A peaceful road to socialism?

(From the courtroom testimony of James P. Cannon, leader of the American Trotskyist movement who with 17 other leaders of the SWP and the Minneapolis Teamsters union were charged with violating the Smith Act in 1941. The entire record is contained in "Socialism on Trial," Pathfinder Press.)

Q: And the party would exhaust all the possibilities for a peaceful transformation if the democratic rights are given to the working masses?

A: In my opinion, to the very end, yes.

Q: Even to the end of trying to amend the Constitution of the United States, as provided for by the Constitution of the United States? If the democratic processes are maintained here, if they are not disrupted by the introduction of fascist methods by the government, and the majority of the people supporting the ideas of socialism can secure a victory by the democratic processes, I don’t see any reason why they cannot proceed, continue to proceed, by the democratic method of amending the Constitution to fit the new regime. Naturally, the amendments would have to be of a very drastic character, but parts of the Constitution I would be willing to write into the program of the party at any time—that is the Bill of Rights, which we believe in. That section of the Constitution which protects private property rights, we think, would absolutely have to be changed in the society which we envisage, which eliminates private property in industrial enterprises of a large-scale nature.

Q: But it is your belief, is it not, that in all probability the minority will not allow such a peaceful transformation?

A: That is our opinion. That is based on all the historical precedents of the unwillingness of any privileged class, no matter how it is outlived, to leave the scene without trying to impose its will on the majority by force. I cited examples yesterday.

Q: What is the...

A: I might give you another example on the same point. For example, the Bolshevik revolution in Hungary was accomplished without the shedding of one drop of blood, in a completely peaceful manner.

Q: When was that?

A: That was in 1919. The government that was established following the war, of which Count Karolyi was premier, came to what is considered the end of its resources—it could not control the country did not have the support of the masses, and Count Karolyi as head of the government, on his own motion, went to the head of the Bolshevik Party, or the Communist Party, rather, of Hungary, who was in prison, and summoned him to take charge of the government in a peaceful, legal manner, like the change of a cabinet in the French parliament—of course, prior to the Petain regime. Then this Soviet government, having been established in this way, peacefully, was confronted by an uprising of the privileged class, of the landlords and the big owners, who organized an armed fight against the government and eventually overthrew it. The violence on a mass scale followed the change of the government, did not precede it.