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James P. Cannon

Opening the Election Campaign

5 June 1928

Source: James P. Cannon and the Early Years of American Communism. Selected Writings and Speeches, 1920-1928 © Spartacist Publishing Company, 1992. ISBN 0-9633828-1-0; Published by Spartacist Publishing Company, Box 1377 G.P.O. New York, NY 10116. Introductory material and notes by the Prometheus Research Library.
Transcription\HTML Markup: Prometheus Research Library
Copyright: Permission for on-line publication provided by Spartacist Publishing Company for use by the James P. Cannon Internet Archive in 2005.

The following article by Cannon was published in the Daily Worker.

The awakening of all the leading forces of the party to the importance of the election campaign was demonstrated in the most dramatic and convincing manner by the national nominating convention. No one who took part in the convention or watched its three days’ deliberations could have the slightest doubt that the party has at last made a real beginning with election activities.

It was our first national nominating convention, and for many new members and sympathizers it was the first effective demonstration of the party’s national scope and organization. The convention itself and all the preparations for it were excellently organized and the high points effectively dramatized. This was no mere happenstance. The party machine is nine years old and the experience of our past work is bearing its fruit in every phase of party activity. The successful organization of all sides of the convention preparations augurs well for the 1928 campaign.

Party Growth Reflected

The convention reflected the growth and development of the movement in a striking manner. We have held many conventions in the past nine years. Even in the period when the party was outlawed, we held a number of underground conventions where as few as thirty or forty delegates from ten or twelve states struggled and argued for days over disputed points of the program.

The convention we have just held had 296 voting delegates from 39 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to that 150 fraternal delegates were present. Prominent and distinguished people in the labor and revolutionary movement, such as Anita Whitney and Lucy Parsons, gave added importance to the convention by their attendance. There was a strong delegation of Negroes, strengthening the fraternal bonds of solidarity between the races in the common fight. Striking miners, textile workers and the embattled needle trades workers were there, as well as delegates from the solid South and the Far West. The composition of the convention deserves a special article. It showed a picture of a national organization.

The character of the delegations and the burning issues of the class struggle dealt with in the platform and the speeches were convincing proof that the Communist Party does not approach the election campaign from the standpoint of the capitalist and reformist parties. The election is for us a field of the class struggle and we raise there the issues and slogans which animate the struggles of the workers on every front, developing them further and tying them together.

The success of the convention was so pronounced as to justify the opinion that we are nearing the accomplishment of a most essential task, that is, to establish our position as a political party in the general and national sense of the word. In recent years, the party has developed greatly along the line of partial and sectional struggles of the workers. It is now gathering its forces for a general fight on the broader field. Herein lies the great significance of the turning point marked by the opening of our national election campaign.

The party has already made a good name for itself as a fighter for the interests of the workers on the economic field. The hatred and fear of the exploiters and all their labor agents for us is the outcome of the heavy blows we have dealt them.

Communists Heart of Mine Struggle

Many workers have a good opinion of our work in the trade unions and think it represents the sum total of our activity. We made a good fight at Passaic. We, together with the workers, fought and are fighting the bosses, the police, the AFL and SP traitors to a standstill in the needle trades. At the present time our party is the heart and soul of the epic struggle of the coal miners.

Some erroneous conclusions have been drawn from these activities, partly because our work in the past has been somewhat one-sided. Many workers who see our party in these fights and who support it in them have not yet come to recognize us as a general political party, fighting effectively in the political arena.

Is it not a fact that many workers in New York who support us in the needle trades against the Socialist Party traitors vote for these same charlatans on election day? What is the explanation of this anomaly? It arises primarily from our failure up to now, because of the passivity of the party members in this respect, to make a sufficient impression in the election field, with the result that we are regarded in some circles of the sympathizing workers as a ``trade union party’’ only. This confusion must be overcome in the 1928 campaign. It is one of our great tasks in the coming election period to deal a death blow to all such misconceptions. The convention was a big help to this end.

The convention dramatized the entrance of the party into the presidential campaign and focused the attention of the party on it even more effectively than we had dared to hope. The lackadaisical approach to this form of work which has been so noticeable in the past was entirely lacking. The spontaneous enthusiasm which greeted nomination of our candidates Foster and Gitlow and other high points of the convention was inspiring to see. It swept over the whole gathering and took possession of all. The comrades who attempted to prolong it unduly and artificially, however, should be reproved for their overzeal. Gold needs no gilt and proletarian enthusiasm needs no claque.

With our great nominating convention as the starting point, we must now proceed to the development of our election activity with all forces and all speed. The entire work of the party in the elections must be organized as a fighting campaign, discarding all routine and desultory methods. The regular apparatus of the party must be keyed up for this task and, as with all campaigns, a special auxiliary apparatus throughout the party, from top to bottom, must be constructed.

We should aim high, because the prospects and possibilities are great. The election campaign this year ought to bring out all the latent powers and resources of the party, concentrating them all for the first time in a single general struggle. We should aim at tenfold greater propaganda with hundreds of speakers, with thousands of meetings on the street corners, and with our participation in the campaign dramatized in every possible way.

The Communist parties of Germany, France and Poland have utilized the elections this year to extend and consolidate their influence. The elections gave a remarkable demonstration of the stability and growing strength of Communism in Europe and showed that Communists know how to exploit elections in the capitalist state for revolutionary purposes.

For us in America the election campaign, as a means of revolutionary propaganda and mobilization for struggle, has an extraordinary significance. It offers us the opportunity to bring the message of Communism and its platform of daily struggle to tens of thousands of workers and farmers with whom we have not yet established contact and who know nothing of our aims.

The party must see this opportunity clearly and mobilize all of its forces for the fight. The nominating convention showed that all the leading circles of the party are ready to plunge into the work of the campaign with energy and confidence. It remains now to carry the message of the convention to all the party ranks and inspire them with its spirit and enthusiasm.