James P. Cannon

Workers Party-Socialist Workers Party Letters on Unity

Reply to Workers Party Unity Bid

(28 August 1945)

Published: Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 40, 1 October 1945, p. 4.
Source: PDF supplied by the Riazanov Library Project.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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August 28, 1945

Max Shachtman,
National Secretary,
Workers Party,
New York, N.Y.

Dear Comrades:

Your letter of August 28 with the enclosed statement of your National Committee On the Unification of the Workers Party and the Socialist Workers Party has been received and discussed by our Political Committee. We especially note your declaration, in Point 5 of your statement, that the Workers Party is “prepared to discuss the question of unity with the Socialist Workers Party.” We are in favor of such a discussion and will so recommend to the next Plenum of our National Committee.

In view of the sharp conflicts which resulted in the split between us and the formation of your own organization five years ago, and in view of the deep differences which have separated us since, we believe that the National Committee’s consideration of the question will be facilitated if you will indicate more precisely and more concretely your view of how the unification is to be brought about and what form it should take.

We have always proceeded from the point of view that programmatic agreement on the most important and decisive questions is the only sound basis for unification; and that, when divergences of opinion occur, unity can be maintained only by the scrupulous observance of the democratic principle of the subordination of the minority to the majority and strict discipline in public activity and action.

If, in the course of the discussion, it appears that we are approaching agreement on the most important political questions, as well as upon the organizational principle referred to above, and that unification is a realistic perspective, then systematic joint consultation and plans for the cooperation of the two organizations for the carrying out of practical work pending the formal, unification would follow as a matter of course. But to attempt to begin with such practical cooperation, prior to a definite approach to unification, would seem to us to put things Upside down and lead to a sharpening of conflicts over secondary questions father than to their moderation. In our view, “the practical possibilities of living and working together harmoniously” flow naturally and inevitably from a basic agreement on the fundamental questions, not vice-versa. Friction and conflict arise from political disagreement rather than from personal incompatibility. In the long run, the latter is always subordinated to the former.

In our opinion, the question of unification must be discussed with complete frankness and seriousness. The aim must be to effect a genuine unification on a firm and long-lasting basis. We, for our part, believe that unity would be a good thing if it is firmly based and leads to the strengthening of the party and the building up of the party. On the other hand, a unification followed by a sharp faction fight and another split would be highly injurious to the party.

The views set forth above are designed to give a concrete basis to the preliminary discussions between us/ Naturally, we are perfectly willing to hear and consider any different form of preliminary approach which you may wish to make. If yoii think that any exploratory verbal discussion would facilitate the preparation and organization of the agenda for a thorough-going consideration of the whole problem of unification in all its aspects, a sub-committee of our PC is prepared to meet with you for such a preliminary discussion. Such a meeting can be arranged on short notice by a telephone call to Comrade Stein, Organizational Secretary, at the National Office of the SWP.


Yours fraternally,
J.P. Cannon,
National Secretary,
Socialist Workers Party

Last updated on 29 January 2018