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The Militant, 27 January 1945

Pioneer Paragraphs

James P. Cannon

How Trotskyism Transforms
Militants into Bolsheviks

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 4, 27 January 1945, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


We were all for that kind of Americanization, that is, adaptation of our propaganda technique to the country. That is good Leninism too. But Budenz very quickly showed that by Americanism he meant a crude version of jingoism. He came to the National Committee of our party with a proposal that our whole program should be an amendment to the Constitution; that our revolutionary program be whittled down to one parliamentary project. It was a terribly capitulatory, a philistine program of the crudest kind.

Budenz tried to make some trouble in the ranks, hoping to exploit ignorance and prejudice. There we had to be very careful about repercussions, because he had been a field worker and was known to the workers in the field. The word had been assiduously spread that the Trotskyists were theses sharks and hairsplitters, who understood nothing of the realities of the mass movement, and that no mass worker could have anything to do with them. We had to be very careful of this prejudice that had been spread against us. We didn’t care about Budenz. We had his number. But we were greatly interested in his friends among the field workers who had come from the American Workers Party. We moved very carefully against Budenz. We didn’t expel him, we didn’t threaten him. We simply opened a very cautious discussion. We began a very patient explanation, a political discussion, political education.

I think the political education which we conducted on the Budenz question in that period, was a model in our movement. The results of it were shown when Budenz later drew the logical conclusions from his philistine “Americanization” program and sold out to the Stalinists who at that time were waving the Star Spangled Banner with both hands. He had expected to split the party and carry with him all these experienced and valuable militants in the field. He counted without his host. He underestimated what had been accomplished in the preceding patient discussion and cooperation in common work. At the showdown Budenz found himself isolated and went over to the Stalinists virtually alone.

The field workers remained loyal to the party, and were gradually transforming themselves from militant mass field workers into genuine Bolsheviks. That takes time. Nobody is born a Bolshevik. It has to be learned. And it cannot be learned solely from books either. It is learned over a long time, by a combination of field work, struggle, personal sacrifices, tests, study and discussion. The making of a Bolshevik is a long-drawn-out process. But in compensation, when you get a Bolshevik, you have got something. When you get enough of them you can do anything you want to do, including make a revolution.

(From History of American Trotskyism, by James P. Cannon, pp. 208–9. Pioneer Publishers, 1944, 268 pp., cloth $2.75, paper $2. Order from Pioneer Publishers, 116 University Place, N.Y. 3, N.Y.)

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