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Leon Trotsky 19390410 Letter to James P. Cannon

Leon Trotsky: Letter to James P. Cannon

April 10, 1939

[Writings of Leon Trotsky, Vol 11, 1938-1938, New York ²1974, p. 298 f., title: “More on Our Work in the Communist Party”]

Dear Comrade Cannon:

You have surely received the minutes of the discussion concerning the work of our party within the Communist Party [see p. 237]. I was astonished to hear that some comrades deny the utility of such a work. The recent happenings show that we do not have the slightest connection with the Communist Party and that we know practically nothing about its internal life. I continue to be of the opinion that it is necessary to create a special, secret commission for this purpose, to be headed by a member of the Political Committee. The difficulties are not insurmountable at all — only a very systematic and persistent work is necessary. I doubt that we can make an important step forward if we neglect this kind of work. It is not possible to conduct a war if one remains blind, that is, without serious and systematic reconnaissance. I believe that the neglect of this question is in the same category as, let us say, the denying of the defense guard. That is to say, it is a result of a misunderstanding of the whole epoch: the terrible tension of its social and political relations and the permanent danger of explosions. We cannot proceed blindly; we must have open eyes. In the service of reconnaissance are the eyes of the army. The army is small-its service will be modest; but it must grow parallel with the party.

We have already had some discussions with Comrade James. The two most important were on the Negro question. He presented an important and very good statement. I do not accept his categorical rejection of self-determination (an independent state) for the American Negro. As a party, we do not enter into the making of the decision, either one way or the other. We say to the Negroes, "You must decide whether or not you wish the separation. If you decide in the affirmative, we as a party will help you with all our power to realize your decision; and in this way the separation of states will assure the brotherhood of workers of both colors. This is what we want above all."

The rest of his statement is very good. The party cannot postpone this extremely important question any longer. James's sojourn in the States is very important for the serious and energetic beginning of this work.

I await with impatience the information from you concerning France.

With best regards to Rose and to you.

Yours fraternally,

V. T. O’Brien [Trotsky]