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James P. Cannon

Report from Moscow

26 June 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The following is an unpublished internal circular of the Cannon faction, of unknown authorship, addressed to faction supporters in the Workers Party. It contains excerpts of reports from Moscow by Cannon and Weinstone.

Dear Comrade:

The following is the latest information received from our comrades abroad in letters written during the first week in June, with some comments added. While you may note interviews with only two of the leading comrades of the Comintern, this is because the information was sent us shortly after the arrival of our delegates. All reports from our comrades are in quotations.

Interview with Kuusinen

“We talked with him, discussing the whole situation thoroughly in a conversation of two to three hours. He made a special note of the fact that the right elements have entered the Lovestone group as the older Communist elements left it. He said Lovestone could not take the place of Ruthenberg and that collective leadership must now be established.”

“He expressed himself in favor of a secretariat of three—one from each group—and also strongly indicated, although he did not say so directly, that the Polcom should be reorganized. He discussed this at some length with us and asked what our proposition was on this point. We proposed 3-3-3.”

“He then asked whether such an arrangement would lead toward stability or whether a new faction fight would develop between the three groups for domination. He also asked whether it would be best to decide the organizational questions here or to let it go to a convention. We said we had nothing against a convention if a free discussion could be had and organizational safeguards established to prevent factional manipulation of the elections. He said it was self-understood that this must be done and indicated that the convention would be postponed at least two-three months.”

“We took up the question of the claim made by the Lovestone group that the failure to call Dunne to the plenum as a member of the ECCI was intended as a repudiation of our group and as a slap at him personally.[1] He said this was not the case, that the Secretariat had made an error in not stating in the cable that Dunne, as a member of the ECCI, had the unquestionable right to come, but that since so many were coming and since his point of view was to be represented by Weinstone and Cannon, that it would not be advisable for him to come also to this plenum. He said they would make a declaration on this question.”

Ewert, the Political Leader of the German Party

“He will probably take an active part in the commission. He is for collective leadership, and seems to think our group needs to gain greater strength and cohesion before it can undertake the danger of blurring its line by losing its identity in a bloc (referring to the bloc with the Foster group). He gave us some very interesting history of the development of the groups in the German party. His group went through an evolution much the same as we are going through.”

“It was originally a part of the German Left. Split from the Left early in 1923, but was not strong enough to maintain an independent position and was swallowed up by the Brandler majority. After the October collapse, it took up an independent position (not going back to the Left) and maintained it until the downfall of the Fischer-Maslow regime when it united with a section of the Left to form the present leadership of the party.”

“His attitude, implied more than expressed, is that we have a big part to play as a group in the future development of the party—if we are Bolsheviks enough to establish a clear line and stick to it. He said, ‘A middle group is either buffer or Bolshevik! Buffer groups do not cut much ice here’.”

“The way that the Polcom attempted to exclude us from the delegation made a bad impression here. It was intended from the first that we should come and all the impressions in America that our group is disregarded here have no foundation so far as we have been able to discover.”

The comrades will remember the manner in which the Lovestone group made use of cables received from the Comintern for their own factional purposes, attempting to interpret them to mean that the CI did not want our delegates to come, but the CI was decisive. It ordered that the plenum be held and it also ordered that our delegates come.

“Weinstone was selected by the Comintern Organization Department to make a co-report on the organizational situation in the party.”

“The American delegation before the arrival of Foster and ourselves voted to send Minor home after the plenum, and to elect Pepper in his place as a member of the Presidium. We have opened up a fight on this. We have already succeeded in postponing this question to the Presidium.”

“The British delegation said they would not support the proposition to make Pepper the representative of the American party or to send him back to America. Kuusinen also said that he would be opposed to Pepper coming to America or representing the party in the Presidium or writing more factional letters to America.”

Since these actions, the Polcom majority of our party has decided to recall Minor, and appoint Pepper American representative over our protest and the protests of the comrades of the Foster group. This appointment is contrary to the CI decision on democratization, which specifies that each party must send real representatives who are members of the party and functioning in the party. The appointment is also extremely factional. We cabled a joint appeal together with the Foster group. It is clear that the real intention of the Lovestone group is to bring Pepper back to America only for the purpose of helping bolster up their group.

The Chinese Policy

“The position of the Lovestone group on the Chinese question causes a great deal of amusement here, especially the editorials in the Daily Worker, the poem The Eagle and the Lion, the resolution passed at the New York mass meeting—all of which put America in the position of being influenced and misled by Great Britain.[2] This position and the slogan ‘America is the cat’s paw of England’ are regarded as a wrong line and a tendency towards the right in the direction of the pacifists. The main line of the plenum resolution on the Chinese question is ‘Fight your own imperialism first and foremost’.”

Our policy on the Chinese question is linked up with the entire question of the role of American imperialism and the decisions of our party in fighting it, as well as the more general question of basing ourselves upon the development of the international class struggle rather than upon secondary factors such as the divisions in the enemy ranks—divisions which must be utilized but which cannot be allowed to obscure our main task—that of fighting American imperialism. Our policy has proven correct.

The Bloc with the Foster Group

We are again quoting from the letters from our delegates, letters written shortly after their arrival in Moscow.

“The general attitude of the Profintern and YCI leading comrades is against the Lovestone group and for a bloc between our group and the Foster group, formed in such a way that there is no step backward from the present position we have reached and that our political weight in the party is increased.[3] They all take the position that the splits in the two old groups and the unity of the two revolting sections, Cannon and Weinstone, represent a forward step which must not be lost or compromised. They also maintain that a Foster leadership or the reconstitution of the Foster group on the old basis is not desirable. They think in terms of a bloc which would be somewhat of an extension of our line at the plenum with a working agreement on party work and questions, where a common line can be found without obscuring the line of our group or going to the point of organizational fusion. This is a modification of and retreat from their earlier ideas of the bloc and is based on a more thorough comprehension and recognition of the positive and progressive role of the middle group.”

“Our position and aims here proceed from the stand taken at the plenum. We will not retreat an inch from that position under any circumstances. We aim to take one step further along the progressive course followed up to now and to concentrate our blows upon the Lovestone regime while drawing, at the same time, a clear line between our position and that of the Foster group. Here as before, we will be willing to come to an agreement with the Foster group on those points upon which we can find a common standpoint.”

“There is much sentiment here for the bloc between our group and the Foster group to form a majority and take over the party. We believe it is wrong to imagine that a complete unity can be established at once after the bitter struggle and with a number of disputed questions remaining. We do not believe in ‘unity maneuvers’ and will not undertake any joint agreements with the Foster group which we do not have a reasonable assurance of being able to carry out. There is not sufficient confidence between the groups to contemplate, at the present time, more than an agreement to work together and try to reduce friction to a minimum. This we are ready to undertake and propose that we proceed step by step, being sure of our ground as we go. We cited the factional monopoly attitude in the trade union apparatus, the bringing up of fake issues and the factional aggressions against us while the ‘unity maneuvers’ were being carried on, as barriers to the establishment of the necessary confidence to consider anything further than the one or two steps forward in the direction of close cooperation.”

“Foster made the same arguments with which we became familiar in the recent months.”

“Everybody in Moscow apparently is against the idea of the Foster group leading the party alone and practically all who discuss the bloc with us do it from two standpoints: 1) the absolute necessity of taking the party leadership away from the Lovestone group, 2) that the developments of the party will not be in favor of a Foster domination of the bloc. We agree with the first point—that is, we are firmly convinced that the Lovestone group has no future possibilities to properly lead and unite the party. In regard to the second point we are not afraid that the Foster group will be able to politically dominate the combination. But on the other hand we have had experience with the Foster group and with the question of unity from which we have learned a few things.”

“Also we believe it is absolutely necessary in the next period to establish the identity and position of our group more clearly before the party, to broaden and consolidate it and accomplish a firmer cohesion in its ranks in order that it will be the more able to exert a decisive influence for our aims—including the aim of breaking down factional organizations and traditions and uniting the party.”

“At the conference with Foster tonight the following agreements were arrived at:

“1. To make a joint stand for a Polcom on the basis of 3-3-3 with Cannon, Weinstone, and Dunne to be designated as our candidates.

“2. To make a joint stand for a secretariat instead of a single secretary as at present.

“3. Each group to have the right to designate its own candidate.

“It should be understood as follows:

“1. An acceptance by Foster of the propositions and proportions of representation already presented by us to Kuusinen.

“2. An application of the policy we have always stood for, namely that we are in favor of a working agreement with either or both the other groups on any or all points where common agreement can be reached and under conditions which give none of the groups a majority.”

It is clear that:

“The agreements reached tonight are in full conformity with the line of the ‘Nine Points’.”[4]

“It is clear that the Comintern desires the bloc with our group and the Foster group and that this also indicates a lack of faith by the Comintern in the ability of the Lovestone group to lead the party alone. The American Commission favors collective leadership as opposed to hegemony. The fact that the Lovestone group persists in its attitude that it alone must lead the party, which to them means factionally controlling the party, makes the bloc necessary as the only possible present step towards complete party unification. We have proven our readiness and our serious desire to extend this step to include all three groups. The Lovestone group has rejected this.”

The Lovestone group claims hegemony of the party for its group and states that any other view is a social-democratic deviation. At the present period none of the existing groups can lead the party alone. The fullest cooperation of all is required. The Lovestone group contains only a small minority of the active leading elements in the party. Its factional control has become a detriment to the growth of the party. Hence our proposal of doing away with absolute and decisive control of one group is a correct step towards the elimination of factionalism and unification of the party and towards the establishment of real collective leadership.

To lay this basis is a task of the bloc. It does not eliminate the principal difference existing between the two groups in the bloc. The Foster group as yet has not shown any inclination to change its trade union line, which is its main line. In the thesis presented by Foster the group states that it is for a broad left wing. Its concrete policies in some instances have the effect of narrowing the left wing movement to comprise merely Communists and sympathizers. Its policy often results in drawing schematic dividing lines between left wing and progressives. Our view was, and remains, that the real test is action more than formal programs. In the present backward state of the American trade union movement, the character of the left wing is determined by the degree of development and may vary in the different unions. For this reason, we fought for a change of the TUEL program. It was changed. Our practical policy must always be so constructed that it allows for the broadest inclusion into the present left wing of all those who are ready to fight the bureaucracy on a class basis and we must then proceed to permeate such broad movements with a real left wing ideology. We must also work out tactics for a fight against class collaboration within the framework of class collaboration itself, where it is in operation, as well as the general struggle against class collaboration theories.

Recall the statement of comrade Ewert on buffer or Bolshevik groups. A buffer group merely stands between two groups and loses its identity and disappears. Our line is clear. We will maintain our independence of our group within the bloc. We maintain the line we have followed and the right to criticize and fight for correct policies. We must build our middle group as a guarantee to fight for complete unification of the party and for a correct external party policy.

As an evidence of the further extension of the factional monopoly of the Lovestone group and to what conditions it will lead the party, we cite the recent reorganization of the New York District Political Bureau by the majority of the party Polcom. Formerly the New York District Political Bureau consisted of four members from the Lovestone group, three from the Foster group, and two from the middle group. The latter were Weinstone, and Don from the YWL. The YWL, under the control of the Lovestone group, removed Don. Two members of the Lovestone group were put on the Political Bureau in place of the two members of the middle group, Weinstone and Don. In addition, comrade Ballam was removed from the District Secretariat. This whole manipulation is in complete defiance of the CI decision given prior to the plenum, stating that there should be no removals or changes until the party convention.

The idea of collective leadership of the party as opposed to Lovestone hegemony and monopoly is being endorsed by the Comintern. The question, however, as to whether the actual proportion of the selection of the Polcom will be settled in Moscow by decision or referred to the convention of the party, for working out, is not the important thing. The important thing is not so much the mechanics, but that collective leadership is the policy of the Comintern. We are perfectly satisfied to have a convention but we want our comrades to be on the job against factional manipulation of the apparatus by the Lovestone group.

All indications from Moscow are that the unity line established in the YWL will be completely endorsed by the YCI and the unity group in the YWL upheld strongly as against the factionalism of the Zam-Lovestone group in the league. We are for the further development of the unity group in the league, which is continuing its work of drawing more and more comrades towards the policy of the YCI.

Urge the comrades to prepare energetically for the forthcoming convention. Organize your forces in every unit of the party. Prepare to struggle against factional monopoly of the party, ideologically and organizationally. Work and fight for the unification of the party on the correct political line.

We must prepare our comrades for party responsibility more intensively than ever. We must energetically Bolshevize our comrades and inculcate in them, more than ever, a sense of loyalty, discipline and duty to the party, to the CI and to the working class.



1. In the Political Committee meeting of 25 April 1927, Lovestone read a cable from the Comintern which requested that Gitlow, Lovestone and Foster be the American delegation to the ECCI’s Eighth Plenum. The cable deemed the presence of Cannon and Weinstone “desirable” and didn’t even mention William F. Dunne, who had been elected alternate member of the ECCI at the Fifth World Congress in 1924. Cannon introduced (and was the only one to vote for) a motion noting that Dunne, as a member of the ECCI, had a right to go to the plenum.


2. See note to “Letter to the American Commission” for background on the Lovestoneites’ anti-British tilt in the China campaign. A resolution adopted by a party-initiated “Hands Off China” rally in New York’s Union Square on May 7 noted that “our government under the influence of Great Britain and in contradiction to its declared policy is virtually waging war against the Chinese people,” and demanded that “our government refuse to follow Great Britain in its imperialist policy of bribery, corruption, and the use of armed force in China...” (DW, 9 May 1927).

The poem The Lion and the Eagle: More Fact Than Fable by Adolf Wolfe, published in the DW on May 7, was of a piece, though perhaps more of an example of the Lovestone view of literature:

“Yonder, where the Yangtze flows,
Where wakened China restless grows,
The Yankee eagle stoops to trail
Behind the British lion’s tail...
The spectacle must give the chill
To the glorious ghosts of Bunker Hill...”


3. The Young Communist International was supporting the “Unity Caucus” in the Young Workers League. The Profintern under Lozovsky usually supported the Foster faction.


4. Cannon and Weinstone had jointly drawn up a nine-point “Outline of Statement on the Liquidation of Factionalism and the Unification of the Party.” Cannon read the entire text during his speech to the May 1927 CEC plenum.