James P. Cannon

For the Program of Expansion

(March 1931)

Written: March 1931.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 5, 1 March 1931, p. 4.
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Taking everything into consideration, the American section of the Opposition gave a good account of itself in the two years that have gone by since its expulsion from the party. The achievements of those two years – modest as they are when measured in the gigantic scale of the proletarian revolution – will undoubtedly have a place of honor in the history of American Communism. Their significance consists in the fact that they represent a beginning. And beginnings always have an historic importance. Our militant fight during these two years has signified the appearance of a counter-current against the stream of retrogression in the Communist movement of America; a small one, but a real one.

Those who have contributed in any way to this historic work may well take pride in it. But the satisfaction which we justly feel with the accomplishments of the first two years does not give us the right to view them as a completed task. Their importance, as has been said before, is the importance of a beginning. Their real vindication will come only if we remember that, if we build on them and multiply them in the coming months.

The pioneer work has accumulated for the Opposition some resources in the form of supporters, sympathizers and experiences. This capital, as it may be called, justifies a program of expansion for the coming year. We have grounds to plan for a leap forward in 1931; and if we work wisely and harmoniously the plan will surely be realized in life. Such is the considered opinion of the National Committee, as expressed in the resolution adopted at a recent meeting and published in the Militant for February 15th.

The Two Thousand Dollar Fund

On the one side the resolution asks for a special fund of two thousand dollars, of which the New York branch has already pledged to raise one-half. On the other side, with this special fund, the National Committee will undertake to guarantee the holding of our national conference; to establish a publishing concern which will expand and systematize our publishing activities; to return the Militant to weekly publication; to found a theoretical magazine; to strengthen the staff of the national organization and provide for a field organizer; to organize at least two national lecture tours; and to bring out the International Bulletin in English regularly. These are all tasks which cannot be postponed.

To many people this argument may appear, at first glance, as an impossible bargain. But it isn’t so, as we will prove when the fund is provided. Every item on the side charged to the responsibility of the National Committee will be made good. The items in the program do not stand separately. They dovetail into each other, and the realization of one will help the realization of the others.

No one should dismiss this resolution lightly as a mere gesture made in a fit of temporary enthusiasm. We have never been inclined to leap over the barriers of circumstance and to promise the unattainable; and the experience of the Opposition struggle have not been calculated to nurture such a tendency. The difficulties of the fight and the hard blows we took have beaten a sterner realism into our heads. The resolution of the National Committee is not a mere paper resolution. It is a realistic plan of action which can be fulfilled in every point. And, unless we sadly miscalculate the actual possibilities and the spirit of our movement, it will be realized without imposing an undue strain on the members and sympathizers of the Communist League.

For some months now it has been evident that the Communist League has been turning the corner and overcoming the slump which took place in our activity after the first big push. For a time we suffered from a certain stagnation which was not without internal difficulties and symptoms of crisis in the organization. The weight of objective circumstances pressed down upon us and our movement seemed to progress at a snail’s pace. In such conditions frictions are always accentuated, and difficulties assume abnormal proportions. Isolation puts endurance to the test. Only those groups which have a firm base in principle, which are bound together by uniform conceptions can hold out against it.

It is thanks to the vitality of our principles in the first place, and to the habit of collective work which we brought with us from the struggles of the past, that we were able to emerge from this stagnant interlude without fatal convulsions and splits. Other sections of the International Left Opposition have not been so fortunate, as we know, and for reasons inherent in the concrete conditions which surrounded them. Nor are we insured against such convulsions for the future. But with all that, it is quite manifest that the elements of cohesion are uppermost now in our organization; that we are definitely on the upward grade. Our last Plenum marked the beginning of this turn. The period which has intervened since that time has registered some advances, and most of all it has prepared the ground for others.

The Progress In New York

The strengthening of the forces engaged in the national direction of the League, and the improvement of its functioning generally, has already shown positive results. As was to be expected, the New York branch, which works in the most intimate contact with the National Committee, reflects the improved situation first. The activities of the New York Branch have been multiplied at least four-fold in the past six months, and its Communist character has been strengthened on all sides. If the fact that Weisbord’s pitiful maneuvers could cause a flurry in the Branch was evidence of a remnant of its earlier weakness, the vigorous and emphatic manner in which it repulsed them when the issue became fairly joined was a sign of its progress towards political stability.

The branch consists in large part of comrades who are new in the movement. They have to assimilate the ABC’s of Communism at the same time that they wage a fight over the complicated problems involved in the work of the Opposition. This presents difficulties, but they are not insurmountable. Ignorance is fatal only for those who are unwilling to learn. One of the first things revolutionaries must learn, if they do not want to disgrace the name, is that speculation over the great tasks of the future is not sufficient. It is necessary to understand the task of the moment, the accomplishment of which will lead us a step nearer to the bigger ones of tomorrow, and to attack it resolutely. Not to pass a resolution on it and then forget it; but to pass a resolution, and mean it, and do it. In this respect, we have already seen a great progress in the New York branch in the past six months. And this record gives us the confidence that the promise of (the branch to raise one half of the two thousand dollar fund needed for the program of expansion will be fulfilled to the letter.

From the National Committee and the New York branch the spirit of accomplishment will spread to the other branches. The organization nationally will soon begin to gird itself for another advance. Everything argues for this confidence. The part assigned to the various branches to make this advance possible is simple, and comparatively easy. The theory that the members of the Communist League have been overloaded with responsibilities and duties is absurd. Up to now only a handful have really exerted themselves in a manner worthy of Bolshevik-Leninists, and nobody has been hurt. The program outlined in the resolution of the National Committee only calls on the membership to move one step faster. The real march is still to come.

The Second National Conference

The Second National Conference, already definitely scheduled for the summer, will meet – if we are not greatly mistaken – under the sign of a tightening up of the organization all along the line. “Platonic” members who have fallen into the habit of wearing the proud badge of the Opposition without doing anything to deserve it will be called to order. The Conference should tell everybody that enrollment in the Opposition means not a release from party obligations but the assumption of double ones. The Opposition has assumed a great historic task which cannot be trifled with. What we want and what we must have is a body of militants for whom the revolution is the most serious concern in life; for whom the demands of the movement stand first and above everything.

The Communist League is not yet such an organization, and it cannot become such over night. It will be the task of the Conference to say resolutely that we are going to move in that direction. The program of expansion adopted by the National Committee calls for the first step only. But it lathe next step, and therefore the most important at the moment. Let us concentrate on this campaign and finish it before the Conference! Bigger things will follow..

Last updated on: 5.12.2012