James P. Cannon

Controversial Questions in the

Workers Party of America

Written: ca. February-March 1925
First Published: 1925
Source: James P. Cannon and the Early Years of American Communism. Selected Writings and Speeches, 1920-1928 © Spartacist Publishing Company, 1992. ISBN 0-9633828-1-0; Published by Spartacist Publishing Company, Box 1377 G.P.O. New York, NY 10116. Introductory material and notes by the Prometheus Research Library.
Transcription\HTML Markup: Prometheus Research Library
Copyright: Permission for on-line publication provided by Spartacist Publishing Company for use by the James P. Cannon Internet Archive in 2005.

The following article by Cannon and William Z. Foster is evidently an early draft of an article published under the title “The American Question” in both the German- and Russian-language editions of the Communist International No. 3 (1925), which appeared around the time of the Fifth Plenum of the Comintern Executive Committee in March-April 1925. The plenum was to rule on the disputed questions in the Workers Party, and an article by American minority leader C.E. Ruthenberg was also published in the same journal. This unpublished English-language draft manuscript of the Foster-Cannon article is from the Max Shachtman Collection in the Tamiment Institute Library, New York University, and appears here by permission of the Institute.

While the published German/Russian version and the English draft of this article are for the most part similar, there are a few substantive differences. The published version eliminates some of the direct attacks on John Pepper, and also omits the direct statement: “The split at the Chicago July 3rd, 1923 convention was disastrous.” Moreover, in the German/Russian version the final three sections of the article, which deal with the internal factional situation in the Workers Party, are missing. Instead, a much shorter section on the Workers Party’s internal situation is incorporated in the middle of the article. This section notes that the Foster-Cannon group’s “tactics consist of carrying out active ideological struggle against Two and a Half Internationalist tendencies in the Workers Party. The group has published many articles condemning and rejecting these right-wing deviations. It has consistently taken a position against every manifestation of Trotskyism.” Such a bald statement of anti-Trotskyism is missing from the English draft.

Economic and Political Situation

In the United States the capitalists have succeeded, since the Civil War, in keeping control over the various social classes, petty bourgeoisie, farmers, workers, etc., through the two big parties, Republican and Democratic. These parties are completely dominated by the big capitalists and are used to further their interests at the expense of the other classes following their lead. In the past 50 years sections of the petty bourgeoisie, farmers and workers have made various attempts to break the domination of the two capitalist parties and to establish a third party. Such breakaway movements have been most intense during industrial and agricultural crises. The most important of them were the Greenback Movement of the 1870s, the People’s Party of the 1890s, and the Roosevelt Progressive Party of 1912. But all these movements failed to establish a third party. The economic driving power behind them was insufficient.

The outstanding feature of the present political situation in the United States is the development of another movement of the petty bourgeoisie, farmers and workers against the two old parties. This is the La Follette third party movement. It originates in the agricultural and industrial crisis, and in the continued intensification of capitalist exploitation. The petty bourgeoisie find themselves confronted by ruthless combinations of capital which are rooting out competition in every field of production and distribution. The farmers are faced by powerful capitalist monopolies, which on the one hand rob them of their products, and on the other charge them exorbitant prices for all manufactured commodities. They are being progressively impoverished and expropriated. In 1920, 38 percent of all American farmers were tenants, and 37 percent of those who technically owned their farms were encumbered by mortgages amounting to $3,356 on an average. Tenancy and the mortgage system are developing rapidly, especially during the past few years. In 1910 the mortgage debts of the United States amounted to $1,727,172,983, and by 1920 it had increased to $4,003,767,192. During 1922 about 1,200,000 persons left the farms and went to the cities.

The workers are under still greater pressure from capitalism. The bulk of them lack the elemental necessities of life. It is only the small fringe of well-organized skilled workers in the building trades, the printing industry, and on the railroads, etc., who receive the high wages that have been so widely advertised. In 1922 the railroad union leaders maintained that full-time wages of the organized skilled shop mechanics could not purchase the vital necessities necessary to maintain their families at even the lowest level of safety. The shop mechanics’ wages, which have since been heavily cut, amounted to only $1,884.90 per year as against $2,303.99 per year called for in the budget of living issued by the United States Department of Labor. In 1924 the average wage throughout the United States was only $25 per week, or $1,300 per year. The unskilled workers in the industries live in real poverty, and as for the millions of agricultural workers, they are the most bitterly exploited and have the lowest standard of living. Unemployment is a constant scourge of the workers. In 1922 there were 6,000,000 out of work. It is estimated that there are at least 1,500,000 constantly unemployed. There are no state doles. The workers are denied practically all say in the control of industry and in the establishment of their own working conditions. Of the approximately 30,000,000 wage workers, only 3,500,000 are organized, and the existence of even their weak organizations is constantly threatened by the open shop drive of the employers.

The Republican and Democratic parties are the instruments of big capital and are devoted to its service. The government, whether controlled by either party, discriminates against the petty bourgeoisie by favoring concentrated industry and by choking out competition everywhere. It harasses the farmers by high tariffs and by general support of the farmers’ immediate enemies, the meatpackers, bankers, railroad owners, etc. It crushes the workers strikes with injunctions, police and troops, and it openly assists the employers in their constant “open shop” drives. In 1920 it was the Democratic Attorney General, Palmer, who secured a federal injunction against the 600,000 coal miners, denying them the right to strike, and in 1922, it was the Republican Attorney General, Daugherty, who got an injunction against the 400,000 striking railroad mechanics. The government, whether Republican or Democrat, shifts the burden of the World War debt from the shoulders of the capitalists to those of the workers. Consequent upon this inevitable failure to represent the interests of these classes, the two old parties are seething with discontent. Masses of petty bourgeoisie, farmers and workers are becoming disillusioned with them and are tending to break away and to form a new party. This mass movement is the so-called La Follette third party movement.

The present third party movement, under the pressure of the agricultural and industrial crisis, has been definitely crystallizing for the past several years. Its organization point, loose and vague, was the La Follette group of the so-called progressives in Congress. Most of these came from the western agricultural states, as a result of the work of the Non-Partisan League and other farmer organizations, and the trade unions. In 1918 the trade unions began to become active in the third party movement, expressing themselves for a “labor party,” although conceiving it in the sense of a petty bourgeois third party. The Chicago Federation of Labor and other bodies declared for a “labor party.” In the next couple of years the federations in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, etc., together with several national unions, also favored the movement. In 1920 the labor party group, headed by John Fitzpatrick of Chicago, held a national convention. Many farmers also came. The convention launched the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States, an alliance of workers and farmers, and put up as its candidate for president Parley Parker Christensen. At this convention the “Committee of 48,” a loose grouping of petty bourgeois elements, participated. Third parties, calling themselves Farmer-Labor Parties, sprang up in Minnesota, Washington, South Dakota, Colorado, etc. The Gompers bureaucracy bitterly opposed the whole movement, being firmly attached to the policy of supporting “friends” on the tickets of the two old parties.

In February 1922, at Chicago, a fresh development took place by the organization of the Conference for Progressive Political Action. The basis of this organization was the 16 railroad unions. Around them rallied practically all the labor unions, farmers organizations and Farmer-Labor Parties that favored breaking from the two old parties. The Socialist Party also participated. Many expected that the CPPA would definitely launch the looked-for third party, but its leaders were too weak. In December 1922, the CPPA went on record for a modified form of the old Gompers non-partisan policy. The Farmer-Labor Party of the U.S. then split from it and many other organizations dropped away. The CPPA became a skeleton. The whole third party movement was checked.

With the approach of the presidential elections in 1924, the demand for a third party flared up afresh. It was given impetus by the agricultural crisis which through 1922 and 1923 was intense, and by the slowing down of industry and the discharge of hundreds of thousands of workers in the winter of 1923-24. The Conference for Progressive Political Action called a convention for July 4th in Cleveland. La Follette assumed active leadership of the whole movement. At the July 4th convention he announced himself as candidate for president of the United States on an independent ticket without actually forming a party. Immediately after the July 4th convention, practically every organization in the country, except the Workers Party, that favored independent political action rallied to his support. Gompers gave La Follette the endorsement of the American Federation of Labor, and Debs hailed him as a champion of the workers. The petty bourgeois united front was quite complete, from La Follette to Gompers and Debs.

The election campaign was one of the most sharply contested in the history of the United States. The capitalist press attacked La Follette viciously. Although merely demanding government ownership of the railroads and water power and government regulation of other key industries, his program was bitterly denounced as Bolshevistic and destructive of all organized government. The capitalists told the workers that if they voted for La Follette factories would be immediately closed. A lessening of the agricultural and industrial crisis also adversely effected the La Follette movement. About September 1924, an improvement set in in the conditions of agriculture and industry. Due to world shortage of wheat the prices of that and other grains went to record figures, and the spirit of revolt amongst the farmers began to evaporate. The industries also began to pick up somewhat with increased production, which is continuing up to the present, and which has partially reduced the unemployment of the workers.

Consequent upon this terrorization of the workers and the lessening of the agricultural and industrial crisis, Coolidge won a sweeping victory at the polls. Whereas the supporters of La Follette had expected the latter to carry enough states to prevent either Coolidge or Davis from getting a majority of the electoral votes and thus to throw the election into Congress, he succeeded in carrying only Wisconsin. This came as a big defeat to many of the labor bureaucrats and their followers in the La Follette movement. They lost their enthusiasm for a third party. Gompers and the AFL declared emphatically for the old non-partisan policy, and the railroad unions, backbone of the CPPA, did the same. The crystallization of the third party received a setback.

The Farmer-Labor Policy of the Workers Party

In the development of this mass movement the Workers Party took a most active part. For two and a half years, beginning early in 1922 with the slogan of “For a Farmer-Labor Party,” it carried on a vigorous campaign to tear loose the masses of workers and poor farmers from the petty bourgeois leadership of La Follette and to organize them into a separate party. But these efforts were futile so far as creating a party was concerned. The first attempt to launch the so-called “class” farmer-labor party took place on July 3rd, 1923. This convention was held on a united front basis with the Workers Party and the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States, headed by John Fitzpatrick. Many organizations, trade unions, cooperatives, fraternal societies, which in the previous campaign had endorsed the farmer-labor party slogan as in some degree expressing their demand for a third party, sent delegates. About half a million workers and a scattering of farmers were represented. The Workers Party demanded the immediate formation of a new Federated Farmer-Labor Party. The Farmer-Labor Party of the United States was opposed and a split took place. The control of the convention fell into the hands of the Workers Party which then launched the Federated Farmer-Labor Party, based upon trade unions, cooperatives and other proletarian bodies.

The FFLP was stillborn. The masses immediately fell away from it. They wanted a petty bourgeois third party movement, not a semi-Communist “class” party of only workers and poor farmers. The Workers Party made a desperate effort to breathe the breath of life into the FFLP, expending great energy and resources upon it, but this effort failed completely. The masses would have nothing to do with the FFLP. It did not become a mass organization which could be used as a feeder for the WP. On the contrary, it became a rival tending to liquidate the Workers Party. It consisted of only the Workers Party and its closest sympathizing organizations. It was merely a “united front with ourselves,” a distortion of the united front tactics peculiar to America. Thus we had practically two Communist parties, that is, the Workers Party and the Federated Farmer-Labor Party. The situation became so intolerable that the FFLP, which the Pepper-Ruthenberg group hailed as one of the greatest achievements of the world Communist movement, had to be abandoned.

Somewhat staggered by the failure of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party, the Workers Party nevertheless launched a fresh attempt to found the so-called “class” farmer-labor party. This culminated in the convention in St. Paul on June 17th, 1924. By this time the La Follette leaders were rapidly organizing their forces for the national elections in November. Foreseeing the danger of the absorption of the Farmer-Labor elements by the La Follette movement for a third party, the Workers Party proposed then an alliance be made between the two movements. This was the so-called “third party alliance.” The outcome of it would have been that both movements, or rather the two sections of the one movement, as it later proved, would have endorsed La Follette. But the Comintern correctly forbade the “third party alliance,” declaring that it would make of the Workers Party a tail for the petty bourgeois kite.

The La Follette leaders sharply attacked the St. Paul convention as being dominated by the Communists. They called upon the masses to rally to their convention on July 4th. Their call found a ready response. Practically all the trade unions, farmers organizations and other bodies which had supported the slogan, “For a ’class’ farmer-labor party,” joined the mass movement towards them. Consequently the June 17th convention was practically cut to pieces. It consisted merely of Communists, their close sympathizers, and a scattering of lukewarm trade unionists and farmers. Nevertheless, in a determined effort to give life to the slogan they had propagated for over two years, the WP delegates, who controlled the convention, launched a new party, the National Farmer-Labor Party, and placed in the field its candidates for president and vice president, MacDonald and Bouck.

But this party collapsed even more quickly than did the Federated Farmer-Labor Party. With the AFL, the railroad unions, the Socialist Party, and the state Farmer-Labor Parties all over the country gone to La Follette, the National Farmer-Labor Party was isolated. Comprising only Communists and close sympathizers, it was another case of a “united front with ourselves.” This placed the Workers Party in a most difficult situation. To have gone through the campaign supporting MacDonald and Bouck would have been to gravely sacrifice the interests of the Workers Party by shoving it into the background and bringing the skeleton Communistic National Farmer-Labor Party to the fore. The Workers Party would have furnished all the resources and done all of the work, but got none of the credit. And in return the National Farmer-Labor Party could not have brought greater masses under its influence than the Workers Party could by campaigning directly under its own name. It was only another Communist Party. Hence the Central Executive Committee threw overboard the make-believe mass National Farmer-Labor Party and placed in the field its own candidates, Foster and Gitlow. Thus, after a two and a half year campaign for the farmer-labor party in the midst of the developing third party movement, the Workers Party was unable to get together enough of a “class” farmer-labor party to make it possible to run it in the election campaign. The movement had no mass support. The action of the CEC was received with enthusiasm all through the Workers Party.

These experiences made several facts stand forth, clear and indisputable, which must be taken into consideration in the working out of the united front policies of the Workers Party. The first is that the Workers Party greatly overestimated the degree of class consciousness of the workers in its campaign for a “class” farmer-labor party. Their support of the La Follette movement showed that the masses are still intensely petty bourgeois in their ideology. In fact, in order to get the support of the AFL and the trade unions generally, La Follette had to go to the right by dropping his demands for the recognition of Soviet Russia. These masses are not ripe for a “class” farmer-labor party such as the Workers Party advocated. Their wholesale flocking to the standard of La Follette proved this. Another important factor is that our every attempt to build a middle-of-the-road farmer-labor party between the Workers Party and the La Follette movement resulted merely in the creation of a new Communist labor party, only Communists and sympathizers joining it. Such a party must be a rival and liquidator of the Workers Party. The elements that become disillusioned with La Folletteism at the present stage of development are advanced enough either to be brought directly into the Workers Party as members or to come under its influence through the united front maneuvers upon the basis of concrete issues of the everyday struggles.

In the early phases of its farmer-labor party campaign, the Workers Party gained much valuable publicity and experience, but attempts to form farmer-labor parties prematurely led to very costly splits and isolation. The split at the Chicago July 3rd, 1923 convention was disastrous. The Trade Union Educational League had developed many valuable rank and file connections in the trade unions. These were used as the basis for the farmer-labor party campaign. When the split took place and the FFLP was formed, these sympathizers, who were not ready for such a step, broke away from the Communists not only on the farmer-labor question, but also for the amalgamation, unemployment and other campaigns being carried on by the party in the unions. This split practically broke the connections of the Workers Party in the trade unions and threw the center of gravity of the farmer-labor party movement among the farmers. The Pepper-Ruthenberg group (then the majority) practically abandoned work in the trade unions and concentrated their efforts on the farmers. The present majority, comprising principally the trade union elements in the Workers Party, objected to this shifting of gravity from the industrial workers to the farmers. A bitter controversy developed, which will be outlined further along.

The ill-fated National Farmer-Labor Party, formed at the St. Paul June 17th, 1924 convention, cut off more valuable connections of the party in the mass organizations. The present isolation of the Workers Party and the crippling of the Trade Union Educational League are due to the ill-advised attempts to found the “class” farmer-labor party of industrial workers and poor farmers in the absence of mass sentiment for such a party. This policy is a policy of “putschism,” which, under the formula of “contact with the masses,” leads in actual practice to isolation and sectarianism.

The Present Controversy Over the Farmer-Labor Party Policy

Just before the November elections a sharp division developed in the Central Executive Committee of the Workers Party on the question of the farmer-labor party policy. The majority group took a determined stand against any further attempts to form caricature farmer-labor parties and declared for a true united front policy of putting forward concrete and understandable slogans based on the everyday struggles of the workers. The minority group took the position that now more than ever the campaign for the “class” farmer-labor party had to be pushed.

The controversy was then laid before the membership for discussion. Mass membership meetings were held in all the important party centers. These gave a substantial majority vote for the theses of the CEC majority. [1]New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and other large party centers voted for the majority theses. The reports in the Daily Worker show that in the 50 cities voting, the majority theses received 2,400 votes and the minority 1,590. All the important cities that had been active in the farmer-labor party campaign voted without exception for the majority theses. The Young Workers League also strongly supported the majority theses.

The central question in the present controversy is whether or not we shall organize the Workers Party forces in the trade unions and other proletarian organizations into a Communistic labor party. The minority champions such a program. The majority opposes it, insisting that wherever the labor party movement takes shape it must have a broad mass character. The controversy over this central issue has gone on with varying degrees of intensity since the organization of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party in July 1923. This has brought about a sharp factional situation, in which the minority has seized upon practically every party policy to utilize for factional purposes. But all the issues in the present dispute revolve around the central question of whether or not the Workers Party shall organize a left wing farmer-labor party.

The theoretical expression of the minority policy of organizing a Communistic labor party was first given in the August (1923) Theses, which still remain the guiding principle of the minority in their farmer-labor policy. These theses were written in support of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party. The formation of this party was a tactical mistake. But instead of admitting it and realigning the Workers Party policies accordingly, comrades Pepper and Ruthenberg wrote theses to justify its existence. These were the so-called August Theses, in which they developed the theory of several competing labor parties in the United States. According to this theory the minority proposes to break off such sections of the labor movement as respond to the “class” farmer-labor party slogan and to combine them into a farmer-labor party, a party under the leadership of the Communists, with the object of transforming this hodgepodge into a “mass Communist party.” The August Theses say:

In America we have a number of political groups which fight for influence within the trade union movement. The attempt to gain influence upon the workers assumes the organizational expression of forming various labor parties. The Socialist Party tries to form a labor party. The old Farmer-Labor Party tries to form another labor party. The Workers Party has helped in the formation of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party. It is simply a dogmatic statement to decree that it is against the rules of the game for several labor parties to attempt to exist in one country.

And again:

It is our duty to attempt through very careful, cautious propaganda and systematic campaigns to transform the Federated into a mass Communist party.

The CEC minority (now the majority) opposed the policy of organizing the Communists and sympathizers into a left wing Communist labor party which was bound to be a rival party and a liquidating influence for the Workers Party. We stated our general position in our thesis of November 1923, as follows:

The organization of premature and artificial labor parties, as the theses of the majority (Pepper-Ruthenberg group) virtually propose, makes a caricature out of the very idea of the labor party and runs the danger of discrediting it. The Workers Party cannot assume the responsibility of such undertakings without injuring its standing in the eyes of the workers.

And further:

Our position is not based on the assumption that the entire labor movement must join the labor party at once or that even a majority is necessary. But we hold that wherever it is formed, it must unite the labor party forces and have a genuine mass character.

Regarding the theory of transforming the Federated into a mass Communist party, our November 1923 thesis said:

The August Theses make the argument that the Federated Farmer-Labor Party can be developed into a mass Communist party. There is no foundation for such an assertion. The conditions for the building of a mass Communist party are the existence of a closely knit Communist nucleus operating within the broadest mass organizations of the workers, permeating them with its doctrines and sweeping the most advanced of them into its ranks. The Workers Party is such a Communist nucleus and the naturally developing labor party movement is such a mass organization. By working within this mass organization and pushing it forward, the Workers Party is bound to expand and extend its influence. The organization of the FFLP does not facilitate this development, but interferes with it. Wherever it takes organizational form it separates the Communists and their closest sympathizers from the main body of the movement and creates the conditions for a sectarian Communist party controlling a sectarian labor party.

In the present phase of the 18-months-long controversy over the organization of a Communist farmer-labor party, the CEC minority reiterates its determination to form such a party by the following typical statement of policy in its latest theses:

We shall mobilize all the “class” farmer-labor elements with which we have contact and which are now affiliated to the La Follette Progressive organization for the campaign against this as a liberal third capitalist party and not a labor party and to have them raise the slogan of a class farmer-labor party and split away from the La Follette movement.

As against this conception of organizing a “left class farmer-labor party,” the CEC majority reaffirms its previous position that the labor party can be formed only if it is based on the broad organizations of the masses. The experience of the past two and a half years conclusively shows that no sentiment exists among the workers for the formation of such a “class” farmer-labor party, as against the La Follette third party movement. Hence, under existing conditions, a campaign for the formation of the farmer-labor party is out of the realm of practical politics. In this regard our latest theses say:

The fundamental conditions determining the attitude of our party toward the farmer-labor movement are the same now as at the beginning of our experience in this field on the basis of united front tactics of the Communist International. At the time when the farmer-labor movement was developing a mass character, moving in the direction of an independent party, it was correct for our party itself to raise the slogan of “a farmer-labor party” and participate actively in the movement for it. When, as became apparent in July 1924, and as it is apparent now, the idea of a farmer-labor party lacks mass support and appeal among industrial workers and poor farmers, the basic reasons for our support of this movement are not in existence. The Workers Party, therefore, cannot advantageously promulgate the slogan of “a farmer-labor party” at the present time. The further development of the class struggle may eventually again create a mass sentiment for the formation of a farmer-labor party. In such case the Workers Party may find it advantageous to again raise the slogan for such a party and actively participate in the movement for it. Our attitude towards it will depend on the advantages it offers to the Workers Party from the standpoint of promoting independent political action on a mass scale and of building the Workers Party into a mass Communist party.

The CEC majority position is against the organization of a left wing farmer-labor party, a rival of the Workers Party, and is in favor of concrete, united front struggle around living issues in the workers’ lives. This policy is based upon the realistic appreciation of the present situation in America. Our experience during the past two and a half years, and especially during the recent elections, demonstrates that the political development of the American workers is much more elementary than we had calculated in our farmer-labor party campaign. They are still bound ideologically to the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. Even those workers prepared to break with the two parties of big capital are merely transferring their allegiance to the petty bourgeoisie. Their class consciousness is only faintly dawning. Their conception of independent political action is that of a petty bourgeois third party movement, as is evidenced by the fact that practically all those labor organizations which had endorsed resolutions for a farmer-labor party supported La Follette in the elections without considering it any retrogression from their previous stand. In fact, many of the state sections of the La Follette movement, ideologically and organizationally bound to it, call themselves Farmer-Labor Parties: for example, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, etc. There is no considerable body of workers anywhere, outside of the Workers Party itself, who stand clearly for the organization of a “class” farmer-labor party, or who would respond to such a slogan and join such a party.

United front slogans must be of such a nature as to appeal to wide masses of the workers. They must be concrete and understandable, and capable of enabling the party to set a mass movement into motion. Under present conditions in America the main campaign of the party must be the effort to lead the workers and poor farmers into action and struggle on the basis of concrete burning questions affecting their daily lives. The Workers Party, while concentrating its main energies on its efforts to draw the unions as organizations into economic and political united front struggles over concrete issues, should advocate the idea of the trade unions entering into political action independently as organizations, and of their forming an alliance with the tenant and mortgage farmers under the leadership of the workers. But the slogan of the labor party should be put forth in an organizational sense only in those circumstances where it has or is capable of developing mass support. It should not be used in such a sense as to exaggerate the role and possibilities of a labor party or to obscure the identity and leading role of the Workers Party. The labor party should be formed only under conditions where it secures genuine mass support from the unions. The creation of so-called “left wing” labor parties, which amount in practice to little more than the Workers Party and its closely sympathizing unions, is a caricature of the labor party idea and is inadmissible.

In order to start the backward American masses towards the political struggle along class lines, it is necessary to begin with concrete and understandable slogans which propose united front struggles with the Workers Party over the most burning and pressing issues in their daily life. The basis of the CEC majority policy is to develop a series of campaigns along this line. The object of these campaigns is first to get the masses in motion, and second to formulate the questions in such a way as will bring the masses into collision with the petty bourgeois political leaders, and thus accelerate the process of disillusionment with these politicians and draw the workers nearer to the Workers Party as the practical leader in the daily fight as well as the herald of the Communist revolution. The present slackening in the industrial and agricultural crisis in the United States cannot prevent the development of such united front struggles on concrete issues. The ever-increasing exploitation of the workers by the capitalist system with its recurring and deepening crises furnishes the fertile soil for such movements.

One of the chief problems of the Workers Party is to find organizational bases broad enough to set the masses into motion behind the united front slogans. One means is for the Workers Party, as such, to initiate united front movements directly with the workers organizations. In the United States, the Workers Party has had much success with this direct method. Under the slogan of “protection for foreign-born workers,” it set up united front movements directly with many trade unions, fraternal societies, etc., and carried on an extensive and effective campaign against the proposed laws limiting the rights of these workers, thereby greatly enhancing the prestige and influence of the Workers Party and winning for it many valuable proletarian elements. Similarly, in defending the Communists arrested at the Bridgman, Michigan underground convention, the Workers Party made a highly successful united front campaign. Also the Friends of Soviet Russia, a united front movement for Russian famine relief and recognition, extended the influence of the Workers Party widely amongst diverse proletarian organizations. The TUEL campaign for amalgamation of the trade unions, which was endorsed by fully half of the American labor movement, was a fertile field for the extension of Communist influence and organization. And during the recent campaign for the adoption of an amendment to the United States Constitution opening the way for legislation to restrict child labor, the Workers Party carried on wide agitation on a united front basis. In Omaha, for example, the effectiveness of such tactics was manifested. Under the direct leadership of the Workers Party many of the most important trade unions were rallied to fight for the child labor amendment. These unions were all active participants in the La Follette movement and they could not have been rallied by a movement to unite them into a “class” farmer-labor party.

The Workers Party must utilize every opportunity to develop such united front movements directly with the trade unions and other proletarian organizations. For this purpose, every living issue in the class struggle must be seized upon, including fights against unemployment, wage cuts, syndicalism laws, injunctions in labor disputes, use of troops and police in strikes, imperialism, the Dawes Plan, for defense of political prisoners, international trade union unity, amalgamation, defense of Negro workers, during election campaigns, etc. All these issues furnish the opportunity to mobilize the masses and to throw them into the political struggle under the leadership of the Communists. They enable the Workers Party to appear in fact as well as in theory the real leader of the working class in its struggles.

But the Workers Party cannot rely entirely upon such movements started upon its own initiative and under its own leadership. The Communists must also penetrate all the mass organizations of the workers, participate in all their struggles, and there fight for the WP slogans. Communist delegates from trade unions must work within the Conference for Progressive Political Action and the other so-called non-partisan political committees of the trade unions for the program of the party. These committees are taking on more importance as the trade unions go deeper into politics. They have always furnished the backbone of the labor section of the La Follette movement. Often they have considerable rank and file character, as in the case of the CPPA and the Workingmen’s Non-Partisan Political League of Minnesota. At the recent convention of the AFL it was decided to make the non-partisan committees permanent and to extend their functions.

At the convention of the CPPA recently held in Chicago, the trade unions again demonstrated their stubborn allegiance to the non-partisan committee system. Two plans were before the convention to form parties, the La Follette group proposing a third party based on individual membership, and the Socialists proposing a labor party after the British model. The railroad unions rejected both plans and left the convention, declaring categorically in favor of their non-partisan method. The La Follette group arranged to call a convention to found a third party, and the Socialists, receiving practically no support for their labor party proposal, abandoned their fight for it on a national scale and decided to resume their former independent policy. The refusal of the railroad unions, however, to commit themselves definitely to the organization of a third party does not signify their break with the La Follette movement. Through their so-called non-partisan committees, the bulk of them will in the future, as in the past, support the La Follette movement, whether it expresses itself in the new party or as the left wing of the two old parties. The trade unions have persistently refused to affiliate themselves either to “class” labor parties or third parties. The Farmer-Labor Party of the United States (Fitzpatrick), the Federated Farmer-Labor Party and the National Farmer-Labor Party (both Communist), and the American Labor Party (Socialist) all failed to develop mass trade union support and have all passed out of existence.

During the recent national election campaign and immediately afterwards, the Workers Party did not participate on a large scale in the CPPA. This was because it was the very heart of the La Follette movement, and effective participation in it was impossible without endorsing its petty bourgeois candidates. But with the CPPA organizationally independent of the La Follette movement (even if dominated by La Follette sentiment), the effective penetration of it by Communist delegates from trade unions becomes much more feasible. These committees will be a battleground for the various tendencies in the labor movement. In this struggle the aim of the Workers Party must be to win the support of the masses represented in these committees for its various united front campaigns, during elections, during strikes, and for every burning issue in the labor movement.

It is only by work deep among the masses along united front lines, by movements launched upon its own initiative and by penetration of movements outside of its direct control, that the Workers Party will come to be recognized as the real leader of the working class and will build itself into a mass Communist party. The minority policy of organizing a left wing “class” farmer-labor party is full of danger to the Workers Party, and the overwhelming majority of our party is irreconcilably opposed to it. It is an opportunistic policy tending to isolate and liquidate the Workers Party.

As the basis for its drive to organize a left wing farmer-labor party, the CEC minority enormously overestimates the degree and tempo of revolutionary development in the United States. In his article in the October 1923 Liberator comrade Pepper wrote:

I came to the conclusion that we are facing a deepgoing revolution, not a proletarian revolution, but a La Follette revolution. I stated that in this revolution the working class will free itself from the rule of the Gompers bureaucracy, will acquire a class consciousness on a national scale. I can add that this period will produce the mass Communist party. We should not forget for a moment this general revolutionary situation.

And in the September 1923 Liberator, in an article entitled “Facing the Third American Revolution,” he said:

Politics today has become a mass occupation. The basis of American conservative democracy was the inert mass of the farmers. This basis is now collapsing. The last reserve of capitalism in America was the 8,000,000 Negroes in the South. This last reserve is in the act of deserting....The Negroes in the South are making an unarmed Spartacus uprising.

In line with this extravagant estimate of the political situation in general goes an equally extravagant estimate of the role and extent of the movement for a farmer-labor party. They look upon such a party as the one means of bringing the masses into political struggle on a united front basis. They hold it to be practically fundamental to Communist strategy to build such a party. They also overestimate the influence of the Communists amongst the masses, in their eagerness to discover mass sentiment behind their slogan for a “class” farmer-labor party. Says comrade Pepper in the Inprecorr of September 27, 1923: “The laboring masses considered the Communists as their leaders, and they expect us to show them the best ways and means of fighting against the capitalists and the capitalist government.”

As a result of their general overestimation of the revolutionary development in the United States, the Pepper-Ruthenberg minority, when in control of the Workers Party, led it into a whole series of opportunistic adventures. One of these was the August Theses theory of tearing away a section of the labor movement in the shape of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party, and then turning it into a mass Communist party. Another was the famous third party alliance with the La Follette movement, which projected an opportunistic spirit into our party. Still another was the wild chase after the farmer.

In the question of the farmers we come upon the second of the fundamental points of dispute between the CEC majority and minority. The first relates to the matter of mass support for the labor party. The majority takes the position that before the labor party can be organized, there must be a mass demand for it amongst the workers, and it must be primarily based upon the trade unions. The minority, on the other hand, holds the theory that the left wing forces in the labor movement should be combined into a labor party, a theory which translated into actual practice means the formation of a second Communist Party. In the second question, that of the farmers, the position of the majority is that in the labor party, the industrial workers just play the leading role, with the farmers occupying a minor position. The Pepper-Ruthenberg minority, while paying lip service to this second conception, in actual practice base their farmer-labor party principally upon the farmers.

This tendency of the minority became particularly pronounced after the split at the July 1923 convention, where the Federated Farmer-Labor Party was formed. This split broke the connections of the Workers Party with the masses of industrial workers apparently favoring a labor party. Then, largely forgetting that the industrial workers must of necessity be the base of our party activity, the minority, at that time controlling the party, shifted the center of gravity to the farmers. Work among the trade unions was neglected and all efforts were concentrated upon the farmers. In order to theoretically justify this policy, the trade unions were systematically minimized as mere organizations of labor aristocrats. In his thesis presented to the American Commission in Moscow, in May 1924, comrade Pepper stated the problem as follows:

Shall we make an alliance with the labor aristocracy, which today socially and politically is the closest ally of imperialism, or shall we, in the name of the proletarian workers, make an alliance with the farmers, who today are beginning to fight against imperialism, although in a confused and hesitating manner?

He describes his group as the section of the party which “stresses the necessity of the alliance with the farmers,” as against the Foster-Cannon group, “which emphasizes the necessity of an alliance with the labor aristocracy.” By “labor aristocracy,” comrade Pepper means the present trade union movement of America. The same tendency to base the farmer-labor party movement upon the farmers is manifested in the latest theses of the Pepper-Ruthenberg group, in which there is cited, as mass support for the “class” farmer-labor party, the Farmer-Labor Parties in the agricultural states of Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, South Dakota and Washington. All these parties are made up overwhelmingly of farmers, and they are all part of the La Follette movement. The minority theses cited only one party of industrial workers, a skeleton Farmer-Labor Party in Washington County, Pennsylvania.

In the midst of the opportunistic adventures of the Pepper-Ruthenberg group amongst the farmers, the present majority of the CEC sounded a note of warning against this shifting of the base of the party activities from the workers to the farmers, and fought against this tendency. We stated our general position in the November 1923 thesis as follows:

Important as the revolt of the bankrupt farmers is in the present political situation, and necessary as it is that a close alliance be cemented between the exploited farmers and the industrial workers, there is a great danger in the tendency, displayed by the CEC majority (Pepper-Ruthenberg group), to base their labor party policy upon the farmers’ revolt, and to relegate the role of the industrial workers to second place.

In the American Commission in Moscow, in May 1924, the CEC majority reiterated its position on the question of the farmers as follows:

It shall be sharply called to the attention of the Workers Party that the importance of the farmers as a revolutionary factor must not be overestimated. The backbone of the Communist movement must be the industrial workers. The party shall be instructed to turn its attention more to work in the big industrial centers, rather than so much in the agricultural districts.

The minority conception embraces two political parties: one, the near-Communist farmer-labor party, to carry on an opportunistic struggle amongst the masses over their everyday burning questions, and the other, the Workers Party, to appear before the masses primarily in the role of advocate of Communist principles in the abstract and the ultimate proletarian revolution. In order to justify the campaign for the “class” farmer-labor party, the minority constantly exaggerates the extent of that movement. On October 3, 1923, when it was definitely known to the Central Executive Committee that the Federated Farmer-Labor Party was little more than an organization on paper, comrades Pepper and Ruthenberg submitted to the Comintern and Profintern the following inexcusably exaggerated report of the strength of that party:

The figures show that comrade Foster’s statement, that the Federated Farmer-Labor Party is simply the Workers Party under another name, is untrue. The Federated Farmer-Labor Party is everywhere at least 20 times as strong as the Workers Party. In New York, 60,000 and only 3,000 party members; in Buffalo, 60,000 and only 200 party members; in Minnesota 120,000 and only 2,000 party members; in Washington County, Pennsylvania 20,000 and only 100 party members; in Los Angeles 11,000 and only 100 party members. The Federated Farmer-Labor Party is the most important organ of the united front of our party. It plays the same role as the industrial councils (Betriebsrate) movement in Germany.

The minority comrades have an opportunistic conception of the role of the farmer-labor party. They speak of it as a party which will “fight the battles of the working class,” and associate “independent class political action” in their theses exclusively with the farmer-labor party. In his booklet, “For a Labor Party,” comrade Pepper goes so far as to raise the slogan, “The Labor Party or the Capitalist Dictatorship.”

As a complement to this policy of grossly exaggerating the role and extent of the farmer-labor party movement, the minority also follows a policy of minimizing the influence of the Workers Party as such. The reverse of the campaign for the farmer-labor party policy in the Workers Party is a constant propaganda to show how little the Workers Party can accomplish in its own name. A characteristic statement of this defeatist attitude occurs in the article by comrade Amter in the Inprecorr of January 27, 1925: “To contend that the Workers Party can become a mass Communist party in a country like the United States where the workers and poor farmers have little consciousness, is utopian.”

During the recent election campaign, this tendency to minimize the Workers Party and to shove it into the background came sharply into evidence. The minority followers, still mourning over the demise of the stillborn National Farmer-Labor Party, whose candidates MacDonald and Bouck had to be withdrawn, took but little interest in the election campaign under the banner of the Workers Party. When the election returns began to come in, the minority leaders, apparently eager to show that the Workers Party could not make any show directly under its own flag, and thereby to stress the necessity for a farmer-labor party, proposed to cable the Comintern an estimate of the vote which was only half as large as that which the official counters, after a wholesale stealing of votes, conceded to our party. This deliberate minimizing of the showing made by the Workers Party under its own name, as compared with the widely exaggerated reports sent to the Comintern regarding the Federated Farmer-Labor Party, give a real indication of the comparative importance attached to these organizations by the CEC minority. This attitude shows quite clearly that the policy of the minority leads to liquidation.

The American party is confronted with the most serious and complicated problems. In order for it to find its way along the right path, it is necessary that the whole political situation be re-examined in the light of developments and the experiences of the party. The party cannot live and grow until it clearly recognizes the opportunistic and liquidationist tendencies inherent in the farmer-labor party conceptions of the minority and rejects them resolutely. A halt must be called to the tendency to minimize and subordinate the Workers Party, to hide its name and to create a substitute and rival party by the propagation of the cure-all slogan of a “class” farmer-labor party. The party must overcome opportunism without falling back into the sterile rigidity which characterized the first year of its existence. This requires a sober analysis of the objective situation, and the elaboration of the tactics which take into account the present stage of development of the workers and the relative strength of the party. A first condition for healthy development of the party is the manifold extension of activities within the trade unions and other mass organizations of the workers. The party must penetrate deeply into the labor movement and draw the workers around it. This cannot be done by means of the magic “class” farmer-labor party slogan, but by means of concrete struggles around living issues on the basis of the united front. There are no short cuts to a popular mass Communist party in America. Realistic work and struggle over a period of years is the only road to that goal. The majority of the CEC and the overwhelming majority of the Workers Party stand on this position.


Factionalism in the Workers Party


At the present time there is a factional situation in the Workers Party which seriously hampers the functioning and development of the party. The worst feature of this is the struggle between two groups, majority and minority, which should constitute a single leading group of the party. This fight originated in 1923 in the dispute over the role to be played by the Federated Farmer-Labor Party. In November of that year the present majority of the party, then the minority, agreed with the Pepper-Ruthenberg group on interpretation of their theses which would prevent the FFLP from being developed into a left wing Communist labor party by splitting the labor party forces. Believing that the difficulty was properly adjusted, we exacted no organizational guarantees whatever from the then majority. Almost immediately afterwards, comrade Pepper, in violation of the agreement, launched into a bitter factional attack against our group, to which we had no opportunity in the party press to reply before the convention was held.[2] In the convention the overwhelming majority of the delegates revolted against the Pepper-Ruthenberg group, largely because of their factional activities and their attempts to justify their errors by putting the blame for them on others who were not responsible.

At the sessions of the American Commission in Moscow in 1924, we urged that efforts be made to amalgamate the two groups, and our proposition was accepted by the commission and embodied in its decision. Immediately upon our delegates’ return to America we proposed amalgamation with the Pepper-Ruthenberg group. Agreement was reached over the immediate tasks confronting the party, and in the reorganization of the party personnel made at the time, involving seven positions, the four most important were given to the minority, and every assurance was also given to the minority of our desire to consolidate with them and work harmoniously together.

We believed that the party was about to achieve unity and the elimination of the factional fight when there arrived a letter from comrade Pepper. This letter, which was broadcast in the party and the Young Workers League through underground methods, grossly misrepresented the decisions of the American Commission and incited the minority to a continuation of the factional fight. The result was to deepen and intensify the factional situation. The minority was stimulated to continue its illegal factional organization, based primarily on a number of language federations, and to extend it throughout the party. Every party problem was seized upon and exploited from a factional standpoint. A typical example of this was the question of unemployment. At the very moment when the minority were demanding the formation of unemployment councils and making a big issue of it throughout the party because the majority refused to form such councils until such a time as unemployment had developed to sufficient mass character to give these councils real meaning, comrade Ruthenberg, secretary of the party and a leader of the minority, had in his possession letters, from a number of district organizers who were supporting the minority, which declared it would be impossible to organize unemployment councils in their districts under the prevailing conditions, and urging that the attempt should not be made.

Despite repeated demonstrations that the minority is opposed by the overwhelming majority of the membership, they are obsessed with the ambition to secure complete control of the party organization, to the exclusion of the present majority group. This is the rock upon which our attempts to amalgamate with them have been wrecked. Their attitude was characteristically expressed by comrade Ruthenberg in his demand to the present American Commission that the control of the party be handed over to his group. Our proposals for the liquidation of the factional fight, which is doing so much injury to our party, are contained in our recommendations to the American Commission, which are appended to this document. [3]

Two and a Half International Tendencies in the Party


One of the worst features of the factional fight in the Workers Party is the reckless and irresponsible manner in which the minority has approached the question of the liquidation of Two and a Half International tendencies in the Workers Party. The decision of the American Commission of last year correctly called attention to the existence of a tendency toward Two and a Half Internationalism in the Workers Party, especially as exemplified by the writings of comrade Lore, and called upon the CEC to make an ideological campaign against it. The CEC majority fully agreed with this standpoint and proceeded along the lines laid down by the letter of the Comintern.

The CEC majority has written and spoken openly and continually against this group and tendency. The following examples can be cited:

1. The CEC theses declare against it and call for its liquidation.
2. Foster’s polemics against Nearing (Daily Worker magazine, 10 and 17 May 1924).
3. Bittelman’s articles against Salutsky (DW magazine, 15 April 1924) and Boudin (DW magazine, 9 August 1924).
4. Cannon’s speech at New York Workers School (Workers Monthly, November 1924).
5. Cannon’s speech at party conference of coal miners (DW magazine, 2 August 1924).
6. CEC resolution on role of New York Workers School (introduced by Cannon and printed in the DW).[4]
7. Olgin’s articles on “Lore and the Comintern” (written by direction of CEC and printed in DW magazine).
8. Bittelman’s speech at convention of German Federation (DW, 4 December 1924).
9. CEC resolution against Wicks, minority leader, who supported the arch-reactionary Lynch for president of Typographical Union (printed in DW, 21 August 1924).
10. CEC decisions and resolutions against right wing fractions in South Slavic and Czecho-Slovak federations (printed in DW)[5]

The minority completely overlooked the political and ideological problems involved in this question and took it up from a purely factional standpoint. They hampered the ideological campaign of the CEC against this tendency and only succeeded in strengthening and consolidating the Lore group by stupid and obviously factional organizational proposals and petty persecutions. During the time the minority had control of the party they worked hand in hand with Lore against the bona fide proletarian Communist elements represented by the present majority. They drew Lore into the Political Committee of the CEC and at the same time excluded Cannon and Bittelman. They appointed Lore to the Steering Committee (in charge of the Communist fraction) of the July 3rd convention which formed the FFLP while refusing to allow Cannon to attend it even as a delegate. They never once so much as criticized Lore during the entire year, and during the last party convention they never once raised the issue of the opportunist errors of Lore, but concentrated their whole fight with the support of Lore against the present majority. During the days of the German October and the party crisis attendant upon it, Lore in the Volkszeitung supported Brandler against the left wing. The Pepper-Ruthenberg CEC did not object to this for the very good reason that comrade Pepper, who was the leader of the CEC, was himself a supporter of Brandler.

Lore has made the statement a hundred times that Pepper expressed his approval of the attitude of Lore on the Brandler question. In The Liberator for November 1923, comrade Pepper wrote the following, in his article entitled “The New Wave of World Revolution”:

In the past year we have seen the three most outstanding mass successes of the united front tactic: an international united front of the transport workers; the united front of the German Communists and Social Democratic workers in Saxony; the formation of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party in the United States.


The left Socialist-Communist government in Saxony is the nucleus of the future Soviet Government of Germany.


In Germany the deciding battle of the class struggle of workers and capitalists will assume the form of a struggle and war between two state powers—between counter-revolutionary Bavaria and revolutionary Saxony. [6]

In addition to this, comrade Lore’s article “analyzing the German events” was featured and given the most prominent position on the front page of The Worker at that time. One can easily see in all these incidents that the Pepper-Ruthenberg group, which today makes Loreism its main issue, had nothing to say against Lore at that time.

The question of the Two and a Half International tendencies constitutes a serious problem for the party. It can be solved by the Comintern laying down the correct tactics for the liquidation of this group and tendency, and by the repudiation of the adventurous and reckless policy of the minority which merely exploits the question for factional purposes. The CEC majority is carrying out a systematic struggle against this tendency and it demands that the minority cooperate in the campaign and not sabotage it.

For us it is a problem not simply of Lore but of the workers who sympathize with him and his policy to a certain extent. Valuable proletarian elements, among them some of the most active and influential party members in the New York trade unions, are, to a certain extent, under the influence of the Lore group. This is very largely the result of their reaction to the destructive factionalism and anti-trade-union practices of the minority. The aim must be to win these valuable proletarian elements over to complete support of the CEC and the Comintern by a careful and intelligent and systematic struggle against the opportunist tendencies of the Lore group, which will separate the workers from it and isolate the leaders who persist in their errors. It would be the greatest folly to precipitate a premature split which would lose them for the party.


The Question of Party Work in the Trade Unions


Another angle to the factional situation which is particularly harmful to the Workers Party is the manner in which the Pepper-Ruthenberg minority is hampering the work of the party within the trade unions. The trade unionist members of the party have made particularly strong opposition to the formation of a “left wing” Communist farmer-labor party, realizing that among other evil effects it would isolate the Workers Party in the trade unions. The minority have therefore directed the brunt of their attack against the trade unionists and the Trade Union Educational League. This attack was begun in the August Theses when comrades Pepper and Ruthenberg launched a long and bitter polemic against the comrades most active in the trade unions. This has been followed up by systematic, if disguised, opposition to the work in the trade unions. Charges of Gompersism and syndicalism are set afloat in the party, the tendency of which is to weaken the trade union work. An effort is made to set aside the trade unionists as a special group in the party and to play off against them the large percentage of the party membership who do not belong to the trade unions.

The party is now carrying on its trade union work under great difficulties. The trade unions have just suffered the most tremendous defeat in their history, in the period from 1919 to 1924. Whole sections of them have been wiped out. The officialdom, refusing to reorganize the unions and to adopt a policy of class struggle, have introduced elaborate plans of class collaboration, and have declared ruthless war against the left wing as part of this plan of betraying the workers to the capitalists. The Trade Union Educational League has been driven underground in practically every trade union in the United States. In addition to these handicaps many valuable connections were lost in the trade unions through the Federated Farmer-Labor Party split and the sweep of the La Follette movement. In the face of this difficult situation the factional fight of the minority against the trade unionists in the party is especially disastrous to the trade union work of the party.

The irresponsible attitude of the minority towards the trade union work arises primarily out of the non-proletarian past and lack of trade union experience of the minority leaders. They have no real appreciation of the importance of trade union work. Before the present factional fight developed and when they were in control of the party, their policy was to leave the mapping out and execution of policies in the trade unions to the men making up the present majority of the CEC. They were uncritical and indifferent. When the split took place after the July 1923 convention of the FFLP, the Pepper-Ruthenberg lack of appreciation for an understanding of the work in the trade unions took a new turn. The tacit support of the Trade Union Educational League came to an end and a campaign of carping criticism and passionate opposition developed. The Pepper-Ruthenberg group submitted an industrial program to the convention of the Workers Party in January 1924. This “program” indicates their complete lack of understanding of trade union work. Its principal features were proposals to drop the TUEL slogans for amalgamation and the organization of the unorganized.

The minority plan said about amalgamation of the trade unions, “Neither the workers of the unorganized industries nor the hundreds of thousands of organized workers are interested in any organizational improvement of the existing craft unions. Our vigorous campaign for amalgamation was in place for the period of prosperity and it helped to stir up great sections of organized labor.” As for the organization of the unorganized, the minority program said, “Our slogan, ’Organize the Unorganized,’ was a proper slogan during a period of complete employment, increasing wages and decreasing hours.” For hours the minority members urged the dropping of these important slogans. They ignored completely that the campaigns to organize the unorganized and to consolidate the trade unions must be continued constantly, especially during industrial depressions, which was exactly when the minority proposed to drop them. In such trade union work as they take part in, the minority displayed strong right wing tendencies, a case in point being the endorsement by H.M. Wicks, a prominent member, of James Lynch for president of the Typographical Union. Lynch is one of the most notorious reactionaries in the trade unions, and Wicks’ action, for which he was publicly censured in the party press, demoralized the left wing in the printing trades.

The majority of the CEC has a keen appreciation of the basic importance of trade union work. Without the deep permeation of the trade union movement and the widespread organization of Communist fractions, the party cannot exercise real influence over the masses. The fundamental condition for the solution of the recent factional situation and for the health and growth of the party is a clear statement from the Comintern on the necessity of trade union work and the liquidation of anti-trade-union tendencies in the Workers Party.


From Recommendations to the American Commission

by Cannon and William Z. Foster

The factional controversies in the Workers Party, which arose out of the complicated situation in America, have been exaggerated and intensified to such a degree by the minority under the stimulation and direction of comrade Pepper, that they now constitute a major problem of the party. The reckless and irresponsible factional conduct of the minority not only paralyzes the activity of the party, but actually threatens its unity. The Comintern decision will facilitate the liquidation of the factional fights by embodying the following points:

a) A clear statement on the question of united front tactics in general, as applied to the United States.
b) A specific condemnation of the theory of organizing a left wing Communist labor party and of transforming it into a mass Communist party, also a rejection of the general forming of “paper” organizations under the guise of the united front.
c) Renewed efforts to amalgamate the leading groups of the CEC on the basis of the decision of the Comintern.
d) A substantial number of new proletarian elements, workers actually employed in the shops and who are active members of trade unions, shall be drawn into the CEC and systematic efforts be made to train and develop proletarian leaders.
e) Caucuses and factions shall be dissolved and prohibited, and the practice of circulating underground “documents” in the party shall be condemned.
f) Energetic work with regard to the concrete aspects of Bolshevizing the party referred to above, liquidation of the Two and a Half International tendencies, reorganization of the party on the basis of shop nuclei, centralization of the party, proletarianizing the CEC and party educational work.
g) The trade union work must be developed and intensified on a manifold scale. All party members must join the trade unions and start faction fights against the bureaucrats. The anti-trade-union tendency in the party must be categorically condemned.
h) Point out the necessity for party leaders to frankly admit mistakes in policy. There is a danger to the party in the tendency to cover up past mistakes by posturing present theories to fit them, which hinders the party from turning back from a wrong path once it has entered it.


1. Differences in evaluation of the 1924 U.S. election results between the Foster-Cannon majority and the Ruthenberg minority emerged almost as soon as the polls closed. A Central Executive Committee plenum was called for November 21-22. Both the majority and the minority wrote documents for the meeting entitled “Thesis on the Political Situation and the Immediate Tasks of the Workers Party.” The plenum authorized the publication of the counterposed theses and decreed the opening of internal discussion leading to a projected Workers Party conference in December (the conference was later postponed due to Comintern intervention). The theses of the minority, which Cannon refers to here, were signed by Ruthenberg, Lovestone, Bedacht, Engdahl and Gitlow and were published in the Daily Worker, 28 November 1924. The majority theses, signed by Foster, Cannon, Bittelman, Browder, Dunne, Burman and Abern, were published in the Daily Worker, 26 November 1924.

2. This is evidently a reference to Pepper’s article “How Not to Make the United Front,” which was published in The Worker, 22 December 1923. Pepper attacked the Chicago District Committee, which included prominent Foster-Cannon supporters like Swabeck, Johnstone and Browder, for making a united front “only with the Fitzpatrick-Nockels group of leaders” and refusing to challenge Fitzpatrick’s leadership of the Chicago AFL—both before and after the July 3 convention.

The Third Convention of the Workers Party, held 30 December 1923 to 1 January 1924, issued a statement on the Chicago united front (published in The Worker, 12 January 1924) which exonerated the Chicago leadership: “The majority resolution declares that the District Committee in its practice did not direct any criticism against the Fitzpatrick group. This was largely true. But in so doing the District Committee merely followed the policy which the CEC is following in Minnesota, Detroit and everywhere else where we have some semblance of a united front. If this policy was wrong, the CEC was entirely responsible....”

3. The Cannon-Foster recommendations are not published here, as for the most part they are repetitive of other material. The recommendations end with a final section entitled “Liquidation of the Factional Fight,” which is appended to the end of this article.

4. We could not find this resolution in the Daily Worker.

5. The CEC statement condemning the Board of Directors of the Czecho-Slovak Federation’s official paper, Spravedlnost, for splitting from the Workers Party, was published in the 28 July 1924 DW. The CEC decision on the South Slavic Federation, published in the DW magazine supplement on 29 March 1924, upheld the Federation Bureau in its struggle against the former editors of the Federation’s journal, who had quit the party charging the Bureau with financial malfeasance.

6. Both the ECCI and the German party leadership only belatedly took note of the revolutionary situation in Germany in 1923. The plan worked out in Moscow in September called for the insurrection to begin in Saxony, where the German Communist Party (KPD) would enter into the Social Democratic (SPD) government which already depended on KPD support. It was hoped that entry into the Saxon government would give the KPD access to arms.

Party chairman Heinrich Brandler was one of three KPD ministers who joined the Saxon government on October 10; a few days later the KPD also entered into a coalition government with the SPD in Thuringia. On October 20 the KPD leadership decided to organize a general strike and insurrection. However the SPD refused to go along with the plan. When an SPD-dominated conference of factory delegates at Chemnitz, whose endorsement of the KPD strike call was supposed to signal the beginning of the insurrection, also refused to go along, Brandler called off the insurrection. The ECCI representatives in Germany backed his decision. The German army marched into Saxony and deposed the SPD-KPD government on October 23; the Thuringian government was also deposed. In November the KPD was declared illegal (the prohibition lasted until March 1924).

In a letter to the German party written soon after these events, the ECCI noted:

“We here in Moscow, as you must be well aware, regarded the entry of the Communists into the Saxon government only as a military-strategic maneuver. You turned it into a political bloc with the `left’ Social Democrats, which tied your hands. We thought of your entry into the Saxon government as a way of winning a jumping-off ground from which to deploy the forces of our armies. You turned participation in the Saxon cabinet into a banal parliamentary coalition with the Social Democrats. The result was our political defeat.”

The ECCI later made Brandler the scapegoat for the defeat and endorsed a new “left” KPD leadership led by Ruth Fischer and Arkadi Maslow. Lore had not only supported Brandler in this affair, but denied that a revolution was possible in Germany in 1923.