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The Purge Begins

The Anne Zukowski Case
Poem and Letter by Ann Menasche
Appeal of Expulsion from the SWP by Michael Smith
Letter to SWP Members by Dianne Feeley and Carole Seligman
Trial Statement of Paul Le Blanc, Pittsburgh Branch SWP, July 1983
Letter by Walter Lippmann
Statement to the California State Committee of the SWP, by Walter Lippmann, June 4, 1983
Ray Markey's Letter

An accumulation of precedents paved the way for the full-scale purge of SWPers engineered by the Barnes leadership in 1983-84.

Most dramatic, perhaps, was the treatment of Peter Camejo, one of the most popular leaders to arise from the 1960s layer, and the SWP's extremely effective 1976 presidential candidate. Particularly since his return from Nicaragua in 1980, tensions had been developing between him and Barnes. Together with Ray Markey and Victor Nieto, he had advanced an innovative proposal for the 1981 New York City elections—that the SWP attempt to initiate a broad “united front electoral campaign by those willing to break with bourgeois politics now,” geared at drawing together left-wing (non-Stalinist and non-Social Democratic) forces, particularly those “in the labor movement, Black and Latino organizations, etc.” A campaign of violent denunciation was unleashed by Barnes against this proposal, and Camejo suddenly found himself isolated. Shaken, he requested a leave of absence in the summer of 1981 and went to spend some time in Venezuela, where he had spent much of his childhood. The SWP leadership then asserted that he had “resigned” and refused to “re-admit to membership” such an “irresponsible” element. Unfortunately, after returning to the United States, this talented activist drifted away from the Trotskyist movement—seeking to draw together a grouping of ex-Trotskyists, ex-Maoists, and others into a nonsectarian, Fidelista-oriented “North Star Network” in 1984, which soon collapsed. (Camejo also maintained close ties with the Australian Socialist Workers Party, which walked out of the Fourth International in 1985.)

No less shocking was the expulsion of three veteran comrades in the Minneapolis area—Harry DeBoer (1907-1992), Jake Cooper (1916-1990), and a younger comrade named Gillian Furst. DeBoer and Cooper had been founding members of the Socialist Workers Party. DeBoer was among the leaders of the 1934 Minneapolis general strike; he and Cooper were among the eighteen Trotskyists who were jailed during the Second World War under the Smith Act. The third expellee, Gillian Furst, an experienced activist in the labor, feminist, and Irish solidarity movements, had just seen her husband expelled for petty misdemeanors (such as persisting in angry complaints over the rental of non-union buses for the 1981 Solidarity Day labor demonstration).

The three were no less furious over the dramatic change in SWP program and policies, and they sent out a straightforward letter to as many party members as they could, announcing the formation of “the Cannon-Trotsky Faction.” The letter said, in part:

A deep-going crisis threatens the very existence of the Socialist Workers Party. We are asking for your help.

A group of us is forming a faction and if you agree with us, we would like you to join it.

We believe the party leadership has attempted to crush democracy inside the party. We believe that its trade union policies have proven themselves bankrupt. Its policies on Poland and Cuba are a tragic reversal of everything the Socialist Workers Party once stood for. The transitional program and fundamental theories of Lenin, Trotsky and Cannon are being abandoned.

Many of the best cadre have been run out of the party by a leadership which functions like a secret faction.

We encourage you to read the enclosed platform which is quite short, and if you agree with us, or wish to ask any questions, write us ...

As long-time defenders of the party, we think it is time to call a halt to the party leadership's policies and methods.

The platform elaborated on the basic points contained in this letter, which was mailed out on May 11, 1982; the three were expelled on May 14, over the protests of a significant minority in the Minneapolis branch.

There was also the expulsion in November 1982 of Anne Teesdale Zukowski, who had been a loyal activist in the Trotskyist movement for eleven years. Her sympathies were with those in the SWP who opposed the abandonment of Trotskyist perspectives. Also a member of the Young Socialist Alliance, she told a non-party YSAer that she held dissident views. This provided the grounds for her expulsion. Although she appealed her expulsion, the Barnes leadership of the SWP concluded that “justice” had been done, and Zukowski remained an independent socialist. The case against her signaled the opening of a large-scale purge inside the SWP. Soon after, numerous “incidents,” disciplinary actions, trials, and expulsions cropped up at an accelerating pace.

The Barnes leadership knew that the political shifts it was pushing through would inevitably stimulate disagreement, discussion among party members, and protests within the SWP By tightening the organizational norms, such expected responses could be utilized to eject dissidents for violating “the organizational norms of the proletarian party,” helping to guarantee the triumph of the new political orientation. This part of the book contains only a small sampling of documentary material from this period.

The poem of Ann Menasche is about Anne Chester (1905-1983), who became part of the Trotskyist movement when the American Workers Party, led by A.J. Muste, joined the U.S. Trotskyist organization, the Communist League of America, in 1934; she had been part of Muste's organization since 1932. The wife of the late Bob Chester, a popular party educator and working-class intellectual, Anne Chester was a seasoned working-class activist and veteran party-builder in her own right, and played a role in the U.S. Trotskyist publishing house, Pioneer Publishers. A critical-minded revolutionary, she was a conscious opponent of Barnes's policies. The impact she had on Ann Menasche is reflected in the poem and letter reproduced here; the letter also explains the circumstances of her own expulsion. Menasche later became a member of Solidarity.

Michael Smith, a radical lawyer who was a buoyant product of the 1960s radicalization, has written Notebook of a Sixties Lawyer: An Unrepentant Memoir and Selected Writings (Brooklyn: Smyrna Press, 1992), an informative book filled with humor and integrity, from which his March 1983 letter appealing his expulsion is reprinted. After his expulsion, Smith remained an independent socialist, although he felt that “much that I found good in the SWP” was taken by various friends into the Fourth Internationalist Tendency, Socialist Action, and Solidarity.

The open letter of Dianne Feeley and Carole Seligman was sent to about 700 members of the SWP and created quite a stir. Written by two expellees, it represents a passionate effort by revolutionary oppositionists to generate a rank-and-file response against the destructive course pursued by the Barnes leadership. (Feeley is presently a leader of Solidarity, Seligman of Socialist Action.) This letter led directly to Paul Le Blanc's expulsion, documented in the reprinted trial statements.

Two of the SWP's most capable trade unionist activists were Walter Lippmann and Ray Markey, whose letters are also reproduced. While Lippmann's letter is an appeal to overturn his expulsion, Markey's is a resignation letter whose anger burns the page. Still active as labor and socialist activists, both are presently independent of any particular socialist organization.


The Anne Zukowski Case

The expulsion of Anne Zukowski from the Socialist Workers Party was a turning point in the struggle within the SWP to slow down the factional attacks on party democracy by the Barnes leadership which had taken control of the party apparatus.

Zukowski was expelled on November 21, 1982, by the eight-member Minnesota Iron Range branch, acting as a “trial body.” She held dual membership in the SWP and the Young Socialist Alliance. The report of the branch organizer and the conduct of the trial indicated that the entire procedure was conducted in consultation with the party center in New York. Her statement at her “trial,” published here for the first time, exposes the crude frame-up.

Zukowski appealed to the Political Committee on November 26 to reverse her unjust expulsion. The Barnes faction delayed action on her appeal until February 18, 1983. In the interim three months, from November to February, the opposition Fourth Internationalist Caucus in the National Committee sought a broad discussion within the highest elected body of the party. But such a discussion was blocked by the PC Secretariat and finally bottled up in the Political Committee.

The PC minutes of February 18, 1983, show only that the first point on the agenda was “Anne Z. appeal. Waters reported. Motion by Waters: To uphold the decision of the Iron Range branch in finding Anne Z. guilty and expelling her from the SWP for violation of the party's organizational principles and of the motion adopted by the February-March 1982 NC meeting concerning the conduct of party members in the YSA.”

This brief notice signaled further expulsions on trumped-up charges and suggested that the distorted concept of party/youth relations could be used for further frame-ups when convenient.

The Lovell letter, revealing the motivation of the Waters report and motion in the PC, was suppressed by the PC Secretariat and later used as the basis for excluding Lovell from the PC on the grounds that he “betrayed the confidence of the committee.”

The “letter of the 18,” referred to in Anne Zukowski's trial statement and in the PC debate as reported by Lovell, was the announcement by 18 party members, on June 29, 1982, of “the formation of the Fourth Internationalist Tendency in order to be able to participate collectively in the international discussion and to advance our views on disputed international questions in an organized and responsible way.” Their letter was addressed to the Political Bureau, the PC, and the NC of the SWP. It was prompted by the decision of the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International at its meeting in May 1982 to open a written pre-World Congress discussion in which members as well as leaders of the sections and fraternal parties could participate. All 18 members who signed the letter have since been expelled, Anne Zukowski being the first. The “letter of the 18” is published in an earlier volume in this series, The Struggle Inside the Socialist Workers Party, under the title “Call for the Fourth Internationalist Tendency,” p. 251.

Trial Statement and Supplementary Protest by Anne Zukowski

I hope to show by briefly going over the facts that the charges against me are unfounded.

Sue Smith called me Thursday, November 11, and asked if I would give one of the preconvention reports on women's liberation or the fight against imperialist wars. I said I didn't know if I should since I have disagreements with the document. I told her she should talk to Warren and Kathy since they are the YSA exec, and if they agreed I could give a report then I'd be glad to do it. She wanted to know more about what my differences were, and asked me if I was going to bring up my differences in the discussion. I explained to her that I didn't know if I would be able to do that. At no time did I tell her what my differences were, only that I disagreed with the YSA report.

I called Warren afterwards, repeated the conversation to him, and asked him if he knew yet if SWP members with minority views would be allowed to express those views in the YSA preconvention discussion. He said he didn't think so, but that he would find out for sure. Sue had called him also.

The next night, Friday, Warren called and informed me that SWP dual members were not going to be released from discipline to participate in the YSA discussion. He also told me I had made a mistake by telling Sue I had differences with the YSA report, but called it an “honest mistake” since I didn't tell her what my differences were. I disagreed with him that it had been a mistake, that my understanding of the party norms was that an SWP member cannot discuss differences or organize tendencies within the YSA unless sanctioned by the party. I did neither. I simply informed her of the reason I may not be able to give a report.

The above is a brief sketch of the facts. Now I want to make a few factual points concerning the charges against me.

Warren charges me with violation of article 8, section 1 of the organizational principles which state that “ no time are members of the SWP 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.” This is a serious charge. Does this body seriously think my conversation with Sue constitutes organizing a tendency in the YSA? I think not. I wasn't attempting to organize a tendency, and I don't think I am being accused of that.

The next paragraph states that members of the SWP are “not free to raise positions different from those of the party with non-members of the party, whether or not such members are in the YSA.” Again, I don't know why that paragraph is included in these charges since I did not raise any differences with Sue, nor even attempt to open up such a discussion, and I'm not even being accused of that.

Two further points:

1) To my knowledge, this is the first time SWP dual members have not been released from discipline when requested, to participate in a YSA preconvention discussion. In any case, it is an extremely unusual situation, a situation not entirely spelled out by party norms, and certainly not based on any recent party experience. I tried to find out what the policy would be so I wouldn't make any mistakes. I twice asked Warren and once asked at a branch meeting if the discussion this year was to be opened up. No one knew. I received no clarification from anyone about what could and could not be said. In our phone conversations, Warren admitted that he didn't know for sure that my statement to Sue was a violation; it was his opinion that it was a mistake. In my phone conversation with Sue, I assumed the discussion was not opened up and I answered her questions according to my understanding of party norms on this question. Neither I nor anyone else in this room has had any experience with this type of situation. If the YSA organizer doesn't know how to proceed on this question, then how am I to know? If I was wrong, then I think it should be seen as a learning experience for everyone.

I also believe the YSA executive committee shares responsibility in this alleged error. They are aware I have minority views and should have gone over with Sue beforehand, who should give what reports.

If indeed it is decided here that my conversation with Sue was a violation of party norms, it was not intentional nor disloyally motivated. I thought, and still maintain, that I proceeded in a responsible, loyal, and in what seemed to me the correct manner.

2) Which brings me to the next point. I was not telling Sue anything that isn't already common knowledge. I am one of the 18 signers of a letter stating disagreement on a number of issues. That letter was published in the Internal Information Bulletin which is available to all comrades in the YSA and SWP. It was also reported on and discussed in the plenum reports to our branch to which YSA comrades were invited. I repeat—I did not at any time discuss my views with Sue. I simply stated a fact that is already common knowledge—that I have differences on certain questions and for that reason didn't think I would be the best person to give a preconvention discussion report. I thought, and still feel, I acted in an entirely loyal manner.

Lastly I want to protest the way in which this trial is being conducted. I was presented with the charges Sunday afternoon one hour before the branch meeting. The next day, Monday, I was told to appear before this trial body on Tuesday, less than 24 hours' notice. I was unable to meet at that time because I and my child had a fever and a bad cough. I worked a full day Monday and Tuesday and had a prior obligation after work. I requested that we have the meeting Wednesday night instead. This would give me time to prepare an answer to the charges. I didn't think I could do an adequate job in less than 24 hours when I was sick, working a full day and taking care of my child, etc. (Mike is out of town for the week.) This request was rejected; the only reason given was that “other things were going on.” I was not told what those “other things” were. I then asked that if Tuesday was the only possible time, that we have the meeting at my house since my child is not feeling well and I didn't want to leave him with a baby-sitter. This was rejected. The organizer, Dave, stated that we have to have the meeting at the bookstore because “everyone was planning on having it there” and because it's “a better place.” I told Dave that in that case they would have to have a meeting without me.

He called back on Tuesday to “confirm” our meeting time of 7:00 Tuesday. I again explained to him that I never agreed to a Tuesday meeting at the hall, and again explained my reasons. He asked me if I had gone to work today and informed me that since I was well enough to work, I was well enough to attend this meeting. He tried to quote to me a section of the party norms hoping to force me to attend the meeting.

I consider this type of treatment pure and simple harassment. A trial is a serious matter. It involves one's status as a member of the party. I think it is only fair to allow the accused comrade time needed to answer the charges. Party norms do not include the right of an executive committee to dictatorially order someone to attend a meeting on such short notice and under such circumstances. Comrades should treat each other better than that, and should be willing to compromise to work out the best solution for all involved. This was clearly not done.

I would like to ask, was such harassment really necessary given the nature of the charge? This is not a charge which endangers party security (such as a charge of using drugs) and which therefore necessitates an immediate resolution. It is not even a problem that will occur again.

In fact, is this charge really so serious as to necessitate bringing me up on charges at all? In my opinion, these charges are based on a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of a section of party norms in an unclear and unusual situation. If indeed it was a mistake, it certainly wasn't an intentional mistake. It could have been handled much better by simply explaining in a branch meeting what happened and clarifying there for everyone's benefit what should have been done and said in such a situation. I would certainly abide by any such decision, whether I agreed or not, because as I have already stated I consider myself a loyal party member, and did not intentionally violate party norms.

Anne Zukowski
Iron Range branch, November 17, 1982

* * *

This trial is the culmination of a long series of harassment against Mike and me by the branch leadership. (Before I was expelled the branch had been functioning with 8 people, 4 of whom are on the exec.) I did not want to go into all these details before but now I believe I am forced to, because I believe this trial and expulsion is not based on any violation of discipline, but rather on the fact that I have had political differences with the leadership.

1. We have a son, Scott, who is one-and-one-half years old. We were told this summer not to bring him to meetings unless absolutely necessary because he gets a little noisy at times. Actually, we had already stopped bringing him to meetings for that reason, or one of us would leave early with him if he made too much noise. That particular branch meeting was the first he had been to in three or four months. Nevertheless, we were told he “repeatedly disrupts” branch meetings. A few months earlier those same comrades were telling me that I don't always have to leave meetings with Scott, that he wasn't as disruptive as I thought.

Since we were no longer able to afford a baby-sitter for weekly meetings as we had done the previous few months, the only alternative was for one of us to stay home with him each week and miss the branch meeting. This solution was agreed to by the organizer, Dave Salner. Shortly after the last plenum, however, Dave informed me that it was a norm of party membership to attend meetings and there was no excuse for us not attending every meeting. He said we would have to get a baby-sitter for meetings even though our financial situation was worse even than before. He then suggested we drop our sustainers to zero to pay for a baby-sitter. Our branch has been hard hit by layoffs and needs everyone's sustainer to keep going. Besides, paying a sustainer is also a norm of membership.

I feel the branch exec was very inflexible in their attitude towards this problem and wouldn't have acted this way towards a new party member or towards someone who didn't have minority views. In fact, no one saw Scott's occasional presence at meetings a problem until after it became known we had minority views.

I am not suggesting we allow meetings to be disrupted. Nor do I expect the branch to organize child care. That is our responsibility. I did expect the branch, however, to take into consideration our problems in dealing with child care and either be a little more tolerant of children during meetings or a little more understanding when one of us had to miss a meeting or forum.

2. We asked for a transfer from the Iron Range branch to the Twin Cities branch for financial reasons in October. We requested to leave soon after the election campaign ended, so as not to disrupt the work of the branch. I have a part-time job. Mike has been looking for a permanent job on the range for over a year and has found only a few part-time temporary jobs. The unemployment here is over 50%.

The branch asked us to reconsider our request. We were told the only two reasons to grant a transfer were for political assignment elsewhere or to help a comrade's political development. This is obviously untrue. Comrades transfer all the time for many different personal reasons.

We were told that other people are worse off than we are, and that we are in no worse shape than other comrades in the branch. I think it is out of line to compare one situation to another and deny a transfer to a comrade because you think they aren't as bad off as someone else. We are not asking for status as a “hardship case.” Nor is our entire personal situation an open book to be judged and commented upon by the entire party. Many people are leaving this area and going elsewhere to look for work. We feel we have no choice but to do the same.

Mike asked for a leave of absence for a couple of days to look for work in the Twin Cities in October. His request was turned down; he was asked to wait until after the campaign rally. He agreed. Following that rally, Mike again told Dave he wanted to spend a couple of days in the TC the following week. I also mentioned to Dave before that branch meeting (which I wasn't able to attend due to baby-sitting) that Mike wanted to go, although I wasn't sure which two days that week. Nothing more was said about it, and Mike left Wednesday night and returned Thursday night. He had no assignments or meetings for that 24-hour period. Dave, however, got extremely upset that Mike left, even though he had twice been informed that Mike was going and even though Mike had no assignments for that day. He and another exec member set up a special meeting with Mike when he got back, at our house. I didn't have to work as long as I thought that day, so I asked to sit in on the meeting. They told me I had to leave. I refused, however, because the meeting had to do with our request for a transfer, which affects me as well. In the meeting Mike was grilled about where he went, the exact times he was gone, etc. He was told he didn't follow the proper procedure, that even if he leaves town for half a day he is obligated to inform the organizer. In the first place, the organizer was informed twice about this, and in the second place, comrades have often gone places without getting a leave officially approved by the exec. Why, all of a sudden, does the branch leadership decide every one-day trip out of town must be approved by them?

Mike asked for another leave for 4 days Nov. 16-19. He was granted the leave, but Dave informed the branch the reason for the leave was “unprecedented” and questioned his motives in going to the Cities. Yet it is not “unprecedented” for an executive committee comrade to spend a week at a time, even during the campaign when she was a candidate, in the Cities working for her mother. Nor were her motives questioned, and they were the same as Mike's—survival.

This type of petty harassment has the effect of driving people away from our party. Three people resigned from the branch this summer for that very reason. It miseducates comrades as to the kind of organization we are trying to build and drains energy away from our real task, that of trying to build the SWP.

/s/Anne Zukowski
Anne Teesdale Zukowski
November 26, 1982


Letter of Protest by Frank Lovell

New York
February 25, 1983

To the National Committee and the Political Committee

Dear Comrades:

When the PC acted on February 18 to reject Comrade Anne Zukowski's appeal against her expulsion last November by the Iron Range branch, Comrade Mary-Alice Waters, reporting for the Secretariat, said that educational material on this case must be prepared for the membership (presumably in an internal bulletin). In further discussion of this matter, Comrade Jack Barnes agreed that perhaps the Zukowski case can be used for educational purposes, but it can't be done now, not until after the anti-SWP trial in Los Angeles.

I agree that the Zukowski case presents some crucial issues for the future of our party.

As part of the educational material on this case, I ask that the following be included: Comrade Zukowski's appeal to the PC on November 26,1982, with attachments dated November 17 and November 26; plus this letter of mine, in which I repeat and extend arguments I made at the February 18 PC meeting.

Since I am reasonably sure that Comrade Zukowski will appeal the PC's Feb. 18 decision to the NC or the convention, I would like to have this letter transmitted to whatever body will hear the appeal, even if no educational bulletin is issued on this subject.

According to my notes, Comrade Waters in her report to the PC stated that Zukowski was expelled for “a violation of discipline, for an action she took and defended.” But the undisputed facts show that she did not violate discipline and did not take any “action.”

When Comrade Sue Smith, a non-party YSAer, asked Anne if she would give a preconvention report to the YSA chapter meeting, Anne Zukowski said she didn't know if she should since she had disagreements with the YSA draft political resolution; she urged Smith to consult the YSA chapter executive committee and said she would give a report if the executive wanted her to. When Smith asked her about her disagreements, Zukowski declined to discuss them.

In her report Comrade Waters stated that Zukowski “contends that it would have been dishonest and disloyal for her to undertake to defend the YSA draft resolution under the circumstances,” and that this demonstrates that Zukowski “does not understand that she was assigned to help build the YSA along the lines decided by the majority leadership of the SWP. Her refusal to do this is what is involved in this case.” Zukowski's contention “goes to the heart of the matter,” according to Waters.

This argument omits some of “the circumstances” that were most relevant and avoids the real issue, the question of a specific assignment. At the time of this incident there was considerable confusion in the SWP about whether or not dual members would be allowed to present differences they might have in the YSA preconvention discussion period. The responsibility for this lies with the PC, not Zukowski.

Some members had asked the PC to release them from party discipline for the YSA preconvention discussion period. The PC refused to give the releases requested but left the question open for further discussion. At the same time the PC took the position, for the first time in history, that it was not normal for such releases to be granted, although in the past they have usually been given when requested. The confusion was so great that at the time of the Iron Range incident the organizer of the YSA, an experienced party member, did not know and could not tell Zukowski what the PC position was on releases for the YSA discussion period that was already half-concluded. If problems arose from this confusion, the PC deserves most of the blame.

I agree that it would not have been “dishonest and disloyal” for Zukowski to present the SWP's position on any and all questions in the YSA if she were assigned to do that in a report at a YSA meeting. But she was given no such assignment. The party did not assign her to report on the YSA resolution. She was merely asked if she would give such a report by a non-party member of the YSA. The charge that she failed to carry out her obligation “to build the YSA” is vague and groundless because she was never accused of refusing to carry out any assignment either in the SWP or the YSA. The fact is that she was never assigned by the SWP or the YSA to give a report, and that she told Smith she would give the report if the YSA executive asked her to do so, even if she thought she would not be the best one to do it.

It is impossible, after reading the Iron Range executive committee's report at the trial, not to see that Zukowski was accused of violating discipline not because of anything she did, but because of what she thinks, and especially her failure to foresee and to accept the executive committee's bizarre interpretation of recently adopted “norms.” She evidently was expected to determine in advance what the branch executive committee might eventually decide her motives were—that is, she was expected to be a mind reader. Members of the executive committee managed to convince themselves that she was involved in some devious plot for suggesting that a supporter of the YSA resolution would probably be a better reporter on it to the YSA membership than she would be. She had no way of knowing at the time that she would be accused of doing anything wrong.

One other point raised in the Waters report concerned the relation between the offense charged and the penalty imposed. Comrade Waters (and the PC) held that expulsion was warranted. On the contrary, it is completely inappropriate. Expulsion is hardly a fitting punishment for such a minor offense as stating the fact of one's disagreement with a document produced by the YSA leadership. If Zukowski deserves to be expelled, it must be for some other reason than the one stated and argued in the trial. Even if it is decided that she did commit some sort of indiscretion (for which there is no evidence whatever), then it is the height of folly to order expulsion or uphold expulsion for such an indiscretion, which easily could have been cleared up in any normal branch situation without any charges being preferred. Expelling Zukowski for her statement to Sue Smith and for the entirely unrelated matters brought up at the trial is like sentencing someone to be hanged for spitting on the sidewalk and for complaining that spitting should not be treated as a capital crime.

We should try to understand the disagreements and antagonisms that develop in small branches, especially when a branch is operating under such difficult conditions as exist on the Iron Range today. The record shows that Anne Zukowski and her companion were harassed because of their political differences long before the incident for which she was expelled. This indicates that there were other reasons for her expulsion than those formally charged.

The central leadership of the party (the PC) ought to be directing the branch's attention to the big problems workers face today instead of encouraging internal friction and recrimination. Fifty percent of the workers on the range are unemployed. This is the problem the branch should be interested in trying to explain and helping to organize union action around for the creation of jobs and other forms of relief.

We know from the Iron Range branch minutes that the Twin Cities branch organizer was present on the range when Zukowski was being tried for indiscipline (if not at the branch meeting where she was expelled). We also know that shortly thereafter similar charges were preferred against a comrade in the Twin Cities branch and a similar trial was held there. This indicates that the atmosphere of internal repression created by the harassment of Zukowski on the range had spread to the Twin Cities.

But there was one important difference in what happened at the Twin Cities branch: there the membership overwhelmingly refused to support the recommendation of a majority of the executive committee to expel the comrade accused of violating discipline. As in the Zukowski case the charge was specious and the punishment was excessive and inappropriate. The PC ought to reconsider and reverse the action of the Iron Range branch just as the Twin Cities branch reversed the position of the Twin Cities executive majority. This was a clear demonstration that such charges cannot be explained or justified to the party membership whenever there is an opportunity for them to be aired objectively.

* * *

After I spoke at the February 18 PC meeting along the lines indicated above, Comrade Barnes expressed his views in favor of upholding the expulsion.

Since time allotted for this agenda point had been exceeded, I did not respond to what he said. But I want to report here one of the points he made that I consider important, and to offer my comment on it in writing.

Comrade Barnes strongly disagreed with my assessment that the Iron Range expulsion and the attempted Twin Cities expulsion involved the same issue. He said he thought a careful examination would reveal a “fundamental difference” between the two cases. While he did not state plainly or directly what he considered the difference to be, he did make clear how he and the PC see things by some of his remarks which I summarize in the following two paragraphs:

If we fail to follow up on cases of this kind there will be no discipline in the party. We all know and agree that everyone is obligated to carry out party policy. But for those in the party today who disagree with the party's policy as adopted in the last convention and plenums since then, as interpreted and carried out by the party leadership, the whole question of what the party policy really is remains “up in the air.” We cannot allow this because then everything will be up in the air and nothing can be done.

In the document drafted by the 18 comrades, we find extremely different political positions and opinions from those of the party leadership. We must be guided now by decisions taken at our plenums. This is a most important matter. At our plenums we issued warnings to comrades with different political views. Anyone who disregards those warnings and violates our party norms as defined by our plenum decisions must be immediately expelled. This is what we did in the case of Michael Smith who violated a specific “last warning.” We must take the same action in the case of all others.

It is plain, therefore, that Comrade Barnes's alleged “fundamental difference” between the Iron Range expulsion and the attempted Twin Cities expulsion consists of the fact that Anne Zukowski was a signer of the letter of the 18 comrades to the PC last June 29, and that the defendant in the Twin Cities case was not a signer of that letter.

In her appeal to the PC, Zukowski expressed the opinion that the real reason she was expelled was because of her minority views as expressed in her signature to the letter of the 18. I did not enter into this question at all at the Feb. 18 PC meeting. But I now feel compelled to tell you that after Barnes's remarks at that meeting, there is no question in my mind that Zukowski was correct in her explanation for the expulsion and that other comrades with “different political positions and opinions from those of the party leadership” (including both signers and non-signers of the letter of the 18) are threatened with similar harsh and vindictive punishment unless the NC or the convention will override the PC's Feb. 18 decision in the Zukowski case.

The PC's decision sends the wrong signal to the party branches. It tells them that they have a green light to go after anyone with “different political positions and opinions,” no matter how flimsy the charges. The signal that is needed is one that tells the branches that they must scrupulously uphold and defend the democratic centralist practices and traditions of the SWP, especially on the eve of a preconvention discussion period. In the interest of the party as a whole, I urge the NC to reverse the PC's decision and reinstate Comrade Zukowski to full membership status and rights.

Meanwhile, I urge the members of the NC to consider (and PC members to reconsider) the full implications of the doctrine espoused by Comrade Barnes at the February 18 PC meeting. The letter of the 18, which I signed along with Zukowski and others, announced our intention to participate collectively in the international discussion through the preparation of documents for the International Internal Discussion Bulletin. In a letter to the 18 on July 13, 1982, the PC instructed us “to cease and desist from any further organized tendency activity of any kind. Any violation of this instruction is incompatible with membership in the SWP.” [Both letters are published in The Struggle Inside the Socialist Workers Party, pp.251-53.] While disagreeing with the PC's interpretations, we pledged to comply with the cease-and-desist order until it had been changed or lifted. No one has charged that this pledge has been violated by any of the 18, and no charges of violating the cease-and-desist order have been filed against any of the 18. But now the July 13 order is being given a new interpretation, and the 18 are being threatened with immediate expulsion, not for violating that order, but for “offenses” that are at most analogous to spitting on the sidewalk. How can we have the SWP's traditional democratic discussion in the coming preconvention period with such threats and harassment being encouraged in branches where there are members with “different political positions and opinions”?


/s/Frank Lovell

Poem and Letter

by Ann Menasche

Eulogy to Anne Chester

I suppose the pain was too much
And the loneliness
Old woman
In a city
of cold foggy nights
And row upon row
of family fortresses
Where old people are
taken out
with the trash
And nobody listens
to an eccentric old woman
The young laugh foolishly

But what stories she had to tell!
In her blood
of Revolutionary

She lived it
she created it
with her wiry hands
One of a small band
of determined Trotskyists
Her bones shaking with vision
through two world wars
unemployment lines
Years of dull factory work
Strikes and protests
as numerous
as the wrinkles
that grew on her face
marking her persistence;
Now the earth feasts
on her ashes
Fertilized, enriched

Nobody listens
to an eccentric old woman
But I sink my roots deeper

Ann Menasche
February 23, 1983

* * *

June 29, 1983

Dear Dave,

I've been meaning to write to you for several months but I kept putting it off because I was afraid of what your reaction would be to what I wanted to share with you.

I ask you to remember that we are friends, even if we end up disagreeing and to try to keep an open mind to what I have to say.

I have been expelled from the Socialist Workers Party. And I am not the only one. There has been a virtual purge of a whole number of loyal capable comrades, especially in the Bay Area, but also in other areas of the country. Among others hit are Dianne Feeley, Carole Seligman, and Walter Lippmann. There have been more trials in the Bay Area branches in the last several months than any time in the SWP's history, and more trials than I've experienced as a lawyer after six years of practice.

Before I go into the nature of my “offense” I want to say that I consider myself a committed revolutionary socialist, a Trotskyist through and through, and though for personal reasons and reasons of health I didn't personally go into industry, this doesn't make me automatically wrong on this question or any other. It would be the most vulgar materialism to think otherwise. May I remind you that lawyers that were true socialists include Marx, Lenin, Castro, and Maurice Bishop of Grenada. Not that I see myself as that caliber of a leader—but I think you get my point.

Many of those purged were in industry and active in their unions. Dianne and Carole were national leaders of our women's liberation work—work which is no longer going on in the party. In fact, there is very little mass work—whether in the unions, in the antiwar/solidarity movement, women's movement, Black movement, etc., going on in the party. The appearance is the same, but the essence is different—and something is very seriously wrong in the SWP. Serious changes in political line are occurring—Jenness writes in the Militant that Trotsky was a centrist before joining the Bolsheviks, and that the theory of permanent revolution is wrong—the theory I was taught when I was recruited to the party! Stalinist slanders against Trotsky are being raised by leaders of our party—that Trotsky “underestimated the peasants,” etc. Read Jenness's article in the Militant of June 25, 1982, entitled “Our Political Continuity with Bolshevism” and re-read Permanent Revolution. See for yourself.

I, for one, am reading like a madwoman—like I've never read before—like I should have read before. Without education, how can we be self-acting, thinking Bolsheviks?

All these changes—fundamental changes in theory are being done without any discussion—rather, the unprecedented step was taken of cancelling the convention! Never before in our history has a convention been cancelled.

The expellees all have one thing in common—they had one disagreement or another with the Barnes leadership. We have been expelled for what are, at most, minor, minuscule, technical violations where no harm to the party was done, and often on charges that were just patently absurd.

Don Harmon was expelled for speaking out of turn at a meeting. Carole Seligman was expelled for telling Dianne Feeley's stepson—a party member—that Dianne was expelled, in front of a YSAer. Walter was expelled for discussing his differences with a party member at the hall, after a forum, ostensibly because someone may have overheard. There was no evidence that anyone did.

I was expelled for unauthorized distribution of a poem I wrote on Anne Chester at Anne Chester's memorial meeting.

I knew Anne personally, and her death was a blow—it was very sad and shocking to learn about it. I wrote a poem—a political poem—a love poem of sorts, a poem that celebrated her life as a revolutionary. Since when does the party attempt to police the distribution of revolutionary art? I am enclosing copies of my defense and my appeal. I would send you the other side if there was anything in writing to give you. But there was nothing but a two-line “charge.” No tape was kept of the proceeding—no record of any kind. And the leadership has chosen to keep these expulsions a secret from the membership.

I considered myself a supporter of the majority until last fall. I began to react against extraordinary and what I felt were undemocratic organizational measures being taken—for example, some members of our branch were forcibly transferred out of our branch, military fashion, on the basis of their vote on another organizational question. One comrade was forced to commute 100 miles (50 each way) just to attend branch meetings, and then he was called in and raked over the coals for being “inactive.”

In November, the Political Committee appointed me to be a member of the trial body for Don Mahoney. I was the one dissenting voice on that body—I don't think Larry Seigle, who was on the trial body also, ever forgave me for that.

In January, I was a minority delegate to the District Convention. All the various aligned and non-aligned minorities in our branch united around one document calling for intervention and a nonsectarian approach in the mass movements and unions, and around the issue of democracy in the party.

Soon afterwards, Anne Chester committed suicide, I wrote my poem, and was expelled.

At this particular point, I consider myself close to Breitman, Bloom, and Mandel on issues of theory and general political approach, though my ideas continue to evolve, and I am trying to grapple with various questions myself.

I think the SWP is looking for “shortcuts” to the revolution—“get-rich-quick schemes”—like the IT and majority of the International were (remember the guerrilla warfare line?) doing several years ago. Now the shoe is on the other foot. It is the SWP that is adapting to the limitations of Castroism and moving away from Trotskyism.

You have no idea what a strong personal effect all this has had on me. I devoted 13 years to the YSAISWP It is devastating for me to observe what is going on. Whatever happens, American Trotskyism will live on. It has to.

I am glad I made it to Nicaragua last summer. All that wonderful inspiration has helped me to survive all this. I plan to go to Mexico and visit the PRT this summer.

I have many more things I'd like to share with you and discuss with you—my trip to Nicaragua, other personal changes I've gone through this year, my present political work in the El Salvador Initiative Campaign in S.F, etc. But this letter is too long as it is.

I hope life is going OK for you. If you make it down to S.F you are more than welcome to visit with me. One of these days I would like to go up to the Coast to Seattle and Vancouver also.

I may be moving soon because my roommate is nuts and driving me batty but you can always reach me at work....

If you weren't a friend, I wouldn't have even bothered writing to you about all this. I hope you take it in that light, whether or not you agree. You couldn't possibly call me any worse names than you called me before I helped recruit you to the YSA. Well—maybe you could—but be nice—I'm very sensitive—plus please think this stuff through—don't just assume “petit-bourgeois” me is wrong. I feel an injustice has been done me. Write soon.




Appeal of Expulsion from the SWP

by Michael Smith

March 31, 1983

National Committee

Socialist Workers Party

Dear Comrades,

On December 1, 1982, Manhattan branch organizer Ken Shilman charged me with the “unauthorized distribution of material” in violation of Motion 8 adopted by the February-March 1982 National Committee meeting and with “intentionally endangering the security of the party.”

The “unauthorized material” I was charged with having sent consisted of (1) a personal letter, and (2) a copy of remarks I had made at a branch meeting on party norms. These remarks contained my allegation that Comrade Barry Sheppard had without my knowledge or consent tape recorded a phone call he had with me and then played the tape to third parties, again without my knowledge or consent, a charge I knew Sheppard had chosen to deny. I sent both of these items to Comrade Peter Buch in Oakland, California. They are appended to this appeal as appendices and numbered 1 and 2.* [Appendices are not included.]

I appeared before the Manhattan Branch Executive Committee which had constituted itself as a trial committee on December 6,1982. The majority voted to uphold these charges and recommended my expulsion to the branch. A minority report opposed this.

I was tried by my branch on December 8, 1982. By a vote of about 58 to 14 I was found guilty of both charges and expelled. I am appealing this decision. I requested a copy of the minority report and wanted a copy of the majority report, but this has been denied to me, handicapping my defense and appeal.

Comrades on the National Committee who know me—like Andrew Pulley, Nelson Blackstock, Maceo Dixon, and Fred Halstead—know I would not “intentionally endanger the security of the party.” They know that I have loyally built our party for fifteen years.

With regard to civil liberties work alone they know my record. I wrote major articles on the party suit for the Lawyers Guild journal Guild Notes and the pacifist magazine WIN. I personally raised over $9,000 in 1981 for the suit and brought many people from the ACLU, the Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the National Organization of Legal Services Workers around in its support.

When I first joined the movement I headed the Howard Petrick Defense Committee at the University of Wisconsin, where I was also the chairman of the Madison Committee to End the War in Vietnam. I quit my job in Detroit in 1969 in order to move to Columbia, South Carolina, where I helped defend the Fort Jackson 8. In 1970 I helped win a lawsuit in Federal District Court overturning part of the restrictive Michigan election law so that we got on the ballot there. In 1973 I appeared at a hearing for the party in Washington, D.C., and got us on the ballot there.

I headed the party's work in the Hurricane Carter defense. I led in the party's collaboration with other forces in the activity occasioned by the 25th anniversary of the Rosenberg murders. I worked in opposing the New York City Red Squad settlement, preparing the legal papers, chairing a forum, and co-authoring the Militant article.

No, I would not intentionally endanger the security of the party. Nor would I fabricate an untruth. Barry Sheppard did tape our phone call without my knowledge or consent. Comrade Ray Markey, who has served on the National Committee and who is a member of the New York City Central Labor Council, stated at my trial that around the same time Sheppard secretly taped me he did the same thing to Markey, showing that it was deliberate.

As Comrade Paul Siegel suggested at my trial, since Sheppard claims he told me he was doing it and I voiced no opposition, Sheppard knows that he can easily refute me by playing the tape when my appeal is heard. This he will not do. The tape would show no such permission. What Barry Sheppard did to me and to Markey and to who knows how many others is a violation of socialist morality, and I have a right and a duty to object. Just as I would if someone opened my mail.

It is not true or right, as one comrade who voted to expel me claimed at my trial, “that the party has a right to know everything about you” and that therefore it was o.k. to tape my call secretly. Ends don't justify means. They are bound up with them. It is unimaginable to us that a future government of socialists would have people in it who hold this sort of totalitarian view.

The way the charge of “intentionally endangering the security of the party” was used against me made it impossible for me to defend myself. People were poisoned and prejudiced against me in advance. Indeed the very nature of the charge took care of that.

I was asked by the trial committee, “Will you or will you not collaborate with the FBI?” This accusation, which underlay the whole of the trial proceedings, was formulated by Trial Committee member Wells Todd and propounded to me on behalf of the Trial Committee. This kind of “when did you stop beating your wife” sort of question is inherently unfair. And it got worse at my trial before the branch two nights later. As the trial commenced, the two items I sent to Buch, appendices 1 and 2, were numbered and distributed to the comrades. They were given time to read them and then they were collected by security monitors appointed by the chair. Thus an atmosphere of intimidation was generated at the onset. It was like putting a metal detector and uniformed frisking cops in a courtroom during a political defendant's trial. There was no good reason to number, distribute, and collect this material. More than 150 National Committee members and others who attended the National Committee plenum the week before had been given these same materials to take to their homes around the country and globe. But this time the materials were hot stuff, so supposedly secretive and potentially compromising that it was “for eyes only,” to be shown briefly and then collected.

The trial then began. First Ken Shilman told the branch I was a liar. Then Peggy Winter, the party attorney working on the Gelfand case which was at that time yet to come up for trial, used her authority to make an amalgam between me and Alan Gelfand. It was only a matter of time until I would be contacted by the FBI said Winter, presumably to secure my collaboration in the fink suit. It was, she said, “like waiting for the other shoe to fall.” Why did Winter think this? Because she had recently learned that Gelfand himself, while still a party member, twice in 1978 taped conversations he held with Los Angeles party leaders, without of course their knowledge or consent. This fact was brought out months later at the Gelfand trial when he admitted it on the stand, showing what kind of character he is. This is reported in the March 18, 1983, Militant in an article by David Frankel.

By complaining that Sheppard did the same thing to me I was viewed by Winter and those in the leadership with whom she consulted as a potential police collaborator who might be used to undercut a point Winter was planning to make and in fact did make at the Gelfand trial: that loyal party members don't go around taping each other, and that we considered what Gelfand did morally repugnant, disloyal, and in California, in fact, illegal.

When I first realized I had been secretly taped I complained about it to the Political Committee in the person of Steve Clark. My letter of July 2, 1982, went unanswered. It is appended hereto as appendix 3.

I waited and in a responsible way on September 26, 1982, I raised for a second time during a branch discussion on party norms the incident with Sheppard. Comrade Ilona Gersh had reported for the leadership on the norms of the party as codified in the new $8 bulletin. After her report I approached her and told her I thought secretly taping phone calls—as I had indicated to the branch—was not right. To this she replied, “That's your opinion.” Comrade Harry Ring, who was on the Control Commission and who was in a position to know the truth of my position, heard my exchange with Gersh but said nothing.

The remarks I made to the branch I then sent to Buch. The Political Committee had refused to circulate them. I did not intend to nor did I think I was violating party norms or circulating unauthorized material when I sent the things to Peter. Nor, contrary to Shilman's charge, did I “go on a campaign” against the party. I merely sent a statement made in my own defense where I said I was not a member of a secret political faction to a longtime friend whose good opinion of me I valued. I then let the matter rest.

It was the leadership who seized on it. After receiving a copy of the items I mailed to Peter they orchestrated a trial around a “security threat” wholly of their own making. If the security of the party was really endangered then it was Barry Sheppard who was responsible. As a leader of the party it is regrettable that he doesn't have the character in him to stand up and account for himself.

As to my letter to Buch and branch statement, I stand by my right to write and send this. We do not want an intimidating atmosphere in our party where members feel unable to express their thoughts ... and doubts. We want to encourage thinking and questioning, self-action and initiative, for otherwise I fear we will not have a party but a sect filled with automatons and marionettes.

Such a party would be incapable of constructing an organization with the capacity to take on the American ruling class. The pioneer leaders of our movement believed this. Many of the books Pathfinder publishes, after all, are compilations of letters like the one I sent Peter. It is not against our norms to write material which, like Cannon did, eventually became collected in a book. Cannon's The Struggle for a Proletarian Party is made up in the main of letters to comrades.

As to the remarks I made to the branch, I made them to eighty people. What's the secret? It is a common thing for comrades in one branch to share ideas with comrades in another.

My remarks, to repeat, were by way of self-defense against a false finding by the Control Commission that I was part of a secret faction when all I did was unwittingly give a copy of the Lovell/Bloom tendency statement to a comrade. I never had a chance to confront my accuser or refute the charge. It is particularly repugnant when for the first time I defend myself in front of my branch to then have the Political Committee suppress these remarks when I ask that they be circulated and then to have me expelled when I send them to a friend.

I will now move on to what I consider the primary question, the political differences I have with the leadership, which I believe are the real reason I was expelled.

I believe that there is a process of political differentiation going on in the party. Although I voted for the turn to industry I believe that in its application the leadership has taken the party in a workerist and abstentionist direction.

To put the great majority of our comrades in a few select industries where workers produce surplus value is a disorienting schema. By doing so we are ignoring what we learned in the '60s. We will not become a party who in our majority are industrial workers by simply now having everyone get jobs in industry. We will not win the workers by first seeking to transform ourselves. The process is more dialectical.

The method of the transitional program must be applied. We must build bridges to the class the way the leadership of Solidarity did in Poland. But rather than embrace this example, speak out for it, and seek to learn from it, the SWP leadership, contrary to everything we learned and practiced when I first joined the party, took its distance from public Solidarity support activity.

At the same time the leadership opened a public attack on Trotsky, on the theory of permanent revolution, and by extension on the organization constructed to advance Trotskyism: the Fourth International.

This was done with not even as much as an internal literary discussion. Instead a peculiar scholastic educational campaign was undertaken where comrades were to read Lenin's 1905 work Two Tactics. Instead of studying what actually happened in 1917 in the Russian Revolution, or in some respects even more importantly, what happened in the Nicaraguan revolution, we were urged to read parts of Two Tactics. Collateral readings were excluded. Historians of the period including Trotsky were specifically not consulted. In my branch Cliff Conner moved to recommend that the study classes read Trotsky's “Three Theories of the Russian Revolution” and was ruled out of order. Quotations were selected from Lenin and strung together to prove him right as against Trotsky regarding the events of 1917. A misleading syllabus was distributed. The revision commenced.

Although we never voted on it, the leadership has taken our party on a road away from Trotskyism, towards Castroism, or more precisely towards overadapting to its negative sides, which as we used to agree, stemmed from its necessary ties to the Soviet Union.

Since our program was a unified interconnected thing, abandoning parts of it is causing the whole to unravel. Our political positions have flip-flopped on issues such as Chile, Jamaica, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. It is no longer possible to predict with certainty what the party's position will be on an unfolding event.

Our party should be recruiting in the present period, but it is not. There is always a certain turnover in the ranks of a revolutionary party. But we are not being replenished and are shrinking in numbers and losing influence. Increasingly we are looked at as another sect on the left. Even comrades who voice no opposition, like Ed or Bruce or Catarino, are getting demoralized and dropping out.

Instead of letting political differences come to the surface and be debated out, organizational measures have taken place resulting in trials and expulsions across the country. Cannon wrote that not taking organizational measures was the main lesson he learned from his early days in the American CP

There should be room in our party for a Peter Camejo or a Dianne Feeley. To exclude them is unprincipled, it is not justified on political grounds. It weakens the party and diminishes us in the eyes of the radical community.

If my expulsion is upheld, how for example am I to explain why I am no longer a member to old political associates in District 65, UAW (where I am a delegate), the Lawyers Guild, the ACLU, and in radical circles generally? It makes the party seem bizarre, and me a little nuts for being in it in the first place.

I never want to have to explain this. I want to resume my place in the ranks of the SWP I came away from my studies in school, my identification with the Cuban revolution, and my experience in the antiwar movement with the deeply held conviction that American power, in the hands of this capitalist class, will, if not stopped, destroy all of humanity.

I believe this now as strongly as I did in 1968 when I joined the Detroit branch of the SWP. I believe this now as I did when I left a lucrative law practice in Detroit to work full time, and without pay, for four-and-a-half years in the National Office. I believe this now as I did when I commuted every day to Newark where I located our present headquarters and served on the first branch executive committee. And I believe this now as strongly as I did when I helped found the Chelsea branch, whose first meeting was held in my apartment, and as I did in my last five years of activity in the Manhattan branch.

We need a socialist organization in this country capable of drawing broad forces into its ranks and inspiring this sleeping giant of the American working class to take history into its own hands.

Jack London once wrote of how wolves are killed in the arctic. A knife is imbedded in the ice, blade up. Blood is put on the blade. Wolves come over to lick the blood off and in the process unwittingly cut themselves and bleed to death even as they think they are being nurtured.

We have had enough trials and expulsions and intimidations. We must draw a balance sheet of our recent political experiences, stop contracting and turning inward, and start reaching out and growing.

Small parties pay for their mistakes. The fiasco of the community branches, the error in not participating in the building of May 3rd, our inconsistent women's liberation work, our exodus from the campuses, our trifling with CISPES, all are signals that the bills are being presented.

It is my hope that the situation in the party will not worsen. For surely the four horsemen of the apocalypse are mounted and riding and without an immensely broad and powerful socialist party to stop them the fate of the German workers, or worse, will be that of the American workers as well.

I pledge to be a loyal contributor to the party in the endeavor to strengthen it and ask you to give me that chance.


Letter to SWP Members by Dianne Feeley and Carole Seligman

July 11, 1983

Dear Comrades,

We are writing to you because we believe there is a fundamental crisis in the Socialist Workers Party and that this crisis can only be resolved by the party membership if it has information that is being hidden from it. We are writing to as many party members as we can reach by mail, although we realize that this is an unorthodox way of communicating with party members. We utilize it only because we believe it is in the interest of the SWP for us to write it and for you to read it, and because we have been placed in a position that makes it difficult for us to communicate with you in any other way.

Like a dozen other loyal and dedicated party members around the country, we have been expelled from the party in the last six months. We appealed our expulsions to the May plenum of the National Committee, which lumped all the cases together and quickly affirmed the expulsions.

In its entire history, the SWP has never experienced so many individual trials and expulsions in any two-year period as it has had in the last eight months. Yet by a decision of the May plenum this information is being kept from the membership. That is, NC members and organizers are expressly forbidden to report on this plenum point. Why?

Each of us has been a party member for at least fifteen years. One of us served as an alternate to the SWP's National Committee for two years. Yet we have never before encountered any situation in which information about plenum reports was kept from the membership. During plenum reports to the branches, the kit containing all printed material distributed at the plenum was passed around for comrades to see and study. It was available in the organizer's office for any comrade to come in and read. But much of the material from the May plenum has been deliberately withheld from the membership.

At the November 1981 plenum of the National Committee, National Secretary Jack Barnes said, “The next convention of this party will be held in the summer of 1983.” He even stated the month: “August 1983.” Yet the May 1983 plenum voted down a motion to hold the next national convention at Oberlin (already rented) in August 1983 and also voted down a motion to set the date for the next national convention.

We therefore have no channel to appeal the NC's approval of our expulsions to a higher body (the national convention). Not knowing when the next convention will take place, and believing that the party membership alone can resolve the crisis within the party, we urge you to read this letter objectively. Do not be distracted by the way we have been forced to act in sending it to you outside normal channels. We did not choose these channels—they were imposed upon us by the irregular and harmful procedure followed by the majority of the party leadership.

This letter is the result of the collaborative efforts of only those who have signed it, no one else. We are completely confident that the information we are presenting is accurate. If there is any question, or any challenge to our facts, this can be easily verified or refuted by making public to the ranks of the party the documents of the National Committee meeting in May.

A Bolshevik party can only remain strong when it has a vibrant and active inner-party democracy. Only when an open atmosphere exists can the party test out its political line and change it, or modify it, when necessary. It is only through this democratic method that the party can weld itself together to be an adequate revolutionary tool, reconquering its heritage as it deals with the shifting and complex reality of the living class struggle.

There can be no real democracy and no serious evaluation of the political line if party members are denied access to information. How else can party members evaluate the party's perspectives and leadership? Hiding the facts of these expulsions cannot possibly strengthen the party, but only weaken and disorient the membership.

Let us review some of the cases of expulsion, beginning with our own.

The Case of Dianne Feeley

I joined the YSA and SWP in 1967 in San Francisco. I was an activist in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements before I joined the party. As a party member I participated in building the movement against the war, and have worked since 1970 in the women's movement. I functioned as a spokesperson for the party and ran for governor on the party ticket in New York State in 1978. I helped to lead the party's work by serving on executive committees in San Francisco, New York City, and Pittsburgh. I have been a blue-collar worker for the past decade, and worked at the Metuchen, NJ, auto plant in 1979-80, where the party developed a sizeable fraction.

Since moving to Pittsburgh in 1980 I had been assigned to women's liberation work—although I have also had assignments during that same period to the forum, education, financial, and campaign committees. On behalf of the party, I helped to organize a successful International Women's Day program in 1982, a July 1st demonstration of 500 in support of women's rights (the day after the ERA was defeated), and a week of abortion rights activities on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision this past January.

In January 1983, I was involved in initiating activity around International Women's Day when I was charged with violating Article VIII, Section 8 of the party constitution, for collaborating with non-members without authorization. I believed I had such authorization. Last fall I had laid out my work with the women's liberation director: attempting to launch activity around abortion rights on January 22nd as well as programs to celebrate International Women's Day. Just two days before the charge was brought against me I had an extensive discussion about my work with the branch organizer.

Although at my trial I was accused of organizing meetings for International Women's Day that represented a line different from that of the party, Margaret Jayko, the party's national women's liberation director, praised both events in a round-up on International Women's Day in a Militant article (see “Women in Revolt,” 4/29/83, p.15). Another Militant article, written by Bill Kalman, (“Pa. unionists hear Nicaraguan consul,” 4/8/83, p.3) described the tour I arranged for the Nicaraguan consul as part of one of the programs. The consul's speech was reprinted in the Militant (5/20/83, pp.4-5). Given this coverage, I am sure comrades believed the SWP helped to build these meetings. But for a critical two-week period I was forbidden to work on these events. At my trial, the two upcoming meetings were termed “petty bourgeois.”

At the trial committee investigation I was repeatedly charged with putting the mass movement before the needs of the party. I find this accusation alarming, and indicative of the deep-going crisis within the party. For revolutionaries, the two are complementary, not counterposed.

I believe that my trial and expulsion are alien to the norms of democratic centralism. I do not believe that I was expelled on the basis of the charge brought against me. I believe that I was expelled because I have voiced political differences with the party leadership on a number of questions—how revolutionary socialists are obligated to carry out solidarity work in support of the Central American revolutions and the Polish workers, how to carry out party work in the unions, unemployed movement and mass movements, or what should our attitude be toward the Khomeini regime in Iran. I signed a letter, along with seventeen other comrades from around the country, informing the Political Committee of our intention to collaborate in the written international discussion which is now open. In our June 29, 1982, letter we outlined the political basis of our collaboration.

Jack Barnes informed each signer that the Political Bureau regarded this procedure as a violation of party norms, and that we had to “cease and desist” from further collaboration. This was introduced into my trial as “proof” of my inability to abide by party norms. I think that introduction helped to clarify the reason behind my expulsion. I was expelled for my ideas, for my political differences. And that is alien to the party's traditions.

The Case of Carole Seligman

I joined the YSA in 1965 and the party in 1967. My assignments in the past eighteen years have included work in the antiwar movement (Vietnam), women's liberation, YSA organizer (L.A. and S.F), campaign director for my branch, party candidate for S.F Board of Supervisors, and many more. I have been in the central leadership of our branch's work in the women's movement for many years. I helped to organize the largest march for women's rights in the S.F. Bay Area, a little over a year ago. This action was a major success despite the active opposition of the pro-Democratic Party NOW misleadership. For this, I and Comrade Sylvia Weinstein and another militant activist were placed on trial and threatened with expulsion by the S.F NOW Executive Board majority. We stopped the expulsions by organizing a caucus that fought for and won our reinstatement in NOW.

Like Dianne, I developed differences with the party leadership, and I believe this is the reason for my expulsion. I voted for the political line submitted by the Trotskyist Tendency at the last party convention. I wrote a document on women's liberation differing with the party leadership at that time and more recently in the Northern California District preconvention discussion I wrote a document sharply critical of the undemocratic practices of the District Committee.

The alleged reason for my expulsion from the party in March of this year was a short conversation with another party member that took place in the presence of a YSA comrade. I asked Dianne Feeley's stepson Jacob if he knew that she had been expelled from the party. I was accused of discussing internal party affairs with a non-member.

But we were not the only ones expelled for our dissident views. Here is a brief outline of several others:

1. Anne Teesdale Zukowski – expelled November 1982, Iron Range Branch

Anne was expelled from the party for raising positions different from those of the party with non-members. Anne explained to a non-party YSA member—in charge of organizing the YSA preconvention discussion on the Iron Range and who had asked her to be a reporter—that she disagreed with parts of the YSA resolution then being discussed. When the YSAer inquired about the nature of the differences, Anne indicated that she did not think it was appropriate to explain them. Anne then informed the YSA organizer about the discussion.

No one accused her of explaining her political differences. Rather, she was expelled because she said she had some differences. But the YSAer knew these differences existed within the party—having attended the branch plenum reports as an invited guest. It was at that time that the June 29th letter of the eighteen was discussed, and Anne was a signer. Thus Anne was expelled for reminding a YSAer of a fact that person already knew—that Anne held dissident views.

Years in movement: 11

2. Michael Smith—expelled December 1982, Manhattan Branch

Michael was charged with distributing unauthorized material, endangering the party's security, and violating Article VIII, Section 1 of the party constitution, which states that all decisions of the party are binding on all members.

The “unauthorized material” was a copy of remarks he made in a branch meeting on party norms. These he sent with a letter to a longtime comrade and friend. In those remarks Michael stated that a party leader, Barry Sheppard, had taped a phone conversation with Michael without his knowledge or consent. At least one other person, Ray M. [Markey], testified at Michael's trial that he, too, had been taped by Sheppard without his knowledge. Michael was expelled for sending out his remarks to another comrade.

This is certainly not the first time in the party that comrades have sent copies of remarks made at branch functions to other party comrades. James P. Cannon, a founder and leader of the SWP for decades, circulated letters to comrades around the country regarding political and organizational questions he was discussing with the national office. Would he, if he were alive today, be brought up on charges of distributing “unauthorized” material? Clifton DeBerry, a member of the Control Commission, expressed his opinion on this at a Bay Area District membership meeting: Yes, he said, Cannon, too, would be expelled.

Years in movement: 15

3. Don Mahoney—expelled December 1982, Oakland Branch

Faced with contradictory legal advice from immigration lawyers and PRDF, and with only a few days remaining before the deadline for his wife's (Mojgan Hariri-Vijeh) appeal, Don sent a mailgram to the SWP Political Committee demanding an explanation. Don explained that four immigration attorneys felt that PRDF's advice to Mojgan Hariri-Vijeh represented “poor tactical advice unnecessarily complicating and endangering her case.” He stated that he believed factional maneuvering lay behind PRDF's “reluctance to obtain postponement” of a fast-approaching deadline. Instead of reassuring the comrade under pressure that these suspicions were incorrect, the Political Committee set up a trial committee and within a month and a half approved its recommendation to expel Don Mahoney.

He was expelled by the Political Committee two months later for “deliberately endangering the security of the SWP and PRDF,” although how he endangered them was never explained.

Years in movement: 4

4. Ann Menasche—expelled March 1983, San Francisco Branch

Ann was expelled by the Northern California Bay Area District Committee in March for distributing unauthorized material at a party-sponsored event. She distributed copies of a poem she wrote. The poem celebrated the life and work of Anne Chester, and copies were given to friends, relatives, and comrades at the party's memorial meeting. Many knew Ann had written such a poem and had requested a copy. Never anticipating that anyone would perceive this as being in opposition to the organizational principles of the party, Ann told several people she'd be sure to bring enough copies so they could get them at the memorial meeting. And after 13 years in the party, Ann found herself expelled.

5. Mojgan Hariri-Vijeh—expelled April 1983, Oakland Branch

In early April, Mojgan was expelled by the Oakland Branch. She was accused of discussing internal political differences with a sympathizer of the YSA who participates in YSA chapter meetings. In fact, after being asked questions about the Fourth International she explained that there are public differences within the FI, and that the SWP was in a minority within the FI. Although no one else was involved in that discussion, the Oakland Branch majority decided to take the word of a non-member against Mojgan's word. Years in movement: 2

6. Don Harmon—expelled May 1, 1983, San Francisco Branch

Don was charged with disrupting a branch meeting and heckling the chairperson in a threatening manner. The discussion was on the El Salvador Initiative, and a comrade who had requested the discussion had not been allowed to speak. Don protested the undemocratic chairing of the meeting and without warning was expelled from the branch meeting and a few weeks later from the party.

Years in movement: 11

* * *

Not one of these comrades violated party principles or harmed the party in any way. Rather, each of these comrades, on one position or another, had expressed political differences with the party leadership. It is obvious that the new and rigid organizational norms are designed to stifle dissent. Fortunately, there are certain cases in which party branches have resisted pressures to carry out such expulsions.

1. The Los Angeles Executive Committee charged Leo F. and Sherry S. with indiscipline and recommended their expulsion for politically collaborating with non-members of the party without formal authorization. Leo and Sherry maintained that they had a right to invite a longtime friend who was once married to Sherry's cousin to dinner at their house. This person is a key leader in the Central America solidarity movement. The party organizer maintained that they had to include a party leader. Sherry and Leo offered to set up a political meeting between a party leader and their friend, but maintained their right to have a friend over for an evening.

The Los Angeles branch voted last February to find the comrades guilty of indiscipline but defeated the motion for expulsion. Instead the branch suspended them for two months.

2. Last December the Twin Cities Branch Executive Committee charged Cathy K. with violating the organizational principles of the party by reporting discussions of the executive committee to a YSAer not in the party. Cathy headed up the branch's women's liberation work. After she gave a report to the executive committee, she reported not only the decisions of the executive committee but detailed the discussions as well to the YSA women's liberation director. Cathy did not distinguish reporting the decisions—which she was authorized to do—and reporting the discussion. The branch turned down the executive committee's recommendation for expulsion.

3. In March the Minneapolis Branch Executive Committee recommended that Gayle S. be found guilty of intervening in a public NOW meeting in a manner contrary to the decisions of the party's NOW/CLUW fraction. They recommended censure. Both recommendations were defeated by a branch vote. The branch found that the facts presented by the executive committee did not substantiate the charges filed, and that no disciplinary action was in order.

* * *

However, the trials are continuing. Since the plenum the Los Angeles executive committee recommended that Walter Lippmann, a comrade who has been in the movement for almost twenty years, be expelled. He was charged with discussing political questions on disputed matters with another branch comrade at a public event—after a Militant Labor Forum—where non-members might have overheard the conversation. No proof that any non-member did hear them was presented. The branch did not vote to expel him, but the California State Committee overrode the branch, and Walter was expelled in June.

Karen Schieve was charged with “violating the organizational norms of the SWP by failing to make regular voluntary financial contributions to the SWP” and for “not actively building the SWP.” While attempting to bring her financial status current (she had been working a 20-hour week for a year and was now working full time), she was charged with “bribing” the party when she asked if the charges against her would be dropped if she paid her back debt. At the time charges were filed she owed about $100. Karen has never ceased her party-building activities in her union. She is on the Executive Board of her union and has continually brought party issues before her local. She regularly sold the Militant. Karen was expelled from the San Francisco branch in June 1983 after over 10 years in the movement.

Trials have been utilized to expel dissidents and to alter the political atmosphere of branch life. Along with the reinterpretation of the party's norms, these methods have poisoned the atmosphere of branches around the country. But most comrades do not realize this is a national phenomenon—they believe there are exceptional circumstances in their particular branch. And the suppression of information about what is happening around the country means that it is difficult to see the pattern on a national scale.

Instead of following the normal course of organizing a convention for this summer, the leadership of the party has cancelled it. They presented three reasons for this unusual step: the disruption caused by the Gelfand trial and the party's lack of experience with organizing its central campaigns, plant gate sales, and active sympathizers' work, and the assertion that a convention isn't really essential at this time.

Of course the Gelfand case will disrupt the party only because party leaders have used it as an excuse to cancel the convention. The imprisonment of central SWP leaders during World War II did not disrupt party conventions, nor did the witch-hunt atmosphere of the 1950s. Nor did our central involvement in the anti-Vietnam war movement mean we were too busy to debate out fundamental issues.

The cancellation of an SWP convention is in fact unprecedented in a situation where there is a fundamental dispute inside the party. It means that the party is prevented from evaluating its work over the past two years. It is unable to utilize the Leninist methods of a preconvention discussion or of an open literary discussion on disputed points. In contrast to the traditions of the SWP, the leadership is using organizational methods to deal with serious political questions. But suppressing discussion does not solve the political disputes. Rather, it handicaps the party's ability to evaluate its work, rectify its errors, and correct its course.

Normal channels have been closed off to the membership. And we believe that the membership of the party has the right to political information which is being kept secret. This information includes:

1. The two minority tendencies in the National Committee announced at the May plenum that they have organized themselves into an Opposition Bloc to work for a change in the party's incorrect policies on norms, practical tasks, and theoretical errors. They submitted their written platform and other resolutions, which were distributed to the plenum. This is an important development in the party. Should preconvention discussion open, comrades agreeing with the Opposition Bloc platform could adhere to it.

2. An unusual motion was adopted at the May plenum. It outlined what could be reported back to the branches. There was to be no mention of the Opposition Bloc formation or of its documents. There was to be no mention of what the minority said at the plenum. Yet the Opposition Bloc received extended time under four agenda points: Central America Solidarity Report, Political Report, Convention Report, and Appeals and Review Report. They also submitted counterresolutions. Yet this information is being withheld from the membership.

3. Comrades might also be surprised to discover that the majority caucus in the National Committee devoted the entire first day of the plenum to a majority caucus meeting which has been kept secret from the party.

4. Comrades might be disturbed by the reports of the Mexican comrades of the PRT. They have stated that leaders of the SWP told leading members of the FDR/FMLN about the internal political disputes in the Fourth International. They also pointed out that at the Tijuana Border Conference held last October, SWP leaders cancelled the joint PRT/SWP fraction that had been scheduled.

5. Bolshevik practice supports the inclusion of minorities on leadership bodies. But, in the list of incoming members of the Political Committee one notices the absence of any minority member. This is a departure from the composition of the last PC, of which Frank Lovell was a member.

Through the party press and in public talks the party leadership has publicly attacked the Fourth International. A major section of Jack Barnes's speech at the last YSA convention was just such an attack. Although the speech has still not been printed—almost six months after it was given before an audience of several hundred—that speech also attacked the political program of the Fourth International and distorted Trotsky's views on key theoretical questions. That speech was similar to two articles by Doug Jenness that have attempted to downplay Trotsky's theoretical contributions to the revolutionary movement (see “How Lenin Saw the Russian Revolution,” in the November 1981 International Socialist Review and “Our Political Continuity with Bolshevism,” in the June 1982 International Socialist Review). All of this is an attempt to gradually but fundamentally revise the program and principles of the Socialist Workers Party before there can be an honest and democratic discussion of such proposed revisions. This crude, underhanded method has nothing in common with Leninism.

The party needs a real discussion. And it needs to be able to conduct that discussion in an atmosphere which supports a critical-minded approach to politics—not just for the sake of being “open,” but because that is the best guarantee the workers' movement has to determine its program, to clarify its theory. Party democracy is the means whereby the policy and leadership of the party can be evaluated. Subverting that democratic process weakens the party and endangers its combativity and its political program.

Some comrades over the last period have become despondent when they have discovered the party leadership's disdainful attitude toward the mass movement, the growing schematism in evaluating the rich, complex, and sometimes contradictory dynamic of the class struggle, the lack of internal party democracy, the shift away from theoretical clarity. Many have simply dropped their membership in the party, and some of them have remained good activists in their unions and in the mass movement. But it is not enough to simply be a revolutionary-minded person active in the unions and in social struggles. We know that it takes a revolutionary party to make a successful revolution.

The party has lost hundreds of members in the last few years. A great proportion of the loss represents experienced party cadre—a precious resource a revolutionary party cannot afford to squander.

We know that the NC majority will revile and slander us for writing this even more than they did when we were expelled. But we feel it is our duty to the revolutionary party to ask its members to intervene against a course that can only lead the party to disaster. And so we ask you to disregard the formalities and focus your attention on the reality of the party. Good members of the party are being expelled, harassed, and pressured into quitting because they differ with the leaders on one or several questions. The political expulsions must be stopped and the process reversed. Internal party life must be restored to an atmosphere where all comrades can feel free to say what they truly think. Comrades should not be afraid to express political differences, on big issues or small. The atmosphere must be cleared of political discrimination and intimidation. Party members who have been expelled under this witchhunt should be reinstated.

What can you do? You can let it be known that you are disturbed by the expulsions, by the cancellation of the convention and a democratic preconvention discussion period, by the NC majority's lack of confidence in the membership, by the trend toward a regime of secrecy, repression, and hierarchy. We urge this, not just for our own desire to be reinstated, but because we believe it will strengthen and improve the party as a whole. Only equipped with knowledge can the membership recognize the seriousness of the current situation within the party and work to overcome the present crisis. Finally, this letter is being sent to all comrades whose addresses we have. Please feel free to contact us for more information.

In solidarity,
/s/Dianne Feeley
/s/Carole Seligman



Trial Statement of Paul Le Blanc

Pittsburgh Branch SWP, July 1983

I believe that my conduct has been consistent with Leninist organizational norms. The charges that have been brought against me resulted from things that I've said on the branch floor, and those things are in no way a violation of the principles of our party. In my opinion, the underlying reason that charges have been brought against me is not simply that these things were said, but that they were said by someone who has been an open, outspoken oppositionist to the general course of the present party leadership since 1981.

I want to briefly review the charges.

I have been charged with refusing to commit myself to defending the party position regarding the expulsion of Dianne Feeley. I have stated my position on this quite clearly on the branch floor. I have said that I disagree with Dianne's expulsion, that I will agree not to publicly state my position, that I will agree to publicly explain the charges which formed the basis for the expulsion, but I will refuse to lie about my own beliefs—that is, I refuse to say that I think the expulsion was a good thing. I refuse to try to convince others that the expulsion was a good thing.

I have been charged with refusing to commit myself to advancing the branch position regarding the so-called “public attack on the party” by Dianne Feeley and Carole Seligman. And, in fact, I reject the characterization of the Feeley-Seligman letter as a “public attack on the party.” I will not lie to people about this, either in the party or outside of the party. I am willing to tell non-members how the branch characterizes the letter, and I am willing not to state my disagreement to non-members. But I refuse to try to convince others that the characterization is accurate.

I have been charged with solidarizing with an attack on the party by its political opponents. In other words, at the branch meeting of July 17th I openly stated my belief that the Feeley-Seligman letter is not a public attack on the party, and that I thought it was a good letter. Implicit in this is my rejection, also, of the characterization of Dianne Feeley and Carole Seligman as political opponents. These happen to be my beliefs, and I won't try to hide them from you. I did not say (and as a member of the SWP I cannot say) that I will solidarize myself with the letter outside of the party, but that isn't what I'm accused of anyway. I'm simply accused of saying what I said at the July 17th branch meeting.

In each case, then, the charges correspond to things that I've said. I think the terminology of the charges is highly charged and misleading, and I disagree with characterizations contained within those charges. But the charges are based on things that I actually said on the branch floor.

There was one additional charge which accuses me of refusing to commit myself to bring to the immediate attention of the executive committee any information I may have regarding the letter. If this doesn't mean spying on Dianne (and I've been told that it doesn't), then the charge is totally false. I have not refused to do this. As a member of the Socialist Workers Party, I have a responsibility to make such information available.

Three of the four charges have some relationship to things that I've said, but these things are not violations of Leninist norms or grounds for expulsion. Leninist norms do not require that comrades attempt to convince others of what they do not believe. Instead, they require that we honestly present our beliefs to comrades and honestly present the positions of the party to others. To require that we go beyond this is to require that we go beyond democratic-centralist norms.

The reporter has correctly assumed the responsibility of attempting to place my proposed expulsion in political perspective. I would also like to state my views on this.

I believe the Socialist Workers Party is in crisis. This crisis is related to changes that have been initiated in the party, but it is also related to the persistence and deepening of a long-standing weakness—a tendency toward schematism and sectarian dogmatism.

Once we were told that we lived in the era of “permanent revolution,” that Trotskyism was the only revolutionary current in the world, that all other currents on the left not adhering to Trotskyism (as interpreted by the leadership of the SWP) were, at best, “petty bourgeois.”

Things are different now.

The concept of “the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” has replaced the theory of permanent revolution. We are told that we now live in the era of “workers' and farmers' government.” Lengthy reprints of Fidel have replaced those of Trotsky. Those who don't adhere to the views of the Cuban Communist Party (as interpreted by the leadership of the SWP) are, at best, “petty bourgeois.”

In this manner, it has been explained, we are overcoming a terrible sectarianism. But aren't we just choosing to be sectarian about different things? In the campaign to free our party from so-called “sterile dogmatism,” are we seeing an improvement of method or a change in dogma?

Trotskyism and Castroism—or at least the “Trotskyism” of Trotsky and the “Castroism” of Castro—certainly are not one and the same thing, but they are both revolutionary currents. As such, they are consistent with neither schematism nor dogmatism. Revolutionary-minded activists who fall into sterile and schematic modes of thinking and acting in the name of either Trotskyism or Castroism are kidding themselves.

I believe that the course charted and the methods used by the present leadership of the Socialist Workers Party, if closely examined, reflect a disorientation within that leadership. This disorientation is further reflected in programmatic revisions that it has sought to initiate and consolidate between conventions. This disorientation is also reflected in a lack of confidence which has generated sectarian and abstentionist tendencies in regard to the class struggle and mass movements. I think the present tightening of organizational restrictions within the party also flows from that lack of confidence.

I think there is another dynamic within the party which helps to explain this rigidity. It was described very well by Dora Maria Tellez, a leader of the FSLN, when she described splits among the Sandinistas that took place in the 1970s. She said:

Sometimes revolutionary organizations—in order to grow—must step beyond the immediate reality and believe in something greater. There are often blows so heavy that you have no choice but to continue believing in what you are fighting for and with even more conviction. And you can believe with such a firmness that you become rigid and unbending. Then perhaps at another moment, when you have time to really analyze the situation, you can say, no, we don't have to believe in that.

I think that this applies to democratic centralism in our party. Trotsky described it as “full freedom in discussion, complete unity in action.” This is necessary for any revolutionary party. But some of the elaborated and tightened organizational norms which are falsely put forward as essential to democratic centralism—I firmly believe that many of you will one day conclude: “No, we don't have to believe in that.”

It is a profound error to turn the necessary principle of democratic centralism into an abstraction which is more important than anything else. There are some things which are more important. As Trotsky pointed out,

even in the Bolshevik Party, with its very severe discipline, Lenin first emphasized that the essence is more important than the form; that the ideas are more important than the discipline; that if it is a question of fundamental importance, we can break the vows of discipline without betraying our ideas.

This priority is codified in the 1965 resolution on “The Organizational Character of the Socialist Workers Party.” On page 19 we are told: “The first obligation of party membership is loyal acceptance of the program of the party and regular affiliation to one of the basic units of the party.” On page 12 we are told: “All the leadership demands is that every member be loyal to the party's program and principles and be disciplined.” Notice that it doesn't say that every member will be loyal to the leadership and its current ideas—but instead to the party's program and principles. The program and principles are outlined on pages 16 and 17:

The Socialist Workers Party, as a revolutionary workers' party, is based on the doctrines of scientific socialism as embodied in the principal works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky and incorporated in the basic documents and resolutions of the first four congresses of the Communist International; and as embodied in the Transitional Program, the American Theses, and other programmatic documents of the Trotskyist movement.

The resolution goes on to say that the activities, methods, and internal regime of the party are subordinated to this program.

One day after the 1981 convention of our party, the present party leadership indicated its intention to carry out a revision of the party's program. It presented to the newly selected National Committee a new perspective on the relation of Lenin and Trotsky which was based on an old article by Carlos Rafael Rodriguez of the Cuban Communist Party. Rodriguez's article contained elements of Stalinist ideology on this question—counterposing Lenin to Trotsky, distorting Trotsky's views, and denigrating the theory of permanent revolution.

The position of the Socialist Workers Party was explained by its founder, James P. Cannon, in this way: “I have noticed a general tendency both of the [ex-Trotskyist] ultraleftists and pseudoleftists to contrast Lenin to Trotsky and to refer to Lenin as the primary authority. This is nonsensical; Trotsky is Lenin, plus sixteen years of further experience and further development of Marxist thought.” It is the line of Rodriguez, not the program of the Socialist Workers Party, which was presented in the two articles by Doug Jenness in the International Socialist Review and in Jack Barnes's speech to the last YSA convention.

If the party leadership wanted to revise the party program—and sometimes programmatic revisions are good and necessary—it had a responsibility to bring this openly and honestly before the membership in a democratically organized preconvention discussion. Instead, it presented the party with a fait accompli and treated those who protested as disloyal comrades. This manner of proceeding has, I think, poisoned the atmosphere in the party.

At least as bad has been the effect that this programmatic revision is having on other positions of the Socialist Workers Party. The shift away from Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution led the party to support the anticommunist, anti-working-class Khomeini dictatorship, which is strangling the Iranian revolution. The shift away from Trotsky's analysis of the nature of Stalinism and how to fight it led to a false, disoriented, abstentionist stance on building support for the Polish workers. The shift away from Trotsky's views on the necessity and nature of socialist democracy has led to a defense of weaknesses in revolutionary Cuba. As Joseph Hansen explained in his excellent book Dynamics of the Cuban Revolution:

Taking bourgeois democracy as a conquest of previous revolutions, the program of Marxism calls for expanding it into proletarian democracy, spreading democracy from its limited area of application under the bourgeoisie in their best days to the entire economic and social system, right down to the factory level. This is the key thought developed by Lenin in State and Revolution, where he also considers the problem of how this is to be accomplished.

Specifically, Hansen believed that there was a need for “the right of critical opinion to be heard” on national and international problems in a way that would draw the Cuban masses into decision-making on these levels. He was critical of a one-party state. Such views are no longer found in publications of the Socialist Workers Party.

Such programmatic disorientation also has serious implications for the party's involvement in the class struggle in our own country. As James Cannon put it,

we will not put the socialist movement of this country on the right track and restore its rightful appeal to the best sentiments of the working class of this country and above all to the young, until we begin to call socialism by its right name as the great teachers did. Until we make clear that we stand for an ever-expanding workers' democracy as the only road to socialism. Until we root out every vestige of Stalinist perversion and corruption of the meaning of socialism and democracy, and restore the thoughts and formulations of authentic Marxist teachers....The fight for workers' democracy is inseparable from the fight for socialism, and is the condition for its victory.

To the extent that the revolutionary leadership of Cuba demonstrates its confidence in the Cuban masses through the further expansion and deepening of the Organs of People's Power, and to the extent that its revolutionary internationalism becomes increasingly consistent, its program is converging with the program of our party, as defined in the 1965 organizational resolution. To the extent that the present party leadership moves away from our program in order to adapt to remaining inconsistencies and limitations in the Cuban leadership, it weakens our own party's ability to provide revolutionary leadership.

These are views which, beginning in 1981, I've frankly presented to the Political Committee and to other comrades. It is on this basis that I've become an oppositionist to the present course charted by the party leadership. I have prepared a number of documents along these lines for preconvention discussion and have been looking forward to that discussion. I know that several branch comrades have expressed the hope that I would disassociate myself from Dianne so that they would have an opportunity to hear these views in preconvention discussion.

If you'll recall, however, leaders of this branch and members of the National Committee have expressed the opinion that the debate over such views is relatively unimportant, that the questions of plant-gate sales and active sympathizers groups are far more central. I agree that contact work and Militant sales are important, but I think it's a bad sign that party leaders are inclined to shrug off the need for a full and critical discussion of programmatic revisions and disagreements. That indicates a frame of mind which says a lot about the party crisis I've been talking about, and which also says more—in my opinion—about why I'm on trial than any comments that I may have made about the Feeley-Seligman letter.

Final Statement

I have been active in left-wing politics for eighteen years, and over half of that has been in the Trotskyist movement. I was a founder of the Pittsburgh YSA in 1972 and a founder of the Pittsburgh branch of the SWP in the following year. I also helped found a party branch in Albany. While in the party, I have served on a number of executive committees, have been a branch organizer, have been a candidate and party spokesperson, have headed up various areas of branch activity, and have helped to carry out important mass movement work. I have been in three industrial fractions. I feel that I've been able to contribute much to our party, and I know that the Socialist Workers Party has contributed much to my development as a revolutionary. I remain loyal to the traditions and to the revolutionary program of that party.

It is true that I initiated and organized the April 26, 1981, demonstration against Jeane Kirkpatrick in Pittsburgh—a demonstration that was seen throughout the Western Hemisphere (including by Radio Havana) as an early indication of significant opposition in our country to the policies of U.S. imperialism in El Salvador. This did no damage to our party. Instead, it helped to strengthen the mass movement against U.S. aggression in Central America and (because I was a well-known member of the SWP) helped to enhance the authority of our party.

It is true that I was a signer of the June 29, 1982, letter of the 18, but this letter was not intended to open a premature discussion in the SWP It was intended to enable 18 loyal and serious-minded comrades to collaborate on written contributions to the Fourth International's pre-World Congress literary discussion, which had just opened. This is our right according to the statutes and norms of the Fourth International. Such collaboration would have done no damage to our party. Instead, it would have benefitted all members of the Fourth International by contributing to the necessary process of political clarification.

It is true that I have been an oppositionist to the present course of the SWP leadership. Such opposition does the party no damage. Instead, it helps to advance a critical-minded dynamic in the party which strengthens our ability to evaluate our program and practical work. This is especially important given the present situation and the upcoming preconvention discussion.

I have in no way violated the program or organizational principles of revolutionary Marxism, as expressed in the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. I am loyal to the program and to the principles which have guided our party for many years. My expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party runs counter to the interests of our party. I urge you to reject the recommendation of the executive committee.


Letter by Walter Lippmann

Los Angeles, CA 90039

July 26, 1983

National Committee
Socialist Workers Party
New York, New York

Dear Comrades,

This is in reply to Larry Seigle's letter to me which was dated July 18, 1983.

It is impossible for me to respond adequately or completely to the decision of the California State Committee to expel me from the party. This is because the Political Committee denied my request to see the reports and correspondence involved in the decision of the California State Committee to overturn the action of the Los Angeles branch (which did not expel me).

Therefore, I am submitting the statement I made to the California State Committee for consideration by the National Committee. A few typographical errors in my statement have been corrected in the enclosed copy, but there have been no changes made in the content or wording.

I request that this statement, along with this letter, be distributed to the members of the National Committee at the plenum which will take up my appeal.

/s/Walter Lippmann


Statement to the California State Committee of the SWP

by Walter Lippmann, June 4,1983

The constitution of the Socialist Workers Party specifies three conditions which must be met by every person applying for membership. Article III, Section 1, states: “Every person who accepts the program of the party and agrees to submit to its discipline and engage actively in its work shall be eligible to membership.” I want to take up each of these three aspects in relation to this review of the decisions made by the Los Angeles branch on May 22, 1983.


When I joined the SWP in 1967, I agreed to submit to the party's discipline. On May 14, 1983—for the first and only time in the intervening fifteen and a half years—I was charged with an act of indiscipline. I reacted to the charges being filed against me in a highly emotional manner, but I did try to cooperate with the procedures, and I stated during the hearing, and at the trial, that I would be a disciplined member.

At the conclusion of a five-hour trial, a majority of the Los Angeles branch voted to find me guilty of an act of indiscipline as charged. At the same time, however, the branch did not approve the executive committee's motion to expel me.

In the course of the trial, over half of those present—thirty-two in all—were called upon to speak. I was deeply affected by the discussion. I was convinced by the discussion itself to reevaluate the original incident, and also to reevaluate my initial reaction to the charges.

As branch discussions should do, this trial discussion helped me see many things in a different way. In retrospect, I should not have had that discussion after the forum. It seemed to me at the time that I was doing no wrong, but the branch majority did not agree with me. I stated at the trial that I would not in the future engage in such a discussion in a public setting.

I accept, and will abide by, the democratic decision of the branch which found me guilty of this particular violation of party discipline.

The executive committee recommended expulsion as the only possible action if the branch found me guilty. All other possible penalties were explicitly rejected by the executive committee. This recommendation for expulsion was strongly presented by every single member of the eleven-member executive committee—all of whom spoke during the trial. In fact, almost half of the trial time was devoted to the report and the discussion remarks by the eleven members of the executive committee.

The branch, therefore, had ample opportunity to hear, to consider, and to make up its mind, on the recommendation to expel me. The majority of the branch did not approve that recommendation.

In its report to the branch, the executive committee recommended the extreme penalty of expulsion on the basis that I had been publicly warned about my indiscipline on two occasions in the previous thirteen months.

The first example cited concerned a May 1, 1982, meeting called to express solidarity with the Polish workers and to denounce the U.S. government's hypocrisy on Poland.

It was stated that I had gotten my union to endorse that meeting. The fact is that I did not ask my union to endorse that meeting. The branch organizer, accompanied by a member of the National Committee, met with me before that May 1 meeting. They asked me if I had gotten my union to endorse that meeting. I told them that I had not. The branch organizer then reported my statement to the next branch meeting. That was the last I ever heard of it until the May 22, 1983, trial.

I was never publicly reprimanded by the executive committee, nor by the branch, regarding that matter, at that time, nor at any subsequent time.

The second example cited by the executive committee involved a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, which took place in October 1982. I and two other branch members had been assigned to attend the final meeting of the coalition held the night before the demonstration. At the last minute, the coalition steering committee announced the exclusion of an Iranian student group. At the May 22 trial, the executive committee said that I had not notified the branch organizer of this exclusion, and that I had been publicly warned about my inaction.

The fact was that none of the three of us who were assigned to attend that coalition meeting notified the branch organizer, and none of the three of us were warned about this or disciplined in any way. Specifically, I was never publicly warned on the branch floor about any indiscipline over this matter of information.

Let me repeat this: the executive committee never warned me about any indiscipline in these cases: publicly on the branch floor, privately, or in any other way.

In addition to these two matters, the executive committee further motivated my expulsion by claiming that I had displayed a persistent pattern of raising minority political opinions with new party members.

Here are the facts: over the past one and one-half years, the Los Angeles branch has recruited and brought into full membership two new members. I have never raised minority political opinions in any conversation at any time with one of these members. I did have political discussions with the one other new member, and he was the member with whom I had the conversation after the forum on May 7.

I never said that I was glad when he became a full member because then I could discuss differences with him—as various executive committee members stated during the trial.

First of all, he became a full member of the SWP in the spring of 1982, and it wasn't until the end of that year that I had the first political discussion with him regarding differences—many months after he had been functioning as a full party member. Furthermore, he was not new to revolutionary politics, even before joining the SWP. For two years, he had been a leader of a student movement which supported a Central American grouping which the SWP characterizes as revolutionary Marxist. His political experiences were already impressive before he came into contact with the SWP. For over a year now, he has been a public spokesperson for the party.

The executive committee said that the most serious violation I committed was not cooperating with the executive committee. Let me respond very briefly to this.

I did not try to avoid coming to the hearing. I received a phone message at 10:30 P.M. on Saturday, May 14, summoning me to a hearing at noon the next day. I immediately rearranged all my weekend plans, appeared at the hearing on time, and remained until I was dismissed.

When I went into the hearing, I was in a highly emotional state, and I became even more upset during the questioning. For example, I brought along a tape recorder, and asked permission, before the questioning began, to record the hearing. Permission was denied, and I accepted that decision. But the branch organizer did not accept my word, and twice searched my briefcase and bag to make sure I wasn't secretly taping the hearing. His search revealed that I was telling the truth. There wasn't even a cassette in the machine.

I felt that they were treating me as if I were an Alan Gelfand, an enemy of the party. That was my state of mind during the hearing.

During the branch trial discussion, one member (who found me guilty but voted against my expulsion) hit the nail right on the head when he said that the charge of non-cooperation and hostility was a subjective judgment, but that he could understand my natural reaction—that is, that I was fighting for my political life, fighting to stay in the party. I have devoted my entire adult life to building this party because my membership is my life.

Regarding the facts of the discussion after the May 7 forum, as I told the branch trial body, I fully accept the facts as remembered by the other branch member involved in the discussion. And in this respect, it is important to recall that that other branch member (who voted me guilty but abstained in my expulsion), told the branch: “I don't agree with the description coming out of the E.C. in terms of the facts as I told them.” And this member is the only other person who heard our conversation, because he is the person I was talking with.

Let me repeat now, and emphasize, that I accept the democratic decisions made by the branch. The executive committee reporter has chosen to ask for a review of those branch decisions.


The second of the three criteria for membership specified in the party constitution is that a person agrees to: “engage actively in its work.”

In the political campaigns laid out by the party, I have been extraordinarily active, and have carried out each and every one of my political assignments with both enthusiasm and effectiveness. Let me now quote briefly from the statement I made to the branch trial:

The Sandinista Front for National Liberation, the leadership of the Nicaraguan revolution, invited me to attend the FSLN's First International Solidarity Conference, which was held in Managua. My union then officially designated me to represent it at that conference. I was the only SWP comrade present officially representing a union, and the only North American officially representing a labor union.

Since that conference, which was held in January 1981, I have spoken publicly on many occasions about the gains of the Nicaraguan revolution under the leadership of the FSLN. Among the places I have spoken have been: the Militant Labor Forum here, as well as Casa Nicaragua, trade union groups, churches, and feminist organizations. I spoke on KPFK radio, and made a special presentation at the 1982 annual conference of the Southwest Labor Studies Association.

Each of these solidarity activities was approved in advance by the party. And no one has ever criticized the way I carried out this party work.

My union chose me to officially represent it at the Tijuana Border Conference last October. I and one other SWP comrade were the only unionists at that conference who officially represented our unions. Recently, I was assigned to work on the Molina Lara tour. I was asked to secure endorsements and work on publicizing the May 20 meeting. In this area, I got several organizations to endorse the meeting and participated in the leafleting brigades.

No one in the party or from the executive committee ever complained once to me about discipline problems in the way I carried out these assignments. I have acted as a loyal and disciplined comrade in all these assignments, not only in terms of party policy and line in general, but down to small tactical matters.

In other recent major campaigns of the party, I have also been a loyal and disciplined comrade. I have carried out many political assignments. No one has complained that I committed any acts of indiscipline in any of these areas of work. Let me cite a few of these:

Plant gate sales: I have not missed a single plant gate sale since the branch began this campaign on February 8. If our wall chart were up here, you would be able to see that I have a 100% record of actually being at my plant gate—no excused absences, but physically outside the plant gate at Lockheed in Burbank at 6:30 in the morning for fifteen weeks in a row.

Defending the party's democratic rights: I was able to get my union to endorse the party's lawsuit and Political Rights Defense Fund over ten years ago. My union was the first labor organization in the United States to make such an endorsement, just a few weeks after our suit was filed. It was years before any other union officially endorsed our national lawsuit.

In addition, I have gotten nearly 100 endorsements from union officials from among the largest unions in the state, and from local, statewide, and international union officers.

More recently, our party was confronted with the challenge of the Gelfand/Pfaelzer lawsuit and, along with all the other comrades, I put in a lot of time and effort on this defense case. I was assigned to get speakers for our first emergency rally in March. On just a few days notice, I got six of the eight speakers, including the statewide president of my local union, which represents over ten thousand workers in California.

Just a few weeks ago, I arranged to have Robin Maisel, one of our party's lawyers in the Gelfand/Pfaelzer case, speak to a plenary session of the statewide executive board of my union, a meeting with about ninety delegates present. When the PRDF Emergency Fund was announced, to help raise the enormous funds needed for our trial, I made a substantial pledge, and paid it in full and on time.

I also arranged for Hector Marroquin to address my union, the first union meeting he ever spoke to as well as the first union to endorse his right to political asylum in the U.S.

Party election campaigns: In the Mel Mason for governor campaign, I was among the top group of petitioners—those who collected over five hundred signatures. When the state ruled Mel off the ballot, I was able to secure signatures from dozens of union officials to protest that violation of our democratic rights.

This spring, I arranged to have Virginia Garza speak to the membership of my union during her campaign for city council. It was the only union meeting to which Virginia was invited.

This record of party-building work disproves the argument for expulsion: Walter cannot be trusted to carry out the line of the party in the mass movement. This review should verify the fact that the executive committee did not publicly warn me on the branch floor about indiscipline regarding the May 1, 1982, meeting on Poland, nor the October 1982 demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The plain facts of Los Angeles party recruitment and my relations with new members prove no consistent pattern of discussion of differences with new members. Not one of these motivations given for expelling me hold up as being factually accurate.


Why, then, is expulsion so strongly pursued that a review has been called for after the branch did not approve the recommendation.

I have been singled out for this extreme penalty because of my political views, which are in full accord with the fundamental program of the Socialist Workers Party since its founding in 1938.

I joined the Socialist Workers Party because I agreed wholeheartedly with the basic principles of scientific socialism as formulated in its classic literature, such as the Communist Manifesto, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, State and Revolution, the April Theses, The History of the Russian Revolution, and The Revolution Betrayed.

Also, I wholeheartedly agreed with the way our party applied the basic principles of Marxism in such documents as the American Theses and the Transitional Program (which was adopted by our party at its founding convention in 1938, and which has never been repealed by any national convention of the SWP since that time).

I enthusiastically agreed with and actively participated in the party's work in the movements for social change of the 1960s and the 1970s, such as the antiwar, Black, Chicano, women's liberation, student, gay, and civil liberties movements. The principal arena of my party work over the past fifteen years has been the trade union movement, and I have already given you examples of how I carried out party assignments in the labor movement.

Like many in the current party leadership, I was inspired by, radicalized by, and was drawn to the Socialist Workers Party by the Cuban revolution. Today, I continue to be inspired by that revolution, and am enthusiastic about its extension into Nicaragua, Grenada, and Central America.

When I joined the SWP I agreed with, and today I still agree with, the Marxist concept that socialism must be constructed on an international basis or it cannot be constructed at all. The organizational form which has so far and which continues today to embody this Marxist concept is the Fourth International.

Throughout my years in our movement, I have supported, agreed with, and voted for, every single political resolution presented by the party leadership, from the day I joined, up to and including our last national convention, held in 1981.

However, since the 1981 SWP convention, the political line and organizational practices of the party have veered far away from the political line and organizational practices our party has stood for since its inception, and which drew me to and held me in the SWP.

I have developed differences with the current positions and course of the SWP leadership on a wide range of issues: dropping of the theory of permanent revolution, supporting capitalist regimes like that of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and the military dictatorship in Argentina, not acting to support the Polish workers, and abstention from the concrete struggles which are actually going on in the United States today—including the movement in solidarity with the fighting peoples of Central America.

By its actions, speeches, and writings, the party leadership has shown since our last convention that it has departed drastically from the SWP's historic program and perspectives. Our program and these perspectives are being validated with each passing day as the class struggle unfolds in each of the three sectors of the world revolution.

Today, it is more clear than ever that the interests and struggles of working and oppressed peoples in the imperialist countries, in the workers' states, and in the colonial countries, are completely interlinked, and that an injury to one is an injury to all, and that conversely, a victory for one is a victory for all.

The struggles of working people everywhere are organically and dialectically interrelated. They cannot be mechanically separated nor artificially counterposed to one another. This is the essence of the transitional approach, of the transitional program, and of the principles of Marxism upon which the Fourth International was and remains based.

In closing, let me say that I have spent my entire adult life building the Socialist Workers Party. I continue to believe in the same ideas I believed in when I joined.

In its unsuccessful effort to convince the Los Angeles branch membership that I should be expelled, the executive committee went far beyond the specific event with which I was charged, in order to create the false impression that I have exhibited a consistent pattern of political indiscipline.


Ray Markey's Letter

July 16, 1983

Jack Barnes,

I hereby submit my resignation. I wanted to present my ideas to the party rank and file, but you cancelled our convention because of a lawsuit. Or was it because you couldn't organize a convention and plant gate sales at the same time? Or a convention would interfere with the necessary and relatively time-consuming task of expelling comrades who thought your policies in recent years had needlessly isolated the party and was rapidly turning it into an irrelevant sect.

Let's look at the record.

In 1978 in your 100 percent turn to industry report to the National Committee you said that everything that was to follow was based on the fact that the industrial proletariat was center stage in American politics. Not in the historical sense but in the present. This wasn't true then and isn't true now.

You predicted our white-collar fractions like the AFT/NEA and AFSCME/SEIU would double or triple in size as a result of the turn—they were disbanded.

You said we would never take the YSA off the campuses—the YSA now has a 100 percent orientation to the factories.

You said the party would grow in size—it has gone from 1,785 full and provisional members to 1,100 or 1,000. A decline of 38 to 44 percent.

You predicted our industrial fractions would grow—in the N.Y-N.J. district we sent over 100 comrades into auto and did not recruit a single auto worker.

In rail we recruited none to the party.



Garment—every comrade we recruited has since dropped out.

This is a five-year period we are discussing. Is it any wonder that an opposition has developed in the party?

What about finances? Your turn to community branches was a fiasco. Besides losing hundreds of members you wrecked the financial base of the party.

The women's movement? The party has gone from being one of the main organizers of the Women's National Abortion Action Coalition and the leader of the left wing in NOW to a position of almost no influence. And when Dianne Feeley tries to get the party to take seriously once again the issue of women's rights she is expelled.

What about Black work? The original bogus reports on NBIPP [National Black Independent Political Party] finally had to be changed when SWP members started to be expelled. The party refuses to participate in those unions which have the largest Black membership. Why? It thinks or Jack thinks these hundreds of thousands of poorly paid Black workers are petty bourgeois because they have white-collar jobs.

With a 100 percent turn to industry you might expect the party to have some real influence in the trade union movement. What is the reality? In the N.Y local there are probably not five comrades who have held the same trade union job for two years. The party has qualitatively less influence in the trade union movement now than it did in 1975 before the turn began.

Is your record any better on international questions?

You supported the invasion of Afghanistan and then opposed it.

You opposed the Cuban presence in Africa and then supported it.

You supported Somalia in the Ogaden war and then opposed them.

This is a greater number of flip-flops in a short period of time than occurred in the previous forty years of party history.

What about Poland? You told the workers of the industrialized nations that they should not demonstrate in support of Solidarity because the bourgeois media would present these demonstrations as anticommunist. This you say is the highest form of international solidarity.

You said CISPES was the main organization we should do solidarity work in. But when they didn't make the 100 percent turn to industry you attacked them as petty bourgeois and tried to sabotage their solidarity efforts.

Antinuclear work? In the N.Y local you opposed the freeze by saying it was the State Department's position. Really?

What about internal party democracy? Democracy after all is a tool that helps us arrive at correct positions. With your record one would have assumed you wanted as much discussion and debate as possible. Instead, what happened?

Jake Cooper and Harry DeBoer—members of the party for fifty years expelled at a branch meeting with no prior notice given.

Asher Harer—a member of the party for over forty years censured for supposedly “physically” threatening a thirty-year-old industrial worker who had called Asher a social democrat.

Dianne Feeley—expelled for helping to organize International Women's Day. Party member for 16 years.

Peter Camejo—former presidential candidate of the party not allowed back in because of his political opposition to your abstention from the mass movements.

Les Evans—censured for circulating an answer, which you refused to publish, to Doug Jenness's slanderous attack on Leon Trotsky in the Militant. Party member 20 years.

Frank Lovell—censured for believing and acting on the belief that your trade union policies have been a disaster. Party member 50 years.

Nat Weinstein—censured for demanding his right to be heard. Party member 40 years.

Mike Smith—expelled for stating that Barry Sheppard committed an antisocialist and uncomradely act by taping a telephone conversation with him without his permission. Barry did the same thing to me. Mike should have been given a medal for attempting to put an end to such divisive actions. Party member 15 years.

Theodore Edwards—expelled for defending himself. Party member for decades.

Leo F. and Sherry S.—suspended for refusing to invite a “party leader” to their house to have dinner with a relative.

Walter Lippmann—expelled for telling a comrade he had differences with the leadership. Considering the fact that this leadership cancelled our convention indefinitely that was the least Walter could do. Party member 16 years.

Ann Menasche—expelled for writing a poem. Party member 13 years.

Mojgan Hariri-Vijeh—expelled while facing deportation charges back to the butcher Khomeini. Expelled for telling someone there are differences in the Fourth International. Horrors! Could anyone read the Militant; Intercontinental Press, or International Viewpoint and not know there are differences in the Fourth International? Party member 2 years.

Anne Teesdale Zukowski—expelled for telling a non-party YSA member she had differences in a situation where she could not do otherwise. If they ever revive M*A*S*H or write a sequel to Catch 22 this would make a good first episode or chapter. Party member 11 years.

Why am I dropping out of the SWP? Because a narrow, homogeneous, and sectarian leadership has led the party into a dead end. It refuses to draw up a balance sheet and change its course. It abstains from Central American solidarity work and when it does participate plays a divisive role. It tells the working class in the U.S. not to demonstrate on behalf of the Polish working class. It opposes a national demonstration in support of the ERA at a NOW convention. It does not do any serious work in defense of the Palestinian revolution. It abandons the H-Block Committee. It tells comrades not to participate in struggles in their unions because they might in some fashion or other become identified with the bureaucracy, or with a rank-and-file committee, or with a power caucus, or with a struggle that fails—take your pick of any of the above.

In other words, the party leadership has adopted a policy of abstention. It has become so bad they will not help organize or participate in the struggle to prevent a new stage of nuclear missiles being introduced into Western Europe aimed at the USSR.

How does Jack Barnes answer such criticism? By expelling comrades and indefinitely postponing the party's convention.

/s/Ray Markey
New York

cc: Political Com.
National Com.
Branch Org.
All members

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