The 1984 founding platform of the Fourth Internationalist Tendency (FIT) defined the fundamental challenge posed by the Barnes leadership to the programmatic continuity of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). In formal reports to the FIT conferences, internal discussion bulletins, and Bulletin in Defense of Marxism articles, we have continued to review and evaluate the SWP's political positions and activities. This balance sheet covers the period from January, 1984, to the present almost seven years.
In looking at the SWP, the FIT has always differentiated between the Barnes leadership and the party membership. Our political struggle against the leadership grouping has been aimed at the ranks because, as we stated in our founding platform: “The active intervention of the party ranks will be necessary either to change the course of the present leadership or replace it with a new one.” The structure of this balance sheet, therefore, reflects the interrelated but different aspects of the SWP as a whole. The first section deals with the theory and practice of the SWP leadership. The second section covers relations between the SWP and the Fourth International. The third section takes up the party membership. The last part presents a general evaluation.
Our platform briefly described the programmatic revisionism of the Barnes leadership on five crucial questions: the application of the theory of permanent revolution; political revolution in the deformed and degenerated workers' states; the recognition of the interdependence of the three sectors of the world revolution; the application of the transitional method and the united front to the class struggle in this country; and, “defense of workers' democracy as a necessary basis for the functioning of the working class movement in general, and of the Leninist party in particular.”
The platform pointed out that the polemics against the theory of permanent revolution carried out by Jack Barnes and Doug Jenness beginning in 1981
are little more than warmed-over slanders, straight from the Stalinist school, long ago thoroughly refuted by Trotsky himself. ... The rejection of permanent revolution by the Barnes leadership has had a damaging effect on the SWP's political orientation. One particularly striking example of this is the failure of the party press to rally to the defense of the Iranian workers and oppressed nationalities when they came under attack from the bourgeois-nationalist Khomeini regime. In the name of “anti-imperialism,” the Militant and Intercontinental Press remained silent, and even at times expressed political confidence in the IRP government, while that government organized the counterrevolution in Iran.
Other developments around the world have been described in impressionistic phrases empty of class content or other Marxist understandings of revolutionary processes. In 1985, for example, events in Ghana and Burkina-Faso were vaguely designated: “anti-imperialist upsurge,” “popular revolution,” and “revolutionary process.” In Jack Barnes's report to the August, 1985 meeting of the SWP National Committee, he stated that the freedom struggle in South Africa was a “democratic revolution”—a basic struggle for democratic rights with the goal of establishing a South African nation-state free from white domination. Barnes explained that the success of this democratic revolution would allow for the creation of “modern classes” in South Africa for the first time. Until such a development takes place, he asserted, any talk of “socialist revolution” or the establishment of a “proletarian dictatorship” in South Africa should be dismissed as ultraleft nonsense. In keeping with this analysis, Barnes declared, “The Socialist Workers Party recognizes that the African National Congress is the vanguard of the democratic revolution in South Africa.”
Although the demands in the Freedom Charter of the African National Congress (ANC) deserve the full support of all revolutionary socialists, the ANC consciously counterposes “national unity” to class struggle and openly rejects socialist revolution. The SWP leadership's completely uncritical support of the ANC as the leadership of the South African revolution miseducated and misdirected those concerned with constructing an organization capable of providing the program and strategy needed by the Black majority to transform their society.
Barnes's report, adopted by the National Committee and published in the Fall 1985 issue of New International magazine, under the title, “The Coming Revolution in South Africa,” marked the first time the SWP leadership clearly and publicly presented its two-stage conception of revolutionary struggle. It was a revival of the idea, already discredited by history itself, that fundamental change in less-developed countries will take place through a two-step process involving, first, a bourgeois democratic and, secondly, a proletarian revolution.
A two-stage scenario was also applied in cases where a “popular,” “democratic” revolution had already succeeded. The Barnes leadership replaced the theory of permanent revolution with formulas about a “workers' and farmers' government.” This schema mechanically equated a workers' state with nationalized property. According to Barnes and his associates, the first stage of every working class revolution constitutes a more or less prolonged period in which a new, revolutionary governmental structure based on the armed power of the masses rests on the old, bourgeois, economic system. Such a state is still considered bourgeois without qualification. Gradually, the new government takes steps to expropriate the economic power of the old ruling classes. When this process is completed, a new workers' state exists. This schematic view was presented in the article, “The Workers' and Farmers' Government: A Popular Revolutionary Dictatorship” by Mary-Alice Waters, published in the Spring-Summer 1984 issue of New International (Vol. 1, No. 3).
As further developed and applied by the Barnes leadership, this concept of the workers' and farmers' government has led the SWP into political blind alleys and sharp changes in orientation. A recent example was the complete swing from being uncritical cheerleaders of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas to charging the FSLN with failing to carry the revolution forward. According to the SWP National Committee's 1989 draft resolution, entitled 'Defend Revolutionary Nicaragua: the Eroding Foundations of the Workers' and Farmers' Government,” the FSLN is committed to a long-term perspective of maintaining and even reinforcing capitalist property and market relations in Nicaragua and is, therefore, encouraging counterrevolutionary tendencies which threaten to definitively undermine the gains of the revolution. The “World Political Resolution (National Committee Draft)” adopted in April, 1990, focuses on the FSLN's subjective weaknesses, and states:
The FSLN's course has pushed the big majority of the noncommunist supporters of the Nicaraguan revolution around the world further away from working-class politics. While most were disappointed by the [February 1990] election results, they have been increasingly attracted to rather than repelled from the FSLN leadership's trajectory and its decisive role in the establishment of a bourgeois coalition government. The “Managua trail” has now become a road away from rather than toward communism, as it earlier had been for many.
These judgments were not based on a Marxist analysis of the unfolding reality in Nicaragua since the 1979 revolution but were a product of rigid adherence to the “workers' and farmers' government” blueprint laid out by the SWP's central leaders. Whether in formal resolutions or in conference talks or in published articles, it is clear that the SWP leadership has deepened its rejection of the theory of permanent revolution over the past seven years. But it is not enough to simply affirm the theoretical bankruptcy of the Barnes leadership. It's necessary to explain why the new layer of party leadership denied the validity of a theory which had been a distinctive hallmark of the SWP since it was founded in 1938.
In our founding platform, we explained: “Instead of learning from and utilizing the strengths of Castroism in their effort to establish ties with the Cubans, the SWP central leadership has adapted to that current's weaknesses, and is progressively abandoning our Trotskyist program.”
Castro's pronounced opposition to Trotskyism was a serious problem for Barnes and his close associates who desired to forge links with the Cubans, and with the Sandinista and Grenadian revolutionaries inspired and supported by the Cubans. Eager to remove the “Trotskyite” stamp from the SWP, the Barnes leadership sought to establish themselves as “Leninists,” “communists,” “Marxists”—labels acceptable to the Castroist current. Leading SWP comrades reported that their discussions with Cuban and Central American revolutionaries—who quoted at length from Lenin and said they were guided by his teachings—had convinced them that Marxist education in the SWP had neglected the study of Lenin. Beginning in 1981, the party membership was taught a corrupted version of Leninism in order to expose the “flaws” in Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution, and to claim a “Leninist continuity” stretching from Bolshevik theory and practice to the views presented by the Barnes leadership regarding stages in the revolutionary process and the characteristics of workers' and farmers' governments.
Theoretical errors of the Cuban leadership were incorporated into the thinking and terminology of the Barnes leadership. For example, Castro (who borrowed concepts from Stalinist theories) accepted the possibility of an “anti-imperialist” national bourgeoisie based on his illusions about individual figures in semicolonial countries and his overestimation of the revolutionary potential of radical neocolonial bourgeois regimes. This view is incompatible with the theory of permanent revolution, which rejects any strategic revolutionary role for the bourgeoisie in the epoch of imperialism, and explains that the democratic aspirations of colonial peoples can only be achieved through a victorious struggle in which the working class plays the leading role in an alliance of all oppressed sections of the population. The SWP leadership chose to project Castro's version of the anti-imperialist struggle.
The Barnes leadership has also reversed itself to keep in step with Cuban positions. For example, the SWP leadership switched—without comment—from total admiration of everything taking place in Cuba to glorifying the “rectification process” initiated by the Cuban Communist Party in 1986 to correct growing inequality, bureaucratism, corruption, and other serious problems. But Barnes and his associates are not simple parrots. There are attempts to reconcile a new position with a previous stance. For example, Castro's critique of the course taken by the Sandinista government was echoed in the SWP National Committee's draft resolution on Nicaragua—but this criticism of the FSLN was justified in terms of the “workers' and farmers' government” schema fostered by the SWP leadership.
The call for political revolution against Stalinist bureaucracies in deformed and degenerated workers' states—another key feature of Trotskyism—was also adversely affected by the SWP leadership's effort to promote a warmer relationship with Castroism.
The Fourth Internationalist Tendency recognizes Cuba's long dependence on aid from the Stalinist regimes in the USSR and the Soviet bloc countries. But the fact is that Castro supported the 1968 crushing of the “Prague Spring” carried out by Soviet tanks supported by troops from Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland. At that time, the SWP criticized Castro and wholeheartedly supported efforts to democratize Czechoslovakia. When Solidarity fought for workers' rights in Poland, Castro supported Jaruzelski and the imposition of martial law in 1981. Although the SWP voiced support for Solidarity, the Barnes leadership responded to the Polish events in a subdued manner—a marked change from the party's reaction in 1968, and an indication of a relative adaptation to the Castroist attitude.
Moving to more recent events, Castro criticized the June 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square—but he has not supported the mass democratic struggles in Eastern Europe nor workers' strikes in the Soviet Union. In a December 7 speech (reported in the December 22, 1989 Militant), Castro spoke of “the crisis that has arisen in the socialist camp” and said, “It is not about anti-imperialist struggle or the principle of internationalism that they speak today in the majority of those countries. Those words are not even mentioned in their press. Such concepts have been practically erased from the political dictionaries there. On the other hand, the values of capitalism are gathering unusual force in those countries.”
Castro—and the Barnes leadership—has counterposed Cuba's “rectification” campaign to developments in the USSR, and has repeatedly and harshly criticized Gorbachev's reforms, lumping perestroika and glasnost together and condemning both. During the 1990 celebration of the opening of the Cuban revolution, Castro's speeches were full of dire warnings about hard times to come because of the “catastrophe in the socialist camp.” Such pronouncements are published without comment in the Militant—while, at the same time, Pathfinder Publishers has issued new editions of two of Trotsky's books analyzing Stalinism (The Revolution Betrayed and In Defense of Marxism), Militant articles promote the study and sales of these works, and the SWP maintains the historic Trotskyist opposition to Stalinist bureaucratic regimes and presents an essentially accurate explanation of the roots of Stalinism.
It's clear that the Barnes leadership continues to trim its sails to catch the winds blowing from Cuba—but it would be a serious political mistake to simply say that the central leaders of the SWP automatically echo every assertion of the Castroist current.
The FIT platform declared in 1984: “`Political revolution' must be the rallying cry of all revolutionary Marxists.” The SWP leadership's default regarding this question has become even more striking over the past two years in light of the momentous developments in the USSR and Eastern Europe.
In his column, “Learning About Socialism,” published in the December 2, 1988 issue of the Militant, Doug Jenness presented the line on developments in the USSR:
The Gorbachev regime is attempting to drive through measures that will increase the incentive of workers to be more productive—to work harder and more efficiently. It has not only begun implementing steps to give greater play to market forces, but projects eventually cutting some key social benefits.
One of the challenges Gorbachev has is winning broad support within the bureaucratic caste and in the population for his policies. Cleaning the regime's skirts of the horrors of the Stalinist terror is part of the attempt to win moral authority among the Soviet people.
This dismissal of the dynamics underlying glasnost is part of the SWP leadership's rejection of our movement's historic understanding of the process of political revolution. Glasnost involves freedom of expression, a hard-won acquisition for the working masses, and a vital weapon in the political revolution. But the SWP leadership denied the reality and importance of this weapon because they saw no possibility of political revolution. In a December 2, 1989 forum talk, Doug Jenness stated that political revolution has not been possible in the Soviet Union since World War II because the continuity of the generation that lived through the 1917 Russian Revolution had been broken. Jenness repeated this same idea in his 1990 introduction to the new edition of In Defense of Marxism by Leon Trotsky. Instead of political revolution, “Workers throughout Eastern and Central Europe, however, are regaining political room to organize and become involved in politics. They are seeking to fight back against attacks on their economic and social conquests...”
Similar points were made in a May 25, 1990 Militant article by Peter Thierjung, who wrote that the “revival of communist political organization” necessary for political revolution “can only be reborn as part of a broader advance of world revolution.” The actual revolutionary consciousness and activity among Soviet working people (which, in important ways, survived and have persisted down to the present) are ignored by the SWP leadership. Of course, it is true that liberation struggles outside of the USSR can have a profound impact on the Soviet masses—but revolutionary internationalist truisms are stretched out of shape by Barnes and his co-thinkers in order to substitute for the task of analyzing the actual, organic popular struggles taking place.
Lacking a solid theoretical and methodological basis for viewing and evaluating events, the Militant's coverage of events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union has been marked by a lack of any political insights into the dynamics of the upheavals taking place—when any attention is paid to developments in the deformed and degenerated workers' states. In fact, the Militant presented very little information or analysis about the Soviet Union during 1989. Changes within the bureaucracy received the most attention while the vague phrase “popular discontent” was utilized to describe the ferment taking place in all sections of Soviet society. The role of independent struggles was consistently downplayed by statements such as, “The election campaign [of March 26, 1989] served to direct discontent with social and economic conditions into channels that lent momentum to the political and economic measures that Gorbachev is advocating.” And the miners' strike in August, 1989, was seen as something “Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is utilizing...to further strengthen his position in the ruling Communist Party bureaucracy, and his claim to act as the ultimate arbiter of the deepening conflicts in Soviet society.”
Articles about Eastern Europe rehashed information which readers could have learned from watching television broadcasts or reading capitalist newspapers. Blind to the significance of democratic struggles in the USSR, the Barnes leadership was also shortsighted concerning the role of mass actions in Eastern Europe. For example, Militant descriptions of the first mass demonstrations in East Germany called attention to calls of “Gorby! Gorby!” and “On to perestroika!” An editorial in the October 20,1989 Militant took no notice at all of the impact of mass actions but viewed “the most important political development in Europe today” entirely as a result of leadership intentions and maneuvers: “At this point, the U.S. and European capitalist rulers and the privileged bureaucratic castes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are the principal actors in this unfolding process.”
This concept of the role of leadership—capitalist and bureaucratic leadership!—was repeated again and again. The explanation for the fall of Stalinist regimes in Poland, East Germany, Hungary, and Bulgaria was: they failed to adopt perestroika/glasnost-type policies initiated by Gorbachev. Almost all references to mass actions and to opposition groups stressed their advocacy of Gorbachev's policies. If the explosive changes in Eastern Europe were simply the result of a bureaucratic plot, how would the populations in deformed and degenerated workers' states be able to take genuine steps towards socialism? Doug Jenness furnished the bare outline of an answer in his “Learning About Socialism” column in the October 20, 1989, Militant. Writing about the deepening crisis in Hungary, Jenness ended with these words: “the perestroika-type schemes are based on the assumption that the capitalist system is not going to change. But all signs indicate that the conditions inside the capitalist countries, including the most advanced, are building up for a catastrophic crash that will also profoundly shake the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
According to Jenness, this “catastrophic crash” of capitalism would “lay the basis for a genuine communist movement”—not the struggles of the masses in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
At the end of 1989, the Militant began acknowledging the role played by mass actions in Eastern Europe. An editorial published in the December 1, 1989 issue, explained: “Massive protests are pushing these changes along. Hundreds of thousands have marched, rallied, and protested for the elimination of restrictions on democratic rights and an end to aspects of the bureaucracies' dead-end economic policies. Broad layers of the population are participating, including professionals, students, and workers.” And—for the first time!—support was expressed: “Working people around the world should back every protest and demand for the expansion of democratic rights in these countries.” One sentence out of many hundreds written about events in Eastern Europe!
The bulk of the left-wing press—that of Fourth Internationalists most of all—has given substantial attention to specific radical working-class and socialist spokespeople and currents in the Soviet Union. There has been no such coverage in the Militant; nor has the SWP leadership launched or even participated in any campaigns to assist or help advance the battles of the Soviet working class, the fight for democratic rights, the efforts to exonerate the victims of Stalin's purges, and the struggle for genuine socialism in the USSR.
Political revolution in deformed and degenerated workers' states is one part of the totality of revolution in this epoch. The revolution in colonial areas, the proletarian revolution in imperialist nations, and the political revolution in degenerated and deformed workers' states constitute the three main forces of world revolution. They form a dialectical unity with each force influencing the others and each receiving, in turn, powerful accelerations or checks to its own development.
The FIT founding platform explained: “The majority leadership of the SWP challenges this understanding. It declares that the center of the world revolution today is in Central America and the Caribbean.” After noting the importance of the revolutions in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Grenada, the FIT platform points out that they must be viewed in a broader worldwide context. “The present SWP leadership treats these struggles as the beginning and end of the international revolutionary process today. This results in a superficial rather than serious analytical treatment of the class struggle both in the U.S. and around the world, and is dangerously one-sided. It has meant a downplaying or ignoring of other developments (most notably Poland).”
In the years since this was written, the Barnes leadership has intensified its focus on Cuba as the central revolutionary force. The role of Cuba, and of its leadership headed by Fidel Castro, was elevated further with the crushing of the Grenadian revolution and the SWP leadership's conclusion—reflecting Castro's attitude—that the foundations of Nicaragua's workers' and farmers' government have been eroded as a result of the wrong policies pursued by the Sandinista leadership.
The exaltation of Cuba is evident in publications, presentations at local forums and national conferences, election materials and candidates' statements, and every aspect of the party's activities. The answer to all questions is: “Look at Cuba! See what is being done there!” As soon as U.S. government restrictions were lifted, the Militant began running large advertisements urging readers to “Get the news every week from Cuba! Subscribe to Granma...Cuba's international newspaper.” Cuba's “rectification” campaign is cited over and over as the only politically correct way to resolve problems in countries which are attempting to build socialist societies. In a major talk on developments in Eastern Europe and the USSR, Doug Jenness told a New York City forum audience on December 2, 1989, that workers couldn't “move forward to communism without studying Che Guevara.”
The SWP leadership is so intent on establishing bridges to the Castroist current that it takes its cues for political work in the U.S. from Cuban campaigns. A prime example of this is the SWP's “Action Program to Confront the Coming Economic Crisis.” This basic statement proclaims what working people in the U.S. must do to defend themselves against the devastating worldwide capitalist crisis about to happen. The three major demands in the “Action Program” are: jobs for all by shortening the work week with no loss in pay; establish and enforce affirmative action quotas; and, cancel the Third World debt. This last demand is featured in order to be compatible with a prominent campaign of the Cuban government—not because it addresses a primary need or present concern of U.S. workers and small farmers. Although it is appropriate to educate about the debt issue, it is not realistic to agitate U.S. working people for action to cancel the debt owed by Third World countries to imperialist nations. Raising this “action demand” over and over in SWP election campaigns shows how far the Barnes leadership has removed itself from a serious Marxist appreciation of how to advance the struggle for the vital needs and concerns of working people.
Fixated on Cuba, the SWP leadership has been unable to effectively orient to working people in this country.
The SWP has declined in numerical size, geographical spread, and political influence. The party leadership places the blame on the “rout” of the U.S. workers by the ruling class offensive of the 1970s and '80s. But in earlier periods of working class retreat or relative quiescence, the SWP was able to engage in significant political activity and play a leadership role in struggles through a creative application of the transitional method and the use of the united front strategy to defend the interests of the working class and its allies.
The Barnes leadership has clearly rejected the validity of the transitional method although it still utilizes particular demands in the transitional program such as the call for a shorter work week with no cut in wages, and—after years of silence on the issue—SWP candidates began raising the idea of a labor party during the summer of 1990. In place of the transitional method, Barnes and his close associates present an eclectic mixture of pragmatic reactions, get-rich-quick schemes, superficial generalities, rigid formulas, and self-serving campaigns.
The party leadership's conceptions have become grounded in the old schema of a minimum and maximum program. The current apocalyptic political line asserts that the collapse of world capitalism is imminent, and that the working class will be aroused into revolutionary consciousness and action by this devastating crisis. The growing social polarization and increased class struggles will provide great opportunities for “communists not only to participate but to assume leadership responsibilities in the mass movements,” according to Mary-Alice Waters' “Memorandum on Political Situation in the United States,” dated June, 1989.
And what do “communists” do during the period between this glowing prospect and present realities? There is no plan for serious, patient, and consistent activity to help advance the needs of workers and oppressed groups in U.S. society. The shifting strategies and tactics devised by the SWP leadership have failed to achieve significant new recruitment or broader respect for the party. The disappointing results helped deepen the SWP's abstention from protest movements and class struggle developments. When the SWP did become involved, its participation was sporadic, and the policy was to cater to established leaders. We have seen evidence of this in all areas of political activity but will describe only three: the trade union movement, protests against U.S. intervention in Central America, and the abortion rights movement.
The party's “turn to industry” was marked from the beginning by abstract generalities, idealistic illusions about workers, and naive ideas about how “communist leaders” gain authority with workers. Despite the cheerleader sentiments presented in the Militant, the real attitude of the party leadership has been that nothing substantial can be done to improve internal situations in unions, and that labor struggles with the bosses are essentially hopeless during this period.
A defeatist assessment of U.S. workers was presented in the 1985 political resolution, “The Revolutionary Perspective and Leninist Continuity in the United States.” The resolution explained that workers would have to go through decades of struggles, and learn from “setbacks and advances” in order to “acquire revolutionary combat experience” and develop sufficient consciousness to form a class-struggle left wing within the labor movement. The SWP was to take advantage of opportunities “to influence a still small but important layer of the working class and the labor movement, and to recruit to the party the most politically conscious workers.”
Although significant labor battles erupted after this doom-and-gloom vision was projected, a basic negativism continued to shape the policies guiding labor activities. SWPers did not involve themselves in the day-to-day life of the unions they belonged to but intervened to promote campaigns being waged by the SWP. The SWP's solidarity campaigns with striking workers helped publicize and gain support for these battles, but the SWP offered no leadership in terms of providing in-depth analysis, suggesting more effective strategies or offering alternatives to weaknesses displayed by union bureaucrats.
For the SWP leadership, the success of a labor struggle is measured primarily by the number of Militant newspapers sold, the supporters gained for the Mark Curtis Defense Committee, and how many compliments the party receives from strikers. This attitude has been evident in the Militant's coverage of strikes by P9 against the Hormel Company, workers fighting International Paper Company, public employees in Oregon, and miners striking against Pittston Coal.
Towards the end of 1989, SWP spokespersons hailed “a new pattern of struggles” and growing worker combativity developing in the U.S. labor movement. The key to this change was the machinists' battle with Eastern Airlines which “has strengthened the entire labor movement and—after years of retreat—given confidence to millions of working people that resistance to the employers' offensive is possible.” (Militant December 8, 1989)
The Eastern strike is particularly important in assessing the SWP's “turn to industry” since it is the only one in which the party had a cadre of members. In addition, a report to a party conference explained that participation in the strike and support activities were “the most developed, concrete, and thought-out experience the Socialist Workers Party has been through in the labor movement in many years.” (Militant December 15, 1989)
The results of this “most developed, concrete, and thought-out experience” could be called admirable for workers with elementary union consciousness—but deplorable for a political party claiming to be a vanguard Marxist organization.
Militant articles reported on and suggested a number of worthwhile strike support activities which included: participation in Eastern strikers' picket lines at airports, helping with work done at union halls of the striking International Association of Machinists (IAM), contributing financially to the union's “war chest,” inviting IAM strikers to speak at meetings, and increasing support from other labor unions. Wide sections of the working class have solidarized with the strikers who have shown great determination and courage in a battle that began on March 4, 1989, and has persisted through one setback after another.
The role of a revolutionary party, however, must go beyond calling for and reporting elementary steps of labor solidarity. In the past, long before the party's “turn to industry,” the SWP advanced a program for how unions could win struggles. The party exposed the misleadership of trade union bureaucrats, encouraged the development of a new leadership composed of the most Militant fighters, and offered concrete proposals for turning a situation around so that strikers could fight more successfully.
Today's SWP has failed to point out the basic fallacies of the bureaucracy's doomed central strategy which is to look for a replacement owner for Eastern as an alternative to class struggle methods for solving the problems of the workers. When Eastern filed for bankruptcy protection shortly after the strike began, the IAM bureaucrats offered even greater concessions than Eastern owner Frank Lorenzo had demanded in order to attract an enlightened capitalist rescuer. Instead of challenging this approach, the SWP adapted to the policies and slogans which have crippled the strike. Militant headlines and articles emphasized the goal of getting rid of Lorenzo. In the words of one SWPer, repeatedly identified as a strike leader, “We may not get our jobs back, but we have to fight to keep Lorenzo from winning.”
On April 18, 1990, Lorenzo was removed from management of Eastern Airlines, and the Militant claimed this was “a major victory” not only for the strikers but for “the thousands of unionists worldwide who support them.” This supposedly “major victory” did not result in any strikers returning to work or any other union gain. This was just one of many examples of the SWP's failure to present realistic assessments of where the strike stood at critical junctures. A political organization which is unable to tell the difference between an advancing workers' struggle on the road to victory and one that has been suffering from a dead-end strategy and repeated setbacks can lay little claim to being a revolutionary vanguard party in the United States.
In 1985 the SWP leadership introduced a welcome shift away from its line that the body bags had to start coming back to this country before a movement could be built to protest U.S. intervention in Central America and the Caribbean. The decision to participate in the 1985 “April Actions for Peace, Jobs, and Justice” signaled a healthy response to the mounting opposition expressed by solidarity groups, antiwar and peace forces, labor figures, students, and sections of the religious community. SWP members across the country joined local coalitions and took on organizational responsibilities for the mobilizations on April 20.
Although the SWP was active in building subsequent demonstrations in 1986 and 1987, the party repeatedly accommodated itself to movement leaders who were reluctant to call further mass actions, and who resisted democratic functioning. For example, after the spring mobilization in 1985, the SWP called for more antiwar actions. But at the June 29, 1985 meeting of the National Steering Committee for the April Actions Coalition, SWPers failed to support a proposal to sponsor nationally coordinated local demonstrations in October. This default by the SWP was a factor in defeating the action proposal.
Instead of carrying out a policy of fighting for needed mass actions and for democracy within the movement, the SWP leadership sent party representatives to a closed-door meeting of “peace bureaucrats.” The group issued a call for the October 25, 1986 mobilizations—but the pattern of narrow and exclusive decision-making was reinforced to the detriment of the movement as a whole.
The SWP leadership also made errors of a political nature. In 1986 party representatives supported burying the Central America issue in a laundry list of demands headed by nuclear disarmament. In 1987, uncritical enthusiasm was expressed for the agreement signed by five Central American presidents in Guatemala. Militant articles hailed this plan as a “new stage” in the Nicaraguan revolution.
The party's involvement in the anti-intervention movement was quietly cut back in 1988. SWP participation was then largely confined to marching in local actions and staffing Pathfinder literature tables at anti-intervention events.
This withdrawal was based on conscious political decisions, as explained by Larry Seigle in his 1989 report to the SWP National Committee:
There is a sharp shift required in what, for lack of a better term, we call Nicaragua solidarity work. It is a shift that the SWP and YSA have already largely made. We are devoting less time and less leadership resources to activities in connection with Nicaragua solidarity. This has been a necessary response to the growing limits on what can fruitfully be done. It is not only that we have upgraded work around Cuba and put it in its proper political place, or that we have a better understanding of the weight of solidarity with struggles in South Africa. We are also making an adjustment to objective facts about Nicaragua solidarity work and the character of the organizations that are doing it.
Elaborating further, Seigle articulated the Barnes leadership's erroneous conceptions of how and why Marxists participate in mass movements. Seigle told the SWP plenum that the first consideration in setting party priorities is orienting to “those struggles where the biggest blows can be dealt to imperialism.” In the opinion of the SWP leadership, Nicaragua solidarity work had lost its high priority status because Nicaragua's weight in U.S. and world politics had been reduced due to the end of the contra war and “the political retreat of the FSLN leadership.”
The second consideration in determining party priorities “is our judgment about where we can do party-building work most successfully.” Nicaragua solidarity work was no longer a priority in this respect as well. Seigle explained,
Although the composition of the activists in the solidarity movement has always been diverse, there has also been a marked change over the last couple of years. The layer of those attracted to the anticapitalist advances of the revolution and to the struggles of the workers and peasants in Nicaragua has increasingly dried up. Young people are less likely to be politicized as a result of traveling the Managua trail than at any time since 1979. They are less likely to be attracted to a communist perspective by their experience because they are less likely to encounter such a perspective in Nicaragua.
Seigle's report also revealed some internal problems the SWP had run into while carrying out anti-intervention activities. According to Seigle,
if we try to lead it one of two things happen. One is that comrades get very good at it and in the process their axis shifts away from communist politics... The second alternative is that we get into a lot of wrangles and factional fights that not only cannot be won, but worse, damage our political relations with people with whom we can and should maintain fraternal relations of integrity and trust.
The “wrangles and factional fights” occurred because activists didn't agree with the SWP's analysis of the “retreat” of the FSLN.
Seigle's report showed a complete lack of understanding about how to carry out a united front strategy. The statements about solidarity activists exposed the SWP leadership's narrow self-interest in carrying out political activities, that is, activists are only worth working with if they are developing a “communist perspective.” The criticisms of the FSLN were utilized to rationalize the party's failure to recruit activists and to gain genuine leadership in the movement. In withdrawing from Nicaragua solidarity work, the party leadership actually abandoned defense of the Nicaraguan revolution—an elementary responsibility of Marxists.
At the end of his report, Seigle said the SWP would continue to participate in solidarity actions. But, as in every other area of SWP activity, the main focus was placed on Cuba. Seigle concluded his report with:
Finally, we do what we can with all of these solidarity groups and coalitions, whether around Nicaragua or any other struggle, to draw them into actions in defense of the Cuban revolution. We encourage them to recognize the place of Cuba in the world and the importance of international solidarity with it. We urge them to participate along with others in broadly sponsored events around Cuba. We encourage them to learn about Cuba. And in the course of doing this we meet those who respond politically to the example of the Cuban revolution and those who are interested in a communist and working-class perspective.
This puts defense of the Cuban revolution at odds with actions protesting U.S. intervention in Central America. It is not only a false counterposition but unrealistically separates what are interrelated revolutionary developments in that region.
After the FSLN election loss in February, 1990, and stepped-up U.S. threats against Cuba, SWP spokespersons began to call for united front actions to support Cuba. SWP initiatives helped the formation of U.S. Hands Off Cuba coalitions in several cities, and the organization of an April 7 march and rally in New York City; estimates of the size ranged from 1,500 to 3,000. After the initial spurt of articles about this New York action, the Militant has been silent about any developments or plans.
The Barnes leadership has justified the party's long abstention from women's liberation activities with a political line which is an amalgam of sweeping generalizations, idealistic conceptions, and formal logic. A major presentation of this approach can be seen in Mary-Alice Waters's 1985 introduction to the Pathfinder book Cosmetics, Fashions, and the Exploitation of Women. Briefly summarized, the line goes like this: Industrial workers will be the vanguard of the U.S. revolution. Women workers in industrial unions will be the vanguard of feminist struggles. This will happen because their experiences in fighting for, winning, and holding industrial jobs gives these women the necessary self-confidence, respect from male co-workers, and class consciousness to become leaders in the battles to come. Only women in industrial unions will be able to resist the conservatizing pressures exerted by the ruling class offensive, and the failure of the labor bureaucracy to wage an effective fightback. Existing feminist organizations can play no role in advancing the interests of women because of their narrow, specific focus (“such as women's health clinics or art“), or because they pursue reactionary campaigns (“demanding more cops as an answer to the continuing reality of rape, or calling for censorship laws as the way to deal with pornography“).
Waters did note a “growing pressure for change. There are already indications of a pickup in organized protests responding to the escalating attacks on women's right to abortion.” The Barnes leadership did not, however, offer any perspective for involving the party in this “growing pressure for change.” The one and only path for female comrades was: get a job in a party-designated key industry and union. But even within this perspective, the leadership did not advocate women's liberation activities such as forging links between labor and defenders of abortion rights, or taking the initiative to establish women's rights committees in unions. In fact, feminist issues were put on the back burner. Significant struggles for comparable worth (pay equity) were opposed on the basis of a false interpretation of Marxist economics, that is, that the value of women's labor is less than that of men.
The party leadership ignored the majority of women workers who did not have industrial jobs—even though these female workers were winning better job conditions, wage increases, protections against sexual harassment in the workplace, an end to age discrimination, affirmative action programs, parental leaves, child care provisions, and other benefits. The Militant paid more attention to the problems and activities of women in other countries—particularly Cuba and Nicaragua—than to women in the U.S.
In a characteristically abrupt about-face, the SWP threw forces into the pro-choice actions which erupted in 1989. Contrary to all of its predictions, the leadership for this fight came from feminist groups scorned by the Barnes leadership, and the flood of abortion rights activists came from sections of society which did not fit into the SWP leadership's vision of the role of industrial workers.
Party members involved in abortion rights activities offered no leadership in terms of increasing the understanding and support for a mass action strategy, and, in general, SWPers catered to established feminist leaders who are not willing to allow genuine democratic functioning in organizations and coalitions. Militant articles ignored important developments such as sentiments for a third party expressed at the 1989 and 1990 national conferences of the National Organization for Women (NOW)—but quickly took up arguments against population control ideas voiced by NOW President Molly Yard. SWPers have not been seriously involved in the clinic defense groups and reproductive rights coalitions which remain active in 1990.
In the abortion rights movement, as in the labor and anti-intervention movements, the SWP leadership has reacted pragmatically and opportunistically to events. Barnes and his associates have not been guided by announced theories and perspectives regarding mass movements. They concoct their political line to suit their immediate needs. And they shift from abstention to activism and back to abstentionism again regardless of the objective needs of the class struggle.
The errors in perspectives, analyses, and strategies could have been corrected through democratic discussions and votes. A decision-making process open to differing viewpoints is crucial to a Leninist party. But the Barnes leadership has not allowed such self-correcting mechanisms to operate. Like bureaucrats around the world, the Barnes clique has employed the carrot-and-stick approach to maintain its authority and stifle dissent. Members who demonstratively agree with the leadership are rewarded with party assignments, posts, trips abroad, and other benefits at the disposal of the central leadership. But those who rock the boat are intimidated and punished. Following are some of the repressive techniques employed to squelch independent thinkers and prevent members from participating in or even knowing about policy decisions.
Members who offered criticisms or even questioned leadership decisions were rebuked, disciplined, suspended, expelled. One example comes from the 1985 pre-world congress convention. The only member who presented a counterplatform to that of the leadership was tried in absentia and expelled from the party. In some cases, comrades were transferred out of longtime national assignments and sent to branches to become industrial workers.
Even central leaders of the party who completely accepted the theoretical and programmatic revisions advanced by Barnes, and who helped lead the antidemocratic purge of oppositionists, have themselves been ostracized and bureaucratically driven out of the party because of relatively minor tactical differences. This was the fate of Barry Sheppard, Caroline Lund, and Malik Miah in the 1987-90 period.
Elected leadership bodies were placed under discipline not to reveal differences to rank-and-file party members. For example, National Committee members who attended the 1987 active workers' conference of comrades involved in the coal industry were under discipline to support the line adopted at the plenum.
The leadership decided that branches would not hear reports from National Committee plenums—but would learn of leadership decisions and positions by reading the Militant and receiving National Office communications. The explanation for this change was that “confusing” reports were being given to the branches. The new procedure centralized and controlled information about leadership discussions and decisions. Obviously, this was not a method for eliminating confusion but for encroaching further on the democratic rights of the members to hear directly from elected National Committee members, and to have the opportunity to ask questions, express opinions, and so on.
Greater and greater authority was exercised by the central leadership. At the December, 1987 plenum of the National Committee, Barnes lectured the participants on the need to further centralize and tighten up party work. The Political Committee has intervened in branch proceedings, and control commissions have investigated and made recommendations on a host of local problems.
Conventions were not held within the time periods designated in the party constitution. Restrictions were placed on the number of preconvention articles an individual comrade could write (a limit of “four separate contributions” for the 1988 convention), and on the topics of these articles. Major political positions and significant changes in the party's political line were presented through Militant articles, talks at educational conferences, leadership reports to branches, and other means which did not allow for membership discussion and decision.
More and more was demanded from the party members to prove they were “real Bolsheviks.” Higher and higher standards of membership were totally focused on internal matters, such as increases in financial sustainer contributions and putting more effort into publicizing and financing the Pathfinder mural project. Those who did not measure up to these higher standards were pressured to become “active supporters.” Of course, once in that category, there was no opportunity to voice questions at branch meetings, write preconvention discussion articles, or vote.
Genuine democratic functioning has been gutted—although certain formal institutions remain to give the appearance of internal democracy. Under such circumstances it ranges from difficult to impossible for members to express differences or to develop their understanding of the political errors and organizational abuses of the party leadership.
The FIT founding platform explained:
The majority leadership of the SWP has presented a perspective of a “new mass Leninist International,” to be created by the Cubans and Nicaraguans. In pursuit of this nonexistent international it has proceeded to progressively withdraw from the Fourth International, both politically and organizationally. All of the programmatic revisions and other errors that have been made derive fundamentally from this false counterposition.
The SWP's formal termination of affiliation to the Fourth International (Fl) was contained in a June 10, 1990, letter to the International Executive Committee of the FI. In August, 1990, the SWP, along with six small groups (in Australia, Britain, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, and Sweden) launched their International Communist League. These official steps were the culmination of years of functioning as a liquidationist current within our world movement. Prevented by reactionary U.S. law from being a member organization of the FI, the SWP had long participated in the life of the FI in many important ways. But in late 1980, SWP leaders withdrew from the day-to-day functioning of the United Secretariat Bureau. Their attendance at meetings of the United Secretariat and the International Executive Committee became irregular and then ceased completely during the late 1980s. This de facto boycott was one side of the coin; the other side was the Barnes faction's active role which contributed to splits and severe problems within the world Trotskyist movement.
When the Australian section resigned from the FI in 1985, it fulfilled the logical conclusion of repudiating the fundamentals of Trotskyist program and Leninist organizational principles. In Intercontinental Press, leaders of the Barnes faction denounced the Australian group for its political and organizational adaptation to Stalinism. But the SWP leadership bore a great deal of responsibility for what happened. The Australian revisionists began their journey out of the FI by marching in step with the political views expressed by Barnes and associates: looking to Cuba for solutions to the political problems challenging the revolutionary movement at the end of the 1970s; concluding that the Trotskyist program was at fault and must be junked; rejecting the theory of permanent revolution and replacing it with a “campist” view (that is, the struggle is between the imperialist camp and the anti-imperialist camp, or between capitalist states and workers' states).
Over the past five years the Barnes leadership built its international faction. The annual gatherings at Oberlin were, in title and in fact, international conferences—organized to cement relations with revisionist cothinkers around the world, and to keep Barnes at the helm of this international grouping. During 1988-89 substantial steps were taken to establish an organizational framework for this international faction. Several examples will show how this was accomplished.
The Mark Curtis defense campaign was quickly “internationalized.” In mid-1988 various Fl sections played an important role in efforts to secure endorsers, support statements, and petitions. Cothinkers from other countries attended the “International Defense Rally” events held in the United States, and organized tours abroad for Curtis defense committee spokespersons.
After the SWP's 1988 convention, the Militant began including listings in its “Directory” for Australia, Britain, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, and Sweden. The Militant was proclaimed as the newspaper for these groups, and sales of the newsweekly became a regular activity in these countries.
Pathfinder Press was utilized in a similar fashion. The Militant announced, “With this issue [October 6, 1989] the Militant begins a new column, 'Pathfinder Around the World.'” This section featured reports from distributors in New Zealand, Britain, Australia, and Canada. Articles from cothinkers in the “Pathfinder International” were given increasing weight and prominence during 1989, and this has grown substantially during 1990.
In her May 30, 1988 letter to comrades in Sweden, Mary-Alice Waters presents many details about how the SWP leadership consciously utilized SWP conventions and Pathfinder publications “as part of the reconstruction of a communist world movement.” [See pages 217-222, “World Political Resolution, National Committee Draft, Part IV, Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 42, No. 13b, May 1990]
The activities of the Barnes leadership had devastating effects on some FI sections. The International Socialist Review supplement to the March 4,1988 Militant contained a report by Doug Jenness on the founding conference of the Communist League of Britain (CLB). The conference represented the consummation of a seven-year wrecking operation within the Socialist League, the British section of the Fl. A group allied with the SWP leadership split from the section to form the CLB. Of the three major political reports approved by the CLB conference, two were presented by SWP leaders. Mary-Alice Waters spoke on the role of Cuba and Castro in the world revolution today, and Jack Barnes spoke on the world economic situation. The report on British perspectives by CLB leader Brian Grogan contained no strategic orientation for the group but projected
deepening the Communist League's base in the industrial working class and increasing its discussions and collaboration with other revolutionists and communists internationally... promotion and distribution of Pathfinder books and pamphlets throughout the British Isles... integrating sales of the Militant into our political work here.
Though the majority of FI sections were not won over to the political positions of the revisionists and liquidationists, the political and organizational offensive of the SWP did serious damage to the FI in the English-speaking world. However, the theoretical and political issues raised by the Barnes current have not been adequately addressed within our international movement, and it is an ongoing source of disorientation among radicalizing and revolutionary-minded activists since its most active component, the SWP, functions within the U.S. and internationally as a disciplined organization with significant resources. The 1991 World Congress presents the FI with another opportunity to respond to the challenge posed by the Barnes current, and to help the process of bringing together the fragmented Fourth Internationalist movement in the United States.
Given the repressive situation within the SWP and the leadership's prohibitions against contact between party members and FITers, it has been difficult to know and evaluate what party members are thinking, how they are reacting to events in the world, or what they feel about the changes in the leadership's political line. This is a critical problem in drawing up a balance sheet since, as we stated in our platform:
It is always a serious error to mistake the leadership of the party for the party as a whole. The political struggle to convince the SWP membership of the correct program and policy has not been definitively won either by those who would alter our historic program—or by those of us who defend it. We will not concede that struggle without doing all we can to thwart the efforts of the Barnes leadership to transform the SWP.
The active intervention of the party ranks will be necessary either to change the course of the present leadership or replace it with a new one. Although we are not assured of success in this effort, we can be sure that it is only by making the effort that we will influence the most serious comrades and win them to our cause.
In making that effort, we concluded that there was very little the FIT could do from the outside to reach or convince the membership. However, we knew that SWP members—like all political activists—would be affected by their experiences in mass movements, and by events taking place in the world. Although our information has been limited there are some things which we can conclude.
There has been no significant, organized opposition to the course charted by the Barnes leadership—although there are individuals who disagree or have serious questions about specific policies and positions. For example, an opposition platform, by the Political and Organizational Rectification Tendency, was presented in the preconvention discussion period for the August, 1990, session of the SWP national convention. Some perceptive criticisms were made about the split from the Fourth International, the SWP's negative attitude toward developments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the two-stage theory regarding the South African revolution, and various undemocratic practices within the SWP. But this opposition was so tiny that not a single dissenting delegate was elected to the August session of the convention. Delegates to both the June and August sections of the 1990 national convention voted unanimously for all of the reports and resolutions presented by the leadership.
We know that many SWPers “voted with their feet” by resigning from the party. This weakened the possibility of an opposition emerging.
The party membership contains three basic layers at the present time:
1) There are still a small number who are longtime members, recruited during the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. These comrades were educated in the history and traditions of Marxism, Leninism, and Trotskyism. They have gone through experiences in the party, on their jobs, and in the mass movements which should have placed them in the ranks of the opposition. But they have accepted or adapted to the programmatic and organizational perspectives and practices of the Barnes current.
There are a number of processes which, individually and collectively, account for this. Some, no doubt, did not carefully think through what was happening to the party—or felt problems would be corrected before serious damage was done. They staked their personal moral authority on support to the new, young leadership and later felt that they would compromise their own credibility if they went into opposition. Others have probably had their doubts from the outset, but felt they were too weak theoretically, or too isolated from the younger comrades, to fight effectively against what was happening. And some individuals have convinced themselves that Barnes's approach is best for the party, even if only because the alternative might pose a threat to their lifelong organizational commitment to the SWP.
2) A more significant and larger layer of party members comes from the generation of young student radicals recruited during the 1960s and early '70s. They joined while the present leadership still considered itself Trotskyist, and when the historical struggle of the Left Opposition and the FI remained the basic programmatic reference point for the SWP. Many of these members are also veterans of the party's healthiest activity in the student movement, the fight against the Vietnam war, the women's liberation struggle, the Black and Chicano movements, and the battles of lesbian and gay activists. These experiences have left their impact on this layer, and stand in sharp contradiction to the course which the Barnes leadership began to pursue toward the end of the 1970s: abstentionism from the mass movements and a complete programmatic revision.
There are a number of reasons why many in this layer have gone along with the Barnes faction. They include: a neglect of genuine theoretical education, a tendency toward pragmatic thinking, the pressure of an objective downturn in the U.S. and international class struggles after the early 1970s, and a personal loyalty to the individuals comprising the central party leadership going back to their early associations within the Young Socialist Alliance.
3) A layer of party members has been recruited since the mid-1980s. These comrades know only the Barnes leadership, with its approach to both programmatic and organizational questions. They are poorly educated in party history and Marxist theory. They have been taught to disdain Trotskyism and the Fourth International.
At the same time, these newer members joined the SWP out of a commitment to a revolutionary perspective which they believe to be embodied within the party. They are not a hardened layer of Barnesites. They, like all new recruits in radical politics, can learn and grow as a result of their experiences both within the SWP and in the broader class struggle. And they can be affected by important new breakthroughs for Trotskyism as a result of changes in the Soviet Union and the revolts in Eastern Europe.
The weight of the evidence contained in the first three sections of this balance sheet shows:
The Barnes leadership has succeeded in imposing its revisionist theories and perspectives on the SWP.
No significant opposition to this leadership has emerged from the ranks of the party membership. Individual members or very tiny groups have expressed differences, but this has not resulted in a substantial opposition capable of halting or reversing the political and organizational transformation of the SWP.
The SWP can no longer be a vehicle for building a revolutionary Marxist vanguard in the United States.
The SWP's 1990 national convention sessions in June and August confirmed the absolute authority of the Barnes leadership and the lack of any significant opposition from the membership. The Barnes leadership grouping did not win its authority through genuine political struggle but by preventing democratic discussion of different views. Following the mass purge of 1983-84, the central leaders of the SWP took drastic measures against any hint of opposition. Individuals who raised different views—no matter how modest—were expelled. The increasingly repressive atmosphere in the party discouraged dissent or even questioning. Many members, who could have constituted an opposition, chose to drop out of the SWP. The party ranks were isolated from critics of the party's course by the leadership's organizational methods and slander campaigns.
These facts help explain how the Barnes leadership succeeded in turning the party further and further away from Marxism, away from Leninism, away from Trotskyism. Ten years ago, the central leaders grouped around Barnes had to hide their political line by claiming they were not really proposing any serious changes. Then they had to sneak in their line behind the backs of the membership. An early example was Barnes's talk on “Their Trotsky and Ours” given to the 1982 convention of the Young Socialist Alliance. Miseducation and new changes were introduced in Militant and New International articles during the 1980s.
The central leadership is now so confident of its supreme authority that the 1990 sessions of the national convention were allowed to vote on matters that were previously presented only in the form of speeches or articles or reports adopted by the National Committee. For example, Barnes's two-stage position on prospects for revolution in South Africa was first presented to and adopted by the party's National Committee, which met immediately after the 1985 national convention. This position was then published as the lead article in the Fall 1985 issue of New International magazine. The political line was repeated in Militant articles, at forums, and through classes. But it was not until August, 1990 - five years after it was adopted by the National Committee—that an actual vote was taken by a convention to approve this position, which separated the South African revolution into a capitalist democratic stage and a subsequent separate proletarian socialist revolution.
The 1990 convention documents and decisions also marked the culmination of the SWP's break from the Fourth International. The National Committee's approval of the official termination of affiliation was followed by the August session's unanimous adoption of the “World Political Resolution,” which contains the statement: “We are not part of the 'Trotskyist movement,' or the Fourth International...”
The significance of these formal steps should not be underestimated. The FIT, like the SWP membership, was prepared for this development by several years of repeated statements by SWP leaders that the party was no longer a part of the FI. The SWP's increasing withdrawal from and hostility toward the FI was clearly demonstrated in recent years. But there were still possibilities to halt this momentum out of our world movement. A meaningful portion of the party ranks could have resisted the dissolution of the SWP's relationship to the FI. Changing conditions in the world—which have opened new opportunities for the FI to increase its political influence and authority—could have drawn the SWP back toward our world movement. But neither of these possibilities developed into reality. The official termination signifies the Barnes leadership's unbreakable grip over the party as well as its unswerving determination to counterpose its International Communist League to the Fl. And, even more crucial, the central leaders of the SWP have taken these steps without any significant objection from the membership.
Like other developments in political life, the course pursued by the Barnes leadership has been uneven and sometimes apparently contradictory. For example, the SWP leadership has vigorously repudiated Trotskyism over the last decade—but the basic Trotskyist analysis of Stalinism is presented to explain the upheavals in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. New editions of three of Trotsky's books have been published—but the promotion of Trotsky's books in no way indicates a return to the historic program of Trotskyism.
What is decisive is not the occasional correct statement or activity or the retention of elementary features of a revolutionary party such as supporting and participating in workers' struggles, helping the cause of oppressed groups, advocating international working class solidarity, and so on. What is decisive is the prevailing pattern of political thinking and action—a pattern the FIT characterized in its founding platform as revisionist. What is decisive is the totality of what the SWP has become.
The SWP contains members who are revolutionaries committed to the socialist cause and who are active in protest movements and class struggle battles. We want to win them to a Marxist program and methodology and to the Fourth International. Some former SWPers, recruited to the party during the 1980s, have recently joined the FIT. We are in contact with others and look forward to making them part of the still-existing Fourth Internationalist movement in the United States.