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Martin Abern

The Revolutionary Marxist Press

Ten Year Record of Struggle and Progress

(October 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 46, 22 October 1938, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On October 27, 1928, James P. Cannon, Martin Abern and Max Shachtman were expelled from the Communist Party of the United States, by the latter’s Central Executive Committee at a Plenary Session, for espousing the platform of the then Russian Opposition led by L.D. Trotsky. Simultaneously, Maurice Spector was expelled by the Canadian C.P.

Anticipating the bureaucratic action of the Foster-Browder-Lovestone Communist Party leadership, we made swift preparations to present our case to the Communist Party ranks and to the working class, and two weeks later, on November 15, 1928, there appeared The Militant, published as the organ of the Opposition Group in the Communist Party 5,000 copies were printed and distributed widely in New York and throughout the United States.

Only a Handful

Hard labor, as never before or since, went into the publication of the semi-monthly Militant There were at the beginning but a handful of comrades to publish distribute and sell the paper. Resources were slim, but the comrades rallying to the Opposition Group in the various cities were intensely devoted to its cause and displayed tremendous energy and also pledged heavily of their financial resources to get out the paper. Communist Party gangsterism arose to prevent the sale and distribution of the Militant but this did not stop the growth and spread of the paper.

In New York, Max Shachtman, Joe Carter, the present writer and very soon more comrades, including Italian and Hungarian groups which joined us, distributed the paper to newsstands, sold them on the street corners and in front of the Daily Worker office and the “Coop” restaurant. Militant salesmen were slugged but sales went on just the same.

In Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston and other points, comrades Leon Goodman, Sol Lankin, B. Morganstern, Arne Swabeck, Albert Glotzer, Oscar Coover, Louis Roseland, C. Skoglund, V. Dunne, Charlotte Shechet, A. Konikow, L. Schlossberg and others there and elsewhere joined in the ‘Jimmie Higgins’ labor, and The Militant went marching on, despite all obstacles.

Circulation of 3,000

Circulation varied during the early months, but, if memory serves rightly, at least 3,000 Copies were regularly printed. Since the printing was done by a commercial printer, the cost was very high; but the development of a pledge fund to sustain the The Militant carried the paper through precarious weeks.

Our Press unquestionably has been the chief instrument, above any other human or physical medium, in the creation, maintenance and development of what is now the Socialist Workers Party and the Fourth International movement. It started as an expression of the left wing opposition movement in the official Communist Party and Communist International, but events dictated far-reaching and deep-going changes to the point today of irreconcilable opposition to all the political and organizational degeneration of the Stalinist Paries. The important and decisive shifts and changes in the labor and revolutionary movement are clearly and better indicated in our Press than in that of any other labor or revolutionary organ, and that applies from the period of Nov. 1928, the beginning of The Militant, to the present day, ten years later, in the Socialist Appeal and New International.

In the Early Issues

The first number of The Militant contained the declaration, For the Russian Opposition by the three expelled conirades, around which declaration they called upon members of the Communist Party and Young Communist League to rally. But, as evidence, too, of our continuing close ties to the official Communist Party, we began the publication in The Militant of the thesis of the former Minority (Cannon-Foster bloc) in the Communist Party, entitled The Crisis in the Communist Party of the United States, directed against the Lovestone-Wolfe majority.

But more important, The Militant began publication in serial form of the now famous and historic Criticism of the Draft Program of the Communist International by L.D. Trotsky, a copy of which had been smuggled out of Russia after the Sixth Congress of the Communist International through Comrades Cannon and Spcctor.

With its publication, along with dissemination of the contents of the Real Situation in Russia (the program of the Bolshevik-Leninists in Russia and containing also the sections on the falsification of the history of the Russian Revolution) the eyes of members of the C.P. and Y.C.L began to open and the Opposition Group made headway very slowly but steadily. Our forward march was also made easier by the publication of documents showing the extreme Right Swing the Russian Party was then making (rise of Kulak influences; slowing down of industrialization etc.).

Campaign for the Weekly

On February 15, 1929, The Militant published the newly-drafted Platform of the Opposition Group. Discussions began. On May 17–19, 1929, the Chicago convention of our forces convened, and the historic Communist League of America was formed – another great milepost of our progress. But with the organization of our forces nationally, there came greater ambitions and immediate goals. The semimonthly Militant was being issued regularly, but was already proving insufficient for our needs. After thorough deliberation, especially a consideration of our small numerical forces and the financial strain it would mean, it was decided nevertheless to conduct a campaign to raise a fund for a weekly Militant. The sum set was $1,500 – an amount which would seem like a $25,000 campaign now, considering the relative number of members and sympathizers then and today.

Moreover, the campaign for a weekly Militant was linked to the aim of purchasing our own printing equipment – first, a linotype – in order to ensure the weekly’s appearance. Despite initial doubts and hesitation, the organization as a whole swung into the campaign with high morale and confidence. Six months later we had our linotype machine. On Nov. 30, 1929, the first issue of the weekly Militant appeared. Not long afterward we secured a printing press and with the devoted aid of comrades and sympathizers, the weekly continued to surmount repeated crises and to appear regularly.

Pioneer Publishers

But the achievement of a weekly Militant and our own printing plant, small and crudely equipped as it was, both mechanically and in labor power, meant even more for our organization and movement. It made possible the creation of Pioneer Publishers. There commenced a period of publication of pamphlets and books, small and large, by the Communist League of America, and later Pioneer Publishers, which brought strength and prestige to the revolutionary movement in the United States and also throughout the world, particularly in the English-speaking nations.

A list of the pamphlets and books issued would fill a few pages alone. Suffice it that in this way the literature of the revolutionary wings in Russia, Europe, Asia and North America became widely known, which not all the machinations and bloody purges of Stalinism can ever wipe out or destroy. They belong to us, to history and humanity’s future forever. Thereby, to quote a phrase of Trotsky’s “great vistas for Marxism” were opened.

The New International

From the preparations and foregoing achievements (weekly Militant; our printing plant; Pioneer Publishers) flowed later and naturally another achievement and necessity for our movement; namely, the publication of The New International magazine, our theoretical organ, regarded today as preeminent in the field of Marxism throughout the world.

Here too skeptics were confounded. A monthly 36-page magazine, with a two-color cover, at such a low price! Can’t be done. You’ll break your necks. But the will found the way, and in July, 1934, the first issue of The New International appeared, first as a monthly, then as a bi-monthly. It was discontinued two years later after June 1936 while the Bolshevik-Leninists endeavored to function for a period in the Socialist Party. With the formation of the Socialist Workers Party, The New international recommenced publication in January, 1938, and has appeared regularly each month for ten months straight. Its circulation is above 4,000 (4,300 in October), very high for a theoretical organ and over twice the average circulation in the first period of the magazine.

The Socialist Appeal

A few words, also, to fill in briefly the course of the paper. Fusion of the A.W.P. and the C.L.A. into the Workers Party merely brought a change in the name of the paper from the weekly Militant to the New Militant, continuing previous revolutionary policies. This was in December, 1934. Entry into the Socialist Party later, in July 1936, by the Workers Party forces resulted in suspension of the New Militant; but soon the revolutionists found a press to express their views. Utilizing the Socialist Appeal, a printed organ issued in the S.P. by Albert Goldman, the left wing forces soon developed the Appeal into a monthly magazine. A year ago the Appeal was converted into a weekly newspaper and as the official organ of the S.W.P. it continues the revolutionary traditions or the Militant and New Militant.

Events of a Decade

Our press has recorded through this historic decade of 1928-1938 all the significant events of the period and has truly offered guidance to the revolutionary forces and the labor movement generally in all fields. A few of these major events – which, by the way, also definitely record stages in development and attitude of our own organization – were: the decline of Bolshevism and the rise of Stalinism in Russia; the events in Germany – the development of German Fascism; the struggles in France; the rise and fall of Popular Frontism; the developments in Spain before and during the civil war; “prosperity” and the economic and social crisis in the United States; labor struggles; the C.I.O. movement; the growth and foundation of the Fourth International, and so forth at great length. All this forms part of the record of our press.

One must mention, too, if only in a word, that the youth movement managed to issue Young Spartacus and now the Challenge, thereby laying a sound foundation for the mass movement of youth which our Youth organization must and can build.

Building the Press

It is not necessary to dilate in florid and many words the simple fact: The press is our major organizer. By now this should be ABC to every member of our organization, and each member should put as a first task the need to build and spread widely the circulation of all our press: Socialist Appeal, The New International, Challenge, Pioneer Publisher’s pamphlets and books.

In this connection it may be well to point out that on each occasion when a special effort was made with our press; when issues and emergencies of great significance arose and our movement endeavored to react in stronger and better organized fashion to them, our movement made big gains – in prestige, and politically and organizationally. On three occasions in past years the weekly Militant or Appeal was transformed for brief periods into a tri-weekly. These were on the occasions of the rise to power of Hitler; the time of the “hotel strike in New York, and only a few weeks ago the events in Czechoslovakia.

Those achievements show the road the press must travel. For a permanent, larger and more frequent Socialist Appeal; for a greater New International.


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Last updated: 7 February 2015