Celia Hart Reports on World Congress of Intellectuals in Caracas, Venezuela

Socialism: The Only “Better World”

[This translation by W.T. Whitney, Jr., is an edited version of a draft translation by Maria Montelibre. Another edited version may be found on Walter Lippmann’s web site.

[W.T. Whitney, Jr., whose articles have appeared frequently in Labor Standard, has been active for many years in the Maine group called Let Cuba Live and has often visited Cuba, especially as part of annual Friendshipments bringing medical aid to the people of Cuba in defiance of the blockade by U.S. corporate power.

[Some editorial notes have been added to Celia Hart’s text by Labor Standard. See the section of notes following the body of Celia Hart’s article.

[The original Spanish text of Celia Hart’s article, dated December 12, 2004, may be found on the Internet by clicking here.]

Caracas is once again the queen of the left for the entire world. The Congress of Intellectuals in Defense of Humanity [in December 2004] brought hundreds of the world’s foremost progressives together to bid hello to December. The representatives of a thousand and one tendencies were on hand trying to come to some agreement on the ethical future of the world. Our job was to see if it’s a good time to redirect the compass. I was there, full of expectations, mixed up with my chronic skepticism.

The summits, congresses, and world assemblies with all of their rhetoric have put a damper on my expectations of their usefulness. Perhaps this time we will not be locked into the song and dance of denouncing the world’s calamities, the violations of human and divine laws, and the contrariness of our enemies. It’s a question now of looking for ways to carry out our struggle and determining the resources we have available to bring about a definitive end to imperialism. If we don’t succeed in finding specific answers, if we don’t come once and for all out of the shelter of academe, then our descendants will judge this generation of thinkers to be no more than a useless conglomeration of voyeurs.

At the Third International Seminar of Pedagogy recently held in Peru, James Petras remarked: “Social forums used to be positive, good for getting together, discussing, forming networks, and approving a declaration or two. But now they’ve become almost rituals, like a social gathering, where people rub elbows, invite some important personages, and carry out a march. And then everybody goes on home. I believe now they’ve lost the sharp edge of rebellion, of real criticism. A retrospective look suggests that they’ve not had much effect.”

I agree. And as is often the case, there’s a flag that appears to be missing at world conferences of the left, which is not much talked about because of fear and, what with restrictions imposed by political parties, it’s locked out. I mean Socialism. Many sincere comrades are claiming the end of the “isms.” It’s pathetic, especially because fascism, militarism, and imperialism fill up our lives from dawn to dusk. These tendencies—they are like a “leftist Fukuyama-ism”—quite openly refer to the tragedy of the current left. They oppose political parties and anyone with “isms.” We’ll have to confine ourselves to prayers, descriptions, and proclamations. I confess that for me the slogan “A better world is possible” seems like resignation. A better world is of course possible, but a worse one is too! The slogan limits our possibilities. I dream about some extraterrestrial on the way to construct it, or even worse—as if there were any chance that those tender words might move our enemies on a summer morning, while they sip their orange juice.

Chávez said it, “It is possible to have a better world…if we ourselves make it possible! In fact, it seems ironical that up against a Dantesque scenario of wars, lies, and poverty, we could even talk about a better world.

The Berlin Wall fell over a decade ago, and we haven’t been able to get over the psychological trauma caused by “actually existing socialism.” We’ll have to bring in all the world’s psychoanalysts to see if we can free ourselves from this curse. I hope we don’t waste another seventy years doing it. While we were going to the analyst, the enemy would be building wall after twisted wall, all the while smothering us with apocalyptic phrases like “preemptive war,” “axis of evil,” and other idiocies. And as if that weren’t enough, that same enemy wins the U.S. elections.

I ask myself, what flag could ever mean more than that of socialism? Now that globalization has descended upon us all over the world, what could be better than to take up socialist ideas again, squeeze them, fiddle with them, mix them up, and then present the enemy with true international solidarity as an alternative to capitalist globalization. [As José Martí said:] “With all and for the good of all, but José Martí of course would have said more. Only with “all” joined together will it be possible to shove wood under the kettle. And “all” ought to be yearning not only for a better world but also for one that is qualitatively different.

There is only one alternative to barbarism. Frederick Engels said it: socialism, that very socialism that in Rosa Luxemburg’s words is not just a problem of ways and means, but is a cultural movement, and an all-encompassing, powerful world view.

Any flag is welcome, as long as it is a real one: Bolívar’s, Hidalgo’s, those of San Martín and José Martí, and all of the rest, anywhere, flags that fill places of honor in our history. We have to follow, if only out of respect for them.

Julio Antonio Mella brought Martí back to life, because he courageously absorbed him and assimilated the new scientific findings of Karl Marx. And somehow he converted Martí into [himself,] the founder of the first Communist Party in Cuba. Mella said that “in order to make a revolution in this century, something new is needed, socialist ideas, ideas that one way or another are taking root in every corner of the world.”

Fidel Castro and his comrades [also] came back and saved José Martí from the enemy, because they actually converted him into the intellectual author of a socialist revolution. Enough romanticism! That’s why Martí is still alive, because had he talked with Karl Marx—they would have been of one mind from their first cup of coffee—he would have passed on some insights about U.S. issues, the events in Chicago, for example. Martí certainly could have alerted Marx to the emergence of imperialism, having lived as he did in the belly of the beast.

[Note by “Labor Standard”: For more on José Martí and the “events in Chicago,” see Labor Standard note below.]

[The Peruvian] José Carlos Mariategui [1894–1930] sought for a vision of socialism and class struggle adapted creatively and heroically to the present situation. Such a vision will enable us to see to it that Bolívar and so many of our predecessors did not work in vain. Our responsibility is enormous. No longer will we be able to blame Stalin and “actually existing socialism” for our failures and prejudices. It’s time to take out the sword and pen, conquer and win people’s hearts, taking up the only flags that will improve our world and that of our children.

The enemy is certainly in crisis. But if we don’t become conscious of that reality, and quickly, then we will be swept away irrevocably.

And really how healthy is socialism? I am bold enough to propose a quite simplified “measuring” stick. The revolution is a process. Natural processes are measured in terms of variations in magnitude over time. Let’s try to measure a social process like that.

Let’s do it like this: we’ll call SOC a magnitude that measures the extent to which a revolution is socialist at any given point in time. Let’s take three examples.

First, Cuba’s socialist revolution has proven itself to be permanent despite harassment from imperialism. It demonstrated its staying power in the 1990s by surviving the fall of European socialism, while simultaneously having to confront a tightened U.S. blockade. This is a clear fact that attests to the health of our socialist revolution. The SOC factor moves significantly upward.

Without a doubt, legalization of the dollar for trade and commerce and a rapid growth of tourism and joint ventures—functioning under capitalist rules—have become bitter pills for the revolution to swallow, more so even than the special period. Some Cubans are adopting a capitalist mentality. The goals seemed similar to Lenin’s as he imposed the New Economic Policy on the young Soviet state, although the Cuban experience was quite dissimilar to the NEP. But based on this measure, our variable takes a dip, just as was the case in the USSR.

Next we look at the so-called battle of ideas that began with the campaign to return Elián González to his homeland. This was the point at which Fidel began to build one impressive revolution inside the other. The education of social workers, young teachers, and paramedic personnel moved forward together with a little known educational revolution by which the student–teacher ratio fell to 20:1 in a two-year period. Not only did the quality of education improve but, more importantly, the revolutionary process took in tens of thousands of students. Most of them had been idle until then, thinking mainly about dollars—legalized for a while—or about emigrating. I understand that a revolution is a tumultuous process, and not everyone will be with the revolution. The ideological battle is part of the process too.

There are now two educational channels that are quite different from the usual channels. Cultural rather than commercial criteria determine the programming, which includes daily roundtables, weekly open forums, and university teaching, open to anybody, on subjects such as the history of philosophy, ballet, or the sciences. Fidel speaks frequently to the people on television, and those appearances have raised the political level of public discourse and contributed to the culture of debate, despite tendencies toward repetition and sloganeering. Overall, these changes do represent a decisive step-up in the SOC factor.

It’s not Fidel’s job or that of revolutionary Cubans to build socialism, simply because socialism in one country is not in the cards. It is possible, however, to augment the SOC aspect of the socialist revolution, and toward that end forces must be in place to counteract tendencies toward capitalist restoration. We knowingly took on problematic cures in order to survive the 1994 legalization of the dollar. Two forces are at war with each other inside the same revolution. Fidel devotes most of his time and all of his efforts to these struggles, the battle of ideas. This new revolution originated out of specific projects that involve the most revolutionary social strata. The campaign against the mosquito that carries the yellow fever virus, for example, became a political campaign, because high school students took charge.

Despite the relative worthlessness of our national currency, we avoid layoffs. Sugar workers left without work receive salaries for studying. Despite economic “poverty” Cuba boasts sports programs and indicators of health and education outcome more appropriate to developed nations.

One has to see the expression on Fidel Castro’s face on days when a small battle against pro-capitalist forces is won, when, for example, the dollar was replaced by the convertible peso. More than just changing from one paper to another, a symbolism was working that put a smile on Fidel’s face that would not leave, even with his accident and everything else. No longer would green money graze the hands of young Cubans.

What about internationalism? Tens of thousands of our compatriots are working as doctors, teachers, or technicians in Latin America countries. Once they became involved in the tragedy that is Haiti, international organizations were astounded to learn that for every doctor there on the ground from developed countries, there were a hundred Cuban doctors. Those youngsters carry with them—besides their conscience—a piece of the Cuban revolution. And it’s not cost-free. People helping out in Venezuela are unavailable to care for people in Cuba.

Internationalism has a price. We aren’t giving away surpluses. We provide what is near and dear.

In the same vein, while the Conference of Intellectuals and Artists was going on in Caracas the Eighth Congress of the Union of Communist Youth (UJC) took place in Havana. The UJC has had a leadership role in the battle of ideas, along with Fidel of course. On the last day of the conference, Fidel came out, wearing his traditional green uniform. From his remarks we could breathe in the concept of revolution put into practice. The battle of ideas has cost less than 2% of the national income over five years, but has produced hundreds of thousands of new comrades—a revolutionary cost-effectiveness without precedent.

Fidel was finishing up, and as always he invited us into the struggle. Anyone criticizing the Cuban government as bureaucratic, I ask if they know any president anywhere who talks about electricity consumed by the million or so television sets in Cuban homes, or about school lunches, or about mothers of handicapped children receiving a salary just for taking care of their children. No, nobody speaks about changing everything [as Fidel does]—with the happy exception of compañero Hugo Chávez.

This shows even more that we are in a revolution. And we will not give it up, no matter how imperiled the world may be. They have taken prisoners of war, our five comrades—internationalist fighters imprisoned in the United States for defending the revolution against imperialism and its Miami hirelings. We know that our socialist revolution is permanent, because those are U.S. prisons that are holding our political prisoners. Fidel concludes with “Socialism forever!” Again and again, he calls it out to the rhythm of the Internationale. Thousands of Cubans youngsters sing out “Arise, ye wretched of the earth!” They raise their fists and attest to their faith in this continuity.

The second example is legendary China, where from my point of view exactly the opposite is taking place. The Chinese Party (is it Communist?) says it is building socialism. But not again: socialism in one country. Private property in China is going up, not down. I read that big capitalists head off to China out of choice. The country has become a giant export machine. Total exports there grew eightfold, to more than 380 billion dollars between 1990 and 2003. Five hundred of the planet’s biggest multinational corporations have invested and have plants there. And to ease tensions caused by state corporations laying off 45 million workers in the last five years, Beijing has allowed foreigners to put 450 billion dollars into its economy. It looks to me that [in the case of China] the socialist market economy adds up to a lot more than just a temporary NEP.

If the economy is so powerful, why do 58,000 workers go out on strike, only to be designated criminals? Why is 23% of the Chinese workforce unemployed, why does privatization rule the lives of 170 million people, and why do low productivity and population growth lead to downsizing of state-owned corporations? Why does the World Health Organization say that seven out of ten of the world’s most polluted cities are found in the People’s Republic of China? Could it be that the Chinese will end up with the means they rely upon rather than the ends they had intended? Do social indices in China correspond at all to Chinese economic power? And if there is a repeat of the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, do we support the Chinese Communist Party just because it has a communist label? I can understand that at this juncture China is counting on a jump from economic efficiency, and I have already explained how Cuba is doing just that, in some sense. But, where is China’s antidote? How many Chinese are teaching or taking care of the sick in Asia? What is their position on anti-imperialism? That’s the difference. In my country two tendencies are at war with each other, and socialism has the advantage.  In China, the Communist Party invites business types to become members. One must recognize that China has switched over to become the model of efficiency in the capitalist world. I have no urge, however, to applaud that achievement. In China the socialist revolution is moribund.

China goes its own way, keeping up tight relations with developed nations (or undeveloped, as I should say). But they are still just trade relations. I trust that history will not be repeating itself in China. Karl Marx said that events happen first as tragedy (we learned that ourselves), and then, later on, as farce.

My third example is Venezuela. Does Venezuela represent a victorious socialist revolution? We’ll know in a few years, as the process of revolution is consolidated. These are some of the questions: Has the Venezuelan government moved toward radical positions over time? Yes. Does the government deal with the evil effects of capitalist society by seeking out alternative solutions? Yes. Does the Bolivarian revolution gain stature as it contends with imperialism? Yes. Do “yes” answers make the Venezuelan revolution a socialist one? We still don’t know. Time must pass, and obstacles have to be eliminated. This question highlights our yearnings, our hopes, and our doubts. What is important is that with the passage of time, Venezuela is becoming more radical and less capitalist.

Cuba was an avalanche—an abrupt change sketched out in a few years. We live in different eras. A lot of water has gone over the dam since the miraculous 1960s. Chávez and his project live with the bad taste left over from the death of “actually existing socialism.”

There are compensating factors, of course. It’s the Cuban socialist revolution that emerges as a model, not the Stalinist USSR. And Bolívar serves as precedent. Bolívar was up against emerging national bourgeoisies, classes now openly allied with the Empire. It’s enough for Hugo Chávez to aspire to cover ground worked by the Liberator, for that process to become radicalized. That’s what happened in Cuba with José Martí. To be Bolivarian and faithful to the implications of that cause, Chávez will not be able to skip over the teachings of Lenin, Trotsky, Che, and Fidel. It’s not possible to leap from the 19th to the 21st century without running into this line of thought.

If this man is truly embarked upon Christian endeavor, he’ll have no alternative, but to build up the level of SOC in the Bolivarian Revolution. In that way, we may some day be seeing an authentic socialist revolution with pronounced internationalist characteristics, “without realizing it,” as Che might say.

On the other hand, [Venezuela’s Bolivarian] revolution—as defined by its multiple misiones [social programs] (the misión Robinson, misión Barrio Adentro, and many more)—has acquired a special likeness to the revolution in my own country. The open struggles against landowners added an anti-bureaucracy element to the October 31 electoral campaign. That hiked up the SOC indicators that we defined earlier.

So there is good news too. We are reckoning with two revolutions taking root and opening new hopes in Latin America. We need many more. Two proven revolutionaries are in charge of them.  It’s time now to go back to calling things by the right name. We shy away from radical vocabulary. The ones who call for the end of “isms” and “istas” leave it open as to whether or not they are including words like “socialism” or “socialist revolution” or “communist party” in their censorship.

Chávez in his remarks at the Caracas meeting clearly said, “One is aware of a resurgent force that every day, everywhere is growing, a human, moral, and political force. Things are happening in Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Libya, Moscow, and Iran. They speak Russian, Persian, Spanish, Portuguese, but it’s the same sparkle, the same force.”

What is Commandante Chávez referring to? What is the only force in the world that can be held up as a common denominator among the poor? The Communist Manifesto, the specter that haunted Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries, is taking off now as the only real alternative to humanity’s misfortunes.

President Chávez has declared that, in the face of these realities, “It is the duty of all the revolutionaries of the world to create a network of social and political organizations and shape an international movement that moves onto the offensive.

He goes on: “There are no national solutions. They are trying to inflict upon us that most savage form of globalization, which is neo-liberalism. It is a world problem, and the solution transcends the borders of one country.

And calling for an offensive to save humanity, he proposes, “to organize a network of theorists whose thinking rises to the level of a creative, transforming, and critical force to light the way toward a new world view for humanity.

We have then three items: the struggle understood as an end to national borders, left forces (political parties and social movements) endowed with cohesiveness and maturity, and radical thought on the offensive. We move beyond the enemy’s archaic terminology—terrorism, human rights, and democracy—to speak of revolution, socialism, and class struggle. And for the sake of consistency, I dream now about the word “international.” Up against global imperialism, that strong word is essential.

Hugo Chávez has just launched a historic undertaking with this meeting of intellectuals. He is inviting us into the American dream, in fact the real one. In contrast to Bush, who envisions the U.S. as a “homeland” of owners [an “ownership society”], Chávez is calling for the formation of a Latin American homeland, which will be a homeland for all the workers of the world. A homeland for today, to start working on today. These true goals are the ones we aim for, even if we don’t achieve them. The goals are the Patria (“homeland”) conceived by Simón Bolívar, the America Nuestra [Our America] of José Martí. I tremble when I think of the proverb that says, “The third try is the one that wins.”

Chávez said, “Out of this century comes our truth. We will have a fatherland, and the fatherland is our AmericaCaribbean and Latin American. Now is the time to think and to do. The battle is today, not tomorrow. We take advantage of time, not fritter it away. We have been called to invent the fatherland, make it free, and liberate it once and for all, for the sake of our peoples.

This commitment asks more of us than reading the history of the Americas and arriving at ways to mobilize our peoples. We need more, a whole army, for example, of thinkers and fighters. Right off we have to appeal to the heritage of socialist thought. And as Armando Hart used to repeat almost endlessly, “Profit comes out of the inventory.” [That is, make use of the existing legacy to advance further.] We will allow that, because he and the others [of the July 26 Movement in Cuba] were not perfect. But the positive legacy of these men will inspire our “new president” [Chávez] in the final battle for the Americas.

Now, just for today, having come across a recent article by Carlos Alberto Montaner, I am taking the liberty of reminding this tribunal of revolutionary thinkers about Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky takes the prize in the Guinness book of records as the most defamed revolutionary in history. As far as that personage is concerned, many, even communists, inadvertently go along with the enemy. Trotsky has been accused of absolutely everything: being a fascist, an imperialist, an assassin, a sectarian, and putting the brakes on the revolution. The charitable ones maintain that Trotsky’s ideas are unnecessary, because they are obsolete. And now Carlos Alberto Montaner comes along, a well-known enemy of the Cuban revolution. He alleges that in Trotsky’s final days he gave up on socialism and the revolution and embraced the market economy and representative democracy. It’s too much! But the blame is ours for allowing what Trotsky represents to be restricted just to the so-called “Trotskyist parties,” as if he were off the roster of revolutionaries, as if he were not the leading thinker who alerted us to the end of the USSR from a Marxist point of view. More than anyone else, Trotsky analyzed the means by which a revolution and a Communist Party in power can be liquidated.

The fall of “actually existing socialism” can neither be analyzed nor understood without reading Leon Trotsky. And that analysis is by no means old hat; it’s right up to date. With his own flesh he experienced the excesses of a bureaucracy in power in a “socialist” state. He also developed one of the most essential concepts of revolutionary thought, the permanent revolution. Not only is it wrong not to keep him at our side as one of the foremost revolutionaries, but the neglect of Trotsky has led to obvious deficiencies in our revolutionary practice.

Internationalism, permanent revolution, and the impossibility of socialism in one country: these are key revolutionary considerations. As a Marxist, Trotsky has been accused of many things, but never of being a revisionist. If anything, he went the other way. Che and Fidel followed in his path, although they may not have known it. The slogan “create two, three, many Vietnams” epitomizes for Latin America the practice of both permanent revolution and internationalism.

All communists, not just Trotskyists, must give Trotsky his due as a contributor to revolutionary thought. A mention of communism should, with the next breath, evoke the name Leon Trotsky.  And Trotskyism is more than just one ramification within Marxism.

James Cannon, one of the founding leaders [in 1919] of the Communist movement in the United States, said [later] in 1942, “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.”

[Note by “Labor Standard”:  The quotation is from page one of James P. Cannon’s History of American Trotskyism (New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1944). For more on James P. Cannon, see “Labor Standard Notes” below.]

According to Montaner, “In his last days in Mexico, before he was murdered by Ramón Mercader, that son of a crazy Cuban, Trotsky was beginning to reject the idea of tyranny and discovering the value of economic and political freedom and the importance of formal democracy.”

But in 1932 Trotsky stated: “Only a powerful increase in productive forces and a sound, planned, that is, socialist, organization of production and distribution can assure humanity—all  humanity—a decent standard of life and at the same time give it the precious feeling of freedom with respect to its own economy” [emphasis added—Labor Standard].

[Note by “Labor Standard”: This quotation is from “In Defense of the Russian Revolution,” a speech Trotsky gave in Copenhagen, Denmark, in November 1932. We have used the English-language wording that appeared in Leon Trotsky Speaks, edited by Sarah Lovell (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1972), p. 267. For more on this quotation, and the context of Trotsky’s speech, see “Labor Standard Notes” below.]

So Montaner is referring to a freedom Trotsky had extolled many years before. For the sake of that freedom he had organized the Red Army, worked at Lenin’s side, and ultimately gave his best years and life itself.

But we know that Montaner is referring to “freedom” in the sense of the impunity exercised by exploiters. What sort of injustice have we dealt Leon Trotsky when one of socialism’s worst enemies can go on like this unchallenged? If we allow a thing like this to continue, we are complicit in a deathblow to a revolutionary thinker, one worse than Mercader’s in 1940. And this kind of attack on Trotsky does irreparable harm to the ideas of socialism.

Luckily, Hugo Chávez cheered us up by looking at the other side of the coin. In the closing session of the Caracas conference, he quoted words from a book by Trotsky he had bought in Madrid. “In the Permanent Revolution, the Bolshevik revolutionary states that the problems of individual nations are not susceptible to national solutions, but involve all the peoples of the world.”

They say that a lie runs on for 100 years, but the truth can catch up in a day. That’s what happens when there is an honest search for the correct road. In fact, all those roads lead to socialism. They have set up a permanent office in Caracas for anti-globalization. This might be the first office of the permanent revolution.

I have to go back once more to the article by Carlos Alberto Montaner, because I believe that again he is barking up the wrong tree. The man also complains because I called him a terrorist. And he may be right. If imperialists say my Palestinian brothers are terrorists, as they struggle for their people’s self-determination, then Montaner is no terrorist. If Iraqi fighters in Fallujah are terrorists, for courageously confronting the strongest and most cowardly army in the world, then Montaner is no terrorist. Nor is he a terrorist, if the Cuban revolutionaries are called terrorists, those who fought against a criminal, pro-U.S. dictatorship and who in less than seven years achieved power and established an authentic socialist revolution. But this gentleman [Montaner] is an enemy of the Cuban people. He supposes that after four decades of knowing what dignity is all about, we’ll go backwards. We have learned how to behave as free people, and now for the Cuban people to “peacefully” go back to a corrupt so-called republic and to accept imperialism is impossible. His fantasies about my country going back half a century to the days when it was the casino of the U.S. are almost infantile. Fidel speculated that socialism would triumph in the U.S. before counterrevolution takes over in Cuba.

As for myself and my “revisionism,” I say this: I don’t expect the corrupt, vicious formal democracy proposed by Montaner ever to be reinstalled in Cuba. But if it were, if the Cuban revolution were to fail, if backward forces were to triumph over the revolutionary battle of ideas, then my course is clear. I’ll check the bullets in my magazine and the barrel of my rifle. And the only currents to which we Cubans and communists everywhere will attend are the currents of air blowing anew in the Sierra Maestra. And I can assure Mr. Montaner that marching with me, besides Fidel, Che, Marx, and Lenin, at the head of our column will be the First Soldier, Leon Trotsky.

With great pride I take my place in the ranks of Montaner’s “terrorists.”


“Labor Standard” Notes

[José Martí wrote a stirring tribute to the Haymarket martyrs of Chicago at the time when they were “legally” lynched by Corporate America in 1886. See the article about this by W.T. Whitney, Jr., in Labor Standard, Vol. 1, No. 3, July-August 1999, page 57.]

[James P. Cannon’s History of American Trotskyism was originally delivered in the spring of 1942 as a series of lectures in New York City. It describes the difficult fight of maintaining a genuine Marxist working class movement in the world’s richest capitalist country up through the 1938 founding of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Not long after that, in the summer of 1941, came the Smith Act indictments against SWP leaders and militant Minneapolis Teamsters by the “Democratic” administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, gearing up for World War II. On Cannon’s role as a founding leader of the American Communist movement in 1919, after having been a leading figure in the left wing of Eugene V. Debs’s Socialist Party and in the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, or “Wobblies”—and on his expulsion (by a pro-Stalin majority) from leadership and membership in the American Communist Party in 1928 for the “crime” of Trotskyism—see his book The First Ten Years of American Communism: Report of a Participant (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1962).]

[Note on 1932 quotation from Trotsky: The full paragraph in which the quoted sentences appear makes the full meaning of Trotsky’s remarks more clear:

[“Capitalism has outlived itself as a world system. It has ceased to fulfill its essential mission, the increase of human power and human wealth. Humanity cannot stand still at the level which it has reached. Only a powerful increase in productive forces and a sound, planned, that is, socialist, organization of production and distribution can assure humanity—all humanity—of a decent standard of life and at the same time give it the precious feeling of freedom with respect to its own economy. Freedom in two senses—first of all, man [that is, human beings collectively] will no longer be compelled to devote the greater part of his life to physical labor. Second, he will no longer be dependent on the laws of the market, that is, on the blind and dark forces which have grown up behind his back. He will build up his economy freely, that is, according to a plan, with compass in hand. This time it is a question of subjecting the anatomy of society to the X-ray through and through, of disclosing all its secrets and subjecting all its functions to the reason and the will of a collective humanity. In this sense, socialism must become a new step in the historical advance of mankind.”

[It is of interest to note that this 1932 speech, expressing views which Trotsky stood by the rest of his life—including his views on human freedom—was given under quite difficult circumstances. Trotsky had been living on the island of Prinkipo, in the Sea of Marmara, near Istanbul, the capital of Turkey, since February1929, when he had been forcibly deported from the USSR by the Stalin leadership. Earlier the Stalin faction had expelled him from the Soviet Communist Party, in November 1927, and then held him in internal exile during most of 1928 in Alma-Ata, capital of the remote region of Kazakhstan, near the border with China. From 1929 until mid-1933, no country in the “democratic” world of Western Europe or North America would grant Trotsky a residence permit, and so he had been forced to live on Prinkipo, Turkey, removed and isolated from the main streams of political life. In 1932, the Danish Social Democratic government allowed Trotsky to briefly visit Denmark and give the speech from which this quotation is taken. But they quickly hustled him out of their country after a few days. (He was in Denmark from November 23 to December 2, 1932.) Only in June 1933 did a “democratic” government in France allow Trotsky to come live in that country, but the French leaders soon demanded he leave. In 1935 the newly elected Social Democratic government of Norway granted him permission to live there, and he arrived in Norway in June 1935. But in August 1936, when Stalin started his infamous Moscow frame-up trials of former Bolshevik leaders, the Norwegian Social Democratic minister of justice, Trygve Lie (later a secretary-general of the United Nations), placed Trotsky under restrictions. Trotsky was held incommunicado, under house arrest, from mid-August to mid-December 1936 (see his account of this experience, “In Socialist Norway,” in Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1936–37). Only the Mexican government of Lázaro Cárdenas was then willing to accept the “dangerous Bolshevik,” Trotsky, who sailed to Mexico from Norway, lived in Mexico, mainly at Coyoacan, a suburb of Mexico City, from 1937 until August 1940, when he was assassinated by Stalin’s agent, Ramón Mercader. That Trotsky’s views at the end of his life, both on the question of human freedom and of revolutionary socialism, remained as they had been throughout his adult life may be seen by reading such works as In Defense of Marxism (1940) and Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1939–40. —Labor Standard]