[Marxism] James P. Cannon demands US Out of Korea!

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Nov 29 09:50:18 MST 2003

The following was sent by  George Shriver, editor of the Labor
Standard web magazine, to the Labor Standard list, as part of a
discussion of the sharp rightward shift in the Socialist Workers
Party's position on the Iraq war.

The late James P. Cannon, author of the letter on Korea that Shriver
submitted, is one of my political leaders to this day.  Not being
inclined toward cultism, I have no problem with discussing his
strengths and weaknesses and how political conditions in his lifetime
affected his work.  But I think this letter, even independently of its
gross contrast with the capitulatory stance of the Militant on the
Iraq war today, is useful primarily as a useful example of how to
respond by colonial wars by any imperialist power but for maintaining
a clear sense of proportion about James P. Cannon.  He was a deeply
committed  and unshak
able working-class, anticapitalist, and anti-imperialist rebel for a
lifetime of many decades.

In his introductory comments, Shriver writes, "contrast Barnes's
deference toward Bush, Rumselfd, and Co. (and the Militant condemning
the British anti-Bush demonstrators as 'British nationalists'!) to the
kind of position Cannon took when the Korean War started.

"The first of three 'Open Letters' to Truman and the Congress by James
P. Cannon, from the Militant of 1950 (when it really was militant) and
from 'Notebooks of an Agitator,' is in the message area below.

"Cannon didn't advise comrades to listen to the Rumsfelds of that day,
or direct his fire against the 'liberal' critics of the war.

"Just substitute Iraq for Korea, and we could send substantially the
same letter to Bush and the Congress today."


NOTEBOOK of AN AGITATOR [published today by Pathfinder]

THE MILITANT July 31, 1950

A Letter to the President and Members of the Congress

To the President and Members of the Congress:


I disagree with your actions in Korea, and in my capacity as a private
citizen I petition you to change your policy fundamentally, as

Withdraw the American troops and let the Korean people alone!

I am setting forth the reasons for this demand in detail in the
following paragraphs. But before opening the argument, I beg your
permission, gentlemen, to tell you what I think of you. You are a pack
of scoundrels. You are traitors to the human race. I hate your
rudeness and your brutality. You make me, ashamed of my country, which
I have always loved, and ashamed of my race, which I used to think was
as good as any.

The American intervention in Korea is a brutal imperialist invasion,
no different from the French war on Indo-China or the Dutch assault on
Indonesia. American boys are being sent 10,000 miles away to kill and
be killed, not in order to liberate the Korean people,  but to conquer
and subjugate them. It is outrageous. It is monstrous.

The whole of the Korean people--save for the few bought-and-paid-for
agents of the Rhee puppet regime--are fighting the imperialist
invaders. That is why the press dispatches from Korea complain more
and more about "infiltration" tactics, increasing activities of
"guerrillas", the "fluid" fighting front, the "sullenness" and
"unreliability" of the "natives".

The Korean people have a mortal hatred of the Wall Street "liberator".
They despise unto death the bestial, corrupt, U.S.sponsored Syngman
Rhee dictatorship that made South Korea a prison camp of misery,
torture and exploitation.

The high morale and fearlessness of the North Koreans and the
hostility of the South Koreans toward their U.S. "liberators" alike
testify to the unity of the entire Korean people in this unflinching
opposition to imperialistic domination.

The explosion in Korea on June 25, as events have proved, expressed
the profound desire of the Koreans themselves to unify their country,
to rid themselves of foreign domination and to win their complete
national independence.

It is true that the Kremlin seeks to take advantage of this struggle
for its own reactionary ends and would sell it tomorrow if it could
get another deal with Washington. But the struggle itself has the
overwhelming and whole-hearted support of the Korean people.

It is part of the mighty uprising of the hundreds of millions of
colonial people throughout Asia against Western imperialism. This is
the real truth, the real issue. The colonial slaves don't want to be
slaves any longer.

This is more than a fight for unification and national liberation. It
is a civil war. On the one side are the Korean workers, peasants and
student youth. On the other are the Korean landlords, usurers,
capitalists and their police and political agents. The impoverished
and exploited working masses have risen up to drive out the native
parasites as well as their foreign protectors.

Whatever the wishes of the Kremlin, a class war has been unfolding in
Korea. The North Korean regime, desiring to mobilize popular support,
has decreed land reforms and taken nationalization measures in the
territories it has won. The establishment of people's committees has
been reported: These reforms, these promises of a better economic and
social order, have attracted the peasants and workers. This prospect
of a new life is what has imbued a starving subject people with the
will to fight to the death. This is the "secret weapon" that has
wrested two-thirds of South Korea from U.S. imperialism and its native
agents and withstood the troops and bombing fleets of mighty Wall

American imperialism was quite willing to turn northern Korea over to
Stalin in return for control over South Korea, which it ruled through
the bloody dictatorship of Syngman Rhee. Now Washington is seeking,
against the resistance of the Korean people, to reimpose its
imperialist puppet rule, to enforce the division of Korea and to
maintain it as a colony and military base for future war on the Soviet

There is not an iota of concern for the wishes and rights of the
Korean people in this brutal invasion. The attempt to prop up the
Syngman Rhee regime by armed force is part of Wall Street's planned
program to dominate and exploit the whole world. Your undeclared war
on Korea, Mr. President, is a war of enslavement.  That is how the
Korean people themselves view it--and no one knows the facts better
than they do. They've suffered imperialist domination and degradation
for half a century and they can recognize its face even when masked
with a UN flag.

The right in this struggle is all on the side of the Korean people.
Like the colonial peoples everywhere in Asia, they want no part of
U.S. or even UN "liberation".  They want the American troops to get
out of Korea. They want freedom from all foreign domination. They want
to decide their own fate.

The American people well remember the War of Independence that brought
this nation its freedom from British tyranny. In the spirit of this
revolutionary and democratic tradition of ours, I call upon you to
halt the unjust war on Korea. Withdraw all American aimed forces so
that the Korean people can have full freedom to work out their destiny
in their own way. I submit this to the Congress as a motion.

James P. Cannon

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