Letter from James P. Cannon to Farrell Dobbs, September 18, 1953

Documents 3 to 17 and 19 to 24 originally published in Internal Bulletins of the SWP and the International Bulletins of the International Committee

Dear Farrell:

I received your letter of September 16, reporting on the discussion in the New York group. Your thinking seems to have paralleled ours on every point, including the next steps to be taken. Vincent and I have been talking about the question a great deal and had come to identical conclusions as to what to do next.

These proposed steps presuppose a fundamental decision by the party leadership, to be taken with a full comprehension of all the implications. It must be clearly understood, before we start, that the new actions do not signify simply a continuation of the struggle with the Cochranite minority. They require a new decision on a new plane. It is a far more serious decision than the one we took in launching the open struggle against the Cochranites, and it is not the same kind of a decision.

The open break with the Cochranites did not signify a break-up of a previously existing coalition or alliance in the leadership. Contrary to what some may have thought at the time, the Cochranites never played any really essential, to say nothing of any indispensable part, in the actual leadership of the movement. This has been demonstrated to the hilt by the course of the leadership since the open break with the Cochranites last January.

There was a little change from previous times, but as far as the ; making of political decisions and the direction of party work are concerned, the change was something like the 'click' one hears when a railroad car passes from one rail to another. Moreover, the Cochranites never played any indispensable role in the division of labour among the leadership, or even in the general work of the party, as some may have thought. That has been demonstrated to the hilt too, especially since the organized campaign of sabotage proved its futility.

The situation on the international field is quite different. There we have had an actual alliance in the most important political work, and a division of labour too. From this point of view an open break with the Paris leaders will be comparable to the big shake-up in 1940. The split with the Shachtmanites disrupted a long-standing coalition as well as a division of labour, and required a complete reorganization. We have to see clearly that there can be no other possible outcome of an open break with Pablo and Co.

I am not citing these consequences as an argument against the steps you propose to take. On the contrary, I am more and more convinced that this course is unavoidable. But before we start, all concerned should weigh the full consequences of the actions, as the Paris leaders apparently have already done for their part. All doubts and hesitations must be left behind them when the open warfare begins.

I doubt very much whether a modus vivendi can be re-established on the old basis, once the fight gets out into the open. The barest possibility of this will depend upon the relation of forces established in the open fight. As far as the SWP is concerned, the fight is practically over in this respect. The most favourable relation of forces we can expect in the next period has already been established. If the same success is recorded in England, the international battle will have already turned in favour of orthodox Trotskyism.

Vincent and I fully agree with the three proposals:

1. An appeal to all sections for solidarity with the SWP Majority in our fight against the Cochranite revisionists.

2. Preparation of a separate document on the international questions.

3. A Plenum of the Majority NC members soon after the drafts are ready to ratify the basic decision.

I think we can have this special gathering without too much expense. Since all the NC members on the West Coast have already discussed the whole problem fully during the past week at the L. A. Summer Camp, it would probably be agreeable if I came alone to represent the whole group. Since Vincent has participated in all the discussions here, and is already in agreement with all the decisions contemplated, I might also act as proxy for him -- if the matter of expense is important.

We are having a full meeting of the L.A. NC group with Vincent next Sunday. I will write you further after this meeting.


J.P. Cannon

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