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Vol. 74/No. 19      May 17, 2010

World capitalism is ‘outlived
and doomed system’
(Books of the Month column)
Printed below is an excerpt from Notebook of an Agitator, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for May. In writings that span political developments from the 1920s through the 1950s, James P. Cannon brings to life individuals and episodes from battles of the working-class movement against the employers and their cops and courts. Cannon was expelled from the Communist Party in 1928 for supporting Leon Trotsky’s fight to continue V.I. Lenin’s proletarian course. He was a founding leader of the Socialist Workers Party. Excerpted below is Cannon’s keynote speech to the 13th National Convention of the Socialist Workers Party on July 1, 1948, which was simultaneously broadcast over a nationwide network by the American Broadcasting System. Copyright © 1958 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted with permission.

American capitalism—the last solvent stronghold of an outlived and doomed world system—is trying to prop up the hated regimes of capitalists and kings and landlords by economic pressure and military force.

These are the two main elements of the present world crisis.

The Wall Street money-sharks, and the brass hats of Prussian mentality, are riding high in Washington these days. The masters of America, drunk with power, are threatening and terrifying the people of the world—seeking to dominate and enslave them—striving to transform the other countries of the world into colonies of the American empire.

Their program is a program of madness, and it is doomed to failure. The great majority of the peoples of the world do not want to be slaves of America. That is to their credit and we applaud them for it. The attempt to enslave them would be profitable only for the small group of monopolists—and the military caste, who dreams of careers as colonial administrators of conquered peoples.

But the criminal adventure would encounter such ferocious resistance that the American people at home would have to pay an enormous cost in living standards ruined by inflation, in the stamping out of democracy by military rule. And America’s young sons would have to pay in misery, blood and death. The American people would be among the first victims of the insane campaign of American imperialism to conquer and enslave the world.

To avoid this calamity it is necessary now to show the people of the world the other America. For there are two Americas—and millions of the people already distinguish between them.

One is the America of the imperialists—of the little clique of capitalists, landlords, and militarists who are threatening and terrifying the world. This is the America the people of the world hate and fear.

There is the other America—the America of the workers and farmers and the “little people.” They constitute the great majority of the people. They do the work of the country. They revere its old democratic traditions—its old record of friendship for the people of other lands, in their struggles against Kings and Despots—its generous asylum once freely granted to the oppressed.

This is the America which must and will solve the world crisis—by taking power out of the hands of the little clique of exploiters and parasites, and establishing a government of workers and farmers. The Workers’ and Farmers’ Government will immediately proceed to change things fundamentally—

Throw out the profit and rent hogs, and increase the living standards of the people who do the useful work.

Assure freedom and democratic rights to all, not forgetting those who are denied any semblance of them now.

Call back the truculent admirals from the seven seas—and ground the airplanes with their dangling bombs.

Hold out the hand of friendship and comradely help to the oppressed and hungry people in the world.

These people don’t want to fight anybody. They only want to live. There are two billion people in the world—and more than half of them don’t get enough to eat. These people should be helped—not threatened, not driven back into slavery, under the social system that has kept half of them hungry all their lives.

It is well to recall now that America was born of revolution in 1776, and secured its unity as a nation through another revolution—the Civil War—which smashed the abomination of chattel slavery in the process. Our great, rich, wonderful country was once the light and the hope of the world. But our America has fallen into the hands of a small, selfish group, who are trying to dominate the world—and to set up a police state at home….

The capitalist system has long outlived its usefulness. Capitalism offers no future to the people but depressions, imperialist wars, fascism, universal violence and a final plunge into barbarism.

To avoid such a fate, the workers of the United States must go into politics on their own account, independent of all capitalist politics. They must take power, establish a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government, and reorganize the economy of the country on a socialist basis. Socialist economy in the United States, eliminating capitalist wars, profits and waste, will be so productive as to ensure a rich living for all who are willing and able to work, and provide security and ample means for the aged and infirm.

We should also help the hungry people of the world to improve their standard of life. Socialist America will rapidly make that possible by helping them to secure their own freedom and develop their own economy. Eventually, the economy of the entire world will be united and planned on a socialist basis. This will bring universal peace—and undreamed of abundance for all people everywhere. The real upward march of humanity will begin.

The American working class can open up the way to this new world. They are the majority. They have the power in America. All that is necessary is for the working class to understand it—and to use it.

We firmly believe they will do so. We firmly believe the real America—the America of the workers, the people—will help save the world by saving herself.  
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