James P. Cannon

On the Witness Stand

First Witness for the Defense Gives Masterful Exposition
of Principles and Tactics of the SWP

(18 November 1941)

Published: The Militant, Vol. V No. 48, 29 November 1941, pp. 3–6.
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.

The presentation of the government’s case against 28 members of the Socialist Workers Party and Local 544-CIO ended on Monday, Nov. 17. The government had used 37 witnesses. 22 of whom were hired agents or followers of AFL Teamsters President Daniel J. Tobin, who had called on Roosevelt to take action against the defendants after Local 544 voted to disaffiliate from the AFL and accept a charter from the CIO. Two witnesses were FBI agents, one was an employee of the Associated Industries, reactionary employers association of Minneapolis, and the other 12 were of minor significance.

Motions by the defense asked for a directed verdict of acquittal for the 28 defendants, principally on the ground that the prosecution had failed to prove the existence of a “conspiracy” on the part of the defendants. Judge M.M. Joyce denied the defense motions the next day; in the course of his ruling he denied that the defendants had the constitutional right to publish and circulate their beliefs. He ordered five of the defendants released on grounds of insufficient evidence, and ordered the trial continued.

The first witness for the defense was one of the leading defendants, Comrade James P. Cannon, National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. His testimony, printed below, was at the same time a crushing refutation of the charges that the defendants were guilty of a “conspiracy” and a masterful exposition and defense of the program, tactics and history of the revolutionary party.

* * *

Tuesday, November 18, 1941
Afternoon Session

was called as a witness on behalf of the defendants, having been first duly sworn, testified as follows:


Q: Will you please state your name for the reporter?

A: James P. Cannon.

Q: Where do you live, Mr. Cannon?

A: New York.

Q: And your present occupation?

A: National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party.

Q: How old are you, Mr. Cannon?

A: Fifty-one.

Q: Where were you born?

A: Rosedale, Kansas.

Q: How long a period is it since you began your career in the Marxist movement, Mr. Cannon?

A: Thirty years.

Q: What organization did you first join that was part of the working class movement?

A: The I.W.W., Industrial Workers of the World.

Q: And did you join any other organization subsequent to that one?

A: The Socialist Party.

Q: And after that?

A: In 1919, at the foundation of the Communist Party, I was one of the original members, and a member of the National Committee.

Q: How long a period did you remain in the Communist Party?

A: Until October 1928.

Q: Now, will you tell the court and jury the extent of your knowledge of Marxian theory?

A: I am familiar with all the important writings of the Marxist teachers – Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, and the commentators on their works.

Q: Have you ever read any books against the Marxian theory?

A: Yes. In general I am familiar with the literature against Marxism, particularly the most important book.

Q: Which one is the most important book?

A: Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Q: Have you ever edited any labor papers, Mr. Cannon?

A: Yes, a number of them. In fact, I have been more or less a working journalist in the movement for about 25 years.

Q: Do you recollect the names of any of the papers that you edited?

A: The Workers’ World in Kansas City. The Toiler, published in Cleveland, Ohio. I was at one time editor of The Militant. I was editor of the paper called Labor Action published in San Francisco, and I have been on the editorial board of numerous other papers and magazines published in the movement.

Q: Have you ever delivered lectures on the theory of Socialism and other aspects of the Marxist movement?

A: Yes, I have done that continuously for about thirty years.

Q: And you have written pamphlets that were published?

A: Some, yes.

The Formation of the Socialist Workers Party

Q: Tell us the reasons why you severed your connection, with the Communist Party, Mr. Cannon.

A: Well, at the time of the controversy that developed in the Russian party between Trotsky on the one side, and Stalin and his group on the other, a controversy that touched many of the most fundamental principles of Socialism, this controversy gradually became extended in the Communist International, and became the subject of concern in the other parties of the Communist International and I and some others here took a position in support of Trotsky and that led to our expulsion from the Communist Party of the United States.

Q: Can you give us in brief an idea of the nature of the controversy?

A: It began over the question of bureaucracy in the governmental apparatus of the Soviet Union and in the staffs of the party in Russia. Trotsky began a struggle for more democracy in the party, in the government and unions and the country generally. This struggle against what Trotsky – and I agree with him – characterized as an increasing bureaucratization of the whole regime, this controversy originating over this point, gradually developed in the course of years into fundamental conflicts over virtually all the basic principles of Socialist theory and practice.

Q: And as a result of this controversy, the expulsion took place?

The Split in the Communist Party

A: As a result of that, the expulsion of our group took place here in the United States, as was the case also in Russia.

Q: In what year was that?

A: 1928.

Q: Tell us what happened to the group, that was expelled.

A: We organized ourselves as a group and began to publish a paper called The Militant.

Q: And give us some idea of the size of that group, Mr. Cannon.

A: Well, there were only three of us to start with. Eventually we got supporters in other cities. Six months later, when we had our first conference, we had about 100 members in the country.

Q: And subsequent to that, was there any party organized by this group?

A: Yes, this group called itself originally the Communist League of America, and considered itself still a faction of the Communist Party, attempting to get reinstated into the party, with the provision that we would have a right to hold our views and discuss them in the party. This proposal of ours was rejected by the party, so we developed as an independent organization.

In 1934 we came to an agreement with another organization, which had never been connected with the Communist movement, which had grown out of the trade unions. This organization, originally known as the Conference for Progressive Labor Action, took the name of the American Workers Party. In 1934, in the fall of that year, we had a joint convention with them and formed a common organization which we called the Workers Party of the United States.

Q: And how long did this Workers Party exist?

A: From the fall of 1934 until the spring of 1936.

Q: And what happened then?

A: At that time our party joined the Socialist Party as a body.

The Socialist Party had had an internal discussion and controversy, which culminated in the last month of 1935 in a split, in the withdrawal of the more conservative elements. The Socialist Party bad then issued an invitation for unaffiliated radical individuals and groups to join the Socialist Party. We accepted the invitation and joined the party in 1936, again with the express provision which we had originally contended for in the Communist Party, that we should have the right to maintain our particular views and to discuss them in the party – that is, when discussion was in order, and we on our part obligated ourselves to observe discipline in the daily work and common action of the party.

Q: How long did your group remain in the Socialist Party?

A: Just about a year.

Q: And what happened then?

Differences with the Socialist Party

A: Well, the Socialist Party began to impose upon us the same kind of bureaucratism that we had suffered from in the Communist Party. There were great questions disturbing the minds of Socialists in that period, particularly the problems of the Spanish Civil War.

Q: And that was in what year?

A: That was in the year 1936. but it became very acute in the spring of 1937. We had a definite position on the Spanish question. We studied it attentively and we wanted to make our views known to the other party members. This was permitted for some time, and then the National Executive Committee issued an order prohibiting any further discussion, prohibiting even the adoption of resolutions by branches on the subject, and we revolted against that provision and insisted on our rights.

At the same time, a big dispute arose in New York over the election campaign – this was the second campaign of LaGuardia, and the Socialist Party officially decided to support the candidacy of LaGuardia. We opposed it on the ground that it was a violation of Socialist principles to support the candidate of a capitalist party. LaGuardia was a candidate of the Republican and Fusion Parties, as well as of the Labor Party.

We also insisted on making our views on this question known and this led to the wholesale expulsions of our people.

Q: When was the Socialist Workers Party organized?

A: The last days of December 1937 and the first day or two of January 1938.

Q: Who participated in its organization?

A: The branches of the Socialist Party which had been expelled – these were banded together under a committee of the expelled branches and this committee was instructed by a conference to arrange a convention, prepare it, and the expelled branches of the Socialist Party sent delegates to the foundation convention of the Socialist Workers Party.

Q: Did this committee of the expelled branches publish any paper?

A: Yes, it published a paper following the expulsions, which began in May or June, 1937. We published the Socialist Appeal, and that became the official organ of the party after the convention. Later, about a year ago, we changed the name back to our original name, The Militant.

Q: To the best of your recollection, how many delegates were present at the founding convention of the Socialist Workers Party?

A: I think about a hundred.

Q: And they came from all over the country, did they?

A: Yes, from about thirty cities, I think, – twenty-five or thirty cities.

Q: Now, what did that convention do?

The Fundamental Aim of the Party

A: Well, the most important tasks of the convention were to set up its organization, adopt a Declaration of Principles, and some collateral resolution on current questions, and elect a National Committee to direct the work of the party on the basis of the Declaration of Principles.

Q: Did it elect some committee to take charge of the party during the interval between conventions?

A: Yes, that is the National Committee.

Q: Now, you say that it adopted a Declaration of Principles. I show you Prosecution’s Exhibit 1, being the Declaration of Principles and Constitution of the Socialist Workers Party, and I ask you whether that is the same that was adopted at the Socialist Workers’ Party convention?

(Document handed to witness)

A: Yes, yes, that is it.

Q: Who presented the Declaration of Principles to the convention, do you remember?

A: Yes, it was presented by the Committee, the National Committee of the expelled branches, which had been selected at a previous conference of the group.

Q: What did the convention, the founding convention of the Socialist Workers Party, adopt as the fundamental aim of the party?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT (Prosecutor): When?

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): At that time, and subsequent to that time, up until the present, when you are sitting in the stand here?

A: Well, I would say the fundamental aim of the party then and now is to popularize the doctrines of Marxian Socialism and to aid and lead in the work of transforming society from a capitalist to a communist basis.

Q: Give us the meaning of the term Socialism.

A: Well, Socialism can have two meanings, and usually does among us. That is, Socialism is a name applied to a projected new form of society, and it is a name also applied to the movement working in that direction.

Q: What is the nature of that projected society?

A: Well, we visualize a society that would be based on the common ownership of the means of production, the elimination of private profit in the means of production, the abolition of the wage system, the abolition of the division of society into classes.

Q: With reference to any government for the purpose of instituting such a society, what would you say is the purpose of the Socialist Workers Party?

A: Well, we set as our aim the establishment of a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government, in place of the existing government which we term a capitalist government. The task of this government would be to arrange and control the transition of society from the basis of capitalism to the basis of socialism.

Q: When you say “capitalist government,” what do you mean?

A: Well, we mean a government that arises from a society that is based on the private ownership of the wealth of the country and the means of production by the capitalists, and which in general represents the interests of that class.

Q: And in counterdistinction to this government you propose to establish a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government?

A: Yes, we propose in place of the capitalists a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government which will frankly represent the economic and social interests of the workers and the producing farmers.

The Bosses and the Middle Class in a Workers’ State

Q: Well, what would happen to the capitalists?

A: Well, under a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government, the task of the government will be to carry out the transfer of the most important means of production from private ownership to the common ownership of the people.

Q: Well, what would happen to the individual capitalists who would lose their wealth?

A: Well, what do you mean, “happen to them,” in what way?

Q: Well, would you kill them or put them to work, or what?

A: Well, under our theory, citizenship participation in the benefits of society would be open to everybody on a basis of equality. This would apply to former capitalists as well as to workers and farmers.

Q: When you use the term “productive wealth,” do you mean any property that an individual owns?

A: No – when we speak of the means of production, the wealth of the country, we mean that wealth which is necessary for the production of the necessities of the people. The industries, the railroads, mines, and so on. We don’t propose – at least, Marxist Socialists have never proposed anywhere that I know, the elimination of private property and personal effects. We speak of those things which are necessary for the production of the people’s needs. They shall be owned in common by all the people.

Q: What would happen to small businesses, the owners of which do not have labor to hire?

Our Attitude to the Middle Class

A: Well, the best Marxist authority since Engels is that small proprietors, who are not exploiters, should be in no way interfered with by the Workers’ and Farmers’ Government. They should be allowed to have their farms, their small possessions, their small handicraft shops, and only in so far as they become convinced, by the example of socialized collective farming and, voluntarily would agree to pool their land and their resources, in a collective effort, only to that extent can collectivization of small farming enterprises take place.

In the meantime, it is a part of our program that the Workers and Farmers’ Government should assist such enterprises by assuring them reasonable prices for their implements, for fertilizers, arrange credits for them, and in general conduct the government as a government which is concerned for them and wants to represent their interests.

I am speaking now of small producing farmers, not of big landowners and bankers, who exploit a lot of people, or who rent land out to share croppers. We certainly intend to socialize their land in the very first stages of the Workers’ and Farmers’ Government, turn it over to the administration of the people who actually till the soil. That also, I may say, is the standard Marxist doctrine since the earliest days, and the doctrine of Lenin and Trotsky in the Russian Revolution.

The Withering Away of the State

Q: How will this Socialist society be controlled and directed?

A: Well, Socialism naturally would have to grow out of the new situation. After the social revolution has been effected in the political arena, and the capitalist government has been replaced by a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government, which proceeds to the socialization of the industries, the abolition of inequalities, the raising of the level of the income of the masses of the people, and the suppression of any attempts at counter-revolution by the dispossessed exploiters, the importance and weight of the government as a repressive force would gradually diminish.

Because as classes are abolished, as exploitation is eliminated, as the conflict of class against class is eliminated, the very reason for the existence of a government in the strict sense of the term begins to diminish. Governments are primarily instruments of repression of one class against another. According to the doctrine of Marx and Engels and of all the great Marxists who followed them, and based themselves on their doctrine, we visualize, as Engels expressed it, a gradual withering away of the government as a repressive force, as an armed force, and its replacement by purely administrative councils, whose duties will be to plan production, to supervise public works, and education, and things of this sort. As you merge into socialist society, the government, as Engels expressed it, tends to wither away and the government of men will be replaced by the administration of things.

The government of a Socialist society in reality will be an administrative body, because we don’t anticipate the need for armies and navies, jails, repressions, and consequently that aspect of government dies out for want of function.

Q: What is the Marxian theory as to the social forces making socialism inevitable?

The Internal Laws Pushing Capitalism to Bankruptcy

A: Well, capitalism is a state of society that didn’t always exist. Like preceding social systems, it went through a period of gestation in the womb of the old feudal society. It grew and developed as against feudal society, eventually overthrew it by revolutionary means, raised the productivity of mankind to undreamed of heights –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT (prosecutor): Well, now, just a moment, Mr. Cannon. It seems to me this question could bo answered much more simply than this. I suspect the gentleman is going to make a speech now, and I don’t see that the question calls for it at all.

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): Well, as briefly as you can, describe the social forces –

A: Well, I did not want to make a speech. I wanted to say in a few words what are the social forces that are pushing capitalism to bankruptcy. The laws by which –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: That was not the question that was asked you, Mr. Witness. You were asked what were the social forces that would make socialism inevitable, or some such thing. Well, I give up. Go ahead.

THE WITNESS: I assure you that I am as anxious to compress the explanation as much as possible.

Capitalism operates by certain internal laws which were analyzed and laid bare for the first time by Karl Marx in his great works, first in the Communist Manifesto and then in Capital.

The Problem of Overproduction

Now, the two internal laws of capitalism which are making inevitable its decline and its replacement by Socialism are these:

One, the private ownership of the means of production and the employment of wage labor at wages less than the value of the product produced by the wage laborer. This creates a surplus which the capitalist proprietor has to sell in the market. It is obvious that the wage worker, who receives for his labor less than the total value of his product, can be a customer only for that amount of the value that he receives in the form of wages. The balance is surplus value, as Marx explained it, for which the capitalist must find a market.

The more capitalism expands within a given country, the more productive becomes the labor of the worker, the greater is this surplus, which cannot find a market because the great mass of the people who produce the wealth do not receive enough wages to buy it. And that leads capitalism into periodic crisis of what they call over-production, or as some popular agitators call it under-consumption, but the scientific term is over-production.

Capitalism from its very inception, for more than a hundred years, pretty nearly two hundred years, has gone through such crises. Now, in the past, capitalism could solve these crises eventually by finding new markets, new fields of investment, new

fields of exploitation, and as long as capitalism could find new areas for the investment of capital and the sale of goods, the capitalist system could extricate itself from this cyclical crisis which occurred about every ten years, and go on to new heights of production. But every time capitalism experienced a new boom, and began to develop some new territory, it narrowed down the world. Because every place that capitalism penetrated, its laws followed it like a shadow, and the new field of exploitation began to become also surfeited with a surplus.

For example, the United States, which was a great reservoir for the assimilation of surplus products of Europe and gave European capitalism a breathing spell, has itself developed in the course of 150 years to the point Where it produces an enormous surplus and has to fight Europe for a market in which to sell it. So this tremendous contradiction between the private ownership of industry and wage labor presents capitalism more and more with an insoluble crisis. This is one law of capitalism.

Capitalist Competition Leads to War

The second law is the conflict between the development of the productive forces and the national barriers in which they are confined under capitalism. Every country operating on a capitalist basis produces a surplus which it is unable to sell in its domestic market for the reasons I have given you before.

What, then, is the next step? The capitalists must find a foreign market. They must find a foreign market in which to sell their surplus and a foreign field in which to invest their surplus capital. The difficulty that is confronting capitalism is that the world doesn’t get any bigger. It retained the same size, while every modern capitalist nation was developing its productive forces far beyond its own domestic capacity to consume. Or to sell at a profit. This led to the tremendous explosion of the World War in 1914. The World War of 1914 was, in our theory and our doctrine, the signal that the capitalist world had come to a bankrupt crisis.

Q: What would you say about the law of competition working within the capitalist system?

A: The law of competition between capitalists results inevitably in the bigger capitalists, the ones with the more modern, more efficient, and productive enterprise, crushing out the small ones, either by destroying them or absorbing them until the number of independent proprietors grows continually less and the number of pauperized people increases by leaps and bounds, until the wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of a very few people; and the great mass of the people, especially of the workers, are confronted with ever-increasing difficulties of an economic and social nature.

I mentioned the World War of 1914 as the signal that capitalism on the world scale wasn’t able to solve any of its problems peacefully before. They had to kill eleven million men, and then make a peace and prepare to do it all over again the second time. That, in the view of the Marxian Socialists, is the sign that capitalism has outlived its possibility to solve its own problems.

The Role of Our Agitation

Q: What would you say, then, with reference to the relative importance of the economic factor moving toward Socialism, and the agitation for socialism of the various parties, including the Socialist Workers Party?

A: Well, now, if I could just explain here, Marxian socialism is distinct from what is known in our terminology as Utopian socialism – that is, the socialism of people who visualize a better form of society, and think that it is only necessary to see that a better society could exist, and to persuade the people to adopt it and solve the problem. Marxian socialism proceeds from the theory that the very internal laws by which capitalism operates drives society to a socialist soltition.

I mentioned the war – I mentioned the conflict between the various capitalist nations which are always now in either a state of war, or of an armed truce preparing for war. I should mention also the experience of the 1929 depression, as it is called, with its fifteen million able-bodied American workers who were willing to work, unable to find employment. That was another sign of a terrible unhealthiness in the social organism called capitalism; and that unemployment scourge operated on a world scale.

Now, these are the forces that are driving society to a rational solution, in our opinion, by the nationalization of industry, the elimination of competition, and the abolition of private ownership. Now, agitation could not effect the transformation of one social order to another unless these powerful internal economic laws were pushing it.

The real revolutionary factor, the real powers that are driving for socialism, are the contradictions within the capitalist system itself. All that our agitation can do is to try to foresee theoretically what is possible and what is probable in the line of social revolution, to prepare people’s minds for it, to convince them of the desirability of it, to try to organize them to accelerate it and to bring it about in the most economical and effective way. That is all agitation can do.

Significance of Fascism

Q: What role does the factor of fascism play?

A: Fascism is another sign that unfailingly appears in every capitalist society when it reaches that period of decay and crisis, and isn’t any longer able to keep an equilibrium of society on the basis of democratic parliamentarism, which has been the governmental form of rule of capitalism in its heyday. Fascism grows, becomes a terrible menace to mankind, and a terrible warning to the workers that if they don’t bestir themselves and take things in their own hands, they will suffer the fate for years that has befallen the people of Germany and Italy and other countries now in Europe.

Q: Now, what was the purpose for the adoption of the Declaration of Principles?

A: Well, the general purpose was to put down in written form a clear statement of our principles, to inform the world what our party stood for, and to guide the party in its actions following the convention, to lay down a body of doctrines and ideas which could govern the work of the party and guide its National Committee, in editing its paper, and so forth.

Q: Were there any secret agreements entered into by this committee that formulated the Declaration of Principles, agreements which were not revealed to the convention or to anybody else?

The Party’s New Declaration of Principles

A: Concerning what?

Q: Concerning anything at all.

A: Well, do you mean with regard to doctrine?

Q: Yes, with regard to doctrine, tactics, or principles.

A: No, no – everything we stand for we put in the Declaration of Principles. We couldn’t do it otherwise.

It is impossible to build a political movement on the basis of one program, and expect that it will serve another program. That, I could tell you, is a political law that is known to every serious politician; a political party or a political man is bound by his own slogans. If a party puts forward a slogan or a program –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Well, now, please, Mr. Cannon. You have answered –

THE COURT: Don’t you think this is argumentative?

MR. GOLDMAN: All right!

Q: Now, how long was the Declaration of Principles in effect?

A: From the first week in January 1938, until the last month in 1940.

Q: And what happened in December 1940?

A: A specially called convention of the party adopted a resolution to suspend the Declaration of Principles and to instruct the National Committee to prepare a new draft for the consideration of the party at a subsequent convention or conference.

Q; What were the reasons for this action of the convention?

A: The principal reason, I may say, was the passage by Congress of a bill known as the Voorhis Act, which penalized parties belonging to international organizations. That was the principal reason.

Subsidiary reasons were that in the meantime the party had changed its position on the question of the Labor Party. Some questions had become out-dated by the passage of events, and in general we felt the necessity of a new draft.

The Question of the Labor Party

Q: So that the Declaration of Principles did not remain as originally adopted during the period when it was in effect?

A: No, in the summer of 1938, we changed the position of the party on the question of the Labor Party.

Q: What was the original position and what was the new position?

A: The original position, as stated in the Declaration of Principles, was that we did not support the proposals of some elements in the trade unions for the organization of a Labor Party.

Q: By the way, what is a labor party?

A: Well, in our terminology, we speak of a Labor Party as a broad mass organization that is based on the trade unions.

THE COURT: Mr. Goldman, I wonder if you will be good enough to identify, or have the witness identify, in the Declaration of Principles, this feature of the labor policy or principle that was changed?

MR. GOLDMAN: Thank you for the suggestion.

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): Now, I show you Government’s Exhibit 1, and ask you to point to the pages and the sections dealing with the Labor Party question which were subsequently changed.

A: Well, on Page 17, Section sub-head No. 3, entitled Labor and Farmer Labor Parties.

Q: Can you tell us in brief the nature of the change?

A: Well, it was a change in the opposite direction. At the time of the adoption of the Declaration, we refused to support these proposals for the organization of a labor party – that is, a party based on the trade unions. By the summer of 1938, we changed our mind about that and came to the conclusion that this movement would have more progressive potentialities than otherwise.

Q: And tell us what the method used was in adopting that change.

A: The National Committee adopted a resolution setting forth its changed position. This resolution then was sent to the party members in the internal bulletin, and a discussion period, I think of 60 days, was opened up in which anybody could express his opinion for or against the change. It was discussed very thoroughly in the party. In fact, not all members of the National Committee agreed with the change. At the end of the discussion period a referendum vote was taken of the membership, and a majority voted in favor of the amended resolution.

The Plenum Conference of Oct. 1941

Q: Were there any other changes made, either in the Declaration of Principles or in the Constitution during the period when it was in effect?

A: Some minor changes were made in the Constitution at the convention in 1939. I don’t recall what they were.

Q: But not affecting the main trends of the Constitution, the main bases?

A: No, I don’t recall any changes in the Declaration, other than the one that I have mentioned.

Q: Could the National Committee have changed the position of the Declaration of Principles without authority from the party?

A: No, the Declaration of Principles and the Constitution specifically limits the authority of the National Committee to the interpretation of party policy in the light of the Declaration and the Constitution. So, in order to change any position taken in the Declaration, the Committee was obliged to submit it to a referendum vote.

Q: What, if anything, was done subsequent to the suspension of this Declaration of Principles with reference to the adoption of a new set of principles?

A: We appointed a committee to make a new draft of a Declaration.

Q: And was that draft made?

A: The draft was made. We held a conference in Chicago just on the eve of this trial – I think October 10, 11 and 12 – we held a conference of the party in connection with a meeting of the National Committee, where the new draft was submitted and accepted by the conference, for submission to the party for discussion and possible amendment.

Our Principles Have Not Changed

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): Does the Declaration of Principles that was originally adopted, and subsequently suspended, teach the necessity of social revolution, Mr. Cannon?

A: Yes.

Q: What do you mean by “social revolution?”

A: Well, a social revolution –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT (prosecutor): Was that question directed at this new draft which the conference adopted in 1941?

MR. GOLDMAN: No, I said, “What do you mean by ‘social revolution’.”

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I mean, the question that preceded that.

(The record was read by the reporter.)

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): Does the new Declaration of Principles, the draft that was adopted, teach the necessity of social revolution?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Don’t answer that, please. I object to that.

MR. GOLDMAN: He will answer in your favor.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I wanted to object if you were referring to the new one. That is not in evidence, your Honor.

THE COURT: I don’t suppose he can talk about that until you introduce it.

MR. GOLDMAN: Well, if he knows.

THE COURT: Unless you are going to assure us that you will introduce it; it is a time-saving device.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I will object to introduction, if your Honor please, of a new Declaration which has been adopted since this indictment. I would submit certainly that couldn’t be offered by the defendants.

MR. GOLDMAN: Well, I thought that Mr. Schweinhaut introduced documents subsequent to the indictment.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Of course, to show a continuing conspiracy. But can a defendant, after he is indicted, then say, “You were wrong about what you have said because I have done this other thing since I was indicted?”

MR. GOLDMAN: We will stipulate, your Honor, that the basic principles of the new Declaration are the same as the old, but we ought to give to the jury an idea, since our old Declaration of Principles was suspended, of the nature of the new. If you want to, upon instruction, they can disregard it, but they ought to know about it.

THE COURT: I think you ought to wait until you have the new Declaration ready to introduce, and pass on to some other item.

MR. GOLDMAN: All right.

What Is a Social Revolution?

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): What is meant by “social revolution?”

A: By social revolution is meant a transformation, a political and economic transformation of society.

Q: And the nature of the transformation is what?

A: Is fundamental and affects the property system, affects the method of production.

Q: Is there a distinction between political and social revolution?

A: Yes.

Q: What is the distinction?

A: Well, a political revolution can occur without any radical transformation of the underlying economic structure of society, the property basis of society.

A social revolution, on the other hand, affects not only the government, but effects the economic system.

Q: Can you give us any examples of both the social and political revolutions?

A: Yes. The great French Revolution of 1789 –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Was that a political or social revolution?

MR. WITNESS: That was a social revolution, because it transformed the property basis of society from feudal property to capitalist property.

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): What do you mean by “feudal property?”

A: That was the whole economic system of society that was based on rights and privileges and restrictions, and serfdom, and so forth. Capitalist private property, which transformed the farms into privately owned enterprises of individual farmers, eliminated entirely all vestiges of serfdom and substituted wage labor, made a fundamental change in the economy of France.

Q: And can you give us an example of a political revolution?

A: Two of them occurred in France subsequent to the great social revolution, they occurred in 1830 and 1848, – that is, revolutions which were designed merely to change the ruling bureaucracy of the country and without touching the property system.

A revolution such as occurred in Panama the other day, a simple replacement of one regime by another in a palace coup d’etat, that is a political revolution that doesn’t affect the economic character of society at all.

We consider the American Civil War was a social revolution, because it destroyed the system of slave labor and property in slaves, and replaced it by the complete domination of capitalist enterprise and wage labor.

Prerequisites for the Revolution

Q: Enumerate the conditions under which, according to Marxist theory, the social revolution against capitalism will occur.

A: Well, I can give you quite a number.

The first one is that the existing society must have exhausted its possibilities of further development. Marx laid down as a law that no social system can be replaced by another until, it has exhausted all its possibilities for development and advancement. That, is, you may say, the fundamental prerequisite for a social revolution.

Then I can give a number of collateral prerequisites which have been accepted by our movement.

The ruling class must be unable any longer to solve its problems, must have to a large degree lost confidence in itself.

The misery and desperation of the masses must have increased to the point where they desire at all costs a radical change.

Unemployment, fascism, and war become problems of increasing magnitude which are patently insoluble by the existing ruling class.

There must be a tremendous sentiment among the masses of the producers for socialist ideas and for a successful revolution and, in addition to these prerequisites I have mentioned, it is necessary to have a workers’ party that is capable of leading and organizing the movement of the workers in a resolute fashion for a revolutionary solution of the crisis.

Q: Now, what would you say as to the actual existence at the present time of the factor of the decline of capitalism and the fact that it has exhausted the possibilities of further growth at the present moment, as far as the United States is concerned?

A: Well, on a world scale, capitalism had exhausted its possibilities of further development by 1914. On a world scale, capitalism has never since that time attained the level of productivity of 1914. On the other hand, America, which is the strongest section of world capitalism, experienced an enormous boom in the same period when capitalism as a world system was declining. But American capitalism, as was shown by the 1929 crisis, and now by the war preparations, has also definitely entered into the stage of decay.

Q: And what are the symptoms of that decay?

Symptoms of Capitalist Decay

A: The symptoms were the army of fifteen million unemployed, the decline of production from 1929; the fact that the higher productive index of the present day is based almost entirely on armament production, which is no possible basis of permanent stability.

Q: What would you say as to the existence at the present time of the second factor that you enumerated as a prerequisite to a revolutionary situation, namely, the inability of the ruling class to solve the problems?

A: Well, I don’t think it has by any means reached the acute stage in this country that it must necessarily reach on the eve of a revolution. They can’t solve their problems here, but they don’t know it yet.

MR. ANDERSON (prosecutor): What was the last of that answer, Mr. Reporter?

THE WITNESS: I say, the American ruling class cannot solve its problems, but is not yet aware of it.


THE WITNESS: I didn’t mean that as a wise-crack, because as I stated previously, the ruling class must lose confidence in itself, as was the case in every country where a revolution occurred.

The Role of the New Deal

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): What is the position of the party on the attempt of Roosevelt to improve the social system in this country?

A: How do you mean, “improve the social system”?

Q: To set capitalism into motion again, after the depression of 1929.

A: Well, all these measures of the New Deal were made possible in this country, and not possible for the poorer countries of Europe, because of the enormous accumulation of wealth in this country. But the net result of the whole New Deal experiment was simply the expenditure of billions and billions of dollars to create a fictitious stability, which in the end evaporated.

Now the Roosevelt administration is trying to accomplish the same thing by the artificial means of a war boom; that is, of an armament boom, but again, in our view, this has no possibility of permanent stability at all.

Q: With reference to the misery and suffering of the masses, what would you say as to the existence of that factor in the United States?

A: In our view, the living standards of the masses, have progressively deteriorated in this country since 1929. They haven’t yet reached that stage which I mentioned as a prerequisite of an enormous upsurge of revolutionary feeling, but millions of American workers were pauperized following 1929; and that, in our opinion, is a definite sign of the development of this prerequisite for the revolution.

‘Predictions’ on the Social Revolution

Q: Has the party, or any responsible member of the party, made any prediction as to the length of time that it will take before the masses reach a stage of misery and suffering where they will look for a way out by accepting Socialism?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Just answer that yes or no.

MR. GOLDMAN: You can answer that yes or no and then I can proceed further.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Here is what I want to know, whether it was in writing, or verbally, and under what circumstances?

THE WITNESS: I don’t recall any prediction in terms of years, but the question has been raised and debated, and different opinions prevail. I can tell you very briefly about that, if you wish.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I object to that.

MR. GOLDMAN: The evidence is full, your Honor, on the side of the Government, as to what the defendants said about when the revolution will come, and under what conditions, and I want an authoritative statement from the head of the party.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I will withdraw the objection.

THE WITNESS: I don’t recall any prediction as to the number of years. We are trained in the historical method, and we think in terms of history.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Please answer the question. You said that you don’t remember anybody’s prediction in terms of years, but it has been debated. Tell us who debated it, and where, instead of what you think about it.

THE WITNESS: All right. Trotsky advanced the thesis in the early days of our movement that America will be the last country to become Socialist, and that the whole of Europe, Socialist Europe, would have to defend itself against the intervention of American capitalism.

At a later stage, in the time of our 1929 crisis, Trotsky modified his prediction and said it is not by any means assured that America cannot be the first to enter the path of revolution.

Different opinions of that kind have been expressed in our ranks, but there is no settled opinion that I know of – no settled decision.

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): Calling your attention to that factor that you enumerated as a prerequisite for the social revolution here in the United States, namely, the one of acceptance by the majority of the people of the Socialist idea, what would you say with reference to that factor at the present time within the United States?

A: Somewhat lacking, I would say.

Q: Well, explain that.

A: The great mass of American people are still unfamiliar with Socialist ideas. That is shown by various ways – by our election results, by attendance at our meetings, circulation of our press, and so on. It is shown that a very small percentage of the American people are interested in Socialist ideas at the present time.

Q: How many votes did you receive as candidate for Mayor in New York?

A: I don’t know whether they counted them all or not

THE COURT: We will have our recess.


THE COURT: Proceed.

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): I call your attention to the condition which you mentioned as a prerequisite for a social revolution in the United States – that is, the one dealing with a party, and ask you whether that exists at the present time in the United States?

A: No, a party sufficiently influential, no, by no means.

Q: What function does the party play prior to the transformation of the social order?

A: Well, the only thing it can do, when it is a minority party, is to try to popularize its ideas, its program, by publishing papers, magazines, books, pamphlets, holding meetings, working in trade unions – by propaganda, and agitation.

The Class Struggle in Modern Society

Q: Will you tell the court and jury what is meant by “class struggle” as used by Marx?

A: Well, I can’t do it in two sentences, of course. Do you refer to the class struggle in present society?

Q: Yes, confine yourself to the class struggle in present society.

A: Marx contended that present day society is divided into two main classes. One is the capitalists, or the bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie is a French designation which is used by Marx interchangeably with the expression “the modern capitalist.” The other main class is the working class, the proletariat. These are the two main classes in society.

The workers are exploited by the capitalists. There is a constant conflict of interests between them, an unceasing struggle between these classes, which can only culminate in the eventual victory of the proletariat and the establishment of Socialism.

Q: Whom would you include under the term “working class?”

A: Well, we use the term “working class,” or proletariat, to designate the modern wage workers. Frequently it is broadened in its application to include working farmers, share croppers, tenant farmers, real dirt farmers, and so on, but that is not a precisely scientific use of the word as Marx defines it.

Q: What other classes, if any, are there outside of the working class and the capitalist class, according to Marxian theory?

A: Between these two main powerful classes in society, is the class which Marx describes as the petty bourgeoisie – that is, the small proprietors, the small operators, people who have their own little shops, small stores, the farmer who owns a small farm – they constitute a class which Marx called the petty bourgeoisie.

Q: What would you say with reference to the professional classes?

A: Yes, roughly, they are included also in this petty-bourgeois category in Marxian terminology.

Q: And what is the attitude of the party towards this middle class?

A: It is the opinion of the party that it is not sufficient for the wage working class alone to successfully effect the social revolution. The workers must have the support of the decisive majority of the petty bourgeoisie and, in particular, of the small farmers. That, reiterated time and time again by Trotsky on the basis of the Russian and German experiences, is an absolute prerequisite for success in a revolution – that the workers must have the support of the petty-bourgeoisie. Otherwise, the fascists will get them, as was the case in Germany, and instead of a progressive social revolution, you get a reactionary counter-revolution of fascism.

Q: Define the term “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Workers Democracy Is Our Aim

A: Dictatorship of the proletariat is Marx’s definition of the state that will be in operation in the transition period between the overthrow of capitalism and the institution of the Socialist society. That is, the Workers’ and Farmers’ Government will, in the opinion of the Marxists, be a dictatorship in so far as it will frankly represent the workers and farmers, and will not even pretend to represent the economic interests of the capitalists.

Q: What form will that dictatorship take with reference to the capitalist class?

A: Well, you mean, what would be the attitude toward the dispossessed capitalists?

Q: Yes, how will it exercise its dictatorship over the capitalist class?

A: That depends on a number of conditions. There is no fixed rule. It depends on a number of conditions, the most important of which is the wealth and resources of the given country where the revolution takes place; and the second is the attitude of the capitalist class, whether the capitalists reconcile themselves to the new regime, or take up an armed struggle against it.

Q. What is the difference between the scientific definition of “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” and the ordinary use of the word dictatorship?

A: Well, the popular impression of dictatorship is a one-man rule, an absolutism. I think that is the popular understanding of the word “Dictatorship.” This is not contemplated at all in the Marxian term “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Q: And how will the dictatorship of the proletariat operate in so far as democratic rights are concerned?

A: We think it will be the most democratic government from the point of view of the great masses of the people that has ever existed, far more democratic, in the real essence of the

matter, than the present bourgeois democracy in the United States.

Q: What about freedom of speech and all the freedoms that we generally associate with democratic government?

A: I think in the United States you can say with absolute certainty that the freedoms of speech, press, assemblage, religion, will be written in the program of the victorious revolution.

Q: Now, what is the opinion of Marxists with reference to the change in the social order, as far as its being accompanied or not accompanied by violence?

What Class Is Responsible for Violence?

A: Well, it is the opinion of Marxists that it will be accompanied by violence.

Q: Why?

A: That is based, like all Marxist doctrine, on a study of history, the historical experiences of mankind in the numerous changes of society from one form to another, the revolutions which accompanied it, and the resistance which the outlived classes invariably put up against the new order. Their attempt to defend themselves against the new order, or to suppress by violence the movement for the new order, has resulted in every important social transformation up to now being accompanied by violence.

Q: Who, in the opinion of Marxists, initiated that violence?

A: Always the ruling class; always the out-lived class that doesn’t want to leave the stage when the time has come. They want to hang onto their privileges, to reinforce them by violent measures, against the rising majority and they run up against the mass violence of the new class, which history has ordained shall come to power.

Winning a Majority to Socialism

Q: What is the opinion of Marxists, as far as winning a majority of the people to Socialist ideas?

A: Yes, that certainly is the aim of the party. That is the aim of the Marxist movement, has been from its inception. Marx said the social revolution of the proletariat – I think I can quote his exact words from memory – “is a movement of the immense majority in the interests of the immense majority.” He said this in distinguishing it from previous revolutions which had been made in the interest of minorities, as was the case in France in 1789.

Q: What would you say is the opinion of Marxists as far as the desirability of a peaceful transition is concerned?

A: The position of the Marxists is that the most economical and preferable, the most desirable method of social transformation, by all means, is to have it done peacefully,

Q: And in the opinion of the Marxists, is that absolutely excluded?

A: Well. I wouldn’t say absolutely excluded. We say that the lessons of history don’t show any important examples in favor of the idea so that you can count upon it.

Q: Can you give us examples in American history of a minority refusing to submit to a majority?

An Example in American History

A: I can give you a very important one. The conception of the Marxist is that, even if the transfer of political power from the capitalists to the proletariat is accomplished peacefully, – then the minority, the exploiting capitalist class, will revolt against the new regime, no matter how legally it is established.

I can give you an example in American history. The American Civil War resulted from the fact that the Southern slaveholders couldn’t reconcile themselves to the legal parliamentary victory of Northern capitalism, the election of President Lincoln.

Q: Can you give us an example outside of America where a reactionary minority revolted against a majority in office?

A: Yes, in Spain – the coalition of workers’ and liberal parties in Spain got an absolute majority in the elections and established the People’s Front Government. This government was no sooner installed than it was confronted with an armed rebellion, led by the reactionary capitalists of Spain.

Q: Then the theory of Marxists and the theory of the Socialist Workers Party, as far as violence is concerned, is a prediction based upon a study of history, is that right?

A: Well, that is part of it. It is a prediction that the outlived class, which is put in a minority by the revolutionary growth in the country, will try by violent means to hold onto its privileges against the will of the majority. That is what we predict.

Of course, we don’t limit ourselves simply to that prediction. We go further, and advise the the workers to bear this in mind and prepare themselves not to permit the reactionary outlived minority to frustrate the will of the majority.

Fascism and Violence

Q: What role does the rise and existence of fascism play with reference to the possibility of violence?

A: Well, that is really the nub of the whole question, because the reactionary violence of the capitalist class, expressed through fascism, is invoked against the workers. Long before the revolutionary movement of the workers against the majority, fascist gangs are organized and subsidized by millions in funds from the biggest industrialists and financiers, as the example of Germany showed – and these fascist gangs undertake to break up the labor movement by force, raid the halls, assassinate the leaders, break up the meetings, burn the printing plants, and destroy the possibility of functioning long before the labor movement has taken the road of revolution.

I say that is the nub of the whole question of violence. If the workers don’t recognize that, and do not begin to defend themselves against the fascists, they will never be given the possibility of voting on the question of revolution. They will face the fate of the German and Italian proletariat and they will be in the chains of fascist slavery before they have a chance of any kind of a fair vote on whether they want Socialism or not.

It is a life and death question for the workers that they organize themselves to prevent fascism, the fascist gangs, from breaking up the workers’ organizations, and not to wait until it is too late. That is in the program of our party.

Q: What difference is there, Mr. Cannon, between advocating violence and predicting violent revolution?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I object to that.

THE COURT: Is this man qualified to answer that question? Is that a question for him to answer?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: It is for the jury to determine.

MR. GOLDMAN: I will rephrase the question.

The Possibility of Peaceful Revolution

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): What is the attitude of the Socialist Workers Party as far as advocating violent revolution is concerned?

A: No, so far as I know, there is no authority among the most representative teachers of Marxism for advocating violent revolution.

If we can have the possibility of peaceful revolution by the registration of the will of the majority of the people, it seems to me it would be utterly absurd to reject that, because if we don’t have the support of the majority of the people, you can’t make a successful revolution anyhow.

Q: Explain the sentence that I read from Page 6 of the Declaration of Principles, Government’s Exhibit 1:

“The belief that in such a country as the United States we live in a free democratic society in which fundamental economic change can be effected by persuasion, by education, by legal and purely parliamentary method, is an illusion.”

A: That goes back to what I said before, that we consider it an illusion for the workers to think that the ruling class violence will not be invoked against them in the course of their efforts to organize the majority of the people.

Q: What is meant by the expression “overthrow of the capitalist state?”

A: That means to replace it by a Workers’ and Farmers’

Government; that is what we mean.

Q: What is meant by the expression “destroy the machinery of the capitalist state?”

Government in a Workers’ State

A: By that we mean that when we set up the Workers’ and Farmers’ Government in this country, the functioning of this government, its tasks, its whole nature, will be so profoundly and radically different from the functions, task, and nature of the bourgeois state, that we will have to replace it all along the line. From the very beginning the workers’ state has a different foundation, and it is different in all respects. It has to create an entirely new apparatus, a new state apparatus from top to bottom. That is what we mean.

Q: Do you mean that there will be no Congress or House of Representatives and Senate?

A: It will be a different kind of a Congress. It will be a Congress of representatives of workers and soldiers and farmers, based on their occupational units, rather than the present form based on territorial representation.

Q: And what is the meaning of “Soviet”?

A: Soviet is a Russian word which means “council”. It is the Russian equivalent for council in our language. It means a body of representatives of various groups. That is what the

term meant in the Russian Revolution. That is, the representatives – they called them deputies – I guess we would call them delegates. The delegates from various shops in a given city come together in a central body. The Russians called it the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

Q: Now, what is meant by “expropriation”?

A: Expropriation we apply to big industry, which is in the hands of private capitalists, the Sixty Families – take it out of their hands and put it in the hands of the people through their representatives, that’s expropriation.

Q: Is it a question of principle that there should be no compensation for property expropriated from the Sixty Families?

Expropriation of the Sixty Families

A: No, it is not a question of principle. That question has been debated interminably in the Marxist movement. No place has any authoritative Marxist declared it a question of principle not to compensate. It is a question of possibility, of adequate finances, of an agreement of the private owners to submit, and so forth.

Q: Would the party gladly pay these owners if they could avoid violence?

A: I can only give you my opinion.

Q: What is your opinion?

A: My personal opinion is that if the workers reached the point of the majority, and confronted the capitalist private owners of industry with the fact of their majority and their power, and then were able to make a deal with the capitalists to compensate them for their holdings, and let them enjoy this for the rest of their lives, I think it would be a cheaper, a cheaper and more satisfactory way of effecting the necessary social transformation than a civil war. I personally would vote for it – if you could get the capitalists to agree on that, which you wouldn’t.

Q: What attitude does the party take toward the ballot?

A: Our party runs candidates wherever it is able to get on the ballot. We conduct very energetic campaigns during the elections, and in general, to the best of our ability, and to the limit of our resources, we participate in election campaigns.

Election Campaigns and the SWP

Q: What campaigns do you remember the party haying participated in in the last few years?

A: Well. I remember the candidacy of Comrade Grace Carlson for the United States Senate last year. I have been a candidate several times of the party for various offices. In Newark, where we have a good organization, we have had candidates in every election for some time. I cite those three examples. In general, it is the policy, of the party to have candidates everywhere possible.

Q: Does the party at times support other candidates?

A: Yes. In cases where we don’t have a candidate, it is our policy, as a rule, to support the candidates of another workers’ party, or of a Labor or a Farmer-Labor Party. We support them critically. That is, we do not endorse their program, but we vote for them and solicit votes for them, with the explanation that we don’t agree with their program. We support them as against the candidates of the Republican and Democratic Parties.

For example, we have always supported the Farmer-Labor candidates in Minnesota in all cases where we didn’t have a candidate of our own party. We supported the candidates of the American Labor Party in New York in similar circumstances.

Q: What is the purpose of the party in participating in these electoral campaigns?

A: Well, the first one, I would say. is to make full use of the democratic possibility afforded to popularize our ideas to try to get elected wherever possible, and, from a long range view, to test out the uttermost possibility of advancing the Socialist cause by democratic means.

Q: What purpose did you and associates of yours have in creating the Socialist Workers Party?

A: The purpose was to organize our forces for the more effective propagation of our ideas, with the ultimate object that I have mentioned before, of building up a party that would be able to lead the working masses of the country to Socialism by means of the social revolution.

How the Party Arrives at Decisions

Q: Will you describe briefly how the party works, as far as arriving at decisions is concerned?

A: We have already discussed the convention which, according to the Constitution, is the highest body of the party. It meets at least every two years, and is made up of delegates elected by the branches in proportion to their membership. The decisions of the convention become the party’s guide to action in the next ensuing period. The party is organized into branches, and these branches are connected with the National Committee through their officers, correspondence, field organizers, and so on.

Between conventions, if the National Committee wants to advance a new idea, as frequently occurs, or if someone else in the party wants to make a proposal that hasn’t been answered or dealt with, we provide internal bulletins for discussion where the proposals can be discussed. If they meet with sufficient response, they are put on the agenda of the next convention for decision by the delegates.

Q: The party, then, permits differences of opinion, does it?

A: Yes, it not only permits them – differences of opinion are continuous in the party.

Q: So periodic discussions occur prior to conventions, is that right?

A: Well, that is the party law. Prior to a convention, the National Committee is required to publish an agenda, and to allow sixty days for discussion, and to open an internal bulletin for the use of the members of different views, and all branch meetings in that sixty days period have to be open for discussion from the floor, so that for sixty days every member who has an opinion, no matter how it conflicts with the majority, has his say.

Q: Do you recollect any discussion that has taken place since the formation of the Socialist Workers Party about violence?

A: No, I don’t recall any discussion on that point at all.

Attitude to the Capitalist Government

Q: What is the attitude of the party, and the opinion of the party, with reference to the Government, as it exists now, being capitalist?

A: Yes, we consider it a capitalist government. That is stated in our Declaration of Principles; that is. a government which represents the economic interests of the class of capitalists in this country, and not the interests of the workers and the poor farmers; not the interests of all the people, as it pretends, but a class government.

Q: What opinion has the party as to differences within the ruling class from the point of view of more liberal or mote reactionary?

A: We don’t picture the capitalist class as one solid, homogeneous unit. There are all kinds of different trends, different interests among them, which reflect themselves in different capitalist parties and different factions in the parties, and very heated struggles. An example is the present struggle between the interventionists and the isolationists.

Q: Does the party take an attitude as to whether or not the Roosevelt administration is more or less liberal than previous administrations?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I object to that as irrelevant.

THE COURT: Sustained.

MR. GOLDMAN: Very well.

Differences of Opinion in the Party

Q: Is it possible for a difference of opinion to exist in the party on the question as to whether the transformation will be peaceful or violent?

A: I think it is possible, yes.

Q: So that there is no compulsion on a member to have an opinion as to what the future will have in store for the party or for the workers?

A: No, I don’t think that is compulsory, because that is an opinion about the future that can’t be determined with scientific precision.

Q: What steps, if any, does the party take to secure a correct interpretation of party policy by individual members?

A: Well, we have, in addition to our public lectures, and press, forums, and so forth – we have internal meetings, educational meetings. In the larger cities we usually conduct a school, where we teach the doctrines of the party. Individual comrades, unschooled workers who don’t understand our program, or who misinterpret it, – all kinds of provisions are made to try to explain things to them, to convince them of the party’s point of view. That is a frequent occurrence, because, after all, the program of the party is a document that represents pretty nearly one hundred years of Socialist thought, and we don’t expect an unschooled worker who joins the party to understand all those doctrines as precisely as the professional party leaders.

Q: What can you tell us about the differences and degree of knowledge of various members of the party?

A: Well, there is a big difference of various members and of various leaders.

Q: Is it always possible to correct every mistake that every member of the party makes?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I object to that.

THE COURT: It seems to me the answer to that is obvious.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I will stipulate that it isn’t always possible.

MR. GOLDMAN: That is fine.

‘Internationalist to the Very Core’

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): What is the position taken by the party on the question of Internationalism?

A: The party is Internationalist to the very core.

Q: And what do you mean by that?

A: We believe that the modern world is an economic unit. No country is self-sufficient. It is impossible to solve the accumulated problems of the present day, except on a world scale; no nation is self-sufficient, and no nation can stand alone.

The economy of the world now is all tied together in one unit, and because we think that the solution of the problems of the day – the establishment of socialism – is a world problem, we believe that the advanced workers in every country must collaborate in working toward that goal. We have, from the very beginning of our movement, collaborated with like-minded people in all other countries in trying to promote the Socialist movement on a world scale. We have advocated the International organization of the workers, and their cooperation in all respects, and mutual assistance in all respects possible.

Opposition to Racial Prejudices

Q: Does the party have any attitude on the question of racial or national differences?

A: Yes, the party is opposed to all forms of national chauvinism. race prejudice, discrimination, denigration of races – I mean by that, this hateful theory of the fascists about inferior races. We believe in and we stand for the full equality of all races, nationalities, creeds. It is written in our program that we fight against anti-Semitism and that we demand full and unconditional equality for the Negro in all avenues of life. We are friends of the Colonial people, the Chinese, of all those that are victimized and treated as inferiors.

Q: What is the position of the party on Socialism as a world system?

A: We not only stand for an International Socialist movement, but we believe that the Socialist order will be a world order, not a national autarchy which is carried to its absurd extreme by the fascists, who have tried to set up a theory that Germany could be a completely self-sufficient nation in an economic sense, that Italy can be, and so forth. We believe that the wealth of the world, the raw materials of the world, and the natural resources of the world are so distributed over the earth that every country contributes something and lacks something for a rounded and harmonious development of the productive forces of mankind.

We visualize the future society of mankind as a Socialist world order which will have a division of labor between the various countries according to their resources, a comradely collaboration between them, and production eventually of the necessities and luxuries of mankind according to a universal single world plan.

The Fourth International and the SWP

Q: Did the party ever belong to an International organization?

A: The party belonged to the Fourth International. It was designated that way to distinguish it from the three other international organizations which had been known in the history of Socialism. The first one, the International Working Men’s Association, was founded under the leadership of Marx in the 1860’s, and lasted until about 1871.

The Second International was organized on the initiative of the German, French and other Socialist parties of Europe about 1890, and continues today. It includes those reformist Socialist parties and trade unions of Europe, or at least did until they were destroyed by the Hitler scourge.

The Third International was founded under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky after the Russian Revolution. It was founded in 1919, as a rival of the Second International, the main motive being that the Second International had supported the imperialist war of 1914 and, in the view of the Bolsheviks, had thereby betrayed the interests of the workers.

The Fourth International was organized on the initiative of Trotsky as a rival of the Stalinist Third International. We took part in the initiation of that movement, and we participated in its work up until last December.

Why We Had to Leave the International

Q: And what caused you to cease belonging to it?

A: The passage by Congress of the Voorhis Act, which placed penalties upon organizations that have international affiliation, made that necessary. We called a special convention of the party, and formally severed our relation with the Fourth International in compliance with the Voorhis Act.

Q: What role do Fourth International resolutions play in the party?

A: Well, they have a tremendous moral authority in our party. All the sections of the Fourth International have been autonomous in their national decisions, but the programmatic documents of the Fourth International, wherever they are applicable to American conditions, have a decisive influence with us.

Q: So you accept them, in so far as they are applicable to American conditions?

A: Yes – it is not the letter of the law for us in the sense that our Declaration of Principles is, but it is a general ideological guiding line for us.

Q: Now, does the party interest itself in the trade union movement?

A: Oh, yes, immensely.

Q: And why?

Our Interest in the Trade Union Movement

A: Well, we view the trade union movement as the basic organization of the workers, that should include the great mass of the workers, and must include them in the struggle to defend their interests from day to day. We are in favor of trade unions, and participate in organizing them wherever we can.

Q: And what is the fundamental purpose of the party in trying to strengthen the trade unions and organizing them wherever they are not organized?

A: Well, we have a double purpose. One is that we are seriously interested in anything that benefits the workers. The trade unions help the workers to resist oppression, possibly to gain improvement of conditions; that is for us a decisive reason to support them, because we are in favor of anything that benefits the workers.

A second reason is that the trade unions, which are big mass organizations, offer the most productive fields for us to work in to popularize the ideas of the party, and the influence of the party.

Q: What instructions, if any, are given to party members with reference to their activity in trade unions?

A: Yes, our party members are instructed to be the best trade unionists, to do the most work for the unions – be most attentive, most active in the union work, – to be the best mechanics at their trade, to become influential by virtue of their superiority in their abilities and their actions in behalf of the workers in the union.

Q: Does the party take a position with reference to the CIO and the AFL?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I object to that as immaterial, if your Honor please.

THE COURT: What is the materiality of that. Mr. Goldman?

MR. GOLDMAN: Well, it would explain the fight here in Local 544-CIO, about which the witnesses for the Government testified.

THE COURT: He may answer.

THE WITNESS: Yes, we take a position.

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): And what is that position, Mr. Cannon?

The CIO and the AFL

A: In general we are in favor of industrial unionism. That is, that form of unionism which organizes all the workers in a given shop or given industry into one union. We consider that a more progressive and effective form of organization than craft unionism, so we support the industrial union principle.

The CIO has found its greatest field of work in the big mass production industries, such as automobile and steel, which hitherto were unorganized, where the workers were without the protection of any organization, and where experience proved it was impossible for the craft unions, a dozen or more in a single shop, to organize them. We consider that a tremendously progressive development, the organization of several million mass production workers, so that, in general, we sympathize with the trend represented by the CIO.

But we don’t condemn the AFL. We are opposed to craft unionism, but many of our members belong to AFL unions and we have, in general, the same attitude towards them as to CIO unions, to build them up, to strengthen them, improve the conditions of the workers. And we are sponsors of the idea of unity of the AFL and the CIO; it was written in our Declaration of Principles; so that while we are somewhat partial to the CIO as a national movement, we are in favor of unity on the provision that it should not sacrifice the industrial union form of organization.

Q: What would you say as to the extent of the influence of the party in the trade union movement at the present time?

A: Well, it isn’t very great; it isn’t very great.

Q: Are there any unions now where a majority of the executive board are party members?

A: I don’t know of any except possibly here in Minneapolis.

Democracy in the Trade Union

Q: What is the party policy with reference to the existence of democracy in trade unions?

A: The Declaration of Principles, and all of our editorials and speeches, are continually demanding a democratic regime inside the unions, demanding the rights of the members to speak up, to have free elections, and frequent elections, and in general to have the unions under the control of the rank and file through the system of democracy.

Q: And what is the policy of the party with reference to racketeering and gangsterism in the unions?

A: Similarly, the Declaration of Principles denounces racketeers, gangsters, all criminal elements – summons our members and sympathizers to fight relentlessly to clean them out of the unions, and forbids under penalty of expulsion any member of the party to give any direct or indirect support to any gangster or racketeering element in the unions.

Q: Is there such a policy of the party as controlling the unions?

A: No, a union is an independent, autonomous organization and –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Well, now, you have answered the question. He asked you if there was a policy with respect to controlling the unions, and you said, “No.”

MR. GOLDMAN: Let him explain.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Why does it need explanation?

MR. GOLDMAN: Well, there are at least, I should say, 25 or 50 pages of evidence about the party controlling unions.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: And the witness has said that there is no such policy. That disposes of it.

THE COURT: Well, he has answered this question, certainly.

Our Activities Inside the Unions

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): In what way does the party try to win influence in the unions?

A: We try to get our members in the union the leading influence in the unions.

Q: How?

A: First of all by our instructions to our members in the unions that they must be the best trade unionists in the union, and they must be the best workers on the job. That is first, in order that they may gain the respect of their fellow workers and their confidence.

Second, they have got to be active in the propagation of our ideas to their fellow workers. They have got to be busy and active in all union affairs – try to get subscriptions to our paper, try to influence union members to come to our lectures and classes and, in general, work to gain sympathy and support for the party and its program. We do say that, surely.

Q: What policy does the party have with reference to placing party members in official positions of the unions?

A: Yes, whenever they can be fairly elected, we certainly encourage them to try.

Q: But through elections?

A: Through elections, yes. Also if they can be appointed by some higher body and the work is not inconsistent with our principles, we advise them to accept the appointment, as in the case, for example, of Comrade Dobbs.

Q: Appointment for what?

A: Dobbs was appointed International Organizer of the Teamsters’ Union at one time.

THE COURT: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you will please keep in mind the admonitions of the court. We will recess until ten o’clock tomorrow morning.

The Defense Offers Some Exhibits



MR. GOLDMAN: If your Honor please, I offer in evidence a resolution on the Labor Party, concerning which there was testimony yesterday, that it modified the Declaration of Principles on that particular subject. I do not think it is of sufficient importance to read it to the jury. The jury can have it.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Is it marked as an exhibit?

MR. GOLDMAN: Yes, it is Defendants’ Exhibit D.

MR. GOLDMAN: I now offer in evidence, Your Honor, the draft of the revised Declaration of Principles, submitted to the plenum conference, the one concerning which the witness testified as having been held about six weeks ago, at the conference in Chicago, to substitute for the Declaration of Principles suspended in December, 1940. This is Defendants’ Exhibit E.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: We object to it on the ground that no change in policy of the Party since the date of the indictment should be pertinent to the issues here.

Goldman Explains

MR. GOLDMAN: We do not claim there was a change in policy, Your Honor. We submit it simply for the jury to read it and see what light it can throw on the general issues raised by the indictment. There was no change in fundamental policy. There may have been changes in formulations, but. there was no change in fundamental policy. We do not claim that there was.

THE COURT: Well, what other legal effect would that have, than a self-serving declaration indulged in long after the date of the indictment?

MR. GOLDMAN: On the same theory that counsel for the prosecution offered articles subsequent to the indictment; on their theory that this is a continuing conspiracy, we are entitled to offer documents and articles subsequent to the indictment, showing that there is no continuing conspiracy, Your Honor. There

never was a conspiracy; there is not now, and there has not been at any time a conspiracy.

MR. ANDERSON: I understood that counsel withdrew his objection as to the date of the government exhibits that were after the date of the indictment.

THE COURT: As I recall, your objections were withdrawn, and a record was made – I called particular attention to it, that your objections were withdrawn as to documents rendered after the date of the indictment.


THE COURT: And the indictment was returned on the 15th day of July 1941.

MR. GOLDMAN: By the way, Your Honor, a committee was appointed, of course, to draw the revised Declaration up before the indictment. That is the testimony.

The Court Speaks

THE COURT: But they did not do anything about it, so far as the indictment here is concerned. About six weeks ago, I suppose about the time this case was set for trial, there was a plenum held with, reference to some new principles. These defendants are to be measured, as I see it, in the light of their activities as they existed as of the date of the indictment. With reference to the reception of evidence showing a continuing course of conduct after the date of the indictment, the authority is universal to the effect that they may be shown to have continued that course of conduct. That is as far as the prosecution is concerned. Now then, if a man is charged with committing an offense, and long after the date when he is charged with committing the offense, he does something else, and he says, “That proves that I did not commit the offense which in the indictment I am charged with” – he then was advised, and he knew what the charges were. He cannot modify it by some subsequent act. I will sustain the objection.

MR. GOLDMAN: I want to urge one point, Your Honor.

I do not offer this, Your Honor, to show that we changed. On the contrary, I offer this to show that our principles remained the same. However, I am not taking any exception to Your Honor’s ruling. I will let it stand as it is. I just wanted to show the prosecution and everybody else concerned that we did not think we committed a crime, and we continued to do the same thing.

THE COURT: Well, that is argument.

MR. ANDERSON: Yes, we have heard that before.

MR. GOLDMAN: I want to offer in evidence. Your Honor, Defendants’ Exhibit F, the resolution on international relations, adopted at the special National Convention of the Socialist Workers Party on December 21, 1940 and published in the Socialist Appeal of December 28, 1940.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: No objection to Exhibit F.

THE COURT: It will be received.

MR. GOLDMAN: I offer in evidence Defendants’ Exhibit G, being a resolution on the Declaration of Principles, adopted at the Special National Convention of the Socialist Workers Party, December 21, 1940, and published in the Socialist Appeal of December 28, 1940.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: No objection to Defendants’ Exhibit G.

THE COURT: It will be received.

Disaffiliation from International

MR. GOLDMAN: I will now read Defendants’ Exhibit F:

“Whereas, federal legislation (the Voorhis Act, etc.) has been adopted by Congress which imposes burdensome requirements on political organizations affiliated to international bodies, including the formal periodic registration of lists of individual members; and

“Whereas, such regulations could be of service only to the enemies of the workers, the Fourth (Special) National Convention of the Socialist Workers Party hereby resolves:

“1. To formally discontinue its affiliation to the Fourth International as of this date.

“2. To continue its struggle for socialism as a completely autonomous party.

“3. While complying with the provisions of the aforesaid legislation, we affirm our opposition to this and any similar measures designed to disrupt the international solidarity of the workers. We assure our co-thinkers in other lands that nothing in this decision of compliance with arbitrary discriminatory legislation alters in any way our ardent sympathy with their own struggles for socialism.”

Declaration Of Principles Withdrawn

Now, I will read Defendant’s Exhibit G:

“The Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Workers Party – adopted by the Foundation Convention (Dec. 28, 1937 to Jan. 3. 1938) – requires some changes and additions to bring it up to date and to correspond with new developments which have transpired since the Foundation Convention.

“This task can be performed satisfactorily only after adequate time has been provided for consideration of proposed changes and their discussion in the ranks of the party. As a step towards the preparation of this task, the Fourth (Special) National Convention resolves:

“1. To suspend and withdraw the Declaration of Principles adopted at the Foundation Convention.

“2. To authorize and instruct the National Committee to prepare a draft of an amended Declaration of Principles for submission to the party for discussion and eventual decision by Party convention or referendum.”

* * *

Next week’s issue of The Militant will contain four more full pages of Comrade Cannon’s testimony on direct examination by Chief Defense Counsel Albert Goldman and on cross examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney-General Schweinhaut for the prosecution. In it Comrade Cannon deals with such questions as the attitude of the Socialist Workers Party toward the capitalist government in time of war, the party’s Proletarian Military Policy, the question of Workers’ Defense Guards, and other questions of extreme importance to every class-conscious worker. Make sure you get next week’s issue for this historic material!

Last updated on 23 March 2019