James P. Cannon was born in Rosedale, Kansas, in 1890 and joined the Socialist Party at the age of eighteen. A traveling organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World before and during World War I and a leader of the working-class left wing of the Socialist Party, he was a founding leader of the communist movement in the United States.
During the seven months he spent in Soviet Russia from June 1922 to January 1923, Cannon was a delegate to the Fourth Congress of the Communist International and a member of the presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International in Moscow. He later served as executive secretary of the International Labor Defense in the United States, a nationwide organization that raised the proletarian banner of “an injury to one is an injury to all” and fought for the release of any class-war prisoner framed up for militancy in the workers movement, regardless of their political affiliation.
Together with other veteran leaders of the Communist Party, Cannon was expelled in 1928 for leading a political fight to continue the revolutionary internationalist course of V.I. Lenin. He joined Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky in this international struggle.
Cannon was a founding leader in 1929 of the Communist League of America, which evolved into the Socialist Workers Party in 1938. He served as SWP national secretary until 1953, when he became the party’s national chairman, and then, in 1972, national chairman emeritus until his death in 1974.
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