James P Cannon on the Johnson-Forest tendency

Submitted by martin on 10 May, 2007 - 10:32

From Factional Struggle and Party Leadership, November 1953

There is a third method of leadership which I will confess to you frankly I noticed only after I passed my sixtieth birthday. That is the leadership of a cult. I will admit that I lived sixty years in this world before I stumbled over the fact that there are such things as political cults. I began rubbing my eyes when I saw the Johnsonites operating in our party. I saw a cult bound to a single person, a sort of Messiah. And I thought, “I'll be damned. You're never too old to learn something new.”

A cult requires unthinking fools for the rank and file. But that is not all. In order for a cult to exist, it is not enough for a leader to have personal followers—every leader has personal influence more or less—but a cult leader has to :be a cultist himself. He has to be a megalomaniac who gets revelations outside the realm of reality. A megalomaniacal cult leader is liable to jump in any direction at any time, and all the cultists automatically follow, as sheep follow the bellwether, even into the slaughter house.

That is what happened with the Johnsonites. The cult followed Johnson, not simply for his theory of the Soviet Union—other people have that theory; a lot of people in the world have that theory about “state capitalism.” The Johnsonites were personal cultist followers of Johnson as a Messiah; and when he finally gave the signal for them to jump out of this party for reasons known only to himself, but allegedly because of some personal grievance he imagined, of which they had no knowledge and which they had just heard about, they all left the party at the same hour, Eastern Standard Time. That is a cult. The Pabloite cult, like any other, is capable of jumping in any direction at any time, whenever the leader gets a revelation. You cannot trust the party of the workers' vanguard to a cult or a cultist leader.

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