Balance SHeet of Trotskyism in the United States, 1940-1947 by C L R James 1947

I. The Unprincipled Split

The split of 1940 was the most unprincipled split in the history of Bolshevism. In the W.P., particularly among the uninstructed youth, there are now circulating statements to the effect that the split was caused .by the refusal of “democratic rights” to the Minority, a proof of the bureaucratic degeneration of the S.W.P. These are abominable lies and a slander not of Cannon or “Cannonism” but of our whole movement. ;

The Fourth International had been founded in 1938. A convention in 1939 had ratified its decisions. One month later came the Hitler-Stalin pact and differences arose about the Russian line of the International. What should have been done is a lesson to be learnt once and for all, and we do not propose to begin a new political chapter in our history by evading the issue or tolerating evasion of it. The Minority had the duty to clarify its differences, at that time above all, in a serious manner. There were international comrades available in the U.S. A discussion under Trotsky’s personal guidance could have been arranged. Ultimately a political statement, placing clearly divided issues before the International, would have emphasized our solidarity in face of the barbarism of the bourgeois war. The International as an international organization would have emerged stronger from the crisis and would have had an invaluable lesson in the proper method of conducting itself in a crisis of the type that will continually recur at critical moments in our future history.

Instead the Minority seemed to become enraged. Half-baked positions on Russia were thrown into discussion. Trotsky’s invitation to Shachtman at least to discuss the crisis was impertinently ignored – one of the meanest, most cowardly and most undemocratic actions in the history of Trotskyism. Let him who can, justify by a single word this refusal even to discuss with Trotsky, the founder of our movement.

This was the conduct of the Minority at the beginning of the discussion. Its conduct at the end was worse. The S.W.P., backed by the authority of Trotsky, offered to the ‘Minority’ membership on the Editorial Board of The New International; two members out of five on the Secretariat; a continuation of the discussion; the right to publish an internal bulletin of its own; the publication of a symposium. Trotsky invited the Minority to win members on its own platform and by this means, if it could, transform the minority into a majority. He publicly warned the Majority that if it was defeated at the convention, it should accept the discipline of the Minority. It was useless. The Minority split the party deliberately. The leaders of the present Johnson-Forest Minority took part in all this, and we therefore are qualified to speak. There is no need for the S.W.P. and the Fourth International at this time to insist upon any confession. But we have a political responsibility to our own past, to the faction which we lead, to the party and to all at home and abroad who are concerned with our movement. We have that responsibility and here discharge it, not only for the past but for the future. The split was a betrayal of our movement. We have seen its consequences, both on those who committed it and those who fought against it. All those who, for whatever reasons, at this time, after digesting the American experience, propose to split, or encourage or tolerate the idea of a split, or carry on discussions in a manner leaving loop-holes for a split are expressing nothing else but their political bankruptcy, their initial abandonment of the principles of our movement, their terror before the new tasks and their unbridled hatred of those who continue to pin their faith for ‘the regeneration of society on the proletariat and nothing else but the proletariat.