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Leon Trotsky 19380526 Letter to James P. Cannon

Leon Trotsky: Letter to James P. Cannon

May 25, 1938

[Writings of Leon Trotsky 1937-1938, New York ²1976, p. 343-345, title: “No Obstacle to Common Vote”]

Dear Comrade Cannon:

I am very glad to learn that you are going to Europe. You didn't name the other delegate or delegates. I hope that Shachtman will go also because his work not only during but after the conference will be of the greatest value. Permit me again to call your attention to the French section. The new split in the Socialist Party shows the tremendous pressure from the workers. But our section happens to be incapable of attracting new fresh elements. Some leading comrades seem to be tired: no systematic work, no organization, not even the capacity to collect money where it is possible. The management of Quatrième Internationale is miserable, the management of Lutte ouvrière not much better. The situation in Britain, in Holland, is nothing in comparison with the situation in France.

I don't see as yet the weight and importance of the differences in your National Committee concerning the draft program and the labor party issue. Both matters necessarily contain at present some hypothetical elements. We enter into a new stage with a new plan which has in the first place the value of a working hypothesis. The general line of this hypothesis is common to all of us but different parts can be and surely will be modified in the fire of experience. That is why I cannot well understand what can be the obstacle or hindrance for a common vote with the purpose of imposing the general line of the draft program against the centrists on one side and the ultralefts on the other. That is the primordial task from the point of view of the international conference.

The labor party question is now a specific American issue. Vereecken and his consorts will try to interpret the "turn" as a premeditated plan to dissolve the Socialist Workers Party into the coming labor party, to abdicate the independence of the party, and so on. But nobody in our American section, I hope, has such an idea. That is why in spite of some nuances – which have more a preliminary or preventive character, no more – the American delegation can be absolutely solid before the international conference, even on this specific American issue.

Concerning the draft program itself the most disputable chapter will thus be on the trade unions, on the war, on sectarianism, and on the defense of the USSR. On all these questions the American section is as good as unanimous. In this case what can prevent you from giving a unanimous statement, which – without entering into the specific or secondary matters-confirms the general line as directed against the centrists and ultra-leftists?

It is very good that three young comrades go to Europe. They will be very useful during the preparation of both conferences. It is only necessary to immediately elaborate a plan for their itinerary, in order that every one of them can be utilized to the fullest extent.

My best greetings and wishes, Hansen [Trotsky]