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Albert Goldman

Replies to Questions:
A Discussion at the SWP Plenum

(October 1945)

From The New International, Vol. 12 No. 2, February 1946, pp. 55–59.
Transcribed by Daniel Gaido.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following discussion on the proposed unity of the Workers Party and the Socialist Workers Party took place at the October, 1945, Plenum of the National Committee of the SWP. It is reprinted from the Internal Bulletin of the latter party. – Editors.

Note: After the opening report on behalf of the majority, made by Comrade M. Stein, some comrades asked questions of the minority representatives. I did not answer all of the questions then and am not doing go now. I am replying to the serious ones and consider all others either answered or not deserving a reply. I am also answering some arguments I had no chance to answer at the Plenum.

Right of Tendency to a Bulletin

Question by Comrade Cannon: In point six of the resolution submitted by the minority, here is a statement that the right of any tendency in the Trotskyist party to have a bulletin of its own is taken for granted. In the PC meeting, two weeks ago, Comrade Goldman expressed himself as opposed to the whole idea of internal bulletins. I would like to ask if, by the right of a tendency to have a bulletin of its own, is meant a bulletin that can be distributed on the outside as well as inside of the party, if the tendency so desires.

Answer: It is not correct to say that I am opposed to the whole idea of internal bulletins. It is correct to say that I consider it wrong to look upon the party as a sort of Masonic Lodge with rituals, rules and secrets.

The party is a party of the working class and its internal life – its discussions and methods of arriving at decisions – should lie open to all advanced workers who are interested. Every political discussion, and this includes discussion on important organizational questions, should be made available to all who are sufficiently interested in the party to desire knowledge about them.

It is significant that Lenin, writing some years before World War I, gave as his criterion for the democratic nature of the Social Democratic Party of Germany the fact that the party had no secrets and that its conventions were open to the public.

Every experienced political person understands that it is impossible to keep important discussions in a large party a secret. Why did the Stalinists recently have a bitter public discussion on the differences between Browder and Foster. They certainly do not believe in public discussion as a matter of principle. They simply took it for granted that they could not keep a discussion involving the ranks of the party a secret. I do not claim that this is the only reason for their public discussion but by itself it would have been a sufficient reason.

It must be taken for granted that in a large party everything that is known to the members is also known to the people who are interested in the life of the party. It follows therefore that practically it is useless to try and keep any discussion a secret by means of an internal bulletin. I insist, however, that our policy with reference to keeping discussions secret must not be based merely on the practical ground that in a large party it is impossible to keep secrets. It must be based rather on the idea that our party life should be an open book to all advanced workers and others who are not members of the party but close sympathizers and are interested in its life. I repeat: the party is a party of the working masses and not a secret society.

Some of you remember that in the factional struggle of 1939-40 the question came up of permitting the minority to publish articles expressing their viewpoint in the New International, at that time our theoretical organ. Comrade Morrow and I voted to have the discussion articles printed in the magazine.

At first Trotsky agreed with us but later changed his mind. It is important to understand however that he considered the question as purely a practical one. If I am not mistaken he expressed the idea, in one of his letters, that publication of minority articles in the New International would make it more difficult for the minority to retreat because they would then have committed themselves before the public. I considered that reason totally inadequate. I argued that to refuse publication would furnish the minority with a new issue, intensify the struggle and, in spite of Trotsky, set a precedent. And so it turned out to be. Later on Trotsky also gave as a reason that the minority should not be permitted to appeal to the petty-bourgeois intellectuals outside of the party.

Whatever one may think about these reasons, it is clear that Trotsky did not decide the question as one of principle. From the remarks of Comrades Stein and Cannon one could conclude that it has become a principle to allow minority articles in the theoretical organ only after the discussion is over. We must then notify the world that a discussion has taken place and the result of that discussion.

It should be carefully noted that in 1939 I limited my motion, to permit the minority space for discussion, to the theoretical organ. I was then opposed and am now opposed to carrying on a discussion in the agitational organ. Some discussion is of course permissible and necessary even in the agitational press but it should be confined to a point made by some writer with which some reader may disagree.

Am I in favor of publishing all discussion articles in the theoretical organ? By no means. I am in favor of publishing only the best on either side of the controversy. Articles published in our theoretical organ should have a certain tone and, at all times, a high standard of quality. What tone and what quality must necessarily be left to the editorial board.

A discussion in the theoretical organ would itself tend to modify the tone of factional articles. One conscious that he is writing for a magazine read by the wide public, would be careful to avoid all factional dirt.

There should of course be a party discussion bulletin where articles not good enough to be published in our theoretical organ should find a place. But even this discussion bulletin should not be kept a secret from the outside world. There is a difference between an internal party bulletin the giving of which to one outside of the party is considered a crime against the party and a discussion bulletin for the purpose of giving all party members a chance to write and for articles of inferior tone and quality.

Who will decide which articles should go into the theoretical organ and which into the discussion bulletin? I am perfectly willing to submit the matter to an editorial board – competent or incompetent – provided at least the principle is recognized that it is the quality and tone which should determine whether an article should be published in the theoretical organ or in the discussion bulletin.

* * *

I have stated that every tendency in a Bolshevik party has the right to its own bulletin if it desires to have one. I do not propose that as an immutable principle but I would insist that it be stated as a general rule, recognizing that the rule could be violated only under the most exceptional circumstances. Under Lenin and Trotsky the Bolshevik party, at its Tenth Congress, prohibited factions and factional organs. Whether this was correct or not need not be discussed. It was necessary only to remember that Trotsky has always insisted that this was done under the most exceptional circumstances and that the general rule is that in a Bolshevik party the right to organize factions, groups and tendencies must be taken for granted.

In my article in the last issue of the Internal Bulletin I quoted from an article of Trotsky, published in the October 1939 issue of the New International. In it Trotsky speaks only of factions and groups but it would indeed be a piece of scholasticism to make a distinction between factions and factional organs.

This does not mean that it is correct for comrades to publish their own organ whenever they feel like it. It is to be accepted as a principle that publication of a tendency organ is to be resorted to only under exceptional circumstances. A party discussion bulletin and the theoretical organ of the party should suffice and satisfy all comrades, under normal circumstances.

But if a group of comrades wrongly and foolishly decide to issue their own bulletin there should be no prohibition against it. It is up to the leadership of the party to discredit them for taking a wrong step.

The general rule stated above is also applicable to the comrades of the WP who have indicated their intention to publish a bulletin for their tendency if and when there should be fusion. We must recognize their unconditional right to do so. Should we refuse, then, to be logical, we must also prohibit those now in the party from publishing their own bulletin if they see fit to do so. It would mean in fact the prohibition to publish factional organs, a serious step in the direction of monolithism.

If the present minority should not be prohibited from publishing its own organ and only the comrades of the WP should be forbidden to do so, then two classes of membership are created – one class prohibited from doing what another class is permitted.

In recognizing the right of the WP comrades to publish their own organ when and if unity is achieved the minority does not intend to say that the WP comrades should do that. It is obvious that unity will be aided if the WP comrades refrain from exercising the right to publish their own organ. Hence we shall strongly urge them to be satisfied with a discussion bulletin. But we shall insist that they have a right to publish a tendency organ and shall oppose any attempt to make the giving up of that right a precondition for unity.

Distribution of Discussion Bulletin

Question by Cannon: If you give them the right to have their own discussion bulletin and, if you were in the majority, would it include the right to distribute it outside the party and a right to have their own editorial board? What possibility and right would the party have to censure or regulate the distribution of the paper?

Answer: The party has a right and a duty to control the bulletin of a tendency, if that bulletin goes beyond the legitimate purpose of convincing the membership of I the party to its point of view and begins a campaign to get the workers to act contrary to party policy.

In every instance the action of the party would have to be determined by the question: Is it n tendency bulletin with the legitimate purpose of convincing party members or is it in reality a public organ agitating against party policy?

If it is a tendency organ then the fact that some copies reach non-members who are interested in the questions treated by the bulletin, is immaterial. It may well be that a tendency bulletin has a large circulation outside the party. That would simply mean that a large party has many sympathizers interested in the discussions of the party.

Naturally every group in the party must abide by the decision of the party with reference to the distribution of discussion bulletins to non-members. If the majority insists that party discussion bulletins should not be made available to non-party members or if the majority insists that there be no discussion in the theoretical organ then the minority must abide by that decision no matter how foolish it may be. So long as the minority is granted the right to publish its own bulletin then the minor question of distribution is one which the minority can afford to submit.

It is possible, of course, to reduce the concept of the right of a tendency to publish its own organ to an absurdity. With the growth in the size of the party we may have a tendency organ for every thousand members, some wiseacre will argue. But let me point out that under Lenin and Trotsky the right was not questioned and before and after the October Revolution there was no split because the right was recognized.

A correct policy of the leadership is the main factor in preventing a situation where the party is nothing but a group of factions. In a healthy party, factions will exist temporarily and will disappear with the disappearance of the issue that brought them into being. A tendency may exist for a long time but only in exceptional cases. I can readily see where a tendency, such as the present minority represents, basing itself on the concept of a Bolshevik party, can last for a long period but even in such a case ultimately the differences will disappear or become so sharp as to make it impossible for the different tendencies to live in the game party.

The ideal is not to have factions and factional organs. By this I do not mean that the ideal is to have no differences of opinion but to have such a healthy party that differences are discussed and settled without factions and factional organs. But the point we are discussing is not some abstract ideal but the attitude of the leadership of a party to the formation of factions and the publication of factional organs. The general rule should be recognized: no prohibition of factions or factional organs.

Cannon gave us a dissertation on the looseness of the Socialist Party in this country prior to the First World War and to the organization of the communist movement. He told us that whoever wanted to and had the resources could and did publish a paper. He did not expressly say so but the conclusion is that we must now not permit the existence of tendencies and tendency organs in the party. For what is the purpose of Cannon’s dissertation? Is there anyone proposing that an individual or a group in the party should be given the right to issue public organs? Cannon has that habit of creating a straw man and then valiantly knocking him down.

The problem for us is to avoid the looseness of the socialists and the monolithism of the Stalinists. It is not difficult to get an admission from us that there are dangers inherent in freely permitting the existence of tendencies and tendency bulletins. But these dangers are far outweighed by the dangers of prohibiting factions and factional organs, that is, by the dangers of monolithism.

When we come to the question of unity and the demand of the WP comrades to have a tendency bulletin, it is first of all necessary to realize that thus question cannot be settled at present when neither the majority of our party nor the WP is enthusiastic for unity – to put it very mildly. Both sides fear unity because they fear a bitter factional struggle following union. In such an atmosphere of lack of confidence it is impossible to solve the problem of a tendency bulletin.

It is first of all necessary to create the proper sentiment for unity before a calm and objective discussion can be carried on, on the question of a tendency organ. It is first of all necessary to cooperate and prepare the membership of both parties for unity before taking up the question of a tendency organ. At this time it is only necessary to recognize the right of any group to have its own organ if it so desires. After a period of sincere cooperation there will either be a real desire for unity, in which case the question of a tendency organ can be solved either way without difficulty, or the suspicions and fears will still prevail and there will be no unity.

We of the minority would vote against immediate unity if such a proposal were made. For we know that the members of our party have been terribly miseducated on this question. In the history of our movement there has never been such a case of miseducation as has occurred in the discussion on unity. Our members were taught that the political differences between us and the WP are irreconcilable and unity impossible because of them. Not so long ago Cannon sneeringly asked me what there is to discuss with the WP. Now he wants only discussion.

There are members in the majority faction who want unity; others are opposed to unity; still others do not know and are waiting to follow the leadership. Most of the majorityites think that unless the WP gives up its ideas with reference to the Soviet Union we cannot have unity. They are in a condition of confusion worse confounded. And that is only natural because the leaders whom they follow have succeeded in confusing them.

The ranks of the majority are bitterly hostile to the demand of the WP for a tendency organ. Cannon himself is unwilling to state definitely that unity is impossible because of the demand of the WP for a tendency organ. Because he would find himself in an embarrassing position were the WP suddenly to decide to give up the demand and be satisfied with an internal bulletin.

The resolution of the majority says nothing about the question of the tendency organ. It thus permits the secondary leaders of the majority to go around and agitate the ranks against unity became of the demand for a tendency bulletin, while Cannon does not commit himself on the question.

Does a tendency organ mean a bitter factional fight? Not necessarily. The desire to have a tendency organ is not the sole indication of the degree of factionalism. The minority tendency at present has no organ of its own and yet the factional bitterness in the party can hardly be greater. An educational tendency organ is just as possible as a bitter factional fight without a tendency organ.

At this time the only solution for a cessation of the factional atmosphere is unity. The only unity that is worth while is unity without a factional struggle. To achieve that unity it is necessary to reeducate the membership to prepare them to see in unity a strengthening of the party and to realize that the political differences are compatible with membership in a united party.


Question by Andrews: Did you, Comrade Morrow and Comrade Goldman, turn over to the Shachtmanites your resolutions for fusion which they printed even before we had it in our Internal Bulletin? Have you had meetings or discussions with them since the occasions mentioned in the minutes that all the comrades received? If so, what was the attitude of the WP leaders? What did they have to say and what did you have to “ay in those meetings? Have you made reports on these meetings to the Political Committee and if you didn’t, why didn’t you? Have you discussed with them just prior to this Plenum or during this Plenum? Tell us all about it.

Question by Wood: Comrade Goldman dismissed the questions that Andrews asked him. He says they are not serious. I want to ask the very same questions. You will admit that the circumstantial evidence is against you. You are going behind the back of the party. Why then do you stand on your dignity and refuse to answer? We want to know. The membership in the field wants to know. Are you loyal to our organization?

Answer: Yes, I said the questions were not serious and I would not take the time of a Plenum ostensibly called to discuss unity with the WP to answer them. But I tee that if the questions are not serious to me they are serious to you and I shall therefore answer them. I shall answer you only, however, on the general proposition of loyalty. It is too difficult for me to answer some of the questions put to me by Comrade Andrews. They are on the lowest possible intellectual level. It is sad and extremely discouraging that all of our controversies hare revolved around such questions as the propriety of talking with opponents and whether a letter written by a friendly critic should be published in the Fourth International. Since the death of Trotsky the intellectual level of our discussions has fallen close to zero. Even such an important discussion as the one on the problems of the European Revolution has been dragged down by the majority to an inconceivably low level.

What does loyalty to an organization me in? In the last analysis, for a revolutionary Marxist, it means loyalty to ideas which the organization has been created to struggle for.

When one considers the history of the socialist movement in the last thirty years it is clear that simple loyalty to an organization can result in the victory of the counterrevolution. The hundreds of thousands of sincere workers who were loyal to the socialist and Stalinist parties had the same idea of blind loyalty to an organization that is suggested by the questions put to me. It is the conservative but natural loyalty to an organization on the part of sincere workers that makes it so difficult now for our parties in Europe to grow. Did we not expect that the European workers after all the betrayals would rally to a revolutionary party? But they did not. They cling to the parties they created and are loyal to. The revolutionary vanguard needs n different type of loyalty, a loyalty to ideas and not to an organization, which, in the last analysis, means the leadership of an organization.

A comrade old in the movement, in a conversation with Comrade Morrow, told him that it was useless for the minority to fight. He said that the workers like to be told what to think and what to do. This comrade did not understand that he was giving up the very basis of our struggle for socialism, the creation of a critical and independent group of workers who cannot be told what to do and how to think.

Some of you have interpreted my remarks to mean that I blame the failure of the revolution on the workers. What shallowness! When I say that the worker a arc naturally conservative and follow the leadership of an organization they built, that immediately shows that I consider the problem of leadership the all-important problem of our generation. And the highest duty of a revolutionary leadership is to create a critical and independent spirit, a phrase which always gives a laugh to the Philistines.

In this controversy about unity the question of loyalty has been raised in a manner which completely miseducated the membership. Form has been raised above substance. What has been emphasized are mere insignificant formalities as against the real substance of loyalty, the loyalty to the idea of building a revolutionary organization where legitimate differences are expected and discussed on their merits.

The minority starts from the fundamental proposition that the comrades of the WP are devoted revolutionists, that they have proved themselves to be such in the period of the imperialist conflict. We start from the proposition that they belong to the Fourth International.

It is inevitable that we should have very friendly relations with the comrades of the WP and that we should discuss the question of unity and urge them to favor unity. Were we to do otherwise we would have been disloyal to the party that we want to build.

At present the minority goes further. When the WP indicated its willingness to unite with our party and to submit to discipline in action whenever they found themselves in a minority, we had to consider them not only as devoted revolutionists who made a mistake by splitting but as a tendency in the Fourth International. We now recognize three tendencies in this country – the Cannonite tendency, the WP tendency and ours. I shall not now go into the differences between the tendencies. It is sufficient when I state that they exist as far as we are concerned.

Truth compels me to state that right now the bond that ties us with the WP tendency is stronger than that which binds us to the Cannonite tendency. The questions of the nature and the defense of the Soviet Union are now remote and the questions of unity and the struggle against the creation of a monolithic party are the important issues. On those issues we see eye to eye with the WP comrades. Another important question is the utilization of democratic demands to mobilize the masses of Europe for the socialist revolution and on that issue the WP is closer to the minority.

It is only because there are formally two parties that the bloc of the minority with the Cannonites exists. It is only because we are so interested in achieving unity of all three tendencies in the Fourth International that we adhere to the formal rules which bind us, by virtue of the fact that there are two parties.

What some of the majorityites consider disloyal, we of the minority consider loyal. We consider it our duty to talk to and convince the WP comrades that they should be for unity, without any strings attached and without making any maneuvers. We are certain that we have succeeded and that the WP comrades are sincerely for unity, although they fear it because they know the attitude of the Cannonites.

Since our concepts of loyalty clash it is incumbent upon the majority to lay down specific rules of conduct. If the majority thinks that to discuss the question of unity and all its ramifications with the WP comrades is disloyal let them say so specifically and forbid such discussion. The minority will then decide whether to abide by the rule or leave the party. Leaving the party is an alternative because we would consider such a rule as an indication of the party’s degeneration.

Comrade Frank contends that no such rule is necessary. Just as we do not pass a rule against crossing a picket line so do we not pass a rule against talking or discussing with the WP. And we expect that no comrade will cross a picket line. As usual, Frank’s analogies limp. If some comrade contended that to cross a picket line is perfectly justifiable and would demand a rule against it before he would submit, then i for one, bating formal rules as I do, would not hesitate to pass such a rule. The very hesitation of the majority to pass a specific rule prohibiting the minority members from discussing unity with the members of the WP shows on what weak ground the majority stands.

The members of the minority will continue to regard and treat the members of the WP as devoted revolutionists and will discuss with them all aspects of unity. Let the majority take such action as it deems right to prevent it. But it is downright dishonesty to call the minority “disloyal” without taking some action against its “disloyalty.” To hide behind the proposition that during a discussion on a political question it is not correct to take action against disloyal people is another dishonest statement.

This is not a question of breaking discipline. It is a question, according to the majority, of disloyalty. Disloyalty should be dealt with under all conditions.

Here I want to repeat the charge I made before, that during the period just prior to the entry at Trotskyists into the Socialist Party, Cannon, Shachtman and Burnham secretly held conversations with leaders of the SP, at a time when the majority of the Political Committee was against entry. Cannon denies that. I have the statements of three people who were in a position to know from personal knowledge that such is the case. One of the Oehlerites actually accused Cannon of doing that very thing. I raise this point simply to show that Cannon is sometimes capable of subordinating form to substance.

Los Angeles

A question that has nothing to do with unity but which I answer because so much confusion has bean created around it, is the one asked by Comrade Adler with reference to my article on the refusal of the Los Angeles leadership of our party to organize a united picket lines with the WP at the time of the meeting of the fascists.

What was the main burden of my criticism of the Los Angeles leadership? That it refused to picket the fascist meeting jointly with, the Workers Party. That the decision was not to picket “unless the labor movement or the CP should do so.” Since it could have been foretold with certainty that the labor movement and the CP would not picket then it was the duty of our party to join the WP on the picket line.

The leadership further stated: “The main line of our campaign should be to get the labor movement to act.” This is all to the good but in its context it could mean only that until the “labor movement” acted our party would not act. (See Internal Bulletin No.6, July 1945).

The article of Murry Weiss as an answer to my criticism should confuse politically immature people but not those with any experience and intelligence. He told us all about the efforts of the Los Angeles leadership to arouse the labor movement after the WP comrades aroused him from his slumbers. Who has any criticism to make of those efforts. No one. Who says that we should not mobilize the masses? No one.

We shall even ignore the trickery which Weiss uses to give inexperienced comrades the impression that our efforts were solely responsible for the calling of the subsequent united front meeting against the fascists. We shall assume that we were responsible. It is clear that it was a meeting which was completely in the tradition of the Stalinist Peoples’ Front meetings.

But, does that meeting exclude picketing?

Even if we believe that the WP comrades were insane and said that they are not interested in mobilizing the labor movement, does that mean that we should not join in picketing a fascist meeting with them?

All of the innumerable pages written by Weiss cannot and do not answer these simple questions.

I said in my criticism that we would correct the line of Los Angeles. And we did. And Detroit proves that we did. Did we wait for the labor movement to mobilize the masses in Detroit before we took the initiative to picket the fascist meeting? Unless one is a thorough-going formalist and considers the motion of the Wayne County Council as a mobilization of the labor movement. We correctly took advantage of that motion to try to get more workers on the picket line. We correctly got the executive board of some unions to favor a picket line. But the party would have and should have gone out on the picket line even if those motions had not passed. And in reality that is what happened.

We did not follow Weiss’s original prescription – to wait for the labor movement or the CP to take the initiative. And this is correcting his line.

Unprecedented Nonsense

Cannon has been repeating with an air of great profundity that the situation is unprecedented – the situation of unity between two parties that are in disagreement on some important political and theoretical questions. We shall grant for the sake of argument that the equation is unprecedented. Surely this is no obstacle to Bolsheviks.

We speak a great deal about Bolshevik tradition but we forget that the most important tradition of Bolshevism on organizational and tactical questions is that we do not feel ourselves bound by tradition. (Comrades who were present at the Plenum say that I actually said that we have no traditions. I of course spoke nonsense. We have traditions but we are not bound by them.)

If the situation is unprecedented then it is up to us to set a precedent. If the situation is unprecedented it not at all complex.

The members of the WP split from us in 1940. They were wrong. We said then that the differences were compatible with membership in one party. The split was based on the question of the defense of the Soviet Union and the question of the regime. More than five years have passed and those who are now in the WP showed that they have been loyal to the fundamental principles of the proletarian revolution. For political people who are not motivated by fear of differences the question of reuniting the forces that were once together presents itself immediately. Especially since the question of the defense of the Soviet Union no longer the burning issue that it was.

Two separate questions present themselves. One is whether the political premises for unity exist. That simply means whether we have the same fundamental program and the same program of immediate action and whether the differences that still exist are compatible with membership in one party. The second question is whether the two groups can work harmoniously in one party in spite of the political differences. The first question can be answered by an analysis of the program and activities of the Workers Party plus the differences that divide us. The second question can be answered only by a preliminary period of close cooperation.

As a matter of fact the minority is certain that it can live harmoniously with the WP comrades because it has made an estimate of them as devoted revolutionists and thus has indicated confidence in them and acquired their confidence in us.

With the majority it is an altogether different question. The majority has designates the WP as renegades, betrayers of Marxism, petty-bourgeois adventurers and by other choice names. Naturally this does not result in an atmosphere conducive to unity. We therefore say that a period of cooperation to prepare the membership of both parties for unity is essential.

The majority answers: The question whether or not the political premises for unity exist is an abstract question. We cannot answer it by yes or no. We must probe the differences and see the attitude.

But what will the majority answer after they know that the differences are what they are claimed to be by Cannon and others? They have already listed the differences. No answer is given to that question except the formula: it is an abstract question.

A picture of real political bankruptcy was furnished by Comrade Graham who spoke at the Plenum on behalf of the majority. Since he is the most serious and honest of the majority he presented the picture in all its nakedness. He said that the discussion which the majority resolution provides for is for the purpose of educating the rank and file. The leadership knows the differences but we must educate our membership.

Thereupon I interrupted and was permitted to ask the following questions:

“As a leader do you know the differences between us and the WP?”


“In your opinion are they compatible or not compatible with membership in one party?”

“I cannot answer that question. I stand by the resolution ... blah ... blah ... blah.”

When the leaders of the party say that the purpose of the discussion is to acquaint the rank and file with the differences and, at the same time, claim that they know the differences and do not want to say whether those differences are compatible with membership in one party, then it constitutes an abdication of leadership.

A leader of a revolutionary party is in duty bound to give his opinion on any important political question before attempting to “educate” the rank and file.

Not so long ago Cannon and his leading followers not only claimed that they knew all about the differences and did not want to discuss them but were ready to tell the rank and file that unity was out of the question.

They did not wait to discuss the differences and educate the rank and file before they made up their mind that unity was undesirable. Why is it that now it is all-important to educate the rank and file without telling them whether they should be for or against unity?

The reason is simple. They did not want unity before and were not afraid to say so before any discussion. They do not want unity now but do not want to say so in so many words after discovering that leading comrades of some sections of the International are definitely for unity.

It is perfectly true that the great majority of the members of our party do not know the nature of the differences between us and the WP and it would be very good to discuss those differences with the WP in order to clarify the minds of the members.

But in the first place it is the duty of the leadership to take a position on the question whether those differences are compatible with membership in one party. And in the second place it is necessary to discuss them with the WP after taking a position in favor of unity.

A discussion is in order but it should be one that is carried on through joint discussion bulletins and joint membership meetings. What the WP stands for can be found out much better from the WP members themselves in joint discussions. Such discussions will serve not only to educate our members but also to eliminate misunderstandings.

After the Plenum we found out that Cannon contemplates a “discussion” where we write articles for our press and the WP answers in their press. This is in reality not a discussion but one of the old-time “enlightenment campaigns” carried on by the Stalinist leadership to “educate” their followers.

The leadership of the majority claims that the question whether the differences between us and the WP are compatible with membership in one party is an abstract one. Will it become less abstract after we hold the discussion? The majority of the members were taught up to a few weeks ago that our differences on the Soviet Union, on the national question and other questions made unity impossible. The discussion will not abolish the differences; will unity be possible or impossible when we discover that the discussion does not eliminate the differences?

It is a question, say some of the majority leaders, of the attitude of the WP to our party. But how will the discussion on the theoretical and political differences reveal the attitude of the WP? It will simply reveal what every leader already knows: that there are differences and that they cannot be eliminated by the “discussion” contemplated by Cannon.

The attitude of the WP to unity is a very important question. But the WP has already come out in favor of unity on the basis of recognizing the political differences and agreeing to abide by discipline in action. Shall we say that the WP is dishonest? But the very fact that it is willing to give up its own party, its own leadership and its own public press is or should be conclusive proof that they are sincere.

Some comrades naively (and some not so naively) claim that the WP wants to enter our party for a raiding expedition. What foolish people they would be to do that under the present circumstances. And besides, they are demanding the right to publish a tendency organ. And that of course is an almost insuperable obstacle. The WP comrades know that. If they are dishonest would they not agree to anything we want in order to “enter” our party for raiding purposes? The majorityites jump from one argument to another – all equally bad – in order to avoid unity.

By raising the question of attitude Cannon furnishes himself with a pretext to come out openly against unity at any time he sees fit. What will follow is not so difficult to foresee. When the comrades of the WP find out the nature of the “discussion” they will be asked to conduct, they will undoubtedly characterize it as we do: a piece of fakery. This will of course show a hostile attitude. When the comrades of the WP publish an unflattering review of Cannon’s History this will also show a hostile attitude. Cannon and his followers will then say: see, we told you. The attitude of the WP makes unity impossible.

The truth is and it must be said over and over again: the attitude of the majority leadership makes unity impossible.

Cannon, Unity and Arithmetic

The picture has become clear after the Plenum. Cannon intends to prevent unity by aimless discussions on questions that have almost been relegated to history. The reason for his fear of unity is also clear. It is a question of arithmetic.

We were told by Cannon that if our party had five thousand members and the WP three hundred, unity would be a good risk. We could then take care of an obstreperous minority. But Cannon knows now that the WP has close to five hundred and our party has about twelve hundred. That is not a big enough majority for Cannon. Arithmetic tells Cannon that the WP comrades together with the present minority would be too large for him to handle easily.

In reality Cannon’s attitude means: I cannot meet ideas with ideas; I must depend upon a certain majority. I must get a few thousand more raw workers and train them to follow me and then I can afford to have a minority of four to five hundred, if I have to make unity.

In the resolution which the minority first introduced on behalf of unity it is stated:

“The question of unification with the comrades of the WP is thus of enormous symptomatic importance in determining the kind of party we want to build. The party’s decision will be a touchstone indicating the direction in which we shall henceforth move.”

The Plenum has answered: in the direction of monolithism.

Albert Goldman

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Last updated: 15 February 2020