From Fourth International, Vol.10 No.4, April 1949, p.103.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The third edition of Socialism on Trial, just brought out by Pioneer Publishers, is an important event in the current political scene. Although still permitted to circulate through the mails, the verbatim testimony of James P. Cannon in the Minneapolis Trial of 1941 – which comprises the contents of the pamphlet – has assumed the nature of a suppressed document. The prosecution and the defense in the current trial of the 11 Communist Party leaders in New York under the Smith Sedition Law have entered into a tacit agreement to black out any genuine discussion of the first trial and conviction under that act. Only the most casual references to the trial and conviction of the 18 Trotskyists have appeared in either the capitalist or the Stalinist press.
This unspoken conspiracy of silence discloses more about the motives and aims of the antagonists in the present trial than all their conflicts in the courtroom. The clear intent of the government, following the main lines of postwar capitalist propaganda, is to identify Marxism with Stalinism. In this way, they hope that the popular revulsion against, Stalinism will limit the protest movement against this fundamental assault on civil rights. Once the conviction is obtained, they undoubtedly plan to use the same “liberal” camouflage in outlawing Marxism and all revolutionary opponents of capitalism, stigmatizing them with the label of Stalinism. The effectiveness of this plan is already to be’seen in the discussion now appearing in the pages of The Nation. Liberals like Morris Ernst and James Fly, ostensibly frightened by Stalinism, are championing the repressive principle of “full disclosure,” i.e., the registration with the government of vital facts on finances and membership by all political organizations.
For opposite reasons, the Stalinists are happy to unite with the government in this game of identifying Stalinism with Marxism. They are not unaware that this line will seriously restrict the scope of the anti-prosecution forces.
But the factional and bureaucratic interests of Stalinism are for them a higher consideration than the democratic rights of the workers – than even the liberty of the leaders of the Communist Party.
For the Stalinists to give recognition to the Minneapolis Trial would constitute a body blow to their treacherous policy in the labor movement. To admit that a capitalist government could persecute Trotskyists as Marxists and revolutionists – not as “fascists” and “agents of Hitler” – would undermine the lexicon of abuse, calumny and amalgams which are an essential part of the ideology of Stalinism. It would call into question the Moscow Frameup Trials and the bloody purges which assured the final victory of the Bonapartist bureaucracy over its revolutionary opposition. It would expose their stab-in-the-back action against the Trotskyists in the Minneapolis trial.
For parallel if not identical reasons neither the prosecution nor the defense desire genuine Marxism, as it was examined and presented in the Minneapolis case, to feature prominently in the present trial. Class reasons, as usual, prove a thousand times stronger than juridical needs and precedents. Yet the truth will not be so easily suppressed. Despite the conspiracy of silence, the similarity of the indictment in both cases based on the same police state law will arouse new interest in the Minneapolis trial and conviction and thus help reveal the repressive aims of the government and the criminal anti-working class policies of the Stalinists. Socialism on Trial has already become a basic document of the workers’ movement, a primer of Marxism. It has gone through two editions in this country; it has been republished in Great Britain and translated into Spanish by the Mexican Trotskyists.
We predict with confidence that one of the by-products of the present trial will be a revival of new interest in genuine Marxism. In reading Socialism On Trial, thousands of workers will compare the capable and uncompromising defense of the doctrine of scientific socialism by James P. Cannon with the behavior of the Stalinists in the Federal Court in New York.
Last updated on: 4 March 2009