James Patrick Cannon
Born: 1890
Died: 1974
Political Beliefs Trotskyist
Famous For American Trotskyist work

James Patrick Cannon was a chief American Trotskyist leader and theoretician. Cannon was born in Rosedale, Kansas, to working-class Irish-Catholic radicals.

Political WorkEdit

He became a Wobbly organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and was personally trained by IWW leader Bill Haywood. He joined the Socialist Party when he was 18.

He was one of the leaders of the pro-Bolshevik split of the Socialist Party in 1919, becoming the first national chairman of the "Workers' Party" (Communist Party USA). He was politically allied with William Z. Foster in the Communist Party; both hoped to translate Bolshevism to the American labor movement. He organized the CP's International Labor Defense (ILD) to defend such workers as anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti.

In 1928, while attending the Sixth Congress of the Communist International (Comintern), Cannon received a critique of the Stalinist corruption of the Soviet Union, written by Leon Trotsky. He became an open sympathizer of Trotsky's Left Opposition, and was consequently expelled from the Communist Party. Canon then formed the Communist League of America and began publishing The Militant with Max Shachtman. After a brief entry into the Socialist Party, Cannon's CLA emerged as the Socialist Workers Party in 1938. The SWP then became the largest section of the new Fourth International.

He served as national secretary of the SWP during its early life. In 1941, along with 17 other party leaders, he was arrested under the anti-communist Smith Act. (The Communist Party's Stalinist leadership applauded this act.) After being convicted in 1943, he served a sixteen-month prison term at Sandstone Prison. He was released when World War II ended in 1945 and continued as SWP national secretary until 1953. He was replaced in that position by National Labor Secretary Farrell Dobbs. He remained active in the SWP as national chairman emirtus until his death in 1974.


Cannon wrote a number of books, including Struggle for a Proletarian Party (1943), History of American Trotskyism (1944), America's Road to Socialism (1953), and Speeches for Socialism (1971).