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Appendix 2

Jack Stachel

Report to the Political Committee on the Right Danger and Trotskyism

25 December 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 report by Jack Stachel to the Workers Party Political Committee was attached to the minutes of the PC meeting of December 25. On 23 December 1928 the home of Jim Cannon and Rose Karsner had been burglarized. The burglars, who had forced the lock with a jimmy, were evidently caught in the act. They left a room strewn with papers, but they managed to escape with a file of correspondence, account and receipt books, editorial material and manuscripts, as well as a partial list of subscribers to the new Trotskyist paper, the Militant. There was never any real doubt as to the perpetrators—especially after photostats of some of the stolen correspondence appeared in the Daily Worker. This report confirms that the culprits were Lovestone’s henchmen.

Cannon publicized the incident in the 1 January 1929 Militant, reporting that the Trotskyists had taken the precaution of keeping copies of some of the stolen material. Nonetheless, the Lovestone leadership used the names and information they acquired to intimidate potential supporters of Trotsky within the party. On 14 January 1929 the burglars returned and this time they stole everything.

Stachel’s report reveals the extent of interest within the party concerning the views of the expelled Trotskyists. But not everyone mentioned by Stachel as having contact with Cannon was expelled from the party, and not all those who were expelled joined the Trotskyist movement. At the December 25 meeting the Political Committee removed Bud Reynolds, William Schneiderman, George Saul and Joe Giganti from their posts and suspended them from the party. But Reynolds and Schneiderman remained in the Workers Party; only Saul and Giganti joined the Communist League of America. George Kraska, who had been condemned in 1925 for openly criticizing the Comintern, was expelled, but there is no record that he subsequently joined the CLA. S. Markizon, who was reported to be the wife of a Wilmington businessman, was also expelled; we have been able to find no record of her subsequent activities.

Stachel does not mention miners leader Joseph Angelo in his report, but the burglars had evidently found incriminating evidence against him. The Political Committee voted to hold his expulsion “in abeyance pending an effort to make him repudiate his whole Trotsky position and to isolate him from the miners.” He was expelled from the party in 1929; he joined the CLA.

The strange case of George Mink deserves special mention. Stachel proudly reports the incriminating evidence against him, but Mink was not expelled. Alone among all those mentioned in Stachel’s report, Mink’s case was referred to the Secretariat “with full power to act.” Mink had special status indeed; the minutes of the April 9 Political Committee meeting reveal that the Profintern had earlier demanded that he be a member of the American delegation to its Fourth Congress in the spring of 1928. In Moscow he was recruited and trained for the GPU.

In December 1928 Mink was head of the party’s Seamen’s Bureau. He was subsequently president of the Third Period CP’s Marine Industrial Workers’ Union. He was arrested in Copenhagen in 1935 on charges of attempted rape, but he was sentenced to 18 months in jail for espionage after the police found false passports and $3,000 in his hotel room. After his release, using the name Alfred Herz, he played a role in the Stalinists’ murderous assault against the Trotskyists in Spain. The anarchist Carlo Tresca publicly denounced Mink as a CPU agent in February 1938, after the mysterious disappearance of longtime Communist Party member Juliet Stuart Poyntz. In 1940 Mink was rumored to be part of a team assigned to assassinate Trotsky in Mexico, but he had disappeared from sight and was never heard from again. Whether his masters in Moscow thought better of Mink’s attempt to infiltrate the Trotskyist movement in 1928, or whether Lovestone’s burglary upset their plans, will never be known.

The Cannon Opposition has within the last few days received a very serious blow at the hands of the Central Executive Committee; a blow which I think will weaken them considerably because we will to an extent disrupt their work organizationally and politically. Also because of the fact that we will be able to expose many of their agents that are still in the party. That to my mind is, at present, even more dangerous than the open Cannon supporters themselves. We have come into possession of certain information and documents to show the following situation.

It shows a very serious situation because it shows much wider ramifications than even we had expected. It shows that the Opposition poison is still within the party, working consciously through its agents and working in almost every district in a large number of cities. To date the Trotsky Opposition has established some sort of organization in at least 30 cities, including New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco, Akron and many other cities such as New Haven, Newark, St. Paul, Superior. In all of the 30 cities, some of their agents are still working under cover. We also find that in the mining field the situation is quite serious because they have some leading people working consciously and openly as party members. The Opposition press—of course, their figures are exaggerated—they printed on an average of 10,000 copies of the first issue, 7,500 of the second and a little less of the third issue, though they had additional orders. They have agents, and it is peculiar that many of those in the party who never sold a Daily Worker are making good agents for the Militant.

Next, Cannon, of course, is receiving funds from Eastman that are receipted received from L. T. Cannon is of course connected organizationally and politically with the international Trotskyists in all countries including the Soviet Union, France and particularly receiving direct instructions from the Urbahns group in Germany. One of the documents that I find I did not bring along, which should be read at the Secretariat tomorrow, is a very important letter from Urbahns to Cannon. One of the important things for us to know is that through the seamen here material is being shipped to the Trotskyites.

Now to what extent have they made headway in the United States? They have succeeded in getting quite a lot of recruits from, first of all, party members we know. Second, from the party members we do not know, and third, from people outside the party and those on the fringe of the party. Swabeck was not willing to take in doubtful elements. It came up also in connection with the South Slavs, whom Cannon instructed Swabeck to take in immediately. While calling themselves an Opposition inside the party, we find that their semi-monthly organ has a policy of taking in everybody and anybody.

We see the following: The Opposition organizing definitely. Organizing openly those that have been expelled and having meetings in the cities with their agents still members of the party. We have minutes of such meetings. In Connecticut they are planning to call a state conference sometime in January. They have quite a lot of followers. In New Haven in particular all their following is among non-party people. They have a following in Bridgeport. Also in Hartford and one or two other minor places in Connecticut.

Now as to their press. Of course, they are a little bit pressed for money, but I note that every time the issue has to come out, they receive a bulk sum marked L. T. because the receipt is attached to the Eastman letter. Financially they can still go on with the paper because they are receiving a regular subsidy. Every time about 300 dollars comes in and that pays for the issue. They have received quite a lot of money from Chicago and also from Connecticut, which has a lot of money. They have a certain individual named Herman who is giving large sums here in the city.[1] Also connections with different liberals who are giving them financial support. The perspective is, I think, they will be able to continue the paper for some time financially. Organizationally they are considering now a change of policy with regard to having some of their people come out in the open. Some of them are in favor of coming out after the party convention when “many of the Foster-Bittelman minority will be disappointed,” etc., etc. Cannon seems to be inclined to immediately come out into the open, as his theory seems to be: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. He is moving in the direction of compelling people to come out into the open.

Concretely, we are in possession of quite a number of names of subscribers to the Militant, special lists of people that give and receive information. The list I think runs about 100 or so of the people who give and receive information. It includes some more or less leading comrades.

Next there are some leading people that I want to deal with. First of all there is the question of the seamen, and I think this is perhaps the most serious situation we are facing. That is, the facts disclose that one who is now at the head of the Seamen’s Bureau, George Mink, is an active supporter of the Cannon-Trotsky group: We have only two things to prove it. One, the official receipt book. Now we find that on November 12, Receipt No. 17, signed by Max Shachtman, 1114 Stratford Avenue, George Mink paid $1.00 for a subscription. We find, however, that on Receipt No. 11, there is no date, 1114 Stratford, $50.00 donation. The moment I saw this I did not believe that this was Mink. I remembered that he was transferred from Philadelphia in July. The same night I called him at the Seamen’s Club. “Geo,” I said. He said “Yes.” “I have some very confidential documents for you, what is your address?” “1114 Stratford.” That is very clear. Now we have definitely established two or three things. We find, first of all, Urbahns’ letter, two, the $50 donation and three, a sub. Urbahns’ letter states that all letters are being shipped through the seamen.

That is number one. Next comes comrade Kraska, Boston, member of the Political Committee of the District. He writes the following letter to Cannon. Militant financial statement shows George Kraska, Boston, Mass. 50 copies No.1 Militant $1.50. Letter dated October 31, 1928, 148 Seaver, Roxbury, Mass.:

Dear Jim:

Thanks for that information. As a true Communist I also feel that we must have more free discussion, that that is a healthy condition for a party. Would appreciate a copy of the Trotsky program, if you have one to spare.
Before I take a definite stand one way or the other, I wish to know what’s what. I fully realize what it may mean, but I cannot help it. This has been my position all along the line as you no doubt know it by this time.
Keep up the fight and let us have a party that will not be afraid of any new thoughts. The joke is that Trotsky is a member of the party while those that agree with his program are expelled.
Regards to Max and Marty.
Signed: George Kraska
Note the new address.

Now let us see. We have a financial statement to S. Markizon, 724 Madison Street, Wilmington, Delaware, five No.2 Militant, 15 cents, five No.4 Militant, 15 cents, total, 30 cents. Also the following letter from Markizon:

November 8, 1928
Wilmington, Delaware

Comrade Cannon:
Please send me all information on hand so I will be better able to handle the matter here. If it would be possible for someone to come down to Wilmington, I wish you would please send someone here. I think it will help clear things up a bit as the pressure is rather strong although it is not direct. It comes from the YWL who are advised from above. So far I am able to get full details of what is going on but do not know how much longer I will be kept informed as 1 expect some changes to take place here as the D[istrict] O[rganizer] is after my skin, but as yet have not taken any action.
So please keep in touch with us so we will know how to act when the time comes.
The comrades here have been informed of the facts we have on hand; although they have not taken any stand, it will not be so easy to get them to act blindly as would have been the case before. Comradely,
S. Markizon

Reply from Cannon dated December 4:

Dear Comrade Markizon:

In your letter of November 8th you neglected to give your address and this caused a delay in answering. We finally located your address on a list we have and hope this reaches you. In the meantime we have sent you copies of the paper and bulletins in care of another comrade and hope they reached you.
I wish you would let us know about the developments in Wilmington and whether any of the comrades protested against the expulsions. One of us can come down there if you think it will be advisable. Can you distribute a regular bundle of the Militant? We have a hard fight, but our cause is growing throughout the party. Hoping to hear from you soon, I am
Yours fraternally

Now, in District 7, Detroit, Reynolds. We have a financial statement for the first issue of the Militant. Wm. Reynolds, 6626 Scotten, 25 copies, No.1 Militant, 75 cents. We have a letter from Reynolds to Cannon as follows (in handwriting):

Nov. 4

Dear Jim:
Got your circular letter and have since received copies of the statement and formalities incidental to your expulsion.
Your position came as a complete surprise to everyone in Detroit. I have spoken to all the leading comrades in the District and find them emphatically opposed to you.
I have shared the correct opinion or rather the “official attitude” on the Trotsky matter and think as you too must that whatever the merits of the Trotsky Opposition, there is a set attitude here or elsewhere that will be very hard to overcome.
I am anxious to see what your documents consist of and to learn from you the perspectives you base your course upon. Certainly there must be political currents developing internationally to move so cautious (or careful) a politician to so radical a departure.
I am leaving soon for California. I had not intended to attend the plenum. Now it seems almost imperative.
I will likely be confronted with a demand that I take a position at once. However, I intend to state that I want to hear all there is to be said before casting a vote.
I would like a letter from you and copies of the most important of the documents, if they can be had without too much trouble. Regards to the girls and boys from Ruth and me.
P.S. I will be at Apartment 403, 233 East Willis, Detroit until November 15. After that 1330 Ethel, Lincoln Park, Michigan.

We have a letter from Barney Mass to Cannon: [2]

December 3

James P. Cannon

Box 120, Madison Square Sta., NYC

Dear Jim:
Expelled Sunday at a meeting of the Polcom when I came out definitely supporting your position. I preferred charges against the Fosterites for caucusing with Hathaway before taking a stand on your expulsion. It was at Hathaway’s caucus that they decided to break with you and support the CEC. I exposed their political cowardice and put them on record as endorsing the campaign of terrorizing the membership, believing there has been a genuine discussion in the party, admitting their ignorance on the issues involved in the Trotsky controversy.
There will be a few more expelled in the course of the week. I will inform you when it happens. My expulsion has revived interest and there is considerable commotion. When I was asked if the Trotskyites organized a new party, I replied that we considered ourselves an opposition of the party and would carryon our work in the class struggle and fight for our opinions in the party. I think that I am safe in saying that many of the rank and file Fosterites will not follow the decisions of the Hathaway caucus.
A couple of the Fosterites followed the statement that you issued with Aronberg and Costrell without understanding its significance, when Wolfe was addressing membership meetings on the CI Congress.[3] Hochberg was one of them but I surmise that Hathaway put him wise.
How is Dunne lining up? I understand that O’Flaherty will support you. Ruth is going to put up a fight in her shop nucleus and the other nuclei in her section before they put the skids under her. I suppose that you have received my last letter.
As ever,
Barney Mass

District 8. Comrade Giganti, Secretary of the ILD. Following letter to Abern:

Chicago, November 4, 1928

Dear Marty:
I have received your letter together with the document. I had heard about the action taken by the Polcom through a New York friend of mine.
I read the document signed by you, Jim and Max, and find it immensely interesting. To tell you frankly, I do not really know the position of Trotsky. Of course, I have read something about it, i.e., what his opponents say about him and his position, but that is all. I would be pleased to read his own writings on the discussions within the Russian party, as well as the documents that he is alleged to have presented to the delegates at the Sixth Congress.
From the way I understand things at present, I believe that the matter was handled wrong. I am speaking of your expulsions from the party. If it is true that Trotskyism is what they say it is, and if your line is admittedly Trotskyian, then certainly you should have been given the opportunity to lay the matter before the party in the next party discussion. I know Trotsky was not expelled so quickly by the Russian party.
This precipitous action looks too much like an attempt to shut off discussion and a quick and easy way of getting rid of an opposition. I consider the Lovestone group the most dangerous group that a Communist party has ever had the misfortune to be ruled by. The whole party is demoralized and before things can be bettered we must eliminate their stifling misgovernment.
The present minority is weak, getting weaker and more vacillating. This latest occurrence will have a tremendous effect in consolidating the Lovestone rule. You know that in the past I have never agreed with Jim’s maneuvers. I think that history has proved them wrong. This is not to say that the Foster group has been always right. The opposition have been consistent bunglers. The immediate future will tell, I hope, whether a revolutionary movement will continue to exist in this country or whether it will have to be built anew, with new elements.
Hoping you will keep me in touch with anything new.
Best personal regard from Rose and me.
639 N. Central Park Ave., Apt. 2

District 13. Schneiderman, District Organizer of the Young Workers League. First of all we have a financial statement: Wm. Schneiderman, 210 27th Avenue, Apt. 5, San Francisco, ten No.2 Militant, 30 cents, ten No.3 Militant, 30 cents, total, 60 cents. Letter dated November 15, 1928:

James P. Cannon
New York, NY:
I read your statement and would like to have you send me some of the material you mention.
Wm. Schneiderman
210 27th Avenue, Apt. 5
San Francisco, California

Then we have the answer of Cannon as follows:

November 30, 1928
Dear comrade Schneiderman:
We received your letter and have sent you a copy of the first number of our paper. Enclosed is a copy of the second number. We are bringing out “Criticism of the Program” by Trotsky in pamphlet form, of which the two installments appearing in the paper constitute less than one-half, and expect to have it ready in about two weeks. We also have a mass of other material dealing with the disputed questions, but can only print it gradually in the Militant and then in pamphlet form on account of the lack of money.
I wish you would let us know your reactions after reading this material and whether you will take a stand against the expulsions. Our support from the League is proportionately greater than from the party. It is quite natural, as the younger comrades on the whole are more alert and sensitive to new issues and problems outside the official routine propaganda.
Hoping to hear from you again,
Yours fraternally

I also have a letter dated Dec. 30 to Glotzer. Documents disclose that Cannon and Spector worked together on the Trotsky business in Moscow.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that I gave comrade Lovestone three letters, I am not in a position to give here the most important letters. One is a letter from Cannon dated Dee. 20 to Swabeck dealing with the plenum. I gave this to Lovestone and believe this letter should be read at the Secretariat. There are matters contained which require action. Secondly, a letter from Urbahns and one from Eastman. These also I turned over to comrade Lovestone.

Also a list of those who actually support the Opposition. All the names are actual supporters like Malkin, Judd, Becker, etc.

Carlson, a member of the DEC of Seattle, Agitprop director and campaign manager of Los Angeles, California, without being transferred from Seattle and being suspended by the Seattle district. The National Office instructed the Los Angeles subdistrict to remove him. They were hesitant and never did. Instead he again left without permission and came to Chicago. Comrade Lovestone has the letter from Cannon to Swabeck which discloses the fact that Swabeck claims Carlson is with them 100 percent, and Cannon instructs Swabeck to make him come out with a statement at once. Otherwise we will make it appear that we expelled him for reasons other than his statement.

On George Saul. Letters from Saul showed clearly that he was uncertain and wavering on the situation. It appears from information that Saul has already definitely taken a stand for Cannon. He is a member of the Kansas District Committee and subdistrict organizer.

In regard to Lore and Cannon, Cannon is willing to work with Lore openly but is waiting until after the convention. Shachtman has seen Lore, but Cannon has not. Lore is opposed to being called the Opposition within the party, but wants to organize a separate party. Lore wants to fight against the CEC not as a right danger, but as opportunists.

* * *

(Stachel then made motions and the following summary.)

As I said at the outset, I think that it will be a very heavy blow to the supporters of Cannon. First of all, we have succeeded in getting information that will actually disrupt their work for some time.

Secondly, we succeeded in exposing many of their agents already, people who were very dangerous while they worked from the inside.

Thirdly, we have a list of all subscribers, etc. I do not think we should have a panicky policy. It is possible that we may find certain elements that also are serving as agents. Also certain wavering elements can be won over to the party. This is valuable information in weakening both their organizational activity, and secondly, we have certainly not given them any pleasure, but trouble. We have weakened them by exposing their methods and activities and we will concentrate on winning over certain elements for the party.

I think this calls to our attention the following. First of all I want to criticize the Central Committee on its daily organ. I want to say we are absolutely underestimating the role of their activity in the United States. The Daily Worker proves it. Why do we not carryon an ideological campaign. Comrade Minor will have to answer that. There is plenty of material that should be printed.



1. This was probably Bill Herman, who was a carpenter and an early sympathizer and financial supporter of the Trotskyists.

2. The case of Barney Mass had been decided by the Polcom of the Detroit District; it was discussed by the national Political Committee at its meeting of 5 December 1928, where Lovestone read the following report from the Detroit district organizer:

“In his statement Barney Mass openly declared himself in favor on all points of Cannon and against the decision of the CEC. After his statement which we will send in together with the whole investigation I made a motion that Barney Mass be expelled from the party. This motion was carried unanimously.”

The Political Committee unanimously voted to sustain the action of the Detroit leadership.

3. The Daily Worker of 2 October 1928 carried a statement signed by Cannon, Aronberg and Costrell, which read:

“In line with the position taken by the delegates representing the opposition at the World Congress we wish to place on record our disagreement with that section of the decision of the Political Secretariat of the ECCI which says the charges that the majority of the CEC followed a right line are unfounded. It is our opinion that the right line of the majority in the period prior to the departure of the delegation has been further confirmed in its course since that time....We demand an immediate cessation of the campaign of factional discrimination, persecution and suppression of the majority against the opposition.”

The Foster faction was later much embarrassed by this joint statement.