Below is an excerpt from the new edition of Socialism on Trial, just released by Pathfinder Press. The book presents the full court testimony by James P. Cannon in November 1941. Cannon, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, and 17 other communist and Teamster leaders were framed up and convicted in Minneapolis that year on federal “conspiracy” charges under the thought-control Smith Act. The act made it illegal “to teach, advocate and encourage” revolutionary ideas. The questions were posed by defense attorney Albert Goldman, who was a defendant himself.
“They were incarcerated because they opposed imperialist war,” wrote Joseph Hansen in the book’s introduction, “and because they advocated building a socialist society as the only means of ending such wars and all the other evils of capitalism.” Copyright © 2014 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
Q: Will you state the reasons why the party would not support a war conducted by the present government of the United States?
A: In general, we do not put any confidence in the ruling capitalist group in this country. We do not give them any support because we do not think they can or will solve the fundamental social problems which must be solved in order to save civilization from shipwreck.
We believe that the necessary social transition from the present system of capitalism to the far more efficient order of socialism can only be brought about under a leadership of the workers. The workers must organize themselves independently of the capitalist political parties. They must organize a great party of their own, develop an independent working-class party of their own, and oppose the policy of the capitalist parties, regardless of whether they are called the Democratic or Republican, or anything else.
Q: What kind of a war would you consider a war waged by the present government of the United States?
A: I would consider it a capitalist war.
A: Because America is today a capitalist nation. It is different from the others only in that it is stronger than the others and bigger. We do not believe in capitalist policy. We do not want to gain any colonies. We do not want bloodshed to make profits for American capital.
Q: What is the party’s position on the claim that the war against Hitler is a war of democracy against fascism?
A: We say that is a subterfuge, that the conflict between American imperialism and German imperialism is for the domination of the world. It is absolutely true that Hitler wants to dominate the world, but we think it is equally true that the ruling group of American capitalists has the same idea, and we are not in favor of either of them.
We do not think that the Sixty Families who own America want to wage this war for some sacred principle of democracy. We think they are the greatest enemies of democracy here at home. We think they would only use the opportunity of a war to eliminate all civil liberties at home, to get the best imitation of fascism they can possibly get.
Q: What is the position of the party with reference to any imperialist or capitalist enemy of the United States, like Germany or Italy?
A: We are not pro-German. We absolutely are not interested in the success of any of the imperialist enemies of the United States.
Q: In case of a conflict between the United States and Germany, Italy, or Japan, what would the party’s position be so far as the victory or defeat of the United States, as against its imperialist enemies?
A: Well, we are certainly not in favor of a victory for Japan or Germany or any other imperialist power over the United States.
Q: Is it true then that the party is as equally opposed to Hitler as it is to the capitalist claims of the United States?
A: That is uncontestable. We consider Hitler and Hitlerism the greatest enemy of mankind. We want to wipe it off the face of the earth. The reason we do not support a declaration of war by American arms is because we do not believe the American capitalists can defeat Hitler and fascism. We think Hitlerism can be destroyed only by way of conducting a war under the leadership of the workers.
Q: What method does the party propose for the defeat of Hitler?
A: If the workers formed the government I spoke of, if the workers’ form of government were in power, we would propose two things:
One, that we issue a declaration to the German people, a solemn promise, that we are not going to impose another Versailles peace on them; that we are not going to cripple the German people, or take away their shipping facilities, or take away their milk cows, as was done in the horrible Treaty of Versailles, starving German babies at their mothers’ breasts, and filling the German people with such hatred and such demand for revenge that it made it possible for a monster like Hitler to rally them with the slogan of revenge against this terrible Treaty of Versailles. We would say to them:
“We promise you that we will not impose any of those things upon the German people. On the contrary, we propose to you a reorganization of the world on a fair socialist basis, where the German people, with all their recognized ability and their genius and labor, can participate equally with us.” That would be our party’s first proposal to them.
Second, we would also say to them, “On the other hand, we are going to build the biggest army and navy and air force in the world, to put at your disposal, to help smash Hitler by force of arms on one front, while you revolt against him on the home front.”
I think that would be the program, in essence, of our party, which the workers and farmers government of America would advance so far as Hitler is concerned, and we believe that is the only way Hitlerism will be destroyed.
‘Militant’ wages battle against censorship at federal prison
UK court pulls back from using ‘terrorism’ law to seize home
New documents highlight extensive gov’t spying
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home