James P. Cannon

Editorial Notes

Laying the Foundations

(October 1931)

Written: October 1931.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 28, 24 October 1931, p. 4.
Source: Microfilm collection and original bound volumes for The Militant provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California. Additional bound volumes from Earl Gilman’s collection, San Francisco, California
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With the publication of the forthcoming book on the Chinese revolution, which Pioneer Publishers is now getting ready for the press, the American section of the Opposition will record another substantial achievement. It belongs among the fundamental and most important Marxist documents written in the heat of struggle in the Communist International since Lenin departed from its leadership.

We have regarded the publication of all these historic documents as one of our first and foremost tasks. The volume on China rounds out the great series of books and pamphlets from the pen of Comrade Trotsky in the past period which will stand for all time among the classics of our movement. It is with such weapons that the proletarian wing of the party will fight its way to victory. By its stubborn concentration on this simple and prosaic work of publication, by its refusal to be diverted from it by any kind of charlatan promises of cheap success and easy victory, the Opposition is bringing its first, and therefore its most essential, task to a successful fruition.

In this way we are laying the ideological foundations of the future movement, upon which it will stand, steadfast and sure, in the stormy days to come. There are people around the fringes of the Communist League who looked down upon this “publishing business” and ridiculed our concentration on it. The Opposition was fortunate in disregarding the pretensions of those who talk only of spectacular undertakings and overlook the essential task at hand. First things come first.

There are illustrious examples of the same point of view. The founders of scientific communism, who had a few ideas and even some great ones, were not above the simple task of assembling the technical means to publish their doctrines when that task stood first on the order of the day. In the trial number of the Kommunistische Zeitschrift, issued in September 1847 under the direction of Marx and Engels, one can read the modest announcement of a project not unlike the one which has engaged our efforts:

“Both intellectuals and manual workers promised their collaboration [in publishing the paper]. Yet we hesitated lest after a very short period of activity, publication should cease for lack of funds. It was finally suggested that we acquire a printing press of our own so as to give the venture a more stable foundation. A subscription list was opened ... and in a short time the sum of 25 pounds was collected. The money permitted us to have the necessary type brought from Germany; our compositor members have set up the issue gratuitously; and here in actual fact is the first number of our paper ... We still lack a printing press, but as soon as we have money we intend to purchase one. Then our printing establishment will be in a position, not only to run off our newspaper, but likewise to print the pamphlets necessary for the defense of the proletariat.”

That is the way we are proceeding, too. We also undertook “to print the pamphlets necessary for the defense of the proletariat.” With the slenderest means, and with economies and sacrifices not unlike those described in the Kommunistische Zeitschrift, we have accomplished a part of the task. And we are still working along the same line.