Felix Morrow

A Letter from Felix Morrow to the French Comrades

Why Cannon Expelled
SWP Minority Leaders

(23 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 48, 2 December 1946, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

For the information of our readers, we publish below a letter sent by Felix Morrow and David Jeffries to the French Section of the Fourth International. The letter gives only a small picture of the bureaucratic atmosphere at the recent convention of the Socialist Workers Party, at which the Cannonite bureaucracy, on the flimsiest charges, expelled Morrow and Jeffries and issued a “severe warning” to other members of the Minority Group in order to rid themselves of any critical voices in the SWP. We hope to be able to publish a fuller report on the SWP convention in a coming issue, its programmatic sterility and its bureaucratic procedure, notably its high-handed treatment of the Minority Group in the discussion of political and organisational issues.


Political Committee
Parti Communiste Internationaliste
Paris, France

Dear Comrades:

As I forewarned you in my cable a month before, Cannon has expelled the leaders of the Minority at the November 16–19 convention of the party. David Jeffries and I were the ones expelled, and the others of the Minority were warned of the same action against them for any objectionable action, including continuing collaboration with Jeffries and me. The Minority has decided to remain in the SWP and continue its political struggle despite all obstacles.

The Minority appeals to all the parties of the Fourth International to protest against the expulsions.

The Minority has no illusions that an official stand of the International on this question can come quickly. There is today no real International Executive Committee. The body which calls itself the IEC today, set up by a pre-conference without an international political discussion, and packed in such a way as to assure a majority to the friends of Cannonism, demonstrates its lack of disinterestedness by its support of Cannon’s refusal to discuss unity with the Workers Party, much less to achieve unity. It would be childish naivete for the Minority to appeal to such a partisan, unrepresentative and politically unauthoritative body. Nor does the Minority hope to see within a short time a World Congress, for the friends of Cannonism are determined to prevent one. Hence, the Minority meanwhile asks the parties of the International individually to protest against the expulsions.

Expelled from the SWP and with no immediate possibility of a stand on the expulsions by the International, the expelled comrades will apply for membership in the Workers Party. The Minority considers the WP a sister party of the International, a Trotskyist organization. In it, the expelled comrades will continue to work for unification of the two Trotskyist parties of the United States. The expelled comrades are applying for membership in the Workers Party because at the present time it is the sole means available to them for continuing their political activity, and are ready to return to the SWP as soon as the expulsions can be reversed.

You will receive shortly a full description of the convention. For the moment, I shall give you only the most essential details.

Three Formal Grounds for the Expulsions

Formally, the expulsion is on grounds of infraction of discipline. The Majority made two charges:

  1. That the Minority ceased to pay what is called the “sustaining fund” to the party. It refers not to dues, convention assessments and other formal party obligations, all of which the Minority members have paid, but to another fund, which is not obligatory, from the moment it ceased to pay this fund, the Minority stated that it would again pay this fund at any time that the Political Committee made it obligatory. This was never done. The Minority ceased to pay this fund in June when the sole remaining Minority party functionary was removed from the party payroll and when the Political Committee refused to finance a national tour by a Minority spokesman during the pre-convention discussion. Deprived of any full-time party worker and refused any aid from the party funds to make possible a genuine pre-convention discussion, the Minority considered it an elementary revolutionary duty that money previously paid to the sustaining fund be used to finance the Minority’s participation in the preconvention discussion. Only this step made possible the sending by the Minority of Comrade Jeffries on a national tour and the writing, stencilling and mailing of the Minority documents. Had the Minority done otherwise, it would have been unable to continue its political work at all. It should be clear, then, that both formally and in content this charge of the Majority is groundless.
  2. The second charge was the attendance of Minority members at the WP convention in June. The facts are: Minority members applied to their respective party bodies for permission to attend the WP convention. We stated in our request that if we were instructed not to attend the WP convention, we would abide by the instructions. But no instructions were issued; our request was ignored. We therefore attended the WP convention. We attended purely to observe the proceedings and took no part in then. It should be clear how ridiculous it is that the Political Committee which persistently refused to go on record as forbidding our attending the convention should now have us expelled for having attended it.
  3. A third charge, limited to Jeffries, is that he made the national tour for the Minority without first securing a leave of absence from his local branch. Let us grant his oversight of this mere formality (even in the SWP he would automatically have been granted the leave of absence)—is it by any conceivable measuring stick a ground for expulsion?

The Real Reasons Behind the Expulsion

But these formal charges of violation of discipline are, of course, not the real reason for our expulsion. If the party publishes the speeches of the Majority spokesmen, you will see that they quite plainly gave an entirely different reason for our expulsion. Thus E.R. Frank, in his report on the International Question, stated that there was no further value in disputing with the “revisionists.” Thus Cannon, in his report on the American Theses, branded, the Minority as “low-grade Mensheviks.” Thus M. Stein, in his report on U.S. Tasks, stated that there was no point in disputing over strategy and tactics with an “anti-Marxist” Minority. Over and over again throughout the so-called political discussions in the convention, the Majority speakers made plain that they did not want the Minority in the party because they considered it revisionist. In reality, therefore, the leaders of the Minority were expelled because of the Minority’s political ideas. And this is logical enough for those to do who oppose unity with the WP and who have explicitly declared that those who do not consider Russia a workers’ state do not belong in the Fourth International.

The Cannonites, however, do not have the courage of their political convictions. That is why one witnessed this disgusting spectacle of four days of denunciations of the Minority as revisionists and then their expulsion for a minor infraction of discipline.

Why expel two and not the rest of the Minority? Juridically all are equally guilty or not guilty of the same offenses. The Cannonite distinction between Morrow and Jeffries on the one hand and the rest of the Minority on the other is designed merely to give a semblance of judicial procedure, as hypocritical as when a judge singles out some strikers for more punishment than others who are in the dock with them.

Future International Course of Cannonites

The future course of the Cannonites internationally was indicated by the boast of E.R. Frank that they would burn out with a red hot iron all Morrowist tendencies in the International. He brandished the same iron in particular against the French Majority which, like Morrow, had “voted for a capitalist constitution.” And this is logical: those who declare that some fifteen or more political positions of theWP are incompatible with unity in the Fourth International must go on to split the International throughout the world on these questions.

On the other hand, if the French party or any other party should protest that the Cannonites are splitting the movement by their use of expulsions, then Cannon will shift his ground and denounce those who, because they share Morrow’s political ideas, dare to defend his violations of discipline. In a word, the only solidarity permissible in the Fourth International, according to Cannon, is the solidarity of the Cannonites.

It would be a terrible political blow to the International if the French and British parties especially should fail to see through Cannon’s game. They have the elementary duty of defending the rights of the Minority. They are obligated to brand the expulsions as an impermissible weapon in a political struggle. They know, or they should know, that it is precisely since the May plenum, when the Minority declared its determination to remain in the party and observe discipline, that the Cannonites, no longer hoping to discourage the Minority and get it to leave as did Goldman, began to plan to expel the Minority at the convention. So long as the Minority seemed on the point of leaving the party, Morrow was kept on the party payroll; he was removed only when it became clear he would not leave. So long as the Minority appeared ready to leave, Cannon boasted that he would never expel it; he changed his tune only when the Minority showed it would stay.

Cannonism Must Be Defeated in the Fourth International

Nor should the British and French parties let themselves be confused by the mountain of lies which Cannon has piled up concerning the Minority’s political positions. From letters from friends in Europe, it is plain that even intelligent comrades have let themselves be taken in by the shear repetition of Cannon’s lies. The convention provided some truly extraordinary examples of this Cannonite method: Morrow had only to say that a major economic crisis was not yet due in the United States for a few years, and a parade of speakers were let loose on the platform to declaim against Morrow’s faith in the permanent prosperity of American capitalism. But the temporary effectiveness of such vicious demagogy is at the expense of the health and viability of the Fourth International. Unless Cannonism is decisively politically defeated in the International, and within a few years, the Fourth International is doomed to pass from the scene.

This letter necessarily has been concerned primarily with the expulsions. It should be understood, however, that the struggle against the expulsions is only a very subordinate item in the struggle against Cannonism. We do not ask the parties of the International to make the same mistake as did the Minority for a long time: to concentrate the struggle around organizational questions instead of political ones. Cannon’s organizational methods are a classical example of political helplessness resorting to vicious organizational means. The primary fight against Cannonism must and can only be a fight against its false political positions; only as part, and a subordinate part, of such a political struggle can a protest against the expulsions have value.

A copy of this letter is being sent to all sections.

November 23, 1946

Felix Morrow

Last updated on 17 July 2020