|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Sunday, January 02, 2011
All will be artists. All will be workers and students, builders and creators. All will be free and equal. Human solidarity will encircle the globe and conquer it and subordinate it to the uses of man.Cannon's deeds have prevailed all right. You may never have heard of him, but the world we live in would be noticeably different if Cannon had never lived, or had made different choices. Ignazio Silone once said that the final conflict would be between the communists and the ex-communists. One less-than-final but still significant conflict today, that over the left's response to war, is between those who work and think along the lines that Cannon laid down and those - the inheritors, whether they know it or not, of Shachtman on the one hand and of Stalinism on the other - who don't. Without Cannon, there wouldn't be an antiwar movement. There would be a 'peace' movement, begging the warmakers to see sense. There would be a 'Decent left', cheering the warmakers on. And that - give or take a few fringe intransigents - would be that.
How did Cannon acquire the confidence that the cause for which he fought had 'social evolution' on its side? As a youth he walked into a meeting to hear a lecture on 'Marx and Darwin'. That lecture, and further study, convinced him 'theoretically - and that is the firmest conviction there is' that capitalism is inseparable from crises and wars, that the great majority of working people would sooner or later be compelled to move into action against these crises and wars, and that they would establish as capitalism's successor system one of global co-operation for abundance, peace, and freedom. 'The victory of Socialist America is already written in the stars.'
Nothing that has happened since his death in 1974 would have surprised him if he'd lived to see it, or disillusioned him. He had no illusions. Cannon's theoretical conviction allowed him to face unflinchingly the terrible realities of the 20th Century: World War, the rise of Stalinism, the Depression, the Yezhovschina, the Second World War, the Holocaust, the atomic bombings, the Stalinist labour camps, the Cold War and the colonial wars. Unlike some, he faced and fought them all while they happened, in real time. He never gave an inch.
We're all so much more sophisticated now.