An Obvious Error

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Two Statements on the Cannon-Shachtman Letter

Dear Comrades:

The letter of Comrades Cannon and Shachtman, according to its content and tone, had a private character destined for an intimate circle of informed comrades. I personally have received from several other American comrades representing other groups personal letters of the same kind, occasionally containing sharp assessments of certain comrades or groups. Every experienced comrade knows that during any serious and impassioned discussion such letters are quite inevitable. It is always necessary to interpret the sharpest critical assessment in connection with the given conjuncture, and not as final characterizations of men and tendencies.

That granted, the publication of the personal letter of Cannon and Shachtman in the bulletin, which is intended for wide distribution, was an obvious error which I can only explain by haste and a lack of prudence. I do not doubt that the comrades who published the letter have themselves easily recognized the great error they committed and will draw all the necessary conclusions for the future. Without personal correspondence between the leading comrades of the various sections our work would be much more difficult. However, the publication of such private letters would make all frank personal correspondence impossible.

Every reader of the bulletin of the IS will easily understand, I hope, that in their private letters Comrades Cannon and Shachtman had no intention of disqualifying or compromising their temporary adversaries. All the more so since the authors of the letter are very well aware of my warm and fraternal feelings toward these “adversaries.” Comrades Cannon and Shachtman wanted only to emphasize in a sharp manner their differences with the given groups and people.

No other interpretation could be placed on the letter in question. I strongly hope that the misplaced publication of this letter will not injure friendly collaboration inside the American party and will not diminish by an iota the fraternal consideration and the warm sympathy of all the other sections toward the brother American party.

Crux [Trotsky]