James P. Cannon

A False Slogan

(March 1932)

Written: March 1932.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. V No. 12, 19 March 1932, 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.
Transcription\HTML Markup: Andrew Pollack.
Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan (May 2013).
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The revolutionary fighting spirit of the Communist workers who demonstrated before the Japanese consulates last Saturday is not to be questioned. ‘ The firm will to fight against the imperialist warmongers was their animating impulse. And that is all the greater reason for protest against the manner in which the energies of the militants are being misdirected by the false tactics of the party leaders. It is a cruel irony that the brave demonstration of the Chicago revolutionists, inspired by a hatred of “their own” imperialists, could give the outward appearance of an “anti-Japanese demonstration,” and be so described by the capitalist press. Such a direction of the struggle does not in the least hamper the war plans of American imperialism. On the contrary it gives them unwitting support.

Of course we support the Chinese people; we ought to expose and denounce the Japanese militarists in our general campaign in America against the government of Japan. And this is precisely the impression that, in the present situation, the demonstrations before the Japanese consulates are bound to create in the minds of the masses. In actions of this kind only the salient facts stand out. The subsidiary slogans, the other issues which are “linked up” with the main event, are lost in the shuffle. How quickly wrongly formulated slogans exact their penalty! The popular impression of the Saturday demonstrations as an “anti-Japanese” affair is the price already paid for the asinine slogan of the party leadership: “Drive the Japanese diplomats from the country!”

In this slogan there is the basis for a complete disorientation of the proletarian struggle around the question of the coming war. It fits in with the pseudopacifist policy of American imperialism in the East and facilitates its work of delusion at home. “The Japanese are mad with militarism; they are provoking a world war; but our own government strives for peace, and if it is finally forced into war it will be the fault of Japan” – this is the imperialist propaganda for the coming year which is seeping into the minds of the American people day by day. Does the “anti Japanese” agitation of the party counteract this poisonous delusion or does it contribute to it? In the event of war with Japan the Communists will be disarmed if the American imperialists can say: “You were more eager than we were; you demanded the expulsion of the Japanese diplomats while we were still striving for peace.”

“The enemy is in our own country!” this is the revolutionary slogan of Liebknecht and Lenin, the guiding line of the proletarian struggle against imperialist war. Those who forget this for one moment are already on the toboggan to social patriotism. The proletariat in every country has to wage its own specific fight against its own imperialists and work for their defeat. The central task of the American communists in the question of war is the systematic exposure of the policy of America which masks the most monstrous imperialist designs with the phrases of pacifism. The fire of the communists must be concentrated mainly on this Hoover policy if it is to serve the interests of the proletariat. The anti-Japanese slogan contradicts this task, confuses and disorganizes the struggle, and even contains the germ of chauvinist deviations. The slogan should he withdrawn before it does further harm.

Last updated: 19.5.2013