James P. Cannon

Letter from James P. Cannon to Farrell Dobbs

From Toward A History of the Fourth International

Written: July 16, 1954
Source: Struggle in the Fourth International, International Committee Documents 1951-1954, Volume 4 of 4, page 246, 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).
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters
Editing and Proofreading: Andrew Pollack
Pubic Domain: This work is in the Public Domain. Please cite the James P. Cannon Internet Archive, a sub-archive of the Marxists Internet Archive for credit.

Los Angeles, Calif.
July 16
New York

Dear Farrell:

I received your letter and other material on the Pabloite assembly. I agree in general with the thoughts expressed by you, which appear to coincide with those of Burns and Joe.

However, I would like to make the following observations:

1. We ought to get the documents of the Pabloite gathering and give them a searching scrutiny before making a final decision on our next steps. We need the texts of the Cochranite proposals as well as the documents accepted by the majority.

It seems to me that everything is working in our favor now and it would be a mistake to think we have any need to jump into any precipitate action. There should first be an all around confidential discussion among tht. leading people recognizing the IC, and full understanding and agreement before we proceed.

2. It is not quite correct to say that we have defeated the Pabloites in the political struggle since the publication of the Open Letter, but we have certainly made headway. The prospects for the near future seem to be all on our side. One big advantage we have is that our forces are firmly consolidated everywhere, while the Pabloites are running into the usual difficulties of heterogeneous combinations. We would be under more pressure to take some hasty action if the splits in the national sections had not been politically prepared and we were obliged to pay for previous mistakes in that respect by unity maneuvers.

I think the split is pretty definitive in the United States, Britain and Canada; that there is no real unity problem there; and that unity negotiations between the different groups in these three countries if they take place at all, which is doubtful, would be rather farcical and would yield little or no result. I have the impression that the same situation prevails in France, but I would like to have more information about it.

3. I personally attach more importance to the Congress of the French party than to the Pabloite assembly, and I would like to see a full report of the proceedings, with texts of the documents. If the French comrades were able, by their own resources, to agree on a practical working arrangement for collaboration in the leadership, I doubt very much whether the French Pabloites will be much of a problem for them in the next period, with or without a unification. But on this also we should request information and the opinion of the French comrades.

4. The first half—the bigger half—of the fight against Pabloism has been finished successfully with the consolidation of firm majorities in the different sections adhering to the IC. The victories there are politically secure because they’ve been based on the informed participation of the ranks at every step of the fight. These politically secured gains cannot be upset by any international maneuvers. The forces consolidated in these parties are the solid core of the international movement; the undecided elements are mainly peripheral to this core. The IC in all its deliberations from now on should proceed from this conception.

5. I agree, of course, with your position that if the Pabloites want to negotiate about unity, or any steps possibly leading toward it, they will have to deal directly with the IC, and give up their round about approaches. I think it would be a good idea if all the affiliated sections would adopt a specific motion to this effect, to put an end to all Pabloite speculations on the possibility of separate deals with separate groups.

6. An agreement of the Pabloites to form a parity commission with representatives of the IC, to jointly arrange a discussion in preparation for a prospective joint congress, would in itself be a big gain for the Trotskyists, regardless of whether such a parity commission eventually arrived at a joint congress. The discussion will decide that, and there will be plenty of time. If we are able, through a jointly edited Bulletin, to reach some of the undecided and misinformed people, who have been deliberately kept in ignorance of the issues, we will be bound to gain something in any case.

7. If such a parity commission is agreed upon, it will not be necessary for us to present any ultimatistic formulations at its first meeting. The fact of the agreement for a parity commission would speak for itself. A little later, if it appears that there is a prospect of the Pabloites agreeing to a formal parity commission, I will suggest some formulations which the IC representatives can use to let the Pabloites save a little face without yielding anything essential to them.

I am reviewing and thinking over the past experiences with the “Committee of Four Parties,” our negotiations with the Musteites, and other “parity commission” experiences of the past, from this point of view. Perhaps the past experiences with parity committees, real and fake, which I have known, can be helpful this time.