James P Cannon

The two Trotskyisms during World War 2: Workers' Liberty 3/48

Tracing the development of "two Trotskyisms" from the 1940 split to the 1944 polemic between Harry Braverman and Max Shachtman.

Tracing the development of "two Trotskyisms" through from the 1940 split to the 1944 polemic between Harry Braverman and Max Shachtman.

Click here to download as pdf or read online.

The pagination in the pdf is correct, but, by a mishap, the pages of the printed version of Workers' Liberty 3/48, as a pull-out in Solidarity 347, are in the wrong order. Our apologies to readers.

Check the printed version with the pdf, or follow this guide:

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Workers' Liberty 3/30: The 1939-40 split in the Fourth International

WL 3/30

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Two documents by Max Shachtman

In 1940 the Trotskyist movement split over attitudes to Stalinism. The participation and victory of Stalin's USSR in World War 2 as an imperialist power would make that split a fundamental political dividing-point.

In 1940 the Trotskyist movement split over attitudes to Stalinism. The participation and victory of Stalin's USSR in World War 2 as an imperialist power would make that split a fundamental political dividing-point.

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This book is really about now

Author: 

Ed Strauss
The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism is not just a scholarly work about distant, long-ago arguments — it traces the development of patterns of thought and behaviour that shape how our movement thinks and works today.

Ed Strauss reviews The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism

The book is an amazing textbook. As a young student in the 1950s, I was reading some of the documents which are in the collection, I was coming in at the tail-end of some of these debates; but we had nothing like this.

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Culture and Reviews: 

Orthodox Trotskyism reshaped Trotsky's ideas

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Ed Maltby
Ed Maltby discusses Paul Le Blanc's review of "The Two Trotskyisms".

Paul Le Blanc’s review of The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism: Fate of the Russian Revolution volume 2 (Solidarity 388) is a thoughtful and detailed piece.

Le Blanc defends The Two Trotskyisms against some on the left who deride the book as pointless obsessing over long-ago spats. He is right to do it: such complaints remind one of Homer Simpson, who, warned that he’s late for English class, sneers “Pff! English, who needs that? I’m never going to England!”

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The Leningrad delirium

Among many other things, the new book published by Workers’ Liberty and edited by Sean Matgamna — “The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism” — digs out a dramatic lurch in the “Orthodox” Trotskyist movement in 1941, described in this excerpt.

The “Orthodox” were those who stuck to Trotsky’s formula of the Stalinist USSR being a “degenerated workers’ state” while, in the 1940s, the elements in reality on which Trotsky based that formula were changing dramatically. Along the way, they lurched one way and then another, never properly assessing their mistakes.

An excerpt from a new book published by Workers’ Liberty and edited by Sean Matgamna — “The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism” — describing a dramatic lurch in the “Orthodox” Trotskyist movement in 1941.

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Beyond the fragments of the Trotskyist movement

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Paul Hampton
A review by Paul Hampton of The Two Trotskyisms confront Stalinism, edited by Sean Matgamna.

Why is the revolutionary left today in such a mess? Why are the politics of the SWP, the Socialist Party, the various Fourth Internationals and most of the splinters, grouplets and fragments so incoherent?

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The two Trotskyisms

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

This month marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the murder of Leon Trotsky by an agent of the Stalinist USSR’s secret police. Next month, Workers’ Liberty will publish a second volume of documents from the movement which kept alive and developed the revolutionary socialist politics Trotsky fought for. Just before Trotsky’s death, the American Trotskyist organisation split after a dispute triggered by Stalin’s invasion of Poland. The majority was led by James P Cannon, the minority by Max Shachtman.

This month marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the murder of Leon Trotsky by an agent of the Stalinist USSR’s secret police. Next month Workers’ Liberty will publish a second volume of documents from the movement which kept alive and developed the revolutionary socialist politics Trotsky fought for.

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Speech on the Way to Prison (1943)

Author: 

James P. Cannon

This last opportunity to speak to you for a period, comrades, is also the first opportunity I have had to thank you all for the gifts that were presented to me and Rose on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of our movement. We were both given gold watches by the comrades of Local New York. While I will not be able to take the watch with me to Sandstone penitentiary, I will nevertheless be able to take something even more valuable than the watch or any other material gift. That is the memory of your kindness and your friendship.

This fine declaration of faith, principles and motives for socialist action was made by the great American Marxist James P Cannon as he and 15 others prepared to go to jail for their political activities.

Marxist Theory and History: 

History of the Trotskyist movement

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

By the eve of Leon Trotsky’s death in August 1940, the American Trotskyist organisation, which was by far the most important group in the Fourth International, had split. Two currents of Trotskyism had begun the process of complete separation, but only begun.

It would take most of a decade before the evolution of two distinct species was complete.

For brevity they can be named after their chief proponents, James P Cannon and Max Shachtman. Trotsky’s political relationship to those two currents is one of the things that will concern us here.

Despite Trotsky’s continuing “defence of the USSR” in late 1939 and 1940, he had taken the giant step of accepting that the USSR, as it was, could be reconceptualised as a new form of exploitative class society.

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