The Communist League (Opposition) was the first name of the Communist League of America, the first American organization affiliated with the International Left Opposition associated with Leon Trotsky. The group emerged from a set of expulsions of supporters of the Russian Left Opposition from the ranks of the American Party -- first and foremost the expulsions of Workers (Communist) Party CEC members James P. Cannon and Martin Abern and CEC Alternate Max Shachtman at the meeting of the Political Committee of October 25, 1928.
Two days later, Cannon, Abern, and Shachtman prepared a 19 point written reply to the Political Committee's action, a statement that was published in the first issue of the group's new weekly newspaper, The Militant, dated November 15, 1928. In this statement, the trio argued the correctness of the position of the Trotsky faction in attacking inner-party bureaucratism in the Russian Communist Party and drew a parallel to the American party, in which "the Lovestone group leadership, by its opportunist political outlook, its petty-bourgeois origin, its corrupt factionalism, its careerism and adventurism in the class struggle, is the greatest menace to the party." The Lovestone group was "the logical American banner-bearer of the demagogic an unscrupulous international campaign against the leaders ofthe Russian Opposition," Cannon, Abern, and Shachtman argued.
[fn. Cannon, et. al., "For the Russian Opposition: Against Opportunism and Bureaucracy in the Workers (Communist Party)" in The Left Opposition in the U.S., 1928-31. (NY: Monad Press, 1981), pp. 34-35.]
The decision of the Political Committee to expel the trio for their support of the Russian Trotskyist Opposition was ratified at a plenary session of the Central Executive Committee held on December 17, 1928 with Patrick Devine in the chair. At that session, attended by about 200 party members, John Pepper delivered the report against Cannon, Abern, and Shachtman -- a three hour indictment for which only one hour was allowed for a reply. James Cannon delivered the unapologetic reply, during which he proudly announced that "the views for which we have been expelled are Leninist views. We stand by them. As revolutionaists we can do nothing else, and we will continue to stand by them and work for their victory in the future." The appeal for reinstatement to the Workers (Communist) Party on this basis was, not surprisingly, rejected.
[fn. Cannon,"Our Appeal to the Party Members" in The Left Opposition in the U.S., 1928-31. (NY: Monad Press, 1981), pp. 74.]
Dirty tricks ensued, and on the evening of Sunday, December 23, 1928, the residence of Jim Cannon and Rose Karsner, which served as the editorial office of The Militant, was burglarized -- correspondence, editorial material, and a partial subscriber list was stolen; nothing else was taken.
[fn. Cannon,"A Burlary -- It's Poltical Meaning" in The Left Opposition in the U.S., 1928-31. (NY: Monad Press, 1981), pp. 79.]
1. Founding Conference -- Chicago, IL -- May 17-19, 1929.
The Communist League of America (Opposition) was established at a Convention held in Chicago. The Conference was attended by 31 delegates with voting rights and by 17 alternates with voice but no vote. The Conference adopted a platform printed in the February 15 issue of The Militant as the founding statement of the organization. A constitution was adopted and a 7 member National Committee was elected. Monthly dues were set at 50 cents with an initiation fee of the same amount.
The Conference opened with discussions of the situation in Russia and the Communist International before the American situation was raised. Organizational matters, trade union questions, youth questions, and issues relating to the party press were also discussed.
The CLA initially conceived of itself as an organized faction of the CPUSA rather than as an independent political party. It sought to propagandize the members of the CPUSA in hopes of winning them over to the CLA's perspective.
the office of The Militant Press was located at 84 E 10th Street, New York City.
1st Plenum of the National Commitee, New York -- May 24-27, 1930.
Day-to-day operations of the CLA were handled by a so-called "Resident Committee," consisting of the 5 NC members living in New York city. It was not until May of 1930 that the first formal gathering of the full plenum of the National Committee was held -- a full year after the body's election at the Founding Confrence of the party.
In 1929, Albert Weisbord, chief organizer of the Passaic, NJ, textile strike, was expelled from the CPUSA and subsequently announced his conversion to the ideas of the International Left Opposition. Weisbord was sharply critical of the CLA's orientation towards the conversion of CPUSA members, instead arguing in favor of mass action. The ranks of the tiny CLA were divided over the question. On March 15, 1931, Weisbord and his wife Vera Buch formally organized their own organization to advance this agenda, which he called the Communist League of Struggle in contradistinction to the Communist League of America.
2. Second National Conference -- New York City -- Sept. 24-27, 1931.
The Second National Conference of the ALP elected a new National Committee, which was comprised of essentially the same individuals which comprised the earlier NC.
A new organizational constitution was adopted.
In October 1934, a preliminary declaration was drafted by the AWP's A.J. Muste and the CLA's Max Shachtman serving as the programattic basis for unity between the two organizations.
3. Third National Convention -- New York City -- Nov. 28-30, 1934.
The Third and final national conference of the Communist League of America was held at the same time as a convention of the American Workers Party of A.J. Muste. Although the issue was a matter of hot debate, the gathering unanimousl approved unification with the AWP. Hot debate also erupted over the so-called "French Turn," with Hugo Oehler and Tom Stamm leading a sizeable faction of the party in opposition.
Unification between the CLA and AWP was achieved at a Convention in New York City running from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, 1934.