James P. Cannon

American politician (1890-1974)

James P. Cannon (February 11, 1890August 21, 1974) was an American Marxist and Trotskyist leader. Cannon was the leading founder of the Socialist Workers Party and the Communist Labor Party, which would be a early precursor to the Communist Party of America.

Quotes edit

  • Without revolutionary theory, the workers, even with the best will in the world, cannot fight the capitalist system successfully. This statement holds good, not merely in the question of the final revolutionary struggle for power, it applies equally in every aspect of the daily struggle. Workers who have no understanding of the theory of revolution cannot follow a consistent line of action that leads toward it. Behind every action aimed at the bourgeoisie, there must be the theory of the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie. False policies in the ranks of the workers, whereby even their own good will and energy is transformed into a force operating against their own interests, spring in the first place from false theory. Only by an understanding of the revolutionary nature of their struggle, and of the necessity of shaping their actions in the light of this theory and adapting them to the execution of it, can the workers follow a systematic policy of opposition to the bourgeoisie and of defense of their own interests. Revolutionary theory is not something separate from action, but is the guiding principle of all revolutionary action.
    • "The Bolshevization of the Party" (1924)
  • The Bolshevization of the party in this sense means the final ideological victory of Marxism and Leninism, or in other words, of Marxism in the period of imperialism and the epoch of the proletarian revolution, and to reject the Marxism of the Second International and the remnants of the elements of syndicalism.
    • "The Bolshevization of the Party" (1924)
  • The party must fight with all its power and with every necessary strategy against the attempt to isolate it and throw its energy back upon itself. The party must also conduct a resolute struggle against the tendency to construe “party work” only in the sense of inner party work as well as against the tendency to make an artificial separation between mass work and inner party work.
    • "Unite the Party!", (1925)
  • Trotskyism is not a new movement, a new doctrine, but the restoration, the revival of genuine Marxism as it was expounded and practiced in the Russian revolution and in the early days of the Communist International.
    • History of American Trotskyism
  • The economic prerequisites for the socialist revolution are fully matured in the US. The political premises are likewise far more advanced than might appear on the surface.
    • Theses on the American Revolution
  • The workers of America have power enough to topple the structure of capitalism at home and to lift the whole world with them when they rise.
    • The Struggle for a Proletarian Party
  • The American capitalists are richer and stronger than their counterparts in other lands. They are also younger and more ignorant, and therefore more inclined to seek a rough settlement of difficulties without diplomatic subtlety and finesse. All that does not change the fact that American capitalism operates according to the same laws as the others, is confronted with the same fundamental problems, and is headed toward the same catastrophe.
    • Fascism and the workers' part
  • These monster cities we live in today are blights of modern society. They will certainly give way to planned cities interlinked to the countryside. Everybody will live with the natural advantages of the country and the cultural associations of the town.
    • What socialist America will look like?
  • Recoiling against the cult of Stalin, which caused such devastation in the American radical movement, some people now describe all reference to the Marxist authorities as the cult of Marx, the cult of Lenin, or the cult of Trotsky. Those who used to forbid themselves to say anything until it was first said by Stalin, or even to think any thoughts which had not first been thought for them by Stalin, have suddenly decided that the cure for this mental, moral and political prostration is to listen to nothing that is said and to read nothing that has been written outside the borders of the fifty states.
    • Trotsky on America
  • Yes, reaction is in full sway in America. Many of our finest spirits, our bravest boys, our best fighters, wear their lives away in the penitentiaries of America. The boys that threw themselves into the struggle during the war, those who did not take down their flag when the persecution became severe, the very cream of the move ment, have languished in prison for over two years, and I say it is a shame and a disgrace that we have not made any effective protest against it. It is a pitiful thing that for two years the campaign for the release of our fellow workers and comrades, which should have been carried on upon the basis of the class struggle, which should have been the rallying cry to arouse the workers and inspire an irresistible campaign for amnesty, has been left almost entirely to such as the American Civil Liberties Bureau on the one hand, the Socialist Party's Amnesty Committee on the other, and the IWW lawyers on the third; and there is very little difference among them. Now, I say, we are going to stem the tide. We are going to stop the stampede by putting up a program and plan of action with a set of fighting leaders and give out the rallying cry: Fellow workers, stand and fight! It is better to die in the struggle than to be crushed to death with out resistance!
    • Speech at the First Workers Party Convention (1921)
  • This knowledge will not fall from heaven; it will be acquired only by those who have the mind and the will to study, as Marx required of his first disciples. Wilhelm Liebknecht’s little volume of reminiscences will be an aid and stimulus in this direction. It ought to have a place on the bookshelf of every revolutionary worker.
    • "Marx, the Man" (1930)

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