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The Organizational Norms of a Proletarian Party

The 1982 report by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes, “The Organizational Norms of a Proletarian Party,” provides an extensive recounting of “the other side of the story” regarding the SWP, providing an instructive contrast with most of the other material in this volume.

Organizational questions are also political questions, so that the underlying political analyses come through clearly in this document. Other key works—focusing more on non-organizational issues—explaining and arguing in favor of the changed orientation of the SWP can be found in Mary-Alice Waters, Proletarian Leadership in Power (New York: National Education Department, Socialist Workers Party, Education for Socialists, December 1980), containing “Proletarian Leadership in Power: What We Can Learn From Lenin, Castro, and the FSLN,” by Mary-Alice Waters, and two presentations by Jack Barnes, “Marxism and the Class Struggle Today” and “The Political Evolution of the Cuban Leadership.” In addition, see Jack Barnes, “Their Trotsky and Ours: Communist Continuity Today,” New International #1, Fall 1983.

The following report by Barnes was presented and adopted at a March 1982 meeting of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party.


The Organizational Norms of a Proletarian Party

by Jack Barnes

Report Adopted by National Committee, March 1982

The history of Bolshevism teaches us that big turning points in the class struggle are always accompanied by organizational disputes and crises in the revolutionary party. At such moments the organization question becomes an acutely political question, which must be resolved along with other political questions in order for the party to meet the challenges and opportunities of the new political situation, transform itself, and move forward.

Our history also reveals the main turning points that bring the organization question to the fore. One is imperialist war and the threat of war. Another is the sharpening of a social crisis, bringing with it an intensification of the many pressures, unexpected and previously unexperienced, that the exploiters' offensive brings down upon the workers, upon the toiling allies of the workers, and upon all the social layers that straddle the main contending class forces in capitalist society.

Imperialist wars and social crises have always caused large-scale shifts in attitudes and political differentiations among the potential allies of the proletariat, thereby increasing the social pressures on proletarian parties.

Turning points such as these test a proletarian party's capacity to understand that defending and applying Bolshevik norms and structures is a political necessity to advance the party.

History also teaches us that the combined organizational and political consequences of such turning points are intensified if the party is simultaneously engaged in a concentrated effort to proletarianize itself. This has always been accompanied by an internal crisis, reflected in major challenges by internal groupings to the organizational structure and principles of the party.

This should not be any surprise. At such moments the individuals that make up the party are made more conscious than ever of the relationship between the personal and the political—not only the difference between them, but their deep unity. This is true for the history of the Bolshevik movement in general, and it is certainly true for the history of our own party from its beginnings.

The Turn to Industry

What is the situation that the working class faces today? We have spent most of the plenum discussing this question.

The broad outlines were foreseen in the discussion organized by the National Committee at the plenum in February 1978 where we decided on the turn to industry. We discussed the meaning of the change in the relationship of class forces on a world scale. We analyzed the character and depth of the growing capitalist crisis. In attempting to resolve a crisis of this depth and open a new period of sustained expansion, we saw, the ruling class could not limit its attacks to those among the exploited against whom prejudice could most easily be used in this racist society—Blacks, Latinos, immigrants from the colonial and semicolonial world—and women. The rulers would not stop at going after the unorganized workers, and those in weakly organized sectors of the working class.

These moves won't do the trick. The employing class has to take on the bastions of the labor movement, above all the industrial unions. These unions are the largest organized obstacles to the defeat that the U.S. ruling class must deal the American toilers in order to carry out imperialist wars, to successfully wage economic wars of interimperialist competition, and to bring about a far-reaching change in capital-labor relations—the only “solutions” the bosses have to the crisis facing American capitalism.

At the February 1978 plenum, we also discussed at length, and absorbed from the comrades who had firsthand experience, the battle of the Sadlowski forces in the United Steel Workers union, and the challenge by the ranks of the United Mine Workers to the coal bosses and to the government that stood behind them. For us, this new resistance from inside these strongholds of the industrial working class was evidence of a significant turn in post-World War II labor history.

This was the framework within which we decided to implement a qualitative change in the process of proletarianizing the party. We discussed at length the many sides of this decision. This revolved around our determination to lead the large majority of our leadership and membership in building fractions of the party in industry. It meant a qualitative expansion of our involvement in the labor movement, in the industrial unions. It meant deepening the development of a leadership and a cadre of our party that is Black, Chicano, and Puerto Rican. It meant continued special attention and determination to bring forward comrades who are female into the leadership of our work in industry.

This decision also involved a series of concrete moves to extend the party geographically, as we reached out into the working class of this gigantic country.

We emphasized anew the importance of our recognition that the U.S. working class is a multinational and multilingual working class. The very explosion of American capitalism for more than a quarter of a century following World War II had drawn into our class millions and millions of foreign-born workers and their children, especially from this hemisphere. Proletarianizing the SWP today is inconceivable without advancing toward a bilingual party, increasingly multinational in composition and leadership.

We also began discussing, at the February 1978 plenum, the need to advance the capacity of the entire leadership to think in class terms in order to carry out these tasks. That's where the leadership school fits in. It was at that plenum that we made the decision to move as quickly as possible toward launching the Sandstone Leadership School. The central decision, which we have reaffirmed at subsequent plenums and conventions, is that the students would be the elected leaders of this party, the worker-Bolsheviks who are leading the turn and leading the transformation of this party. The selection of each student body would be based on the decisions made at our conventions by the party about its national leadership. The selection of the student body would not be an attempt to impose or even to suggest who that leadership should be.

We saw the school as a central part of the process of constructing a thinking and doing leadership that will become the communist leadership of the class-struggle wing of the working class. Our idea is not to lean on “experts” in one or another “specialty,” but to collectively deepen our knowledge and experience in all facets of working-class politics.

The turn and the emphasis on Marxist education has led us back to reading and studying Marx and Engels. It has led us to initiate the class series on Lenin's writings that we're getting under way now.

At that same plenum in 1978 we discussed the leadership qualities required by a proletarian party—selflessness, objectivity, commitment, the capacity always to place “we and ours” above “me and mine.” The recognition that what the class struggle and the party give each of us is more important than what we as individuals can bring to them.

This plenum also initiated a discussion, which we're still narrowing in on, of what it meant to be coming out of more than twenty-five years of the semisectarian existence that had been imposed on the SWP, and many of the sections of the Fourth International in the imperialist countries, by the long postwar economic expansion and political retreat of our class.

In our case, the trend set in from 1947 on, and over the years we became increasingly isolated from the working class as the working class became increasingly isolated from the center of politics. Until the conditions existed for us to be able to begin transforming the social composition of the party and ending the enforced isolation from the working class imposed on us by the course of objective events, we could not possibly have known all of the aspects of party life, party institutions, and party functioning that we would have to transform and adjust in the process. That could only be discovered in practice, as we know full well now, with four years of progress in doing it under our belts. We are applying our program and organizational principles to the changing class realities more. And we are still learning and changing.

It was also at this February 1978 plenum that it just became clear that we had not yet come to grips with all the consequences of our analysis of the evolution of the Cuban revolution. That happened in an unscheduled and unexpected way, when one member of the National Committee took the floor and suggested that in his opinion the party should adopt the position of calling on the Cuban workers to overthrow the Castro government. As a result, the discussion on Cuba and its leadership and our discussions and experiences with the turn were tied together, were intertwined, in the party right from the beginning. That discussion began that day in early 1978 and has continued and become richer since. Moreover, as it turned out, our turn to industry was only a year before the victories in Grenada and Nicaragua. That is, only a year away from the extension—after almost two decades—of the Cuban socialist revolution, which had opened the socialist revolution in our hemisphere and brought to power the first genuinely revolutionary leadership-one not deeply marked by the Stalinist degeneration of the Communist International-since the Bolshevik Party in the time of Lenin.

What We Have Learned

The report on the turn was adopted unanimously by the NC at that 1978 plenum. Since then, as events and our experience have unfolded in ways we could not have guessed, we have adjusted, corrected, and continued to think out and advance the turn.

Last year we published a book with the major reports and resolutions on the turn (The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Building a Party of Socialist Workers). It is a record of the evolution of our thinking as we got more experience during the first three years, and deepened the turn and our understanding of it.

We didn't start out with a complete understanding of how things would unfold—not by a long shot. We made some projections that turned out to be wrong. They are all in the book. Fortunately, they are counterbalanced by the statements and decisions that turned out to be correct. But even where we were wrong, there is an instructive side. Take, for example, our initial approach to our then-existing fractions in the teachers' unions and AFSCME [American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees]. While we made it clear from the beginning that we were going to “de-AFSCMEize” and “deteacherize” the party by sending comrades into industry and not into the social service unions, we didn't start out by projecting pulling comrades out of the AFSCME, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA), and so on to do this. The reason this projection turned out to be wrong was the way the comrades who were teachers and other public employees reacted to the turn. They quickly began to be part of leading the turn into industry. Many of them are in the mines, in the mills, in auto assembly plants, and similar places today. So if it didn't work out as we thought it would in the short run, still it worked out for the best.

But our mistake was a good one, as paradoxical as that may seem. It expressed our conviction that the turn to industry would strengthen every aspect of our work, our understanding that a party composed in its overwhelming majority of industrial workers will become a party of fighters of all kinds, attracting to its ranks militants from all sections of the working class. A powerful communist party, with answers to the social crisis, will attract even many middle-class Americans. On that we were not wrong.

We started out concentrating on building a steel fraction, then auto and rail, then the mines, aerospace, electrical, oil and chemical. Most recently we've begun to build a national fraction in the garment and textile industries.

The turn has also transformed our knowledge of the relationship between city and country in this country, our knowledge of the structure of industry and the working class, and the relations among the toilers. Everything we've done since that plenum comes from what we've collectively learned, from generalizing what we're learning through our fractions and in the branches and districts.

As I said, no one on the National Committee spoke against the turn to industry or voted against it in 1978. But saying that doesn't settle the question. Because there are certain proposals that, if they are presented in a considered and reasonable way, hardly anyone in the leadership of a relatively experienced Marxist party will oppose. One such proposal is a timely campaign to proletarianize the party. One of the first books we all read when we join is Cannon's Struggle for a Proletarian Party. And along with that many of us read Trotsky's In Defense of Marxism, about how the party must make a turn into the industrial working class to be ready for imperialist war, explosive developments and deepening polarization in the class struggle, and to withstand the pressures of bourgeois public opinion.

Trotsky was always quite vivid and forceful in motivating the need to proletarianize our parties. For example, comrades may remember Trotsky's statement that

when ten intellectuals, whether in Paris, Berlin, or New York, who have already been members of various organizations, address themselves to us with a request to be taken into our midst, I would offer the following advice: put them through a series of tests on all the programmatic questions; wet them in the rains, dry them in the sun, and then after a new and careful examination accept maybe one or two.

The case is radically altered when ten workers connected with the masses turn to us

Trotsky said. And “when we are approached by a group of Negro workers,” he continued,

here I am prepared to take it for granted in advance that we shall achieve agreement with them, even if such an agreement is not yet evident, because the Negro workers, by virtue of their whole position, do not and cannot strive to degrade anybody, oppress anybody, or deprive anybody of his rights. They do not seek privileges and cannot rise to the top except on the road of the international revolution. [Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932, p.112.]

Go back and reread the letters by Trotsky on this question during the three years from 1937 to 1940, in particular. They're in the Writings series, In Defense of Marxism, and we collected some of them together in the Education for Socialist publication entitled “Background to Struggle for a Proletarian Party.”

Of course, we don't have to copy suggestions from the past, or imitate every proposal that Trotsky made. But we've seen that the turn must be led. It is a turn. It does mean bending the stick. It does require that the leadership lead the way into industry, convince and inspire new layers to go in, and constantly review and learn from the experiences at each stage, and generalize them for the whole party, to lead the whole membership to make the turn. We must transform ourselves and the leading committees of our party, assess our experience, and come back to it over and over again, as the turn becomes a reality, and—above all—changes the party.

And as it does become real, disagreements begin to arise in the party. That is unavoidable. While the big majority is for the turn, not everyone is for all the various political and organizational consequences of the turn and how it works out in life. Not everyone draws the same balance sheet from our experiences and their effects on the party—or themselves. But the fact of such disagreements should not be surprising. They are built into the situation as a result of where we have come from, our experiences in the whole past period, and the character of the turn that must be made, which is not so much a single decision or set of decisions, but a course that deepens as it advances.

This is the challenge not just for the SWP but for every section in the whole Fourth International. If you are not willing to risk such disagreements then you can't carry out the turn.

Deeds, Not Words, Are Decisive

As the report on the turn adopted at the 1979 World Congress explained, this is not just a small tactical question. The turn involves a decision to try to transform the social composition and character of our movement. Here deeds, not words, are decisive. In judging the success of the turn, we must use the same criteria for ourselves that Joe [Hansen] suggested that we use to judge whether or not a workers' and farmers' government has come into being somewhere. If there's a contradiction between the words and the deeds of such a government, Joe said, take them at their deeds.

The truth is that we're learning a new language as we deepen the turn. We talk differently about ourselves, about the world, about who we are relating to in the world, about how we view politics. How we talk about politics to the American people is changing. If we could compare a tape recording of a plenum from five years ago with a tape recording of this plenum, we would see how much that is the case. We talk as part of a class; not just as an organization to a class.

In everything we do, we must keep in mind how we can objectively help advance our co-workers, other working people, and the oppressed on the historical road along which our class is marching. We are constantly searching for the best ways to explain the destination towards which this march is headed, towards the workers' governing, towards a workers' and farmers' government.

We have deepened our international appreciation of the turn, as well. This is not primarily due to something that we did, but to something that the Nicaraguans did, the Grenadans did, and the Cubans did. A glorious new chapter in the socialist revolution in our hemisphere opened soon after we began the turn. This, of course, was quite a help to us. How could the extension of the socialist revolution under revolutionary leaderships be otherwise!

These revolutionary victories made us think out to the end, on a broader scale and in an international context, what we're attempting to accomplish with the turn and where we fit into developments in the world. We consider ourselves part of a common world Marxist movement with the FSLN, with the New Jewel Movement, with the Cuban Communist Party, with the vanguard proletarian leaderships of the revolutionary struggles in El Salvador and Guatemala. This is integrally tied to mating the turn and building revolutionary, proletarian, Marxist parties in this country and around the world. We think that's how the entire Fourth International should view itself.

We're part of a common Marxist movement with these revolutionists. We're not part of a common movement with a lot of people and organizations that call themselves Trotskyists. That is obvious, isn't it? We are not part of a common movement with Healy's organization, which remains of some size in one or two countries such as Britain and Australia, although not here any longer. We're not in a common world movement with those who turned their backs on the Nicaraguan revolution, like the outfits headed by Lambert and Moreno. We're not part of a common world movement with certain right centrists and left social democrats who disgrace the name of revolutionists such as Lenin and Trotsky and Luxemburg, falsely claiming to be continuators of their tradition. We're not members of some world “Trotskyist family” that, despite feuds and fallings out, hangs together and all defend the permanent revolution.

Just because a group calls itself “Trotskyist” it means nothing whatsoever about their concrete politics or direction of development. Not a thing. And it doesn't mean we have some affinity for all of them. No, we're part of the world Marxist movement, an international working-class movement, which includes, among others, the FSLN, the NJM, and the Cuban CP. That is the way we see ourselves and the Fourth International as a whole. This is the perspective we are constantly fighting for, arguing for, in the Fourth International. That is what should be the outlook and consciousness of the Fourth International. We should see ourselves in this way.

We should see ourselves as part of a historic convergence with these other Marxist revolutionists, a movement in which we continue to affect each other through common practice in struggle. We will help open each other's minds to the debates over the correct theoretical generalizations of this practice. This is the only way to make progress toward resolving these still-open debates. Only in this way will we make progress toward building the world party of socialist revolution.

Building that world party is our purpose for being. Our contribution to it—in terms of cadres and program—is irreplaceable. So, these new opportunities should be of supreme interest to the Fourth International and all of its components.

Andrea [Gonzalez] explained earlier in the plenum that one of her co-workers in Washington, D.C., came up to her recently with news of a rebel victory in a battle in El Salvador, and said “Hey! Your people are really taking care of business down there today.” That's a good identification to have. We embrace those revolutionists and their leadership as comrades, as part of a common movement with us.

Revolutionary Continuity

This perspective convinces us more than ever how vital it is to learn and absorb the genuine continuity of our movement, the continuity of Marxism, the generalized experiences of the class struggle. To learn this continuity we, like every generation, must conquer it every day in practice, reach back through study, and reconquer the lessons from our past.

Continuity has something in common with leadership; it's never given, it can only be taken and enriched in the process.

Farrell's [Dobbs] first book in his new series came out just as we were starting the first session of the party leadership school. He chose for the series the title Revolutionary Continuity. We used it at the school along with our readings from Marx and Engels on the United States.

This first volume is subtitled “The Early Years.” It goes over the attempts of the American Marxists to build a movement here against the marauding of the American LaSalleans, De Leonists, syndicalists, and every other opponent of Marxism, up to the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, when all the rules were changed on a world scale.

The initial outline for the second volume (the first chapter of which is going to be published in the International Socialist Review this week) covers the period from 1917 through 1933, the years when we were part of building the first Communist Party in this country, and remained a faction in that party despite the blows from the Stalinists. It goes through the period when Trotsky led the battle to draw the conclusions of the defeat in Germany, to clarify what the Stalinists' role had been and the meaning of the lack of reaction against it from the Communist parties of the Comintern. This volume is tentatively subtitled “The Communist Years.”

The third volume is tentatively subtitled “The Trotskyist Years.” That will cover the history of the Trotskyist movement in this country from 1934 up to 1959. The fourth volume, tentatively headed “The Transition Years,” will begin with the victory of the Cuban revolution and the rise of the new civil rights movement and Black struggle which, as the vanguard of the new working-class radicalization, opened a new period for our class and our party. We're still in those transitional years.

Of course, this doesn't mean that we're not still communists. Farrell considers himself as much a communist as he ever did. It doesn't mean that we're not still Trotskyists. He considers himself as much a Trotskyist as he ever did.

But history does not stand still. Communists, Trotskyists, revolutionary Marxists are living through, helping to achieve, new advances in the world revolution. Along with other vanguard sections of the working class and oppressed, we're trying to understand and generalize the meaning of these experiences. It is not so much, or at all, a question of what we can or can't do, but what we can or can't do as part of the vanguard of our class. This is as true for our fraction at South Works as it is for our movement internationally. We must never look at ourselves alone in this process. We have to look at what we can or cannot do today from the standpoint of being part of those forces who are the vanguard, and the coming vanguard, of the working class here and around the world. It is our integration into this living process, our becoming part of this vanguard, our mutual testing under new challenges, that is decisive for party building.

As we advance in this process, our compass remains the basic contributions of Marx and Engels; of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party; the early Soviet CP and Comintern that Lenin and Trotsky helped lead; the basic documents of the Fourth International, especially the Transitional Program, and our understanding of the anticapitalist unity and the interrelationship of the three sectors of the world revolution. These are essential.

There are risks involved in the kind of turn we are proposing and carrying out. We say so frankly. The danger is that anyone can take it one-sidedly and draw wrong conclusions about our convergence with the other major components of this Marxist current. That is, you could begin to lose touch with your bearings, your revolutionary continuity. You could begin to unravel the programmatic conquests that are, along with our cadres, what we bring to this convergence. These are our strengths, and constitute an irreplaceable contribution to forging an international program, strategy, and party.

There is a danger, for example, that someone could confuse the way in which the Nicaraguan revolution and its leadership is a model that we learn from and decide that what this really means is that we need in the United States—or Britain, or Sweden—an organization just like the FSLN and tactics just like it carried out leading to the 1979 victory. You could incorrectly decide that the enemy here will be of the same type as the Somoza regime.

Some comrades can and will get disoriented in such a manner. But we are not preoccupied by those risks. Because there is a much greater danger—not believing in yourself enough to make this turn and do it all the way to the end. There has never been any gigantic turn in our world movement in which we did not lose some people along the way.

What we are doing, whether in relation to the embryonic vanguard in the U.S. working class or to Marxist currents in Central America and the Caribbean, has nothing to do with either an adaptation or a maneuver. We are not trying “to get close to” the Cubans. That's not our purpose. Our purpose is to get closer to building the SWP, and in that process to find workers who are getting closer to charting a Marxist course here and around the world. As Jim Cannon explained twenty years ago, you can't find better candidates for this than people who are making the revolution and are ready to die to defend and extend it.

And our purpose is not to “get away from” Trotskyists, but to orient our movement and the largest number of Trotskyists possible on a world scale toward those forces whose revolutionary deeds contrast with the emptiness of the words used by so many sectarians, who have turned them into shibboleths. Our purpose is orienting toward our class, and orienting our class toward power.

Comrade Weinstein, in the transcript of his remarks to a Bay Area district meeting following the last plenum, which he mailed out to selected comrades, said that he had heard the accusation by unnamed people that we are facing a Mariel in the party. Well, I think it would be wrong to accuse someone you disagree with in the party of being a Marielito. That's demagoguery, and a way to prevent a discussion, not conduct a discussion.

A Mariel in the Radical Movement

But there is no question whatsoever that we face a Mariel in the American radical movement. That is without a doubt what is happening on the U.S. left as the blows against the working class come down, as the polarization deepens, and as the imperialist war pressure mounts. The difference between the conditions and consciousness born of being a worker and that produced by being immersed in a petty-bourgeois milieu is widening. And the ranks of the North American Marielitos—with the Susan Sontags and her ilk leading the scramble for the boats—are growing.

In these circumstances, building the kind of party we are trying to build is decisive—the kind of party that can face (without kidding ourselves about timing or where we are right now) the fight to move toward the workers governing this country. And we strive to do that as part of a world movement, as part of an organized working-class international.

This is our view. We think it is the life-and-death question for our movement.

Organization Question Becomes Political Question

Under these circumstances, none of these goals can even begin to be achieved if the integrity of the party and the character of its organizational norms are allowed to erode. This is the political framework in which we need to discuss the organizational questions before the National Committee today.

The resolution on the “Organizational Character of the Socialist Workers Party,” adopted by our 1965 convention, pointed out that alien class pressures bear down upon and affect the party.

Tendencies which advance skeptical criticisms of Bolshevism express their petty-bourgeois composition and their dependence upon bourgeois public opinion. The petty-bourgeois is a natural transmission belt carrying the theories of reaction into the organizations of the working class.

The resolution states that

Those affected tend to translate their own nervousness into exaggerated criticism of the party and begin to develop basic differences with the party line.

The seemingly abstract relation of organization to politics then becomes very real, because those who develop basic political differences also develop an urge to throw off restrictions imposed upon them by the party's organizational concepts. They become antagonistic to democratic centralism. Attempts are made to undermine the party's homogeneity and make it amorphous; to render it diffuse in class composition, identity and outlook; to revise its principles; to weaken its discipline and unity in action; and to debase the meaning of party membership.

The current generation in the party has not yet lived through the type of pressures from bourgeois public opinion that we will see in a period like the one developing. But as we see it unfold, the 1965 resolution takes on even more meaning for us, becomes richer as we go back to it.

Leading up to our 1981 convention, we found ourselves having substantial and heated political disagreements inside the party. The party debated the disputed questions in the bulletin and in the branches, and elected delegates to the convention on the basis of those discussions. The convention discussed and decided the disputed questions and elected a new National Committee. And the elected party leadership, at the end of the convention, decided to act on the basis of assuming the good faith of the leaders of the minorities. We ignored things said in the heat of the discussion, and put aside some ambiguous formulations about how they intended to conduct themselves after the convention.

Comrades remember that at the end of the convention, statements were made by the caucuses of what today are the Lovell-Bloom NC minority and the Weinstein-Henderson NC minority, and by the National Committee Majority Caucus. [These statements are published in The Struggle Inside the Socialist Workers Party—Ed.]

Comrade Weinstein, speaking for the leadership of the Weinstein-Henderson tendency, announced that they had “decided to maintain [the] existence” of their tendency. They would “faithfully carry out the line decided by majority vote” at the convention on all questions. The purpose for maintaining the tendency, he said, was to prepare for participating in the world movement discussion.

Comrade Breitman explained he was speaking in place of Comrade [Steve] Bloom, who had to leave the convention early because of a family medical emergency. He informed the convention that the steering committee of their caucus at the convention had made a unanimous decision to dissolve their caucus and its steering committee with the adjournment of the convention. The statement said that “the democratic rights of the minorities were recognized and respected” in the preparation of the convention. It said that “the convention not only decided the line, it also closed the debate for the time being.” The statement added that while disagreeing with the decision of Comrades Weinstein and Henderson to maintain their tendency following the convention, the steering committee of the Lovell-Bloom caucus defended their right to make this decision, “while abiding by party discipline and party norms.”

I then presented the opinions of the leadership of the NC majority caucus on these matters. It's useful to review what was said.

“The majority disagrees with the decision by Comrades Henderson and Weinstein to maintain their tendency. It's an error, and a serious one.”

The majority quoted the party's organizational resolution, which unambiguously states, “When the party has made its decision on the issues in dispute, groupings formed during the polemical struggle should dissolve into the party as a whole.”

The majority leadership stated that it assumed good faith and would not propose issuing any instructions to Comrades Weinstein or Henderson on the basis of their statement that they were maintaining their tendency.

It pointed out, however, that

The reasoning presented by Comrade Weinstein is also disturbing because it is completely unconvincing. He stated that the only purpose of the “Trotskyist Tendency” is to prepare to participate in the international discussion when it opens. But there is nothing an ideological tendency from a previous discussion does to prepare to participate in a future discussion whose character and content, as Comrade Weinstein himself pointed out, are undecided. There is no activity that an organized ideological tendency can engage in during a period when the party has not opened discussion....The party's elected national leadership bodies have not yet opened a discussion on the issues in dispute in the world movement.

So, there is no basis to maintain an ideological tendency in the SWP.

The majority did raise one other thing. It added that

If what was involved was the formation of a faction—if the group for which Comrade Weinstein was speaking was convinced that it must maintain itself as a disciplined formation, discuss among itself, and function by majority vote to prevent grave abuses by the elected party leadership—then, while [we] would not agree with the decision, it would at least make sense. This current decision does not on the basis of the reasons given.

The statement closed by urging all the comrades to review the party's literature on our organizational norms and principles:

Whenever you have had a discussion and sharp debate, and when you anticipate further debate down the road, it is important to review the organizational norms of the party. Because it is everyone's job to make sure that the party maintains its equilibrium and moves forward. Comrades should take the time during the next couple of months to reread carefully the 1965 organizational resolution of the Socialist Workers Party....

It is important to read and think about this, because it is the resolution that guides all of our activity and determines all of our criteria on organization questions. It is the resolution that will be implemented by the incoming party leadership.... [W]e will all now carry out the political line and tasks that were decided here, and work together to implement the party's line in our branches, locals, and districts.

The last act of the majority caucus is to celebrate its victory by deciding that it dissolves each and every aspect of itself. There is simply the Socialist Workers Party in an undifferentiated way once again.

Experience soon showed that developments in the party were not proceeding as the newly elected leadership had hoped they would at the end of the convention.

Political Differences Deepen

We called a National Committee plenum in November, only three-and-a-half months after the convention, because there were growing differences being expressed, in correspondence to the Political Committee, by comrades on the National Committee who had defended minority positions that had been rejected at the convention. Moreover, we had some organizational blow-ups that the NC needed to discuss, clarify, and settle.

The first of these was Greg Cornell's repeated defiance of party discipline. We had before the NC plenum an appeal from Cornell, Harry DeBoer, Gillian Furst, and Jake Cooper, of Cornell's censure by the Twin Cities branch. The second was the political premises of Edmund Kovacs' resignation from the Los Angeles branch, which he was appealing and we also thought should be put before the NC for a thorough discussion.

In addition, Washington was sharply stepping up its intervention in Central America and the Caribbean and its threats against Cuba. This situation imposed new political responsibilities on our party, and the whole Fourth International. So we scheduled a November plenum. That was just three months ago.

There we discussed and decided our orientation toward the unfolding war against the revolution in the Caribbean and Central America. We discussed and adopted an extensive report about the National Black Independent Political Party and its relationship to our party as a whole and to our perspectives for the U.S. class struggle.

The plenum discussed and adopted a report from the Political Committee on the political situation in the United States and also a report on the escalating attacks on our democratic rights, and on the rights of the union movement, the meaning of this offensive and the need to integrate the response to it into all of our work.

The plenum, in addition, voted to establish for the first time in decades a state organization in California. This move was connected both to the turn to industry and to the special opening around the recruitment of leaders of the Seaside Black and working-class movements. We had an entire report on this. There was also a report and discussion on our party finances and the hard leadership decisions the NC had to make.

The NC took up the appeal by Greg Cornell and voted to expel him from the Socialist Workers Party. The PC sent Mac Warren and Ken Shilman to Minnesota to present the NC decision on this to a special joint meeting of the Twin Cities and Iron Range branches. The big majority of the comrades in Minnesota supported the plenum action, expressing their opinion in a consultative vote.

The plenum also acted to uphold the decision of the Los Angeles branch that Edmund Kovacs's situation was incompatible with membership in the party, and adopted a report on this matter from the PC. Barry Sheppard then went to Los Angeles and reported the NC decision to the branch. The branch discussed the question for hours and, once again, the majority of the comrades were in agreement with the plenum's course.

We also heard, at the November plenum, a series of international information reports—reports from Cuba, from Nicaragua, and from a special meeting of the United Secretariat. At the last minute we added a report on the Labor Safe Energy Conference that had just taken place, because of the importance of this conference and because the political line along which we were participating had been challenged by the minority.

The Political Committee also presented a report, which the plenum adopted, on the organization of the party leadership and proposals for the new Political Committee. Under that report the plenum voted decisively to reject the proposal by Comrade Lovell to open an internal discussion bulletin “on Leninism,” and confirmed the decision from the August 1981 expanded PC meeting to begin in each branch a series of extensive classes on Lenin's writings.

The plenum discussed every question that any NC member had raised prior to the plenum, or at the plenum itself. The minorities were given time under every point for which they requested it. All written materials—motions, resolutions, correspondence, statements, etc.—presented by the minorities, even those that weren't ready until the plenum was in session, were duplicated and distributed to all members of the plenum.

We had a full and democratic discussion. Then we voted.

An Abnormal Situation in the Party

After this plenum, however, it became clear that something abnormal was going on in the party. It was clear that the plenum had solved nothing as far as those who disagreed with the party's decisions were concerned. What was abnormal was not that comrades disagreed with the plenum actions. That is their right. They deeply disagree with what they consider to be the revisionist course of the party. They have the right to their opinions. But the normal situation is that the NC discusses, decides, and then moves forward.

Instead, after the November plenum, a de facto internal discussion arose, about the very questions the plenum had decided, in the form of massive correspondence with the Political Committee. The meaning of this was unambiguous. Some comrades found the decisions of the plenum intolerable.

This raised one final question that we had to test, which is the reason that the Political Committee called this plenum so quickly after the last one, despite the big expense involved. (In addition to the travel expenses, over $3,000 went just for the xeroxing of materials for the plenum kits, not counting the material we sent to the NC beforehand.)

Why was it so important to call this six-day plenum right now and put every question on the agenda again? We didn't need it to resolve these questions, because that's what we did last time. Rather, we had to answer one question that could not have been settled at the November plenum. We had to see whether or not there had been any substantial shift in political opinion in the National Committee because of events since the convention. Is that what the flurry of correspondence by now organized NC minorities indicated? Following the convention, there were four comrades on the NC who consistently and to a growing degree indicated disagreement with the decisions and the course of the party.

The big escalation of correspondence from these comrades and the widening differences could mean one of two things in the party leadership. One, it could simply mean that these comrades found it increasingly impossible to accept the party's decisions, in which case, those comrades would have to make a fundamental decision about what they were going to do. If our decisions are correct, we're not going to change course.

A second possibility that the leadership had to take into account and test, however, was that the party was going off course and that other comrades in the National Committee—even a handful, two or three, six or seven—had come to agree with some of the positions and criticisms of the four NC minority comrades. We needed to test this because, even given polemical excess, what was being raised were the gravest imaginable charges about the course of the party, its political line, and its alleged programmatic revisions.

So, we needed to find out at this plenum whether or not the correct course was to call a special convention of the Socialist Workers Party to debate out the questions and elect a new leadership, regardless of the cost and disruption of our political work. A Political Committee reflects the National Committee. It is elected democratically and with consideration. But with rapidly moving events, a Political Committee can get out of step with the National Committee. So we had to hold open the possibility that it was not just the same four NC members who were raising the same positions once again, but that broader layers of the National Committee might feel the need to correct the course the Political Committee has been following in carrying out the decisions of the last plenum.

The results are now in after six days of political debate and discussion involving the entire NC and over 50 organizers and fraction heads elected by the party. And what we have discovered over these six days of discussion—in which every point that any member requested was placed on the agenda, in which time was given for minority reports and statements, in which fourteen agenda points were discussed and voted on—is that not a single member of the National Committee elected at the last convention who had not held minority views before had been convinced of a single one of the criticisms and counterpositions presented by either the Bloom-Lovell or Henderson-Weinstein NC minorities.

The conclusion from this plenum is that the Political Committee is not out of step politically with the National Committee. Rather, the same four comrades on the committee remain unconvinced by the events in life and the class struggle that convince the rest of the elected leadership of the correctness of the party's course.

This was important to find out. Having done so, we now make the decision to move ahead to a powerful educational and activists conference this summer. A conference we will use to educate the party; to bring our contacts to; to bring people we are working with in Seaside to; to bring contacts from the mines, factories and garment shops; to bring fighters we are getting to know in NBIPP, CISPES, NOW, or wherever; to bring people from around our hemisphere so they get to see and know us a little better; to get as many comrades and co-thinkers from abroad there; to do the things the party needs to do, and is ready to do.

That is what we settled at this plenum over these six days.

A Dangerous Confusion

Another problem that has come up since our last plenum is the NC minorities' persistent confusion between elected party bodies and the party majority. This is always difficult for a minority to accept, of course. Once positions are adopted by a convention, or by a plenum, those positions are the party's positions; not simply the majority's proposals.

The National Committee that is elected is a party institution, as is the Political Committee elected by the NC. They are not institutions of the majority, and their decisions are not decisions of the majority. Their actions are actions of the party, and their positions are the positions of the party. This is crucial, because you don't have a Leninist party if you confuse those two things. This plenum also must settle that question. We must decide whether we concur with the report we just heard from the Control Commission on this matter.

Individual members, of course, believe what they want. They maintain whatever views they have unless and until they are convinced otherwise by events and arguments. They can consider themselves part of minority ideological currents. But they can and must carry out activity and function, internally as well as externally, along guidelines approved by the elected party bodies. All members are bound by the decisions of the elected party bodies.

This fundamental basis of revolutionary centralism and party democracy has been challenged before by minorities in the party. In 1971, for example, the PC responded to a letter from Bill Massey, who was writing on behalf of the Proletarian Orientation Tendency. This letter to Massey was an opportunity to explain something to the party as a whole. Many comrades present were involved in the PC decision to write that letter to Massey, and none of us would say anything we didn't mean for the party as a whole.

The letter to Massey explained that the majority is more important than the minority. That may sound like a terrible beginning to a letter on party democracy, but if you think about it a minute you'll see that isn't so. The majority is more important than the minority because the decisions adopted by majority vote are the decisions of the party.

Massey was told:

Your entire letter reveals a conception of party organization alien to the party's principles of democratic centralism. For example, you say that the concept that “minority views are not as important as what the NC says” is a “prejudice.” That is not a “prejudice,” it is a fact. The positions of the National Committee, the democratically elected leadership of the party between conventions, are binding party policy until and unless they are altered by the national convention. This does not prevent comrades from giving critical views the attention they deserve.

Regardless of what any member thinks of the political positions and other decisions of elected leadership bodies of the party, those are the decisions that have full force and effect. All decisions they make are binding on all members unless and until they are changed by that body or overturned by a higher one.

Unilateral Circulation of Documents

We have also had another series of challenges to our organizational norms since the last plenum. We have been presented with a novel set of criteria about how an individual party member can unilaterally decide to organize the party's internal life—how to decide to whom to circulate private polemical discussion articles when no discussion has been opened by the NC. This came up in a Feb. 7 letter to the PC from Les Evans of the Iron Range branch.

In that letter Comrade Evans explained the basis on which he had distributed copies of a 40-page polemic to selected party members around the country. We were told that people you had former relationships with in party literary work were a category of party membership for privately showing discussion articles to. We learned that “experts” are a category of party membership. That personal friends are a category for the purposes of organized selective discussion. These include someone “who visited the Range ... and stayed with me”; comrades who “have a special interest in Marxist theory”; someone Comrade Evans “saw in New York, during the November plenum”; someone he “sees occasionally when I am down in the Twin Cities.”

It even includes someone he owed a Christmas card to! Some who “dropped me a personal note at Christmas, and, since I owed her a letter, I sent along a copy of my article for her criticisms.” That became a category of membership, too. It would be funny if it weren't such a travesty of elementary norms of functioning in a revolutionary proletarian party. Any single one of them you wouldn't pay much attention to. If someone said, “I sent a document to someone because I owed her a Christmas card,” you would laugh. If someone said, “I haven't had time to write to my mother so instead I sent her some PC minutes,” you would say, “Why don't you call your mother? Don't send her PC minutes.” The whole thing is peculiar, isn't it?

So we find that despite the fact that the National Committee has opened no discussion in the party, Comrade Evans and those who agree with him allege it to be the norm to distribute polemical articles—unilaterally and without authorization—to buddies, former literary collaborators, and self-designated experts. This represents a complete breakdown of the party's organizational norms, a transparently fraudulent one. Former staff writers, longtime collaborators, old friends—these are not categories of membership with any rights different from those of the membership as a whole. Some people who used to be on the staff of a party publication—just some of them—are included in the discussion and get the documents. Other party members don't. Some who happen to visit the Iron Range, or happen to live in the Twin Cities, or are a friend of the author, are part of the discussion. Everyone else isn't.

This now comes to a halt. Totally.

That's not how this party functions. These are exactly the things we have written about, and that Farrell [Dobbs] took up in his 1970 lectures on the organizational principles of the party. We don't equate personal friendship and comradeship. We are a political organization with elected bodies, and we function through those elected bodies, not as individuals and not as groupings of friends and like-minded people.

This is, of course, also true for National Committee members. Individual members of the National Committee have no individual rights in this party; they have well-defined rights as part of a committee. That's all. Mostly they have special responsibilities.

The norms of this party were not made for disloyal groups like the Robertsonites. We don't need norms for disloyal members. They don't carry out any norms. The party just catches them and throws them out. We have organizational norms for the cadre of the party, because that's the only way we can build a workers' party.

I praised freelancers at a plenum a couple of years ago. Some comrades thought this could lead to problems, so I think we didn't put it in the published report. But I still like freelancers in the sense that I raised it back then. Comrades in organized fractions probing living situations, reaching out, nosing around for opportunities. There's no danger in that. That's the kind of people we are. That helps open doors. Sure, do it, move on it, live through it, learn from it.

But there is no self-proclaimed Mandarin caste in this party whose members have some special relationship with each other. None at all. No category of current or former staff writers, literary collaborators, or those who have “a special interest in Marxist theory.” No category of experts with special rights and exemptions from party norms.

The Question of Pedro Camejo

Now we have a dispute over Pedro Camejo. Camejo walked out of the party, turned his back on his leadership assignments in the New York local, in the garment fraction, and left. He left without a word to the elected bodies of this party. That's all we know.

We don't know much about why Camejo made this decision because he never wrote anything to the Political Committee -why he was leaving, where he was going, anything. All we know is here was an NC member who had been a member of the Political Committee off and on for many years; who had assignments running for president, heading up the Managua bureau, leading the party's participation in the San Antonio antideportation conference a few years ago, and then—the plum of all assignments in the party in my opinion—heading up the garment turn in New York City and helping start the entire national garment-textile fraction. He turned his back on all that and walked away.

If Pedro Camejo thought he had political positions that he could convince this party of, he never raised them at the seven plenums and two conventions since the turn to industry, to choose one benchmark. He certainly would have gotten time at plenums and conventions. But he did not ask for any. He simply left.

I don't contend that a leader must raise every difference or doubt in the NC or PC. Leaders have the right to think out loud, talk ideas over with co-leaders, and wait to see what practice shows. Anything else would disrupt the leadership. A leader responsibly decides when a political question or doubt becomes a difference that needs to be raised and debated out.

But if you choose not to raise any questions or differences of opinion for discussion you can't then claim that the party is undemocratic and you've been denied the chance to raise your views. The record is crystal clear. There is no document ever submitted by Camejo to any plenum or any convention. No request for time for a counterreport. No request for time or a counterreport at a Political Committee meeting. Despite the unanimous urging of the plenum he refused to serve on the Political Committee that prepared the documents for our last convention. Camejo voted for all the reports and resolutions adopted by the NC and by our convention. He then walked away.

There is no dispute on any facts that are essential to us reaching a decision on the Camejo matter. We should put aside Camejo's assertions now that Olga's [Rodriguez] report to the PC about her meeting with Camejo is untrue; that the accounts by Mary-Alice [Waters], Barry [Sheppard], and Wendy [Lyons] of their conversations with Camejo are not true. When two people speak and there are no witnesses, it is hard to settle matters if there are later differing accounts of what was said. That's why it is sometimes set up that way. All of you who have known these comrades will make your own decisions about their truthfulness.

But we don't need any of this to make a decision here. We can drop it. Because there is one set of facts that there is no dispute about. Pedro Camejo has not paid dues to the Socialist Workers Party for eight months. He did not pay a convention assessment to the Socialist Workers Party this summer. He has not been under the discipline of any unit of the Socialist Workers Party for eight months. He has no letter from the Socialist Workers Party informing any section or group of cadres in the Fourth International that he left the country with the knowledge and permission of the elected bodies of the SWP, as stipulated in the statutes of the Fourth International.

Those four facts alone prove not only that Camejo is not a member of the Socialist Workers Party, but also that he is no longer a fraternal member of the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International.

From a political point of view, we don't really care whether or not Pedro Camejo is a member of the IEC. His participation at an IEC meeting won't qualitatively change the IEC meeting one way or the other. But the statutes of the Fourth International are very clear:

Except by special decision of the United Secretariat, a member of a section living more than six months in another country where a section exists must transfer to that section. The section involved must, before accepting the transfer, ask for a report through the United Secretariat in order to verify that the comrade left his former country with the full knowledge and permission of the section. [Section VII, Article 37, IP, December 23, 1974, p. 1840.]

These statutes aren't binding on us since the SWP is not a section or sympathizing organization of the Fourth International due to reactionary legislation. However they are binding on the leadership bodies of the Fourth International. And it is unambiguous that Camejo is not a member of the SWP, and does not have a letter from the SWP to another group.

Do Camejo's twenty-two years in the party and twenty years on the NC change what we should do? No. The Socialist Workers Party and the Fourth International gave Camejo twenty-two good years, twenty-two meaningful political years. But it doesn't give him any special rights. It doesn't mean that he's exempt from norms and rules that apply to other members. And his years on the NC simply mean that more should be expected of him—added responsibilities, not special rights or privileges.

Leaders have fewer rights than members, not more; that's the truth of the matter. Leaders have bigger responsibilities. They accept election to leadership bodies; nobody's dragooned. This party has never forced anyone to be on the National Committee or the Political Committee. When comrades accept nomination, they accept full responsibilities to comport themselves in line with our organizational principles. Here's what our 1965 resolution has to say:

To build the combat organization capable of leading the masses to power, the party must have as its general staff a corps of professional revolutionists who devote their entire life to the direction and the building of the party and its influence in the mass movement. Membership in the leading staff of the party, the National Committee, must be made contingent on a complete subordination of the life of the candidate to the party. All members of the National Committee must be prepared to devote full-time activities to party work at the demand of the National Committee.

Complete subordination? Not quite the way Camejo saw it. He just walked away from the SWP.

After being in the party twenty-two years and accepting leadership responsibility for twenty-two years, to then walk away from the party without one sentence on one piece of paper explaining why to the elected bodies of the party—that's an act of utter political irresponsibility. Camejo's subsequent course made it crystal clear that it was an act of political hostility toward the SWP as well. Nothing more, nothing less.

Rights of Tendencies and Rights of the Party

The recent letters from Comrade [Larry] Cooperman and Comrade [Don] Mahoney are also challenges to the organizational principles of our movement. There is no absolute right, at any time and under any circumstances, to organize tendencies in our party or in the YSA. A higher right than the rights of tendencies exists: the right of the party, through its elected leadership bodies, to regulate its internal affairs. These are interlinked rights, but the latter is higher.

Of course, if the leadership regulates those affairs incorrectly and erodes the democracy and centralism of the party, then a new leadership should be elected. And perhaps a new organizational document that summarizes that experience should be written. It is the right of any member to propose that. But unless those norms and principles are changed we all live under the norms that exist, as codified in the 1965 resolution, and applied by the democratically elected leadership bodies.

What is the connection between these questions and the building of an international movement? Our view of international democratic centralism is summed up in two paragraphs in the resolution adopted at the 1979 World Congress. These are important paragraphs. Without them, we would not have been able to agree to the political resolution for the last World Congress that dissolved the old factional lines. These two paragraphs meant that we had agreed on the dissolution of factions in the International. Of course, they are not binding on the SWP because we are not affiliated to the Fourth International, owing to the Voorhis Act. But that doesn't change the fact that these are the norms that guide our international work because these are what we agree with. Here's what they say:

To advance party building, the Fourth International abides by the norms of democratic centralism both nationally and internationally, with the right to form tendencies or factions guaranteed as was the tradition in the Bolshevik Party in Lenin's time.

On this point the statutes of the Fourth International include two general provisions on the mode of operation of democratic centralism:

(1) Decisions taken by a majority of delegates at a democratically organized world congress, the highest body of the Fourth International, are binding on all sections. Decisions taken by the International Executive Committee, which is elected by the delegates to serve as the highest body until the next congress, can be appealed but remain in effect until the appeal is heard and decided on;

(2) The members of national sections have the right to elect their own leaderships. Democratically organized congresses and plenary meetings of elected national committees constitute the highest bodies of national sections. They have the right to determine political line on all questions nationally, and to interpret and determine for all members of the section the national application of decisions made by the Fourth International.

Notice the word “nationally” in the last sentence. It's an adverb, not an adjective. It doesn't say that the sections have the right to determine political line on all national questions. It says they have the right to determine political line on all questions nationally. The SWP and other parties have the right to determine political line on any and all questions before us—national and world questions. And we have the right and responsibility to interpret and to determine for all members, under all circumstances, the national application of all decisions made by the Fourth International.

That's what our guide is. That's what we've been living up to. That's how we function.

The Montreal Meeting

Now, this leads to the question of the Montreal meeting at the end of January between Comrades Mandel and Duret, members of the United Secretariat Bureau, and Comrades Bloom and Lovell.

Two of the three representatives from the United Secretariat Bureau at this plenum were here a couple of days early and met with me and Barry [Sheppard] for several hours. They explained the circumstances of the decision by the Bureau to OK the Montreal meeting. They insisted that this involves no change in the norms of functioning that were agreed on when the factions were dissolved in the world movement nearly five years ago. They said they completely reject ever again having a so-called `real International'- that is, a secret faction—operating behind the backs of the elected leadership bodies of national sections.

Those elected bodies have a right to decide their own affairs and regulate the activities of their members. And even in matters concerning them but which are formally not their right to decide, they still have the right to know and to express an opinion on decisions that will affect their sections—before such decisions are made and acted on.

We raised with the Bureau representatives the question of who financed this trip to Montreal to meet with a tendency in our NC. Two people round-trip, Paris-Montreal, a week in a hotel, food, and expenses—that does not come out of subsistence. It's not a personal matter. The comrades told me that Comrade Sakai of the Japanese leadership, who is a member of the Bureau, had raised this same question at the Bureau meeting where this was discussed, pointing out that the Bureau itself had no right to pay for this trip. We still don't know.

Our objection is not that Comrades Lovell and Bloom met in Montreal with Comrades Mandel and Duret. We would have had no objection to that if we had been consulted. We have a very real and strong objection, however, to the way this meeting was arranged and took place. We think there were three additional problems.

One problem is that the material from Comrades Bloom and Lovell announcing the platform of a National Committee tendency arrived at the USec Bureau office in Europe while both Comrades Jaquith and Miah were present at the center for a United Secretariat meeting. There was a great deal of discussion about the platform, yet none of the comrades on the Bureau indicated to either of the two members of our PC on the scene that they saw a convergence with Bloom and Lovell and were thinking of arranging a meeting with them. Surely some of the leading comrades on the Bureau were already thinking along these lines, even if the formal Bureau meeting didn't take place until a few days later. But if it was at all possible, why not suggest that Comrade Jaquith or Miah stick around another day or so and discuss the question and any proposals? Unfortunately, this was not done.

The second problem is, what was the political character of the delegation that went to Montreal? Who did it represent? What tendency body financed it?

The PC expressed our view on this question in the January 29 letter to Comrades Bloom, Lovell, Weinstein, and Henderson, sent the same day we received the letter from Lovell announcing that he and Bloom “will be out of the country for a few days consulting with members of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International.” We explained that since neither the PC nor the SWP members who are fraternal members of the United Secretariat had been informed of the meeting, the PC “can only ad on the assumption that the members of the United Secretariat with whom Comrades Bloom and Lovell are consulting are part of an undeclared international faction to which they adhere.”

A statement to this plenum from the Bureau dated February 18 states that “no `undeclared faction”' exists. The statement, however, added that “Cdes. Walter and Duret informed the Bureau that they believed that a political convergence exists between their views in support of the majority positions adopted at the IEC and the positions put forward by Cdes. Bloom and Lovell.”

This raises a problem that should be clarified. If there is an international majority tendency, if it is going to raise funds for international trips, then this should be explained before the elected bodies of the Fourth International. Then other members of the IEC who hold different views may also want to consider what to do given the new situation in the International. Because of what we've been through over the last fifteen years, this mode of functioning has a terrible echo. Things have to be done out in the open, not behind the backs of the elected bodies of the International or the sections.

The third problem we are concerned about is that the PC was not informed beforehand of the proposed meeting with two members of our NC. The comrades say it was their intention to do so, but that somehow the letter didn't get sent. All right, so be it. Comrade Duret says that the Bureau decision was taken on Thursday, January 28. But the Montreal meeting took place January 30-31. So there is no way that the PC could have received any letter before the meeting was arranged and took place with Comrades Bloom and Lovell.

This is important. First, the Bureau must have relations directly with the Political Committee of the SWP, not with individuals or tendencies. Decisions that it makes affecting the SWP, or any member of the SWP, should be raised first with the Political Committee. It is no good to inform the PC after the fact. It is impermissible to operate behind the back of the elected leadership of any section or sympathizing organization. We have been through that and don't want to go through it again.

Secondly, the PC has the authority to refuse to grant Comrades Bloom and Lovell a leave. Now, you can say it would be unwise to use that power. You can say such a decision would be overturned by the next plenum. But some elected body of this party has to grant members a leave to participate in political gatherings outside the unit to which they are affiliated. There has to be a decision. The permission would have been virtually automatic in this case; that is not the question here. But the procedure was entirely incorrect; even if the Bureau's letter had been sent in time.

This question of proper relations between bodies of the International and those of sections is doubly real to us, because we do not forget what occurred during the IMT/LTF faction struggle in the International during the 1970s. We know from hard experience that a layer of comrades in the world movement believe that the only way to operate when differences develop with the SWP leadership is to go behind our back. We have assumed that those who went through this fight learned something from it, and that this kind of improper functioning would not recur.

We also know that the Canadian section was a particular victim of these factional operations the last time around, and so we are very concerned about any signs of this recurring, too. That is why we are apprehensive about the approach that the Bureau seems to be taking toward a group that split from the Canadian section a few years ago, the Organisation Combat Socialiste (OCS). The OCS, after splitting, approached the Bureau and asked for recognition as a sympathizing section in Canada. The Canadian comrades, naturally, feel that for the Bureau to do anything that would encourage the OCS to believe such recognition might be possible would reinforce the splitting and disruptive course of the OCS, and weaken still further whatever chance might remain to win this group, or part of it, back to the Canadian section.

Where we sharply disagree with the approach of the Bureau majority is the political criteria they are using to approach the OCS. In a letter they wanted to send to the OCS, the Bureau majority stressed that the OCS “stands on the program of the Fourth International.” What does this mean? Here is a group that continues to justify its split from the Canadian section on both political and organizational grounds, is waging war against the Canadian section, and the Bureau reaches out to them on the grounds they say they stand on the Permanent Revolution and the Transitional Program.

We don't accept the notion that stating agreement with the Permanent Revolution or the Transitional Program, or calling yourself Trotskyist necessarily has anything to do with the possibility of being in the same organization. If we adopted that measure, we would conclude we have something in common with groups like the Spartacists, like the Healyites, like half-a-dozen sectarian outfits.

What's more, we think the comrades on the Bureau should be extra careful not to give anybody—in Canada or anywhere else—the impression that the Bureau is holding any kind of discussions with this OCS group behind the back of the Canadian section. This is another leadership disagreement we have. The comrades from the Bureau were in Montreal for at least four or five days, only three subway stops and a ten-cent phone call away from the Canadian political bureau, and they never even called up the Canadian comrades. Can you believe it! And it happens, just by coincidence, that this was the weekend of a leadership gathering, in Montreal, of the OCS.

As I say, this is just a coincidence. The comrades from the Bureau may not even have known about this meeting, but surely a thing like this is bound to cause misunderstandings. Consultation with the official, elected leadership bodies is crucial or we will head into another period of total disintegration of relations in the International. We don't want to see that happen.

We are directly concerned about this now because the comrades in the International majority who have reached the stage of establishing relationships, based on political agreement, with comrades in the SWP minority, now have to share a big responsibility for how the minority in the SWP conducts itself. Therefore they have a responsibility to those comrades and to the SWP to use their influence to see that these comrades live under the norms of the SWP and the decisions of its elected bodies, no matter how much they disagree with those decisions. These comrades will have an ample opportunity to make motions to change the organizational principles, which will be on the agenda at our next convention, as well as to argue for any other changes they think are wise or necessary.

This is not a disguised accusation that the comrades in the International majority have advised the kinds of activities that the Control Commission has reported to us. We are raising something different, to the majority leaders in the Bureau. Use your political influence to encourage the comrades in the minority in the SWP National Committee to act in such a way that will not cut across our having a thorough political discussion, in our next preconvention discussion and convention, and in preparation for the next World Congress.

Revolutionary Centralism

Finally, I want to end on the question of revolutionary centralism. The 1965 resolution on the Organizational Character of the SWP explains the concept of revolutionary centralism. What is a revolutionary centralist party? Number one, it is an internationalist party. Number two, a proletarian party. Number three, a party that maintains revolutionary continuity as part of a living process. That is right in the organizational principles of our party.

Number four, a party that is conscious of advancing leadership transitions. This is part of penetrating more deeply into the working class, and being conscious that, wherever possible, the party of the future must constantly be incorporated as part of the leadership of the party of the present. This is essential if the leadership as a whole is to represent the party that is becoming as well as the party that is. The leadership has to represent where the party is going.

Number five, a democratic party, in which the entire membership has opportunities, through organized discussions of all kinds, to affect all policies. An activist party where those who act are those who decide. It means a party that does not tolerate private discussions and decisions by self-selected groupings, open to some and closed to others, defined by friendship, past relationships, or other subjective and arbitrary criteria.

Number six, a party in which the bodies that are elected are the ones who decide. This is political centralism. This is why it's so important, every time a leadership body is elected, for it to be done democratically, and consciously.

This resolution avoids a false concept of democratic centralism, which is widespread even in our party. That is the idea that sometimes the party is democratic and sometimes we are centralized. That is a false framework. We are always centralized, and we are always democratic. We are always centralized in our functioning in the mass movement, including during preconvention discussion. And we are always democratic, not just once every two years leading up to a convention. This is important because to say “Sometimes the party is centralized, sometimes it is democratic,” is to reduce the real content of democracy to simply the writing of documents and arguing disputed questions. This is essential, but it is only one part of democracy. Democracy in a proletarian party has a broader content than that. Democracy does not reduce itself to the right to write.

Democracy in our party includes such principles as that there are no bodies that make decisions that affect the party that are not known to the party, and elected democratically. Democracy in our party means that no individuals get preferred treatment—every member has the same rights, and the same obligations as every other member. Democracy means that the minority is at all times subordinate to the party as a whole, and has no right to violate or impede the work of the party, democratically decided by majority vote. Democracy means that the party is at all times centralized in its work, that is, majority vote decides. Always.

It is the interconnection and balance between these things that is the key to revolutionary centralism. For example, after this plenum, we will make a shift in this balance. As you can tell from the minutes, the Political Committee has taken up an inordinate amount of time with correspondence, complaints, and “questions” from the minorities. You have the massive PC minutes, with questions, answers, and a new set of organizational matters every meeting. We have had, as you know, to continually defer other things, other party work to deal with this stuff. Well, that all gets knocked way down. We are not going to spend as much time on it, instead we are going to turn to carrying out the decisions of this plenum. We are going to shift the balance.

Twenty-seven Motions

I will now read to you the motions from the Political Committee dealing with the findings of the Control Commission, which left recommendations on implementing its conclusion to the plenum and dealing with the issues that have been raised in the challenges by the minorities to our organizational norms.

The Political Committee has asked me to go through these motions one by one and explain those that need motivation in addition to what has already been said.

Motion Number One:

To adopt the conclusions of the report from the Control Commission convened by the Political Committee at its February 23 meeting;

And Motion Number Two:

To instruct Comrades Bloom, Lovell, Henderson, and Weinstein to cease and desist from any further violations of the party's organizational principles such as those cited by the Control Commission report and Party Norms report adopted by the plenum. This is the final warning. All party bodies will apply with full force and effect the party's organizational principles, Constitution, and decision of elected party bodies. Any further violations shall be met by immediate suspensions.

The big question here is quite simple. It is the Control Commission's judgment that four members of the National Committee have forfeited their right to membership in the party by conscious violation of the organizational principles of the party. I stress the word “conscious,” because those that are involved in this are experienced comrades. Three of them have been on the National Committee for many years. The fourth, Comrade Bloom, has been an active member of the party for a decade and a half. These comrades have been involved over the years in discussing and voting on our organizational norms each time they have been challenged, including every single aspect of the Internationalist Tendency affair, both before and after the IT parted company with the SWP in 1974. With the exception of Comrade Bloom, the comrades were members of the Political Committee or members of the National Committee. So there is no question about misunderstanding or ignorance or blissful innocence or anything like that.

We think it would be an error to exercise our power to suspend the four members of the National Committee from membership in the party here and now, and recommend their expulsion to the next convention. This is not because we have any disagreement with the findings of the Control Commission.

Rather it is because we think it would be preferable to take two steps instead. First, to report to the entire membership of the party all of the political decisions of this plenum so that the entire membership of the party can think about and absorb where the party stands by the decision of its elected leadership on every one of the central political questions of the day.

The only way we think this decision not to suspend these comrades stands any chance of being accepted by the party in light of the findings of the commission is by taking the second step: making it crystal clear by decision here that any repetition of any of the activities cited by the Control Commission will result in immediate expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party.

If these motions should be adopted by the plenum, and accepted in practice by the comrades of the National Committee minorities, then the entire party can, with great objectivity, begin following the literary discussion on the National Committee and the IEC level that will unfold as the political questions are debated out in our world movement and in front of revolutionaries in the world. All members of the party will be able to follow special discussions, like the exchange in the ISR on Lenin and Leninism.

We will be able to organize, in the party, a thorough pre-World Congress discussion. Assuming that discussion coincides with our preconvention period we can place before the party in that discussion every disputed question in the world, and every disputed national question. This will be an important educational opportunity for the whole party.

But this will only be possible if these motions are carried out in practice, if the party, coming out of this plenum, in a period where the party bodies are not opening up any organized discussion in the party, acts completely and to the end along these lines.

Motion Number Three:

To instruct Comrade Lovell to cease and desist from all unilateral and unauthorized correspondence with members and branches concerning matters that are the responsibility of the Political Committee. It is the responsibility of the Political Committee to decide how to handle its correspondence with members of the party, including whether to circulate such material to the NC or to the membership.

Individual members of the NC do not have the right to take correspondence addressed to the PC, regardless of how they came into possession of such letters, and use it as a way to intervene in a branch dispute. To do so is in violation of the organizational principles of the Socialist Workers Party.

An individual member of the Political Committee has no special rights as an individual member of the Committee. The Political Committee, as a committee, has the right and obligation to regulate the activity of the party between plenums. But no individual PC member has the right to shoot off a letter to a branch with advice or instructions along lines different from what the party's elected bodies have decided. An individual PC member can disagree with what is done. An individual PC member can propose that their disagreement be sent to the whole NC. Whether or not to do that, however, is the decision of the Committee.

This has nothing to do with any notion of “PC discipline” that restricts a PCer from expressing their opinions at NC meetings. There is no such thing. We settled that with Pablo in 1953. Any member of the PC can raise at any plenum and at any convention, any PC action or position he or she doesn't agree with. No member is bound by any discipline of the body in that sense. Nor is any member of the NC required to keep silent at a convention on NC actions they oppose.

But no member of the PC, or of the NC, has any special right to unilaterally open private discussion in the party—regardless of the guise under which it may be done, such as a carbon copy to a friend, or someone you owe a Christmas card to. We are settling that right here.

I ask you, as a member of any branch or fraction, how would you like to write a letter to the Political Committee, because you have a difficult problem and you're turning to that body that according to the constitution you must ask about this particular dispute, and while you're waiting to hear from the Political Committee you get six letters from six different individuals on the PC telling their friends in the branch, with carbons to the executive committee, what should be done, and has to be done, what's been decided or will be decided by the Political Committee.

You can't have two standards. If Lovell can do it, so can any other member of the PC. You have to generalize these things to understand the enormity of what the minority is really proposing and what it would mean if we don't sharply call this whole thing to a halt.

Motion Number Four:

To instruct Comrades Lovell and Bloom to cease and desist from the use of the party's photocopying machines or other resources for factional purposes without the prior agreement of the Political Committee or a subcommittee designated by it.

This relates to a major point we discussed earlier. The elected party bodies, even if they should be composed entirely of members who hold the same ideological position, are the elected party bodies. They must decide what material is to be sent out to the NC, or to the membership. Only these elected bodies are authorized to use party resources. They can be called to order if they make wrong decisions. If you think it wasn't worth $3,000 of party funds to get all of this material into your plenum kits—and I know there is a growing number that has that view—that can be expressed to the committee. Some of you might think additional materials should be distributed to the NC. Comrade Lovell has the strong opinion that Comrade Evans's polemic on Lenin and Jenness submitted to the ISR, along with other material, should have been in the kit. And he made that motion to the body. That's proper. He believes the PC was wrong. The body considered the proposal and voted to reject it. That's proper, too.

But no one has the right—no tendency of any kind, no formation of any kind, no faction, no ideological minority, minorities, or majority—to use any of the resources of the party without decision by the elected bodies.

Motion Number Five:

To condemn Comrade Steve Ashby's conscious and deliberate refusal to furnish the Control Commission with all the information at his disposal concerning the matters the Control Commission was investigating. To instruct him to cease and desist from any unauthorized distribution of material. This warning is final, and all party bodies will apply with full force the organizational norms, party constitution, and decisions of elected party bodies against any violation of this motion. Any further violation shall be met by immediate expulsion.

I should say that the reason that final sentence is there is so there can be absolutely no misunderstanding. If this is adopted you will be instructing the incoming Political Committee and the Chicago Branch to act immediately, without waiting for the next plenum, to end this if it should happen again.

Motions Number Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine:

To condemn Comrade Ray Markey's conscious and deliberate refusal to furnish the Control Commission with all the information at his disposal concerning the matter the Control Commission was investigating;

To instruct Comrade Don Harmon to cease and desist from any unauthorized distribution of material. This warning is final, and all party bodies will apply with full force the organizational norms, party constitution, and decisions of elected party bodies against any violation of this motion. Any further violation shall be met by immediate expulsion;

To instruct Comrade Michael Smith to cease and desist from any unauthorized distribution of material. This warning is final, and all party bodies will apply with full force the organizational norms, party constitution, and decisions of elected party bodies against any violation of this motion. Any further violation shall be met by immediate expulsion;

To instruct Comrade David Keil to cease and desist from any unauthorized distribution of material. This warning is final, and all party bodies will apply with full force the organizational norms, party constitution, and decisions of elected party bodies against any violation of this motion. Any further violation shall be met by immediate expulsion.

These four motions simply flow from the findings of the Control Commission, and our judgment of the seriousness of the violations of our norms involved in each case.

Motion Number Ten:

To inform all party members who voted for either of the NC minorities during the August 1981 preconvention discussion, and who may be confused about the party's organizational norms due to the conduct of the minority NC members since the convention cited by the Control Commission, that they are instructed to cease and desist from any organized meetings in their areas. In particular, we call this to the attention of party members in the San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Twin Cities, New York City, and Cleveland branches, where minority delegates were elected to the last convention.

This is quite important in order to avoid any misunderstandings resulting from the actions of the NC minorities. There is a danger that comrades will draw the conclusion from all of the unilateral distribution of documents that has occurred—and whatever else has been going on that we did not probe into—that there is no reason why groupings of comrades can't have organized meetings, xerox up copies of three or four polemical articles by Les Evans, three or four birthday cards from that person, and hold private discussions on them. Some comrades may think this is the way the party functions. They may think it is normal and proper to have organized tendency discussions in a non-preconvention-discussion period. This motion is important so there's no possibility of inadvertently entrapping people—so no comrade does something that will result in their expulsion from the party because of misreading what party norms allow as a result of the activity of NC members.

When comrades decide to break the norms of the party, they often are burdened with one final illusion: that there is some way to organize “underground.” For instance, if you just mail things without return addresses. If you use a letter drop. If you just don't tell anyone. If you just have smaller meetings. The party will never find out. The truth of the matter, comrades, is the party finds out right away when that happens. You know what this party's like: you can telephone, telegraph, or tell-a-comrade. And the third one is much faster.

The Control Commission decided not to investigate, this time, the reports they had about things of this sort that they did not already have documentary proof of. But this illusion always grows. It grows among young members, and sometimes it grows among old warriors, who think there's some clever way to teach others how to organize a real faction fight. But this is quite foolish. So, we are not going to move on anything that happened before this plenum, if this approach is adopted. But we will make crystal clear what the facts are for each and every member.

Motions Number Eleven and Twelve:

To instruct Comrades Lovell, Bloom, Henderson, and Weinstein to dissolve all aspects of their respective secret factions and to restrict their activities to that of NC minority tendencies until such time as the National Committee opens a discussion period in the party;

To reaffirm the right and responsibility of the National Committee and Political Committee to uphold norms regarding the principled functioning of tendencies and factions, and to protect the democratic rights of the entire party and its membership. This includes the right and responsibility to regulate the internal democracy of groupings, tendencies, and factions of the party, in line with the party's organizational principles.

There are two rights in the party that are totally interconnected. One is the right to have tendencies and factions, at the proper time and functioning in the proper way. The other is the right and obligation of the elected party leadership bodies to organize and regulate all aspects of the party's internal life.

The party recognizes the right of tendencies and factions to function, but under the regulation of the party, not in an undisciplined and disruptive way. You know, there is nothing wrong with a group of comrades on the National Committee saying, “We think this party is in such rotten shape, and the leadership is functioning in such an undemocratic way, that we want to form a faction. Not a tendency, a faction, in the National Committee. And we have a set of proposals: we want to present our concerns to the entire party through a discussion bulletin. We want to call a national conference of our faction. We want a national faction bulletin.”

All of those things are possible. Every one of them has been done and agreed to at some time in the history of our party. All of them are possible—but only by decision of the party. Not by unilateral decision and action by a minority. Not as an automatic matter of some right. And it is not enough for a minority to inform the party after the fact. The elected party bodies must agree before any of these forms can be initiated. To date we have agreed to authorize the organization of two National Committee minority tendencies. That is all.

Motion Number Thirteen:

To reaffirm that at no time are members of the Socialist Workers Party free to organize or participate in tendencies in the YSA based on positions not adopted by the party's leading bodies, unless a specific decision to allow SWP members in the YSA to do so has been made by appropriate bodies of the party.

Members of the SWP are at all times subject to party discipline. They are not free to raise positions different from those of the party with non-members of the party, whether or not such non-members are in the YSA.

Any such action is in direct violation of the organizational principles of the SWP.

All party members are obligated to advance the party's line on all questions in the YSA and to present the party's views on all questions to non-party members of the YSA.

This restates the heart of the letter from the Political Committee to Comrade Mahoney, and it is presented here to the National Committee for affirmation or rejection.

Motions Number Fourteen and Fifteen:

To instruct the NC minorities to inform the Political Committee prior to holding any national conferences or meetings of one or both of their tendencies, such as they held in New York City during the last week in January;

To concur with the Political Committee's January 29 decision to instruct Comrade Les Evans to cease and desist from the unilateral and unauthorized distribution of material; and to instruct Comrade Evans to cease and desist from sending copies of his correspondence with the Political Committee to NC members, other party members, or SWP branches.

Motion Number Sixteen:

To recognize that there are two minorities in the National Committee defined by: 1) the December 23, 1981, platform submitted by Comrades Bloom and Lovell; and 2) the February 27, 1982, statement submitted by Comrades Henderson and Weinstein. Any alterations of the platforms or adherence by other NC members should be immediately called to the attention of the Political Committee.

As comrades will recall, there was a disagreement on this question.

The PC view was challenged by Comrades Bloom and Lovell. The PC rejected that challenge, and made its recommendations to this plenum accordingly, and was upheld by the plenum when we organized the agenda and schedule. But, now, in light of the written statement by Comrades Henderson and Weinstein that was submitted to the presiding committee at the beginning of the plenum, and in light of the platform of Comrades Bloom and Lovell that was previously distributed to the NC, we propose that now we recognize the existence of two separate NC minority tendencies. There are two. At any time this might change. But that is as it stands at the close of the plenum.

Motion Number Seventeen:

To concur with the January 16 decision of the Political Committee to reject reopening the party's internal Discussion Bulletin by circulating the Lovell/Bloom NC minority platform to party branches.

This is quite an important motion. We reject the notion, advanced by Comrades Lovell and Bloom, that to shoot out minority platforms to the membership whenever they come along doesn't mean opening a party discussion. Of course it would. What are we going to do, send them out and let them sit? Not answer them? It is absurd. We may decide to include minority platforms or other documents along with the other materials we print up, including most importantly, the party decisions adopted at this plenum. That would be a different matter. But simply to distribute, whenever a minority demanded it, their platforms to the membership would be disruptive and irresponsible, unless we also decided to open a discussion at the same time.

Motion Number Eighteen:

To reaffirm the Political Committee's right and responsibility to decide on all attachments to the Political Committee minutes and to regulate the distribution to the National Committee of all materials by NC members.

We reject the idea that there is any right for an NCer, or anyone else, to send anything they want to the Political Committee and have it automatically distributed to the National Committee. The Political Committee must organize its meetings, its minutes, and the circulation of material to the National Committee. It must make the decision and take the responsibility for this. No individual member of the NC, or of the PC, has the right to automatically have anything they want distributed to the NC. This was settled long ago, when Swabeck tried to turn the PC minutes into a regular NC discussion bulletin. The PC simply stopped, at a certain stage, attaching his letters, positions, and complaints on China.

The next three motions are similar to each other in purpose. These are made to guide us between now and the next plenum. Unlike the other motions, these are not simply restatements of norms that are always in effect, but rather are specifically designed to meet the current situation we face internally. Their aim is to minimize any possible misunderstandings or inadvertent actions that can lead to unnecessary conflicts.

Motion Number Nineteen:

That all proposed articles by SWP members to International Viewpoint, International Marxist Review, and other international publications be submitted through the Political Committee.

Of course this is normally the way things would be done, but we are not going to leave anything informal. This motion is necessary to make sure that we are not confronted with a fait accompli that we have to reject. This guarantees we have an opportunity to act on any proposed submissions before they are put into print.

Motion Number Twenty:

That all invitations of non-members of the SWP and YSA to the August national educational conference in Oberlin be done by recommendation of the branch with Political Committee approval.

This means the PC will make the final decision on any guests invited to Oberlin this year. This, of course, will be a routine matter in most cases. Comrades will decide in each branch who they want to invite in their area, and send a list to the PC, and a subcommittee will send back approval. We hope there will be a lot of guests this year, and the idea is not to restrict in any way the branches making use of the opportunity to bring along new people. Rather, the purpose is to prevent any problems that might arise if someone who has left the party gets inadvertently invited by a branch unaware of important facts, confronting us with a decision out in Oberlin rather than being able to deal with it before. This is simply to guarantee that we don't walk into a problem like that.

Motion Number Twenty-One:

That all transfers must be approved by the Political Committee until the Political Committee or the National Committee decides otherwise.

The last time we did this was in 1973, when the Internationalist Tendency was challenging our organizational norms. It was quite important, because it prevented any misunderstandings about transfers, and eliminated the possibility that anyone could be accused of transferring for factional purposes, rather than to build the party or for strictly personal reasons.

We have an immediate example before us that illustrates why such a policy would be good to reinstate for a while. We have been informed by the organizer in Newport News that Comrade Keil wants to transfer in a matter of days to Boston. The PC has to be involved in that decision. Comrade Keil may have personal reasons to want to transfer, and we may well concur with his request. But we also have to keep in mind that he is one of our main defendants in the battle with the federal “security clearance” police—he is our only defendant in the Steelworkers Union—and it would be foolish for the decision for him to transfer to be made without the PC being involved and taking responsibility for it.

Surely Comrade Keil wants us to share the responsibility for a decision for him to pull out of Newport News at this moment. It is simply a good example of why we should make sure we don't have any misunderstandings.

Motion Number Twenty-Two:

To approve the following conclusions from the Political Committee letter to the United Secretariat Bureau concerning the status of Pedro Camejo:

“11) The Political Committee considers that for Camejo, who was a twenty-year member of the National Committee, to turn his back on his leadership assignment in the New York garment fraction and then walk out of the party without even informing the Political Committee was an act of utter political irresponsibility and hostility to the Socialist Workers Party.

“12) Whatever Camejo's intentions and future plans may be, should he ever seek political activity in the workers' movement, and apply to rejoin the SWP, his application would be considered in line with Article VIII, Section 6 of the SWP Constitution: `Persons who have been expelled from the party or who have resigned from it may not be readmitted to the party without the approval of the National Committee.'

“13) All political relations between any SWP member and Camejo are governed by Article VIII, Section 8 of the SWP Constitution: `Political collaboration with non-members of the party must be formally authorized by the party committee having jurisdiction.' In this case, the National Committee and its elected subcommittee, the Political Committee, are the bodies with jurisdiction.

“14) The Political Committee renews our request that the March meeting of the United Secretariat: (1) recommend to the May IEC meeting that Miah take the spot vacated by Camejo on the IEC; (2) confirm that Camejo is not an IEC member, has no right to attend the May IEC meeting, and will not be invited to attend the May IEC meeting.

“We request that the Bureau inform us by mail of the motions adopted by the March meeting on these matters immediately after that meeting, rather than waiting for the complete minutes of the March meeting to be prepared and mailed out.”

Motion Number Twenty-Three:

To reaffirm the decision to hold a national education and activists conference in Ohio from July 31 to August 7.

This simply restates what we decided at the last plenum. And we will leave it to the incoming Political Committee to organize the conference.

Motion Number Twenty-Four:

That the plenum concurs with the Political Committee's interpretation of the party constitution (PC minutes No. 3 in 1982) that the SWP Constitution does not give ex-members an unlimited time to appeal expulsions. By not appealing to the meeting of the National Committee directly following the disciplinary action, or to the next convention, a person forfeits his or her right to appeal. This matter should be referred to the constitution commission at the next SWP convention for review to dear up any possible constitutional ambiguities.

This seems obvious: no political person could expect to interpret the provision of the party constitution on appeals as meaning that you can appeal two, three, five, ten years after the disciplinary action was taken. You could be thrown out, organize a new opponent party, and come back in a few years and insist on your right to appeal to a convention.

But we have to take this up for a very important reason, one that we must give constant leadership attention to. As the Gelfand-Healyite harassment case is showing us, police disrupters can use the courts as a weapon of harassment against us, taking laws and court rulings protecting constitutional rights and twisting them to use as a weapon against our constitutional rights. One of the things they might seize on is any ambiguities or possible ambiguities in our own constitution. So even though no political person could read any ambiguity in our constitution on the question of appeals, some sharpie lawyer might try it, and some judge might buy it.

This came up in the PC when Heisler, a year and a half after being expelled—after the next convention, after many plenums—out of the blue wrote a letter saying he was appealing his expulsion. We said no, too late, you forfeited your right of appeal. So the purpose of this motion is to have the NC as a whole take responsibility for this interpretation of the constitution as being the correct one, and to refer this to the next constitution commission for review.

As we review the constitution, we must always review it with two things in mind. One, how it serves the needs of the party as it is and will be developing and advancing; and two, how to prevent it from being abused by the class enemy to make legal attacks on the party. This is simply an additional leadership responsibility we have now to take into account at each step.

Motion Number Twenty-Five:

To establish a commission of Sheppard, Warren, and Waters to draft an updated organizational resolution for submission to the National Committee and to the next SWP convention.

It is obvious that since we adopted the 1965 organization resolution we have had much rich experience that should be incorporated into our collective understanding, and set down as part of our codified principles of organization. We have had, for example, the experience in relation to the IT split, and the connection between national and international democratic centralism, which was raised as part of that fight and is being raised again. The responsible procedure is to do this well in advance of the next convention, so that a draft can be given to the NC before a plenum, and we can discuss a draft that everyone will have had a chance to study.

The commission we propose includes two of the comrades, Barry [Sheppard] and Mary-Alice [Waters] who have been the most involved in the international work of the party over the last fifteen years. By having, in addition, Mac [Warren] on it, we add the comrade who has been involved more than anyone else in the last two years in working through the concretization of our norms, working with the fractions and the branches; unraveling some disciplinary actions that were wrong and harmful, and leading the defense against challenges of others that were correct and beneficial.

So these experiences will be brought together in the drafting commission we propose. As the comrades know the 1965 resolution was drafted by a commission of Farrell [Dobbs], George [Novack], and Jim [Cannon]. Farrell and George have both agreed to act in a consultative capacity, offering whatever help they can in this project.

Motion Number Twenty-Six:

To refer to the incoming Political Committee the editing in light of the plenum discussion and publication of the reports adopted by the National Committee.

This is a motion that is routinely placed before the plenum, but as you know from the minutes, there is now a challenge to this procedure, and the good faith with which it has been carried out by the Political Committee in the past. So this is not presented as simply a routine motion, but for consideration, debate, and decision. Finally,

Motion Number Twenty-Seven:

To approve the general line of the Political Committee report and summary on party norms.


Why did we place this point on “Party Norms and Appeals” on the agenda at this plenum? Why has the Political Committee had to spend so much time on this, and why are the plenum kits so weighted down with this organizational material?

Comrade Lovell suggests the PC shouldn't have spent so much time on these matters. But I am afraid he misses the point, still, of the report, and what the record shows. If you weigh the organizational materials in your kits, and look at them, you will discover that every single item in there is the result of a challenge by the comrades of the minorities, initiated by them, not by the Political Committee.

The Political Committee, in carrying out the norms of the party, found that every single one of its decisions was systematically challenged by the minority comrades who demanded that these actions be overturned. So with the accumulation of these challenges to the organizational decisions of the Political Committee by the minorities, the PC decided, and this plenum agreed, that these matters should be reviewed by the National Committee.

That was the democratic thing to do: to place the challenged actions of the PC before the higher body, the NC, for review. That is what we have done. And that is what we are going to vote on, among other things, at the end of this session. That is why your kits were so weighted down with organizational matters.

But I don't think they will be so heavy next time. Because we are not going to do the same thing next time. We are going to make a shift. We are going to adjust what we spend our time on. We are not going to continue answering letters like these from Comrade Evans. We will simply file them. We are going to quit calling off the trips by the party leadership to Price, to Miami, to Chicago, to the Iron Range. We are going to quit putting off the things the party needs in order to handle this sort of thing.

That is what is going to change. It is going to change because the way the PC is functioning is on the borderline of irresponsibility now. It hasn't been over the line—everything we have done has been necessary and correct to do leading up to this plenum—but if we were to continue in the same way it would be irresponsible.

We have to turn our attention to functioning with, leading, and organizing the national leadership of our party throughout the country to advance along the lines we have laid out here. That is what we have not been doing so well, and what needs to be done. And that, assuming the NC agrees, is what the PC is going to start doing.

That is one reason we have begun adding information to the PC minutes, such as what time the meetings begin and what time they adjourn, and who is not present and why. This is so the comrades will have a feel for how much time was taken on these matters. And you can see that leading up to this plenum we have operated on the assumption that no matter how much time it took, no matter what the cost of xeroxing it all up was, it was the democratic thing to do, and we did it. And that is why these things now have to be decided here today, so that we can move on.

We accept the minority comrades' assurance that they will comport themselves in accordance with our norms—not as they would like them to be, but as the National Committee says they are and will remain. We take that on good faith and move forward—although I would suggest to Comrade Lovell that he and Comrade Bloom should rethink his phrase about how the two of them want to “function within this party.” After all, a lot of people would like to “function within” this party; it's not your best one-sentence definition of loyalty to the party, when you stop to think about it.

But we assume—and will act on the assumption—that the comrades mean what they say. And we will turn to other matters. We are not going to keep retracing our steps.

I would like to summarize where I think we are now politically with the end of this plenum. I think we have brought to an end the discussion on U.S. politics with the minorities at this plenum. We have been through the whole thing thoroughly at the last two plenums. We have listened to the proposals and the criticisms: how we have got to throw ourselves into initiating a mass action campaign to save the ERA; how we betrayed the PATCO strike; how we must launch the clubs in the unions that will launch the labor party that will be the class-struggle left-wing beginning. We've been through their views on what's wrong with talking socialism on the job. We have been through it all and exhausted the discussion. Nothing new is being said any more.

Ground Shifts to International Discussion

Now the ground is going to shift to the international discussion, the discussion on the big issues facing our world movement, and revolutionaries everywhere. This will not be a discussion with the two minorities in the SWP National Committee, although they will have the opportunity to express their point of view, in the appropriate way, like all other members of the National Committee.

The problem here is simple: there is a widening political divergence in the Fourth International, and it revolves around the turn and the approach to the Marxist leaderships in Cuba, in Nicaragua, and Grenada. We have to think out what is the most effective way to advance this discussion; how to take the next steps toward assembling the revolutionary Marxist forces on an international scale; how to point the way forward for the Fourth International as part of the same world Marxist current as the Cubans, the Nicaraguans, and the Grenadans; how to explain why the turn into industry is the central political question facing every section of the Fourth International.

Comrade Weinstein, repeating a complaint that we get constantly from some of the comrades of the majority of the international leadership, says we have failed to write down our views on these questions. This is absurd. We have a great deal in writing and in print on Cuba, on Nicaragua, on Grenada. If ever there was an organization that had an unambiguous written position on Cuba—and on everything else, from Poland to Iran—it is the Socialist Workers Party. Everyone knows exactly what our line is, that is why there is so much excitement in the International.

There is disagreement with this line. But instead of moving ahead to discuss the disagreement, the comrades say, why don't we answer the IEC resolution on Cuba from May 1981? We have answered it two or three times over; there is nothing new in there we haven't dealt with.

We have advanced our thinking on the workers' and farmers' government, and adopted a position here at this plenum. We have advanced, drawn the lessons of, and are now advancing still further, the proletarianization of our party through the turn into industry.

Comrades of the majority of the international leadership feel strongly, as our minorities do here, that we are revising the program of our movement. But we are not revising the program; we are moving forward in response to, and along with, the class struggle. If there was ever a time when you can't just stand still and rigidly hold tight the banner, it's now. How can our program not be enriched as we absorb and learn from the experiences of the revolutions unfolding in Central America and the Caribbean today? Why is that something to feel threatened by?

One of the dangers is that the SWP “regime” may become the main discussion in the International. That is of great interest to some comrades and they think some big questions are involved. But if that turns out to be the big discussion, it will be a discussion without us. We are not interested in discussing it. We're just not interested.

Camejo turns his back on the party and walks out. Six months later, a campaign starts charging that we have abused Camejo, been mean to him, driven him out. Now, the Bureau writes letters to Camejo and we get carbons; they write letters to us and Camejo gets carbons. Fine. They can send carbons to whomever they want. But we are not going to take part in this. We can't control what the Bureau does, or the majority of the United Secretariat. We can urge them not to divert the discussion we urgently need into a discussion on the alleged organizational abuses of the SWP. But if they insist on doing that, we are just not interested in taking part.

Comrade Weinstein complains that we say too much in newspaper and magazine articles and not enough in resolutions. He says you can't tell the line from articles in the press, only from formal resolutions. I don't agree. The distinction between words and deeds is important. The line of the party is not simply the line of its convention and plenum resolutions. That is only the backbone and guide for the line. The line of a party is what the press carries every week, what the branches and fractions carry out, what the new members and cadres are taught. Of course, you can't do without resolutions, reports, that are voted on and published, if they are adopted, for the whole membership.

Growing Divergence on the Turn

I raise this because of the growing divergence in line toward the turn into industry in the International. A majority of comrades voted for the turn report at the 1979 World Congress. They include it in carefully worded resolutions at their conventions and central committee meetings. But the evidence is growing that they don't carry it out. They vote for it in words, but they don't do it in deeds. Which is the real line? The resolution or the week-to-week activity?

I am not talking about a lack of integrity. I am simply talking about a fact. Maybe the words mean something different to them than to us. Maybe the word “turn” has come to mean totally different things.

The real line of the party is revealed in what the press carries, not just the resolution that is written so carefully. You can write a resolution, then the Militant goes off and says something else, and you say, “Well, that's not our line. You see here we've got this resolution.” That's a fake. You can say you're for the turn into industry, but if it isn't being done, then all the resolutions you pass don't mean a thing.

We will continue to try to have the discussion in the International on the political questions facing us. We have a special obligation to do this because the views of our party are a distinct current in the Fourth International. I don't say we are alone. But the views we have talked through over the last three years at our conventions and plenums—all of which have been published and are available—constitute a view of the world, activity in the class struggle, and perspective for the Fourth International that is completely different from the big majority of the comrades in Europe. Completely different. So we need the discussion, and we hope we can have it without disruption from those who want to turn the “issue” of the SWP into the center of the discussion in the International.

Two Traditions on Organization Question

Within this framework, of course, the organization question remains a question because it is a real political question.

There are two completely different traditions in the Fourth International on the organization question. And I think they are contradictory and mutually exclusive. One is expressed in such documents as “The Leninist Theory of Organization” by Comrade Mandel, and “Party and Faction,” by Comrade Jones. This view was also expressed in the organizational practices of the majority of the International leadership in our 1969-1977 political conflict.

The alternative view is expressed in our major writings, in our organizational principles, and in our application of them. It is reflected in Struggle for a Proletarian Party, The History of American Trotskyism, and “Internationalism and the SWP” by Cannon; in Farrell Dobbs's books; and Trotsky's In Defense of Marxism.

These are two different views on the connection between the class struggle, the working class, the membership of the party and the leadership of the party.

We believe that the organizational principles as understood and applied by the majority of the International leadership, and in which the majority of the sections of the Fourth International have been trained and educated, leads to the dominance of cliquism and permanent groupings in the party. This is not just the existence of minority cliques and permanent factions—that's not the worst of it. The majority functions as a clique, or as a faction, too. The majority does not, after conventions and plenums, simply dissolve into the party, with the decisions adopted by majority vote becoming the decisions of the party, and the bodies elected by majority vote becoming the elected institutions of the party as a whole. Instead the majority simply becomes the majority faction. We saw this in the functioning, on the international level, of the International Majority Tendency, which was a majority faction.

The result of this kind of functioning is that you pay the price in the weakening of both democracy and centralism. Groupings become permanent. They no longer are formed around specific issues as they come up, and dissolve when those issues are settled or bypassed. They take on a life of their own. Questions tend to be discussed first in the groupings, before they are discussed in the elected leadership bodies. Thus these elected bodies are reduced to formal shells, where leaders of different groupings meet.

The real internal life takes place within the factions, not within the party bodies. Thus the leadership bodies don't lead; the unelected clique and faction bodies are the places where the real decisions are made. The leadership bodies thus lose their authority, as the membership loses the real right to elect the leadership.

The party becomes a coalition of factions; and the leadership bodies a coalition of faction leaderships. The concept of constantly striving for political homogeneity goes out the window. Then other things happen, too. You don't get resolutions designed to clarify and advance the discussion, but resolutions designed to piece together a majority, with the understanding that each grouping will continue to do as it wants in carrying out the resolution.

That way you get groupings without common perspectives coexisting in the same party for an extended period, existing as permanent groupings bound together by an abstract agreement on the Transitional Program.

I was glad that Comrade Jones raised, as he has before, his strongly held differences with the way we approached the fusion with the RMC back in 1977. This is also part of our differences on the question of the Organisation Combat Socialiste, in Canada.

We didn't have agreement on program with the RMC when we decided to fuse. They were state capitalists. If we had set our criteria as agreement on the Transitional Program, we would have concluded that the RMC was further away from us than others—like the Healyites, for example—who say they agree with every line in the Transitional Program. But this would have ignored the RMC's perspective, their direction of motion, and the areas of political agreement on key political activity that connected us to them.

The OCS shows the opposite side of the coin. They stand on the program of the Fourth International, they state. But they don't apply it. It is not a basis for fusion, unless your idea is to put everyone who calls themselves “Trotskyists” into one Canadian group and call it a “party.” The only way you can test the OCS in practice is to see concretely where they are going and what they are doing. Toward what forces are they moving?

The idea that you assemble everybody who says they “agree with the program of the Fourth International” into one organization, and then grant them all permanent tendency rights, and think that you're going to come out of it with anything resembling a Leninist party is utter insanity. There could not be a deeper difference of opinion than we have on this question.

Questions of Party Democracy

Comrade Jones—referring to the decisions of the PC during our last preconvention discussion on voting for resolutions—accuses us of a “fundamental infringement on the rights of the membership.” Let's recall what happened. Some comrades submitted what they viewed as amendments on Cuba and the Fourth International to the political resolution. We accepted the comrades' statements that they thought they were amendments to a general line they agreed with, and would vote for even if the amendments were defeated. It didn't actually work out that way at the convention for all of them, but that was their judgment to begin with. Fine.

The discussion got under way on this. We had a lot of discussion. Remember how democratic it was? Comrade Weinstein was sending documents all over the country, with our knowledge and agreement. We agreed he should send drafts of documents to people who had declared for his tendency, people who were going to be reporters for the Weinstein positions. We had debates arranged; comrades traveled to different branches to present minority points of view. We had a thorough discussion.

But as this unfolded, the great majority of the comrades who were supporters of the political resolution came to the conclusion, and said so, that the amendments were a counterline, that they would not vote for the resolution with the amendments in it.

So you had a conflict. One group of people, quite small relatively, said “These are amendments and we are part of the majority caucus.” Another group, the big majority, said “No, they are not amendments. They are a counterline. We could not vote for the resolution if amended that way.” No one was prevented from making any motion they wanted in any branch on how to vote on the documents. And actually a lot of straw voting did take place. But we couldn't pretend there was no problem.

There had to be a basis to allow election of delegates to the convention, and it couldn't be different in every branch. Someone had to decide, and the only body that could decide was the elected Political Committee. The PC was correct in rejecting the contention of the minority that their amendments were not a counterline, and upholding the opinion of the majority that there were two different lines. Because the democracy of the majority of the supporters of the political resolution, and ultimately the democracy of the whole convention was involved.

The PC could have said nothing, and we all would have come to the convention and spent the first half day reselecting delegates, or deciding whether the majority had the right to define its own caucus platform or not. The PC did exactly the correct thing to uphold the democracy of the party as a whole, and it will do it again if necessary.

Likewise, we don't retreat an inch on the decisions the PC made regarding the two NC minorities. We recognize that there are two NC minority tendencies now, but that is not what we were faced with earlier. Think this out: a platform is published for the National Committee. It is no one's property. It becomes the common property of those who are in ideological agreement with it. The authors do not then have the right to exclude from the tendency people they don't like, or don't trust, or don't agree with on other subjects not included in the tendency platform. No. That is undemocratic. That is cliquism, or factionalism. A tendency has no right to impose discipline, and it has no right to vote on who is a member or not a member of it. Anyone who agrees with its platform is a member on an equal footing with everyone else.

Comrade Lovell asserts that the PC has no business exercising such regulation over the functioning of the minority tendency. The plenum disagrees and has so decided.

Comrades Lovell and Bloom publish their platform. It is attached to the minutes. Then Comrades Weinstein and Henderson write, properly, to the PC and state their agreement with the general line of the tendency platform, “despite certain reservations over minor aspects” of the Lovell-Bloom declaration.

There are now, properly, four supporters of this tendency. We had no reason to doubt the word of Comrades Weinstein and Henderson that their differences were minor ones. They are two experienced, intelligent comrades who read a short, clearly written platform and said they agreed. Fine. So we published their statement to the NC, at the same time as asking the comrades to supply the missing information, that is, what was the nature of the differences that did exist.

Then we get a letter, not from Weinstein and Henderson, but from Lovell and Bloom, saying, “No, no! We met with them and we don't agree on El Salvador, so we won't let them be in our tendency.” No, comrades can't exclude others from their tendency if they state their agreement with the published documents, any more than the majority can exclude people who agree with the majority documents, but somebody has a suspicion that they don't really fit in.

Simultaneously with all this, we get requests from Lovell-Bloom and from Weinstein-Henderson for minority reporting time, including on Poland, on Iran, on topics there isn't any difference among them on. So we had no choice. The only piece of paper before the PC was the single platform, to which four NC members said they adhered. What could we do? We just put all the minority time together and said the four comrades will have to sort it out. Until we saw evidence differently, there was a single minority tendency.

So you see, beneath this wrangle is a very important question of party democracy, the question of the regulation of the functioning of the party as a whole, including the conduct of organized groupings within the party.

Of course, if you see the party as a collection of tendencies and permanent groupings, constantly maneuvering with each other, then you see only the “majority” and the “minorities.” But that leaves out the party, and the democracy of the party.

Not a Collection of Factions

There are two other questions raised by Comrade Jones that I want to take up. He says the right to form tendencies is absolute, and any restrictions on meetings of tendencies creates “a situation whereby the majority can and will meet together to discuss its views and everybody else is denied that right.”

Well, what does that mean? Comrade Jones thinks of the party as a collection of factions or tendencies, so he doesn't think in terms of party bodies meeting, just the majority and minorities meeting.

Those who have an automatic right to meet outside of preconvention discussion periods are the properly constituted and elected bodies of the party: branches, fractions, committees, subcommittees, the Political Committee, the National Committee, staffs of newspapers—there are hundreds of bodies that have the absolute right to meet. There is no problem not having enough meetings.

The problem is seeing a permanent feature of the party organized around permanent tendency or faction structures, rather than the party structures.

What happens when the editorial staff meets? Comrade Lovell could tell us, he is a member of the Militant staff, and attends staff meetings. They argue about articles in the Militant. Sometimes they meet for hours. Does anyone try to stop them? Those meetings are connected with advancing the party's work after decision by a plenum, or a convention. Where do things get argued out, like how to sharpen up the line on Poland? How else do the editors make their decisions?

Aren't the fraction meetings political thinking and discussion? Aren't our branch meetings political? Well, maybe not as much as they should be, but we'll work on that. The surest way to make branch meetings not political is for tendency gang leaders to meet beforehand with their crews and come in to see who can carry what votes.

This is the only way in which a thinking, political party can operate. Not tendency structures, permanent groupings, that cut through elected bodies, cutting off discussion, and hardening up groupings before the discussion even takes place.

The opposite of our way of functioning is what we have seen these minorities do for the past few months. We have heard a report on it from the Control Commission. Comrade Weinstein says his tendency was only preparing to participate in the coming pre-World Congress discussion. Sure. That's why Weinstein in San Francisco ships all kinds of documents to Ashby in Chicago, who forwards them to a rank-and-file member in Seattle saying, show these around to selected people and call me anytime. Does that have anything to do with preparing for the discussion in the International?

Comrade Lovell says, “It's true, we pushed the norms. We did that deliberately.” He wants a party where anything goes. But anything doesn't go in this party. You pushed the norms all right. But the norms pushed back. The party pushed back, and the party won. Not the majority tendency, but the party. You pushed right through the norms, but the party politely picked you up and pushed you back instead of just letting you go.

We say there is a right to form tendencies. That is true. But it is subordinate to another right: the right, and obligation, of the elected bodies to regulate the internal life of the party. There, questions of judgment come in. And at different times, some judgments might change, depending on whether or not you are in a preconvention discussion, for example.

What is hypocritical is to talk about tendency rights without saying anything about how internal functioning is to be regulated, who is to regulate it, and how it is to be done. But you have to apply what Comrade Weinstein, and Lovell, and Jones say here to anybody and everybody in the party. It can't hold just for some and not for others. Everybody could shoot off documents, saying “Show these around to people you like, not to others.” That stuff would go on constantly, as it does in organizations that adopt that framework of functioning.

Then you have cliques running wild. We have cliquism in the party today, people who think they form a special group in the party. That is an aspect of what the Control Commission reports to us. Michael S. [Smith—Ed.] is a good friend of Comrade Lovell's. There's nothing wrong with that. I think they talk a lot, and they talk about politics, they're political people; and there's nothing wrong with that. But that is how Mike S. gets the National Committee document, because he is a friend of Comrade Lovell's. Not because he is more important, or more qualified, or elected to some body, or because it is a better way to organize a discussion than if some other comrade over here got it, who is not a friend of Comrade Lovell. That's all: friendship.

And who does Michael S. pass it along to? A friend. Or to a friend of a friend, who thinks maybe the friend of a friend would be open to these ideas and keep their mouth shut. If this is not regulated, this is what you will have. It is the only way it can be. Elaborate clique networks built up into permanent groupings.

Comrade Evans has merely generalized this for us. You have his list of criteria for who gets these hot documents: I leave aside the little twist it gets in his hands—the circle of literary collaborators and “experts.”

A “Permanent Right to Information”?

Comrade Jones also raised a second concept he says is a norm of democratic functioning in a Leninist party: the permanent right of the membership to information. That sounds very democratic, doesn't it? Without a permanent right to information, how can you think for yourself? But this is a fake and a fraud. Comrade Lovell proposes that we edit up all the minority resolutions and reports here and send them out along with the party's positions. Comrade Aubin says this is routine in the French party, they send everything out after a plenum, everything adopted as well as not adopted.

But why should we stop there? Why wait for a plenum. Why not send things out whenever they are written? Comrade Lovell has insisted on this, too. Why not other things, as well?

Why don't we publish for the party as a whole transcripts of PC minutes? Don't the members have a “right” to know what is being discussed by their elected leaders?

Well, there are obvious reasons, why we don't, if you start to think about it. How free and relaxed a discussion can there be when you are concerned that your words will be sent out to the world in transcript form?

But there is another side to it, also, a more general point. There is a rhythm to party life. It is an organized rhythm, which includes our plenums, our conventions, our branch tasks and perspective discussions, our local, district, and state conventions. And our day-to-day, week-to-week fraction and branch functioning.

We organize ourselves so that these are truly democratic. We don't keep discussing the same things over and over again. And we don't let a minority that isn't satisfied with the party decision dictate that that decision will be the topic of permanent discussion. We organize our internal discussions like we organize everything else.

So “permanent information” is, if you think for a moment, just a more democratic-sounding way of demanding “permanent discussion.”

I want to take up a factual point or two in relation to what Comrade Lovell had to say about the Hansen-Cochran minority. He referred to the fact that Farrell had pointed to this minority as a model of how a loyal and disciplined group can conduct a political fight for a correct line. Farrell discusses this in his lectures on the Structure and Organizational Principles of the Party. What Comrade Lovell neglected to mention was the fact that this was never a membership tendency. It was a tendency restricted to the National Committee. It never organized members outside the NC. It functioned completely within the NC as a tendency. It presented a point of view when the preconvention discussion was opened. There were even tours organized by the Political Committee so that the questions could be debated out before the branches. But it was an NC minority.

They didn't have Joe Hansen write up a document, then shoot it off to Ashby, who sent it out to Seattle, put four more things in it and mailed it to Keil, who showed it to his roommate, and Les Evans sends it out to eighteen people he owes Easter cards to.

No serious minority in the history of the party has ever functioned the way we are hearing advocated today. They are not serious when they begin to function that way. They don't believe that the dispute can be resolved within the National Committee. They don't believe it can be resolved within the SWP. They don't believe they can convince the membership of their views.

Contrast what we have heard today with what Farrell described about the functioning of the Hansen-Cochran minority on Eastern Europe: “Now in the case of this difference in the latter 1940s, what the comrades did was to collaborate in discussing their views among themselves.” That is, among those comrades who were on the NC.

Farrell went on:

Through a process of collective thinking they arrived at a generally accepted concept among themselves as to what the party line should be about the definition of the nature of the buffer states in East Europe. Then, in a most responsible way, they awaited the first opportunity with the opening of an internal party discussion, to present their views in writing and at the appropriate moment, to argue for their views in discussion. And they were eventually able to convince a majority of the party that they were essentially right.

No Christmas cards! Not one.

Does this mean there is no political discussion in the party? That is absurd. There is discussion every week when the Militant comes out now, and the IP. How can there not be? We have run some debates in the Militant, we'll do that more.

Our publications are interesting these days, aren't they? Isn't there discussion going on all the time? Isn't that natural in the party? Aren't people building our fractions in industry capable of reading and thinking and making up their minds? They take it seriously. And if we are as serious in the National Committee, we will comport ourselves as seriously and with as much discipline and patience as the party does.


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