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The Militant, 3 February 1945

Pioneer Paragraphs

James P. Cannon

How Marxists Approach All Organizational Questions


From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 5, 3 February 1945, p.  5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


During all this time the attention of the advanced workers, the unaffiliated but more or less radical and class-conscious workers, was concentrated on the Socialist Party because it was a bigger party. They said: “Let us wait and see whether it is going to be the Socialist Party or the Workers Party which will really be the heir to the radical movement of the United States. Let us see if the Socialist Party will really turn to the left. In that case we can join a revolutionary party that is bigger than the Workers Party.” Under such conditions it was extremely difficult to recruit into the Workers Party.

There was continual friction inside the Workers Party over the Socialist Party question despite the fact that at that time there were no proposals of one faction as against the other. All of us presumably were going along building up the WP, conducting our independent agitation, and so on. We said we had no proposal

about joining the, Socialist Party. They could not have opposed such a proposal from a principled standpoint, since they had endorsed the “French turn.” Nevertheless, there was a difference in the way the problem was viewed by the two factions. They looked upon the ferment in the Socialist Party as a bothersome question, something to be avoided. Every time something of interest drew new attention to the factional fight within the SP, they would resent it because it distracted attention from our own organization. They regarded the Socialist Party as only a rival organization, and didn’t see the conflicting currents and tendencies, some of whom would be destined to march together with us. It was an organization approach ...

We approached the problem from another standpoint, not so much from the organizational side as from the political side. We saw in the ferment in the Socialist Party not a troublesome diversion from the work of building up our own party. We saw it rather as an opportunity to be seized upon for the development of our movement regardless of what organizational form it might eventually take. Our inclination was to turn toward it, to try to influence it in some way.

As I said, the practical proposals at the moment were not very different between the two factions, but the difference in attitude toward the problem of the Socialist Party was fundamental, and bound sooner or later to bring us to a clash. The organizational question is important, but the political line is decisive. No one can succeed in creating a revolutionary organization who does not understand that politics is superior to organizational questions. Organization questions are important only insofar as they serve a political line, a political aim. Independently they have no merit whatsoever.

(From History of American Trotskyism, by James P. Cannon, pp. 218–19. 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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