Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)

Socialist Workers Party ’discovers’ the working class: no change in Trotskyite sabotage

First Published: The Call, Vol. 7, No. 19, May 15, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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There has long been a saying in the workers’ movement: “The best way to lose a Trotskyite is to walk into a factory.” But wonders, apparently, will never cease. After nearly a decade of declaring one or another section of the petty-bourgeoisie to be the vanguard of the revolution, the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has suddenly “discovered” the working class.

With all the pomp and ceremony of Columbus implanting the flag of Spain in the Caribbean, the March 24 issue of the Militant, organ of the SWP, features a double-page article entitled, “A New Stage in U.S. Politics: SWP Turns Toward New Opportunities in Industrial Working Class.” An examination of the article, however, shows that “SWP Turns Toward New Opportunism” would have been a more appropriate subtitle.

The article reviews a recent meeting of the SWP’s National Committee. At the gathering, National Secretary Jack Barnes declared that “what is new today is that there are layers of workers who are consciously looking for political alternatives to fight the attacks that are coming down on them.” As a result of this discovery, the article explains, the SWP has “launched a major step-up in the party’s efforts to take its program into the steel mills, coal mines, rail yards, auto plants and other places,” What is more, the SWP will “move immediately toward getting the majority of party members into jobs in major industrial work places.”

We have some news for Mr. Barnes. There is nothing “new” in the fact that there are “layers” of advanced workers in the U.S., or any other capitalist country for that matter. Marxist-Leninists have always held that class struggle is the persistent motive force of history. Who has been among the most militant fighters in the thousands of strikes waged year after year, decade after decade, if not the advanced workers? Which class among the Afro-American people waged the most advanced struggles against both class and national oppression? Among the GIs in the antiwar struggles of the 1960s, what was the class background of those who waged the most determined and absolute resistance?

Simply to pose these questions begins to expose the opportunism of the SWP and the fact that it explicitly denied the leading role of the working class for more than ten years. In the place of Marxism, the Trotskyites promoted their own “new” theory – “many vanguards.” The Afro-American people, the Chicano people, the youth, women, even homosexuals – one after another were touted by the SWP as a new “vanguard” to take the place of the working class.

The SWP even took this a step further. Lest there be any confusion, they insisted that within each of these vanguards it was the students – women students, Chicano students, Black students, etc. – who were the “real” vanguard force.

There is a method to the SWP’s madness, however. Times have changed, and in recent years the numbers of advanced workers have grown, the rank-and-file struggle of the working class has expanded in scope and fighting capacity. The spontaneous movement has intensified and, in addition, there has been a considerable degree of fusion between the advanced workers and the communist movement, signified by the founding of the CPML and other revolutionary organizations.

All the SWP is really up to is following its usual practice of tailing after whatever spontaneous outburst of struggle has captured public attention. Then, once having attached themselves to the movement’s rear, they proceed to carry on their police-agent activities, collaborating with the bosses and the union bureaucrats to attack militants and communists in the plants while wrecking and splitting in the process.

They are also trying to impose their own petty-bourgeois outlook on the leaders of that movement. This is made quite clear in the Militant’s article.

It goes out of its way, for instance, to split the young workers from the working class as a whole. The coal miners, says the SWP, “have a lot more in common with other young workers than the capitalist press would like us to believe. Their experiences, their attitudes and their aspirations are not so different from the young workers we have been meeting and working with on the railroad, in auto plants, in the steel mills ... ” (Emphasis added)

This same emphasis on the “young” is repeated more than a dozen times throughout the article. But never once is it pointed out or stressed that the proletariat is, as a class, the most advanced, revolutionary component of society, not just the youth, but the middle-aged and older workers too, not because of what its “attitudes” may be at any given time, but because of what it is. To paraphrase Marx, the working class is the only class in capitalist society that is bound with radical chains, that is, by freeing itself it establishes the basis for freeing all the exploited and oppressed.

SWP’s opportunism is also evident in the fact that it never mentions the existence of a privileged labor aristocracy that has been separated from the vast majority of workers by the super-profits of imperialism. This leads them to characterize the labor bureaucrats as a kind of “middle force” rather than as the bribed agents of capitalism in the workers movement. Striking a “left” pose, the SWP warns the labor officials as follows: “As the offensive cranks up, you are going to be forced into more and more grotesque positions and compromises.” (Emphasis added)

But it is clear to the advanced workers, it is not a matter of their misleaders being “forced” into “compromises.” This is the line the bureaucrats themselves run down in order to disguise their treachery, to cover up the fact that they, like the Trotskyists, are the bought-and-paid-for agents of capital.

The SWP’s unity with reformist bureaucrats like Sadlowski is not just a minor tactical deviation. Rather than driving the bureaucrats out of the workers movement, the Trotskyite strategy is to encourage them to form a reformist, parliamentary “labor party,” which the SWP would then join in turn as a kind of loyal opposition. This plan is essentially the same as the so-called “left-center coalition” promoted by the revisionist Communist Party.

Once this phony mechanism is set up, the SWP’s scheme then would call for winning an “electoral majority” in Congress, nationalizing industry. rationalizing the capitalist economy through “structural reform,” then pulling off a “peaceful transition” to state capitalism disguised as “socialism.”

The SWP, in other words, has basic unity with the revisionism of the CPUSA, a unity which is further reflected in the fact that both defend the Soviet Union as a “workers’ state.” Trotskyism’s special features, however, consist in its ability to strike an ultra-“left” posture now and then.

SWP concludes its article by stressing that its members in the factories will spend all their time “talking socialism.” Actually, this phrase contains a grain of truth. The Trotskyites are well known for their ability to “talk” socialism, but when it comes down to actually fighting for it, or defending it wherever it exists in the world, the Trotskyites have always taken their stand on the side of reaction.

In this regard, the SWP members are bound to discover that the advanced workers have considerable ability when it comes to distinguishing sham from genuine revolutionaries. The SWP will be targeted as class collaborators and driven out of the workers movement along with the rest of their opportunist bed-fellows.