James P. Cannon

Cannon Reviews the Past
and Points to the Future

(November 1938)

Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 48, 5 November 1938, p. 2.
Source: PDF supplied by the Riazanov Library Project.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists’ Internet Archive/Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors, translators, proofreaders etc. above.

Following are excerpts from the speech delivered by James P. Cannon, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party at the Center Hotel mass meeting last Friday:

We are not the evangelists of a new revelation. The movement of resurgent Bolshevism in America which we have created and whose anniversary we celebrate tonight is already ten years old. But at the outset of our struggle ten years ago, we said nothing new. We anchored our struggle, by its theory, its program, its methods, and its traditions, in the great world emancipation struggle of the proletariat set on foot by the Russian revolution of 1917. So it is only in a formal sense that we celebrate our tenth anniversary.

We have a full right also to say that we are celebrating our 21st anniversary, for our roots go back directly to Nov. 7, 1917. Many of us adhered then to the banner of Bolshevism, the banner of struggle and victory. The program incorporated in the Russian revolution was our program 21 years ago. It was our program ten years ago when we began the new struggle against the betrayers. It is our program now. But neither were the Bolsheviks the inventors of new panaceas. They were the veritable continuators of Marx and Engels.

Just as Lenin and Trotsky had to cleanse the banner of Marxism from the blood and filth of Social Democratic treachery in the World War, so we, ten years ago, recognized that Stalin and his clique were nothing more than betrayers and we tore the banner of Bolshevism from their hands.

(The speaker then reviewed the early, small beginnings of the opposition movement within the Communist Party, and continued:)

THE PROGRAM DECIDES! We began with the unshakable conviction that the program decides everything. And here tonight, on our tenth anniversary, with some modest successes to our credit, with a world organization carrying us forward like a great wind in the sails of a ship, we repeat: the program decides everything!

(Cannon then reviewed the general world situation as it existed in 1928 when our movement began, the bright facade of ascendant capitalism, the seeming triumph of Fordism over Marxism, the defeats of the working class in China, in the British general strike, the decadence in the narrow circles that constituted the radical movement.

(Our task, he continued, was to bang on, to tell the truth, to rely on the inexorable development of social forces to confirm our views. In the decade that has passed this course was more than justified. Capitalist economy was shattered in a series of catastrophic crises which continue, with incidental fluctuations. The seeming dormancy of the international labor movement gave way to profound political crises, in Germany France, and Spain, and in the United States took the form of the greatest labor union revival in history. “Peace pacts” collapsed and the world was faced again with the menace of war. The defeats and treachery of Stalinism exposed it all over the world as the worst betrayer of the revolution. After paying tribute to martyrs of our struggle all over the world, the speaker continued:)

Face the Future

Our tenth anniversary is a milestone in our work. It is a festive occasion for us. We take pride in our achievements but we do not rest there. All the work of the past is only a preparation for the future. This celebration of ten years of struggle is also a mobilization for the new and immeasurably greater struggle in the years ahead.

We do not believe in the permanence of. United States capitalism. It has already passed its zenith, its day of glory, and sinks ever deeper into decline and decay from which there is no way out but the workers’ revolution. We are dedicated to the task of organizing this American revolution.

The founding of the Fourth International raises our national struggle to higher ground, gives us greater strength and wider vision. It is the symbol of the great hope of the working class. It is the invincible banner of revolutionary workers in every country of the world.

We aim to build – and we invite you to join us in building – a party in the Urited States which will be a worthy section of the Fourth International. That is, a party with a scientific program, an honest party that tells the truth to the workers, a democratic workers’ party, and at the same time a disciplined party, a party united with revolutionary workers in all lands in one army for one idea, one program, one goal. That goal is nothing less than the workers’ conquest of the world. All the material conditions are already ripe for this victory of humanity. History has put Socialism on the order of the day and the workers’ revolution is the means to realize it. The Fourth International is the herald and the organizer of this liberating revolution.

Last updated on 11 September 2015