James P. Cannon

Next Steps in the Struggle

Written: 1929
First Published: The Militant, New York, Volume 2, No. 1, April 1, 1929
Source: Microfilm collection and original bound volumes for The Militant provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California.
Transcription\HTML Markup: D. Walters
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It is now more than five months since our declaration in support of the Russian Opposition, made on the occasion of our return from the Sixth Congress of the Communist International, was answered by expulsion from the party. The period which has intervened since that time has seen a steady development of the work of popularizing the main ideas of the Opposition, a task which has been carried on in the face of a campaign of falsification and incitement reminiscent of Palmer’s days and having not a little of the same essential content.

There could be no better testimony to the revolutionary impulses in the party ranks than the fact that the revolutionary platform of the Opposition was able in so short a time to make its way through the cordon sanitaire of corrupted bureaucracy and to find supporters in every section of the party, in all parts of the country, who stood up in defense of that platform even to the point of expulsion from the party. These are the vanguard fighters for the communist ideal, and the living proof of its vitality. Their firmer union on a national scale and their collective preparation for the next stages of the struggle now stand on the order of the day. The national conference of the Opposition, which will convene in Chicago on May 17, will be devoted to these tasks. The thoughts of the most reliable and tested militants of American communism are turning to the forthcoming conference, which is fraught with such a great significance for the future.

The conference will sharpen the line of our struggle and work out the organizational forms for the next stage of its development. The action of the convention in rejecting our appeal and denying us the right to be heard, will naturally have no influence in halting this determination. The convention, which was packed and prearranged by the mechanical exclusion of the Opposition, accomplished nothing whatever except to demonstrate again the bankruptcy of the regime. Formal decisions arrived at in this way cannot be taken as a substitute for conclusions based on free collective work of revolutionaries.

The question has been asked by timid people in the party ranks whether the action of the convention, which was inspired and is fully supported by the Stalin leadership in the Comintern, will prompt the Opposition to give up the struggle and return to the party on the terms implied in the present policy toward the Opposition on an international scale. It is a significant feature of the Opposition movement that not a single voice in favor of this has been heard in its ranks. Despite the difficult circumstances under which we conduct our work, or perhaps because of them, the determination to carry on the fight to a victorious conclusion, no matter how long it takes or how hard the road, has been voiced on every side. We are confident that the national conference will confirm this attitude unanimously.

There has been much speculation in the circles of the party bureaucracy on the appearance of a “Zinoviev” tendency, that is, a tendency toward capitulation, toward treason to principle, in the ranks of the Opposition. Such things are, of course, possible on the part of individuals, but we do not believe they will be seen. The nature of the campaign against us was not without its positive side in our favor. The fact that expulsion and unprecedented calumny had to be faced by every party member coming out for our platform restrained those afflicted with weak knees and faint hearts from joining our struggle. Those who passed to our side through this selective process only grew firmer in their convictions and stronger in their confidence under the pressure on us.

The experience of the International Opposition has not been in vain. The nature of the struggle is so clear now that Zinovievs, Fischers, and Maslows can no longer be attracted to it. It will be the duty of the conference to sum up this international experience and to say that capitulationist tendencies are a foreign substance in the movement of the Communist Opposition, which must be cast aside in the most ruthless fashion at their first appearance.

Capitulation on the terms of the bureaucratic destroyers of the Communist International means to give up participation in intellectual and political life at a time when the movement stands most in need of this participation by all the creative forces. It means to become a silent partner in the criminal destruction of the Russian revolution and the Communist International. It means treason to communism and to the cause of the working class.

We have no doubt that the conference will estimate the question in this way and give a revolutionary answer to it. In doing so it will have to go beneath the surface and attack the germs of this disease which present themselves in the form of “ultralegalism” in the struggle for our views. This is the advice frequently given to us by “sympathizers” of our cause who think it sufficient to hold views in secret and do nothing to advance them because it is prohibited by the bureaucrats. This advice must be specifically and categorically rejected by the conference, as it has been in all of our activities since the expulsions began. The movement of the International Communist Opposition is a fighting movement, and it will triumph by struggle. We can agree to give up extraordinary methods and organization in this struggle only when our party rights and the party rights of all our comrades throughout the International are restored.

While confirming the fighting methods we have employed in the communist struggle for our views, and working out the organizational forms for their intensification and further development, the conference will also have to answer the question of a new party. This tendency, the antipode of capitulationism, has a superficial attractiveness. It could be seriously entertained by the Opposition, however, only if it had become clear that the Communist International, of which our party is a part, had definitely left the proletarian path. This is by no means the case. The bureaucratization and opportunist politics of its upper stratum are the objects of our attack.

The Comintern possesses enormous revolutionary resources in its proletarian ranks which are beginning to assemble and take shape. The Opposition must continue to base itself on them. Our policy will become the policy of the proletarian forces of the Comintern if the correct tactics in furtherance of it are employed. A split in the Comintern is the aim of the Stalinist bureaucrats. The unification of the Comintern on the basis of Leninism, against the bureaucrats and opportunists, is the slogan of the Opposition. With this slogan we will defeat all attempts to isolate us from the party membership. The tactics proceeding from this slogan will be the means of helping the proletarian tendency in the party to find the right line and march on the same path with us.

Alongside the task of penetrating ever deeper into the party ranks with our agitation, we have the task of recruiting and organizing the revolutionary workers outside the party, who are becoming attracted to our banner in large numbers. This is a revolutionary duty of the greatest importance which the Opposition must perform. The present leadership has failed miserably in this. Among these nonparty communists are thousands and tens of thousands who have been alienated and estranged from the party but who remain true to the cause of communism. The problem of organizing them is not separate from the work within the party ranks but is bound up with it. The national conference of the Opposition must work out the organizational form for this double task.