James P. Cannon

Letter to Farrell Dobbs

Written: April 24, 1954
Source: Struggle in the Fourth International, International Committee Documents 1951-1954, Volume 4 of 4, pages 222-231, from the collection Toward A History of the Fourth International, Part 3. Education for Socialists bulletin; issued by the National Education Department of the Socialist Workers Party (US).
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Los Angeles, Calif.
April 24, 1954
New York


Dear Farrell:

I received your letters of April 20 and 21 with the enclosed material from Ceylon and the Pabloite IS. It is quite clear now that relations between the Trotskyists and the Pabloites are entering a new and final stage. The announced refusal of the Pabloite IS to postpone their Congress signifies their determination to formalize the split on an international scale. That is their affair; there is nothing for us to do about it, but to recognize the fact and proceed from there.

Our position on the Congress has been stated in the letter to Ceylon and made known to the international movement by its publication in the Internal Bulletin. We have nothing to add or detract from that. The postponement of the Congress was stated there as the prerequisite to arrest the trend toward a definitive international split and, possibly, to set a counter process into motion. The Pabloite IS circular of April 9 flatly rejects the postponement.

This bars further negotiation, since there is no agreed upon common ground to begin with. Any discussion or negotiation over the composition of a commission to decide representation, or any other organizational and technical details of the Pabloite Congress, are a family affair of the Pabloite faction. We have nothing to say and nothing to offer in this respect. It is not our business.

For us to become involved in any way in negotiations about these technical matters of the Pabloite Congress would not be simply a stupid organizational mistake, but a political crime. Such procedure would debase the great struggle for political principle into a petty game of organizational maneuver, at the moment when the Pabloites are adapting themselves to Stalinism more grossly and more treacherously than ever. This is shown most clearly in the program for a proposed International Workers Conference set forth in the appeal of the Pabloite IS under date of April 9. This is a program not of workers’ internationalism but of Kremlin diplomacy.

I fully agree with your characterization of this program and cannot improve on your formulations: “They call for an armistice and free elections in Indo China, instead of the Trotskyist demand that the imperialists get out of Indo China and let the people there settle their own affairs. They call for admission of China to the UN, causing illusions about the UN. They call for prohibition of atomic weapons, a pacifist disarmament slogan.”

Your comment, however, that “these shifts in line mark new adaptations to Stalinist policy,” appears to me as not entirely adequate. What struck me in the eye, on reading this Pabloite declaration, is that here for the first time they have openly thrown aside the Trotskyist program of revolutionary internationalism in favor of the pacifist diplomatic formulas of the Stalinists. This is not a mistake or an oversight but a calculated betrayal of our program, published in the name of the Fourth International.

Here Pabloism takes off the mask and shows its real face. And all those who want to see, can see the reason why they chose this occasion for self revelation. The same April 9 session of the Pabloite IS, which issued this infamous declaration, made the decision to formalize the split with the Trotskyists who remain faithful to the program of revolutionary internationalism. The two actions fit together. The Pabloites had to cut the last thread connecting them with the Trotskyists before they felt free to dispense with diplomatic formulations and openly reveal their real program.

We will see more of this from now on, and everything will become clear to everybody. Our interest on the international field henceforth is not to haggle over organizational formalities and technicalities with the Pabloite scoundrels, but to consolidate the forces of international Trotskyism in the struggle to defend the program of the Fourth International and to cleanse its banner of the Stalinist filth splotched upon it by the Pabloite gang.

I fully agree with the party Secretariat that this Pabloite-Stalinist programmatic declaration must be publicly blasted in our press. However, I would like to make two suggestions.

First, hold your fire a little while to see if the Cochranites dare to publish this appeal in their magazine. If the Cochranites don’t publish it, wait until you get a copy of the text as published in some other Pabloite paper. That will provide the best occasion for a suitable public answer on our part The readers of our press will be less interested if we appear to be answering some internal circular of the Fourth International.

Second, along the same line, I don’t think our answer to this Pabloite program for an International Workers Conference should be connected with any comment about their decision to hold a Congress. As an internal affair of our international movement, that question was not of much interest to the general reader in the first place. And now, with the decision of the Pabloites to go ahead with a Congress of their own, the question has become narrowed down to an internal affair of the Pabloite faction. We should center our fire on their political program, not on their internal organizational affairs.

It is above all necessary to recognize and to emphasize that, beginning with the April 9 session of the Pabloite IS, which closed the door on negotiations for a common Congress and simultaneously came out openly as a subsidiary supporter of Stalinist politics, we have entered a new stage in the struggle for the program of international Trotskyism and the reconstruction of its international organization.

All questions of organizational formalities and technicalities, whether right or wrong in any given instance, which previously may have been a fit subject for discussion among the forces of orthodox Trotskyism, are washed out and worthless now. Nothing counts from now on but the lines of political principle which divide the Trotskyists from Stalinist agents and apologists. The realignment of the international movement can only take place on that basis. This is the real state of affairs and we must proceed from it. Nothing else matters now.

Yours fraternally,

James P. Cannon