BY BERNIE SENTER
BROOKLYN - "We decided that by calling our paper the Militant, this would indicate our intention of appealing directly to the vanguard, to the cadre people, to the militants - a paper of and for the vanguard."
This is how James P. Cannon, the first editor of the Militant, described how the paper got it's name. The Militant began publishing in 1928. Cannon made these remarks at a Los Angeles meeting celebrating the 30th anniversary of the paper held on Nov. 15, 1958. The meeting helped raise funds in the same way the $125,000 Militant Fund campaign today is raising money to keep this working- class paper available week after week.
"The name was deliberately designed to express its distinctive character. It is not so commonly used nowadays as it was in the earlier movement. `Militant' was the word for the active, fighting member of the various radical organizations - IWW [International Workers of the World] militants, Socialist Party militants, anarchist militants. Nowadays, they have a much weaker word, I think, for that. They say `activists.' Those that are always working for the organization. But in the old days we called these people the militants, which is activism plus."
Cannon went on to say, "We did not pretend when we started the Militant, that we were producing a great mass paper, simplifying everything to the lowest common denominator. On the contrary, our paper was devoted to the education and re-education of the vanguard militants of the Communist movement.
"It was primarily a cadre paper, the educator and guide of the cadres. The people who hold the party together and keep it going in all kinds of weather. The people that never quit. Who never float down the stream like dead fish, but swim against the current no matter how rough it may be. That is the meaning of `militant' and that was the meaning of the paper we started to represent such people.
"The Militant," explained Cannon, "from its first issue up to the latest one to come off the press has been the champion of the Russian Revolution and the advocate of its extension throughout the world. That has been the central meaning of every expression of revolutionary socialism in every part of the world since November 1917."
The Militant continues that tradition today by defending and telling the truth about the Cuban revolution in issue after issue.
In his talk, Cannon discussed what Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin argued - in his pamphlet What Is To Be Done? - the role of a nationwide socialist paper should be. "As Lenin conceived it, the role of a revolutionary paper is to function not merely as an agitator dealing with protest issues, not merely as a propagandist concerned with educating people and dealing with questions of theory and politics, but as the best organizer of the party."
"That was the way we conceived our Militant and for that reason the Militant was never and never could be a personal organ. It broke entirely with the earlier socialist tradition in this country in which the most widely circulated press, the most influential press, was privately owned and privately conducted enterprise."
Today, the Militant Fund appeals to those Cannon talked about-fighting working people and youth-to finance the publication of the paper. For 67 years - since 1928 - that is how the Militant has been maintained. And for 67 years this paper has kept rolling off the presses to be sold at picket lines and factory gates, in working-class neighborhoods and campuses, and at political activities like the Harlem meeting to welcome Fidel Castro.
As the chart shows, we are now at 31 percent of our $125,000 goal. This past week we received $8,784 with supporters in some cities beginning to catch up but most areas making modest payments.
To keep putting the Militant into the hands of more militants, we ask you to send in your contribution today. If you've made a pledge, the paper needs to receive steady payments every week. Please make out your check to the Militant Fund.
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