom as initial steps for the accomplishment of the aim set forth in Paragraph 1. They are submitted at the same time to each individual member of the CEC for consideration. Each member of the CEC is herewith requested to express his position in writing with regard to all these propositions. Acceptance or rejection may refer to the document as a whole or to single proposals. In either case, each CEC member is invited to express his reasons in writing for the rejection of any or all of the proposals and to offer alternatives.

Those who reject our proposals must point to another way. Can you unify the party on the basis of a monopoly of leadership by the comrades in the Lovestone group? To put that question here at the plenum is to answer it in the negative.

If there is one thing fatally doomed in the party, it is the idea that any one existing faction can maintain a monopoly of the leadership of the party. Is it not a fact that when the former majority controlled the party, we had a factional deadlock? Do we want to return to that? We say: no, we do not want to go back to that.

On the other hand, we say the present majority of the Polcom likewise failed to unify the party.

Do you maintain that the party is unified? One who wants to speak this way is refuted by this very plenum where such strong forces are represented in opposition to the Polcom. When you say that the party is unified you are either deceiving yourself or the party.

The party is in a dangerous factional situation, so much so that the Communist International has found it necessary to call a delegation consisting of representatives of all these groups in the party to Moscow. We have to recognize conditions as they exist and find a way out.

We should recognize that neither of the factions was able to defeat the other decisively. They were not able to work together harmoniously or to unite. That is a fact. They offer a perspective of permanent factional fight. One year the Ruthenberg group is getting a majority. Next the Ruthenberg group is the opposition and regaining the majority. Then the Foster group is the opposition and fighting for the majority.

There is a consistent “two-party system” in the party, so well established that neither group denies the right of the other group to exist. I have never yet heard the Foster group complain that the Ruthenberg group is maintaining a faction or the Ruthenberg group complain that the Foster group maintains a faction. It is only since comrades have revolted against both and try to break up the condition of permanent factions and form a group to fight for this idea that the comrades of the other “established” groups complain of factional organization. By some secret method of reasoning known only to themselves they have arrived at the conclusion that it is entirely right to have two groups in the party but entirely wrong to have a third group appear.

Why must we have factions in the Communist Party? Why must we always have two groups in the party? Upon what principle of Leninism is this theory founded? If there is no such principle, if on the contrary the permanent maintenance of two separate factions is against Leninist principles, we ask the other groups to show the party a solution for the deadlock.

In connection with this document, comrades, we also submitted some practical propositions to facilitate the unification process. We have caucuses and faction meetings going on all the time, as everybody knows, and participated in by all active comrades. We know that in these caucuses things are said and accusations are made to prejudice and poison comrades against others that would never be said if the other comrades of the other faction were there to answer. The tone of the plenum here is very different from that of faction meetings because if one makes irresponsible charges or accusations the comrade is here to answer them.

We propose that when the groups call the faction meetings that they permit a leading comrade of the other groups to come and state his point of view. It is easy to see that such a proceeding would change the character of the caucuses and break down the rigid group lines and lead toward the substitution of general party meetings for one-sided caucus discussions. We stand by these proposals and state that the proposals will yet be carried out. We will not solve the problem of unity by the combination of factions, but by the liquidation of factions.

Since the remark was made about unity between myself and Weinstone, I want to say a few words about it. In my opinion, it should be regarded as a natural and correct development. It is based upon the fact that we each, independently and under different circumstances and in different factions, came to a common standpoint on political grounds.

I believe we have arrived at a common attitude towards the problems of the party, and particularly about the necessity for party unity as a prerequisite for the further development of the party.

Now, a good deal was made here about the “Ballam” question. The fact that Cannon and Ballam are together is regarded by some people as a violation of the established factional code. I want to say here, for myself at least, that I stand by this step we have taken. If, after eight years, during which we were never together, always in opposite factions, with the sharpest personal feelings—if after eight years, Ballam and Cannon can find a common standpoint and unite, it should not be regarded as something foolish but as a matter of the greatest significance. It shows that the development of the unification of the party is drawing together Communists who have had longstanding fights. It is not enough to be able to fight over principled differences. Communists must also be able to unite when the differences are settled.

I believe it is the right thing for Communists to do, when they have no more serious differences, to quit fighting. And if I have been fighting Ballam, and he me, for eight years, and we have no differences now on serious questions, why should we not get together? Do we have to fight for the next eight years in order to prove that we are not pacifists?

My opinion is that this idea will grow in the ranks of the party, the idea that permanent, personal factional fights and factional feuds can be replaced by a higher order of struggle, in other words, that the faction fights based on outworn issues, on questions of two or three years ago, on prejudices, traditions and factional interests, can be replaced by political struggles in which comrades take their positions objectively on the question as it arises, and then when the issue is decided, abandon the fight and work unitedly together.

That is what we are standing for. We put before this body here our point of view and we ask you comrades to give serious consideration to our opinion. Our opinion is this: that while we have differences between the three groups, while these differences have to be discussed before the CI and settled, yet we must go to the CI with this idea, that we are not going to try to find a basis for further fights but a basis for coming together of all the leading elements in the party.

We say with real conviction that if there is good will and good faith the three groups can, with the help of the CI, find a common platform. The CI can correct us all on every field where we are wrong and we can come back and lead the party unitedly.

You cannot lead the party on any other basis. You cannot develop the party without unity. Certainly you cannot develop the party by unity of Cannon, Weinstone and Foster against the Lovestone group, and by all means you cannot unify the party with Lovestone and Wolfe against Foster, Bittelman, Johnstone, Krumbein, Aronberg, Cannon, Weinstone, Dunne, Ballam, Abern, Reynolds, Swabeck. Not a combination of factions but the unification of the party and collective leadership—this is our aim.

We must aim for unity. We must have a will for unity. Laugh at our proposals if you want to. Say they are “infantile.” Say that the expressions and plans for unity are utopian. We answer you, only because the party is mired in factionalism, only because it is not yet oriented towards the real need for unity, is it possible to find anything strange or ridiculous in the demand for unity. We fight for the idea of unity on a common political line. We fight for the idea that factions are to be replaced by party, that faction loyalty is to be replaced by party loyalty, that political fights are to be carried to conclusions and settled, and not resolved into permanent groups and cliques.

That is what we stand for here and that is what we will fight for before the Comintern.




1. Throughout 1923-26 John L. Lewis had engaged in a concerted campaign to destroy the substantial TUEL influence in the United Mine Workers. Communists and their supporters had been expelled from the union in droves. In April 1926 the UMW Executive Board declared the Workers Party a “dual” organization. Any participation in party activities, including distribution of the Daily Worker, was grounds for expulsion. Lewis was afraid of losing control of the union: the annual UMW convention was postponed until after union elections called for December 1926.

With most leading party members purged from the union, Jay Lovestone had approached dissident District 2 leader John Brophy through his assistant, Powers Hapgood. The Communists agreed to support Brophy’s candidacy for union president on a “Save the Union” ticket, while keeping the Workers Party and its politics in the background. Nonetheless, Lewis waged a vicious redbaiting campaign against Brophy and declared himself the victor in the election by a substantial margin.

Johnstone, Lovestone and Dunne constituted the “Committee of 3” which led the Workers Party intervention at the UMW convention in early 1927. Thirty-seven party members were convention delegates, most of them from District 5. The intervention was discussed at the Political Committee meeting of 27 January 1927, where Johnstone complained that “instead of us criticizing the progressives, they criticized us in a progressive meeting for not fighting hard enough. And our fraction didn’t.” Johnstone also complained that Brophy, while “close to us,” also did not fight hard enough against Lewis.

Despite this, the Polcom generally agreed with Lovestone that this had been “the most important trade union convention that has been held in years,” and they resolved to continue the campaign against the Lewis leadership. While the Communists claimed massive vote fraud in the UMW elections, Brophy was still loath to confront Lewis in the convention’s aftermath. Lovestone wanted to maintain the alliance with Brophy at any cost, but Foster argued in the Political Committee meeting of 8 April 1927 that “our entire orientation in the mining situation must be changed towards Howat’s type rather than towards Brophy.”

Eventually Brophy agreed to a campaign to challenge the UMW election results. Foster’s motions establishing the campaign, submitted to the Political Committee meeting on 5 May 1927, included one that “we proceed to develop sentiment against Lewis with the end of eventually calling an open conference of the UMW provided the course of the movement would indicate that such a conference would be justified.” The Lovestone majority voted down this motion. They also voted down Cannon’s amendment stipulating that the decision to call the conference be made later.


2. See note 2 in Cannon’s article “Conference on Moderating Factionalism.”


3. Within the Political Committee Bittelman and Foster were vocal opponents of the ILD’s conduct in the Sacco and Vanzetti campaign in early 1927. After the Massachusetts Supreme Court rejected Sacco and Vanzetti’s appeal in April, Bittelman insisted that the party issue a national strike call. Cannon counterposed an ILD propaganda campaign, leading to a national Sacco and Vanzetti conference, and his proposal passed in the Political Committee meeting of April 7. But the anarchist-led Boston Sacco and Vanzetti defense committee refused to go along with a national conference. In the Political Committee meeting of 21 April 1927, Cannon deflected Foster and Bittelman’s demands that there be a national conference in any case, and more trade-union involvement in the campaign, by referring the issue to a subcommittee of Wolfe, Cannon and Foster.


4. The policy of the Workers Party fraction at the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union special convention which began in Philadelphia on 30 November 1925 was the source of significant controversy. See Cannon’s motions on the subject, in “On Trade-Union Policy.” We have not been able to locate minutes of the Political Committee meetings which discussed policy during the convention.

At the convention, the social-democratic Sigman leadership retained a narrow majority of 154 to 110, but only because the voting procedure favored the small locals controlled by the right wing. At first Sigman tried to woo the left-wing New York locals, demanding and obtaining from the New York governor the release of union member and WP leader Benjamin Gitlow, who had been jailed again on an old state criminal syndicalism charge. However, in mid-convention Sigman changed his tune and refused to abide by a previous agreement which committed him to a union referendum on the issue of proportional representation for locals at future union conventions. In response, the left wing walked out of the convention.

Workers Party members comprised 52 out of the total of 110 left-wing delegates, but Louis Hyman, who had led the walkout, was not a party member. Dunne and Gitlow were the party steering committee on the spot, and they demanded that the left wing go back, with Dunne insisting that, if necessary, “You will crawl back on your belly!” The left wing went back. See Irving Howe and Lewis Coser, The American Communist Party (New York: Frederick A. Prager, 1962), 245-251.

In a report on the convention in Workers Monthly (February 1926), Dunne evaluated the behavior of the Workers Party’s fraction as follows:

“Its convention actions were a weird mixture of leftism and opportunism—leftism in that it followed an objectively splitting policy until the last day of the convention, opportunism in that this splitting policy was based on the naive belief that the Sigman machine was sincere enough in its unity maneuvers to make substantial concessions to the left wing in order to avoid a split in the union.”