James P. Cannon

Tells the Jury How Trotskyists Oppose
All the Imperialists in the War

(19 November 1941)

Published: The Militant, Vol. V No. 49, 6 December 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.

Last week’s issue of The Militant printed the first part of the testimony by Comrade James P. Cannon on the witness stand at the government’s “seditious conspiracy” trial against 23 members of the Socialist Workers Party and Local 544-CIO.

In his testimony on Tuesday, Nov. 18, as the first witness for the defense, Comrade Cannon, on direct examination by chief Defense Albert Goldman, himself one of the 23 defendants, told of the formation of the Trotskyist movement in this country and its history and activities up to the formation of the Socialist Workers Party and the present day.

He declared that the aim of the Party was the establishment of a socialist society that would abolish imperialist war, fascism and unemployment.

Now go on with Cannon’s testimony on Wednesday, Nov. 19, printed below:

* * *

Q (By MR. GOLDMAN): Mr. Cannon, will you tell us the position of the Socialist Workers Party on the causes of modern war?

A: Modern wars, in the opinion of our Party, are caused by the conflict of imperialist nations for markets, colonies, sources of raw material, fields for investment and spheres of activity.

Q: What do you mean by “imperialist”, Mr. Cannon?

A: Those capitalist nations which directly or indirectly exploit other countries.

Q: What is the Party’s position on the inevitability of wars under the capitalist system?

A: As long as the capitalist system remains, and with it

those conditions which I have mentioned, which flow automatically from the operation of the capitalist and imperialist system, wars, recurring wars, are inevitable.

Q: And can anybody’s opposition, including the opposition of the Socialist Workers Party to war, prevent wars under the capitalist system?

Economic Conflicts Cause War

A: No. Our Party has always stated that it is impossible to prevent wars without abolishing the capitalist system which breeds war. It may be possible to delay a war for awhile, but eventually it is impossible to prevent wars while this system and its conflicts of imperialist nations, remains.

Q: Then is it true that the Party is of the opinion that wars are caused by international economic conflicts, and not by the good-will or bad-will of some people?

A: Yes. That does not eliminate the possibility of incidental attacks being caused by the acts of this or that ruling group of one country or another; but fundamentally wars are caused by the efforts of all of the capitalist powers to expand into other fields, and the only way they can get them is by taking them away from some other power, because the whole world has been divided up among a small group of imperialist powers. That is what leads to war, regardless of the will, or not, of the people.

We do not maintain that the ruling groups of any of the imperialist powers now at war really desired the war. We have stated many times that they would have been glad to have avoided it; but they could not avoid it and maintain the capitalist system in their country.

“Our Party Is Opposed to All Imperialist Wars”

Q: What is the attitude of the Party towards a war which it designates as an imperialist war?

A: Our Party is unalterably opposed to all imperialist wars.

Q: And what is meant by opposition to imperialist wars?

A: By that we mean that we do not give any support to any imperialist war. We do not vote for it; we do not vote for any person that promotes it; we do not speak for it; we do not write for it. We are in opposition to it.

Q: How does the Socialist Workers Party oppose the idea of the United States entering into the war?

A: Well, we do it as every other political party promotes its ideas, on any foreign policy. We write against it in the paper; we speak against it; we try to create sentiment in any organization we can approach, to adopt resolutions against the war. If we had members in Congress, they would speak in Congress, in the Senate, against it. In general we carry on public political agitation against the entry of the United States into war, and against all measures taken either by the executive or by Congress which in our opinion lead towards active participation in the war.

Q: What do you mean by “active”?

A: For example, all measures which have been taken, which put the United States into the war, in effect, without a formal declaration to that effect.

Q: What was the Party’s position with reference to amending the Constitution to give the people the power to declare war?

For the Ludlow Amendment

A: For quite a while now we have supported the proposal that was introduced into Congress, I think by Representative Ludlow, and is known as the Ludlow Amendment, for an amendment to the Constitution requiring a referendum vote of the people for the declaration of a war. Our Party supported this proposal and at times has carried on a very energetic agitation in favor of such an amendment to require a referendum vote of the people before war could be declared.

Q: And is that still the position of the Party, Mr. Cannon?

A: Yes, that is incorporated as one of the points of practical daily policy, in the editorial masthead of our paper. If I am not mistaken, it appears on the editorial page as one of our current principles, and every once in awhile there appears an editorial or an article in the paper attempting to revive interest in this idea.

Q: If the United States should enter into the European conflict, what form would the opposition of the Party lake to the war?

A: Well, we would maintain our position.

Q: And that is what?

A: That is, we would not become supporters of the war, even after the war was declared. That is, we would remain an opposition political party on the war question, as on others.

Q: You would not support the war?

A: That is what I mean, we would not support the war, in a political sense.

What the Party Would Do During War

THE COURT: May I ask you to develop the significance of that last statement?


Q: When you say, “non-support of the war,” just exactly what would the Party do during a war, which would indicate its non-support of the war?

A: Well, insofar as we are permitted our rights, we would speak against the war as a false policy that should be changed, in the same sense, from our point of view, that other parties might oppose the foreign policy of the Government in time of war, just as Lloyd George, for example, opposed the Boer War in public addresses and speeches. Ramsey McDonald, who-later became Prime Minister of England, opposed the war policy of England during the World War of 1914–1918. We hold our own point of view, which is different from the point of view of the two political figures I have just mentioned, and so far as we are permitted to exercise our right, we would continue to write and speak for a different foreign policy for America.

Answering the Charges Relating to Sabotage

Q: Would the Party take any practical steps, so-called, to show its opposition to war, or non-support of the war?

A: Well, practical steps in what sense?

Q: Would the Party try to sabotage the conduct of the war in any way?

A: No. The Party has specifically declared against sabotage. We are opposed to sabotage.

Q: What is that – what do you mean by sabotage?

A: That is, interference with the operation of the industries, of transportation, or the military forces. Our Party has never at any time taken a position in favor of obstruction or sabotage of the military forces in time of war.

Q: And will you explain the reasons why?

A: Well, as long as we are a minority, we have no choice but to submit to the decision that has been made. A decision has been made, and is accepted by a majority of the people, to go to war. Our comrades have to comply with that. Insofar as they are eligible for the draft, they must accept that, along with the rest of their generation, and go and perform the duty imposed on them, until such time as they convince the majority for a different policy.

Q: So, essentially, your opposition during a war would be of the same type as our opposition prior to the war?

A: A political opposition. That is what we speak of.

On Insubordination in Army

Q: Did the Party ever, or does the Party now, advise its members or any of its sympathizers, or any workers that it

comes in contact with, to create insubordination in the United States armed forces or naval forces?

A: No.

Q: Will you explain the reason why?

A: Fundamentally the reason is the one I just gave. A serious political party, which is aiming at a social transformation of society, which is possible only by the consent and support of the great mass of the population, such a party cannot attempt while it is a minority to obstruct the carrying out of the decisions of the majority. By sabotage and insubordination, breaking discipline and so on, a party would absolutely discredit itself and destroy its possibilities of convincing people, besides being utterly ineffective so far as accomplishing anything would be concerned.

Q: If any expressions have crept into the papers of the Party which would lead people to believe that the Party would obstruct the conduct of the war, if war is declared, what would you say with reference to those expressions?

A: Well, I would say the resolutions of the conference of September 1940 and my speeches to the conference which were published, which speak authoritatively in the name of the conference, as to Party policy, are the line by which we want to guide the Party, and the line by which we should be judged.

I personally do not know of any articles or expressions in the paper that divert from that line, but such expressions, in the light of the official resolution, and in the light of the official speeches, would be obviously unrepresentative of the real policy of the Party.

This Is Not “A War of Democracy Against Fascism”

Q: Will you state the reasons why the Party would not support a war conducted by the present Government of the United States?

A: Well, in general, we do not put any confidence in the ruling capitalist group in this country. We do not give them any support because we do not think they can or will solve the fundamental social problems which must be solved in order to save civilization from shipwreck.

We believe that the necessary social transition from the present system of capitalism to the far more efficient order of socialism, can only be brought under a leadership of the workers. The workers must organize themselves independently of the capitalist political parties. They must organize a great party of their own, develop an independent working class party of their own, and oppose the policy of the capitalist parties, regardless of whether they are called the Democratic or Republican, or anything else.

Q: What kind of a war would you consider a war waged by the present Government of the United States?

A: I would consider it a capitalist war.

Q: Why?

A: Because America is today a capitalist nation. It is different from the others only in that it is stronger than the others and bigger. We do not believe in capitalist policy. We do not want to conquer any other country. We do not want to gain any colonies. We do not want bloodshed to make profits for American capital.

Q: What is the Party’s position on the claim that the war against Hitler is a war of democracy against fascism?

A: We say that is a subterfuge, that the conflict between American imperialism and German imperialism is for the domination of the world. It is absolutely true that Hitler wants to dominate the world, but we think it is equally true that the ruling group of American capitalists has the same idea, and we are not in favor of either of them.

We do not think that the Sixty Families who own America want to wage this war for some sacred principle of democracy. We think they are the greatest enemies of democracy here at home. We think they would only use the opportunity of a war to eliminate all civil liberties at home, to get the best imitation of fascism they can possibly get.

Q: What is the position of the Party with reference to any imperialist or capitalist enemy of the United States, like Germany or Italy?

A: We are not pro-German. We absolutely are not interested in the success of any of the imperialist enemies of the United States.

Q: In case of a conflict between the United States and Germany, Italy or Japan, what would the Party’s position be so far as the victory or defeat of the United States, as against its imperialist enemies?

A: Well, we are certainly not in favor of a victory for Japan or Germany or any other imperialist power over the United States.

Q: Is it true then that the Party is as equally opposed to

Hitler, as it is to the capitalist claims of the United States?

A: That is uncontestable. We consider Hitler and Hitlerism the greatest enemy of mankind. We want to wipe it off the face of the earth. The reason we do not support a declaration of war by American arms, is because we do not believe the American capitalists can defeat Hitler and fascism. We think Hitlerism can be destroyed only by way of conducting a war under the leadership of the workers.

Q: What method does the Party propose for the defeat of Hitler?

Our Program Can Bring About the Defeat of Hitler

A: If the workers formed the government I spoke of, if the workers’ form of government were in power, we would propose two things:

One, that we issue a declaration to the German people, a solemn promise, that we are not going to impose another Versailles peace on them; that we are not going to cripple the German people, or take away their shipping facilities, or take away their milk cows, as was done in the horrible Treaty of Versailles, starving German babies at their mothers’ breast, and filling the German people with such hatred and such demand for revenge that it made it possible for a monster like Hitler to rally them, with the slogan of revenge against this terrible Treaty of Versailles. We would say to them:

We promise you that we will not impose any of those things upon the German people. On the contrary, we propose to you a reorganization of the world on a fair socialist basis, where the German people, with all their recognized ability and their genius and labor, can participate equally with us.”

That would be our Party’s first proposal to them.

Second, we would also say to them:

On the other hand, we are going to build the biggest army and navy and air force in the world, to put at your disposal, to help smash Hitler by force of arms on one front, while you revolt against him on the home front.”

I think that would be the program, in essence, of our Party, which the Workers’ and Farmers’ Government of America would advance so far as Hitler is concerned, and we believe that is the only way Hitlerism will be destroyed, only when the Great Powers on the other side can successfully prevail upon the German people to rise against Hitler, because we must not forget –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT (prosecutor): You have answered the question, Mr. Cannon.

Q: Now, until such time as the workers and farmers in the United States establish their own government and use their own methods to defeat Hitler, the Socialist Workers Party must submit to the majority of the people – is that right?

A: That is all we can do. That is all we propose to do.

Q: And the Party’s position is that there will be no obstruction of ways and means taken by the Government for the effective prosecution of its war?

A: No obstruction in a military way, or by minority revolution; on the contrary, the Party has declared positively against any such procedure.

The War Will Be Followed by Revolution

Q: What is the opinion of the Party as to the relationship between war and a possible revolutionary situation?

A: Well, wars frequently have been followed by revolution; wars themselves are the expression of a terrible social crisis, which they are unable to solve. Misery and suffering grow at such a tremendous pace in war, that it often leads to revolution.

The Russo-Japanese war of 1904 produced the Russian revolution of 1905. The World War of 1914 produced the Russian revolution of 1917, the Hungarian revolution, near-revolution in Italy, and the revolution in Germany and Austria; and in general, a revolutionary situation developed over the whole continent of Europe, as the result of the first World War.

I think it is highly probable that if the war in Europe continues, that the mass of the people, especially in Europe, will undertake to put a stop to the slaughter by revolutionary means.

Q: So that it would be correct to say that a revolutionary situation is created by a war, and not by the Socialist Workers Party, if a revolutionary situation will arise?

A: I would say it is created by the privations of the capitalist system, which are tremendously accelerated by a war.

The Relation of the Party to Our Press

Q: What is the chief method used by the Party to spread its ideas?

A: We publish a press and –

Q: What press?

A: We have a weekly paper, and a monthly magazine. We publish leaflets, pamphlets and books – not so many books, but as many as we are able to.

Q: How are the editors of the publications designated?

A: They are appointed by the National Committee as a rule.

Q: What, if any, control does the Party have over the contents of those publications?

A: Well, the National Committee is responsible for the publications and exercises general supervision over them.

Q: Well, what methods are used by the National Committee to exercise that general supervision?

A: The most important one is the appointment of editors. The Committee, as a whole, does not edit the paper. They designate individuals to do it.

Q: And those individuals are responsible for the general contents of the papers?

A: From issue to issue, yes.

Q: What were the publications of the Party at the time of the indictment?

A: The Militant

Q: That is a weekly paper?

A: Yes – and the Fourth International, a monthly magazine.

Q: And was it always called the Militant?

A: No, at one time it was called the Socialist Appeal.

Interpretations of Events

Q: What is the policy of the Party with reference to permitting various opinions and interpretations of current events in the Party’s publications?

A: Well, it is not prohibited. Usually, individual members of the Party write articles with a certain slant, on current events, that is not necessarily shared by the majority of the Committee.

Q: And does the Party take any steps to prevent such expressions of opinion contrary to the majority?

A: No. As I say, it is not prohibited. We do not have a completely airtight uniformity, about every question, in the press.

Especially, we have columnists to write columns. They are given a certain latitude for personal expression, within certain limits. Of course we would not permit anyone to write against socialism in the paper, or against the basic principles, unless it was when a principle was being considered prior to a convention.

Q: With reference to predictions or opinions about future occurrences, would you say the Party is more liberal in granting that freedom?

A: Yes, it must necessarily be, because predictions are not verifiable, completely, until after the event, and different opinions arise. We have had in the Party, especially since the outbreak of the World War, conflicting opinions as to when the United States would make formal entry into the war, or whether or not the United States would enter the war. There were not very many that doubted that it would, but I heard some people in the Party express such opinions.

Differences of Opinion

Q: And would you say that the opinions of Party members with reference to a possible future revolutionary situation is in that category of opinion, concerning which there are many differences of opinion?

A; Yes, there must necessarily be.

Q: Do you include in that category also, predictions as to whether the revolution would be accompanied by force or not?

A: Well, within limits, within limits. There is more agreement among the educated leaders of the Party who have studied history and Marxism – there is more agreement on that question, than on such a question as to the prospect of entry into the present World War.

Q: But there can be, and there are, differences of opinion as to the exact time of the revolutionary situation and the approximate development of it?

A: As to the time of a revolution, that is absolutely speculative. There isn’t anybody in the Party that has anything more than a tentative opinion on that question.

Q: Does the leadership of the Party make any distinction between editorials, and columns, and signed articles, in the press?

A: Yes, I think a distinction is made among all three of them.

Q: What distinction is made?

Editorials, Signed Columns and Articles in Our Press

A: An editorial is more authoritative, and the Party bears greater responsibility for it than for a signed article. If an article is signed by an individual member, the possibility exists at any time that it is not fully responsive to the official opinion of the Party, or the opinion of the editorial board. Columnists have more latitude than writers of signed articles. Columns are not to be tampered with by the editor, unless there is something of a very fundamental nature raised against them.

Q: What would be the attitude of the Party towards columns or signed articles written by older and more responsible members of the Party, and columns and signed articles written by less well-known members of the Party?

A: Well, so far as their impression on the Party itself is concerned, a column that is written by a prominent leader of the Party is taken with greater weight than columns written by unknown columnists. We have such columnists and have had in the past humorous columns, some of which depart more or less from the regular line of thought of the Party, but they are not as a rule taken with the weight of authority that would be given to a column signed by the most prominent leaders of the National Committee.

Q: So that a column or an article signed by you would

necessarily represent greater authority than one signed by an unknown member of the Party?

A: Yes, or one signed by you.

Responsibility for Some Material

Q: Would you make any distinction between official resolutions of the Party and editorials?

A: Yes. A resolution is a formal document, approved by the National Committee itself, or by a convention. It is thought put, and becomes an official statement of the Party. In my opinion that carries and should carry a greater weight than an, editorial which might be knocked out by an editor while he is rushing the paper to press, and is not written with the same care and preciseness of expression which obtains when a resolution is formally signed by the National Committee.

Q: Is it the custom of you, or of myself or anybody else in authority, to look over every editorial written for the press?

A: Well, I presume that would be the ideal way, but it does not work out, because the paper goes to press every week, and frequently the editors who are immediately responsible for the paper rush copy over to the printer to keep him satisfied, without giving it the necessary blue-penciling. That happens I think frequently on any publication that is of frequent issuance.

Q: And, frequently you and I are away from the office for months at a time?

A: Yes. We travel a great deal.

Q: And the paper goes to press without us?

A: Yes, they don’t miss us much in that respect.

Q: Does the Party accept officially all opinions expressed in signed articles, or even editorials?

A: No. I would say, not officially, no. Signed articles by prominent leaders of the Party, in the minds of the Party members, have at least a semi-official status, I think, but they do not have the weight of a formal resolution of the Committee, or of a convention.

Circulation of the Party Press

Q: What is the circulation of the Militant, the weekly organ of the Party?

A: I think it is between 15,000 and 20,000 at the present time.

Q: What is the circulation of the Fourth International?

A: I think about 4,000. That is the magazine.

Q: Now, besides the Militant and the Fourth International, you said that pamphlets are published?

A: Yes.

Q: Have you any idea how many pamphlets have been published in the last year or so?

A: Oh, I imagine half a dozen – not more.

Q: Referring to the Declaration of Principles, what is your best estimate as to the number of those pamphlets published?

A: I think the first edition was 5.000 or 10.000 – I am not sure which. That was published in 1938.

Q: Were there any subsequent editions?

A: No.

Q: So when you say “the first edition” you mean the only edition?

A: Yes, that is correct. The amendments that were made were not incorporated in a new edition. They were only printed in the press.

Q: And what is your best opinion as to the time when that Declaration of Principles was fairly well exhausted, and no more copies left, to give to the various branches for sale?

A: Well, as I recall it, the great bulk of them were sold or distributed in the first period. Thereafter they were sold in

dribbles to the branches. Whether the whole edition was sold or exhausted, I really don’t know. I don’t remember.

Q: Did the Party continue to sell the Declaration of Principles subsequent to its suspension?

A: No. There was an order issued by the Political Committee to the literature department not to send out any more after the decision of the December convention.

Q: But copies that were left in the possession of the branches remained there for sale, did they not?

A: Well, in the branches where there are book stores, they sell everything. In fact, they are encouraged to sell historical documents and pamphlets and books of other parties.

Interpretations of Party Policy

Q: Would you say that there is a difference between general Party policy, which may or may not be misinterpreted by members of the Party, and a decision of the Party with reference to doing something concrete?

A: Yes. One is much clearer than the other.

Q: Explain that, will you please.

A: Well, for example –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: That explains itself, I think.

MR. GOLDMAN: No, I don’t think so.

A (continued): To make a decision of the Party to participate in a given election – in that event, the Party members have to get out and gather signatures to put a candidate on the ballot. That has to be done once the decision is made. On the other hand, a declaration of policy about the conflict between the AFL and the CIO is not so easily assimilated. As a matter of fact, it is a continual question of difference of interpretation, which arises even among members of the Committee after the policy has been made.

I can cite, as an illustration, that since we were here for this trial we have had occasion – those of us who are here – to complain about articles and some editorials in the paper on the trade union question. We thought it did not exactly follow the last resolution of the Party. We had occasion to complain also about their handling of the German-Russian war. We thought their approach was not entirely in accord with the resolution as we interpreted it.

Q: So even when an official resolution is adopted, there are always, subsequent to the adoption, differences of opinion as to the interpretation of that resolution?

A: Yes, that is possible at any time. It does not always occur, but it is quite possible.

The Position We Adopted on Conscription

Q: Now will you please explain what is called the military policy of the Party?

A: The military policy of the Party is incorporated in the decisions of the conference a year ago, in September 1940. At that time we called a special conference of the Party, in connection with a plenary meeting of the National Committee, to consider this particular question, our attitude towards conscription and the further progress of the war situation, and there we adopted, a resolution substantially as follows:

Point 1: As long as conscription has been adopted as the law, and once it was law, referring to the Selective Service Act, all Party members must comply with this law, must register and must not oppose the registration of others. On the contrary, the Party specifically opposes the position of such groups as conscientious objectors. While we admire the courage and integrity of a rather high order that it takes to do what the conscientious objectors have done, we have written against their policy and said it is wrong for individuals to refuse to register when the great mass of their generation are going to war. So far as we are concerned, if the young generation of American workers goes to war, our Party members go with them, and share in all their dangers and hardships and experience.

Point 2: In our resolution is that our comrades have got to be good soldiers, the same way that we tell a comrade in a factory that he must be the best trade unionist and the best mechanic in order to gain the confidence and respect of his fellow-workers. We say, in the military service, he must be the best soldier; he must be most efficient in the use of whatever

weapons and arms he is assigned to, and submit to discipline, and be concerned about the welfare of fellow-soldiers in order to establish his position in their respect and confidence.

THE COURT: May I inquire whether or not this is an oral or a written policy that Mr. Cannon has just given?

Exhibits Relating to This Position

MR. GOLDMAN: Well, I think the Government has introduced –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Let the witness answer the question.

MR. GOLDMAN: The Court is asking me the question.

THE COURT: Yes, I am asking you. I was hoping you might develop it from the witness.

MR. GOLDMAN: Well, the Government introduced the exhibit referred to by Mr. Cannon.

THE WITNESS: I think my speeches at the conference in Chicago last September were introduced as exhibits here, some extracts from them at least.

MR. GOLDMAN: Yes, I am sure they were.

THE WITNESS: This policy was developed there, and the speech was an official speech I made on behalf of the National Committee at the conference.

MR. GOLDMAN: I am not introducing many things, because the Government has introduced them for me.

THE COURT: Mr. Myer, you should be able to put your finger on those particular exhibits, I believe.

MR. MYER: I think they are exhibits 116 and 186.

Military Training Under Direction of Trade Unions

Q: Now, were there any other points discussed and adopted at that conference, with reference to the military policy of the Party?

A: Yes. We came out in favor of the idea of conscription, universal military training. That is predicated on the idea that at the present time the whole world is in arms, that all decisions nowadays are being made by arms, or with the threat of arms. In such a situation, we must recognize that the workers must also become trained in the military arts. We are in favor of universal military training, according to our official decision; but we are not in favor, that is, we do not give political support, to the method that is used by the present capitalist government.

We propose that the workers should get military training in special camps under the direction of the trade unions; that the government should furnish a part of its military funds in appropriations to equip those camps with the necessary arms and materials and instructors, but the camps should be under the auspices of the trade unions.

Camps to Train Workers as Officers

There should be also special camps set up under the auspices of the unions, for the training of workers to become officers. Government funds should be appropriated for this purpose, so that a condition can be created to remove one of the greatest defects and sources of dissatisfaction in the present military apparatus: that is the social gulf between the worker or farmer soldier. and the officer from another class, who does not have an understanding of the soldier’s problem and does not have the proper attitude towards him.

We believe the workers are entitled to have as officers men out of their own ranks whom they have learned to respect in the course of their work and common struggle with them, such as picket captains, leaders of unions, men who have distinguished themselves in the affairs of workers’ organizations, and who come from the rank and file of the workers. Such men as officers would be much more concerned about the welfare of the rank and file of soldiers than a college boy from Harvard or Yale, who never saw a factory, and never rubbed elbows with the worker, and considers him an inferior being.

That is, I would say, the heart of our military proposal, of our military policy.

Civil Rights for the Soldiers

Q: What is the position of the Party with reference to civil rights in the army?

A: Oh, yes. We stand also for soldiers’ citizens’ rights. We do not agree with the idea that when you take a million and a half young men out of civil life, that they cease to have the rights of citizens. We think they should have all the rights of citizens. They should have the right to petition Congress; they should have the right to vote; they should have the right to elect committees to present their grievances; they should have the right to elect their own officers, at least the minor officers, and in general they should have the democratic rights of citizens, and we advocate that. We advocate legislation to confer upon the soldiers those rights, and doing away with the present inefficient military set-up.

Q: Did the Party officially, or to your knowledge, did any Party member now in the service, ever attempt to create insubordination in the ranks of the armed forces?

A: Not to my knowledge.

Q: If there have been incidents of insubordination within the last year, or since the Selective Service Act was passed, did the Party either know about it, or participate in the creation of that insubordination?

A: So far as my knowledge goes, the Party has not had any knowledge of any such incidents, except insofar as they may have been reported in the daily press.

The Cause of Grievances in the Armed Forces

Q: In your opinion, if there have been such incidents, what is the cause of them?

A: Well, I think there are a number of causes of discontent and dissatisfaction in the conscript army. That is a matter of public comment in all the newspapers and magazines, and various opinions and theories have been expressed as to the reasons for it.

Q: How does the Party propose to realize the demands for compulsory training under trade union control?

A: Well, our program is a legislative program. Everything we propose we would have incorporated into law. If we had a delegation in Congress, they would introduce a bill, or a series of bills, providing for the incorporation into the law of the country of these proposals, these military proposals of ours.

Q: Did any authoritative leader of the Party ever refer to Plattsburg as an example?

The Example of Plattsburg

A: Yes. In fact, that was part of the origin of the idea. As I said before, the chief sore point in the military set-up is the class distinction between the officers and the ranks. We know that in the period prior to the first World War, special camps were set up for the training of business and professional men to be officers in the army. Plattsburg was one of these. This was a part of the so-called preparedness campaign, before the United States finally got into the war. The government appropriated some funds, and some business men donated funds. The government provided instructors, and furnished the necessary equipment for the training of a large number of business and professional men who were ultimately to be officers in the army.

We cannot see why the workers should not have the same rights. We think it is perfectly fair and reasonable, certainly it is compatible with the existing laws. As I said before, it is a legislative proposal on our part. We would if we could, incorporate that into the law of the country.

THE COURT: We will take our morning recess at this time.


Q: I call your attention, Mr. Cannon, to the testimony of some witnesses for the prosecution to the effect that certain Party members told them to join the Army, and then to start to kick about the food, and create dissatisfaction. What can you say with reference to the Party policy about that?

A: In the military forces, as far as our information goes from members who have been drafted and from others whom –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Now, just a moment. You are not answering the question at all. He asked you whether the Party had a policy, whether it does or does not. If so, tell us what that policy is, not what you heard from people in the service.

THE WITNESS: I want to explain why our policy is what it is.

THE COURT: We have not heard that there is a policy yet.

Q: Is there a policy?

A: Yes, we have a policy on everything.

Q: What is that policy?

A: The policy is not to support or to initiate any agitation about food. I want to tell you the reason.

So far as our knowledge goes, from members of the Party who have been drafted and whom we have seen on furlough, and

from other investigation, there is not much dissatisfaction with the food in the present set-up.

Q: And if there is any dissatisfaction with food, what would you say it was caused by?

No Grievances Without Foundation

A: So far as our information goes, there are only isolated cases now. We do not propose to kick about the food if the food is satisfactory. If the food is bad, the soldiers will kick about it themselves, and they should kick about it.

Q: What would you say about the testimony of these witnesses –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I object to that.

MR. GOLDMAN: Strike it out.

Q: Then will you state definitely, what is the policy of the Party with reference to creating dissatisfaction in the army when causes for dissatisfaction do not exist?

A: I do not know of anything in the Party program or Party literature that proposes to incite grievances without foundation. Where causes for dissatisfaction exist, they create the dissatisfaction, not the Party.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Just a moment, please.

Q: If there have been grievances, and if there has been dissatisfaction, is the Party in any way responsible for that?

A: No, I don’t think so, in any way at all. That is the present situation.

Q: And the people who have charge of feeding the army are the ones responsible for that, or for the grievances?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Well, that is leading.

MR. GOLDMAN: Well, he has not objected, so you may proceed and answer it.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Then I will object to it now.

THE COURT: I will sustain the objection.

How We Seek to Put Military Policy into Effect

Q: Now, on the question of military training under trade union control – you were speaking about Plattsburg at the time of the recess. Will you continue and explain further the policy on that?

A: I used that as an illustration of how special camps were instituted and government instructors provided to train business and professional men in the period shortly prior to our entry into the last World War.

In the Spanish Civil War all the parties and unions not only had their own training camps authorized by the government, but even supplied their own regiments, in the fight against the fascist army of Franco.

Q: Now, the present trade unions are not under the control of the Party, are they?

A: No, they are under the control, essentially or practically completely, of leaders who are in harmony with the present Roosevelt administration.

Q: As I understand, the Party favors military training under trade union control?

A: Yes. The idea is to give to the unions as they are, a wider authority and supervision over their people.

Q: And that policy is not dependent upon the Party controlling the trade unions?

A: No. We can only take our chances that we will be in the minority in those training camps, as we arc in the unions.

We Would Introduce It into Congress

Q: What measures do you propose in order to effectuate the policy of military training under trade union control?

A: As I think I said before, it is a proposal for a legislative program. We would have such a bill introduced into Congress and passed, if we had the power, or if we could gain the support of Congressmen who are opposed to us on other grounds, but who would agree to this. This is a program that is not necessarily socialist.

Q: If any member of the Party would either attempt to obstruct the Selective Service Act, or advise the obstruction of it, what would the Party do about that?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: That is objected to on the ground that there has been no evidence offered by the Government that the Party attempted to obstruct the Selective Service Act.

MR. GOLDMAN: Then the Government admits that the Party has not attempted to obstruct the Selective Service Act?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: We have not attempted to show that there was any attempt to interfere with the Selective Service Act.

MR. GOLDMAN: I gathered that questions were asked a number of witnesses, as to their age, and the necessity of their going into service, with an intention on the part of the prosecution to prove that we, somehow or another, tried to interfere. If the Government says, “No”, I will drop that.

Schweinhaut “Clears Atmosphere”

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: We will clear the atmosphere on that right now. We do not contend that the Party attempted to keep anybody from registering for the draft, or in that respect to impede the progress of the Selective Service Act. What our evidence tended to show was what the Party members were supposed to do after they got into the army.

MR. GOLDMAN: Well, that is cleared up, then.

Q: If any Party member, after entering the Service, or before entering service in the army, would attempt to obstruct in any way the functioning of the army, or would advise any such attempt, what would be the policy of the Party with reference to such a Party member?

A: That would be a violation of the Party policy.

Q: And what measures would be taken, if any, to deal with that particular Party member?

A: Well, I think he would be advised to change his attitude, or at least to discontinue his action.

Q: And if he persisted in such a policy, what would the Party do?

A: There would not be any alternative except to make clear that the Party has no responsibility for such action, and possibly we would expel him from the Party.

Q: Did you hear a witness for the Government testify that he was told by some Party member to go to Fort Snelling and create dissatisfaction? I think that was the gist of the testimony. Did you hear that?

A: Something to that effect.

Q: What is the Party’s policy with reference to any creating of dissatisfaction in Fort Snelling or any other military camp?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I object to that, because he has answered what it was at least twice.

THE COURT: Objection sustained.

The Party’s Position on the Russian Revolution

Q: Does the Party have an official position on the Russian Revolution, Mr. Cannon?

A: Yes.

Q: What is that position? Has it ever been adopted in the form of an official resolution?

A: It is incorporated in the Declaration of Principles.

Q: What is that position?

A: That the Party supports –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Just a moment. I will object to that on the ground that, the witness having stated that it is incorporated in the Declaration of Principles, therefore, it speaks for itself.

MR. GOLDMAN: An explanation of the Declaration of Principles is in order.

THE COURT: He may answer.

A (Continuing): We support the Russian Revolution of 1917. We consider that it embodies the doctrines and the theories of Marxism which we uphold.

Q: How many revolutions were there in Russia in 1917?

A: There was a revolution in February according to the Russian calendar, in March according to the modern calendar, which developed into the proletarian revolution of November 7th according to the modern calendar.

“Most Progressive Event in History”

Q: What is the general position taken by Marxists with reference to the Russian Revolution?

A: The one that I have given here, in support of the revolution.

Q: And what does “support” mean?

A: Well, that is a rather mild – it would be a mild description of our attitude. We consider it the greatest and most progressive event in the entire history of mankind.

Q: And I think you said in your reply to a previous question, that you consider the doctrines embodied in that revolution as Marxist doctrines? Explain that.

A: The theory of Marxism in our opinion was completely vindicated in the Russian Revolution, and the theory of Marxism, which is the establishment of a government of workers and peasants, which undertakes to bring about a social transformation from capitalism towards socialism – all this was undertaken in the Russian Revolution.

Q: That is, insofar as the Russian Revolution put the workers and peasants in power, and expropriated the capitalists, we support that revolution?

A: Yes.

Q: That is the special meaning of that revolution?

A: That is the essence of the matter.

Q: Now, can you tell us anything about the legality of that revolution?

A: Yes.

THE COURT: Judged by what standards?

MR. GOLDMAN: What I mean by that is to have him explain exactly how the revolution occurred, because counsel for the Government tries to present it as a violent upheaval of the minority against the majority, and the facts are the very contrary. I want the witness to explain the nature of that revolution.

The February Revolution Overthrew Czarism

A: The Czar and Czarism were overthrown in March by an uprising of the masses, of the people in the big cities, and the peasants.

Q: Was the Bolshevik Party responsible for that uprising in any way?

A: No, the Bolshevik Party was a very infinitesimal group at the time of the March revolution.

Q: What is the meaning of Bolshevism?

A: The word “Bolshevik” is a Russian word meaning “majority”. It acquired a political meaning in the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. In the Congress of 1903 a controversy developed which divided the party into groups, the majority and the minority, the majority called the Bolsheviks and the minority called Mensheviks.

Q: Those are Russian words, meaning minority and majority?

A: Yes. They split up, and divided into parties. Each called itself the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, and in parentheses on the end “Bolsheviks” or “Mensheviks”, as the case might be.

Q: Now, will you proceed and tell the jury what happened during the October revolution, or in our calendar in November 1917.

A: Well, to show the chronology:

Soviets Established Everywhere

When Czarism was overthrown by the masses of the people, the whole structure of that tyranny was destroyed. A new government was constituted, but the new government machinery was based on the Soviets, which sprang up spontaneously in the revolutionary upheaval. Soviets of workers and soldiers were established everywhere. In Petrograd, the workers and soldiers sent delegates – deputies – to the central council or, as they called it, the Soviet; similarly in Moscow and other places. This body was recognized as authoritative.

The government that was constituted after the overthrow of the Czar was headed by Prince Lvov, with Miliukov as Foreign Minister; it derived its authority from the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies.

In April they had a National All-Russian conference of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviets, and there they elected an All- Russian Central Executive Committee of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviets. In May, the Peasant Soviets had an All-Russian Congress and elected an All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the peasants.

Q: What proportion of the population did those Soviets represent?

A: They represented the people, the great mass of the people. I think it was impossible even to speak in terms of majorities or minorities. They were the masses themselves. The peasants and the soldiers and the workers were the people; those two bodies, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviets and the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Peasant Soviets, formed a joint body which was recognized as the most authoritative and representative body in Russia. It was by their consent that the government cabinet ruled.

The All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets repudiated Miliukov, who was the leader of the bourgeoisie. The Soviet body opposed him because of his foreign policy, involving secret treaties that had been exposed. He therefore had to resign, because without the support of the Soviets, authority was lacking; and I think that could be likened, as an analogy, to the French system of the resignation of the Prime Minister when there is a no-confidence vote in the Chamber.

Q: So that the Soviets constituted the authority of the people of Russia?

A: That is right.

Q: In what way did the Bolsheviks progress to power?

The Role of the Bolsheviks

A: I wish to go on with the chronology, if you will permit me.

Following the fall of Miliukov, Kerensky rose – there is a popular impression in this country that he became Premier with the fall of the Czar. That is not so. Kerensky became Premier in July. He was made a Minister and eventually Premier because he was a member of the Social Revolutionary Party. That was the Peasant party, which then led the Soviets. He was also supported by the worker element, because he had been a labor lawyer. That was the basis of Kerensky’s office; that is, his authority was derived directly from the Soviets.

Now in this period the Bolsheviks were a small minority. They did not create the Soviets. The Soviets were created by the masses; they were initiated by the masses. Neither the Bolshevik Party nor any other party could do anything without the support of the Soviets. In the midst of the revolution of 1905 and again in the overthrow of the Czar in 1917, the Soviets sprang up spontaneously.

The most influential one naturally was in Petrograd, which was the seat of government. The Bolsheviks were a small minority in this Soviet at the time of the overthrow of the Czar. When Kerensky became Premier, the combination of his Social Revolutionary Party and the Menshevik Socialist Party – those two parties together had an overwhelming majority in the Soviets, and ruled by virtue of that. The Bolsheviks were an opposing faction.

During that time Lenin, as the spokesman for the Bolsheviks, said over and over again, “As long as we are in the minority in the Soviets, all we can do is patiently explain.” The Bolshevik Party opposed any attempt to seize power by a putsch.

Q: What is a putsch?

How the Bolshevik Party Came to Power

A: An armed action of a small group. The Bolshevik Party demanded, with Lenin as their spokesman, that the Social Revolutionary Party and the Menshevik Party take complete control of the government by removing the bourgeois ministers and make it a completely labor and peasant government, and they issued the promise that, “If you do that, we promise that as long as we are in the minority, we will not try to overthrow you. We will not support you politically, we will criticize you, but we will not undertake to overthrow the government as long as we are in the minority.” That was the policy of the Bolsheviks in the March days of the revolution against the Czar, and into July.

In July the workers in Petrograd staged a demonstration with arms, against the advice of the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks advised against it on the ground that it might unduly provoke the situation, and tried to persuade the workers in Petrograd not to go into that action. It was not a rebellion; it was simply a parade with arms. This action, carried out by the Petrograd workers against the advice of the Bolsheviks, brought repressions against the workers on the part of the Kerensky government.

Then the Kerensky government undertook to discredit and frame-up the Bolshevik Party. They accused Lenin and Trotsky of being German spies. This was the predecessor of Stalin’s Moscow Trials. They accused Lenin and Trotsky and the Bolsheviks of being German spies. Trotsky was thrown into jail, Lenin was forced into hiding, and repressions continued against the Bolsheviks, but it did not do any good, because the policy and slogans of the Bolsheviks were growing in popularity. One by one the great factories and soldiers’ regiments began to vote in favor of the Bolshevik program.

The Attempted Uprising of Kornilov

In September an attempt at counter-revolution was made under the leadership of General Kornilov, who could be properly described as a Russian Monarchist-Fascist. He organized an army and undertook to overthrow the Kerensky government in Petrograd, with the idea of restoring the old regime.

The Kerensky government, that had put Trotsky in jail, had to release him from prison to get the support of his party to fight down the counter-revolutionary army of Kornilov.

Trotsky was brought from prison, and went directly to the Military-Revolutionary Committee, in which government men also sat, and there drew up with them plans for a joint fight against Kornilov. Kornilov was crushed; the counter-revolution was crushed, primarily by the workers under the inspiration of the Bolshevik Party. They tied up his railroad trains; he could not move his troops; his best troops were induced to fight against him, and his counter-revolution was crushed.

As this was going on, the Bolsheviks became more popular all the time, as the genuine representatives of the revolution. They gained the majority in the Petrograd Soviet, the most influential Soviet in the country, and in Moscow and others. The Kerensky government was losing ground because it was not solving any of the problems of the people. The Bolsheviks’ slogans of “Bread”, “Peace”, “Land”, and other slogans – those were the slogans that the masses wanted.

On November 7th was held the Congress of the All-Russian Soviets of Workers and Soldiers. The Bolsheviks had a majority there, and simultaneously with the meeting of the Soviets, where the Bolsheviks had a majority, they took the power from the government.

Violence and the October Revolution

Q: And was there any violence connected with the gaining of the majority by the Bolsheviks?

A: Very little – just a little scuffling, that’s all.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: That was in Petrograd?

THE WITNESS: In Petrograd, yes. That was also where the Czar was overthrown.

Q: And subsequently to the gaining of the majority by the Bolsheviks what violence, if any, occurred?

A: One point more first. A month or so later, a special All-Russian Congress of the Peasant Soviets met, and there also the Bolsheviks had a majority. Then the minority withdrew from those authoritative bodies of government, and began an opposition struggle against the Bolshevik government.

Q: What violence, if any, occurred, and who initiated the violence?

A: That began following the armed struggle against the government.

How Soviets Were Elected

Q: Who began it?

A: The Czarists, the White Russian element, the bourgeoisie generally, the deposed capitalists and others. They undertook a counter-revolution, and the civil war that ensued lasted until almost 1921. The civil war lasted so long because the White Guard and bourgeois elements received the support, first, of the Germans, and then of England and France, and even the United States sent an expedition.

The Soviet government had to fight against the whole capitalist world, on top of fighting against their own opposition at home; and the fact that the Bolsheviks represented the great majority of the people was best evidenced by the fact that they were victorious in this civil war, not only against their opponents at home, but also against the outside powers who supplied the opposition with arms, soldiers and funds.

Q: How were the Soviets in those days elected?

A: They were elected in the factory workers’ meetings; that is, the factory workers would gather to elect their delegate. Each Soviet constituted a unit of government, and the combination of Soviets constituted the government.

In the Soviet system, the factories select delegates, according to their number, one for each 1,000, or whatever the proportion may be. The soldiers’ regiments do the same; the peasants or dirt farmers do the same, so that the government established in that way, by those Soviets, represents the whole mass of the people who are involved in productive activity.

Q: What was the number of members of the Bolshevik Party at the time of the Russian Revolution in November 1917?

A: Well, the most authoritative figure I have seen given is 260,000, or a quarter of a million. That seems to be the figure that has the best authority.

Bolsheviks Supported by Great Majority

Q: And what proportion of the population supported the Bolshevik Party at that time?

A: Well, in my opinion, the great majority of the workers, peasants and soldiers supported them at the time they took power and afterwards.

Q: From which group or class of society did the Bolshevik Party get most of its members?

A: From the workers. It was a workers’ party, a party of industrial workers and agricultural laborers. There were some peasants in the party, but the party was primarily constituted of industrial workers in the cities, agricultural laborers and some intellectuals, some educated people who had put themselves at the service of the workers in the party.

Q: What is the best authority as to the number of workers in Russia at the time of the revolution – by “workers” meaning industrial workers?

A: 5,000,000.

Q: And the majority of the population consisted of peasants?

A: Peasants, yes.

Q: What is your opinion as to the number of members that the Socialist Workers Party will probably have when the majority of people in this country adopt the program of the party?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I object to that, Your Honor.

THE COURT: What is the basis of your objection?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: He is asking this witness to guess today as to the number of members that the Socialist Workers

Party will have when a majority of the people in the United States adopt its policy.

THE COURT: There are too many elements of speculation in that. Objection sustained.

“Clear and Present Danger” Doctrine

MR. GOLDMAN: I want to urge this, Your Honor; one of the elements in this case is, as Your Honor knows, the “clear and present danger” doctrine. I ought to be permitted to develop the size of the party now, and the approximate size in the opinion of experts, that the Party will have, must have, at the time a majority adopts the program of the Party, to show. I submit, the relative position of the Party at the present time. If, for instance, it would be necessary to have a party of three million or four million, and at this time there is a party of 2,000, you could readily see how the doctrine of “clear and present danger” applies to that situation.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: It clearly calls for speculation, as to events in the future, that no one can possibly know about now.

THE COURT: I do not see any tangible factor that has been suggested by the witness, or is involved in the question, that would justify the assumption that he could answer that without indulging in a great deal of speculation. I will adhere to the ruling.

Q: On the basis of the proportion of Party members to wage workers in the Russian revolution, have you an opinion as to the probable proportion of Party members to wage workers in the United States at tire time a majority adopts the program of the Socialist Workers Party?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Same objection.

MR. GOLDMAN: “Have you an opinion” – that is all I am asking now.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: What good is his opinion? How can he answer that without indulging in a great deal of speculation?

THE COURT: Do you object to it?


THE COURT: Objection sustained.

MR. GOLDMAN: Exception.

Q: What is the Party membership at present, Mr. Cannon?

A: About 2,000.

Q: Then the figure testified to by Bartlett was correct, about?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I object to that question, if Your Honor please.

Differences Between Trotsky and Stalin

MR. GOLDMAN: All right – question withdrawn.

Q: Will you tell the Court and jury what differences arose between Stalin and Trotsky subsequent to the Revolution?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I object to that, because I do not see any materiality or relevancy in it.

THE COURT: I would like to have the question read, please.

(Question read by the Reporter.)

MR. GOLDMAN: The prosecution has contended, and I think Mr. Anderson has made many statements, to the effect that Trotsky, being the arch-conspirator in this case, had certain ideas and certain doctrines. I think the jury is entitled to know in a general way – it is impossible to go into great detail – but the Government has opened up its case in such a way that it is essential for the jury to know at least some of the basic principles of Trotsky, who it is alleged was one of the arch-conspirators.

THE COURT: Well, if you will agree to limit it to a reasonable amount of testimony.

MR. GOLDMAN: I certainly will – otherwise, we might be here two years.

MR. ANDERSON: All we ever brought out, on Trotsky, was some literature and speeches and pamphlets, in the Party press.

MR. GOLDMAN: I should think that after the prosecution takes three weeks, that they should give me a week at least to try the case.

THE COURT: I don’t think it is necessary to try it that way.

MR. GOLDMAN: Mr. Schweinhaut made various remarks –

THE COURT: Mr. Schweinhaut has made very few objections to the direct examination, which has covered a tremendously wide field.

Q: Will you describe briefly the fundamental differences that arose between Stalin and Trotsky subsequent to the revolution?

Struggle for Democracy

A: I mentioned the other day that the fight originated in the struggle over democracy. That was the origin of the fight, really inspired by Lenin, during his last illness, in collaboration with Trotsky. Lenin did not survive to take part in the fight, and Trotsky had to lead it. This soon developed further.

It soon became apparent to critical observers, this tendency of Stalin to crush democracy in the party, and in the life of the country generally. It was based on Stalin’s desire to change the program and the course of direction of the revolution, which could only be done by this means. Trotsky struggled for free discussion of the problem, with the confidence that the majority of the workers in the party would support his program. Stalin and his group represented, in our opinion, the conservative tendency, based upon a certain stratum of the party and the government, that had acquired official positions and privileges and wanted to stop there.

Q: Stalin then represented in your opinion the party of the bureaucratic?

A: The bureaucratic and conservative. As a matter of fact, Trotsky designated it as the bureaucratic-conservative faction, at one stage in the struggle.

Q: Interested in what?

A: It was interested in preserving its privileges, and not extending and developing the benefits for the great mass of the people.

Q: What form did this dictatorship of Stalin assume?

Objections by Schweinhaut

A: It assumed the form of crushing democracy inside of the Communist Party and establishing a dictatorial regime there. For example –

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Well, while Mr. Cannon is pausing; may I object now to this line of testimony because it is immaterial and irrelevant to the issues here? It is immaterial what form of government Stalin set up in Russia. What do we care?

THE COURT: I do not see any reason why he should go into all the details. I think you should recognize that, Mr. Goldman. I want to give you every opportunity, every reasonable opportunity, to present your theory of the case before this jury, but I do think that there is much here that is immaterial and unnecessary.

Q: What is the position of the Party on the Soviet Union at present?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I object to that, Your Honor.

Why We Defend the Soviet Union

THE COURT: He may answer that.

A: What do you mean, how we characterize it?

Q: How you characterize it, and explain the characterization.

A: Well, the characterization we make of the Soviet Union as it is today, is of a workers’ state, created by the revolution of November 1917, distorted by the bad present regime, and even degenerated, but nevertheless retaining its basic character as a workers’ state, because it is based on nationalized industry, and not on private property.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: The answer proves that my objection is good. It is not relevant in this case. I will object to it, therefore, Your Honor.

MR. GOLDMAN: A lot of evidence was introduced with reference to the Soviet Union, and our defending the Soviet Union.

THE COURT: Yes, that was why I allowed this to go in. There has been testimony here that, in the event of a war in which the United States was involved, this Party would defend the Soviet Union. Under that testimony, I feel that you are entitled to show the reasons why, if that is true.

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: I agree with that, that they should have that right, but I don’t see how the last answer has anything to do with it.

THE COURT: Well, perhaps it doesn’t, but it may stand.

Because It Is a Workers’ State

Q: Now, what is the position of the Party towards the defense of the Soviet Union, and why?

A: We are in favor of defending the Soviet Union against imperialist powers for the reason I just gave, because we consider it a progressive development, as a workers’ state, that has nationalized industry and has eliminated private capitalism and landlordism. That is the reason we defend it.

Q: That is, you consider the Russian or the Soviet State, a state based on the expropriation of private industry from the capitalists?

A: Yes, the operation of industry as a nationalized industry.

Q: And you are defending that kind of a state?

A: Yes.

Q: Isn’t it a fact that Stalin has killed most all of the so-called Trotskyists in Russia?

A: Yes. We are against Stalin, but not against the Soviet form of industrial production.

Q: Will you explain why a violent revolution is necessary, for a Russian revolution?

MR. SCHWEINHAUT: Do you mean now?

MR. GOLDMAN: Yes. Your Honor, I think it has a very important bearing.

THE COURT: Do you mean in the past?

Need for Political Revolution in USSR

MR. GOLDMAN: No, right now. The prosecution tends to argue that because we are in favor of a violent revolution, and the government exhibits I think will show it, in the Soviet Union and in Germany, therefore we are in favor of it here in this country. I want him to explain why a violent revolution is absolutely necessary in Russia and Germany and that it might not be necessary in the United States.

THE COURT: He may answer, but is this likely to be an extended discussion?

MR. GOLDMAN: Yes, I think so, Your Honor.

THE COURT: The jury will keep in mind the admonition heretofore given them, and we will recess now until two o’clock this afternoon.

Wednesday, November 19, 1941

(Hearing resumed pursuant to recess at 2:00 p.m.)

THE COURT: Proceed, gentlemen.

resumed the stand, having been previously duly sworn, and testified further as follows:

By Mr. Goldman:

Q: I think I asked you when we closed this morning, Mr. Cannon, to explain to us the position of the party on the necessity of a violent revolution :in the Soviet Union against the Stalin regime, and why.

A. We are in favor of a political revolution in the Soviet Union. That is, as distinguished from a social revolution, in that we would not change the property forms, only the governmental superstructure. We would retain the nationalized property and the collectivized farming system.

We propose to overthrow the Stalin regime by revolution, and in the Soviet Union that revolution must necessarily be a violent revolution.

Lack of Workers’ Democracies

Q: Why?

A: Because there is absolutely no democracy permitted under the Stalin regime, no freedom of speech, press, or assembly, no possibility of organizing the people in a peaceful way or reaching them in a democratic process, and under those conditions in Russia, as in Hitler’s Germany, one cannot conceive of any possibility of the masses finding liberation from these dictatorships, except by a violent revolution.

Q: And in what way –

A: There can’t be any ambiguity or alternatives about it, just as the Czar could only be overthrow by a violent rising of the masses.

Q: And is there any distinction in the conditions of those countries from the condition in the United States?

A: There is, certainly at the present time, insofar as the working people and the minority parties here have the opportunity to participate in elections, to publish their papers, to conduct their meetings. You can very consistently and logically undertake to proceed along that peaceful democratic road as long as the opportunity is offered.

Q: And the party would exhaust all the possibilities for a peaceful transformation if the democratic rights are given to the working masses?

A: In my opinion, to the very end, yes.

Q: Even to the end of trying to amend the Constitution of the United States, as provided for by the Constitution of the United States?

A: If the democratic processes are maintained here, if they are not disrupted by the introduction of fascist methods by the government, and the majority of the people supporting the ideas of Socialism can secure a victory by the democratic processes, I don’t see any reason why they cannot proceed, continue to proceed, by the democratic method of amending the Constitution to fit the new regime.

Naturally, the amendments would have to be of a very drastic character, but parts of the Constitution I would be willing to write into the program of the party at any time – that is the Bill of Rights, which we believe in.

That section of the Constitution which protects private property rights, we think, would absolutely have to be changed in the society which we envisage, which eliminates private property in industrial enterprises of a large-scale nature.

Q: But it is your belief, is it not, that in all probability the minority will not allow such a peaceful transformation?

A: That is our opinion. That is based on all the historical precedents of the unwillingness of any privileged class, no matter how it is outlived, to leave the scene without trying to impose its will on the majority by force. I cited examples yesterday.

Q: What is the –

A: I might, give you another example on the same point. For example, the Bolshevik revolution in Hungary was accomplished without the shedding of one drop of blood, in a completely peaceful manner.

Q: When was that?

A: That was in 1919. The government that was established following the war, of which Count Karolyi was Premier, came to what it considered the end of its resources – it could not control the country, did not have the support of the masses, and Count Karolyi as head of the government, on his own motion, went to the head of the Bolshevik party, or the Communist Party, rather, of Hungary, who was in prison, and summoned him to take charge of the government in a peaceful, legal manner, like the change of a cabinet in the French Parliament – of course, prior to the Petain regime.

Then this Soviet government, having been established in this way, peacefully, was confronted by an uprising of the privileged class, of the landlords and the big owners, who organized an armed fight against the government, and eventually overthrew it. The violence on a mass scale followed the change of the government, did not precede it.

Marxism Is Our Party’s Guide to Action

Q: What is the position that the party gives to Karl Marx and his doctrines?

A: Karl Marx was the originator of the theories and doctrines and social analyses, which we know as scientific socialism, or Marxism, upon which the entire movement of scientific socialism has been based since his day.

In the Communist Manifesto of 1848 his ideas were sketched, and then in other big volumes, notably in Capital, he made a most exhaustive scientific analysis of the laws governing the, operation of capitalist society, showed how the contradictions within it would lead to its downfall as a social system, showed how the conflict of interests between the employers and the workers would represent an uninterrupted class struggle until the workers gained the upper hand and instituted the society of socialism.

So Karl Marx can be viewed not only as the founder of our movement, but as the most authoritative representative of its ideology.

Q: Does the party accept all of the statements found in all of the books written by Karl Marx?

A: No, the party has never obligated itself to do that. We do not consider even Marx as infallible. The party accepts his basic ideas and theories as its own basic ideas and theories. That does not prohibit the party or members of the party from disagreeing with things said or written by Marx which do not strike at the fundamental basis of the movement, of the doctrine.

Q: And you interpret Marx, or you apply the Marxian theories, under conditions that prevail at the present time, is that right?

A: Yes. You see, we don’t understand Marxian theory as a revelation, as a dogma. Engels expressed it by saying our theory is not a dogma but a guide to action, which means that it is a method which the students of Marxism must understand and learn how to apply. One can read every letter and every line written by Marx and still not be a useful Marxist, if one does not know how to apply it to the conditions of his own time. There have been such people, whom we call pedants.

Q: You are acquainted with the Communist Manifesto, are you not?

A: Yes.

The Communist Manifesto of 1848

Q: And you remember – I think it is the last clause of the Manifesto, where Marx and Engels, co-authors, say: “We disdain to conceal our aims,” and mention something to the effect about violent revolution. Do you remember that?

A: Well, it says:

“We disdain to conceal our aims. We openly say that they can be achieved only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social institutions.”

Q: When was the Communist Manifesto written?

A: 1848.

A: Subsequent to the writing of the Communist Manifesto, did Marx ever write anything with reference to the possibility of a peaceful revolution in democratic countries?

A: Yes.

Q: Where was that written, and explain to the jury what was said.

A: Well, the most authoritative place where it is stated and explained is in the introduction to the first volume of Marx’s master-work, called Capital, the introduction by Frederick Engels, who was his co-worker, who was the co-author of the Communist Manifesto, and is recognized universally in the movement as completely identified with all of Marx’s ideas and theories, who as a matter of fact edited and compiled the second two volumes of Capital, after the death of Marx.

Q: What did he say in that introduction?

A: This was the English translation of Capital - and the introduction was introducing the volume to the English public, and he stated – I think I can quote almost literally – that he thinks the work of a man who, during his entire life, was of the opinion that the social transformation in England, at least, could be effected by purely peaceful and legal means – he thought such a book should have a hearing from the English public. That is very close to a literal report of what he stated in this introduction.

Difference Between England and Europe

Q: And why did Marx have that opinion with reference to England?

A: Well, he had that opinion with reference to England as distinct from the autocratic countries, because of its parliamentary system, its democratic processes, and civil libertarian method of political procedure.

Q: So at the time that Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, there was no democracy in existence on the European continent, is that right?

A: The whole of Europe was seething with revolutions at that time.

Q: And no democratic processes were available?

A: At least not in the stable system that had been established in England.

I think I should add. to get the whole picture of this introduction that I am speaking of, that Engels said, after he had made this remark which I have reported, he said: “To be sure, Marx did not exclude the possibility of a pro-slavery rebellion on the part of the outmoded and dispossessed ruling class.” That is, after the transfer of power.

Q: What would you say is the relationship of the Declaration

THE COURT: Pardon me, Mr. Cannon. Would you be good enough to elaborate a bit upon the significance of that pro-slavery phrase?

The American Civil War

THE WITNESS: Yes. I think he had in mind the American Civil War. Marx and Engels attentively followed the American Civil War, wrote extensively about it in the New York Tribune. A collection of those writings, both political and military, have been published as a book, which is a classic in our movement, and what Marx undoubtedly had in mind when he spoke of a “pro-slavery rebellion”, was an analogy with the American Civil War, which he had characterized as a pro-slavery rebellion on the part of the Southern slave owners. Of course, he did not maintain that the English bourgeoisie are slaveholders in the same sense, but that they exploit the workers.

Q: Now what, in your opinion, is the relationship between the Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Workers Party and the theories of Karl Marx?

A: Well, I would say that in so far as we understand Marxism and are able to apply it, it is an application of the Marxian theories and doctrines, his whole system of ideas, to the social problem in America.

Q: That is, the Declaration of Principles is based then upon the fundamental theories of Karl Marx?

A: Yes, we consider it a Marxist document.

Q: What is the position that the party gives to Lenin?

A: Lenin, in our judgment, was the greatest practical leader of the labor movement and the Russian Revolution, but not on the plane of Marx in the theoretical field. Lenin was a disciple of Marx, not an innovator in theory. To be sure he contributed very important ideas, but to the end of his life he based himself on Marx, as a disciple in the Marxist movement of the world. He holds a position of esteem on a level with Marx, with this distinction between the merits of the two.

Q: Does the party, or do party members agree with everything that Lenin ever wrote and published?

A: No. The same attitude applies to Lenin as to Marx. That is, the basic ideas and doctrines practiced, promulgated and carried out by Lenin, are supported by our movement, which does not exclude the possibility of differing with him about this or that particular writing, or of individual members of the party differing with Lenin on important respects, as has been the case more than once in our party.

Q: By the way, is it true that there is a Communist government in the Soviet Union?

A Workers’ State Will Lead to Classless Society

A: No. not in our view.

Q: Is it true that there is Communism in the Soviet Union?

A: No, there isn’t any Communism in the Soviet Union.

Q: Is there Socialism in the Soviet Union?

A: No – well, I would like to clarify that now. Socialism and Communism are more or less interchangeable terms in the Marxist movement. Some make a distinction between them in this respect; for example, Lenin used the expression Socialism as the first stage of Communism, but I haven’t found any other authority for that use. I think that is Lenin’s own particular idea. I, for example, consider the terms Socialism and Communism interchangeable, and they relate to the classless society based on planned production for use as distinct from a system of capitalism based on private property and production for profit.

Q: Could there be a Socialist society and a dictatorship like Stalin has at the present time?

A: No. According to Marx and Engels, as you approach the classless Socialist or Communist society, the government, instead of becoming more of a factor in human affairs, becomes less and less and eventually withers away and disappears, and is replaced or evolves into an administrative body that does not employ repression against the people.

So the very term government implies, in our terminology, a class society, – that is, a class that is dominant and a class that is being suppressed. That holds true whether it is a capitalist government, which in our views oppresses or suppresses the workers and the farmers and represents the interests of the big capital, or a workers’ and farmers’ government immediately following a revolution which represents the interests of the workers and farmers and suppresses any attempt of the displaced capitalist class to resist its authority or to re-establish its rule.

But once the resistance of the old out-lived exploiting class is broken, and its members become reconciled to the new society and become assimilated in it, find their place in it; and the struggle between classes which is the dominating factor in all class societies is done away with, because of the disappearance of class distinctions; then the primary function of government as a repressive instrument disappears and the government withers away with it. This is the profound conception of Marx and Engels that is adhered to by all their disciples.

Blanquism and Our Movement

Q: Did Lenin ever use the term “Blanquism” to designate a certain type of movement?

THE COURT: What is that?

MR. GOLDMAN: Blanquism.

THE WITNESS: Yes, he wrote more than one article in the course of the Russian Revolution, more than once he wrote, “We are not Blanquists.”

Q: Now, what is meant by “Blanquism”?

A: Blanqui was a figure in the French revolutionary movement who had followers in the Paris Commune of 1871. Blanqui had his own conception of party and of revolution, and his ideas are known among the students of the history of the labor movement as Blanquism.

Q: What are his ideas?

A: Blanqui’s idea was that a small group of determined men, tightly disciplined, could effect the revolution with a coup d’etat.

Q: What is a “coup d’etat”?

A: That is a seizure of power, a seizure of state power by armed action of a small, determined, disciplined group; they would, so to speak, make the revolution for the masses.

Q: And what did Lenin say about that?

A: Lenin opposed this view and his articles were written in answer to opponents who had accused the Bolsheviks of aiming to seize power without a majority. He said, “We are not Blanquists. We base ourselves on mass parties and mass movements, and as long as we are in the minority, our task is to patiently explain the problems and issues until we gain the majority, and as long as we are in the minority we will not try to overthrow you. You let us have our freedom of speech and press, give us the opportunity to expound our ideas, and you don’t need to fear any Blanquist putsch on our part.”

Putsch, as I explained before, is an attempt of a small group to seize power by surprise tactics.

Q: So Lenin depended upon mass parties and upon gaining a majority for those mass parties, did he?

The Support of the Majority

A: Yes, in the early days of the Communist International – it is a period that I am familiar with through close study and personal participation in the movement – he hammered at this idea all the time, not only against his critics in Russia, but against various individuals and groups who came toward support of the Russian Revolution, and had some distorted idea.

In Germany, for example, in 1921, the German party, which had recently been organized, attempted an insurrection without having the support of the masses; this became famous in the literature of our international movement, as “the March action.” The tactics embodied in it, the conception of some of the German leaders that they could force the revolution by their own determination and sacrifices – this whole idea, the March action and all the ideas embodied in it, were condemned by the Second Congress of the Communist International at the insistence of Lenin and Trotsky. They refuted this theory, and they counterposed to it mass parties, mass movements, gaining the majority.

They put out the slogan to the German party that it should aim to have a million members. Zinoviev, who was Chairman of the Comintern, on the German question made that one of his leading ideas, that the task of the German party was not to get impatient or to try to force history, but to be busy with agitation and propaganda and have the goal of a million in the party.

Q: These million members would not by themselves make any revolution, would they?

A: Naturally not – Lenin did not expect to have a majority of the population become members of the party, but to support the party. But the very fact that he proposed – or rather, Zinoviev who was the lieutenant of Lenin, acting as Chairman of the Communist International proposed – as a slogan, “A million members in the German Party,” certainly was a powerful indication that they did not expect to get a majority of the people until they had a numerically powerful party.

Q: Now, what relationship, if any, did Leon Trotsky have to the Socialist Workers’ Party?

Relation of Trotsky to the Socialist Workers Party

A: Well, our movement in 1928 – when our faction was expelled from the Communist Party – we had adopted the program of Trotsky.

We supported his program from the very beginning – and this was long before we had any personal contact with him, he had been expelled from the Russian party and was exiled in the Asiatic wilderness at a place called Alma Ata. We had no communication with him. We did not know where he was. whether he was dead or alive, but we had one of his important programmatic documents which was called, The Criticism of the Program of the Comintern. This book, elaborated his theories as against those of Stalin at great length and in fundamental respects. This was adopted by us as our own program and from the very beginning we proclaimed our faction as Trotsky’s faction.

We worked for about six months here without any communication with him, until he was deported to Turkey, Constantinople, and then we established communication with him by mail.

Later, various leading members of the party visited him. We had very extensive correspondence with him, and in this correspondence and in visits by individual members, we had an extremely close relation to him and regarded him all the time as the theoretical inspirer and teacher of our movement.

Q: When did you first visit Trotsky?

A: I visited him in France in 1934 – that is, for the first time after our expulsion from the Communist Party.

Q: And what role, if any, did Trotsky play in formulating the doctrines of the Socialist Workers Party?

A: Well, he played a very important role. Although he did not write our party documents, his ideas interpreting Marxism in our time were the source from which we got our main concepts and rewrote them in American terms, tried to apply them to American conditions.

Q: Did he write any articles about conditions and developments in’ the United States in those days?

A: I don’t recall that he wrote much in those days about America.

Q: Did he at any time in those days tell you as to what practical action should be taken in the United States by your group?

A: Yes. One of the subjects of controversy in our early days was what kind of activity we should occupy ourselves with.

He supported the idea of a purely propagandistic activity in our early days – that is, as distinguished from what we call mass work. We were so few in numbers, we could not hope to do anything except to try to publish a paper and convert some people to our basic ideas; a very, very modest task of routine propaganda was assigned by the necessity of the situation to our group at that time, and he supported that.

After Trotsky Came to Mexico

Q: When did you first make frequent contact with Trotsky?

A: He was driven out of France and then out of Norway and finally received asylum in Mexico by the action of President Cardenas. If I am correct as to the exact month, I think it was January 1937.

Thereafter he lived in Mexico until August 21, 1940, when he was assassinated. In the period that he was there wo made frequent visits to him. I personally was there to see him twice, once in the spring of 1938 and again in the summer of 1940. Other party leaders and party members visited him frequently. I personally maintained a very active correspondence with him, and so did other members of the party, and I would say we were in very, very intimate contact with him after he came to Mexico.

Q: What did the Socialist Workers Party do with reference to helping Trotsky guard himself, and also with reference to aiding him in his expenses?

A: We knew that Trotsky was marked for assassination by Stalin, who had killed off practically all the important leaders of the revolution through his mass trials and his purges and frame-ups and so forth. We knew that Trotsky, as the greatest of all the opponents of Stalin, was marked for assassination, and we undertook to protect him. We set up a special committee which had the sole purpose of collecting funds to support this endeavor.

We supplied guards, we supplied money regularly and systematically for transforming his house into as close to a fortress as possible. We collected and supplied the funds to buy the house for him. We supplied the expenses of the guards who were sent there, and in general, in every way possible, extended ourselves to protect his life and facilitate his work.

Nature of Discussions with Trotsky

Q: What was the nature of the discussions that you held with Trotsky while you were there?

A: All the important problems of the world movement.

Q: Any problems of the American labor movement?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you ever discuss the question of Union Defense Guards and Local 544 with him?

A: No, I personally had no discussion with him about 544 Defense Guards. We discussed with him the question of Defense Guards in General. This, I think, was in our visit in 1938.

Q: Do you know of your own knowledge whether Trotsky had many visitors?

A: Yes, I know that he did. I know that he had many visitors, because in my capacity as Secretary of the Party I frequently was called upon to give letters of introduction to people who wanted to visit him. He was visited, not only by our members, but by journalists, by school teachers, a history class which used to tour Mexico, and he was visited by public people of many kinds and opinions while he was there.

Q: Then the discussions that you had with Trotsky referred and related to general political questions, did they not?

A: Yes – yes, questions of the war, of fascism, trade unionism –

Q: But they had nothing to do with party activities, branches, or of particular sections of the party?

A: No, I don’t recall that Trotsky ever interested himself in the detailed local work of the party; I don’t recall that.

Trotsky’s Work

Q: How busy a man was he?

A: Well, he was the busiest man I ever saw. Trotsky, in addition to all his political work and his enormous correspondence, and his journalistic work – and he wrote innumerable articles and pamphlets for us – he wrote for magazines and newspapers, such as the New York Times, Saturday Evening Post, Liberty, and other magazines – and in addition to that, he produced in the eleven years since his exile to Turkey in 1929 to his death in 1940, a literary output greater by volume than that of the average writer who does nothing else but write.

He wrote the three huge volumes on the Russian Revolution which, from the point of view of literary labor, could be considered a life task by any writer. He wrote a full-sized book called, The Revolution Betrayed, and he wrote his autobiography and innumerable smaller books and pamphlets and articles in that period.

Q: The party, then, never bothered him with minor questions of policy and activities?

A: Not to my knowledge; I know I never did.

* * *

Next week’s issue of The Militant will conclude the testimony of Comrade Cannon on direct examination by Defense Attorney Goldman, and cross-examination by Assistant Attorney-General Schweinhaut. Every worker who is interested in the issues in this trial will want to read the full transcript of this historic debate between the National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, representing the interests of socialist ideas and militant unionism, and the carefully picked spokesman for Roosevelt and Biddle, representing the interests of the warmongering politicians and capitalists.

Last updated on 23 March 2019