Harry Frankel

The Workers’ Bookshelf

The Two Pamphlets That Came Out of the Trial

(25 April 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. 6 No. 17, 25 April 1942, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Socialism on Trial
by James P. Cannon
Pioneer Publishers, 116 University Place, N.Y.C., January 1942, 116 pages, 10 cents

In Defense of Socialism
by Albert Goldman
Pioneer Publishers, March 1942, 96 pages, 10 cents

One of the important results of the Minneapolis “sedition” trial of union leaders and leaders of the Socialist Workers Party is the pair of pamphlets entitled Socialism on Trial and In Defense of Socialism. The first of these contains the official court record of the testimony of James P. Cannon, National Secretary of the S.W.P., while the latter is the transcript of the closing address of Albert Goldman, chief attorney for the defense and himself one of the defendants.

This is not the first time the class struggle has found its way to the juridical plane in this country. Other leaders of labor in other periods have been summoned to defend their ideas in the capitalist courts. There were the Haymarket anarchists, Eugene Debs, and the leaders of the I.W.W., to mention a few. But these men were not provided with a clear and worked-out program. Their ideology reflected the immaturity of the movements they represented. In this, Cannon and Goldman were far better equipped than their predecessors. Armed with the program of Trotskyism, the most advanced form of Marxist socialism, they were able to present a comprehensive picture of the future of American capitalism and the intentions of modern revolutionary socialism.

Cannon’s testimony ranged over the whole field of the socialist movement. In it, he explained the nature of the everlasting crisis of capitalism, and the road put of it and towards the Workers’ and Farmers’ government.

They Stuck to Their Guns

Goldman’s address was more limited in scope, but its main point was a worthy one. It was designed to explain the fundamentally democratic nature of the socialist program, and the dictatorial resistance of the ruling class to it. This idea is worthy of propagation at the present time, in view of the persistent efforts of apologists for the decayed system of private property to demagogically paint every movement in opposition to it as an opponent of democracy. Goldman’s address to the jury is an effective antidote for this poisonous slander. The well-known effect of this speech on the jury, is sufficient evidence of its potency.

In a dispatch to The Militant from the courtroom during the trial, Felix Morrow wrote of Cannon’s testimony:

“Long after this trial is settled one way or another, the stenographic record of this courtroom dialogue between Albert Goldman and Jim Cannon will be read as a primer by new generations in the socialist movement.”

Here is the great value of this record of a courtroom struggle between the ideologies of two classes. With it, “new generations in the socialist movement” will be educated. They will be taught the history of the movement, its purposes and program, and the promise of its future.

Goldman’s Main Point

But there is another lesson implicit in the booklet which they can learn. For Cannon and Goldman to hand on their courtroom words to the party as educational instruments, signifies they said in that courtroom nothing which they would not care to teach to the new socialist militants. They did not water down their principles. In the heat of the struggle, with the Damocles sword of years of imprisonment hanging from the courtroom ceiling, these fighters stuck to their guns. Yes, this is perhaps the greatest lesson of all to be learned from these two pamphlets, the lesson of the Bolshevik method of struggle; the principled method.

There is no doubt but that the Cannon testimony and Goldman address will long survive ordinary pamphlets explaining the views of the socialist movement. They will become historic evidence, of the worth of the Trotskyist party, which on the eve of the war, flung the challenge of revolutionary socialism into the teeth of the ruling class. But these pamphlets are not museum pieces yet. Like all dented armor and hacked swords lying in museum showcases today, these weapons of socialism will bear the marks of a thousand battles before they become relics of our epoch.

Every advanced worker must read the program of Trotskyism as explained in these pamphlets. Every revolutionary socialist must work to give the widest possible circulation to them. In their content, in their lucidity, and in their dramatic form of presentation they are eminently suited for the education of new workers everywhere They should be put to the greatest possible use for that purpose.

Last updated on 13 April 2022