James P. Cannon

The Militant

September 15, 1934


Written: 1934
Source: The Militant. Original bound volumes of The Militant and microfilm provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California.
Transcription\HTML Markup:Andrew Pollack

The most important political news of the day is the report about the decisive steps taken during the past week to facilitate and hasten the fusion of the American Workers Party and the Communist League. The news is of paramount importance because it spells definite progress toward the forging of the sharpest and most indispensable weapon of the working class—a revolutionary party. By itself, the merger of these two organizations, of entirely different origins but moving toward the same goal, would signify the actual beginning of the new party and make its formal proclamation possible.

Armed with the program of Marxism, the new political center thus created would speedily attract the scattered revolutionary militants as a magnet attracts steel particles. The adhesion of thousands of awakening workers could be expected. The expanded political organization would be in a position to connect itself with the stormy movement of the working masses and give that movement a conscious direction.

The native militancy of the American workers, surpassed by none as our labor history shows, and again brilliantly demonstrated in the present strike wave—in Toledo, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Kohler, the textile fields—would be fused, through such a vanguard party, with that decisive element which has been lacking in all past periods of labor resurgence: scientific doctrine, political clarity, leadership.

It has been the lack of precisely this element, which only a Marxist party can supply, that condemned the insurgent labor movement of the past to futility and defeat. Lacking a class theory of its own, which can come into the labor movement in no other way than through the Marxist party, the American workers, with all their militancy and capacity for sacrifice, fell victim to all kinds of quackery and treason and landed in a blind alley every time.

Capitalism itself creates the conditions for the elemental movement of the workers, as the far-flung general strike of the textile workers proves once again. But the Marxist party, which alone can shape and guide this elemental movement to the goal of emancipation, must be made by the deliberate work of the conscious vanguard. Since such a party does not exist today—and experience on a national and international scale testify to that bitter fact—it must be created anew. This is the first and foremost task of all revolutionists.

Every serious step in this direction is important. The progress that has been recorded in the past week toward the fusion of the two most important groups standing outside the poisoned swamps of Stalinism and Social Democracy, and dedicated to the aim of building a new party and a new International, cannot fail to inspire all revolutionary workers with enthusiasm and hope as it inspires us. It opens up the prospect of saving time in the execution of our great historic task, and time is a weighty factor now. Events move with lightning speed. We must move with them.

On an international scale the political organizations of the working class have suffered a collapse no less devastating, and no less irremediable, than that of 1914. Germany and Austria tell the story of the bankruptcy of the Second and Third Internationals in letters of fire.

During the five years of the crisis we have witnessed the paralyzing influence of this international debacle on the American movement. Even after five years of the crisis, during which the insoluble contradictions of the capitalist system did their best to prepare the soil for revolutionary political development, the great strike movement of the awakening workers, with a few exceptions such as Minneapolis, is controlled and throttled by the old reactionary leadership. A real challenge to this leadership, which represents the influence of the exploiters in the labor movement, has not yet been made for the simple reason that there was no force able to offer the challenge and make the challenge good.

For that, and for all that logically follows after, a party is needed. An International is needed.

Revolutionary internationalism is the heart and core of the system of ideas which binds us together and unites us indissolubly with our comrades in other countries. This conception, which is expressed in the struggle for the Fourth International, animates and guides us in every phase of activity in our own country, whether it be the holding of a public meeting, the organization of a strike, or participation in the formation of a new party.

We have said at many times, and we underscore it here once more, that the organization of an American party, cannot be separated in any way from the struggle to form a new International, but on the contrary is an inseparable part of that struggle. The new party will be able to solve the national problems and find its way into the mass movement of the American workers only if it approaches them from the international point of view; the new party can become a national power only on the condition that the banner it raises is the banner of internationalism. This is the cardinal lesson of all the great events of our time; this is the wisdom of the great teachers. This unshakable conviction has entered into the marrow of our bones. Whatever we do and wherever we go, it goes with us. We seek allies and co-workers first of all among those who hold similar views.

The decision of the active workers’ conference of the AWP in favor of hastening the fusion and the joint launching of the new party, coincided with a similar decision of the New York membership meeting of the league. These actions gave expression to the fact that the two organizations have drawn closer together in the course of practical cooperation in various fields of activity, and comradely discussion devoted to clarification of questions of the program.

It appears to us that the revised draft program of the AWP formulated a position on the question of the new International that is nearer to our viewpoint than the formulation of the first draft. We, on our part, venture to say that the work of the league in the Minneapolis strikes helped convince the members of the AWP that we also are able to “speak American"; that our internationalism is not an abstraction but a guide to action on the national field. Joint work of the two organizations in practical work, limited though it has been, has demonstrated in practice an ability to work out a common policy and to cooperate loyally in advancing it. These are all factors which have strengthened the will for organic unity and the hope that it may be expedited.

Our National Committee has not yet had the time and opportunity to make a critical analysis of the revised draft program of the AWP. Progress has undoubtedly been made toward working out a common standpoint on some of the most important questions. Further discussion and clarification will yet be needed to assure a firm principled basis for the unification. Other obstacles may arise. But it is our firm conviction that all difficulties standing in the way can be overcome if there is a determined will to overcome them, if there is an understanding, on both sides, of the overshadowing importance of finding a common path and launching the new party without the needless loss of a single day. All our efforts will be directed to this end.