James P. Cannon

A Burglary—Its Political Meaning

Written: 1929
First Published: The Militant, New York, Volume 2, No. 1, January 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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On Sunday evening, December 23, the residence of Rose Karsner and Jim Cannon, where the editorial work of The Militant is also conducted, was entered by burglars during the absence of the occupants.

The burglary was a professional job. Deep, defacing marks on the door-jamb indicate that entry was effected by forcing the lock, which was a strong one, with a jimmy. It was also quite obviously timed for the occasion, as Comrade Karsner had been confined to the house by illness and Sunday evening was the first time in several weeks when there was no one home.

The following material was taken: our letter file, account book, receipt book, editorial material, some manuscripts, bank book, partial list of subscribers to The Militant, and some other material of this kind. Nothing else was taken.

The robbery subjects us to some temporary inconveniences but will not seriously disrupt our work, as we had taken the precau-tion to keep copies of the most important manuscripts and addresses in another place in anticipation of such an event. Its perpetrators can lean from the stolen material our meager financial situation and lack of resources, and the names of some comrades who had been in correspondence with us but who have not yet taken a definite position on the questions at issue.

That is all. There is not a line in our correspondence relating to any activities or “connections” of ours which conflict in the slightest degree with our public declarations in The Militant, and no such “evidence” can be produced by the organizers of the burglary unless it is forged. On the contrary, definite and complete proof is contained in our stolen correspondence to refute every one of such accusations.

A question for communists of far more importance than any “exposures” in the Forward style of stolen or forged material is the political significance of underworld methods in party dis-putes. Four years ago when the proposal first came before the Political Committee that our party should sanction such methods in a trade union fight, we took a determined stand against it in principle. We said then that the toleration of such a procedure would prove to be a Frankenstein, that it would inevitably lead to the corruption of the left wing and even of the party itself; that it would lead to giving up the ideological and political struggle for the mobilization of the masses-which is the weapon of commu-nism-and submitting disputes to the arbitrament of the gang-ster’s blackjack and the burglar’s jimmy-the weapons of reac-tion. We exaggerated the danger then, as we thought, in order to stamp out such tendencies at the very beginning. Many things have happened in the meantime.

Let the proletarian communists in the party ranks ponder over this question and ask themselves: Who brings these absolutely unprecedented methods into factional disputes in the party? What class influence is behind them, and where do they lead?

They will search in vain for the necessary key to these questions unless they see them in their political connection. Bureaucratism, expulsions, gangsterism, and burglary are not isolated phenomena. They are all bound together and they are the expression and instruments of an adventurist leadership and its opportunist political line. This leadership, lacking a proletarian class basis and outlook, lacking any experience or contact with mass movements, regarding the inner-party struggle for control of the apparatus as an adventure and an end in itself, is an absolutely artificial, unhealthy, and impossible leadership for a proletarian party. It resorts to these methods alien to communism because its regime is collapsing and it cannot maintain itself in any other way. It resorts to bureaucratic administration and to expulsion of communists because it fears control from below. It incites and organizes gangsterism and robbery because it has no principled ground. It cannot stand up in the ideological and political fight.

This leadership—corrupt, bureaucratic, and opportunist through and through—is driving the party with all means and all speed to a split. The expulsion of almost a hundred communists of the Opposition is only a beginning. There are an equal number under charges. They are laying the ground for the beginning of the expulsion of the Foster group after the conven-tion. Clear indications of this are already to be seen in their entire preconvention campaign and by the removals and suspensions now taking place on various pretexts.

The Pepper-Lovestone faction, leading the party to defeats in the class struggle and faced with an ever-growing revolt from below, must and will expel the entire articulate proletarian opposition. The bureaucratism, the expulsions, the gangsterism and burglary are all parts of this process.

It is impossible to wage an effective fight against these methods without attacking the false political line which they express and with which they are bound up. And it is likewise futile to quarrel with them merely over the formulation of theses and resolutions (as the Foster group leaders do) without exposing their lack of principle, without fighting for party democracy, against bureaucratism, corruption, and underworld methods. These people have no definite principles. They can change their slogans from “Fire Against the Left” at the May plenum to a hue and cry about the “Right Danger” at the December plenum; they can change from opposition to the building of new unions in April to the policy of organizing new unions overnight-and on paper-in August, without changing their fundamental position and their completely cynical attitude in either case.

It is the task of the Opposition, in the light of the recent events, to wage its fight against the Lovestone leadership more stub-bornly and relentlessly than before, to expose its incompetence and corruption from all sides, sparing nobody who in one way or another is a party to it.

About eighteen months ago, Comrade Weinstone came to us in alarm with the declaration that the corruption, opportunism, and cynicism of the Lovestone group leaders was such that they would destroy the party if they secured control. He supplemented all that he knew of them by what he had learned as a member of their faction. He proposed a bloc with us and with the Foster group to secure the party against this. In our opinion, this proposal corresponded with the best interests of the party.

The bloc was formed and a majority of the Central Executive Committee was secured in support of it. This majority was set aside by the Executive Committee of the Communist Interna-tional on the initiative of Bukharin, and the Lovestone faction was mechanically entrenched in control of the party. The fears expressed then by Weinstone were nonetheless valid, and they have been confirmed a thousand times in the intervening period. Weinstone has capitulated to the “corrupt faction machine of Lovestone and Pepper,” as he characterized it then, and has become a henchman of it. The issue remains, however, and is clearer now, in all its international implications, than ever before. Those who see that issue and fight on that line as a part of the Russian and International Opposition are the true defenders of the party and its future.