James P Cannon

Labour's martyrs: the story of Sacco and VanzettimartinTue, 15/03/2016 - 13:52

Workers' Liberty 3/53, published as a pull-out in Solidarity 397.

The story of the Sacco and Vanzetti case, told by James P Cannon and Max Shachtman, who were leading activists in the defence campaign.

Click to download as pdf

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

Submitted by AWL on 10 December, 2014 - 8:15

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

Submitted by AWL on 8 July, 2010 - 1:50 Author: Two documents by Max Shachtman
WL 3/30

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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Response to Ed Maltby on "The Two Trotskyisms"

Submitted by martin on 5 January, 2017 - 6:04 Author: Steve Bloom

I would not expect to see birds splashing
in a fountain on this cold autumn day.
But there they are.
And they are more than one.

Steve Bloom, “Meditations”

First let me thank Ed Maltby and others who have offered critical comments regarding my review of The Two Trotskyisms for their seriousness and honest attempt to investigate real questions. I am, therefore, choosing to jump into the conversation again. I think each round gets us a bit closer to the collective understanding we all require to move forward.


Submitted by Jason Schulman on Sun, 08/01/2017 - 20:47

Just a passing remark -- or a few remarks -- on Steve's debate with Ed.

Every ruling class or elite above the working class is in a sense parasitic in that their existence isn't necessary for society to function. The working class could (and should) collectively run society without any entity dominating/directing/exploiting us.

But I'd argue with Steve that he, Mandel and Trotsky were wrong in their description of the way in which the Soviet elite was parasitic.

Marcel van der Linden, in Western Marxism and the Soviet Union, explains:

"A third problem is posed by the fact that Trotsky only ascribed a distributive and parasitic function to the bureaucracy, and thereby denied that it could have roots in the productive sphere. From an orthodox [Marxist] standpoint, this idea is impossible to sustain. The Soviet bureaucracy, after all, led the enterprises, and hence also the production processes.

[...]This dual character of the leadership function obviously also applied to Soviet enterprise management, which, on the one side, tried to organise production, and, on the other side, simultaneously embodied the oppression of the workers. Clearly, the corollary must be that at least an important part of the Soviet bureaucracy was not exclusively parasitic, but also performed
productive labour in the Marxian sense."

That said, I don't think the idea of a "bureaucratic collectivist mode of production" has held up well either. The EVOLUTION of Russia, China, Vietnam towards capitalism has made it clear that the Stalinist elites of these countries were NOT a new type of ruling class. They wanted to be, they tried to be, but they couldn't do it on the basis of the defective, dysfunctional Stalinist social system. The same elites now rule these states but increasingly as the representatives of capitalist classes.

So if these elites weren't a "bureaucratic collectivist ruling class" or a parasitic labor bureaucracy, what were they? I'd argue that in the 1920s the Soviet party-state became a representative of the peasantry, not the proletariat. As one author has put it:

"The peasantry cannot rule: and in consequence it can only, when it acts independently, find a master who will coerce it to produce for the society. That master is the absolutist state. The forced collectivizations and their consequences were not the result of Stalin the monster, or even merely of economic mismanagement. They were the consequences of letting the peasantry loose in the first place through the land reform and the ideology of the smychka. That this is the case can be demonstrated easily enough from the parallels in other Soviet-model states. The very same phenomenon -- scissors crisis, leading to a wildly ultra-left swing to coercing the peasantry under the name of "mobilizing" them, leading to mass starvation, etc. -- can be seen most clearly in China's "Great Leap Forward" and "Cultural Revolution". Milder forms of the same phenomenon have occurred in every Soviet-style regime to have had a significant peasantry in the first place or to have created one through "land reform". A more extreme version can be seen in Cambodia under Pol Pot."

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From Shachtmanite Trotskyism to Anarchism: Exploring the Relationship of a Marxist Tendency to Anarchism

Submitted by AWL on 7 November, 2016 - 9:44 Author: Wayne Price

This article, by the anarchist writer Wayne Price, was published in the journal The Utopian. It explores the relationship between the “Third Camp” Trotskyist tradition, with which Workers' Liberty identifies, and anarchist politics. It is republished with the author's permission. Visit the website of The Utopian here.

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Workers’ democracy is the bottom lineMatthewWed, 27/04/2016 - 10:59

Steve Bloom has written an interesting and thoughtful review of The Two Trotskyisms confront Stalinism (Solidarity 400 and 401). It is interesting to hear from someone who identifies with the Cannon tradition where they feel that tradition went wrong.

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A case of class against class

Submitted by AWL on 16 March, 2016 - 10:40

Who can save Sacco and Vanzetti?

By James P Cannon, Labor Defender January 1927

The Sacco-Vanzetti case is at a turning point. Legally speaking, it now rests on another appeal to the Massachusetts State Supreme Court from the latest decision of Judge Thayer refusing a new trial. But speaking from a more fundamental standpoint, that is, from the standpoint of the class struggle, the issue really hangs on developments taking place within the Sacco-Vanzetti movement which embraces many workers of various views.

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Labour’s martyrs: the story of Sacco and Vanzetti

Submitted by AWL on 16 March, 2016 - 9:19 Author: Sean Matgamna

The working-class victims of bourgeois repression and deliberate murder are legion. The murder of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who were burned alive in the electric chair in Massachusetts, on August 23, 1927, was a cold-blooded crime committed by the American capitalist class in the full sharp glare of world wide attention and protest. Mass demonstrations were organised in every city in the world where Communist and Socialist movements existed. Protests and demands for clemency were made by many well known writers and politicians.

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