Workers Vanguard No. 1153

19 April 2019


Fighting for Revolutionary Continuity

(Quote of the Week)

The ideas of revolutionary Marxism do not exist in the abstract; they are carried forward by successive generations of revolutionary fighters. Jim Robertson, the founder of our international tendency, devoted much of his energy to politically arming a new layer of communist militants. That vital concern is expressed in the following quotes from Leon Trotsky, co-leader with V.I. Lenin of the October 1917 Russian Revolution, and James P. Cannon, the founding leader of American Trotskyism. The International Communist League seeks to maintain and extend the proletarian, revolutionary and internationalist tradition of our Marxist forebears in our fight to reforge the Fourth International, the necessary instrument to lead the working class to power worldwide.

I think that the work in which I am engaged now, despite its extremely insufficient and fragmentary nature, is the most important work of my life—more important than 1917, more important than the period of the Civil War or any other.

For the sake of clarity I would put it this way. Had I not been present in 1917 in Petersburg, the October Revolution would still have taken place—on the condition that Lenin was present and in command....

Thus I cannot speak of the “indispensability” of my work, even about the period from 1917 to 1921. But now my work is “indispensable” in the full sense of the word. There is no arrogance in this claim at all. The collapse of the two Internationals has posed a problem which none of the leaders of these Internationals is at all equipped to solve. The vicissitudes of my personal fate have confronted me with this problem and armed me with important experience in dealing with it. There is now no one except me to carry out the mission of arming a new generation with the revolutionary method over the heads of the leaders of the Second and Third International. And I am in a complete agreement with Lenin (or rather Turgenev) that the worst vice is to be more than 55 years old! I need at least about five more years of uninterrupted work to ensure the succession.

—Leon Trotsky, Trotsky’s Diary in Exile (25 March 1935)

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I also remember the words Trotsky wrote in his Diary in Exile, when he was in Norway and he was bound hand and foot and he was not in good health and he was 55 years old.... He said: I must live another five years to prepare the succession. I’ve often thought of those words [and] that that is the supreme duty of the leaders—to prepare the succession. And some of us went about it consciously, I especially. One man can’t do it all, as quite a few nuts think they can. One man can’t live forever and his greatest contribution is to prepare others to take his place.

—James P. Cannon, Interview with Harry Ring (13 February 1974)