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The Socialist Opposition
to the American Bourgeoisie

James P. Cannon

Source: Trotskyism in the United States, Paul Le Blanc; quoting comments by Cannon to the SWP Political Committee meeting of April 10, 1951.
Published in Building the Revolutionary Party, © Resistance Books 1997 Published by Resistance Books 23 Abercrombie St, Chippendale NSW 2008, Permission for on-line publication provided by Resistance Books for use by the James P. Cannon Internet Archive in 2005.
Transcription\HTML Markup: Andrew Pollack

It is worth noting that in 1951 the leadership of the SWP proposed that the label of “Trotskyism” be set aside, that instead the party designate itself “in broad public political agitation as ‘Socialist’ or ‘Socialist Workers’ or ‘Revolutionary Socialist’, alternatively, as the occasion may demand.” Cannon explained that a “Trotskyist” self-designation could cause thoughtful workers to view the Socialist Workers Party

as a sectarian movement, as followers of some individual, and a Russian at that. It is not a suitable characterization for a broad American movement. Our enemies will refer to us as Trotskyists, and we will, of course, not deny it; but we should say: ‘We are Trotskyists because Trotsky was a true socialist.’ What we are presenting against American capitalism and the labor bureaucracy is the principle of the class struggle of modern socialism...

Let our enemies within the movement, that is in the narrow framework of the more political movement, call us Trotskyists. We will not protest. But then we will say we are Trotskyist because he represented genuine socialism and we, like him, are the real Socialists...

We have to think of ourselves more and more as representing the Socialist opposition to the American bourgeoisie. I don’t think we should do it under the handicap of what appears to the workers as a sectarian or cultist name. That is what the term ‘Trotskyist’ signifies to them.”

George Breitman has commented that “there was a relapse from the wise decision of 1951, starting in 1952 with the fight against the Cochranites and their slogan, ‘Junk the Old Trotskyism’,” so that throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the Trotskyist label was definitely attached to the SWP.